Ken Hartke

Follow author Add as friend Message author Subscribe to updates from author Subscribe via RSS
I'm retired and living solo "out west" in the New Mexico desert. I've been an observer and blogger for years and usually have four or five blogs going but wrote for myself or for friends. A lot of it was travel stories or daily random postings -- but it was a good experience. Red Room allowed me to share things on a wider scale and with its demise, I (maybe) found a more public voice.

Dendrochronology

I'm always amazed at those slabs of ancient

tree trunks that show how time passes.

A seed fell and sprouted and took root.

Maybe in 1492 or 1215.

There was a drought. There was a fire.

There were good years and bad.

 

My ancient Juniper tree lives on at the back

of a my mostly unused piece of land.

Its age gives it a certain distinction.

How old can it be?

I named the tree Carlos Rey for it was surely

once the property of the King of Spain.

 

These trees grow slowly in the high desert.

They experience things that we never notice.

Once they get a good start, a toehold, they

can go on for centuries.

Carlos Rey was twig when Coronado and

the Franciscans camped just down the hill.

 

Other trees nearby show old jagged scars;

ax marks where a shepherd or soldier

stole a branch for firewood or shelter.

Even the scars are ancient.

Carlos Rey went unnoticed and unscathed.

Endurance and survival are the keys.

 

Carlos has seen good years and bad years.

I think we must be in what will be known

as bad years when some future scientist

ponders our age - our rings.

I see no small Junipers - only ancient ones.

The climate seems angry and uncooperative.

 

Life is precious. It has a memory to share.

There's a man in Sussex who counts the rings

of a Stradavari or a Montagnana or

a Matteo Groffiller.

With years of practice, and in the right hands,

the old tree rings sing with the voice of angels.

 

 

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
You are so lucky to have such a venerable neighbor! I would love to make a tour someday of ancient trees.
Saturday, 28 July 2018 20:22
Ken Hartke
Sadly, people don't realize how old some of these trees are and just bulldoze their lots clean when they decide to build. The tree... Read More
Sunday, 29 July 2018 00:12
Rosy Cole
This is something I ponder a lot on my dog walks. Trees are inspiring. They are companions. They somehow convey a knowledge beyond... Read More
Sunday, 29 July 2018 17:08
153 Hits
6 Comments

We Don't Say Goodbye

Some time ago I learned that a close friend's friend was killed in the earthquake in Nepal.

He was one of the climbers on Everest when the avalanche engulfed them.

He was a climber. He didn't have to be there. He was a visitor who chose that time and place; a once in a lifetime journey.

He was doing what he chose to do. One never knows.  We take risks every day.

We close the door. We don't say goodbye.

 

So, what does one do?

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." said Martin Luther.

 

 

Should we modify our behavior to avoid risk?  Should we hide in our house?

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying" says Woody Allen

 

 

No.  That is the last thing we should do.

"When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself" said the monk,  Shunryu Suzuki

 

 

We must go on about our business, always.  You have something important to do...do it. If not now, when? If you have something to find, chances are that it will find you.

 The Zen master Hui Hai said... "Search and you will lose it. Do not search and you will immediately find it. Stop and it will be right here. Run and it will not be anywhere." 

 

A few times in my life I have waited too long. I was waiting for something to happen...for someone to find me...to get ready for something that didn't happen.

I don't do that anymore.

"A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him." said Ezra Pound

 

 

 

 

*    *    *

Recent Comments
Ken Hartke
I may have posted this before -- I sometimes need to revisit it. I occasionally need to give myself a kick in the pants.
Wednesday, 13 June 2018 17:35
Stephen Evans
Sound advice Ken.
Friday, 15 June 2018 01:43
Rosy Cole
Much deep wisdom here. Thank you! To be honest, I'd rather never say goodbye... No matter what plans we have for the future, it... Read More
Saturday, 23 June 2018 17:02
183 Hits
4 Comments

Sofia's Bakery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The village sleeps while a few coyotes
prowl and scuff through the alley
that passes for a dusty street.

They own the night. We are
only tenants here at the edge
of the desert; close by the river.

A light is on at the bakery,
as it is every morning in the
long hours before the first glow.

The coyotes are used to it. They
watch her quietly pass by each
morning as regular as the dawn.

Sofia is immersed in the day's
work. Everything is in its place
and ready from the day before.

The old oven heats; the chill fades;
flour in her hair; her morning routine.
Lumps become loaves or anise biscochitos.

The first oven smells are drifting
down the street before sunrise.
She stops for a drink of her coffee.

She likes her coffee strong and sweet;
flavored with cinnamon or cardamom.
She indulges herself at this hour.

Working alone, she enjoys this time of day.
She has a place here in this little village;
like the mortar between the stones.

