The Neighbor

My Uncle


in a working class neighborhood


His home

was so close

to the tracks

that it would stir the drink in your hand

when the locomotives

would thunder by


You could see

the factory

he worked in

from his backyard

Each shift change


throughout the neighborhood

by a high-pitched buzzer


I used to leave his house

late at night

long after his neighbors had gone to sleep

I would walk


under the canopy

of oak trees


I would walk past your house

and admire

the tranquil

stone Buddha

sitting in your front lawn



the floods came


The factory

pumped toxins

into the neighborhood

behind them

rather than

devise a suitable plan

when the first flood hit

five years earlier


My Uncle’s house

is no longer standing

No more Leonard Cohen albums

or boxing matches

no more conspiracy theories

or Bukowski novels

just green grass

where a house

used to stand



when I drive by your home

the Buddha is gone

and so are you

Your windows

are now covered

in fading

yellow newspaper

Birds sing

from the pines

behind your house

their song

full and sad

like the blues





The Calm Within The Storm

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm” ~Willa Cather~

070A shower is a rare commodity in my world. The children are regularly cleaned of course with a bit of saliva on the end of my thumb or in a bathtub full of dirty water. . . .how do they get so dirty!? As a parent of four young children a hot shower is an oasis of calm. A sanctuary in which I get to take a moment for myse. . . . oh, who am I kidding? I scrub like a madman, half asleep, hoping that the house is in one piece by the time I get out, that is if I shower at all!

Luckily for me my children have the foresight to document their berserk behavior while I am out of the room. Thus the photos that accompany this piece. I found them days later when downloading pictures.

I am a natural introvert. I prefer some semblance of order and schedule. That is not my life though. The landing gear was torn off this jumbo jet when I became a parent! I say this tongue in cheek of course. Being the father of four healthy, creative and hilarious children has been one of the best things to happen to me as a person. Their inquisitive nature has forced me out of my comfort zone, on an hourly basis! Their gentle nature and warm smiles have forced me to exam my own lack of patience at times. Their whirlwind energy has forced me to recognize that on occasion the calm within the storm is simply knowing it will pass.072

I have to admit that recently I have learned more, as a parent, about myself than at any other time in my life. Not all of it has been pleasant. I have had to confront some very difficult aspects of my personality and then have had to decide whether I am going to address them or not. I have chosen the more difficult road of engaging my bad behavior in an effort to be a better parent. I can only thank my children and the relentless energy they bring into my life for this self-examination. Oddly enough I have come to the conclusion that though they are constantly on the move physically and emotionally that they are actually the calm within the storm.


I have to remind myself at times that we are fully able to switch roles on occasion as student and teacher if I am humble enough to learn the lesson.



Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .