long slow breath – gentle words for this day

My friend turned to me in distress- I don’t know what to do, he said. I used to have a purpose. I was once a “Somebody.” Now I don’t know what to do with a single day!

Don’t you understand, I may need to fill twenty years of days like this!!

this day

long slow breath

this day
is a long slow breath
soft edges and sunlight
it’s your grandson’s smile
and the trust of a good woman.
this day is a hawk drawn sharp
against a mountain sky
it’s the way the clouds break
over the ridge and the feel
in your hand of a well-balanced tool
it’s the cool breeze on your neck
as summer fades into fall
this day is everything you’ve forgotten
and all you never needed to know
it’s the necessary and the sufficient
it’s a soft chair and a sleeping dog
it’s a white tree with yellow leaves
on a hillside of deepest green
this day is the first and last day
of nevermore this day is a day
beyond the need to become
a somebody this day is a day
to be a body walking this earth
in peace this day

is a long slow breath

hawk sharp against a mountain sky

Trekking Wild Puma in Patagonia

Last month, as part of a trip to Chilean Patagonia and Antarctica, we had the extraordinary opportunity to trek wild Pumas on some private land adjacent to Torres Del Paine National Park. We were led by a terrific guide and photographer, Rodrigo Moraga (https://www.rodrigomoragaz.com)

All of this organized superbly as always by Epic Private Journeys – https://epicprivatejourneys.com

Over two days, we were up close and personal with six individual cats. On the first morning, we walked with Sol, pictured above, and her cub (who is too young to command a name from the local guides.)

In the afternoon, we came across Ginger (below,) a solitary female with a brand new cut on her face from an altercation, probably with another female over territory.

On the second day, we joined Sol, her cub and another female, Petaka, and her two cubs as they fed slept and groomed each other over a Guanaco carcass that Sol had brought down overnight.

It’s not always pretty to see these sizable cats (approximately 60 kilos per adult female, more for the males) tear apart a rapidly spoiling carcass! Nature red in tooth and claw!

To visit the whole photo gallery from the pumas, here’s the link to my photosite, jfinkimages.com.

This will take you to the gallery, the slideshow button in the upper right will start the show – https://www.jfinkimages.com/p531242201#h5a9a5dda

And while you’re there, might as well check out the Patagonia landscapes here:https://www.jfinkimages.com/p1041354075#h5a0dc1f2

Thanks for visiting!


what he taught me – essential life lessons from a dog

This is the second and final entry on the loss of our dog, “Action” Jackson, somewhat suddenly last September. The first entry, “only a dog,” was a bit raw, written the morning after he died and tried to look very directly at that experience. Here’s a link to that post if you’d like to look back: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/11/20/just-a-dog-on-the-loss-of-a-true-heart-friend/

This is more of a reflection on the many lessons Jack taught me in his life and in his dying. I’ve long felt that dogs can be true Bodhisattvas, essentially enlightened beings returning to this plane of Samsara to help us floundering humans move toward our own enlightenment and that of all sentient beings.

Jackson was a Bodhisattva.

a day with a new ball is truly an exceptional day
an exceptional day

what he taught me

that concrete is always cold

     and hard

that a stranger may come to embody home

     yet fear may always linger

that each of us wants to be loved

     but in a very particular way

that it takes great patience

     to uncover that way

that trust grows slowly

     but may come to have deep roots

that deep roots

     are the source of all joy

that a day with a new ball

     is truly an exceptional day

that a day with no ball at all

     is just as exceptional

that mountain trails

     are mainly meant for dogs

that no lake is ever too cold

     for a swim

that it’s entirely unclear

     which one of us was rescued

that brown eyes in a black dog face

     are a form of grace

that grace

     is the music of the soul

that watching out for each other

     is a full-time job

that the most vigilant watchers

     must eventually fail

that even if we think we’re prepared for death

     it comes suddenly without warning

that death tears a jagged hole

     in everything

that the pain of this tearing is crushing

     without end

that all of this pain counts as nothing

     compared to the love of a very good dog

that I will be forever rich

     for having shared his life

that from now on my life

will be smaller

that in my next life he will be waiting

     just as I waited fifty years for him in this one

that it would best if I arrived in that next life

     carrying a brand-new ball

it’s so easy

dawn in the mountains - you are blessed
it's so easy

it’s so easy to lose it 
without noticing, your attention 
driven to inattention by jobs and bills 
parents and children

