You Are In The Sierra

Bambi fleeing

Disney’s Bambi, released in 1942 during World War II. Photo by Author.

“Your mother can’t be with you anymore,” the Great Prince of the Forest says to Bambi, and that’s where I lost it. As a four-year-old living in a forest on the South Fork of Bishop Creek in the High Sierra of California, sitting in front of a television watching the Disney film Bambi, I must have been a sight. My face reddened and contorted, my cheeks swelled as a river of tears poured down them, and my hands balled up in fists around my eyes, as if to hold in the immense sadness. There I sat on the floor inches from the screen as Bambi and his mother fled from hunters. The scene tapped into the biggest fear of every child, and the worst anxiety of every mother—separation from one another. I was not at all certain I could live through watching this. Bambi’s mother is shot by the hunters “off camera” with no blood or falling animal shown. My imagination filled that in. Then, a few scenes later when Bambi is a young buck, he and the animals flee a deathly conflagration sparked by a campfire that got away from the hunters. The deer leap over burning embers and falling branches, pursued by flames that grow ever larger as they meet with the trees. I held my breath watching that forest burn down. But the fleet feet of the deer escaping down the river bottom did not just save Bambi, but it surely saved my sanity. I think I would never have recovered had Bambi perished.

Those Disney writers knew what they were doing. You can’t kill off the main character. Did they also know they lit a fire inside me about the natural world, too? Though it is impossible to say for sure exactly which childhood experience fostered my abiding love for trees, flowers, bunnies and deer, I know this for sure: story connected me to my environment like nothing else had ever done up to that point or since. Story made me feel that trees should not burn and that animals should not be harmed. Story taught me about love, story taught me about cherishing every living creature, story taught me that men in the forest are up to no good. Story showed me that death could be followed by life and new beginnings.

I know now that Bambi vilified hunters and set people against the animals and the forest. I know now that wildfires are not always set on purpose. And I know now that persistent dryness here in California and the warming climate, coupled with decades of putting the fires out, means that fires are now bigger than ever before, and it’s not just Bambi that’s at risk. It’s all of us. Rich or poor, no one escapes this wrath. As of Sunday morning, 76 have died in the Camp Fire in Paradise and more than 1,000 are still missing or unaccounted for. Three people died in the Woolsey Fire in Malibu.

Some 128 million trees in California are dead, right now, dried out from not having enough water. Is that more than in the past? Has California had this many dead trees before? We know that Native Californians used fire to manage grasslands near the coast to keep soils and food supply healthy and to thin out trees in some areas. Lighting ignitions in the times before European settlement set fires that burned on their own.

Now, too many little trees in thick stands means there is literally more fuel for fire. According to scientist Kristen Podolak of The Nature Conservancy, too many little trees keep snow in their upper branches in winter, meaning less snow on the ground melting and sending water to rivers. Water to rivers flows to cities, farms and people. More than 23 million Californians rely on water from the mountains and forests to drink and eat. And California’s farms feed not just Americans, but Europeans, the Chinese and Canadians, among others. California trees ought to matter to everyone.

We also know that periods of dryness have occurred many times before, thanks to the science of paleoclimatology. About 3,000 years ago California experienced a period of drought lasting some 1,000 years. Finally, we know that ever since more humans have settled in California, we have made a mess of the water-fire-people connection.

So what can be done? Are the odds stacked against us? With the climate getting hotter, the trees dying and the fires destroying our communities, are there any actions the 39 million people living in California can take? Can California be a learning laboratory to help other drought-ridden lands, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Canberra, Australia? Can we learn from others? Wildfire is not limited to the dry and arid Western United States; destructive fires have taken place in Indonesia, where we can’t afford to lose carbon-eating trees, and even in Germany and Sweden in recent months.

Arhuaco Mamos.JPG

Spiritual leaders from the Arhuaco speaking to leaders of Conservation International. The Arhuaco are one of the four peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia. Photo by the Author.

