A Poem for a Thursday #23

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Elizabeth Bishop was born in 1911 in Worcester, Massachusetts (about 30 miles from me) and grew up there and in Novia Scotia. She was a respected poet in her lifetime but has come to more and more prominence in the years since her death. She only published 101 poems because she was a perfectionist and spent a long time refining each poem. Her poems are "marked by precise descriptions of the physical world and an air of poetic serenity, but her underlying themes include the struggle to find a sense of belonging, and the human experiences of grief and longing." Those themes come through clearly in the poem for today.

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident 
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like ( Write it!) like disaster. 

One Art 
Elizabeth Bishop

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On Grumpy Kids and Being Weird

Apparently, the world is caving in around my house tonight or at least it is according to my daughter. Life is unfair, boring, and absolutely not something she is enjoying right now. And no, she isn't grumpy at all. What could I possibly mean? And no, she doesn't want to do any of the things  I suggest. And yes, she is sure everyone else in the entire town is having more fun than her.

What can I say? She might be right. It is 8:23 on a Tuesday evening and we are doing basically nothing. I am happy with that. She isn't. We usually have a meeting we go to on Tuesdays but it is canceled for the week and I thought that meant a nice, quiet evening at home. I don't think nice, quiet evenings are in a 13-year-old's vocabulary.

It is a bit of a shock because I have always called Celia my little ray of sunshine but thirteen is rough and no 13-year-old is ever a little ray of sunshine. I am not sure any 13-year-old would ever want to be a ray of sunshine. It would obviously call too much attention to them. And it would be embarrassing. Moodiness and embarrassment are the two main emotions of a thirteen-year-old. I know this because Celia was embarrassed by me the other day. She informed me that I was too loud. I know most of you don't know me in real life but let me just say that I have never in my life before been told I am too loud. I am told I am too quiet with great regularity but too loud?! It was such a novel feeling that I just stood there and enjoyed it for a moment.

Both kids recently told me that I am weird. I was discussing the slight oddities of someone we know and they told me I couldn't say anything because I am weird too. They say no one else they know has a house made up of books (I wish. It is only lined with books.) and that I am unusually fascinated by London and WWII social history. I think Celia muttered something about my collection of vintage purses and pleated, wool skirts but I ignored that. The kids did point out that everyone is weird in their own way; we just like our own brand of weirdness so we don't notice it as much. I suppose that is true.

I suppose the nice thing about being not-13 is that I don't mind being weird. I don't mind being occasionally too loud. I don't mind being home on a random Tuesday. I definitely don't mind having a house lined with books.

Now if only I could find a way to banish the clouds and bring back my little ray of sunshine.*

*Her brother has somehow cheered her up by insulting her. No, I don't understand why that worked either.  Kids are weird. She also is laughing about how old I am because I said trampoline parks weren't around when I was a kid. Then she worried I felt bad and asked if I felt old. I said no, I liked my age and had no desire to be 13 again. She looked at me very solemnly and said: "I don't think anyone wants to be thirteen." Now she is asking what age I would be if I could be any age. I said 28. What would you say?

A Poem for a Thursday #22

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Emily Dickinson lived in Amherst, Massachusetts in relative isolation for most of her life. Much of her interaction with others depended on correspondence. Only a few of her approximately 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime and those were edited to fit in with the poetic conventions of the day. Her poems frequently have short lines, lack titles, and use unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Dickinson was as unconventional as her poems and now, 130 years or more after her death, has a devoted following.

Dear March - Come in -
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before-
Put down your Hat-
You must have walked-
How out of Breath you are-
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest-
Did you leave Nature well-
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me-
I have so much to tell- 

I got your Letter, and the Birds-
The Maples never knew that you were coming-
I declare-how Red their Faces grew-
But March, forgive me-
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue-
There was no Purple suitable-
You took it all with you-

Who knocks? That April-
Lock the Door-
I will not be pursued-
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied-
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come.

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame-

Dear March-Come in
Emily Dickinson

Read more poems at:
Brona's Books, Typings and Pastry & Purls

In Defense of Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have always loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I read them over and over as a child and still occasionally reread them now. Both my children read and loved them. Now, society as a whole is telling me that Wilder is "problematic." I just read yet another comment on a blog post saying that the books are too problematic to be read to children these days.

I have issues with that.