the heat slowly rising
-- just another frog in the pan
then suddenly -- you’re old 

you notice the stars
have grown dim, the days
seem shorter, damp and cold
and all of your poems 

now speak of loss

until one morning 
you wake before dawn to the sound 
of birds singing in the darkness 
and after all this time 

right there it is

you almost don’t recognize it 
yet from a deeper place 
you do what you once might have done 

and rise 

to walk barefoot over the wet grass
to feel the cool breeze on your still-warm skin
to lift your weary eyes to the first soft colors 
    of dawn

and you know, once again 
what you certainly always have known 

that here 
   rises the luminous face of the ecstatic child

that here rises joy 

that here, after so very long 
    rises once again 
    the all-redeeming grace of wonder
and for one more glorious, completely ordinary day

you are blessed

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets – Fourth of the Lineage Poems

A Mother’s Love, A Son’s Regret. Looking back, it’s clear that I’ve written more about my father than I ever did about my mother. Fathers and sons I suppose. But she was also the quieter, smaller one of the two. I always had the sense that she chose to hold herself close, always to defer.

September 11, 2001

We drove her from Florida to Chicago on September 11, 2001. The world had suddenly erupted in fire and all flights had been cancelled. We convinced Hertz to give us a van and we drove for three days across a silent, empty America. Her dementia was pretty bad by that point, and she repeated over and over and over, “Where am I going?” “Why do I need to go?” I didn’t have a good answer then, and I guess I don’t now.

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

Margaret Ruth lived in a nursing home in Chicago from 2001 until her death in 2004 from simple old age. I’ve posted before (link immediately below) about my sadness that I failed to attend properly the end of her life, allowing her to die alone in the night when it was pretty clear that it was her time.

Here’s a link to “That I Would do Betterhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2020/05/10/that-i-would-do-better-poetry-poem-mother-regrets-mothersday/

Margaret Ruth, age four on the far right, 1921

I own that regret. But there’s also the regret of perhaps never having really known her. So here are two pieces that speak to missing the life of one who loved and raised me. Perhaps I could only see this as I creep into my older years myself. First, the mystery of seeing off one who once had been the entire world.

When the World is Lost Forever

childish things

we stood in a circle around the grave
some read poems while some 
chose silence. the funeral director

placed her ashes in the ground
while the redwing blackbirds sang 
among the corn. we'd always assumed

that she could fly, but then we
were only children, and eager to cling
to childish things

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

And second, upon seeing her in the nursing home, a shadow of who she’d once been and wondering if (or perhaps knowing) we’d missed something essential over all those years.

margaret ruth

old woman, what have you done with her?
she was here when I last looked. now 
there's only you, a remnant, your mind 
approaching the capacity of experience 
cycling back upon itself, the tape skipping, catching 
rewinding as we speak. your face has been chiseled, 
deep lines cut into spotted flesh surrounding pools 
of sadness in your eyes. 
I can see into the depths 
of that water -- here rest the old ones 
in images black and brown, a diminishing succession 
of farmers’ wives standing resolute at the arms 
of sitting dead husbands. here are young brides 
with radical curls, high collars and narrow waists 
holding round-faced war-babies smiling at the camera. 
here is a mother reading soft words to soft children 
in light fading into dreams—ah Margaret Ruth 
we were for each other 
and we never really knew

The author at age one with his Mother Margaret Ruth, 1958

Here’s the link to first Lineage Poem – A Joyful Noise https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Here’s the link to the second Lineage Poem – One the Way to Heaven, Over Ohio https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

Here’s the link to the third Lineage Poem – Welcomed by the Land, Redwing Blackbirds https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/

For more poems speaking to mothers and motherhood, click here: https://www.poetry.com/psearch/mothers

All Poems, Text and Images are © 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio

the author with “Big Al” in Detroit in 1963

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio My father died of lung cancer in Florida in 1986. Always an angry man, he was supremely bitter about his illness, feeling like he’d been robbed of the retirement due a lifetime of work. At the time, I was buried in my own workaholic haze in Chicago, flying down on weekends to see him, then going straight back to the office when I got back North.

