I. In a wild Oregon wind at Rocky Creek State Park, with whales feeding in kelp beds not three miles away and tide sparring with black rocks on the shore, I played the moose hide drum. Its voice joined wind’s chant and rushed down the slope to the sea. Cedar, of which the drum’s hoop was made, stood on the hill behind me, guardian. Before eight beats had left the drum, crow, black as the rocks below, trickster like the wind, flew to a stunted pine and sang with the drum. Then gull swooped past, master of the storm, surfing the wind with its hollow bones.
II. I sought the most secluded bench in the garden and held the drum. I waited, letting sun warm the hide and wood. Pale purple flowers of the silver spire tree above us pointed to the sky. Soft dirt warmed my bare feet. Blueberries ripened on a bush to the right, with roses lending their pure, sweet scent ahead of us. Behind us, an apple tree; and to the left, a paperbark maple. I began to drum. Two hummingbirds came, bringers of joy. They inspected the drum, drank from the silver spire flowers. I felt the strength of their tiny hearts within my own.
III. I went to visit my friend. We sat in her yard between her tomatoes and dahlias. I played the drum for her, in memory of her grandson, to honor his life, to respect her grief. We listened to its voice, separate in our thoughts, bound by long friendship and what understanding of life we have earned. In a heartbeat rhythm, the drum played.
~Terry J. Covington 08/03/2016
I walk my mother’s yard, gathering the integers of forgiveness. Into my bag I put a fan of Western Red Cedar with its tiny shells of cone, from the tree my grandfather planted the year I was born. A native Big Leaf Maple provides a seed. From the Dogwood trunk, left standing where it grew when the house was built, a gray citadel of lichen. The Oak tree my grandfather planted provides a spray of leaves, complete with tiny acorn. I clip a branch of sage, flowering and fragrant, a piece of wood from the maple we climbed as children, and a thimbleberry blossom from the plant which takes over everything. A purple head of Heal-All, and needles from my daughter’s Grand Fir, complete the harvest.
All these I wrap with lavender for healing, then tie the bright red bundle with four strings: yellow for the east, red for the south, black for west, white for north. I let it sit overnight. I drive to the Hood River, its waters running cold and gray from snowmelt in June. I hold the bundle close to my heart and lay on it all my hurt, fear, frustration; my anger so deep it does not want to be named; my guilt, which seems too heavy to bear; my hopes for strength; and my sadness. Then I walk to the river. I find a place where water is forming a new channel, and ask for the willingness to let go. I pray for a good journey.
I see my open hand; I see the bundle fly. It floats crazily in place, then bounces off a river rock, is sucked under the current, pops up again, and disappears. I imagine it in the sea, coming face to face with a whale; or perhaps just sinking into silt in the Columbia. It is out of my hands now, my hands which smell of lavender and sage.
~Terry J. Covington 06/26/2017
GRANDMOTHERS REMEMBERED: A FOUND POEM
(A found poem is one pieced together from various parts – in this case, memories that members of the Traveling Day Society shared about our grandmothers.)
As we went around the circle, telling stories of our grandmothers, it became clear that we were links between our grandchildren’s digital generation and our grandmothers’ time of the horse and buggy. As the old-fashioned names were spoken aloud — Zelda, Fanny, Ethel, Nellie, Gladys — I saw in each of our faces the children we used to be.
* * * * *
She never used a thimble when she sewed. She made the best peach cobbler. Six pecan pies for us every summer! We didn’t see her often, but when we did she loved the skits we did for her. She couldn’t go out, so she brought the world to her.
She was a cook in a logging camp. She and my other grandmother were a study in contrasts! She traveled as far as Brazil. She married a Kentucky Colonel and knitted socks for soldiers overseas. She built a lending library in her home. She had great faith and loved Yeshua.
She left her tiny town to visit Great Falls, Montana, and loved to tell how they had hot water coming right out of the wall! My grandfather just adored her. She married a roustabout for Bill Cody and they moved to Wyoming in a covered wagon. She had a wringer washing machine, a scrub board for clothes, a pedal-powered sewing machine. She held Vespers in her home, and that was the room my sister and I slept in. Her house burned down during the Great Depression.
She told us stories about the community Christmas tree, the one-room schoolhouse, churning butter. She sold apples and potatoes to pay for her trip to Crater Lake. She lived with us her whole life; she was the mother I would not have had. I wish I had learned the Tsimshian language from her. She had the greatest sense of humor!
She taught me how to bake bread. I have a picture of me at her house near the St. Croix River, taking a bath in a washtub. She laughed all the time. You knew when she was angry because she clenched her teeth and rubbed her hands together as if she was about to start a fire!
We used to tease her, “You stay out of the bars, Grandma!” During Prohibition, she sent her boys to hand out abstinence pamphlets in the bars in Hood River. She lived to be 95, 94, 96, 98. She was a little wiry woman. She was a round-faced woman. She had a soft wrinkled face like a quilt. She had long hair bound up in a bun, in braids, brilliant red till the day she died. She is the reason I love the ocean.
Collected by Terry J. Covington 10/2016
(Written for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Big Paddle 2017.)
We come from many tribes and nations,
brought here today to celebrate passage.
We are all on different stages of our journeys,
yet we share this time and place.
We have named our center drum
Traveling Day Woman. Listen
to her heartbeat. Watch
the flow of Lake River, swollen
by sacred rain. Feel the Columbia
just beyond, its mysterious currents,
its salmon and sturgeon,
its passage to the sea. Remember
the First Nations people.
Let us join together today in peace.
Let us paddle in rhythm.
When we leave, let us take our memories
and move forward with them.
Let us remember our Mother’s heartbeats,
the first song we ever hear.
Let us listen well.
~Terry J. Covington May 31, 2017
CIRCLE OF DRUMS VILLANELLE
We are Assiniboine, German, Tsimshian. In answer to the sacred, we sing and play. The center of our circle is our drum.
Ancient as time, warming as sun, The infinite circle illumines our way. We are Irish, Cherokee, Tsimshian.
We sing through memory, through life as it comes. Our songs carry prayers as our flutes and shakers play. The center of our circle is our drum.
Our paths have met through mysteries of time. We drum through the seasons, night into day. We are Welsh, Delaware, Tsimshian.
Strength comes from caring, from joining as one, our music the heartbeat we feel as we play. The center of our circle is our drum.
From every direction, to this place we come, embracing memory and present day. We are Assiniboine, German, Tsimshian. The center of our circle is our drum.
~Terry J. Covington 10/2016