May 30: Hike & Write

Photo courtesy of Dana Hubanks.

May 30 from 12:30 to 4p on the Iron Horse Trail

The start of summer means it’s time to move the writing outside!

I hope you’ll join me for a short, meditative hike (4 to 5 miles)  and a brief, guided writing session in response to our walk. Bring writing materials, water, snacks and warm layers. We’ll sit on the ground to write, so you may want to bring something to sit on.

Meet at 12:30pm at the Rattlesnake Lake parking lot (exit 32 from I-90) and look for the “Hike & Write with the Poet Laureate” sign. No pre-registration needed, and no previous experience with hiking or writing required.

In case of rain, we’ll write in the Cedar River Watershed Educational Center, which is adjacent to the Rattlesnake Lake parking lot. (We’ll still meet up at the parking lot.)

From the 2014 Hike & Write at Deception Pass State Park. Photo courtesy of Dave Wenning.
From the 2014 Hike & Write at Deception Pass State Park. Photo courtesy of Dave Wenning.

This program is free, and open to the public. It is sponsored by The Black Dog Arts Coalition, Humanities Washington and ArtsWA.

Reading at the Black Dog Arts Cafe in Snoqualmie at 7p

After the hike, I’ll give a reading at The Black Dog Arts Café in Snoqualmie at 7p. Why not make a day of it? Come out and hike, then have dinner at the Black Dog, followed by poetry and live music.

One thought on “May 30: Hike & Write

  1. Georgia S. McDade

    Ms Austen,
    I read the article about poetry in the Seattle Times (5/10/15) today.
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. “We make our world by what we choose to see” is a favorite idea of mine. However, I have added that sometimes we are forced to see something, racism, for example, that also makes our world despite how we see it.
    I have enclosed a few of my poems because of your sentence “I sat in my house feeling powerless and angry and ashamed.” You have that option. A friend told me a few days ago that a six-year-old asked, “Mom, why do they keep doing that [killing] to brown people.” Imagine what those parents feel. Imagine what that little boy feels. We cannot stop at “feeling powerless and angry and ashamed.” We have to act. Your article is an action. Thank you. Perhaps others feel the need to act after seeing your article. (Writing you is an action.)
    I have published two books of poetry, Outside the Cave and Outside the Cave II. I’m turning in the galley of Outside the Cave III today! I had no idea I “contain” so many poems, but the more I write, the more I have to write. Very often someone sees or doesn’t see, and I feel compelled to try again. But my goal is to get folks to see; we may not agree, but we ought to see. If we can get folks to see, perhaps we can get them to agree.

    Thank you.
    Keep up the work.

    Georgia S. McDade

    Race Is the Thing

    Why do you have to bring race into everything?
    They are tired of hearing about race.

    My God, help us all.

    We do not BRING race into everything!
    Race IS in everything!

    And if you are so tired of HEARING about race,
    can you please give a little time to thinking about what it must be to
    LIVE with race?

    Ask Questions Later

    Broken tail light
    Loose cigarettes
    A box of cigars
    Walking down the street blocking traffic
    Helping /transporting folks to vote

    What above can get you killed?
    All of the above.
    All of the above.

    In the United States of America, all of the above can get an individual killed.
    Ask survivors of the guilty parties.


    An American Exercise


    Shame, shame, shame

    Flags at half-mast
    Instant memorials
    Flowers galore
    Candlelight vigils
    Prayers at the site, places of worship
    Politicians, President included, so sad, so sorry
    Many tears
    Important folks visiting the families, loads of condolences
    A fund set up, contributions of money in a multitude of manners

    Something must be done to stop the horror—but now is not
    the time.

    Grieving Time

    And more often Sympathy, Empathy


    No answer
    No satisfactory answer


    The meaning/interpretation of the Second Amendment,
    arguments about its meaning, interpretation

    More and more calls to join, calls to ban guns

    Answers the NRA: Guns don’t kill; people do.
    Outlaw guns, and only outlaws will have guns.

    Tougher laws would not have prevented this tragedy.

    Tougher laws would have prevented this tragedy.

    Enforce the laws we have….

    News, news, news
    Several days of news
    Lots of speculation

    Get pictures, videos.
    Witnesses come forward.

    Authorities on mass killers trotted out
    Family and friends interviewed.

    The killer—no, alleged killer—is paraded before us,
    if he has not rid the world of himself and his particular

    The public usually learns he was quiet, polite, helpful
    He’s a reject, a loser, maybe an A student.
    Often there’s no record of doing wrong,

    No signals, no signs, maybe a few, nothing big
    Nothing like this expected



    Fear of copycats?

    Lives ended, lives changed—forever.

    And then those of us not directly
    connected move on, some of us a
    bit more carefully, slower but we move on nevertheless.

