Red is the color of peace

For Paul’s prompt at Real Toads about Peace.  This is an old poem previously posted but reworked and tightened up a bit.  I truly believe that we carry peace around with us, that it must be found within and shared out like excess red tomatoes from my garden.

copyright kanzensakura


Red is the color of peace
Peace comes in many colors – like the rainbow,
like us humans or animals or flowers.
You may not think so, but red is the color of peace –
the tomato plucked from the bounty of my backyard garden
and handed over the short fence to the neighbor next door –
red of holly berries nestled among dark green clusters
of leaves hidden deep in the forest, with white snow
softly falling or the cardinal perched on the branch –
The red of maple leaves preparing for winter sleep
or the red of the rose given to a beloved.
Long blondeblackbrownred braids tied at the ends
with perky red bows.
Red is the color of peace – of units of blood donated
for someone about to undergo life saving surgery
for the child with cancer
or the service  person needing
emergency treatment.
The wild apples are red and hang down far enough
a herd of deer can satisfy their hunger.
Red are the azaleas planted by my father years ago
that continue to bloom after all this time.
Strawberries from my garden are rich and red and sweet.
Red is also the color in the jars of preserves
I make and give out as gifts to anyone.
Red is my generations old flowering quince
blooming in a freezing snow.
The heart your child drew and the words “I Love You”
hangs with pride on your refrigerator door
photographed and posted on Facebook so everyone would know
– drawn with a bright red crayon.
Peace is what we make it and it is colored by our souls,
our hearts our words and actions.
If our words and actions do not speak of peace and hope
how can we be peace and hope to a world
sadly in need of both?
You may not think so, but red is the color of peace.

copyright kanzensakura


Food – a haibun

A haibun for the Tuesday Platform at Real Toads.

Food – A Haibun
I don’t often write about when I was a chef. But my love affair with food is still running wild and unfettered. The fields of produce, the trees with fruit, the bakeries and butchers – all of them still lead me ever onward. We all have a comfort food, the food that says home or safe place or happiness. I know I do and the list grows longer every year. The feel in my hand of a warm freshly picked tomato or an egg still warm from the body of the hen sends a frisson of comfort down to my toes. The smell of my father’s fried chicken still lingers years after he died, the taste of a sharp acidic North Carolina tomato makes me almost orgasm when I taste it for the first time in summer, the taste of butter on bread or slurping a long noodle out of broth, stuffing a burrito into my mouth, or eating a big bun full of barbecue makes me happy in a way I cannot describe.

Food is what brings us together. It also separates us but food at its basic level brings us together. What we fix for someone tells us a lot about us to the person eating our food. We always give our best when we fix food for someone else; the food may be biscuits and gravy or Beluga caviar on toast points or fried rice or carne asada – it doesn’t matter. On some level I think we want to show off but on another, I think we want to say to the other person: “This is me. Please accept me.” I never refuse anything I am offered or say, I don’t eat that. I believe when we do that we are rejecting the person or culture offering the bite. I wish we could all sit around a huge table and share the food of our wealth, our poverty, our happiness, our grief. Pass the plates one to another, look each other in the eyes.  If we can’t do that then I feel we are all of us are well and truly lost.

seasons changing –
water to wine to juice –
we all are one

public domain

Holidays are coming: Thankfulness and light


Yes, I understand that sales are popping everywhere: online, in the stores, at the convenience stores, on TV. Yes I understand that Thursdays kicks off the official whirl of holiday gaiety, madness, and constant reminders to spend spend spend. I mean, that co-worker you barely know really needs to be re-gifted with that weird nutcracker Great Aunt Leticia gave you last year and your son’s current teacher desperately needs that cheap mug filled with 10 starlight mint candies and your mail carrier is seriously craving that $1 tiny piece of gourmet chocolate. Your cousin begged you for that $9.97 gift basket of one bath cube, mini bottle of body wash, that plastic fluffy scrubber, and useless sized loofah. I get it, the gift limit at the exchange was $10 and it was easy to grab the basket and you spent five minutes choosing between the lavender, pink, or yellow colors.