She recalls her mother, with flour
in her hair, greeting the men on their
way to the fields with fresh bread.

She is ready for the day as she hears
the first sounds from the street.
She smiles and steps out the door.

*     *     *

2018 - The Home Place

 

 

Recent Comments
Jane Phillipson Wilson
This was the first thing I read this morning and it will stay with me all day. Thank you.
Friday, 18 May 2018 14:30
Ken Hartke
Thanks...I hope it stayed in a good way.
Saturday, 19 May 2018 17:04
Rosy Cole
I just love this, Ken. As appealing to the senses as a painting. Thanks :-)
Sunday, 20 May 2018 13:44
197 Hits
4 Comments

I am Anchored in the River

 

I was born only a few short miles from the Father of Waters. The Mississippi River is a constant presence in my psyche and my memories; always changing, always flowing, never exactly the same. It scoured and flooded our history. It was a demarcation line – so wide that there was us and there was them. You could barely make out a figure on the opposite shore. Were they really there? There were so many stories.

 

   

It could be beautiful, or it could be fearsome. I remember joyful summer days on the deck of the huge excursion boat watching the shoreline and the city glide past. The big ship’s engines vibrated as it made its way through the strong current. The river's cliffs were made of red brick. Tow boats pushed barges up the river. There once were old warehouses that held cotton and furs – and a licorice factory. The old bridge made of granite and iron was built to last 1,000 years and it just might.

   

I lived as a boy near the confluence – where two great rivers flowed together. This is where Lewis and Clark, and a dog named Seaman, began the trip of discovery. This is where we ventured out, across the winter ice, to explore an island in the river. The island was big and wild, positioned where the Missouri River made a long, last bend toward its destiny. I remember the trees…massive trunks soaring skyward with piles of driftwood from ancient floods braced against their feet. There were Snakes.

   

Still later I lived in sight of the Missouri River, named after a local tribe… the People of the Big Canoes. This was near the farthest reach of French settlement in the old colonial days. The river stretched clear to the Rocky Mountains. Some of the river’s water comes from John Colter's Yellowstone and the old pathfinder was buried near here, on the south bank, not far from the edge of civilization in 1813. The sand glitters with promises of Colter's mountains: grains of Granite, Jasper, and Rosy Quartz.

   

Now I live on a hill sloping to the Rio Grande del Norte, called so by the early Spanish. The same river is called Rio Bravo in Mexico. My Keresan Pueblo Indian neighbors say “mets’ichi chena”, maybe the oldest name, meaning Big River – Rio Grande in  Spanish. The Rio Grande is a trickle by comparison to the rivers of my youth, but it is the lifeblood of the desert. Looking across the valley there is a broad forest of ancient cottonwoods following the river south toward the sea. We would not be here without the river.

   

The Navajo call the river “Tó Baʼáadi”, meaning Female River; the southward direction is given a female distinction among the Navajo. So, I have lived alongside the Female River as well as the Father of Waters. The current flows in my veins and I am anchored in the river.

   

 

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
I really enjoyed your piece. Rivers have had a big impact on my psyche and imagination, too. I love rivers. First, I had the Ti... Read More
Sunday, 21 January 2018 18:35
Ken Hartke
The constancy is reassuring.
Monday, 22 January 2018 16:05
Rosy Cole
The way we respond to landscape is enlightening and tells as much about ourselves as the objective world. I like the immersive app... Read More
Saturday, 27 January 2018 17:37
439 Hits
4 Comments

Latest Comments

Virginia M Macasaet Reality Check
20 September 2018
Thank you Rosy, Few fallen trees, not too bad compared to the North...
Virginia M Macasaet Once More with Feeling
20 September 2018
Thank you Rosy, Stephen! Always feels good to be back home :-)
Monika Schott The magic mirror
19 September 2018
Yes, lived in the same house for many years now, which is quite different to the years of moving bef...
Stephen Evans The Other Side of Silence 
18 September 2018
Not as much skipping as you might think though some characters interested me more than others. Ther...
Rosy Cole The Other Side of Silence 
17 September 2018
Interesting. But literary arbiters since the two world wars might consider this discursive approach ...

Latest Blogs

"Are you having any readings?" "No." "Have you brought some music?" "No." "Do you have rings?" "Yes." The elderly registrar smiles with a hint o...
I’m fine. Honestly, I rarely get sick. My sick leaves get converted to cash.   Frankly, I’d rather fake it. Every now and then I need a time out....
With so much work to accomplish every day, my weekends have been anything but restful. I have been waking up too early every morning in a rush becaus...
I can’t give up on writing. It’s what keeps me alive. No wonder I’ve been feeling out of sorts. I haven’t written in a long time!   I got stuck. ...