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The First Weekend of December (A Book Selection)

HOLIDAY NOTE:  ‘Tis the season for decorating WORDWALK with holiday memoirs, stories, poems, and perhaps a family recipe.  To kick off the Holiday WORDWALK of 2022, I am sharing a memoir piece from my book THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON (copyright 2016, 101 pages).  Once a year, I want to let new readers of WORDWALK know that the print version of my book is still available on Amazon and the e-book continues to be available through Kindle.  For patrons of the National Library Service of the Blind and Print Disabled, the downloadable audio book is DBC 08305.  Additionally, I am pleased to note that my holiday book is available in braille from Audio and Braille Literacy Enhancement (ABLE from Milwaukee, Wisconsin).  For more information about the one volume of braille, contact:

http://www.ablenow.org

To read more about my book and to see a beautiful photo of the cover, please visit my author page at:

http://www.dldbooks.com/alicemassa/

Now, please sit back and enjoy the following Christmas memoir from my book.

The Magic and Wonder of the First Weekend of December:

From Christmas Dances to Decorations,

From the Land of Oz to Santa Claus Land

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                The first weekend of December brings back memories of many special times, including the celebrations of my parents’ wedding anniversary; they were married on December 4, 1942, while my dad was in the Army.  In 1997, on December 1, my dad passed away three days before the celebration of their 55th wedding anniversary. 

                On the first weekend of December, in the 1950s and the early 1960s, a Christmas dance at Perona’s Hall was part of kicking off the holiday season in our hometown of Blanford, Indiana.  Not only did the adults of our small, rural town attend, but also some of the children.  Perona’s Hall was above the grocery store–one of the two competitors of the grocery store of my maternal grandmother and my Uncle Pete.  Nevertheless, my parents and I enjoyed going to these dances.  One thing which I did not enjoy was the extremely high, narrow, and steep flight of stairs to the dance hall.  After ascending those many stairs, one entered the hall with an alcove on the right, where food and drinks were served.  I recall that the Royal Neighbors of America, an organization to which my mother belonged for many years, sponsored a number of these dances.  To the left of the entry was a small stage with an upright piano and its wooden stool.  Theatre seats and tall windows were around the other three sides  of the dance hall.  For these community dances, a five-piece band played big band tunes that still echo in my head.  I especially hear Deno Libei’s saxophone filling the dance hall with “Stardust” and can picture so clearly in my mind’s eye my parents, dancing so smoothly over the wooden floor of Perona’s Hall.  In this memory, I see my mother in a royal blue dress and my dad in a charcoal and gray suit with white shirt and narrow tie.  What a handsome couple they were!  My father was known as a very good dancer, and my mother well followed his lead around the dance floor.  Those December dances to begin the celebration of the holiday season were good times.

                Too frequently, the re-broadcasting of the spectacularly magical movie The Wizard of Oz on television coincided with the December dance.  Although I did not want to miss watching this famous movie, when the Wicked Witch or the flying monkeys appeared on screen, I hid behind a portion of the wall that arched between our living room and dining room.  Then, I just peeked periodically at the frightening parts of the 1939 movie.  Once, I estimated that I had seen The Wizard of Oz at least fourteen times–but of course, more by now and still counting.

                The first weekend of December was also the time when we decorated our house and trimmed the Christmas tree.  Eventually, live evergreens gave way to an artificial six-foot tree. 

                For many years, my dad decorated our large front porch with strands of multi-colored lights.  Additionally, bedecking our front porch were a choir girl and choir boy dressed in white and red choir robes and made of plastic.  Between the two choir members was a plastic street lamppost, topped with a little snow.  Of course, these figurines were illuminated by a bulb within each piece.  When I was in college in Terre Haute and enjoyed shopping on Wabash Avenue, I purchased a plastic reindeer at the Smith-Alsop Store to add to the holiday display on our porch.  For a few years, my dad affixed a speaker outdoors so that Christmas music accompanied our outdoor Christmas display. 

