Shirley WindwardShirley Windward, who was born in 1919 and left us for a new adventure Halloween night 2012, was a writer from the age of 13. From her experiences finding real elves in the forest as a child, to enchanting hundreds of children as a nonagenarian, she reveled in a life of creation. Founder of the Windward School in Santa Monica, she influenced generations of children and adults with her blithe spirit. She said, “I always wanted to be a story lady,” and her poems are evidence of stories told and people known. She was famous for being “greedy for life” and in her own words, “greedy for wonderful things to happen,” always looking forward to new experiences, regretting at 90 years of age, that she could not sky dive, wryly commenting, “I’ll have to wait till the next life.”

Her poetry seemed to get better with age. Her last book, Epiphany, published immediately after her death, contained some of her best work, written in the last months of her life. Through any hardship, such as an illness, she wrote prodigiously and throughout her life she produced a large body of work. Her titles include, The Midwife Chronicles (a novel), Web Song, Slipping Honey In, (with Audrey Hargreaves), Two Kisses, (with Audrey Hargreaves), One Frog Still Dancing, Time Sweet Time; Follow Me Down, Witchcraft Unlimited, What We Remember Is What Makes Us Whole, Nursing Home Saga, Epiphany and The Ednalor Mysteries or The Peremptory Princess (for children.) She was published in a number of anthologies, including Uncommon Ground (Paradigm Poets) and a group work of four women poets, 4 Lyric Poets. Shirley was an early member of the writing group, Paradigm Poets, and a founding member of the choral group, The Palestrina Ensemble. Shirley loved Moonday and came without fail, even when ill health plagued her, her voice rang out clear and true, inspiring us with her wisdom, stories and word music. As her son, Rolfe commented, “There is this clear light that comes out, simple and elegant.”  That light can never be extinguished.

----With thanks to Windward School for their tribute page:


Three Poems from Epiphany:



The light grows and grows and grows
like a rosy flower from dim to dawn
and into an almost believing sun—

straight words and twisted syllables belie us,
enfold us—we submit.  I lie
in your faraway arms trusting still
to the remembered embrace

remembering that trust
in the welter of old love—
leaning on the thump-romping
muscle it is



In tandem
always a pair
made weighted and weightless
by time’s caressings
they sometimes sit side by side
silent, speechless,
in a glow of glory all their own.
they are not without anger
or inept address or the wrong use
of a runaway adjective,
but they always give you
grace in their attention.
They know their place
in the cosmos—and might
point you the way
to yours.



The menu shifts broadly
the denizens as well, but,
not a day goes by quite unmarred.
Quick, avid little waves
of attachment rise and fall
disappointing where
they would most please.
Some try to be
faithful, snatching
for a constant,
a receding thread—
no smile forever, no
middle name recalled
for long, no first name for more
than a year, words remembered
unclear, substance uncertain,
faces not keenly looked after,
expectancy a lover
seldom depended upon,
even rejected. Once
cherished phrases are often
idly inspected and returned
to the plate,
to be chewed absently
by another.  Absence
is the ever present
presence. And we are getting
agile at numbering our
numberless days.




The warm sand at the bottom of the canyon
cups hip and shoulder, shifting me toward
the river that chuckles three feet from
my chin.  Sweet wren song ripples
down the shaft of air heralding dawn.
Open-eyed now, I watch light seeping from
the boulder my head rests upon. I see
a single stem of long bark, a slender trunk
no bigger than my wrist taken root
in the rock itself.  I enter slow struggle,
tendril by tendril, sense the swelling of
narrow fingers, feel them thrusting,
half inch by quarter inch, spreading a web,
thickening core, dissolving stone to
centennial soil, lifting a final feathery
green frond to its quota of breath at last,
pointing upward fierce and straight—
becoming full partner to the rock.


from What We Remember Is What Makes Us Whole (2011)



2013 Shirley Windward

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