There are a few specific reasons why Wilder is being labeled as such and I will address those in a minute but first, let's talk about the problems with deciding that anyone and any book that doesn't conform to a current worldview is problematic. I'll start by saying that yes, there can be books that are just wrong, books that are intentionally cruel and that denigrate people for the fun of it. That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about books that were written in a different time period when people as a whole had different views. If we eliminate all books that don't line up with current attitudes then we are getting rid of a lot of very good authors. Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice portrays an antisemitic society. Dickens' Oliver Twist contains a Jewish man portrayed as twisted and evil. Just yesterday I read an article claiming that we shouldn't read Dr. Seuss because his political cartoons were racist. What about all the books that insist that a woman's place is in the home and she isn't fit for anything else? Once we start eliminating books where do we stop?

Do we have to agree with every attitude expressed in a book especially if it is a book from an earlier generation? Of course not. Does the fact that a book contains views we are uncomfortable with make it a bad book? Of course not. Previous generations, including our own grandparents and great-grandparents, frequently held opinions that would not be acceptable in the world today. That does not make our relatives bad people. It just makes them people of their time. Sometimes books are of their time as well.

That is where we learn. If we stop reading the books that don't agree with our viewpoint now then we are whitewashing the past. Read the books. Notice the things that have changed. Notice the things that haven't changed. Discuss things with your children if you need to. But read the books.

Now let's talk about Laura Ingalls Wilder specifically. Yes, I started out prejudiced in her favor because these books are such a huge part of my reading history. However, I then went back and looked at the specific issues that are being raised.

The first one is that the Ingalls family displaced the Native Americans. Well, yes, they did. So did most white settlers of the time. That is part of the history of this country. I am not saying it is right, I am just saying it is a fact. Was it necessarily viewed as wrong at the time? No. Would we do it now? Hopefully not. But by not reading about it we are denying it.

Next, the one problem that I view as the silliest. In Little House on the Prairie Laura and her family watch the Indians travel a trail near their cabin. Laura loved the little babies and wished she could keep one. People claim this means she viewed the Indians as other or as objects. All I have to say to that is have you ever been around a very small child? Most small children view almost anything or anyone as something they can possess. That is small kid thinking not racist thinking.

We also have the phrase that is frequently quoted: "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." Yes, that is unacceptable. But who said it? It was the Ingall's neighbor, Mr. Scott. Notice how Pa replies.

Pa said he didn't know about that. He figured that Indians would be as peaceable as anybody else if they were let alone. On the other hand, they had been moved west so many times that naturally they hated white folks.
Little House on the Prairie shows Laura questioning the settling of the prairies. Notice this passage.
"Will the government make these Indians go west?
"Yes," Pa said, "When white settlers come into a country, the Indians have to move on. The government is going to move these Indians farther west any time now. That's why we're here, Laura. White people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick. Now do you understand?"
"Yes, Pa." Laura said. "But Pa, I thought this was Indian Territory. Won't it make the Indians mad to have to---"
"No more questions, Laura," Pa said, firmly.  "Go to sleep."

That is a nuanced little passage and I remember reading it as a child. That is why we read these books.

Ma hated the Indians. That is clear in the books and many people have a problem with that. But is Ma a bad woman? I don't think so. If you read diaries of the women that went west many of them lived in fear of Indian attack. If you were Ma you would have lived in fear of Indian attack just as the Indian women would have lived in fear of attack by the white settlers. Instead of labeling her as racist and terrible maybe have a discussion about why she felt that way. It doesn't mean you have to condone her hatred but you do have to put it in its historical perspective. Ma would have been familiar with accounts of Indian massacres. How would you feel on a prairie, miles from anyone else, with your little girls, when strange men walked into your house? You couldn't communicate with them. They lived a life totally foreign to you and you knew that sometimes white settlers were killed. You would be afraid. This is how many of our great-grandparents felt. Is it how we want to feel today--prejudiced against other races? Of course not. But just as our distant relatives were not all bad people so too, Ma was a product of her times and her circumstances.

Pa is also accused of being racist for participating in a minstrel show. Again, and I can't believe I have to keep saying this, put it in historical perspective. Minstrel shows were the popular entertainment of the day. As an indication of how popular they were, in the 1850s ten theatres in New York City were devoted solely to minstrel shows. Are they racist and unacceptable in our day? Of course. But they were obviously not universally understood to be offensive at the time Laura was living or they would not have been so popular. Your great-great-grandparents might have attended a minstrel show. Does the fact that they might have attended a minstrel show negate any good qualities they might have had? Progress is slow and judging people by current standards is unkind. I think it is interesting also to note Laura's reaction to Dr. Tan in Little House on the Prairie. He appears in the chapter in which the whole family is horribly ill.