Perhaps it’s time to create a new story. Maybe one that goes like this, that I heard a couple of weeks ago from the elders and spiritual leaders of the Arhuaco people in the other Sierra Nevada mountain range, in Colombia:

Humanity has been sent on a detour, we have taken ourselves away from nature. This is dangerous to us. You are in the Sierra. See each other from the point of view of brotherhood, live as brothers. Let’s go back to the natural ways of understanding each other. The sun, the water, the rivers, let’s listen and obey. Mother Earth is directing and gathering us to take a different route. This is an invitation to begin unifying for the good of the universe. We invite you to understand it. We invite you to be allies, to be messengers and spokespeople. The way we live now, it hurts our mother. We want to heal. It’s not a life of rushing, but understanding how to live better. The idea is not to change the world but to care for it. This mountain, it is the birth of water and liquid, where the raindrops come from, if we can understand the life that water has, can we learn how to respect it? If we ruin this mountain, this home, we can’t create another mountain, another planet. Now is the time and space to think like elders. The trees are the father and the water is the mother. We are like you. There’s no difference. We need to conserve the trees and the mountain. But how are we going to reach the others? Walk together, work together. We still have time to make progress, our mission is the same.  

Where my Love of Reading Began

Stories sustain us, save us. Photo from Zeigler Family.





Burning & Eating California

California Feeds the World

Oakland Museum of California, Gallery of California History. Photo by the author.

There are eight active fires burning in California right now, and temperatures inland will be over 100 degrees, not just for the upcoming weekend, but for the foreseeable future. Here in the Golden State extremes are a way of life going back hundreds of thousands of years – we’ve had ice, glaciers, cold temperatures and lower sea levels followed by the current warming period we are now in, called the Holocene, with cool winters and hot, intense summers. There are droughts and there are floods. Mix in earthquakes and it’s easy to see why so many of my friends and former neighbors from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. ask, Why would anyone want to live in California? This sentiment is almost always prefaced by a compliment, You’re from California? What a beautiful place. Followed by, But I could never live there. Then a self-satisfied nod of the head and expression that says, I’m not so dumb as to live in a place like California. Well, I get it. But don’t be so smug. California matters, not just to the 39 million people living here, but it matters even if you don’t live here. Snow melts into water, water grows food and you eat food. Food from California. Let’s start with the water.

Water Studies cited in B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam’s terrific book The West Without Water show a ten percent decrease in the amount of snowpack in the Sierra in the last century. For the 21st century, it looks grim – forecasts show decreases between 40 to 80 percent. Less rain, less snow means things are drying up. Too bad, the skiing industry will probably suffer, I hear from concerned people outside the West. Skiing is just one human activity impacted by warmer temperatures. Showering, washing the car and eating are a few others. For snowpack is where California’s drinking and irrigation water come from. Less snow means less water for everybody.

California Cornucopia

Oakland Museum of California, Gallery of California History. Photo by the author.

Fire Of California’s 20 most destructive fires since record keeping began, five of them were in 2017: the Tubbs, Atlas, Nunns, and Redwood Valley fires in the Northern San Francisco Bay Area and the Thomas Fire in Southern California. Between them, some 10,000 structures were lost and 43 people died. In terms of number of acres burned, the number one slot, not just in 2017, but of all time, went to the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, which started shortly after the deadly North Bay fires. The Thomas Fire burned more than 280,000 acres, or an area larger than Newark, Queens, and Brooklyn, all the way to Hempstead, Long Island combined. What produces such disasters? Less snow and less rain means trees dry out – millions of them, along with the bushes and brush that cover our hills and mountains. Get a good dry day and add in high wind speeds and a spark, and you have wildfires taking off with fury. I won’t lie – watching them burn is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring, scary experiences you’ll ever have. The colors, the heat, the magnificent sunsets as a result, and the heroism of humanity – the hotshots, the air tanker pilots, the sleepless Cal Fire and US Forest Service personnel – are on full display. It’s an all-out war between nature and humans, and the humans aren’t as fast as a wall of fire jumping from treetop to treetop. People lose everything – their homes, their dogs, horses, cats and guinea pigs, every pair of underwear, every shoe, every dish, every toy and book, all their wedding pictures, their land holdings, their stability.

