On Roadside Ruminations

A poem by James Richardson—



At dawn when rowboats drum the dock

and every door in the breathing house bumps softly

as if someone were leaving quietly, I wonder

if something in us is made of wood,

maybe not quite the heart, knocking softly,

or maybe not made of it, but made for its call.


Of all the elements, it is happiest in our houses.

It will sit with us, eat with us, lie down

and hold our books (themselves a rustling woods),

bearing our floors and roofs without weariness,

for unlike us it does not resent its faithfulness

or question why, for what, how long?


Its branchings have slowed the invisible feelings of light

into vortices smooth for our hands,

so that every fine-grained handle and page and beam

is a wood-word, a standing wave:

years that never pass, vastness never empty,

speed so great it cannot be told from peace.



I was in a doctor’s office when I came across this poem, so I ripped it out of the magazine. Sssshhhh, don’t tell. They won’t ever know. I like the line about the pages in books which are described as “rustling woods” (because paper comes from trees). The letters on the paper of the book? They’re “wood-words…”  The poem asks: Are houses not trees? Are floors, railings, roofs, not trees? They are. And is something inside of us “called” to trees in some way? I am called.

I enjoyed a drive “up north” today, from Connecticut into Massachusetts and back. Saw trees and more trees and many things on the roadside called for my attention. I wasn’t necessarily “leaf-peeping,” per se, because maybe living in New England my whole life, I take the Autumn colors for granted. But I did see color, lots of it.

I’m always on the lookout for animals when I travel: hawks, owls, chipmunks, deer, turkeys, ground hogs, a rare coyote, fox, bear, or moose. I’ve seen all of these animals and more in the wild. So because my mindset was to see animals, I glimpsed something, or I should say some things, bumbling up a little grassy hill by the side of the expressway. They were whitish-cream colored, maybe a dozen or so squat things, big ones and small ones, clamoring up the little incline. Rabbits? No, not rabbits at all. They turned out to be pudgy little (quite ordinary) and quite still, mushrooms! They weren’t clamoring at all; it was a trick of the eye.

Years ago, I lived in a grey house situated in a secluded and rural ‘off the beaten path’ area of small town Connecticut. The house had but two neighboring houses visible in the distance and was surrounded by corn fields. I could sit at my bedroom window and watch farmers gather corn, and in certain seasons, bail the hay into thick cubes and toss them onto lopsided piles on slow moving hay trucks. Across the road was a cow pasture with three spindly strands of barbed wire that kept the milking cows in the pasture. It was a nice place to spend my ‘coming of age’ years with my parents: ages 11 to 19. I ‘d traveled the roads when I lived there, on my bicycle, on foot, often walked the dog, and spent plenty of time as a passenger in cars traversing the area. I returned to the neighborhood in my 20s because I became a cosmetics salesperson and I had not only my mother as a dutiful customer, but a few others in the neighborhood too.

That’s when I noticed the sunflowers that were never there before.

The first one I noticed; a few yards from the Valley Cable Vision sign, seemed so out of place. Over six feet tall, with one lone vivid yellow face, it just… stood there right on the edge of the road where pavement met scrubgrass. That’s odd, I thought. Over the next few weeks, I continued to spot them. One sunflower soldier stood post quite by itself, a few inches off the exit ramp where one made a turn to exit the highway and head toward my old grey house. I saw more and more- never in clumps.
Each one stood alone.
In precarious places.
The straggler sunflowers had me guessing. Why did I spot one, just one bobbing its heavy head at the outer edge of the cornfield; another one tall and proud, by a stone wall a half mile from my old house? All of them were very close to the road.

One day, delivering Avon products to some ladies in an office at a company a half mile from my old house, I realized what was going on. This was a fairly new company; it hadn’t been there when I lived in the area. My Uncle drove trucks for the garden supply warehouse; my aunt worked in the office. Walking into the building with my Avon bags in tow to bring to the office ladies, I saw a hefty bag of seeds with a tear in the side, propped up against the side of the building. Included in the wild birdseed mixture were big fat black and white striped sunflower seeds.
It seems that sometimes bags broke inside the trucks. From what I gathered, the trucks would bump along, all over town, and the stray seeds would bounce about. Voila!Mystery solved. Stray seeds found life by the roadsides.

Unlike wood, (as stated in the above poem) I continually ask why, for what, how long?

Someone whom I like very much recently posted a link on her FB page, listing myself and other authors whose books she wanted to recommend. Mine was described as having been written “lyrically” and I was described as having a “poetic vision of my life.” No other description followed. Well okay, that describes my style (like the perceived rabbits or the mystery of the lone flowers) but…
I felt the description of my book Under the Banana Moon (it’s not about bananas) to be lacking, because although I appreciated that she’d mentioned me, I wished she had described WHAT the book was about.

WHY should someone read it?
Did she get anything out of it worth passing along?
There was an actual (fairly brave) story I wrote about, and although she was taken with
I wrote it, I wished she’d mentioned the
the story.
Otherwise, it’s like saying my book feels like the animals I thought I glimpsed running up the hill, when it fact they were REALLY mushrooms. No one would know why lone sunflowers appeared without knowing the WHY. And the WHY is just as interesting as the lyrical feel of them suddenly appearing.
At least she recommended my book so I’m not complaining. Honest!

And getting back to my little trip up north today, I stopped along the way in Otis Mass. to get a closer look at some interesting creations made from wood, that I had never seen before. I stopped to take some pictures. I wish I could share the carver’s name, but I just don’t know who made them.

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I couldn’t help but think that my former mentor/woodcarving teacher/friend would’ve appreciated this wooden artwork. SEE  the following blog link for more about this person who was my friend and who passed away Feb. 14, 2014:   https://ravenambition.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/loss-of-a-dear-friend-zsolt-megai/

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