Then the doctor came. And he was the black man. Laura had never seen a black man before and she could not take her eyes off Dr. Tan. He was so very black. She would have been afraid of him if she had not liked him so much. He smiled at her with all his white teeth. He talked with Pa and Ma, and laughed a rolling, jolly laugh. They all wanted him to stay longer, but he had to hurry away. 

Finally, Wilder used a sentence in Little House on the Prairie that gets quoted a lot in articles condemning her. She wrote "...there were no people. Only Indians live there." Yes, that is not good. However, that is something that, when it was brought to her attention in 1952, Wilder apologized for and changed. She said "It was a stupid blunder of mine. Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not." Why are we still talking about a quote that isn't even in the book anymore and that Wilder fixed and apologized for? Surely, people are allowed to make mistakes and to grow.

Children, and hopefully adults, are capable of understanding that attitudes and viewpoints change and that they do not always coincide with personal viewpoints. I asked my children about these books since I read them aloud when the kids were young and they have read them multiple times on their own. They were baffled by the controversy. These are books about the past and about past attitudes. They knew that when they read them when they were little children and they know that now.

I kind of hate the phrase but these books contain "teachable moments." If your kids wonder what a minstrel show is, tell them. If they wonder why Ma was afraid of the Indians, tell them. If they wonder why the Indians were being driven out, tell them.  Children are perfectly capable of understanding that people live and have lived in different ways than them. Isn't that what we want for our children? We want them to grow and learn. We want them to understand the past. We want them to understand people with different viewpoints. We want them to understand that good people sometimes act in ways we don't agree with. We want them to know that things change over time. We want them to know that viewpoints they hold right now might be disapproved of in the future. We want our children to have empathy.

This is the past. This is history. It is a fictionalized history but it is what happened. People went west. People weren't perfect. Little girls wore dresses and sunbonnets. Pigs were slaughtered. Wells were dug. Panthers were encountered. Blizzards snowed you in for a whole winter. Horses were trained. Cows were milked. Locusts ate crops. Life was lived by decent people living the best life they could in a different time.

Don't vilify them. Learn from them. Read about them.

A Poem for a Thursday #21

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Miller Williams was an American poet who produced over 25 books and won many awards. He read a poem at the second inauguration of Bill Clinton. Clinton presented Williams with the National Arts Award. Today's poem is about the art of writing. 

Let Me Tell You

how to do it from the beginning.
First notice everything:
The stain on the wallpaper
of the vacant house,
the mothball smell
of a Greyhound toilet.
Miss nothing. Memorize it.
You cannot twist the fact you do not know.

the blond girl you saw in the bar.
Put a scar on her breast.
Say she left home to get away from her father.
Invent whatever will support your line.
Leave out the rest.

Use metaphors:  The mayor is a pig
is a metaphor
which is not to suggest
it is not a fact.
Which is irrelevant.
Nothing is less important 
than a fact.

Be suspicious of any word you learned
and were proud of learning.
It will go bad.
It will fall off the page. 

When your father lies
in the last light
and your mother cries for him,
listen to the sound of her crying.
When your father dies
take notes
somewhere inside.

If there is a heaven 
he will forgive you
if the line you found was a good one.

It does not have to be worth the dying. 

Let Me Tell You
Miller Williams

Paper Roses

I don't like crafts that require you to destroy a book. It just feels wrong. No matter how boring or unnecessary a book may be I can't rip it apart. However, if a book falls apart on its own it is fair game. I bought this copy of a Georgette Heyer novel online and each page fell out as I turned it. While that was irritating, it did give me the chance to try making paper roses. I had seen them on Etsy and loved them but didn't want to spend money on them because I am...frugal. You can find tutorials for basically everything these days so, after a bit of puttering around online and the purchase of a hot glue gun, my daughter and I were ready to experiment.

They were amazingly easy to make and it is very satisfying. I think I have mentioned before that I am not naturally artistic or crafty so I am always pleasantly surprised when things turn out the way they are supposed to. I made a bouquet for the mantel and will probably add a few more flowers to it when I have a free evening. Celia calls it my "book-quet."

I bought a pad of thick scrapbooking paper and that made very pretty flowers as well. Just how many paper roses does one house need?