Heaven forbid that your child not get the latest $600 phone since all their friends will be getting one. And if you are blessed to have loving parents who are still alive, they specifically asked you for that $50 gift card to that restaurant they never go to. Hey, it was on display with other cards at the grocery checkout and we all know it’s the thought that counts. And be sure you schedule attendance at all the parties and open houses and cookie exchanges. Don’t forget that.

Several years ago, I was forced to get my priorities straight. I was home from being in hospital after surgery for cancer. I was not able physically to do shopping, put up decorations, cook tons of cookies that never all seemed to be eaten and grew stale and were thrown out to the birds, I had to send regrets to parties.  Thanksgiving was quiet and take Chinese food.

My husband pulled out of its box, a two foot fiber optic Christmas tree which fitted perfectly on the small table in front of the window in our family room. I was given by a friend, a special Nativity scene in honor of my being home and doing well. It went on the mantle of the family room. My family sent a gift card to a restaurant we liked and we used it to purchase our Christmas dinner: KFC fried chicken. My husband purchased a pie from a local bakery. Lights did not flash in our yard astounding people miles away. We didn’t have money for a pile of gifts so we made do with handmade cards with special wishes handwritten to each other.  We spent quiet time with each other and sang Christmas carols with each other.

It was one of the best Christmases ever. We delighted in the season of light and spent time with each other, a few friends who came to visit for a bit and who brought gifts of food and smiles. Silent snow fell and I wrapped myself in a quilt and stood on our front steps and looked up into the night sky. Silent night, holy night….

I am not tooting my horn here but you know, there really are better ways to spend your time and money. You truly do not have to spread darkness by arguing with sales people, pushing people out of the way to grab the last item on sale, buying something just to exchange because you have to. You can spread light by random acts of kindness, serving food at a shelter, getting toys for children in need, contributing to a fund that ensures children have warm coats for the winter, filling up boxes with food for the hungry, addressing cards for the elderly to send to their family, raking the yard of the neighbor you barely know but know he is laid up with a broken leg and his wife is 8 months pregnant, taking bags of food for animals at the local shelter, adopting an “angel” off an “angel” tree…the list goes on and on.

I am thankful this year for my family, for my health, for the love of God, for the kindness of people I know and for the kindness of strangers, for my friends, for plenty of food….I could list pages of what I am thankful. Light came into this world centuries ago without hoopla. His upcoming birth was not announced two weeks before Halloween, the Magi did not go to Black Friday sales to get their gifts as cheaply as possible, the shepherds did not arrive in the newest model SUV, the angels did not rock out to the latest soundtrack.

Simply, quietly, the Light of the World came to us. Because He loved us. So, what is your priority this year? What are you thankful for? How do you show your love?  How do you spread light in the darkness?

Thank you all for being my friends this year. Thank you for your prayers, good vibes, happy thoughts, sharing your light with me and mine. Thank you.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Melody Beattie


Closed Fist or Open Hand?

We all are given at least one talent.  The talent may not be perceived as such because to us, it seems so ordinary. If we use that talent and share it, there is a great difference between something hoarded and ordinary or, shared and extraordinary.

 Babies are born with their tiny hands clenched into a fist.  In Africa, when a baby is born, before it is even washed, its tiny fists are opened into an open hand.  The hands are opened not only to receive, but also to share.

 In the book of Exodus, God asks Moses, “What do you have in your hand?”  Moses was puzzled and finally answered, “My staff.”  In that day, staffs were ubiquitous.  Everyone had one.  The staff was used for walking, a weapon, herding animals, clearing a path of stones or scorpions.  There was nothing special about the wooden staff.  However, with the power of God through the staff, Moses used his staff to part the Red Sea, to turn water into blood as a curse against Pharaoh, it was turned into a snake (Exodus 4: 1 & 2).  An ordinary staff became a symbol of incredible power.  Miracles were wrought, signs were given, and a nation was freed.

 When we allow God to work through us, our ordinary becomes exceptional.  When we open our fists and share what is in our hands, incomparable feats happen.  When we open the closed fist of our heart, we share love, sympathy, and understanding.  We feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless, comfort the heartbroken, pray for those with a need, and sing a song to uplift a spirit, speak a word of kindness.  The list goes on and only ends when we close our hand. 