Drought Monitor for 7-5-18

U.S. Drought Monitor, California. Author: Richard Tinker. Red means extreme drought. All that yellow? Abnormally dry conditions. Things don’t look great for the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

Still Hungry Everyone enjoys fresh lettuce in winter and milk with their cookies. Less snow falling from the sky isn’t just a California problem, or a Western concern. It’s global. Here’s why:

  • You eat. A lot of your food comes from California. No other state comes close to the output of California, which is a $46 Billion behemoth in crop cash receipts. Not even Idaho, which comes in second behind California, at $26 Billion.
  • The Golden State produces two-thirds of all your fruits and nuts.
  • California produces half of your vegetables.
  • California is the sole producer, at 99 percent or more, of all of the United States’ pomegranates, olives, clingstone peaches, kiwi fruit, figs, dates, artichokes, sweet rice, garlic, pistachios and grapes
  • Gracias Mexico! Mexico is the largest importer of California’s milk.
  • More than one-quarter of California’s agricultural products go outside the United States. Here are the top importers of California produce and the top products they rely upon for food and well-being:
  1. European Union – imports almonds, wine and walnuts.
  2. Canada – imports wine, processed tomatoes and almonds.
  3. China and Hong Kong – import almonds, pistachios and dairy products.
  4. Japan – imports rice, almonds, hay and beef.
  5. Mexico – imports dairy products, tomatoes, almonds and grapes.

There’s no mistaking that the world relies on California’s farms and ranches. In 2016 California’s 77,500 farms produced 400 commodities. Those cattle, almonds, grapes, pomegranates, strawberries,  walnuts, pistachios and rice need water. Start paying attention to the weather, to climate, to heat, to fires, to the animals, plants and people. All need water. When you eat a California fruit, vegetable, piece of meat or dairy item, think of me and my beautiful state. Help us understand and protect our water. Food may yet bring all of us to the table, no matter our political differences. In the end, water is the tie that binds humanity’s shared future. And stomachs.

Food Needs Water

My sister and I snapped this pic at Shasta Dam’s visitor center, which has an excellent exhibit on water use.


The Desire Line

It’s National Poetry Month, so I dusted off this poem I wrote several years ago for my former colleague Glennis. Like all of us, she had experienced some unexplained aches and physical events that left her puzzled. I combined her pain with my own into these lines. That’s what poetry is, combinations of ideas and jigsaw pieces that may assemble themselves into a coherent concept, all while you are doing something else, like walking on a path that you helped create. Here are 30 ways you can celebrate poetry. Enjoy!

Desire Line SunThe Desire Line 

For Glennis

I crossed, cutting up sidelong

toward the wooded hummock-ribs of the park,

eucalyptus and low-flying ivy were wet in winter’s early robes.


No one created this path

but everyone


No one thought it would be here

but in everyone’s


No one knew where to walk

until everyone

in their thousand step falls,

made it theirs.


It was in everyone’s eye.


You don’t mind the narrow dirt ribbon,

the grass peeling away,

long blades bending as if to say:

Here, here is where you are most welcome to pass.

You barely pay attention.

It’s just easy.

Easier than noticing.


I returned the same way,

I did it twice a day for years.


Then one day my neck gave me some trouble.

The week after my arm.

A year ago it was my hip,

and now it’s my feet.

All the quickness that defined me

has abandoned me.

All that was fleet and sure

is now pacing itself,

as if it were trying to win a race

by deception and stratagem

rather than cocky, brawny, stubborn speed.


I imagine a life was once set out for me,

petroglyphs collected in cool caves,

symbols indicating motion,

location, actors and timing.

A map, a vision.


But look! I’ve walked somewhere else,

I’ve mounted the small rise,

turned and seen the desire line,

and nearby, asphalt paths, shiny in the rain,

seem not to mind their function unmade.


My life then,

like that miniature road I helped make,

casual in its demeanor,

wearing away, bit by bit,

will reveal

me, my desire, and

a line I’ll recognize gradually,

so that when it becomes clear,

I’ll have known it all these years.


It won’t be a big surprise.

Desire Line Man



So Vast a View You Will Never Forget

Sierra Crest Lone PineSide by side in eastern California lie a desert valley of long summers and two snow-capped mountain ranges of long winters . . . The Sierra Nevada borders this valley on the west. To the east rises another steep-fronted mountain block, the White-Inyo Mountains. The highest peaks of both ranges stand well over 14,000 feet. Two miles below them lies a 90-mile long, trough-shaped valley – our Deepest Valley, for nowhere in the Americas is such a valley bounded on both sides by such towering peaks.

The Deepest Valley is a land of much wonder and mystery. It also holds tales of great tenacity and courage.

If you barely glance at the valley as you whiz through, it may strike you as bleak and barren. But if you take the time to see and to hear, you may find it has silence and order and space and a regal beauty. It teems with life; you need but know how to look for it.

– Genny Smith, Deepest Valley: Guide to Owens Valley, its roadsides and mountain trails.