I still have lots of pages of the Heyer novel left and I have a Little House book that has fallen apart. I found a tutorial on how to decoupage a kitchen table. I'm tempted.

A Poem for a Thursday #20

James Wright was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1927. He fought in WWII. He returned home, attended college, and then went to Austria on a Fulbright Fellowship. His early poems were conventional but his work became looser in style as time went on. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1972. An article in The New York Times says that while "the mood of the poet was sometimes very dark,...one of his great strengths...was the life-affirming quality of his work." Interestingly, James Wright's son was also a poet and he also won the Pulitzer Prize. They are the only father/son duo to do so.

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love one another.
There is no loneliness like theirs. 
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom. 

A Blessing
James Wright

Visit Brona's Books for another poem. Reese at Typings has joined in for the first time this week.

Book Stacks

At any given moment, I have a stack of books piled on and next to the couch, my bed, or any available flat surface. They are books I am currently reading, books I have finished, books I want to read. Basically, my house is just covered in books. So, what books are near me right now?

I recently finished Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild and it made me very happy. I read several of Streatfeild's books when I was a child but there were many I never came across and I feel like I missed out. I found this one for free on a donation shelf at the library and spent one glorious evening racing through it. I knew it was going to be good when Streatfeild eliminated the parents in the first paragraph. All adventurous books have to get rid of the parents.

Peter and Santa were orphans. Their father and mother were killed in a railway accident when they were babies, so they came and lived with their aunt. The aunt's name was Rebecca Possit, but of course they called her Aunt Rebecca. Before the children were born Aunt Rebecca had been lady's maid to a duchess. This was a good thing, because when the duchess died she left her an annuity, and, as Aunt Rebecca had no other money and neither had the children, it was important. 

You can probably see where this is going. Aunt Rebecca dies, the annuity dies with her, and the children are going to be sent to separate orphanages. They run away (of course) to join an unknown uncle who works with a circus (of course) and adventures commence. Did I mention they live in a caravan? Obviously, you need to read this right away.

I am almost done reading Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz. This is also thoroughly enjoyable though in a completely different way. There are no circuses or caravans but there is a lot of food. Julia Child was quite the woman and very, very determined. I have one of her cookbooks and I need to pull it off the shelf and work my way through some of the recipes. I would definitely recommend this book but have lots of snacks on hand while you read it.

I am also reading The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism by Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson. I read Citizens of London by Lynne Olson a while ago and wanted to read more about Edward R. Murrow. So far, I am enjoying this. Lynne Olson makes history very accessible.

Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas by Brian Lamb is something I just picked up this morning. I read the first essay by David McCullough. I have read a couple of his history books. He said that he had always wanted to be a writer.

When I went to college, everybody was going to be a writer and I never dared talk about that. I never dared mention that. It seemed very presumptuous. But I secretly wanted to do that--to be that. When I saw the Catton book, I realized that history could be written about life. It could be written about human beings. It could be written about the feeling of places. It had all the narrative quality and the art of the written word about something that really happened. That was a revelation to me.   

I also have a couple of books of poetry that I have been flipping through looking for Thursday poems. My library has a pitifully poor selection of poetry so I need to find some books somewhere else. However, for now, I have enough poems for a couple of months picked out.

What have you been reading lately?

A Poem for a Thursday #19

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Richard Wilbur served in WWII, attended Harvard University, and then taught at Harvard, Wellesley Wesleyan University, and Smith College. He was the U.S. poet laureate in 1987 and 1988. I like anything about words and writing and I think this poem about his daughter writing a story is beautiful.

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor or the desk-top.

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure, 

It lifted off from a chair-back
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder. 

The Writer
Richard Wilbur

Visit Brona's Books and Pastry & Purls for more poems.

Book Review//My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber

I grew up going to Cape Cod for a week every summer. We loved it and spent weeks ahead of time thinking and planning. We always rented a cottage, usually at the same place, and we spent the week eating seafood, walking the National Seashore, collecting buckets of shells and rocks, and trying to convince our parents to visit tacky gift shops. The Cape has become more and more crowded over the years and I don't go back very often but it still holds a special place in my heart. When I smell the salt marshes and feel the sand between my toes, when I eat fried shrimp while sitting at a picnic table at a roadside clam shack, and when I watch the sunset at Rock Harbor I feel like I have returned to my childhood.