He was in hospice when I got word that the end was near, and was in a coma by the time I arrived. This poem tells the story of a real conversation, one I’ll obviously never forget. He was a hard man who was hard on his boys. As I enter my own older years, I resent the hardness less and less, and miss him more and more. I’d love to be able to talk with him one more time.

Here’s the link to the first Lineage Poem : A Joyful Noise – Root Music of the Heartlandhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Over Ohio

my mother called on Friday
to let me know his time was near
that I needed to come now.

he was not an easy man
either to me or to my brother
or to himself. my mother, 

simple loyal and kind was spared this,
or so I hope. he’d been in a coma 
for days when I went to sit with him

through the night, his cancer-eaten body
rattling its ragged breaths
in the pale blue light of the monitors.

unable to sleep, I watched him breath in
the darkness, then just before dawn
he woke and wanted to talk.

I told him he was dying
as if he didn’t already know.
and he asked me how much money I made 

(so he’d know, he said, if I’d be safe)
then apologized for smacking us boys,
and I told him it was alright

even if it really wasn’t. 
I left when he drifted back into sleep
or wherever it was he’d been waiting,

and caught the early morning 
flight for home. he died 
while I was 30,000 feet over Ohio.

sometimes I wonder – 
at that moment, which one of us
was closest to heaven?

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Big Al on the driveway in Detroit, 1963

And here’s a link to more poems about fathers from the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/101752/poems-about-fathers

A Joyful Noise- Root Music of the Heartland

siting on hard pews and harder teachings

The end of the year always turns my thoughts to family, lineage and those who came before. A Joyful Noise- Root Music of the Heartland – the first in a series of “lineage poems,” words of origin and reflection, of receiving and giving. My parents, both born in the earliest part of the twentieth century (1915 and 1917,) met in a no-stoplight farm town in northwest Ohio. Bred of simple stock, firm in their protestant faith, the kind of belief that’s simply assumed, stitched into the fabric of a life.

Root Music

on my days alone, or late
when the day’s light is going 
I can often hear their voices 

the thin black line of the old songs 
wavering like smoke above the fields 
the sad soul songs of simple white churches 
I can see old white women, the knotted hands 
of hard lives passed in good work
of cold mornings and long days 

I can see old men bent stiff into their one black suit 
restless children, sitting on hard pews 
and harder teachings

I was raised by voices 
planted in the flat black dirt of Ohio 
the granges and barns of a world expired 

now, when the sun has worn itself out 
and the heat of the land begins to fade
I like to sit and listen as darkness falls 

listen to the birds settling home
listen for the hymns as they begin to rise 
from the land 

listen to my own jagged life 
beginning to round

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com
the first in a series of “lineage poems,” words of origin and reflection, of receiving and giving

Final African Wildlife Photography Collection- Zambia 2021

Third of three collections of African wildlife photos from last October, this time in Zambia along the Lower Zambezi River. A glorious place rich with wildlife and perhaps just a touch less traveled than the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Click here for the slideshow on jfinkimages.com: https://www.jfinkimages.com/p780763266#hdf04dcf9

Here are the prior two collection links



a brilliant day




a brilliant day

mountains, flowers, lakes


then a red truck pulls out blind


no time for thought,

tires screaming on hot blacktop,

the car sliding, too fast, too fast,

no room


a white face in the window

a man turning, surprised


we bear down, burning fifty

to zero in thirty feet and somehow

we slide right,

rock to a stop




the whole thing flashes faster than thought


the face glares at me,

slams his truck across traffic

and disappears


we look at each other

seemingly fine

no harm, no foul?


driving home, my right arm

shakes like current

sizzling in a frayed wire


in the dark garage

I close my eyes,

the hot engine ticking down in silence



our lives continue



© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

beyond reason



beyond reason


the arthritic fingers of winter are relentless,

crushing into ice in the dark

all that had dared to soften

in the light of lengthening day.


pain and release, punishment

and care — each

are necessary.


we could never have designed this,

these alternating forces shaping the hands

that sculpt this world


into a beauty beyond intellect


into a heaven beyond reason.



© 2020 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com