 None of us is perfect.  We are all of us broken in some way but we are all that God has to achieve His kingdom here on earth.  Open your fist.  Share what God has put into your hand.  Let Him use His power to make a little bit of something into something great.

Finding Success at the Bottom or…Pink Lotus Flowers Destroy Arrogance

I drive through a certain neighborhood every day.  It is a pleasant bit of suburbia – neat, prosperous, bland.  There are no front yard saints or fountains, no colored lights or blowups at Christmas, no shocks of cornstalks and pumpkins during the fall; no colored plastic eggs hanging from bushes; in other words, nothing to show any humor, individuality or character.

However, there is one house in the midst of humdrum.   The yard of this house has been terraced and each terrace is rife with flowers and shrubs.  Blooms explode from mid-February until almost Christmas.  Everything that can bloom in this southern climate is planted in that yard.  Several times a week, the owner of the house is tending to his yard.  While the yard is a jubilant and colorful scream against the neighboring houses and yard, it is also neat and well-kept.  It is not a tawdry yard.  It is planted with thought and care.  There are also two flag posts: one with an American flag, the other with a Vietnamese flag.

One day, as I was driving through, I noticed tall plants with round, elegant leaves.  A few days later, sharply pointed buds appeared.  The next week, I slowed almost to a stop as I gazed in wonderment – they looked like it, but they couldn’t be…..lotus flowers!  Pure glowing white, deep rosy pink.  Lotus flowers grow in water, I told myself.  They do not grow in the front yard of a home in neutral zone suburbia.  The next day, there were more buds in bloom.  Soon, there were the seed pods of lotus blooms left after the blooms died.  I puzzled and puzzled.  They can’t be lotus flowers.

 I determined that if I saw the owner of the home out working in his yard, I was going to stop and ask him what those exotic flowers were.  A couple of weeks later, I had my chance.  I drove by and saw the man.  I did a reckless U-Turn and pulled into his driveway.  He looked up from his wheelbarrow.  I got out of my car and slowly went towards him.  I did a courteous bow and told him I did not mean to intrude, but what where those beautiful pink and white flowers in his yard.  Lotus, he said with a smile, which grew wider at the expression on my face.

“I show you”, he said.  Plastic tubs were submerged in the Virginia soil and filled with water.  I looked into them and saw a complex maze of roots from which the stems and flowers grew.  I looked at him and delight and bent down closer to the submerged tubs.  This is absolutely incredible and amazing!  These are gorgeous!!!  I stood up and clapped my hands in delight.  I bowed to him and told him he was the best gardener in the county and how much I loved his yard.  He laughed and bowed and we were both of us happy with each other, the lotus flowers, and the yard.  He explained he had brought them “from home”.  Asked if I knew how to eat the roots, I told him yes.  He bent down and began to strip some roots from various tubs and gave me, along with several green seed pods and a huge leaf for me to steam rice in.  I held my treasurers in my hands and bowed with my head almost touching the ground and thanked him.  I drove off in anticipation of using the parts of the lotus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was re-assigned to different tasks.  I am lucky to have a job.  In this economy, things like this happen all the time.  I went from the top of barrel to the bottom of the barrel, in one fell swoop.  The fact that it was an act of inner political revenge didn’t make it easier to take.  I realized, after the fact, my arrogance.  I did an important and brain draining job.  Trust me, I felt my importance.  I’m still not happy about the re-assign, but I am learning more about myself.  I was a nice person and did a lot to help people, but…….my tongue was a laser that could cut through titanium.  My intellect was what I worked on growing more than my heart.  Yes, I was kind and giving but………I can be more so.

In the bottom of my barrel, I am working on developing roots that feed and nurture those other than myself.  I’m putting out stalks to reach for the sun and produce a bloom that is so beautiful, it makes people driving by do a U-Turn to get a closer look – a bloom that gives joy and fragrance without stint.

I found out one sure thing at the bottom of my barrel, God is with me at the bottom just like He was at the top.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…..He restores my soul….”  Psalm 23

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