    University of Texas
    San Ysidro
    Virginia Tech
    Mt. Hood
    Sandy Hook
    (These were the first American incidents to come to my mind.
    Which mass shootings come to your mind?)

    We moved on after each event.
    Maybe there’s a gathering at the site on anniversaries.

    But generally, most of us move on—again.

    Until enough of us demand that assault weapons
    be banned, that getting a gun requires more than filling out a form and paying a fee, we’ll repeat this exercise.

    Isn’t there something the sane can do other than hope and pray the
    exercise won’t be repeated?

    Note: Thus far, hoping has not been very successful.
    Hope lasts less than the time required to read this poem.


    © Georgia S. McDade

    All Ifs and Thens

    If there had been candy in the house, then….
    If the little brother had not wanted candy, then….
    If a parent had told the big brother not to go, then….
    If the mother had not let the big brother visit his father,
    If the big brother had not gone to get candy, then…
    If the pursuer had followed the dispatcher’s order, then….
    If the young man had not talked to the pursuer, then….
    If the young man had not been wearing a hoodie, then….
    Dare I say if the young man had not been black?

    Flashback almost ten years to all of the boy warriors.
    Flashback almost fifty years to three young men.
    Flashback almost sixty years to a young man who whistled.
    Flashback almost 250 years to another young man out
    looking for wood to make a drum.
    Flashback more than 2000 years when a troubled king decreed
    boys age two and under be slain.

    How many times have how many boys been killed for so little?
    Is there anything to be said or done?

    All the ifs in all the world will negate not one killing nor
    capture just as all the thens in all the world will resurrect
    not young man.
    But can’t we stop the killing?


    Emmett Till—Again

    At my sincerest, I thanked the four non-blacks who had
    written poems about Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and
    John T. Williams.
    I thanked them for devoting their time and talent to men
    murdered by police, justifiably so said the courts.
    I never believed only blacks are concerned about the
    murders, though I often saw little evidence of being
    I then told the writers I had been writing about Goodman,
    Schwerner, and Cheney and Emmett Till for decades.
    I do not know why I can’t get them out of my mind.

    I wonder if it is because of my age when they were
    Or is it their ages?
    Was it that photograph of the battered Emmett Jet did not
    hesitate to print?
    Perhaps it was the look on Emmett’s mother’s face.
    Maybe it was wondering how helpless his uncle must have
    felt as he begged the two white men not to take Emmett away.
    Those mug-shot looking photos of the trio of civil
    rights workers in newspapers around the world plagues
    me still.
    The Emmett and the trio are only two horrors that took place
    more than half a century ago.
    Yet, I can get chill bumps from thinking of them.

    I’ve consciously attempted not to write about these events.
    I think I have nothing else to say about Emmett Till; I think
    I’ve said all I can say.
    And then something triggers something, and I’m off—or on—
    Though the lady did not have to tell me “Keep writing about
    Emmett Till,” I have a feeling I’ll be writing about
    Emmett Till the rest of my life because Emmett Till
    continues—uninvited—to show up in my life.
    So, here is my last Emmett Till poem—until the next time.


    The Way Some of Us Are

    Carver’s knife found shut, said The Times.
    No exclamation necessary.

    A period is all there is.

    No one knows how not surprised many folks are.

    A human being shot, killed another human being.

    That’s the truth, the fact.
    That one human being is white and the other a Native American is a fact and often a problem.

    The former is a policeman; the latter a carver.
    Too often that is a problem.
    I submit that if both had looked at each other as human beings there would’ve been no killing.

    I submit that the white policeman saw red long before he saw human being.

    I submit that many policemen often see a color before they see a person.

    I submit much of the policeman’s culture says beware of people of color, the darker they, the more careful you.

    I submit the policeman believed he was in danger though he with his gun was not close enough to see a closed knife.
    And I submit, diminished mental state notwithstanding, Mr. Williams knew much of this and chose to risk being himself.
    No doubt there is sorrow; there should be.
    But absolutely no amount of sorrow nor anything else, nothing will bring back Mr. John T. Williams.
    Of course, policemen do not want to be killed.
    Of course, they must protect themselves.

    But as long as they serve a populace they fear, we can count on too many of them stomping, beating, and shooting, killing too—acting and then asking questions.
    The cold-blooded killings of their comrades doubtlessly makes them more guarded.
    Until policemen know more of the folks they are guarding we can expect them to feel justified in their actions despite being deadly wrong.

    Georgia S. McDade

    A Mind of Its Own

    My consciousness has a mind of its own.
    I say what I will not think about, yet my
    consciousness often takes over.

    For instance, I love the Blue Angels despite the
    energy use, noise pollution, traffic snarls,
    crowd attraction, scared beings, unfair
    recruitment, and old-fashioned imperialism.

    But I never see them without thinking about
    Bigger Thomas.
    You know Bigger; don’t you?

