Strolling the ‘hood, an ode?

By Nando

Richland Heights East. We show on a map as a collection of streets and structures within a square boundary. But . . . are we more, a distinct neighborhood differentiated by its people, even its pets? Hmm.

Obviously, not everyone in RHE is indoors petting their dogs instead of walking them about. Now, after weeks of transitioning from few walking to many walking . . .sans masks, even . . . dogs and people are all about . . . some pairs or trios exploring for the first time this unique ‘hood. It is good to do.

And at this time of year, walking the ‘hood whether walking the dog or the dog walking thee, the emergent greens of spring are so positive. Surely they ameliorate or even banish thoughts of virus, politics, or worse things?

The greens of spring and co-emergent fauna are background for outdoor exercisers, on nature’s presence and contributions to where we live . . . architecture and non-organic additions seemingly subordinated or enhanced by the products of this winter’s ample rains.

And in strolling about these spring mornings or evenings, with or without leash-felt demands, one is drawn at personal levels of consciousness to our immediate environment’s uniqueness and positiveness. There was no cookie cutter designer, and best of all there are no high rises . . . windowed cabinets for people on file?

Ah, the space . . . self-quarantined here among open spaces . . . wide streets and larger lots . . . wildlife in fur or feathers, scaly long-tailed lizards, or those with stubs, regenerating tails from encounters with adrenalized formerly indoor-only pets, and ground squirrels, and look . . . what was that?

Never have so many informed themselves on their Richland Heights East neighborhood. A mere collection of designated streets and structures, not really. Keep on walking. Its concomitant, the well informed, is the organic infrastructure of a living neighborhood.

May 2020

Third Haiku Submission

By Dennis M

Another Mural

Are pigs flying yet?
Let’s check hell’s temperature, yes!
Javalinas bike.

Here’s a new koan.
The sound of one hand washing
Is this what is heard?

Noisy city walk
Ambulance has no traffic.
Some good comes with bad

April 2020

Pandemic Writings Continued


Quiet city walk
Hear backyard children laughter.
Love’s heart goes to them.

Quiet in front yard
Emerge from life’s cholla nest.
New doves fledge today.

April 2020

Haiku Thursday

By Dennis

Quiet city walk
Delightful gifts come in time.
Orange trees blossom now.

Porch Pirate?

Quiet city walk
White truck loops in neighborhood.
Tough time to be thief.

Drive on Left? Walk on Right.

Quiet city walk
All met walking on wrong side.
What is right or wrong?

Noisy city walk
Military jets slash our sky.
Very loud freedom?


Quiet city walk
Whales hover over desert.
Are pigs flying yet?


Want to learn something?
Plural form is this easy.
Haiku need(s) no “s”!

April 2020


During the COVID-19 pandemic, LAH volunteers kept in touch with clients who were sheltering at home by phone. Vicki, the leader of the Senior Writing Group, was one of the callers. Here is an email she sent on March 24, 2020 . . .

One of my people to call was Dennis DeFreitas. I hadn’t seen him in well over  a year and his phone number no longer worked. I tried email, but nothing. So I left a note on his door. His son called me last night to say that Dennis had died of cancer in September. His son said that he and Dennis’ daughter were very appreciative of the things that LAH did for Dennis. He said Dennis talked about us. Also his daughter was at the social when the senior writers read from our book. I think she read his story.

He had not been active with LAH for a couple of years, but I spent a lot of time with him from 2012 thru 2016. He and I started with the Writing Group on the same day. He was a regular for over 3 years. His stories are in the book we published. I drove him twice a week for physical therapy for about a year. I took him out to the Desert Museum to see the Raptor Show and almost killed him with the long walk and the heat. The last time I saw him was during a social at the church — he rode his three wheeled motor bike over. He also rode it to the Botanical Gardens and to Randolph Park for our picnic.

Dennis hated December — too many people he loved had died in December.  I’m glad he died in September — not glad he died, just glad it happened in September.


Mesquite Maintenance, Mistletoe, and more . . .

By Nando

This winter’s two severe chills had caused an early and seemingly more complete denuding of the area’s mesquite trees, with the native species yielding more leaves to the ground’s carpeting, while the Chilean long-thorn variety, though also giving up leaves to wind and chill, displayed some green-leaved resistance. The loss of leaves revealed the evergreen presence of the mesquite’s nemesis, mistletoe.

The parasitic clumps were of varying sizes and at heights not easily reached by homeowners with rudimentary tools. Add well-aged joints, vintage-grade alacrity, and spouse intolerance of ladder climbing, and it became inevitable that delays would result, and help would be needed.

Now the early Southern Arizona spring was stimulating the Mesquite’s new leaf growth as well as giving impetus to the mistletoe’s renewing its parasitic prominence and threat to its hosts.

The native trees still had not begun showing new leaves though the advantage of being able to clearly see the clumps in the leafless trees had been mostly lost for the leafier Chilean variety. Though harder to spot, the Chileans showed significantly more parasites than the native species.

The mistletoe looked pretty much the same in either tree. It formed clumps of stick like leaves, all emanating from a bulbous, distorted and swollen, usually slender branch. The branch itself, at the source of the parasite, seemed to sprout additional branches as if to provide the mistletoe centrality and additional resource. How hospitable.

Scanning the tree itself also showed that the mistletoe grew on the bark of larger branches. These branches were, in our single study, at least 3 inches in diameter with bark that was creased, fissured, perhaps facilitating retention of mistletoe “seeds”.

