Creating Community One Stone at a Time

I first experienced Zen sculptures about ten years ago when I visited Sedona, AZ and walked along a riverbank that was crowded with such towers. Each of us on the trip built one, but recently, I haven’t thought much about them until I went to Thoreau’s cabin site near Walden Pond. Visitors had built rock towers around the periphery of his cabin’s foundation, and I was quick to add one of my own.

Zen rocks, Brian Potts, photo credit

One morning afterI returned from visiting Walden, I was walking in my neighborhood and passed a large, flat rock that is in a median strip in front of an apartment complex about a block from my home.  On a whim, I picked up a few stones and built a Zen tower.  For the first couple of months, I was the only one building towers, sometimes every day, and sometimes I’d build two.  Building the towers became a vehicle for mindfulness because  I walked the same route nearly every day, and it was easy to let the scenery slip past.

But like a seed that takes awhile to germinate, one day I noticed there was a tower that some unseen friend had built. Hooray! I thought, someone connected with me and is joining in the fun. By early October, when I was about to leave for a two-week trip to Europe, there were three towers on the main rock and one tower on each of the rocks in the back of the median.  I smiled. The idea was catching on and gaining a life of its own.

The rock towers were still there when I returned.

Close-up of Zen rocks, Brian Potts, photo credit

Why is this important to me?

Sometimes when I think of how busy all of us are and how much we’re isolated in spending time with our screens, I lament that we’re losing a sense of community. I never see my neighbors in the apartments and have never met anyone who lives there. I know a few people in my immediate area, but I rarely see the folks who live on my street, and I’ve never told anyone about my Zen project. But I am a firm believer in the power of positive energy and shared consciousness. And now I have proof of my connection–or at least my idea’s connection–with my unseen neighbors. We’re truly in this together–one stone at a time. One idea at a time. One good deed at a time.


Armistice Day After My Visit to Flanders Field

A powerful reminder

I recently visited Bruges in Belgium, a small and charming city that is very close to the town of Ypres and Flanders Field, the site of the Western Front during The Great War.  I wanted to see the sites as a way to participate in  commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. I knew I’d see cemeteries and statues, but I had no idea how I’d feel as I spent the day with my tour guide, Philippe, and my companions for the day–four people from Ireland, two from Canada, and one from Italy. All of them had lost grandfathers during the war. My two grandfathers did not enlist, probably due to their ages. Still, as an American, I felt that it was important for me to witness the ground where so much sacrifice and destruction occurred over 100 years ago.

The truly awful fact is that The Great War, or World War I, still lives in Europe, especially in the small, quiet towns of France and Belgium.

Unexploded shells from WWI

The war lives in the unexploded shells that farmers find when they plow their fields.
The war lives in the sinkholes that trap people because they’ve built over an old trench. The war lives in the chemical weapons that are still lethal after 100 years.
The war lives in the Canadian, British, Australian, New Zealand, German, and Irish cemeteries that cover former battle fields.
The war lives in the red poppies that decorate the grave sites and fill the fields in the spring.

One of the youngest men to die in The Great War

Poet and author Madeline Mysko used a piece from The Sun archives that declares Nov. 11, 1918 “the greatest day in the history of the world!” But the reporter wisely spells out the deeper meaning of victory for the readers:

“It was a victory not so much of material things: of ships and rifles, and cannon, and gas, and men’s lives, as it was a victory of the spirit, a spirit that even in the darkest of days did not acknowledge defeat, the spirit that never would admit that might was right or that brutality and savagery could triumph over humanity and kindliness and love and the decent things of life.”

In Europe, they call November 11th Armistice Day, literally a day to celebrate the cessation of  force, stopping the use of weapons.  We have sacrificed greatly in our many wars, but those wars do not live on our soil.  I wonder if the destruction and pain of war, the futility of force to solve problems, would be more real for us as Americans if we found unexploded shells in our fields?  If our children fell into sink holes when they played tag in the yard?

May we pause and reflect this Armistice Day.

A memorial of poppies

Reblogging: Rory Fanning: Veterans Against the War: Eleven Perspectives on Ending US Imperialism  Nov. 11, 2016

I’m always grateful to hear from Vets on issues of their service and US war policy. They have much to tell us. I hope you enjoy the article.


Rory Fanning walked across the United States for the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2008-2009, following two deployments to Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. He is a housing and antiwar activist living in Chicago, Illinois. He is also the author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America(Haymarket Books, 2014). Follow him on Twitter @RTFanning.

