Remembering Carl Sagan: Appreciation

A few weeks ago I so enjoyed re-reading Carl Sagan’s book (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize) “Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence”. My first experience of the book was thirty years ago. “I was so much older then…I’m younger than that now.” 🙂

Carl Sagan had figured BIG in my life, with WGBH Boston’s showing of his “Cosmos” when I was a teen, and for me much later–when he was living in Ithaca NY, teaching at Cornell University. His list of accomplishments is monumental! (just google to see)

Who will ever forget his classic “we are the stuff of stars”! When I was teaching at a Montessori School, I played that one out — doing my best to open up to my students the grandiose nature of the Natural Elements, their origin in the “cooking up” death of stars. And how we humans can be grateful in that gift of a star’s death!

Carl really was a poet at heart. He helped me as a teacher that way.

I forever followed much of his work, though I never had a chance to see him in person. When I lived in Ithaca, I often visited Ithaca Falls. There I could catch a glimpse of his and Ann Druyan’s house, perched magically at the left !right on the very edge!

When he died in December of 1996 at age 62, all of Ithaca seemed to fall into mourning. I felt moved to say good-bye and prepared to attend his burial to be held at a beautiful hillside cemetery in Ithaca, where he would join both his parents. Not knowing Jewish tradition, which did not allow flowers to be present, I’d brought along a bouquet of daisies. An attendant at the cemetery gate saw and shook his head, no. I left them on top of a column there.

To resume ~ In “Dragons of Eden”, in a chapter entitled “Madmen and Lovers”, Carl took me on the wildest adventure! In the end (if ever there is one) I understood me and my music leaning brain better; with this, I now understand culture from a new perspective and how the world is imbalanced, largely broken from Nature.

That the two hemispheres of the brain may quite often fight; how the left brain Linear Rational and right brain holistically experiencing Intuitive are, at best, unsettled partners. Left brain iron-fisted, ruling the roost.

I am so very grateful for Carl Sagan’s having been on this planet. His revolutionary ideas will endure. His childlike enthusiasm and intellectual rigor and poetic vision inspire me.

Today I wish to remember him and send him my love wherever he is. He’s hob-knobbing with beneficent ETs surely (inside joke)! Carl, you are still looking out, helping us evolve. Thank you!

Brain Indivisible (for Carl Sagan)

as my two equal hands make one
in reverence in honor in prayer

my left and my right brain do

let’s not dwell too much on it
one hand washing the other

simple voice of reason
simple voice of nature


at peace

An Experience of Time

In the Present Moment, is there a “moment” actually? Where are the words to help us wriggle out of the realm of time language? What experiences slip us away and into an engaged, blissful flow-feeling, of freedom?

Your choice. Seek it and when you find it at last or it finds you, hold tight. It is your heart.

Only love what you are doing. Get lost in it. Refuse to answer the door bell, any “calling” from who knows who — whoever or whatever wants to be at your elbow, snagging your attention.

Take control of your masterpiece.

If you do not take control, someone or something else will try hooking your attention. Subtle are those ways.

You may decide to go a bit underground, when you ask this greatness of yourself. Keeping keys of it personal and private. Something of recognizable you, you may trade away. For this — growing your freedom and your love.

I am learning to listen … choosing to go close in, with open-heartedness, grounded in stillness — to the Universe, to God, to Mystery, to “not knowing”. Trusting that All is well.

It’s an exciting, holy and humbling adventure. Makes me smile.

spring snapshot

out of a shallow dip
catch-water field
of landscape polished rock
a shock of pregnant junipers

in pine pitch laden sunlight
olive-green fires arise
and my eyes bedazzle

floating specks
of bees

new hatched

golden jump
and spiral

as if tethered
to child’s witching wand

random rode
the windless air

Remembering Bealman

Cat three-tooth, cat stone-deaf, cat sidewinder walk,
Old Bealman stalked the croaking, the croaking,
with forepaws meek stroking
airs of a summer cool night.

Bealman, Bealman, Meow & Sealman,
Pacing, still racing, one two three man.
Bealman—frog fisher & free.

Delphinium, the roses, lupine interposes
a shadow of fortressed green leaf
disguises the notion my Bealman supposes—
to seize, dismember it through,
make self-concocted, dishering frog stew.

Bealman, Bealman, Meow & Sealman,
Pacing, still racing, one two three man.
Bealman—frog fisher & free.

Night hours accounting, morning’s surmounting,
a bird warning Bealman, his patience to thin.
Croaking still blending, a flower stalk was bending,
two legs, peaking out, sent Bealman straight in.

Bealman, Oh my Bealman, Meow & Sealman,
Pacing, still racing, one two three man.
Frog fisher & free.

I saw Bealman beaming; I saw Bealman beaming.
How cats manage beaming I’ll wonder again.
Since Bealman was twenty, any beaming is plenty.
I loved my old Bealman, my frog fisher friend.