She’ll never be as well-known as John Muir, but Californian author and conservationist Genny Smith, who died March 4th, deserves equal if not greater accolades. “Genny wasn’t a big woman,” The Sheet staff reporter Mike Bodine wrote March 9, “but she halted an entire road from being built.” Genny led a group, starting in the 1950s, to stop the construction of what was then called the Minaret Summit Highway, a road that local boosters in the Central Valley desired to improve accessibility and commerce with “rich markets to the East,” according to the National Park Service, whose Devil’s Postpile National Monument would have been negatively impacted. But it never saw the light of day. Genny and others opposed the road for 27 years. Her letter-writing campaign got all the way to the top. California’s Secretary of Resources Norman “Ike” Livermore Jr. agreed that the highway would have harmed soil, vegetation, fish and wildlife. Then in 1972 “then-Governor Ronald Reagan announced after a pack trip through Middle Fork Valley, that the road would not be built,” wrote Bodine.

Deepest Valley Book CoverBut it’s Genny’s books that seem to contain a fuller picture of her humanity – her gentle encouragement to get outside and learn something new, her generosity in sharing all she could. Take her guidebooks in hand and she will not only give you good directions on how to find a roadside delight like a volcanic crater, an Ice Age lake or the path of a glacier’s journey, but she’ll let you in on what you’re looking at, with accessible, friendly language to bring every reptile, rock, granite peak, fish, mammal and ancient tree to life. Genny’s writing has a point of view, too: “Long ago John Muir and his friends advocated that the Sierra not be remade in the image of the Alps, with tramways, highways, railroads and resorts throughout the mountains, but that some of the Sierra remain a unique American wilderness . . . we need wild places not only for ourselves but because wild things are on this earth along with us.” Though full of scientific and cultural information, most of Genny’s writing simply promotes  exploration and messing around: “Desert wandering is great fun. You need not go far, the open country invites you to go every direction your fancy pleases; landmarks keep you from becoming lost.”

She reminds us that everywhere we look is evidence of the long-ago, such as the folding of land with rocks as old as 600 million years, as well as the more recent Ice Age remnant lakes. Genny revered the Valley and its people, even the difficult history of the subjugation of Native Americans, the water wars between the Valley and the city of Los Angeles, or the the Manzanar War Relocation camp where 10,000 Japanese Americans and legal Japanese residents were falsely accused of disloyalty and betrayal and imprisoned during World War II.

Genny Smith Mammoth BookI used Genny’s books like bibles while writing my short story collection Cover This Country Like Snow. You almost don’t require a map with Genny in the car. Peggy Gray’s  illustrations are so well-done you can pull off the side of Highway 395 and pick out each peak, learning the origin of their names. Genny included the most distinguished biologists, geologists, climatologists and other researchers in her books and when the editions needed updating, she partnered with talented editors that ensured the accuracy and enjoyability of these pithy, but not weighted down volumes. Light enough for a backpack, Genny’s books are musts any time we visit the Owens Valley.

I met Genny a couple of years ago at an event on the shores of Mono Lake. She sat in the shade of a tent where a celebration of the Public Trust Doctrine was taking place. I thanked her for her books and asked her about her writing practice. She replied that her poor health prevented her from writing any longer. I was so moved by that, for I know the pain that comes over me when I do not write. It’s unfair, I thought, such a great writer unable to undertake her craft any longer. I told Genny about my own work and how challenging it all is, but how necessary it was to my well-being. She understood. I wanted her to continue leading me, guiding me with her optimistic writing that seems to exhort us all to do what you can, this is ours to love and live upon, fight for these things we care about, our brother creatures, both plant and animal and assume responsibility for their welfare.

Genny knew her life was compromised, she could no longer hike, drive or walk very well on her own. She looked me in the eye and said, “It’s up to you to write now.” I didn’t want to take the helm from her then and don’t feel right assuming it now.

What I will do, what we can all do –  let’s share her enthusiasm, let’s take her advice:

“Try sitting on your bumper sometime, your car backed up against the wall of the Sierra, taking in a full circle of incredible country, and you may begin to feel the magic.” Genny’s absolutely right, it’s so vast a view, you will never forget.

Read more about and by the amazing Genny:


Genny’s essay on Mono Lake

Her Books

For My Young & Young-at-Heart Readers


Photo by Joe McCrossen

As kids, my sister Carol and I loved to sing silly poems and songs – “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea” and “I’m a Pink Toothbrush” were favorites on long road trips in our Chevrolet S-10 Blazer from the Owens Valley to San Diego. And who didn’t love the fun couplets from Dr. Seuss, which made perfect sense to our eager minds? To this day I’d like to try green eggs, but maybe with a tofu ham substitute.