Rory’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, Mother Jones, Salon, Common Dreams, TomDispatch, Socialist Worker and many other outlets.

Maggie Martin. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

Maggie Martin. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Today is the 11th Armistice Day I will observe as a veteran. I only recently found the courage to speak up against the US-led wars being fought around the world. It took me so long to speak up because I was scared. I was scared of losing the respect of my family, and of losing the handful of social benefits that accompany being a compliant, “heroic” veteran worthy of uncritical cheers and applause at sporting events and airports. But I was tired of hiding and pretending that being honest about my military experience was less important than social approval, so I learned to speak out. It began with a few articles, which led to a book. The book led to speaking engagements at high schools, prisons and universities. Now it almost feels like second nature to challenge the notion that the United States military is a force for good, or that it fights for freedom and democracy around the world.

The support from like-minded veterans and activists who also speak out against US imperialism — the lives it takes, the racism it fuels, the economic inequality it creates and the damage it does to the environment — was the most important part of my evolution. These antiwar veterans helped me do battle with the fear of isolation that kept me silent. They are the ones who gave me courage. The idea that I was in it alone was a false one. Losing this feeling, I think, was the first step to speaking out.

Fifteen years ago, the US invaded Afghanistan, allegedly to capture the handful of people responsible for 9/11. A decade and a half later, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, other wars have been fought and a vast national security state has been built up around us. Trillions of dollars have been diverted from things like health care, education, infrastructure, fighting climate change and more. And now, a rightwing demagogue has been elected president of the US.

How do we prevent a repeat of the last 15 years? How do we fight the creeping cynicism so many of us feel regarding our ability to stop the damage the US military does around the world? What are some of the obstacles faced by veterans since returning home? What are the challenges that prevent veterans from speaking against the vicious and brutal cycle of war in this country? Now, more than ever, these questions need answers.

In my talks with students I am always encouraging them and their teachers to come together and organize space for veterans to share their stories. No, it isn’t easy for veterans who want to communicate the realities of war to the soon-to-be military-aged kids who need to hear them the most. Ask any number of the millions of young people signed up for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program a few questions about our country’s recent history. You’ll soon realize how little information is being shared with those who will be tasked with fighting the next decade and a half of wars — if those wars are not stopped.

The problem is that there is plenty of time for parades, backslapping, yellow ribbons and other propaganda, but very little time to hear the horrors of war. So, I thought I would heed my own advice. This Veterans Day, I reached out to a few of my favorite vets, and asked them about the challenges they’ve faced since leaving the military, what needs to happen to end the wars, and their greatest fear about speaking out. Hopefully, these voices will reach others who are considering speaking out, the young people who are being denied the information they need to make an informed decision about joining the military, and the active duty soldiers who are contemplating laying their weapons down and coming home. Maybe they will see that they are not alone, and that there are wonderful and courageous people out there who will support them.

Sabrina Weller in front of Pat Tillman’s statue outside of Phoenix University Stadium. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

 Sabrina Weller in front of Pat Tillman’s statue outside of Phoenix University Stadium. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning) Sabrina Bosques, Navy Veteran, Kosovo Conflict ’99

The biggest challenge after coming home is believing I was the only one having these feelings of disgust with my time in the military. I was in an F-14 fighter squadron in the Navy. They showed us pictures and videos of the damage the 500 pounds [of explosives] dropped from the F-14 had on the Balkan Area. They wanted us to be proud. I was sickened. I knew there were women and children who died because of missions I supported. I kept asking myself, what does this have to do with Chicago (where I’m from), or the United States? How am I upholding the Constitution by bombing a country I know nothing about in a war that clearly is not about self-defense?

I was one of 500 females aboard an aircraft carrier of 5,000 sailors during the Kosovo conflict; I think that says all you need to know about what an average day during a deployment felt like. Another sailor sexually assaulted me. Statistics state one in three women are sexually assaulted in the military. Even though I was far from alone in my experiences, I couldn’t publicly admit I was a MST (military sexual trauma) survivor until after I was re-traumatized during an inpatient psych visit at my local VA [Veterans Affairs clinic].

I challenge the idea that war is inevitable, or that abuse is inevitable.

I did humanitarian work with the real Patch Adams — without a weapon — in Guatemala and Costa Rica, after leaving the military. This brought me immense peace and really started my path toward working on wellness. Not only did I feel like I was giving back, I saw how the teachers in Costa Rica, much like the teachers in Chicago Public Schools, learned to withhold their labor [i.e., go on strike] for improved standards of living. This is how we change the world. If we don’t like what our government is doing to us, or the wars it’s creating, then we should refuse to go to work until things change.

