Under the Dying Stars

We are always here and always leaving.

We are water, like the river, just passing through.”

David Budbill

Hood River, looking south from the waterfront on a blustery late March day.

I walk the waterfront. A damp wind batters me. The normal crowd is absent. Too cold. An armada of scoters dive near the shore, oblivious to the temperature and rain. Above me, convoys of geese traverse the flyway. I can’t tell if they are returning or leaving. Perhaps they wonder the same thing. Springtime is such a tease.

It seems the winter’s get longer as I age. Robins return to disappointment. But, eventually, the short days stretch. Bleak skies lighten. I till the soil in my garden. Worms and grubs wriggle in the dirt. I sow wildflower seed. I anticipate the pandemonium of insects.

Birds congregate in the shrubs. Soon, the swelling buds will leaf out and provide them cover. They will build apartments out of moss, twigs, and leaves. I fed them in the harsh months. They return the favor with the music of their songs.

Our petite front yard in mid-April.

My wife plants vegetables in raised beds. I’m in charge of the flowers. I imagine colors of perennials and annuals: lupine, devil’s tongue, and coreopsis. It’s a beauty I can rely on.

Beauty in Ukraine, however, is difficult to find. The country remains stuck in the mud of war. Everyone suffers, the invaders along with the invaded. Young Russian men, conscripts of a maniac’s imperial lust, kiss their sweethearts goodbye. Perhaps for the last time.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to slaughter one another. Gun violence occurs in schools, in banks, churches, and wherever … with regularity. We tolerate the unforgivable. Is this resilience or helplessness? I don’t know.

Winter’s recalcitrance will pass. My cancer retreats along with the cold weather. The extraordinary science of CAR-T therapy was worth the challenges we endured. For the moment, I’m drug free and energetic.

Writing and playing the ukulele early in the morning with my cat Spanky.

I refresh the garden’s path with lava rock. I spread bark dust. I replenish pots with invigorated topsoil. I muse over the correct placement of a Japanese maple. Birds observe me from the shelter of the burning bush. They wait for their share of the seed I sowed. My cat wanders by. He doesn’t linger. Time for a nap as winter tips into spring, under the dying stars. 

Read all about it in The Drill.

Now, a song for departing friends. 

Under the Dying Stars

Click it!

15 thoughts on “Under the Dying Stars

  1. So good to hear from you!
    And so very wonderful to know you’re doing so well.
    We’re on our way to airport to pick up grandkiddos for their spring break with us.
    All of us, lucky indeed.


      1. It was a great week! We were here and at the cabin and no one was bored.
        Of course, after watching their plane take off, we drove straight home, poured the wine, fell into our recliners and didn’t budge til bedtime. 🥱🥰


  2. What a lovely essay! So poetic & wise. From “Springtime is such a tease.” to your “renewed audacity to critique the foibles of humanity” I loved your beautiful and truthful words. Merci beaucoup!


  3. The opening quote sets the tone for this marvelous piece, John. Like a river, our days ebb and flow, moving from the beautiful simple moments of life where we thrive to those you describe so poignantly that give us pause and, as you say, leave us wondering: “We tolerate the unforgivable. Is this resilience or helplessness?…”

    You summarize this part of the year so well, “springtime is such a tease” and it is good to have this push and pull to wake us from our winter slumber. Congratulations on the positive news of the CAR-T therapy. I’m sure it makes looking up into the night sky of spring worthwhile and ending the post with a perfect title: under the dying stars. Impressive 🙂


    1. Hi my friend. Thanks for the comment. BTW, I very much liked Shane’s chapbook of poetry, The Breaking Wheel. I see in the notes you curated the work. Bravo! I know the source of his talent. 😉


      1. Thanks, John. Shane is a darkly humorous bitter cynic (Is ‘bitter cynic’ redundant?), but I gotta love the guy. I’m happy to say that my relationship with all my sons, now that they are adults, is built on friendship and mutual respect. I wish I had had that with my own father.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d been thinking of you and I’m very glad the science is in your favor. And yes it was a long winter, but badly needed where we are. Enjoy the garden.


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