                For a number of years before we created our own outdoor holiday decorations, my family and I drove to the home of the Harris family who lived about four miles north of Blanford, a little past the town of St. Bernice, in the flat and rich farmland of our Vermillion County.  This family who owned the Harris Food Store in Clinton, Indiana, had quite a mesmerizing Christmas display, with holiday music.  I most remember driving so very slowly by Santa in a sleigh, with all the reindeer.  Even though I have never been a fan of blue for Christmas decor, I marveled each year at the large, indoor tree lighted only with blue Christmas lights–the larger type, not the fairy lights or LED lights as used today.  Besides other outdoor figurines of the season around the property, a huge star shone brightly from atop the television aerial and over a manger scene.  Viewing this home’s holiday outdoor display a few times each year was a special treat.

                When I was even younger, my parents, my older sister, and I went to Santa Clause, Indiana, during the first weekend of December.  For several years, we went to Santa Claus Land (renamed Holiday World in more recent decades) because my mother was a member of the Indiana Branch of the National League of Postmasters, who selected this festive location for their December meeting.  While she attended her meeting, Dad, Mary, and I did those more important things like visiting Santa and shopping at the unique store from where I still have a very small tea set on which is painted Santa and the words “Santa Claus Land.”  While my sister and I recognized the Santas at Roots’ Department Store in Terre Haute and other such Santas, we knew that the real Santa was at Santa Claus, Indiana.  Consequently, going to Santa Claus Land was extremely important. 

                On one of our trips to this small city in Southern Indiana, the snow was flying to set the holiday mood.  In the early 1950s, children’s rubber boots with one button at the top of each were quite popular; my sister had a white pair, and I had a red pair.  Also, children’s house slippers at that time were not the fuzzy and fluffy type, but made more like leather slippers with a wide and heavy-duty elastic band on either side.  In my haste and excitement to see the real Santa Claus, I forgot to change into my patent leather shoes.  I stuck my house-slippered, little feet right into my red boots.  Somewhere along a snow-covered road en route to Santa Claus, Indiana, I came to a terrible realization:  no pretty patent leather shoes were on my feet.  In a burgeoning panic, I told my dad that he had to go back home for my dress shoes because I could not possibly see Santa while I was wearing my house slippers!  My dad tried to explain to me that he could not return home, that the roads were slippery, that we had to arrive in time for Mother’s meeting, and that Santa Claus would not mind my wearing boots within which were house slippers.  I was not swayed a bit by his logic.  This time was one of the extremely rare occasions when my wonderful dad did not grant my wish.  I cried real tears.  Nevertheless, that first weekend in December, I did wear my red house slippers, covered by my big red boots, to see the real Santa Claus.  Thankfully, all worked out well.  I do not think Santa had a clue about my footwear:  he still brought me the nice gifts I had shyly requested as I sat upon his knee. 

Wishing you the gifts of joy and wonder of this magical holiday season,

Alice and Leader Dog Zoe

December 10, 2014, Wednesday

Re-posted on December 3, 2022, Saturday, by Alice and Leader Dog Willow

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Thankful for Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park

Thankful for Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park

Week 4.  November—A Month of Thanksgiving

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                I do hope that all of my WORDWALK readers have enjoyed or are enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I continue to celebrate this month of Thanksgiving with thoughts of Turkey Run State Park—2,382 acres in Marshall, Indiana.  Established in 1916, Turkey Run became the second state park in my home state.  This picturesque state park welcomes one million visitors each year.