Also, on that note, when I was in the military I saw three sailors refuse to get an anthrax vaccine [a vaccine that the FDA recommends for at-risk adults before exposure to anthrax and that the CDC says is safe]. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was seeing GI resistance… They ultimately refused their order. They should have that right. These young sailors were kicked out of the military. They stood up against the chain of command. We need to see more of this. The wars stop when service members refuse to obey orders.

Having inadequate mental health care after returning home was my biggest obstacle, and the VA is still a trigger. You would go into the women’s clinic for treatment and you walk into a room full of men. For Veterans receiving treatment for Military Sexual Trauma (MST), this ain’t healing.

Will Griffin, US Army Paratrooper, deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan

Will Griffin at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Will Griffin at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

The last 15 years of war haven’t worked. Global terrorism has since increased, the world is a more dangerous place and Americans are more fearful than ever before.

A complete reversal is in order. Sending our troops overseas hasn’t worked. Dropping bombs on entire countries hasn’t worked. Feeding weapons to rebel groups hasn’t worked. Let’s stop endangering the world. Fifteen years is enough!

One of the greatest obstacles/fears about speaking out against the wars, before I chose to do so, was being ridiculed, alienated and losing friends. All of this did in fact happen. But all the friends I met since then quickly filled much of that void — people who had the courage to speak out against America’s unending wars are the ones I spend a lot of my time with now. It hasn’t been easy, but my life is so much more fulfilled since coming forward.

Ross Caputi, Veteran of the second battle of Fallujah, 1/8 alpha co USMC, grad student in comparative lit at University of Massachusetts

Ross Caputi, Boston, MA. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Ross Caputi, Boston, MA. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

I think we need to have a moral revolution in this country that totally restructures the way we think about the use of military force. Imperialism is deeply entrenched in our culture. Our perceived right to use violence in other people’s countries is never questioned, and it should be. But even within the progressive community, opposition to our foreign policies is too often framed in terms of domestic costs. I think we need to change our moral culture from one of self-righteousness and self-interest to one of solidarity with our victims.

One of the biggest obstacles/fears to speaking out against US-led wars was that I felt inadequate because of my level of education. I slacked off in high school and didn’t feel like I could put my thoughts into words in a way that others would respect. I worried that I would just end up alienating myself and doing a disservice to Iraqis.

Ramon Mejia. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

Ramon Mejia. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning) Ramon Mejia, founding Organizer of #VetsVsHate, Latino Muslim USMC Veteran.

“Instead of galvanizing the public for continued conflict, discuss innovative alternatives to investing our taxpayer dollars rather than continuing to build and maintain military installations overseas. Nearly $600 billion is still spent on supporting the war effort each year! Imagine how reallocating even a fraction of this could help rebuild our country’s crumbling infrastructure! I hope more people speak sincerely and truthfully about the issues we need to confront as a nation. Don’t speak about military threats to our national security while ignoring the ways our foreign policy has created these crises.

To live with the burden that I, by participating in the Iraq War, contributed to the continued oppression and further exploitation of a people — the burden, at times, is more than I can bear. And now by speaking out against the war, against US militarism, I’m called a “traitor” … What the fuck?!? I was lied to by the U.S. government. They lied to me! They took my youth, my humanity, and I’m the traitor?!?


Maggie Martin. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Maggie Martin. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning) Maggie Martin IVAW Co-Director

I think if we don’t want to repeat the last 15 years, we need a real change in how people in the US experience war from such a distance. That could mean increasing people’s understanding about the human and economic costs of war, prioritizing and promoting diplomatic solutions and fully funding the VA to treat those injured in war. We need to have a government that will be accountable to the people about the choice to go to war. We would also need a major shift in mainstream media if we hope to change our militaristic culture.

I didn’t really have too much fear about speaking out against the wars, but I think an obstacle was figuring out how I would be able to make a living while still giving the time and effort I wanted [to] work against the war. I’ve been on staff with IVAW [Iraq Veterans Against the War] for five and a half years, so it’s been great for me, but our members and volunteers still struggle to make time for political work with the challenges of working, going to school and having families. At this point for me, with a one-year-old son, I am finding the right balance of family and movement life.


Michael T. McPherson. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Michael T. McPherson. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning) Michael T. McPhearson, Veterans For Peace, Executive Director

What should happen to stop what has been happening for the past 25 years, since the US shrugged off Vietnam Syndrome, and what has been happening since the founding of this nation — i.e., a constant and consistent march to global hegemony?