This poem is dedicated to all of my friends and families, their children and grandchildren, and to the young-at-heart. Carol and I wrote it together, inspired by a photo Joe and I took from Taxiway Bravo at Concord Airport one autumn day, spotting a hawk atop a sock. Many of us pilots take off, cruise, descend, and land near hawks. We always pray they don’t fly into our propellers. They are fearless, they are always exciting to see up close. They are our airport friends. 

I hope you enjoy the poem. Read it to someone out loud and let Carol and I know if it merits a giggle or two. And please, if you have a line that would strengthen it, or a line we ought to remove, let us know! 

Hawk On A Sock 

There’s a hawk,

There, on the orange sock.

From the cockpit I can see it,

It is a red-tailed hawk.

There’s a hawk, see it, on the sock, see it.

An orange sock, a sock beneath a hawk.


The sock is full of air,

It blows in from the west,

The hawk’s feathers keep him warm

Even when he is away from his nest.


The wind at the airport is blowing, blowing, blowing.

I ask my passenger – where are you going?

“To town,” he says, “to town to buy a rock.”

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Somewhere around here’s a rock, right? Photo by Author.


“A rock,” I say, “you want to buy a rock?”

“Yes, a rock, I must buy a rock,

A rock to add to my stock.”

“But most rocks are free, I must point out.

The rock you seek is gold, no doubt.”

“No, not gold,” he says, “I want a special kind of rock.”

“What do you do with a special rock,

The rock you’ll add to your stock?”

“Well,” he says, “I need this rock,

I need this rock for my best friend,

My best friend the Hawk.”

“That hawk, the hawk that’s on that sock?”

“Yes, the hawk that’s on that sock.

His name is Mister Tick-Tock.”

“Tick-tock, like a clock?” I inquire.

“Tick-tock, like a clock.

My hawk tells time

Without a watch.

He calls ‘Wake up!’ when it’s Nine.”

“You wake at nine, isn’t that late?”

“I suppose it is, my hawk’s third-rate.

So about my rock, what do you think of slate?

A hawk likes to decorate.”

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Are these rocks too big? Photo by Author.

“Wait, the hawk likes to decorate?” I ask.

“As of late, yes, he decorates. He’s trying to attract a mate.”

“He’s decorating his nest so a mate might come.  And his mate might wake me up at Eight.”

“His mate won’t want slate, that’s rather dull! What other fantastical rocks could you cull?”

“Quartz, amethyst, aquamarine, just make it small, you know what I mean.

We must not risk weighing down the plane you see.”

So off they went to town to find the stone. In the rock shop they did find one golden brown.

Tiger’s Eye, small enough don’t you know, to fit in the beak of the Buteo.

And when they gave it to the hawk, the one on the orange sock,

the hawk named Mister Tick-Tock,

well, the bird nodded his best,

to say a special thanks, then

flew off with a happy heart, flew away to his nest.

There, he found his mate,

and from that time on,

everyone was up,

up at the crack of dawn.

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Concord Buchanan Airport, KCCR. Photo by Author.

A Real Writer: Two Minds

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Jack London’s desk. Glen Ellen, California. Photo by the author.

A real writer writes every day before dawn breaks. One writer arose each day and placed a slice of bread in his toaster, then buttered it and sat on his living room couch to compose a poem every morning.

A real writer has a schedule, namely a grueling one, several hours per day, nonstop, and no one may interrupt the real writer. Not even children or puppies. A real writer is a grump, an academic, a lonely soul misunderstood and gloomy. A real writer has a red house or a stone tower in Pebble Beach. A real writer goes to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer. A real writer travels to Baja, or Cuba, or takes a beat up car down the highways of America. A real writer gets drunk, gets high, sleeps around, and uses all that experience in his fiction.

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I can even write on the Vegas Strip. Photo by the author.

A real writer gets published, writes novels, makes real money off of selling them. Reads from podiums, is paid sums to teach creative writing, travels, and others refer to her as “writer.” When she attends writer conferences, heads turn. Is that her? Her fans quiver and quake.

