Beautiful day…

It’s Monday morning after a good weekend, the sun’s shining (but I haven’t looked at it yet), the coffee’s icy, as it should be, and I’m savoring an Everything bagel… the M-day and I have it going on so far. Kim’s over in NoLaw hitting PickleBalls with a big bunch of people he enjoys so I have a couple more hours to wake up before the day actually kicks in. Then… it all stretches out before me as an absolute blank… and is there anything better for weary minds than a day when nothing happens? This particular introvert’s greatest joy is a skinny calendar with whole blocks of time when there are no appointments scheduled, no deadlines to meet. I went underground sometime in mid-quarantine and I kinda like it down here, it appeals to my hermit personality… but it does nothing to improve my social skills, so there’s that, and I’m trying to surface again.

We have a need as humans surviving on an often hostile planet to connect, to understand something about our purpose here. When the connections are broken, by us or by others, the resultant hollowness goes on and on, becoming part of life’s daily fabric, and the older I get, the harder the spaces are to fill… because I toss out everything that doesn’t ring true. And yes, I do intend to live long enough to be somewhat of a problem to my progeny, although he did nothing to deserve that.

*****

You too? Or just me…

Having been made freshly-conscious of the fact that I’m “better in theory than real life,” let me just say, via someone whose name I regretfully don’t know…

This is the grace I want to extend to all. That, too, takes a lifetime to learn.

*****

And somehow, this thought is affirming and soothing…

This too, from my wise Twitter friend…

It all simply goes on. We live and are happy.

But… I stubbornly want to understand why people choose to follow ugliness when we live among wonders in the world:

Butterflies can’t see their wings.

They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can.

People are like that as well.

~Naya Rivera

Photo ©Petar Sabol

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Good hearts are safe homes…

I have brazenly committed a crime this morning and I have no shame, because I stole a piece of writing (and life) that’s too exquisite to keep to myself…

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — from her bag — and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an Old Country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate — once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

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Seasons of change…

***

Three Songs at the End of Summer
by Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority
.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils
.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.
Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket…
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.
I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

**

Jane Kenyon, “Three Songs at the End of Summer” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by The Estate of Jane Kenyon. 

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The Gift of Letting Go

to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go…

©Mary Oliver

*****

The inimitable Ms. Oliver’s punctuation choices make us slow down… read that again… count the ways… just as she intended. She subtly reminds us that poetry and prose are different animals, meanwhile enchanting us with her grasp of the world.

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Thrill of the unknown…

Someone always has the words… and isn’t that a gift when we do not. Thank you to my beautiful friend Mark Zimmerman for sharing.

********************

FORGETFULNESS

The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read,

never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,

to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye

and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,

and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember

it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,

not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river

whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those

who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night

to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.

No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted

out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins – 1941

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The Hunt…

Sometimes you can want something too much,

and in overreaching you out yourself as the one

clinging to what no longer exists.

The human drive to possess what we can’t have,

to understand the incomprehensible,

to make sense of cataclysmic change,

takes us, ironically, to where we didn’t want to be… a place by ourselves.

Is life simpler in the animal kingdom…

where the citizens are guided by instinct alone,

no motives, no emotions cluttering the landscape?

They live, they die, the world rolls on.

Life as it spools out doesn’t shock or dismay them,

their days are an endless struggle for simple survival,

existence distilled to its essence.

Is it better to live a life of awareness,

with all the heartache attached,

or to cruise like a lioness on the hunt,

defending your territory,

staying alive through experience and cunning?

On the windy days when the sky is more tan than blue,

my heart is on the grassy savannah.

©JSmith 09/13/2021

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Tell me…

In the middle of ongoing disquiet, another guest author has appeared on my doorstep this morning, precisely on time. Mary Oliver left us in 2019, but her words are filled with life, and I love her…

It’s the birthday of American poet Mary Oliver (1935), born and raised in Maple Heights, Ohio, a semi-rural suburb of Cleveland. Her father was a social studies teacher and athletic coach in Cleveland public schools. Of her childhood, Oliver said, “It was a very dark and broken house that I came from. And I escaped it, barely. With years of trouble.”

She skipped school and read voraciously to escape her home life, mostly the work of John Keats and Emily Dickinson. She also began taking long walks in the woods by her house and writing poems. She says, “I got saved by poetry. And by the beauty of the world.” She calls her early poems “rotten.”

After Oliver graduated from high school she took a trip to Steepletop, the home of the famous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, in Austerlitz, New York. She became good friends with Millay’s sister Norma and ended up staying for seven years, helping Norma organize Millay’s papers and writing her own poems. She attended both Ohio State University and Vassar College but never earned degrees.

Oliver’s first collection of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems (1963), was published to wide acclaim when she was 28. She writes short, poignant poems, most often about her observations of the natural world, particularly the world of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she spent more than 50 years with her partner, Molly Malone Cook, who was one of the first staff photographers for The Village Voice.

She finds most of her inspiration on her walks and hikes. She takes along a hand-sewn notebook so she can stop and write. Once, she lost her pencil, and now she hides pencils in the trees along the trails so she always has spares. She says, “It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer.”

Oliver’s books consistently hit the best-seller lists. Her collections include Dream Work (1986), Why I Wake Early (2007), Blue Horses (2014), and Felicity (2015). She was outside replacing the shingles on her house when she got the phone call that she’d won the Pulitzer Prize (1984) for American Primitive (1983). Her books about the writing of poetry, A Poetry Handbook (1994) and Rules for the Dance (1998), are routinely used in high school and college creative writing courses.

Mary Oliver died in 2019 of lymphoma.