                Why do I mention this state park on Thanksgiving?  When our family gatherings decreased significantly in size, my parents and I changed the tradition of preparing Thanksgiving at home to celebrating a number of Thanksgiving Days in the 1980s, at Turkey Run State Park.  While the family celebrations of the November holiday were most precious at my maternal grandmother’s, our own home or especially at my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant—my parents and I did enjoy the forested and rustic setting of the Turkey Run Inn for Thanksgiving.  The employees of the Narrows Restaurant, located on the main floor of the Turkey Run Inn, always served a delicious and complete turkey dinner which did taste homemade.  This location became so popular for holiday dinners that we also, in later years, enjoyed a couple of dinners in the larger and newer Lusk Room—overflow area for the restaurant and a banquet/conference room–which seats 250 guests and which, located in the lower level of the Inn, has a panoramic view of the forest.  Nevertheless, I still prefer the primary restaurant on the main floor because of the rustic feel—despite the view of the swimming pool.

                Even though our extended family, as well as school friends, gathered at the state park many times during the spring and summer months to take advantage of all the park had to offer—after a Thanksgiving dinner at the Narrows Restaurant, when weather permitted, we enjoyed taking Trail #6 to Sunset Point to hear the animals scampering through the forest and to check out Sugar Creek where, in fairer weather, canoers and kayakers would be enjoying the creek and Rocky Hollow-Falls Canyon Nature Preserve.  On the walk to Sunset Point, we passed by the 1848 Lieber  cabin, the oldest of virgin timber in Indiana.  This historic cabin was moved to the state park in 1918 by Colonel Richard Lieber, the “father of Indiana’s state parks.”  On the way back from Sunset Point, we walk by the 1871 log church, moved to the park location in 1923; nondenominational services are still held at this old log church.

                The fourteen miles of hiking trails throughout the state park are rated “easy” to “rugged.”  One of the easier trails is #1 which is one of the hiking trails that leads to the 1882 Narrows Covered Bridge.  We took this trail numerous times to visit the covered bridge.  Of course, when I was younger, my family and I or friends and I took the seventy steps down to the suspension bridge, also known as the “swinging bridge” because it did swing, over Sugar Creek.  On the other side of the bridge, on the other side of the canyon were the sandstone cliffs and more hiking trails.  Naturally, we delighted in hiking the rugged Trail #3.

                You may be wondering why this state park was named “Turkey Run.”  Of the few legends associated with this park name, the most likely reason was that the then plentiful wild turkeys huddled in the warmer canyons for the warmth.  Pioneer hunters found the turkeys easy to harvest in these runs.  Since going to the park from early childhood, I have never seen or otherwise encountered a wild turkey at Turkey Run State Park; nevertheless, I do know that the turkey population has once again increased—even in the city of Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs.  Although turkeys have been spotted in the areas where my Leader Dog Willow and I walk in Milwaukee’s East Town, we, to my knowledge, have never yet met a turkey in our path.

                Besides Thanksgiving, my family and I have many happy memories of celebrations and other gatherings at this state park which is only about 45 minutes from my Blanford home town.  Although I have visited Turkey Run with my first three Leader Dogs Keller, Heather, and Zoe—Willow and I have not yet walked on a trail of Turkey Run State Park.  I still hope we will someday.

                Not only do I have mugs, post cards, and note cards from the Turkey Run gift shop–I have, on one of my living room’s walls, a unique oil painting of a covered bridge.  In 2011, when I was at Turkey Run to celebrate my retirement from teaching, I purchased this oil painting. 

                At each Thanksgiving, Turkey Run State Park comes to my mind with an abundance of happy memories.  (NOTE:  On the internet, you can find photographs and more details of Turkey Run State Park.)

Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

November 24, 2022, Thursday

Thankful for Cranberries!

Thankful for Cranberries!

(with a Cranberry Book Recommendation)

Week 3.  November—A Month of Gratitude

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                I am thankful for a cornucopia of cranberry treats.  When I moved to Wisconsin in 1991, I did not realize that I was moving to the state  that produces the most cranberries.  Additionally, Wisconsin produces more than half of the world’s supply of cranberries.  In this pre-Thanksgiving blog post, I am ready to toast the cranberry with, of course, a glass of cranberry wine—a festive wine for the holiday season. 

