At the Apple store today…. by Gayle

I’m posting this poem today because without the folks at the Apple store, there would be no blog!  Thanks so much Kel and all of you!!!!



On Being at the Apple Store


An hour at the Apple Store        one to one


passes faster than an hour long massage (which I adore)
is better than sex might be (as I recall)


is more uplifting than an inspirational simile
more inter-generational than an American family


Buzzes with more creative and productive energy
in one small space than in the entire rest of the mall


with more kindness and attention
than most patients get from nurses (by far)


In this creative, learning hour, walls come down
desire begets ability, which inspires vision,
then, more capacity,  an upward spiral…..


A kind of sacred space
full of wonder and possibility
full of kind and patient young men and women
leading their elders into a great adventure


This blessed hour — one to one– at the Apple Store
Gayle Markow


The Climb…. from Jim Ramsay

Jim Ramsay
January 2011


The Climb


Think Fuji, Denali, Kilimanjaro – gradual at first, then ever steeper.
Toward the top there are no trees, only snow and rocks,
and a wind that blows from the end of the world.


I watched my mother those last 20 years, eighty to ninety-nine.
I used to say she was declining, but now I know it’s not a
slow slide down. It’s a long, hard climb up.


Watch a child get up from the floor.  She’s down, then she’s up.  Badda boom.
Badda bing. When I try to rise from the floor, it takes a plan, and I grunt
as I man-up, heaving a heavy harpoon at the great white whale of my aging.


You climb higher, get weaker. Knees give out, and hips, backs, hearts.
Your eyes and ears fail to report danger.  As your air thins, you think
you’ll see farther, but the world removes itself, grows distant, dim, confused.


Almost to the summit, it’s
like Norgay and Hillary on Everest:
Very slow, short steps.
Bend into the hill.
Catch your breath.
Another step.
Can’t catch
your breath.
Try to
get warm.


By the time my mother summited, she was talking with her parents
half-a-century dead. Then she was there – at the edge of that
huge, round, mysterious opening to the world’s heat and light.


She teetered,
closed her eyes,
and let go.


Some cast notes on the poem.

My mom, Juanita Ramey Ramsay, was intelligent, well-read, funny, and could be caustically observant, as when she said about an aunt who always said the first thing that came to her mind, “She can’t help it honey.  She’s just stupid.”

Mom’s memory became increasingly confused in her 90s.  When she was around 95, my younger brother Gene was visiting her and said, “Mom, do you remember my son John was here last week?”  Mom said, “Well, now, that rings a bell.  ……  I’m just not sure which bell.”

She didn’t have any major health crises.  She just got older and older, and smaller and smaller.  In the summer of 2008, as she approached her 99th birthday in Evanston, Illinois, my brothers and I decided to visit her at the same time.  Ken came in from Cleveland, I from New York, Gene from Anchorage, Alaska.  We began to arrive early in the week.  We were all there by Tuesday.  Mom died on Thursday.

I live in Nyack, New York, but wrote “The Climb” in San Francisco in 2011 while visiting my bi-coastal partner Anita, who had introduced me to OWL, the Older Writers Laboratory.  The “owls” at OWL, including Anita, constantly surprise me with the freshness, insight and honesty in their poems.  They inspired me to focus on what’s important, to pare down what I wanted to say to what was essential.  It was in that frame of mind and ambience that I wrote “The Climb.”  I finished a final revision in June 2011, just after my 70th birthday.

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Coming to the end…. from Gayle

Yes, getting to the end of things… the end of the year, the end of my visit (just completed) to my mom in Phoenix, the end of this evening (I should be getting ready for bed instead of being here… ah well), the very recent end of the shortest days of the year… and with all that new beginnings.  But don’t shortchange the poignancy of the “end” of things.  Take the time to appreciate the fleetingness of all things, the opportunity to practice letting go, to be with times of transition and all their (our own)  hope for the future and discomfort at what is lost, or being lost.

So, yeah, I’m waxing poetic, but darn, I don’t have a poem to share.  I looked for a poem, but couldn’t find the right one.  Well, actually I think I did find the right one.  A poem I really love by my friend Jim.  But I need to write him and ask permission.  So, if he gives permission, I promise to share it here with you, soon.  It’s an extraordinary poem about growing old, and ALL that that means.