Single stalks, large clumps, small clumps, and nascent pre-clumps were removed. A tree lopper, freshly sharpened and lubricated, with its ten-foot reach was essential. A ladder and some tree climbing by a youthful forty-year old was also necessary to remove the highest and often larger clumps. Single stalks, usually growing from larger branches, could be brushed aside.

The mistletoe-sprouting branches were trimmed several inches below each clump’s bulbous base. A look at these branches showed the distortion that occurred and the transformation of the interior of the branch where the parasite’s activity changed the interior pulp to an abnormal white, softish swelling.

We hope to know by next year or so if removing the branch and its growth, rather than just removing the stalks was enough to stop it re-emerging. We already knew that next year or later there would surely be other clumps or single stalks to remove, thanks to bird droppings and beak scrapings. Hmm, no mistletoe was found on other trees.

March 2020

on death

By Kat

the spirit rises
far beyond
yet lingers still
mid those
left behind

a knife to the heart
is our loss
forever imbedded in
what we call
back of the mind

brought forward
in sadness
now and again
softened to sweet memories
by reflection and time

our loss, the spirit’s gain
the spirit rises
to whatever is next
having gained a rung
on the ladder of time

and we remain.

February 2020

Out of Practice – But Never for Reading

By Leslie

It has been quite a while since I participated in the Writing Group. And, frankly, I am out of practice. Ideas do not spring into my mind on which I can write. So, I will just have to fill you in on the small, and not so small, things that add up to a life lived as fully as possible.

Friends and family are, of course, the center of my existence. But should I distinguish between the two? It has been said, “(Good) friends are the family you choose”! Unfortunately, I have lost my two longest, dearest friends within the last six months. One, my son’s Godmother, to cancer, and the second (most recently) to the complications of diabetes.

I met my son’s Godmother on the first day of medical school and we remained dear friends through the ups and downs of life – both private and in medicine. The second woman, a friend from St Louis, was my major source of “book reviews” (aside from the New York Times and other publications, of course). We had endless telephone conversations discussing books – each recommending books to the other. How much more interesting than discussing one’s ill health!

Of course, I am so blessed to have my dearest friend, with whom I live – my husband. We, too, share so much – including a love of books. Not a night goes by when we do not read together. As literacy, specifically reading, is the key to all education, my husband, Bill, continues to tutor elementary school children in reading. And I, I remain an inveterate editor – and co-edit a monthly pediatric journal. We have some marvelously talented contributors, some leaders in their fields – but unfortunately that does not mean that they are marvelously talented writers. It is both a joy and privilege – and at times a challenge – to edit their work.

Each of us belongs to book discussion groups and, of course, avidly read on our own. I highly recommend book discussion groups to you. There are so many from which to choose – whether specialized, like mystery or contemporary – or general, such as ours.

So now, my friends, my hand tires, my thoughts ebb – and I leave you, but this time, hopefully, for just two weeks.

February 2020

Timing Is Everything

By Leslie

Fall is here, but it is hard to believe. I miss the Fall colors – the vivid reds, yellows and oranges – that graced our yards, roads and parks in Missouri. But, soon enough we hope to have our little tough of Fall color in our yard when our crape myrtle, pomegranate and newly planted pastiche begin to don their Fall colors.

And – we still have lush, blooming bougainvillea, zinnias, cosmos, queen’s wreath, and even roses! Our chrysanthemums promise a future Fall display as well.

In the meantime, “my room” is festooned with potted purple and burnt orange-gold blooming mums and a cut flower or two from our outdoor gardens.

As the saying goes – “If the mountain doesn’t go to Mohammed, then Mohammed shall go to the mountain.” And so, this may not be Vermont, St Louis, MO, or even Mt Lemmon, but it is Fall at (the) Holmes, a glorious one indeed.

October 2019

A Tale of Two Coffee Tables

By Leslie

To paraphrase Dr Seuss – “Oh the (tales) I will tell” – about my internship year at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Fifty years ago it was THE hospital for the poor and the Afro-American inhabitants of that city. And how woefully understaffed and underfunded it was.

One evening, when I was covering the pediatric emergency department, an older woman came in carrying a young child, profusely bleeding from her thigh. As the story was revealed, grandma was babysitting for her ~5-year-old granddaughter. When she stepped out of the living room where they were watching TV, her granddaughter decided to jump from the couch to the glass-topped coffee table – and though it she went!

I assessed the huge V-shaped laceration of her thigh which revealed muscle, tendon and bone. I promptly applied pressure and called my attending. He was confident that I could repair the wound – and dictated instructions over the telephone! No senior resident was in sight. And, as a matter of fact, neither was any nurse to assist me.

Grandma was incredibly guilt-ridden and tearful. Nevertheless, I made a quick decision to enlist her as my “surgical assistant” – and she ably performed after scrubbing up. The child was discharged to home.

I followed the child, as I was instructed, in surgery clinic each week. To my amazement, but as predicted by the attending pediatric surgeon, she healed beautifully with just the tip of the skin flap having to heal in by secondary intention. Oh, the resilience of youth! And, Grandma – she was ever so grateful to have participated in the care of her injured granddaughter!

Years later, with a son of my own, not a coffee table could be found within the confines of my home! But when the children grew up, I did purchase one – which unfortunately had – a glass top.

About a month ago, my husband informed me of his fear of falling onto the coffee table. Out it went – to a very, very appreciative young lady. Thus my “Tale of Two Coffee Tables” ends . . .  on a very happy note this time.

October 2019