I just finished My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber. My grandmother loaned me a book by Taber and I enjoyed it so I got this from the library yesterday and gobbled it down. Taber owned a house on the Cape during the '60s and '70s and wrote lovingly about a Cape that existed just slightly before my time. She, too, watched the sunsets at Rock Harbor and visited First Encounter beach. She loved the beach roses as I do and she appreciated the special Cape Cod scenery.

On the way to absorb a Rock Harbor sunset, I passed the beach plums along the meadow-edge of Rock Harbor Road. They were just coming into full bloom and they are the real music of May. The flowers are close-set on charcoal branches and the bushes themselves are graceful as a ballet dancer. The blooming is whiter than white until the end of it when the whole bush turns a soft Victorian shade of pink and then ebbs to cinnamon. 

The book reads as if you are having a gentle conversation with an old friend. She rants a bit about modern day life and how we are all being reduced to numbers. I wonder what she would think of our passwords and pins that we have to remember now. She mentions hippies and the Vietnam War but both of these are passing mentions. In general, you sink back into a nostalgic world where neighbors watch out for each other and no one locks their door.

I mention this kind of thing every now and then as a part of the nervous strain of present-day livng. When I was child, I had one number to remember-7-our house was 7 Brokaw Place. Now, in nightmares, I find I have lost my social security number, my zip code, my bank identification number, and the ten digits that should go on the bottom of every dividend check. In a few years, children will be named Four and Five, like Beverley Nichols' cats. I can see it coming, even on Cape Cod!

This was the perfect book to read on a cold, snowy day. It was gentle and peaceful and nostalgic. Her love for the Cape shines through the whole book. Many of her other books are about Stillmeadow, her farm in Connecticut. I live in Connecticut and greatly enjoy those as well.

What is Cape Cod?
It is an amethyst glow at the horizon over Mill Pond, announcing dawn.
It is the Full Flower Moon in May walking in gold on quiet water.
It is intrepid fishermen setting out in small boats in wind and waves.
It is the same boats rocking gently at anchor in the opal sunset harbor.
Shadblow and beach plum in drifts of snow followed by wild wide-petaled roses on every slope, these are Cape Cod. 

A Poem for a Thursday #18

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John Drinkwater was an English poet and dramatist who lived from 1851-1923. He was associated with poets such as Rupert Brooke. He had great success with his play, Abraham Lincoln which premiered in England, was produced on Broadway, and then was turned into a film in 1924. I only came across a couple of his poems but I particularly liked this one. It is very visual in its descriptions.

At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes
A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
On moon-washed apples of wonder.

Moonlit Apples
John Drinkwater

Visit Brona's Books and Pastry & Purls for more poems.

A Poem for a Thursday #17

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Tony Hoagland was an American poet whose poems were heartfelt, wry, and sometimes humorous. The poems frequently don't go in quite the direction you expect but they are all the better for that. He thought poetry should be read more, or at least read aloud more since that is when he thought poetry was at its best. Hoagland died in October 2018.  I had trouble picking just one poem. I seem to be feeling that way often lately. Maybe I like poetry more than I thought I did.

Yes, the young mothers are beautiful,
with all the self-acceptance of exhaustion,
still dazed from their great outpouring,
pushing their strollers along the public river walk.

And the day is also beautiful--the replica 19th-century paddle-wheeler
perpetually moored at the city wharf 
                 with its glassed-in bar and grill
for the lunch-and-cocktail-seekers
who come for the Mark Twain Happy Hour
which lasts as long as the Mississippi.

This is the kind of town where the rush hour
   traffic halts
               to let three wild turkeys cross the
and when the high school music teacher retires
after thirty years

the movie marquee says, "Thanks Mr. Biddleman!"
and the whole town comes to hear
                   the tuba solos of old students.

Summer, when the living is easy
and we store up pleasure in our bodies
like fat, like Eskimos,
for the coming season of privation.

All August the Ferris wheel will turn
                          in the little amusement park,
and screaming teenage girls will jump into the river
with their clothes on,
right next to the No Swimming sign.

Trying to cool the heat inside the small towns 
                                                   of their bodies,
for which they have no words;
obedient to the voice inside which tells them,
"Now. Steal Pleasure."

 Summer in a Small Town
Tony Hoagland            

If you would like to read another poem, visit Jennifer at Pastry & Purls. She is doing a poem every Thursday as well. Also, Brona's Books has posted a poem this Thursday.

A Winter Walk

It was cold but the sun was shining and that was enough to convince Celia that it was a good day for a walk. She didn't want to do an easy walk on the bike trails behind our house; she wanted to hike in the state forest down the road from us. I had my doubts since we had gotten a ton of rain 48 hours before but Celia was determined and who am I to stand in the way of a child who wants to exercise in the dead of winter?

There is a stream at the very beginning of the trail and usually, we can just hop across. However, the torrential rain had swollen the stream and the cold weather made all the rocks very slick. We had to wander a little way upstream before we found a place we could cross using some rocks as stepping stones. Immediately after that, we came across a large tree that had blown down across the path. Celia didn't mind at all. It gave her the perfect opportunity to clamber around. I think she deliberately took the hardest way through. I, however, skirted around the tree and walked down by the stream again.

The state park was deserted. I don't think many people felt like hiking on such a cold day. It was lovely though since we felt like we got it to ourselves. We only ran into a handful of people the whole time we were there. Celia kept hoping we would see a bear but I am pretty sure any animals heard us coming long before we actually arrived. Celia is a bit of a chatterbox!

The path leads to the top of some cliffs with a lovely view. Unfortunately, some people feel the need to deface the cliffs with ugly spray painting. Someone had obviously just been there because we could still smell the spray paint. I am not crazy about heights and wouldn't let Celia go too near the edge. Someone died falling off these cliffs last year so I think I have justification for my worry. Celia would have been happy to sit on the edge and dangle her legs over the edge if I hadn't been there. The idea makes me shiver in horror.

We took a different path down the cliffs and got slightly turned around. That was okay though because it took us to the base of the cliffs and we got this view across the water.

It was a lovely walk and I enjoyed spending time with my lovely daughter. She even has given me permission to add photos of her to this post so it must have been a good day. Here is my favorite.

We finally arrived home an hour or so after we expected and more than a little cold. Several cups of tea, a couple of big blankets, and a heating pad soon put that to rights. Celia is already planning our next excursion.

This is a hike we take semi-regularly and I have written at least one other post about it. You can read that post here.

A Poem for a Thursday #16

I have enjoyed all the poems I have used for this Thursday poem series but my favorite discovery is Mary Oliver. I don't remember ever reading her poems before and I missed a lot by not doing so. I used one of her poems a few months ago but when I heard that she died I knew I would feature her again. Actually, I am giving you two of her poems because I couldn't choose. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Ordinarily, I go to the woods
alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers
and talkers, and therefore

I don't really want to be
witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the black oak tree.
I have my way of 
praying, as you no doubt have

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 
unhearable sound of the roses

If you have ever gone to the
woods with me, I must love
you very much.

How I Go to the Woods
Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

I Worried
Mary Oliver


I brought two big cardboard boxes down from the attic the other day. My life is in those boxes. They are full of photographs--full of other versions of me, other time periods, memories, people, places. I have been pulling them out by the handful and sorting through them. I have been exclaiming in wonder; caught off-guard by things, people, and moments I had forgotten.

We are so many different people over the years. I have photos of me as a young teen with braces, big glasses, and feathered bangs-- the '80s were not kind. There are handfuls of school photos from that time signed on the back with love from friends I barely remember and friends I have lost touch with. I am in my twenties and newly married. I am a new mom. My kids arrive and I am not in the photos much anymore because I am behind the camera. There are five million of my son with his happy grin and chubby belly. There are almost as many of my daughter, adorable and shy.

When my daughter was a few months old we got a digital camera and the photos are all on the computer now. We can scroll through them whenever we want but somehow it isn't quite the same. I do it sometimes and ooh and aah over the memories but shuffling through stacks of photos or paging through photo albums feels different. The photos are tangible and somehow that makes the memories tangible too. I am there at 16 in the middle of a slumber party with my friends. My kids are little again. My husband and I are young and newly in love. That trip just happened. I feel like I can walk down that street, walk into that room, talk to that person.

I showed lots of the photos to my kids. They were polite about some, baffled by the fashion choices in many, and quietly fascinated by their resemblance to us. Yes, my son does look just like his father and a lot like my brother. How is that possible?

I sorted all the photos and threw away the blurred ones and the duplicates, or most of them. It is hard to throw away cute photos of your kids no matter how many similar photos you have. I put them in photo boxes in vaguely chronological order and then I stacked the boxes on a shelf. I might not look at them again for a long time but they are there, waiting for me. All our past lives. Our memories.