I just got back from visiting my 91 year old mom, who is in extraordinary shape — for her age.  Her mind is great.  Her body is slowing down, but still  mostly works, minus a little sense of balance and strength.  My dad died 2 1/2 years ago, and she’s been living alone since then.  We spent this last week looking at places where “active seniors” can move to be with other people, have more activities, more community, share meals together (without having to cook their own, and shop for them).  We visited 3 different “campuses” of “independent, active” living communities — which were different in terms of class (middle vs upper middle) and religious (secular vs christian).  The apartments, the food, the grounds, the activities, the sense of community and friendliness of the people, and more, all needed to be taken into account, not to mention the cost.  It was slightly dizzying.  We were on a steep learning curve as it seems the move may be imminent, not because she Has To, but because it’s seeming like it might be the “right” thing to do.  Sometimes I felt optimistic; sometimes I could feel my heart breaking.  Was it empathy or some degree of unhealthy merging?  Guilt?  Oy!  So many feelings.  My own sense of loss!  The family home the site of So Many family gatherings and family memorabilia for the last 35 years.  My mom was/is a trooper, and for the most part hid her pain at her impending loss bravely, perhaps stoically.  Of course, with the end of living in this home, full of the memories of her beloved husband and family, there will also be the beginning of living in a place that just might fulfill the needs she currently has for companionship, friendships, all kinds of activities she can’t and/or doesn’t do at home.

While I find all the stages of life, including old age and death  compelling, fascinating, etc. my mom is not one to enjoy a conversation about aging and death.  We met with and talked with so many elders, some whom my mother recognized from 60 years ago.   I wondered at their courage too, and wondered about their life stories.  Mostly they talked about how much they loved living in these “independent” communities, and how they hoped my mom would join them.

I want there to be a poem  to share with you.   My heart is aching, and breaking, and thrumming….  I’ll ask my friend Jim.  And if any of you have some poems or thoughts to share, I’d welcome that too.

I don’t even have a picture of the places we looked at to share with you.  But I do have a picture of a palm tree and an orange tree that I took one day on a walk around the block where my mom currently lives.  It’s not where I grew up, but I did grow up in Phoenix, and I can tell you that Phoenix was all about palm trees and orange trees.  To this day, orange blossoms are my very favorite scent in the world.

Sending you love and best wishes for a fabulous, happy, serene, or frolicking end of the year, and best wishes for a happy, fabulous, serene, and frolicking year to come!  May all beings be peaceful and happy, and care for one another with the one great heart of the world!

♥   Gayle

Happy Holidays from Gayle…..

Hi everyone,

Visiting my mom and other family in my hometown, Phoenix, Arizona.  Here’s a poem I just wrote as I sit here in the local Starbuck’s, the morning after….

Yesterday Christmas in Phoenix

Today hot chocolate at Starbuck’s

Intersection of “Muebleria del Sol”, Chevron, Big Lots, and Circle K

Observing life on the road

Sun and shadow

People looking for caffeine, sugar, some kind of happiness

Six days ’til next year.

A million possibilities.

Wishing you and all beings ease, happiness, peace, freedom.

♥   Gayle

More cut-ups!

…this time from Montserrat Wassam.    Montserrat created this first poem at our women’s KM meeting a couple of weeks ago.


Chocolate almond midnight

Thursday morning gift

our ever-changing experience of body and breath

the child’s fear, essentially of death

Possibilities of loving wisely and well,

Here it is, the secret that saved my life

And then, inspired by our evening of Cut Ups, Montserrat created  several more.  Here’s  one of them.  The picture of Martin Luther King Jr. is the front of the card.  The second image is the inside of the card.  Brava Montserrat!


from Mark Coleman…

Here is a poem I wrote at sunrise while on  a writing retreat at one of my favorite wilderness retreat centers, Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in New Mexico




Morning Song

It begins with a single finch

Followed by the sound of

Chickadees and blackbirds.

Then comes the hammering

Of woodpecker

Bearing down into heartwood,

And boisterous geese

Descending like planes

Into cold ponds.

Until a unison of song

Heralds the new day.

I want everyday to be like this,

Where I feel dawn

Rise up in my body

And sunrise in my heart

Warming fingertips

And crisp frosted leaves.

Where early rays

Turn still aspen trees

Into pillars of light,

So luminous,

They transcend

Their rootedness.

While the silent stars

Make way for this day

Teem with possibility,

Reminding me,

I too can paint the canvas

Of this life

With confident strokes

And usher in

Some new song of delight.