Describing Ourselves into Being

I wrote my first poem at 10, I believe, and interestingly,that poem is very much in keeping with the subjects of my writing today. Around that age, I began asking my parents spiritual questions. My parents were committed to the idea that each person find their own questions and steer their own way toward possible answers. This allowed me a wonderful freedom of exploration, but with only the background materials of literature, nature and the impulse toward finding the sacred in mundane life experience. My family’s quiet retreats in nature were ripe with opportunity for this type of inquiry, and I savoured my connection with the natural world through writing.

Flying was my first published poet, and appeared in ASH: Arts, Sciences and Humanities, Number 2, Volume 1, in 1994. I wrote it while living in Dijon, France, in the fall of 1992. I remember sitting down to write it out at one of the front tables at Café Granjib on the market square in the cobbled city centre . It is a distillation of the experience of viewing the flight path of birds just before a storm from my room in a mansard roof, an old ‘chambre de bonne’, or nanny’s quarters, that offered incredible views out over the rooftops toward the horizon.


Leaning out the window,
swallows just above my head circle around and around.
I look up and am lost in a spiral of sensations,
transported to the height of my ideas,
spiritual heights just beneath the clouds.
Flapping lower down,
they glide in a swift orbit between the parallel
limestone blocks, here and back and around again,
flapping and chirping,
entranced in a kind of rhythmic ecstasy.
In pairs, and fours,
the swallows play at the height of my rooftop room.
Another electric storm will soon lash out across the sky
cutting the gracefully insistent lasso in mid-flight.
Then, they will rise again.
My eyes mark an imaginary cone.
I am holding the invisible string.
Around and around by the force of the wind,
held in orbit by a central spirit, they are grounded,
yet free to fly.