A real writer doesn’t have a real job with writing squished into the margins. A real writer sits all day and pours her soul on to the computer keyboard. A real writer writes the truth and doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings. A real writer sells their manuscript to a real publisher with a name like Penguin Random House or Vantage. A real writer doesn’t have to raise money for their own project. A real writer sits in Paris, in a cramped garret or a café terrace, and composes brilliant lines. A real writer’s book gets turned into a movie. A real writer does what his inner self wants, and that is to sit in a chair and draft sentences to create images to finalize a narrative. A real writer doesn’t keep getting distracted. A real writer prioritizes the word at all costs.


A real writer calls herself a writer. A real writer is sometimes poor, sometimes rich. A real writer can work full-time and finish many things like stories, like poems, like novels. A real writer can be a decent human being, a doctor, a human resources professional, an insurance salesman, a high school teacher, an immigrant. A real writer spends every day with the word. When she misses a day she is sad, but there is the next day. A real writer writes on the train, on the plane, in a car, in a closet, in secret, and out in the open. A real writer has a computer, a journal, a post-it note. Torture a real writer by denying her a keyboard, or a pen and a piece of paper.

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My desk for a few days at the Mesa Refuge. Tomales Bay, Point Reyes Station, California. Photo by the author.

The word is power. The power is change. The change is history. The word is on Earth, the word is powered by Earth, the word is change, the word is history, the word is changing the Earth, because Earth needs a better Earth. A real writer participates in changing the course of history. On Earth.

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Time’s a ticking. Get writing. Photo by the author.

Wonder Woman is Back


Sally Ride, first American woman in space.

In honor of Wonder Woman opening in just five days, I offer you my own hymn to superheroes drawn from an Owens Valley childhood informed by the liberal wearing of Underoos as both underwear and possibility. Playing in my Underoos led to trying on and practicing the attributes of future identities.  I looked for source material in my teachers and my parents. Which person should I become, which character would suit me best? I watched television shows and Space Shuttle lift-offs for inspiration, I read novels by Judy Blume for guidance. At school I observed Mrs. Keene,  an elementary school teacher that could have been Lynda Carter’s twin sister, for clues.

When I heard about the upcoming premier of the female-directed film with a relatively unknown actress as lead, memories began to surface of who I was when I first fell in love with Wonder Woman: uncertain, scared, yet full of determination that a girl could do what a boy could do. Decades later I know women still have a long ways to go, gender equity is still a challenge. But I’m encouraged that this film is predicted to be a hit with both men and women. It just goes to show that long after we stop wearing Underoos, we all, men and women, continue to need our superheroes.


Wonder Woman Is Back

Wonder Woman is back.

She won’t take no for an answer.


Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.

I let Mrs. Keene know that I knew she was really Wonder Woman, but she refuses to acknowledge it.

I see right through her disguise – she is not a second-grade teacher, but

a crime-fighting woman unafraid of her cleavage and leotard.


She is knocking on the door of my house and I’m watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood while chasing my little sister around the mobile home, and the dog is barking, trying to get in on the action, and we are also playing hide and seek as well as pretending to go camping before we conduct a repeat of last Sunday’s Easter Egg hunt.

“I don’t have time for this, I’ve already told you I know who you are,” I eke out my speech between inhalations of air.

Mrs. Keene is crying, holding a basket. She is wearing a long dress with an apron. I say to her,

“You look like Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

“I am,” she said.

I could see her dark hair, even though it was tied in a braid with a ribbon from the general store, was the same as my Mrs. Keene.

“You’re still you,” I said, but it came out more like a question.

“Yes, I am still me,” she smiled. I looked down and kicked at a pebble on the threshold.

When I returned my gaze –

She was Pippi Longstocking!

Her black braids turned red, taut and horizontal, impossible not to giggle, and so I did,

And she did too.


Pippi Longstocking

“But how, how are you so many different persons?” I shook my head but hopped on one foot, for running and skipping with Pippi was going to be the best way I could spend an afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

“You want to play with me?” Pippi said. I clapped my hands, nodded, and then I invited her inside. I ran to the fridge to pour her a cup of Hi-C.

“Do you know the greatest traveler there ever was, she went to space?” I yelled from the kitchen.

When I came back to the living room, there she was, astronaut Sally Ride, my little sister and my dog sitting beside her, Pippi gone and Mr. Rogers talking to the red trolley and nothing was wrong in the whole world, all my heroes there in one place, waiting for me.1-mr-rogers-trolley

Try writing a poem like this here.