    A creation of Richard Wright, Bigger says, “Those white boys sure can fly” as he’s walking down the street and planes streak over his head. When he makes the statement, perhaps he had no idea one could take it so many ways.

    For me, the white boys can fly over the fictitious Bigger—and the
    real me—in countless ways, still. And do.

    Take another example: I drink from a water fountain. I want only a cold drink, but two, maybe three out of ten times, I am reminded of colored and white signs including times even when I am in a place overwhelmingly filled with black people.

    Or, I get on a bus, another rare occurrence. And more than one-half century after learning I had to sit in the back of the bus, I remember the eleven-year old me who learned I could not sit in the front.

    And there were my teachers being forced to buy an outfit and take it home to try it on. (I don’t think I ever had anything from The Palace, Monroe, Louisiana’s most exclusive store.) If for some reason the garment was not satisfactory, they had to trek back to the store to select another or get a refund. I wonder how often someone kept something because returning it was such a strain in more ways than one.

    Still another example: Seldom do I use a public restroom; however, my mind recalls all those years of not being allowed to use any public restroom other than the one designated in all downtown. Montgomery Ward’s will always be on a pedestal for me although somewhere along the way I began wondering if maybe Ward’s “won” the lottery and was forced to let “coloreds” use their restrooms.

    Sitting in the balcony in a theater, entering the front door of a doctor’s office, dining at any restaurant I choose, having a photo taken, visiting the library, sitting in a courtroom…. The list of what was colored and white, the governing rules, and why could be longer. But I am trying to wrest my mind from those thoughts that in some ways are long ago but in other ways as near as the day the first incident occurred and the consciousness became aware….

    Seafair Day Seattle 8/5/12

    Afraid for My Life, Part I

    Afraid for my life.
    I don’t doubt a person who says, “I’m [was] afraid for my life.”
    But I sometimes ask why the fear.
    Did the feared person do something?
    Say something?
    Hear something?
    See something?
    Touch something?

    Was something done to this feared person?

    Why be afraid?

    Was what makes the survivor fear possibly the same fear in the

    Police almost always say they feared for their lives after they have
    shot a person, the unarmed and/or mentally ill, young and
    old included.
    Does anyone count how often the dead suspect was unarmed?
    How often were the victims mentally ill?
    Did the victims harm the wrong person, a person not guilty?

    How many of the dead are dead because they feared for their
    lives— had good reasons to fear and should have feared for
    their lives?
    Of course, their physical lives!

    But what of their mental, emotional, economical lives?
    What of their medical lives?
    What role did these lives play in the killed’s arriving at this point?
    Most, if not all, of these questions go unanswered.
    Speculation usually rules here.
    Accuracy is often on holiday.
    No one may speak for the killed, but the possibility exists that the
    killed may indeed have rightly feared for their lives.


    Afraid for My Life, Part II

    Zimmerman feared for his life.
    But when did he become afraid for his life?
    Obviously not when he volunteered for such a task
    nor when he called the police over 200 times.
    Was it when he got his gun?
    Was it the minute he saw the young man he was following?
    Was it when he saw the young man was black?
    Did he see black first?
    Did he see anything after seeing black?
    Were black and male ever separate?
    Was there no thought of human being?
    Of young man?
    Of someone’s son, brother, father, or friend?

    Did he become afraid for his life when the dispatcher told him to
    stay in his car?
    Did he become afraid when he got out of his car?
    Did he become afraid when he realized he could be beaten?

    There are so many questions.
    Well, all questions except was he afraid for his life are irrelevant says the just judge, the justice-seeking judge.
    Instructions were given.
    There is no space to ask if the dead feared for his life.
    There is no space to ask the dead if he believed he was the
    murderer’s prey.
    The perpetrator feared for his life, so the verdict had to be as it is.

    (A lawyer friend says nothing was wrong with the judge’s instructions; they were good. The flaw was with the juror who, after the trial, said, “He got away with murder.” It was up to the juror not to be swayed. But, says the lawyer, the person selected foreperson is usually the most articulate and/or the socially highest ranking person on the jury. A person who feels inferior is not going to disagree with the foreperson. (8/11/13)

    Afraid for My Life, Part III

    I fear for my life.
    I have yet to get a gun.
    I’m always glad I was not home when my house was burglarized.

    Verdicts such as Zimmerman’s make me afraid for my life.
    How long have I endured such “justice”?
    No, how much longer must I endure it?
    With the bogs of limited life and minimal liberty occupying so
    much of my time and energy, will I ever get to pursue

    I am afraid for my life.
    I have a headache.
    I breathe heavier.
    I am stymied.
    I am stultified.

    I am among the millions who have waited for the arc to get to
    Exactly how long is this arc?

    And then another case comes, and I am more afraid.
    I can’t help wondering if anyone will defend me in my lifetime.
    Please give me the courtesy I give you.
    Believe me when I say I am afraid for my life.


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