Tuesday, July 15, 2014

For the House in the Woods on Another Coast




A best friend resides on the opposite coast, in a house in the woods.  We talk often, not often enough. Our conversations are lengthy, two, three hours. This last time I really think we set the record, over 3, possibly 4 hours.

 I hold her heart in these calls. I see through her eyes, at her surroundings, her circumstances.  Detail oriented, she is an articulate designer of everything, including her sentences. We talk about life, the hard stuff, the dreams we still have, and the hopes of tomorrow, the fears still lingering from our yesterdays. We even talk about the weather, history and nature. (They have REAL weather where she lives). We've cried and laughed and loved each other through separation.  Distance DOES make a heart grow fonder. 

Friends from high school and college, it's been a long journey together.

She lives in the country, co-habitating with the foraging creatures of the forest,  her many feathered and furry friends.

She describes the colorful birds swooping in to her suet cakes and feeders in the dusky evening.

The robin, the blue jays, the woodpeckers, the yellow-bellied finches.

The cardinal!







I’ve never seen a cardinal.


I picture this beautiful bright red bird coming into the yard to enjoy that which I prepared in a feeder, so I can catch a glimpse of him in what I offered up. 




Squirrels enjoy birdseed too, stealing all  they can and making a mess while they're at it.   Let’s devise a plan to keep the clever thieves away.

The branches get a pruning back, should shorten their launch pads.  

Barriers go up, obstacles they couldn’t possibly get around.

Let's slick things up so they can’t get a grip. 


Yet these relentless rodents, these bottomless pit, pesky perseveres, continue to sneak in, fly up and around, flinging themselves at all we’ve worked so hard to prepare.

Tarzan! 

It’s discouraging.




Yet, we come every evening for a glimpse, for the hope of a red cardinal.

We can persevere too. 

And don’t we want more than just a glimpse?  I want to know about the cardinal, its habits, its character, what I can expect, what I need to give to receive the joy and hope of relishing their presence in my life.  

I find it’s not much of a sacrifice in comparison. I acknowledge their beautiful gift to me in daylight moments of life's crimson blessings as well as  the fading moments of light spread across a strawberry sunset.  I am humbled and in awe.  I believe in their arrival more than I do the squirrel’s threat. The bread and the cup await the flight of a red winged Spirit and I light the candles of hope. 

Gratitude. I swallow the bread and drink from the cup, promised a refill for tomorrow. I seek and see the flash of red in the dark forest. 

And moments become worship.

Worship becomes a suet cake for my own soul. 

Robbers will try and steal the joy, but I know of the cardinal’s faithfulness.

Give me more than a glimpse Lord, for I need to see all of You.



And a red petal falls from my sunflowers, feather-shaped, and a mocking bird nest chirps loud with new life.  I pray for more than a glimpse, for the whole of the truth as I send prayers on wings of eagles and love in words of hope to the house in the woods on another coast.

Swoop in red cardinal, let us get a good look at you. 




 I love you and long for you my friend; a filled cup and endless seed of His continued and renewed strength, for the stealers of joy to begin an early hybernation;  for you to capture the full view of all His Glory in your lives. 

Jeremiah 29:13 "And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

Considerably yours, 

Coleene 







Sunday, June 15, 2014

Vogelzaad Kaf, The Birdseed Chaff



Vogelzaad Kaf
The Birdseed Chaff 



The hours of the day move slowly now.
Morning mist fogs the vision of yesterday.


Maybe I saw you.
Maybe we talked.

Strength drained away somewhere.
It must be in the tears that well up,
Fall without warning,
Not knowing.

Cardboard boxes lie in my path.
Can I get from here to there?
And what’s in that box?
Is it what I lost;
Can I find it again?

My son is here;
One of my sons is here today.

I watch as he gathers the tools;
And I remember the boy I taught
To hold a hammer right.
Hold my hand tight.

Steady me, son.

   The birds, I had a lot once
Raised them up to sing.
They’re gone now, their cages still,
I recall their trill.





I smell them, they are close;

Nesting for spring.

Standing, leaning on a truck
Watching my son, listening…

Must do the birdcage chores,
The work day doors;

I hang, close by 
We’re going to work now, my son and I.

Shiny, loose in the truck bed,
My hand naturally closes around them;
But not too tight for
They fall through my purple fingers.
I grab another handful of these shiny, sharp…



Their name?...Their name?

Birdseed chaff flies up
From the box dropped down,
Captured by the wind.

We’re working; he marks the box “storage.”
And they stack in neatly, to go…
But I can’t, I don’t have a car today.
How will we get to work this day?
Let’s look again, in the garage.

And I am teaching him to put in a door,
So it opens and closes well.

It opens and closes well.

Tomorrow must be work again.
It will be a good day, it must.
I’m crying again, but I don’t know why.
The doors are all hung.
They swing in.
They swing out.
Lock ‘em up son, sweep up the dust.

We put in forty this week.
I’ve got overtime.
The day is long
And we are strong.
The truck gate shuts,
Dinner’s ready.

The food of our lives, the love of our lives…

Standing in the doorway,
My Grandson carries more;
Each measure counts,









It’s all in a finish carpenter’s toolbox,

History on the floor.
“It’s a good day to build stuff, I’m not finished quiet yet.
Got to feed the birds, and have a beer,
Watch a little soccer on the set.” 




Considerably yours,  Coleene VanTilburg
Thoughtfully, for Johannes. 


The inspiration for this poem came from my husband Ted, whose parents are both in the throws of dementia. We moved Dad and Mom closer to us last winter, and my husband shared how his dad watched him loading boxes from the garage. While standing near his tailgate, Dad picked up screws and nails in his hands, Sifting and sorting.  I imagined he was thinking of the days these two went to work together, side by side, and that this was just another work day;  two men heading off to take care of business. When we unloaded the boxes, birdseed chaff flew out of each one and I could smell the birds, the one's he'd raised and bred as a hobby for so many years. 





Saturday, May 3, 2014

SIXTY A Prayer for Birth Year '54


SIXTY
 Prayer for Birth Year ‘54









Sixty, a new reality,
A mastery
Of gravity.
Flexibility?
Slow and sore.

In lies a possibility,
The weekly discovery
Of maladies;
Skin is wrinkly.
Botox or ignore?

Sixty…bring simplicity
But continue curiosity
I beg Your generosity
More history,
I implore.

Sixty sing a melody
Both comedy
And tragedy.
Hilarity, sensitivity;
Play a lifetime score.

Sandwiched society, ‘tween
Adult kid and the elderly
Lettuce and tomatoey,
Kinda mayonaissey;
Crumbs on the floor. 

Sixty should be sanctity
Freedom and some liberty
But given our reality,
Anxiety…
Nest egg saboteur.

In all sincerity,
I am most decidedly,
Hanging onto sanity;
Balance and regularity.
Do not slam the door!

Retirement? Such tranquility,
But not so close, visibly.
Work until eternity?
What’s my capability
Of seeing other shores?

Is sixty the new forty?
Possible majority.
Smart phone authority,
Facebook priority,
Dr. Oz, our ambassador.

So bring it---sixty!
Let’s toast you in our clarity,
Deny all antiquity
Laugh out loud with brevity.
I’ll have that second pour!

Next ten, live abundantly.
In grace and certain dignity.
Grandchildren, hopefully.
God Bless all my faculties
Until the final score!





Gracefully Yours, Coleene