A Poem for a Thursday #15

Raymond Carver was an American short story writer and poet. His writing is described as stripped down and minimalist. His work helped revitalize the short story genre. While his short stories made his reputation he was also known for his poetry. In fact, he had two volumes of poems published before a volume of his short stories was published.  His poetry has been compared to that of Robert Frost. It was said of him that he "consciously chisels a world out of workaday details." This poem is a perfect example of that. You read it and you see what he saw. You are in the poem with him appreciating the moment of happiness.

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning, 
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly.  And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Raymond Carver

Being Crafty

My daughter likes doing crafts. I am not so good at them. However, in my ongoing efforts to be a good mom, I have been trying a few different things lately. My daughter throws ideas out right and left and I grab onto the ones that seem vaguely doable. We have had some abysmal failures and some results that have potential. Since I am proud of my efforts, if not the results, I am going to show you what I have been up to lately.

 I mentioned a little while ago that I bought a typewriter. I decided I wanted to type some of my favorite bookish quotes and display them. I now have this quote on my mantel. I am quite pleased with it and now have a long list of other quotes I want to use though I can't imagine where I think I am going to put them all. Typing on a typewriter has made me realize just how sloppy my typing has gotten. When you can just backspace you don't worry so much about mistakes.

Celia and I spent the afternoon with an old friend of mine and she taught us a bit about how to make jewelry. The earrings and necklace in the photo are my creations. Celia made a necklace but she is at school and I can't ask her permission to post a photo. When she gets home I'll add one if it is okay with her. It was a lot of fun to mix and match beads and see all the different possibilities. I think we might get together again and make something else. Of course, I don't think I have an outfit to go with this. I'll have to do something about that.

I was puttering around on Etsy and I came across listings for tea wallets. It seemed like a brilliant idea since I drink a lot of tea and most restaurants I go to have a horrible selection of teas. I thought I could probably figure out how to make one and this is the result. I am not a seamstress so don't look too closely. It is full of mistakes but I am sure I will do better with the next one. The tea was a gift and not my usual brand.

I had scraps of fabric left so I used it to make a gift bag. It was so easy and so satisfying. Maybe I should learn to sew properly. I also have an apron half made. I need to get back to that.

Celia and I have also made a few knotted bracelets and necklaces. None of them have come out particularly well but I am sure practice will improve them. I am not the most patient person so I tend to want immediate results but I suppose that is not reasonable.

What quote would you type and display in your home?

A Poem for a Thursday #14

Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash

Ogden Nash wrote over 500 pieces of light verse. At the time of his death, The New York Times said "his droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country's best known producer of humorous poetry." When I was a child we had a volume of his poetry that included Custard the Cowardly Dragon. We loved it and begged for it to be read aloud. I still enjoy his pithy observations about life. Here is one:

Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore,
and that's what parents were created for.

When I was looking through his poems I kept thinking that he reminded me a bit of P. G. Wodehouse with his use of words and humor. Then I stumbled across this poem and it seemed the obvious choice for today. Did you know that in the last of the Jeeves and Wooster novels Bertie actually quotes Ogden Nash?

Bound to your bookseller, leap to your library,
Deluge your dealer with bakshish and bribary,
Lean on the counter and never say when, 
Wodehouse and Wooster are with us again.

Flourish the fish-slice, your buttons unloosing,
Prepare for the fabulous browsing and sluicing,
And quote, til you're known as the neighborhood nuisance,
The gems that illumine the browsance and sluicance.

Oh, fondle each gem, and after you quote it,
Kindly inform me just who wrote it.

Which came first, the egg or the rooster?
P.G. Wodehouse or Bertram Wooster?
I know hawk from handsaw, and Finn from Fiji,
But I can't disentangle Bertram from PG.

I inquire in the school room, I ask in the road house,
Did Wodehouse write Wooster, or Wooster Wodehouse?
Bertram Wodehouse and PG Wooster,
They are linked in my mind like Simon and Schuster.

No matter which fumbled in '41,
Or which the woebegone figure of fun.
I deduce how the faux pas came about,
It was clearly Jeeves's afternoon out.

Now Jeeves is back, and my cheeks are crumply
From watching him glide through Steeple Bumpleigh.

PG Wooster, Just as He Useter
Ogden Nash

I Bought a Few Books

Because books are fun. Books are relaxing. Books are therapeutic. Books are educational. Books are a good way to deny reality. Books are also surprisingly affordable if you buy them used like I do. I suppose there are worse shopping addictions to have. So, what have I purchased lately?

