A Poem for a Thursday #17

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

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.