How To Saunter

(For Owen)

Forget what you left behind if possible; think ‘wander’,

Look ahead, nonchalantly, toward the path,

Only as far as the flowers and

the birds that have nested near the climbing hydrangea.

While we’re on the subject of birds,

study them quietly — let them teach

you about what’s important; notice

their priorities (do they spend time worrying over small things?).

Sauntering requires that you dismiss

the minute, mundane worries of life

and remain free to inhabit

the joyful moments of life instead.

To enjoy life, even the slightest bit,

one must saunter.



Afraid of life, she listens to

them tell her how different

she is; she takes it to heart

at first. Watch her try, try

try to be like them but

no matter how hard she tries,

she is not like them.

Somewhere along the equation

she realizes that different than

is not less than;

it is equal to. Sometimes (maybe

mostly) different than, plus

different than equals a sum

far greater.

The Enclosure of the Heart

Like a sprouting seed, love climbs

the enclosure of the heart

that has at last allowed

the light of grace to reach it,

tendrils — fragile and leggy —

pull it up and out

of its dark place,

deep in the dank ragged

edges of loneliness

until it flowers, spilling

all its fragrance and color

on any one who will stop and listen.

Up From the River Smiling

A friend once told me she met

her future husband just after

a turbulent river tossed

her out of her small kayak.

My friend, being who she is, showed

up from beneath the icy water

laughing — her bright smile stretched

across her triumphant face.

The man, knowing his own need,

asked, “who is this woman

that came up from dangerous

water smiling?”

He asked to meet her on dry ground.

They loved well and married,

carried out to the sea of life

by that river-smiling moment.

I wonder how I, being who I am,

could meet another who is able

to come up from the river smiling.

I’m familiar with icy water, dangerous

and turbulent; I watch it carefully,

hopeful to someday see the one

who comes up from the river

with a smile on his face.

The Color of Your Heart

(Written for my art students at Howard Street Charter School, 2012)

The color of your heart is deep and wide–

It gathers all around me

And fills my days with laughter rich

And teaches me to be

More colorful myself, spilling all

My deepest hues

(Those I tend to hide inside)

Instead of showing them, like you.

Together we can paint the world to

Create a masterpiece

Of love and harmony and then

Our world can be at peace.


“As you know, I was raised on the Goin’s Farm, north of Jefferson. I never wanted to live anywhere else but Jefferson. Oh! how I liked to go to town!

Trips to Albany usually meant a visit to the doctor or dentist–something to be dreaded–or a trip to the bank. But a trip to Jefferson (other than church on Sunday) meant a stop at the grocery store, hardware store, lumber yard, feed store or library. And if we were lucky, a stop at Gibson’s (we called it Gippy’s). Now this store was dark and the floors creaked–but there were all kinds of neat things to look at and in the back there was an ice chest with Dixie cups and a cooler with Nesbit’s Orange pop. If we were good we got a treat, which we ate or drank while Dad would check pennies for old ones or buy rolls of pennies to check at home. Dad had a coin collection. He would bring home several rolls of pennies and we would check for old or special ones. Then we would put the pennies Dad didn’t want to keep in paper rolls to take back to the store or a bank.

The store was dark and dingy and– I suspect–none too clean, but I remember it as warm in winter and cool in summer and full of interesting things.



Tobogganing When I Was a Boy

East of Salem there is a small community called Pratum. This is where I grew up. About 1/2 mile East of Pratum there is a river called the Pudding River.

One Winter day it snowed a lot–12 inches–and it was cold, as the snow did not melt.

A group of boys, including my older brother (6 years older than I), had a toboggan which would hold about 5 fellows. We got it out and started going down a nice hill toward the Pudding River. There was an old rail fence made out of wood at the bottom of the hill, next to the river.

When we went down the hill we would stop approximately 100 or 150 feet short of the rail fence. “Oh, what fun!” We were having a great time when the older boys came and took the toboggan. When they got tired of it, we were back at it again.

That evening they got buckets of water and put it on the hill. The temperature was cold, so the water turned to ice.

Well, the next morning was Saturday, so no school. Us little guts got up early and beat the older boys to the toboggan. We were having lots of fun and would stop before the rail fence. The older boys came and took the toboggan away from us. We thought that was so mean. They got on the toboggan and went down the hill just zooming. When they got to the bottom of the hill, they couldn’t stop. They went right through the rail fence and onto the ice on the river. The ice was not thick enough to hold all the weight and they broke through the ice. All the boys went in the river. The water was only about three feet there, but they all got sopping wet.

Well, do you know what? Us little guys were able to toboggan the rest of the day. The older guys had had it. This happened about 1940. “Oh, what fun!”

–John Wenger