                Even when I was very young, I enjoyed cranberries.  For my extended family Thanksgiving gatherings of the 1950s and 1960s, one of the dishes which my mother faithfully made was the homemade cranberry sauce—fragrant, pretty, and delicious as a side for the turkey.  In later decades, my mother and I also made an easy, do-ahead-of-time recipe for cranberry relish which my sister plans to make again this year as part of the trimmings for her family’s Thanksgiving feast. 

                Through the years, at numerous parties, one of my favorite punches has been –you guessed it—cranberry punch.  Over the centuries, the use and production of cranberries has significantly evolved:  for example, in 1963, Ocean Spray [trademark] first marketed Cranapple Juice.  Yes, I like the variety of cranberry juices—juice blends–which became available in recent years.  In my November 6, 2013 WORDWALK blog post, I shared one of my very favorite recipes–“Cranberry Calico Cake,” which is really a sweet bread that may be served with or without the “Cranberry Calico Frosting.” 

                Although homemade is the best choice, I must admit that I also greatly enjoy the canned jellied cranberry sauce and the whole-berry cranberry sauce.  (Ocean Spray first manufactured cans of cranberry sauce in 1912.)  In addition to eating the canned cranberry sauces plain, I will also combine the canned sauce with fresh apples, fresh oranges, applesauce, and/or celery.  Further, I too much enjoy the chocolate-covered Craisins, which happily came onto store shelves in 1993; however, my sister and I first found these delectable treats as a local variety at a store near Toma, Wisconsin, on the way home from a trip to Minnesota.  Ever since, Craisins have been a favorite snack of mine.

                Foods and beverages aside, would you believe that one of my favorite bar soaps is cranberry-scented?  When selecting a fragrance of foaming, hand soap, my first choice is always cranberry.

                Tomorrow morning, the wind chill is to be around zero—great weather for a mug of cranberry herbal tea!  I think I will be dreaming of a cranberry muffin or cranberry scone to accompany the hot tea.  However, for me, cranberries are not a seasonal item:  I enjoy all things cranberry throughout the four seasons of the Midwest.

                Can you believe that I even have a cranberry book recommendation for you?  If you want to tempt your taste buds and fill your appetite for some very interesting history surrounding the cranberry, I do highly recommend the 142-page book MASSACHUSETTS CRANBERRY CULTURE:  A HISTORY FROM BOG TO TABLE, by Robert S. Cox and Jacob Walker, copyright 2012.  (For patrons of the BARD program of the National Library Service, the audio book, recorded at the Perkins Library, is DBM 1401, with a reading time of five hours and twenty minutes.)You will learn that the popularity of the cranberry came to fruition in the 1840s.  Despite the title, the book contains numerous references to the growth of cranberry production in Wisconsin.  For example, cranberries from Green Bay, Wisconsin, were first sent to New York in 1834.  A piece of trivia for you—Henry David Thoreau preferred the water harvesting of the “floating fruit.”  Besides the detailed descriptions of how the cranberry grows and is harvested, the history and culture stemming from the cranberry bogs will keep you turning the pages of this book.

                I hope you have enjoyed this cranberry bog—I mean “blog.”  Additionally, I hope you have some cranberry sauce or cranberry relish on your Thanksgiving plate.

Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving week!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

November 19, 2022, Saturday

A Cornucopia of Thanks for Poetry (An Essay)

November—A Month of Gratitude

Week 2.  A cornucopia of Thanks for Poetry

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                During all seasons of my life, during the happy times and challenging times of my life—I have gratefully turned to the reading and writing of poetry.  From the cloth picture-book of nursery rhymes that my mother read to my older sister and me, from the creatively descriptive language which my dad frequently used to my presenting one of my poems to my second-grade class at Indiana’s Jacksonville Grade School through these days of my presenting my poetry at the monthly Readers’ Workshop of Behind Our Eyes—my life has been pleasantly polka-dotted with poetry.  Thus, in this month of gratitude, I am posting on my “thankful” list a cornucopia of thanks for poetry.

