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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


Three days after Thanksgiving, this haibun meditation:

Giving Back

Yesterday, the trees in the graveyard had overnight gone to deep orange, rows of them flaming between the aisles of gravestones. I drive by this cemetery often, wait every autumn during the eleven years I’ve lived here for the forerunner, the one that turns first, now bereft of leaves, then all the rest.

What can I give back to these celebrants of autumn, harbingers of colder days to come when soon they, too, will be stripped to bare limbs?

unpinning grandmother’s laundry from the clothesline— the creaking pulley

This morning, searching online for information about my great-great grandparents, both fine 19th century artists, he of landscape and she of still life, I find a photo of a weathered gravestone, the kind that lies flat in the ground. Overgrown with lichen and moss, the name is hardly visible.

My name is already chiseled into the small stone I placed over my late husband’s grave in a cemetery far north from where I live now. The only thing missing is my end date.

not knowing then what I know now— the night wind

Last night I dreamed of teaching a junior high writing class, asking twenty-five students to write about three things that mean the most to them, perhaps even define who they are.

Immediately they began to write. Afternoon rays slanting through the large classroom windows illuminated them. I woke before I could invite them to share what they’d found.

But as I woke, I remembered that I’d told them my three choices: love of family and friends; my gratitude for being a poet; and my love of the natural world—all of which open my heart to faith and hope.

all day long, this message from the sky— sun clouds sun

By naming them, along with the further journey they have taken me on this morning, I now give back to those glorious trees among the graves.

As we face this coming winter, let us remember to celebrate what means the most to us despite this seemingly endless pandemic. And may we inspire others to do the same.

lingering sweetness

of apples in the empty dish— savoring the crumbs

© 2020 Penny Harter

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