Bealman, Bealman, my meow dear Sealman,
Frog fisher & free.


when everything everywhere
whispered in irresistible languages

hey you there
stop resisting

i began to surrender
was flowing free

burnt as bright sun
starlike spent explosive fuel
wings flapping

toward the unknowable

experimented with ditching
body as identification
name as identification
personal history as identification

faded off
mad word searching
explaining justifying
reiterating too much information

i loosened my squeeze grip
on intellectualism
tell-me-how-to-be spiritual books
whatever the famous someone
said once then got bronzed over

i surrendered to universal unity
where i lavishly decorated
my living changing dream
with my own snap choices
what i wanted

i was flowing with fresh
synergetic synthesis

returned outside to pedestrian streets
where angelics mixed in
wore transparent disguises

i began to flow
forgiveness out and in

skipped a light fandango
splashing puddles was
answer to inclement weather

i set wooden faces
to smiling after
i switched my own

i rolled on through
perceived stop signs
of the everlasting no

erased all my karma with

made myself
stock still

yes yes yes

relaxed awareness


opened all my hands

Fireflies of November

On this early chill November morning
where are you now, my firefly,
in crystal ground, under log or leaf?

Where is your crew in its dying?
Have your babies wakened
to winter sleep?

I recall how on July evenings, when I came out,
I had long listened for messages.

Blessings to you for accepting me, my witness
of your spotted twists free-floating down;
your drifting off and on through moonlit tree,
visits to my wrist, a shoe.

I was happier than happy—
happiest as happy be.

Had you felt my spark electric energy?

Multiple mystery goes slipping
into my pockets.

And now, these few months hence, there is
this glint on the frost-etched window.
Flash of apt stillness.

A wild-voiced picture:
our pleasure’s twin.

How could I say I know exactly what you are?
By my ear and everywhere I would say!
These light flung words of yours, not mine,
to lend.

Yet, if I could love you so truly and release you,
would I comprehend what life wishes to teach me
about possessiveness, the brevity of existence,
time itself, worlds of no time?

Most joyful would I leave all the faces of my dwelling.
Sail headlong into far-flung dream,
toward sky’s moon, hunting the sun.

Glimpse heaven in our dancing?

Behold you and my own body, firefly,
before we were?

A Fire Escape of Sparrows

(written one day before the Boston Marathon Bombing April 2013)

What we have named Fire Escape
(an ordered, angular tangle of ladders and rail)
had made picture geometries in my west window
well-framed and flat–set foreground and background
in two dimensions, as the sun hid,
and my round eye opened.

What we have named Fire Escape
was flaked-paint brown orange, as if
first it had been born of flame
and then had long taken up living as metal–
tempered itself into usefulness,
which I should trust now, in case of the yelling
and the engines.

What we have named Fire Escape
was happy Jungle Jim or Jungle for Jane
for the sparrows I saw this morning
which flitted and wildly played
within, rising up, arched and coming back again.

Made of the square pairs of ladder rungs–
a tunnel entrance or ducking posts,
or highway bridges to clear;
the birds like small plane, daredevil pilots
each following each, going under.
And I supposed that no sparrow would ever crash.

And what was this I remember now?
How one bird eased its engine and perched there to stay?
As if to offer me, with a little turn head gesture,
a thank you for the bread I’d left on the sill? Or to say
I’d better shut the curtain and make my exit?

Either prideful guess gets me nowhere fast.
Failed even is speaking in any sparrow language
from my recline stuffed chair; again, but now imagined,
to draw beady eyes to fix on me, telling me much less.

That morning, with the last sparrow gone,
I remember that nothing in my sight moved,
save an American flag at a distance in the wind,
with its one red-white striped wing
waving toward the cold north,
as the white church spire,
framed in an open quadrilateral,
held its position.


Down from Arizona desert cold and this absence of ice and snow
three white painted terracotta pots
by the Villa apartment on the tabled walkway—
Christina’s place.

Stacked, each alternately inverted one to the next
stabilize a snowperson body. Can you picture it?

Black painted buttons all the way up?
Lips of dots, an orange twist of nose,
deep eyes void black. Burgundy scarf tied around the neck,
positioned just so, it could be fit to a Christmas Chihuahua.

By its playful form and surprising attitude, may it well succeed
at pleasing every passerby and draw on each scroogy face a smile.
It’s been doing that for me, as I park opposite each night,
my headlights there shining.

Still, I have not and shall not peak inside the alluring, open terracotta skull
since I have imagined not wishes, nor disappointment, nor elves and cookies,
but practical ash, randomly spiked with spent cigarettes.

And last night, as I walked out, with my night’s anticipations,
my grab-bag of happy tangles, Christina’s hanging silver chimes
issued their soft whispering over terracotta, and I caught
a snippet of Amazing Grace how sweet the sound.

Mojo my psychic dog turned me sharp just then,
and took me away–we two, sniffing into the starry desert.

Dream Amphibian

On the low-flung periphery of the salt marsh bay,
near the twisted beach, an eddy–

Sun low with the tide going up
where softly and under I lay.

For a pillow I was given
a yellow shell.

My ears were listening.

In its restlessness and reaching,
my tongue and its languages
felt lashed and closed.

I shall not leave
my waterworld.

But I must go,

Hermit crab
raised itself up.

One silvery minnow played
across my open eyes.

Then, a cloud-blue sky
answered me
with a white seabird,
overhead circling.

So strange and beautiful,
this land of my dream I see–
in my amphibian way.