                I am grateful to have been in grade school when teachers assigned us a poem to memorize and later recite.  In high school, I so enjoyed reading aloud repeatedly the melodious  poem “The Raven,” by Edgar A. Poe, that I developed laryngitis for the first time.  In 1989, I toured the Edgar A. Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. 

                One of my most memorable recollections of literature courses which I took while seeking my first master’s degree was one of my professors of English sharing with a class of about forty students that what helped him during his service in Europe during World War II was the book of poetry which he kept in his pocket for reading whenever possible.  The professor was a stout man and at least 6’4”.  Throughout the years, his story has returned to my thoughts; and I am always touched.  In a somewhat similar poetic vein, I think of one of my favorite quotations which I came across many years later.  In a May 14, 1781 letter to his then thirteen-year-old son John Quincy Adams, the forty-five-year-old John Adams (before he was president) wrote:  “You are never alone with a poet in your pocket.”  I firmly agree because great poems may be read over and over with continuing or even growing interest, appreciation, and/or joy.

                Teaching a poetry unit was one of my most favorite parts of my career in education.  Each semester, I was extremely grateful to hear each of my students present  an original poem at “Poetry at the Podium.”  I was surprised how many students told me they had never before written a poem or had not written one since elementary school.  I hope that many of my former students are still writing, reading, and being thankful for poetry.

Besides reading poetry in textbooks, I do relish reading poetry collections of both classic poets and contemporary poets.  Having chapbooks of poetry written by writer friends of mine on a special bookshelf is a treat that always brings a warm smile to my face.  Whatever the medium—print, braille, or various audio versions—I am content to read poetry.  Whenever a poet friend publishes a collection of poetry, I am nearly as excited as the author and try to be a cheerleader for my fellow poets.

                For me, highlights of each month are two events of the writers’ group Behind Our Eyes.  First, since July of 2016, I have been grateful to participate in  a small-group critique session:  although we can contribute either poetry or prose, we most often share poetry.  Secondly, in 2019, I thankfully became a regular participant and periodic moderator of the Readers’ Workshop that allows me an opportunity not only to present aloud my poetry, but to hear the poetry and prose of fellow Behind Our Eyes (BOE) members.  For additional information about this group for writers’ with disabilities, please visit:

http://www.behindoureyes.org

                Today, I was again enjoying the reading of MAGNETS AND LADDERS, the bi-annual online literary publication of Behind Our Eyes.  You also can enjoy the poetry and prose of this free internet magazine, established in 2010, at:

http://www.magnetsandladders.org

If you are a regular reader of this WORDWALK blog, you know how much I like writing poetry about my guide dogs, hometown of Blanford, family, Italian ancestors, poetry, nature, holidays, and more.  Of course, I cannot forget being thankful for April, National Poetry Month—one of my favorite times of the year.

With best wishes and heartfelt gratitude to our veterans and their families on November 11 and always,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

November 10, 2022, Thursday

November–A Month of Thanks

November—A Month of Gratitude

Week 1.  Thankful for JEOPARDY!

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Once again, during the month of November, I will be sharing a cornucopia of thanks.  The challenge is that I will try to mention only a gratitude which I have not previously included on November blog posts of earlier years.  In the comments section of each November post, you are invited to share something for which you are particularly thankful.

                Most people who know me do know that I am a longtime and avid fan of the best game show ever—JEOPARDY!  I have greatly enjoyed JEOPARDY since the thirty-minute program first aired on March 30, 1964, with then host Art Fleming.  The first run of this famous game show was from 1964 through 1975.  Sometime during the mid to late ‘60s, I even had a JEOPARDY game for playing away from the television broadcast.  This game was quite low-tech with a print booklet of many answers; this booklet could be folded to fit behind a plastic frame that appeared similar to the early television program’s board with six categories. 