Activists here at home must understand that all of our issues are intertwined and that we cannot make real change without addressing root causes — what MLK called a revolution of values. We need a transformation of what we value. We must put people before things. Greed must become an anathema. Central to this transformation must be a confrontation of patriarchy that puts the needs of children and sustaining the planet at the center. Together we can have a full-spectrum peoples’ movement that will help everyone see how all of our destinies are connected. And Veterans For Peace must continue to work to build a global movement of veterans who are speaking out against war and violent conflict and for peace. I think if we do these things or even fall short, succeeding only in part, we would see the kind of change we seek.

Departure from war was not my starting place to talk about peace. I once thought war was a necessary evil to help bring about peace. I began to talk about peace as it relates to issues here at home and specifically to my community as a Black man. My mother always taught us to stand up against injustice and for what is right; so when I got out of the military, it was natural for me to begin to speak out against racism and other forms of hate. Then in the summer of 2001, before the World Trade Center tragedy, I saw an activist holding a sign that [said] 500,000 children died as a result of US sanctions in Iraq. I was hit by a thunderbolt. It dawned on me that I am in part responsible for those deaths because I was a tool in the wars that helped put those sanctions in place. From then on I had no choice but to speak out to change US foreign policy as it relates to war and peace. I had some anxiety as to how to do that as a former soldier, but I found Veterans For Peace and many role models like David Cline to emulate.

Matthew Hoh, 2010 Ridenhour Prize winner for Truth-Telling, a former Marine, member of Veterans for Peace

Matthew Hoh. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Matthew Hoh. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

How do we prevent a repeat of the last 15 years? I find that to be a very difficult question to answer. The United States and its people, at least the white ruling classes, have always been an expansionist and imperialist. This notion that the United States was an isolationist nation up until the 20th century is nonsense. We didn’t have to have an empire overseas because we were building one through genocide and slavery across the North American land mass. So, I don’t see anything in our history that allows me to say: “This needs to happen as it did then…”

The only thing we can do is to fight on against the forces that will drive us toward such totalitarianism and suffering if we were not to make any resistance. To measure and savor each small victory we achieve, and to believe that we can achieve a better state of humanity and a peaceful world.

Since returning home from the military, my greatest frustration has to be the hero worship that we as veterans are feted with. It is unthinking, reflexive and Orwellian. It is grounded in ignorance, and the enthusiasm with which I find it so often expressed seems to come from a place of mistaken guilt for not having served, or from a place of slavish obedience to cultural and societal dictates that help sustain our military and industrial profligacy and our immoral wars overseas (and at home).

My biggest fear coming forward was that those I have served with would reject me. The reality has been the opposite. I don’t believe I have lost any friendships, and I have been accepted and respected by my former peers.

Those who have been hostile have usually brought their hostility forward from a place of immaturity or ignorance about the reality of the wars. I’ve met few combat vets [who] have disputed my assessment of the wars, while those [who] never went and actually saw the wars are the ones who disagree with me. I think many Americans would be surprised at the high number of members of our Armed Forces who disagree with the wars, but still participate in them.

Adrienne Kinne Cascade Mountain, Adirondacks, NY on October 11, 2015. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Adrienne Kinne Cascade Mountain, Adirondacks, NY on October 11, 2015. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning) Adrienne Kinne, US Army 1994-1998, US Army Reserves 1998-2004, stateside, mobilization 2001-2003, Arabic Linguist, Sergeant, E-5

The last 15 years of endless war, increasing wealth disparity, environmental assault and rise in hate and prejudice did not happen overnight, and they are not isolated incidents. They are all outcomes of a power structure that was put in place when our country was founded, and that has favored the rich and powerful few at the expense of the masses. I believe that for real change to happen, we need to abandon the idea that, if we can only get the right person into office, that he or she will make things better for us. Real change in this country has only ever happened through committed and persistent grassroots organizing, rooted in the belief that change is possible.

I joined the military right out of high school. In the beginning I thought that the military would be my career. When I realized I could no longer in good conscience follow that path, I had to figure out anew who I was going to be in life. That was a challenge, practically and emotionally. The bigger challenge, however, was riding the emotional wave that hit as I came to the deeper realization that so much of what I believed to be good about America and serving in the military was a lie. I had to relearn almost everything I thought I knew. Fortunately in doing so, I discovered that there is so much to be proud of as an American — there’re just not the things we’re typically taught in history class.

