Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Priceless


An old black and white 
picture of my girlfriend as 
a young girl 
hangs on our refrigerator

It is one of those pictures 
of a child smiling so intently 
that it makes you happy 
every time you see it

She is in a small row boat 
docked on the shore 
and it clearly did not matter to her
that the boat was only just near the water

It reminds me of when my son was that age
and my daughter and I would take him 
to a local pizza parlor and he would yell
“Pinbaw, pinbaw, I want to play pinbaw!”

and we would prop him up 
in front of the modern pinball machine 
with its phantasm of blinking-lights and 
thunderous clanking noises

and all the while 
the great machine was in ‘demo mode’ 
calling people to come play and 
give up their quarters

yet we never had to give him 
a single quarter to enjoy himself 
as he pushed the flipper buttons
and yelled “Come on, Come on!…Oh!!!”

It never cost me 
a dime
and it was 
priceless

So use your 
imagination 
and your heart 
just right

and you won't need to sail your boat
to love the dream of adventure
or play the game 
to appreciate the challenge


Ken Owen   
Van Niddy Press, October 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The First Sky Quilt


Today was the day
we woke up under
the first sky quilt
calling earliest as
big days do
just like you wanted.

People are possessions;
require care and feeding
from a capacious heart and
all the time—guessing.

Classes improve classes
that are games that are
games—yet 
we are born 
knowing.

It is quiet in here
just like I wanted.

Astronomer, astronomer
I'll tell you what I see
when I look to the stars
Me.


-words and inspiration taken from the poem “Astronomer, Astronomer, Astronomer” 
by Valerie DeChadenedes, age 17, created with her communication device


Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press,  October 2019

Friday, October 4, 2019

Of Mice, Men, and Hummingbirds


The Story of Mighty Red and Mighty Mouse


     Our seventh floor apartment has a balcony that overlooks the courtyard between the buildings. Needing a place for morning reflection, I cleared the balcony and bought a small chair, end table, rugs, and some planter boxes for my ‘digging in the dirt’ time. It has become a nice respite spot especially when the sun can break through the Daily City cloud cover.




     The morning magic reached another level when we bought a hummingbird feeder. We had recently watched a documentary about hummingbirds and found them fascinating. The film focused on how these cute little birds are extremely territorial; they will battle with other hummingbirds to defend their food source to the death if needed! The balcony deck is small - only 4 feet wide and 10 feet long - yet many of the small birds became used to feeding while we sat within 3 feet of the feeder!

     Late one morning we had a front row seat to a fantastic aerial battle between Mighty Red, named for his beautiful red crown and his fierce will to battle, and Pee Wee, a small but consistent challenger: diving at each other so that we could hear their wings colliding, chasing each other at incredible speeds and then racing back to the feeder to see who could get there first and to defend their position in front of the feeder. This lasted 20 minutes! In this battle Mighty Red held off his challenger, and has since made a lookout spot right above our balcony in the pigeon netting that is strung between the rooftops of the buildings. He challenges all comers.

     While nature was providing us a fantastic show on our balcony each morning, inside our little apartment we were receiving a very different type of show each night.

     I suppose it is no surprise to have mice come for a visit in an old seven story apartment complex that was built 40 years ago between a lake and a grove of trees near a golf course. The real surprise was how many options the local hardware store offered to get rid of mice. Most were lacking in any level of compassion recommended by the Dalai Lama or anyone else with half a heart: sticky traps, spring loaded jars of death, and of course, poison. There was one ‘catch and release’ device that looked flimsy at best, and as I read the instructions an image flashed in my mind of being woken at 3 AM to the sound of a mouse squealing in panic, and having to put him in a bag and take him for an elevator ride down to the front lobby so I could release him into the shrubbery.

     I went with the poison.

     I placed little box lids full of blue poison everywhere we saw the mouse, mostly in the living room, kitchen, and the back bedroom closet. After two weeks I had named him Mighty Mouse since the poison was having no effect on him whatsoever; he was as bold as ever as he scurried about the apartment in plain sight.

     Then one night while we were watching TV, he crawled out from one of his hiding spots and sat motionless watching us watching him. That was odd enough, but when he tried to move, his movements were jerky and labored; he was either stoned on our marijuana edibles or dying from mouse poison. Seeing the effects of the poison on this little being was heart wrenching. I had chosen the worst, most prolonged agony for his death, all because I didn’t want to be bothered relocating him at 3 AM. I felt like a complete schmuck, and even more so when I caught him, placed him in a bag and sent him down the garbage chute.

     A few days later while working in my office, I got up from my desk, turned around, and there was Mighty Mouse, like the ghost of Jacob Marley returned from the dead, staring at me, wobbling, stumbling, but ready, I’m sure, to kick my ass. “You’re dead,” I cried, “I sent you down the garbage chute myself!” He stumbled a bit, took a few steps towards me, then stopped again as if he had given up. That’s when my panic subsided and reason took hold. I realized then we had been seeing two mice, not one, and that I was committing some level of family genocide. So as to provide some chance at reuniting in death, I caught ‘Mrs. Mouse’ and sent her down the garbage chute as well, and once again I felt like a schmuck.

     The next morning out on the apartment balcony, Mighty Red the hummingbird was becoming even braver and would not hesitate to feed from our feeder while we sat close by. It was while observing him that I noticed just how small he was and, strangely, the similarities between Mighty Red and Mighty Mouse; not really much difference in size, just wings versus a tail. It then occurred to me that outside our apartment we were taking great efforts to provide food in a clean feeder for one small animal, while inside the apartment we were leaving out small boxes of blue poison to kill another that wasn’t all that different in size or purpose; they were both just looking for food and trying to survive.

     The apartment maintenance man is scheduled to come and seal up the holes around the water pipes that lead to our kitchen sink and dishwashing machine so as to deny access to any of Mighty Mouse’s descendants. But if any of his family or friends should make their way into our apartment looking for him or Mrs. Mouse, they won’t have to worry about meals of blue poison or rides down the garbage chute.

Catch and release, I promise.


Ken Owen
Van Niddy Press    October 2019