                Although Art Fleming had a second brief run of hosting JEOPARDY from 1978 through 1979, Alex Trebek earned his television fame with  the especially long run of hosting JEOPARDY from 1984 through 2020 (with his last recorded program airing on January 8, 2021).  As soon as Alex Trebek’s book THE ANSWER IS …:  REFLECTIONS ON MY LIFE was released in July of 2020, I quickly purchased the audio version of the book, narrated by Ken Jennings and Alex Trebek, and promptly listened to the recorded book.  Even through all of the guests hosts and current two hosts, my devotion to JEOPARDY continues.  Now, I can even listen to a podcast entitled INSIDE JEOPARDY to learn more about the “behind-the-scenes” happenings. 

                Yes, I must admit that at times, my voice-mail message has been JEOPARDY-related.  Well, you know I do not answer the phone from 6:00 to 6:30, each evening, Monday through Friday, when JEOPARDY is broadcast in the Milwaukee market.  During the months football season does not interfere with JEOPARDY season, one of our local channels wisely broadcasts reruns of JEOPARDY on Saturdays.  Thus, I can enjoy JEOPARDY six nights a week during the majority of the year.  (Please do not ask me about CELEBRITY JEOPARDY.) 

                Except for holiday specials, the only time I listen to television is for JEOPARDY and news programs.  Since the “Tournament of Champions” began on Monday of this week, I was able to quickly decide to place JEOPARDY onto my thankful list.  For me, the JEOPARDY “Tournament of Champions” draws much more attention and enthusiasm than the Olympics and Super Bowl. 

                While I immensely enjoy playing the game at home, I have never had illusions of trying out for the game; however, I have known people who have tried to become JEOPARDY contestants.  If ever I go to California again, I would love to attend a taping of JEOPARDY at the Alex Trebek Studio.  My special thanks to all who made and continue to make this educational game show possible!

Enjoy the “Tournament of Champions”!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

November 2, 2022, Wednesday

Boo! Happy Halloween!

Apparition Contrition

poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Once while on a chilly and bumpy hayride,

once while walking through the double-span covered bridge,

once while exploring the abandoned farmhouse,

once while throwing corn at a passing car,

I felt the aura of an apparition.

Once while in the upstairs of my grandfather’s bakery,

once while in the writer’s garret of the old poet laureate,

once while in the secret passageway of The House of Seven Gables,

once while in the crawl space of our cabin up north,

I smelled a ghost.

Once while in the fiction stacks at the old library,

once while in the elevator to the 13th floor,

once while in the telephone booth at the train station,

once while in the voting booth in a city where I lived long ago,

I heard a ghost.

Once atop the windy hill,

once inside the old gray hotel,

once at the top of the creaking stairway,

once at the end of the narrow hallway,

I placed the old-fashioned key into the keyhole.

With a tense turn of the key,

the door opened into a candlelit room

where there was no bed—

only an antique, freestanding mirror.

I looked into that full-length mirror

and saw

the ghost

was I.

* * *

Enjoy the tales, tricks, and treats of Halloween!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

October 26, 2022, Wednesday

Wishes for Willow

Paw Notes on October 19, 2022

                On this October 19, 2022, as my Leader Dog Willow amazingly turns nine years old—in “people years”—I do wonder what her wish would be with the blowing out of birthday candles.  Certainly, I wish for her a long life with good health, happiness in her work and her home life.  Most thankfully, Willow’s guide work is as impeccable at age nine as it ever has been.  If I were blowing out the candles and making a wish, I do wish I could have seen her and held her when she was a very young puppy.  Only with my second Leader Dog Heather did I receive from her puppy-raisers two photos of my Yellow Lab when she was a puppy—a Future Leader Dog.  To those who gave Willow her lovely and most suitable name, I thank them for their very important part in Willow’s becoming such an exemplary Leader Dog.  To those who cared for and first loved the newborn Willow, her littermates, and their mother dog Holly—I think of you on this day with smiles of great gratitude and with awe.  With forever appreciation for the gift I was given, I am enormously proud to have my fourth Leader Dog ever at my side.

