Yoga’s gift “inside”

A concrete courtyard with fresh air and unfiltered sunshine is a sought-after haven

Luck or chance graces them with precious extra moments

She lays on the concrete & absorbs the healing rays

Attempting a rudimentary yoga routine, she is watched with interest

A young woman asks to learn—the relief of having something to give, if only for a moment


Words from another life flood her brain

Yoga instructor’’s injunction at the end of practice:

“Nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to fix.”

Then—a blessing, precious moments of stillness in a hectic, chaotic world

Now—such a curse!

Her heart aches to be useful—she sweeps her cell floor again


The chill air is bracing, the sky overcast & grey,

Moving quickly, she works up a sweat

Challenging herself to focus

Yoga balance poses require concentration

Pull her from endless rumination


Meditation in movement, yoga is

(Apparently Yoda concurs)

The warrior dance soothes

Muscle memory conjures comfort

Balance attained only via focus

Breath, mind, body attuned

Jail backdrop fades

Now an indistinct murmur

Delving deep into dormant

Atrophied muscle memory


Yoga enhances composure.

Airplane lightens grief

Boat floats possibilities, belief

Chataranga coaxes compassion

Crow channels calm

Downwarddog dispels desperation

Eagle elevates equilibrium

Goddess gives grace

Half-moon holistically hones hope

Pigeon persuades patience

Triangle teaches tolerance

Twisted Anjanayasana wrings out woes

Vinyasa releases resentment

Warrior powers perspective

Folding, flowing, pausing, holding

Yin Yang

Balance

Tone

From first days in jail: I am the “she”

Surrounded by women similarly paying for colossal mistakes

Bewildered about who to trust

Suspicious of small offers of kindness

Terrified to talk

Experience: desperately alone

Alone yet never alone

Perpetually watched

Even as she sleeps (or makes the attempt)

Longing for privacy & connection

Time to sob out her grief alone

Then be held & comforted

Sunshine provides brief moments of comfort

Fleeting warmth

She sits in it when she can

Soaks in the rays, body, mind & soul

She laughs momentarily, playing cards

Is stricken, appalled that she could.

Does her family ever laugh?

She wonder, doubts, hopes they may.

Her most prized possession a tiny pencil stub

Nearly too short to sharpen further

Symbolic of her connection to the world

Her vehicle of self-expression

Cold, hard, angular, security blanket

Obsessed, she carries it continually

Books, as always, her refuge

Once engulfed in the novel

She escapes, under the Mississippi River,

To places & people far away

Cries their tears

Flirtation

Finch flirtation flourishes

Perched, beak to beak, fence-top

Chattering animatedly

Punctuating points with

Periodic playful pecks

Female shifts away abruptly

Annoyed or coyly?

Male instantaneously launches pursuit

Flutter-hops into view

Once again nose to nose

Heads bobbing, wings quivering

Twittering tango resumes

Dramatically, female darts off

Winging furiously.

Bejeweled, ruby, of breast

Male surveys departure

Besotted, bewildered,

Banking on a return?

Arrogant Avian

Peripheral movement flashes

Pulls attention window-ward

Arrogant avian arrives

Perches, pirouettes

Surveying conquered kingdom

Flutters briefly, twirling inches

Flaunting striking robes

Black white and grey

Kingbird resettles

Awaiting subjects’ requisite bows

“Someone Saved My Life Tonight”

Prison cell window view

Six inch surreptitious slice

Constrained vista of the natural world

Intermittently bird populated

Haven of visual escape.

Feathered moments of wonderment

Soften despairing edges of misery;

Flocks colorful reminders of beauty

Enliven monotonous ritual of hours;

Wing droppings of joyful life

Lighten weight of panicked limbo.

Absorbing nuances of style and grace

Studying interactions, behavior patterns,

Birds rejuvenate my wilted soul

Echoing Elton John’s crooning

“Someone saved my life tonight.”

Birds Gracing Razor Wire: Their Gift

Prison cell window view

Six inch surreptitious slice

Constrained vista of the natural world

Intermittently bird populated

Haven of visual escape.

Feathered moments of wonderment

Soften despairing edges of misery;

Flocks colorful reminders of beauty

Enliven monotonous ritual of hours;

Wing droppings of joyful life

Lighten weight of panicked limbo.

Absorbing nuances of style and grace

Studying interactions, behavior patterns,

Birds rejuvenate my wilted soul

Echoing Elton John’s crooning

“Someone saved my life tonight.”