When I finally decided that signing petitions and making “get out the vote calls” was not enough to alter the path that our country was going down and made the decision to step forward physically and say “enough,” it seemed like an almost natural progression in my activism against the war. It felt like it had to be done and that it was the right thing to do. It was only after I made that first step and connected with other veterans organizing against the wars that I feared being demonized, losing my job, going to jail, and ostracizing my friends and family. I have not gone to jail yet, but the idea of it no longer scares me. I have been called a liar, and my job has been threatened, but there are worse things in life. And my activism has strained my relationships with some friends and family. So be it. My real friends and family have stood by me, and I have found new friends and family the world over who are committed to the same ideals as I am. My greatest fear now is that in trying to find balance in life I have stepped too far back from activism.

Geoff Millard. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Geoff Millard. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning) Geoff Millard Iraq war veteran and former member of IVAW        

“One of the biggest problems is that people claim to ‘support the troops,’ but those who speak out are largely unheard… If we are going to break the status quo, and avoid a repeat of the last 15 years, we have to learn to communicate with each other better. Yelling at people about how their politics are wrong, if you don’t agree with them, isn’t going to win enough people to reverse the current tide. We have to start having honest and real conversations with those who may not be on the same page but have an open mind.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced since returning from Iraq is losing touch with long-time family and friends. Not a single family or friend from my past attended my wedding. There is a distance in my heart that makes it difficult to maintain or feel connected with people…. The thing that has helped me the most is working with homeless veterans. Besides, so many of my friends who also served are dead from suicide. I am in a constant state of physical and emotional pain…

Garett Reppenhagen, US Army, Operation Enduring Freedom 

Garrett Reppenhagen, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Garrett Reppenhagen, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

To avoid another 15 years of US forces in armed conflicts, America will have to find the courage to not engage every would-be terrorist organization that threatens the western world. We would have to take immediate massive action to support clean renewable energy sources to end our fossil fuel dependence that takes immense military resources to secure. We would need to lower the impact of our military industry in political elections by repealing Citizen United. We must end the post 9/11 war powers act that allows the president to use aggressive action indiscriminately around the world.

The most trying time in my life was returning from Iraq and learning to forgive myself for my role as a sniper in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a sense I did not experience being a victim of trauma, but I was a perpetrator of violence on others. My mental health is directly tied to the legitimacy of the conflict I was in. For my part in it, I will be challenged by moral injury for the rest of my life.

Mike Haines, Marine Force Recon, Member of Veteran for Peace  

Mike Hanes, at Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training, in San Diego, California. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)Mike Hanes, at Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training, in San Diego, California. (Photo: Courtesy of Rory Fanning)

After combat in Iraq, I got out of the Marines within six months of getting back to the US. One of the greatest challenges that I have faced upon getting back was finding my place in society. After combat, I looked at the world differently. I couldn’t fit into any niche, and I still have that problem in many ways. I began to isolate, get into confrontations and self-medicate with alcohol. A huge problem for me was finding work. There seemed to always be something that would throw me off psychologically or physically which would always lead to bad results. Another thing I can’t wrap my head around anymore is slaving away for a company or corporation for eight hours a day, day in and day out, in perpetual, repetitive, monotonous tasks for enhancing corporate profits. I would rather walk out into the woods and live the remainder of my days off the land, away from this predatory society that does not care for you or me and motivates us through patriotism to send our kids to war. The war system and the connection to corporate profits, imperialism, acquiring resources, and maintaining strategic advantage over others has motivated me to do what ever peaceful actions I can to make this world one of empathy, caring, sanity and global peace.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Merry Christmas!

Thank you to everyone who has been stopping by my blog, guest blogging, commenting, and attending my readings. I wish all of you a very  Merry Christmas, and I hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends.

Ann's Christmas Tree, 2015
Ann’s Christmas Tree, 2015

I’m planning on a lovely day with my kids and then an evening of dessert and gifts with my siblings, nieces, and nephews. We love tradition, including cooking a turkey with all the trimmings. My son, Brian, is the designated carver and my daughter Christella makes sure the meal runs smoothly. Here’s a peek at my Christmas turkey from last year—-looking forward to sharing a meal with my family once again this year.

Ann roasts a turkey
Ann roasts a turkey

I love the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Every year someone tries to recite it from memory, so here is Clement Moore’s unforgettable poem about Santa Claus. May he always be in our hearts.




A Visit from St. Nicholas


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”