                Using each letter of Willow’s name for the initial letter of each of the poetic lines, I am sharing with you an acrostic of only six lines to mark and celebrate Willow’s birthday.

Nine Candles to Spotlight Willow’s Birthday

acrostic poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Wonderful Willow, gifted guide dog,

inspires my mobility, poetry, and life.

Leader Dog extraordinaire

loves to work and loves her Alice.

October 19 Ovations, blue ribbons, and best of show!

Wow!  Nine candles glow with birthday blessings and wishes for Willow!

                To see a photo of Willow, you may visit my author’s page:

http://www.dldbooks.com/alicemassa/

                For additional information about Leader Dogs for the Blind (Rochester, Michigan), please visit:

http://www.leaderdog.org

Enjoy the apples, pumpkins, and other treats of this autumnal season!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

October 19, 2022, Wednesday

Autumnal Mums

Chrysanthemums of September

poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On a warm first of September,

with Willow’s harness in my left hand,

I carefully carried home  in my other arm

the yellow chrysanthemums,

one at a time.

Each bud was as tight as a baby’s fist—

waiting to open to the new world.

I never felt such tight buds,

but the plants had just arrived at Metro Market that morning.

My friendly florist took the right-off-the-semi mums

From the storage room to the front of the store for me.

I lifted each one and embraced the chrysanthemum

like an orphan

being taken to its forever home—

to Its forever garden.

At my townhome’s gardens,

I decided to split the sibling mums—

one joining the south-facing porch garden

and one adorning the north garden.

For days, the buds held tight,

but eventually began to relax in their new home.

After a six-inch rainfall

gave way to the next morning’s sunshine,

the chrysanthemum plants happily blossomed

into the bright and cheery bridges between summer and autumn.

When the October cold snapped into the autumnal air,

I placed the two mum plants side by side, like twins,

onto the front porch aluminum bench.

Thus far, the beautiful blossoms survived two threats of frost.

So, still, Willow and I can pause beside the blossoms,

each time we pass by,

to caress the peppery-scented, cheerful flowers

that let me hold onto

precious yellow summer

one blessed day

longer.

* * *

Enjoy the gifts of these autumnal days!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

October 12, 2022, Wednesday

A Guide Dog’s Prayer to Saint Francis

Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi:  October 4, 2022

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                On this 2022 Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi, I want to share again with my WORDWALK readers the prayer-poem which I published in full poster size in 2019.  Besides the poem, each of the 150 posters featured photographs of my four Leader Dogs. 

                Originally written in October of 2015, this poem carries the byline of my third Leader Dog Zoe who will be forever in my heart and memory.  When I first penned this piece with Zoe, she and I were working together through the preparatory construction work for the Milwaukee streetcar.  Confronting all of this construction, I wanted to write this poem from a guide dog’s perspective.  After my beloved Zoe unexpectedly passed away on March 16, 2016, and Leader Dog Willow came into my life on June 7 of that year, my young guide dog and I continued to work through the construction of the trolley until November of 2018.  Thus, there were many days with prayers to Saint Francis.  During the past dozen days, I once again especially concentrated on prayers to Saint Francis as my Leader Dog Willow has been recovering from a severe reaction to a new, but never again, medication for her.  I am enormously grateful for Willow’s recovery, and somehow I love and appreciate her even more than ever before. 

                With warm and loving memories of Zoe, Heather, and Keller, as well as blessings and gratitude for Willow, I pray the following for my Willow and for all guide dogs.  I am forever grateful to all four of my Leader Dogs for their bravery, expertise, and devotion.  Each of my four Leader Dogs has not only ben a gift from Leader Dog School, their trainers, and their puppy-raisers–but a gift from Heaven.

A Guide Dog’s Prayer

to Saint Francis of Assisi

(Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment)

by Leader Dog Zoe and Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Dear Saint Francis of Assisi,

bless me,

a guide dog in Milwaukee;

and please bless

all my fellow guide dogs

around the world.

Bless my eyes

so that I can see

what my handler cannot see.

Where there is a driver who is texting,

instead of watching the road,

show me the safe path

to guide my handler.

Bless my ears

so that I may hear

those too quiet electric vehicles

at an intersection or at an alley.

Bless me with grace

as I maneuver

my beloved friend and myself

through crowded sidewalks,

hallways, stores, classrooms,

theatres, restaurants, elevators,

hospitals, churches, and cathedrals.

When ear-piercing sirens zoom by,

when construction work vibrates

in my ears,

when leaf-blowers rage a wall of noise–

bless me with courage.

When snow deeply lines my path,

ice makes our way slippery,

sleet stings my face,

wind challenges my strength–

bless me with your warmth.

When I walk

on hot sidewalks and streets,

when my fur becomes warm

on a sunny day–

bless me with your cooling touch.

When my handler takes so long

to get ready to leave,

to prepare my bowl of food,

or to wash my paws–

thank you for blessing me with patience.

When I get a whiff of

all those wonderful smells,

indoors or outdoors,

bless me with reminders

of when I will receive

my treats and meals.

When a little dog yaps and yaps at me,

when a big dog  barks my way,

thank you for continuing to bless me

with concentration

on my very important work

so that I never bark back.

When a squirrel, bunny,

duck, bird, or

any other animal

tries to distract me–

thank you for continuing to bless me

so that I think only of my handler.

When I need routine or special

veterinary care,

please bless my veterinarian and me.

Dear Saint Francis,

on your feast day of October 4,

and throughout the years,

please continue to bless me

with good health

so that I may work

for a very long time

as a guide dog.

Someone needs me,

and I need your daily blessing.

Please bless

all the paws

that take

this happy, noble,

and peaceful journey of guiding

on Earth.

Finally, Saint Francis,

bless the person

whose hand holds my harness handle

with reciprocal trust, joy, and love.

* * *

On the poster, photographs include, from top to bottom:  Leader Dog Zoe–June 6, 2009; Leader Dog Keller–March 21, 1990;

Leader Dog Heather–April 15, 1998; Leader Dog Willow–June 7, 2016.

[copyright 2019]

* * *

                Finally, a photo of my poster is linked onto my author’s web page (within the article about a 2019 “Special Offer”) at:

http://www.dldbooks.com/alicemassa/

May you and your guide dogs and/or pets continue to be blessed by Saint Francis of Assisi, and

May the people and their pets in Florida and Puerto Rico be blessed by Saint Francis,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

October 4, 2022, Tuesday

Mother Nature’s Magical Mirror

Mother Nature’s Magical Mirror

Poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

I am not feeling poetic.

I am feeling frazzled.

I am not feeling poetic; I am not feeling perky.

I am feeling perklessly frazzled.

How do I look?

Do I still look poetic?

No, no do not bother with handing me a looking glass.

A nice walk to Mother Nature’s Magical Mirror Lake should relax me—

And answer my question.

Alas, I am here—

On the wave-splashed shore of Mother Nature’s Magical Mirror Lake.

Taking a deep breath of forest-fresh air,

I peer across the reflecting surface of Magical Mirror Lake.

Oh, perhaps, I do look a bit poetic now;

But in the corner of my peripheral poetic vision,

I see a flashback to a different time and place—

To September 11, 2001.

Frames of tragedy fall before my unseeing eyes,

And I forget my tiny frazzled feelings.

I am called to appreciate more greatly Mother Nature’s rejuvenating peace

And am called to write a poem

To hold in quiet memory

The expected and unexpected heroes,

The lost hearts and forever aching hearts

Of the victims of 9/11.

Blessings to all!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

September 14, 2022, Wednesday