Last month I read a book about women who settled the western U.S. I posted a photo of it on Instagram and got a few recommendations for more books on the same subject. I am endlessly fascinated by what these women's lives were like and the living conditions they dealt with. I bought Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel and Women of the West by Cathy Luchetti and Carol Olwell. 

I stopped in at a library a few days ago and bought three books for 75 cents each. The one I am most excited about is Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I loved her books when I was a child but only read the ones my library had and they didn't have that many. I don't think I ever came across this one. I am saving it to read on a snow day this winter with a cup of hot chocolate and some cookies. Basically, I am going to relive my childhood. I also bought The Persian Price by Evelyn Anthony. I don't know anything about this but I read about her on a blog somewhere recently and thought I would give her a try. The last book is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I like nonfiction and nonfiction about WWII is definitely my preferred time period. 

I read a review of Home Life by Alice Thomas Ellis here.  Ellis wrote a weekly column in the Spectator and this is a collection of some of those columns. The back of the book says that "with inimitable wit and perspicacity, she discourses on the vagaries of cats and neighbors, the recalcitrance of washing machines, the problems in getting to Wales and the even greater problems that inevitably await her there." It sounds like it should be a joy. 

My husband bought the next book for me when we went to wander around Barnes & Noble one afternoon. I had a ridiculously huge stack of books I was carrying around and he said he would buy whatever I wanted. However, spending $150 on books at that point seemed foolish so I narrowed it down to The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick. She is described as writing during the golden age of the American literary essay. I have dipped into it a bit and am enjoying it greatly. It is one of those books you read an essay at a time so it will take a while. 

Finally, I bought Letters of E. B. White. Of course, we all know him because of Charlotte's Web but I have also read and enjoyed some of his essays. I love letters and diaries so when I came across this I had to have it. 

Have you read any of these? Have you bought any particularly interesting books lately that I should know about? 

A Poem for a Thursday #13

Photo by Yiqun Tang on Unsplash
Seamus Harvey was an Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. His poems are described as "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past." His poem "Scaffolding" was written after an argument with his wife. I would be very surprised if she didn't forgive him after reading it.

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking down between you and me

Never fear.  We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney

Golden Moments #9

I haven't written one of these posts in a very long time. Life has been more than a bit stressful lately and the golden moments have been few and far between. However, I am sure they exist even if they are buried under a heap of everyday annoyances.

My daughter and I went for a walk yesterday afternoon. It was quiet and peaceful and we chatted the whole way. She is 13 now and it is fascinating to see her grow up and to be able to have real, grown-up conversations with her. The photo at the top of this post was taken on our walk.

My husband is still out of work since his motorcycle accident but he has come a long way in his recovery and is able to enjoy life a bit now. It is so nice to have him around more and I will be sad when he goes back to his stressful job. One day last week we went out to lunch, wandered around the mall, and went to the bookstore. It was not really anything wildly exciting but it was wonderful to be doing together the things we used to take for granted before his accident. Of course, he was exhausted when we got home and had to take a nap but that is okay.

My daughter and I spent the afternoon with one of my oldest friends. We chatted and she taught us how to make jewelry. It made me happy to see how well they get along. I joke that my daughter should really belong to my friend since they have a shared love of animals and very similar personalities.

Another old friend of ours, who lives almost 1000 miles away, called the other night. We don't talk that often but when we do it is like we saw each other yesterday. Friends like that are special.

I mentioned on Instagram that I was looking for a copy of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Maureen, from @finepreserversbooks, saw my post and messaged me saying she had a copy I could have. She popped it in the mail and it showed up the other day. People can be very kind.

We have spent several evenings lately playing board games as a family. Not all the games are ones I would choose (my son's Star Wars obsession comes to mind) but I love the family time and the fact that our teenagers are still willing to have fun with us.

I got this far in writing this post and then left it to finish in the morning which was probably a bad idea because this was definitely not a golden day. My car is in the shop for the second time in ten days because of a software update that was supposed to fix a problem and has caused nothing but problems. I woke up with a horrible, drippy cold, no cold medicine in the house, and no car to go get some. Also no groceries in the house. Add in an unending mound of laundry, a disappointed daughter who wanted to go see Mary Poppins Returns, and rain--again--and well, I think we should just call it a day and a year. Hopefully, there will be more golden moments and days next year.