I grew up with a strong connection to nature infused into family life. Almost every family vacation was to some extent grounded in nature, and everyday outings were much more likely to be at a local park than any other type of destination. For my father in particular, birds were a singular focus. We had a birdfeeder at home in the back yard, he would notice birds flying or along the roadside even while driving, and seldom went for a walk without binoculars around his neck.

While lacking his single-minded determination and enthusiasm, I would certainly characterize myself as appreciative of birds, both as a child and into adulthood. I have carried a particular life-long affection for black-capped chickadees, due in part to their diminutive adorableness, though undeniably enhanced by having had the amazing opportunity to have them eat from my hand. The wonder of a living wild creature alighting in my bare hand, picking up a sunflower seed and flitting away to crack it open and eat it is an unforgettable experience. As an adult, I installed my own birdfeeder, and as an amateur photographer, I have captured multiple birds with a camera’s lens. However, I have never seriously engaged in bird watching.

Until, that is, I suddenly became incarcerated. Having now passed nine months in county jail awaiting my fate, bird watching has been a primary source of joy. County jail time is, by all accounts, the “hardest time” one can do. There are a variety of reasons for that dubious claim to fame, though high on my personal list of explanations is the lack of access to nature. The “recreation yard” is a concrete and brick courtyard, with a fence-hatched view only of the sky. The cells do have transparent windows, offering six inch by three foot slices of view, and I am fortunate enough to be in a rural location. Through that narrow slit, birds outside visit and bolster my flagging hope in beauty in the world.

Over the long dismal months, I have been repeatedly drawn to the window, initially in search of sun, or any signs of natural life, or to hide unexpected tears from a stranger sharing my cell. As spring approached, the razor wire fence and surrounding grass began to be populated by birds. Starved for the healing forces of nature, I observed for extended periods of time, and found myself increasingly excited and energized by those sightings. Standing perched on the metal stool to peer through the window slit, I took in details never before noticed. Despite years of seeing robins each spring, I had no awareness that they have yellow beaks, and was befuddled in identifying them accurately due to previously unnoticed markings.

My father assisted in my learning process by sending me a novice bird book. Book in hand and, of course, without binoculars, I passed increasing moments peering out the window, willing birds to come visit me. Rubied House Finches are regular spots of brilliant color in an otherwise grey and gloomy world. Their spirited playfulness has had me imagining their conversations and laughing out loud. Barn Swallows dart past the window flashing their cinnamon bellies while obscuring cobalt backs in their speed. Goldfinches and Red Winged Blackbirds have decorated the razor wire fence with vibrant palates. Kingbirds and mockingbirds required studious observation as they alit, perched, preened and flitted off. House Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows entertain inside the brick courtyard as they capture moths that mistakenly believe they have found a safe haven. Turkey Vultures circle, beautifully hiding their ugliness in swooping flight. An impervious Red Tailed Hawk soars above the fray, glinting sun from its tail, a stunning visual reminder of freedom. Most recently, a Killdeer family joined the tableau. Three fledglings race along the fence edge as their parents watch with gradually diminishing protectiveness as the young mature. I was so delighted with this sight that I shouted for women in neighboring cells to look out their windows, breaking my customary silence.

In an environment that combines sensory deprivation with simultaneous stimulus overload courtesy of raucously noisy inmates, my feathered friends have been the primary source of spontaneous smiles “inside.”

In my moments of greatest despair and pain, I seek the window and reminders that there is indeed life out there. Watching the birds slip unscathed between the razor wire loops that scar my world, tethers me to faith in beauty and joy. Discussing birds has strengthened my bond with my father during this trying time, and provided fodder for positive conversation with my children, rather than discussing the daily miseries of jail life. The birds outside my window have assisted monumentally in my quest to focus on what is life-affirming, in an environment that is primarily soul-killing. When I return to the real world, I fully intend to continue to expand my knowledge and observation of birds.

In the meantime, I am deeply indebted to the birds gracing razor wire, winged emissaries of hope, reminders that nature, unabated, continues and awaits my return. I whisper grateful greetings, “Good morning, feathered friends.”

After contact visit with my three children, in county jail….

Ensconced amongst children

All offspring together

Ending nine month

Painful disjointed hiatus

Vivacious chatter flows smoothly

Jostling cuddle fest comforts

Contact craving satisfied

Musses hair, squeezes hands, rubs legs.

Scattered conversational topics

World events, political maneuvering

Juxtaposed unblinkingly among

Mundane details, daily hassles

Anecdotes tumbling haphazardly

Over important details conveyed.

Unique heavenly reprieve

Most closely approximates

Natural bonded interactions

Family dinner or living room chillin’

Precious treasured moments

Gift wrapped enthusiastically

In big tight group hugs

Ribboned in showers of kisses.