On writing poetry Mary Oliver said, “One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear. It mustn’t be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn’t necessary shouldn’t be in a poem.”

One of her most famous poems, “The Summer Day,” ends with the line, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” When an interviewer asked her what she’d done with her own wild and precious life Oliver answered, “Used a lot of pencils.” -Copied from Facebook, author not known

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A reflection…

Photo Credit Kim Smith 09/05/2021

Today’s guest post, while I celebrate my 74th birthday, is a gift from Suzanne Reynolds…

She Was Told She Was Beautiful

When she was a little girl

they told her she was beautiful

but it had no meaning

in her world of bicycles

and pigtails

and adventures in make-believe.

Later, she hoped she was beautiful

as boys started taking notice

of her friends

and phones rang for

Saturday night dates.

She felt beautiful on her wedding day,

hopeful with her

new life partner by her side

but, later,

when her children called

her beautiful,

she was often exhausted,

her hair messily tied back,

no make up,

wide in the waist

where it used to be narrow;

she just couldn’t take it in.

Over the years, as she tried,

in fits and starts,

to look beautiful,

she found other things

to take priority,

like bills

and meals,

as she and her life partner

worked hard

to make a family,

to make ends meet,

to make children into adults,

to make a life.

Now,

she sat.

Alone.

Her children grown,

her partner flown,

and she couldn’t remember

the last time

she was called beautiful.

But she was.

It was in every line on her face,

in the strength of her arthritic hands,

the ampleness that had

a million hugs imprinted

on its very skin,

and in the jiggly thighs and

thickened ankles

that had run her race for her.

She had lived her life with a loving

and generous heart,

had wrapped her arms

around so many to

to give them comfort and peace.

Her ears had

heard both terrible news

and lovely songs,

and her eyes

had brimmed with,

oh, so many tears,

they were now bright

even as they dimmed.

She had lived and she was.

And because she was,

she was made beautiful.

Suzanne Reynolds ©2019

Photo Credit: Nina Djerff

Model: Marit Rannveig Haslestad

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Are you old enough?

A lovely guest post…

Image

About beauty…

It’s been raining for days, and pouring for the last hour. No one could love rain more than I do, even with the accompanying melancholy, and today’s a perfect time for sharing a beautiful poem that reached into the center of me yesterday…

SILVER

“How many years of beauty do I have left?”
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.
When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.
When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and your children come home
to find their own history
in your face.
When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.
When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.
Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?
This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far.
I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.

Jeannette Encinias

********************

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An awed “Ohh… “

“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable… I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours… Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unbearable sound of the roses singing… If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.”- Mary Oliver

Image

A Saturday P.S.

Image by Paula Belle Flores

You’re not imagining it, nobody seems to want to talk right now. Messages are brief and replies late. Talk of catch-ups on zoom are perpetually put on hold. Group chats are no longer pinging all night long.

It’s not you. It’s everyone. We are spent. We have nothing left to say. We are tired of saying ‘I miss you’ and ‘I can’t wait for this to end.’ So we mostly say nothing, put our heads down and get through each day.

You’re not imagining it. This is a state of being like no other we have ever known because we are all going through it together but so very far apart.

Hang in there my friend. When the mood strikes, send out all those messages and don’t feel you have to apologize for being quiet.

This is hard.

No one is judging.

Donna Ashworth, author of poetry book, ‘to the women’

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp…

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The process… page 140

Day 244 – 11/14/2020

Foggy and gray this morning. Great breakfast, and now I’m drinking iced coffee ’cause my tummy likes it better that way. Farmers Market is set up in the wet chill – I think they run until the week before Thanksgiving – so there are people back and forth. Life rolls on.

With everything that’s been going on in the past few weeks, I accidentally spaced off my fibromyalgia meds and brought on a nasty flare. By now I’m wondering if I’ve kicked myself out of remission through my own stupidity, which will truly disgust me. Hello purple gremlins, please play nice.

I lifted this First Nations poem from my friend Paige…

And these words from 89-year-old Dan Rather went straight to my heart…

“COVID is sadness. Profound sadness. It is suffering, and sacrifice. It is perhaps the greatest abdication of presidential responsibility in American history. I have seen a lot of death and tragedy in my lifetime. But this shakes me to the core, completely and irrevocably.”

Life is never linear, thank goodness… but some things move the graph so far they have to be processed in small chunks. That’s probably what the gray days are for…

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Veterans’ Day 2020

Kim was rollin’ ’round the river early this morning and brought back the receipts…

Rowing crews, bundled up, down by the Boathouse
Crewing on the mighty Kaw
Old power station, still used but currently undergoing a cleanup and revitalization, in conjunction with work on the riverbed below the dam.
Yup, those are roads they’ve built out into the river.
Liquid sunshine on this Veterans’ Day morning
Can’t hold back the light…

Photo Credits: Kim Smith 11/11/2020

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A Mermaid’s Tale

swimming upstream

morning by morning

watching for signs

of life on the wing

ready to catch

a sunbeam in action

lasso its tail and ride while I sing

*****

holding the hours

open and loose

letting them do

what stacked minutes do

ready to clasp

the things that are right

let the rest fall and go toward the light

*****

time is a shape-changer

days into months

life is a mood-changer

light into dark

ready to wake

and look at the real

let it suffice for the feelings I feel

*****

the world is still here

despite all intent

it claims my attention

as price for my rent

but with only so much

I can spare for the cost

I’m turning away before it’s all lost

*****

the things I most value

are fully at risk

anguish won’t save them

from those who are sick

so hope is the strongman

that stands as my pick

for swimming upstream

’til THE END

JSmith 09/26/2020

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