Words of Mary Oliver Capture Essence of a March Snowfall

FIRST SNOW (Excerpt)

The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
flitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills; 
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.         -Mary Oliver

The Botched Christmas Batch

Mom loved to bake and would share her baked goods with family, friends and shut-ins. Her sweet rolls were well-known, but at Christmas, she mixed up a rich dough of dates, nuts, and raisins. When baked in a greased floured can, this dark brown bread could be sliced into a wheel that tasted so good.

My job was to take the date bread to the names on Mom’s list. My last drop off was to the three story brick home where the nuns lived. The Sisters taught at Sacred Heart School, which was my school. Once I left there, my bread route was done.

Back home, when I walked in the door, Mom was on the phone.

“Oh my! Okay. Bye.” I heard her say. 

“Oh no!”  She hung up the phone and sank down onto the straight-back chair.

“That was your Uncle George. He wants to know who’ll pay his dental bill,” she said. “This is so bad! I just found out there are pits in my date bread.”

Oh no was right. All I could think of was that I had just given the nuns bread with pits in it. Sister Amelia was in charge of my fourth-grade class, and she was strict. How would I ever be able to face her?

With no time to bake a fresh batch of date bread, Mom came up with a plan. She called our friends and family to tell them about her slip-up and to warn them about the pits in the bread. Then she dialed the nuns’ phone. My face felt hot as I heard her words from the next room.

“Hello, Sister,” Mom said. “I just want you to know that we are giving a prize to the nun who finds the most date pits.” After a pause, Mom added, “That’s right. I’ve got a lace hankie for the sister who gets more than ten pits from her piece of date bread.” Then after another pause, I heard Mom say, “Same to you. Thank you, Sister,” as she hung up.

The botched batch of date bread turned into more than a gaffe. Yet, Mom not only owned her slip-up, but she worked to make it right. At least no one chipped a tooth. Sister Mary Eve found eleven date pits, so she won the hankie. 

As for me, I learned that it’s not about the sweets we get or give. It’s about how we deal with the pits.

-Deb Johnston, previously published in Short & Sweet Humil8ting



limber grasses tango

waves flaunt white ruffles 

pines arrange cool shade

roll with the lake breeze

waves flaunt white ruffles 

polish rocks along the shore

roll with the lake breeze

trace patterns in the sand

polished rocks along the shore

shadows of the gulls circle

trace patterns in the sand

just for you and me

shadows of the gull circle

limber grasses tango

just for you and me

to rest in the pine shade

        -Deb Johnston

Emberlight Festival, August 2021, Ironwood Michigan 1st Runner-up

On Emily Dickinson’s Birthday

In Memorial – Barb Cranford, Poet

Snowstorm, December 10

on the highway

sirens groan

deep in the woods

the house is still

sirens moans

woodstove hums

my house is still

on Emily’s birthday

woodstove purrs

and snowplow drones

on Dickinson’s birthday

while I share this poem

snowplows fade

on the highway

as I write my poems

deep in the woods

           —Barb Cranford