A Poem for a Thursday #55

Photo by Liam Charmer on Unsplash

I am not sure there is anything Maya Angelou didn't do. She was a poet, singer, and civil rights activist. She wrote for plays, movies, and television. Angelou received many awards and more than fifty honorary degrees. She recited one of her poems at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton. It is possible that she is best known for her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her books "center on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel." Many viewed her poetry as most interesting when she recited it herself. Simply reading it gives a good feel for her distinctive voice but if you want to hear her for yourself YouTube has many videos of her.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants 
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to 
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold 

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed. 

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

Brona has shared a poem this week. You can read it here.

A Poem for a Thursday #54

Photo by Vlad Marisescu on Unsplash

Vita Sackville-West was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer. She wrote more than a dozen poetry collections and thirteen novels. She designed the gardens for Sissinghurst Castle which is one of the most famous gardens in England. I would love to visit it one of these days.

She was wearing the coral taffeta trousers
Someone had brought her from Ispahan,
And the little gold coat with pomegranate blossoms,
And the coral-hafted feather fan;
But she ran down a Kentish lane in the moonlight,
And skipped in the pool of the moon as she ran.

She cared not a rap for all the big planets,
For Betelgeuse or Aldebaran,
And all the big planets cared nothing for her,
That small important charlatan;
But she climbed on a Kentish stile in the moonlight,
And laughed at the sky through the sticks of her fan.

Full Moon
Vita Sackville-West

Old Sturbridge Village

I have written about Old Sturbridge Village many times before. In fact, I have written about it so often that when we decided to visit this weekend I didn't even bring my camera because I thought you didn't need another post about it. That didn't work. I had only been there a few minutes when I found myself snapping pictures on my phone. Sturbridge Village is one of my favorite places so, I suppose, I can never have too many photos or write too many blog posts about it.

I love the peace and quiet. I love the feeling of walking into another world. I love watching my teenage daughter revert to a 7-year-old with a stick of root beer candy in her mouth and a determination to revisit all her favorite spots.

We wandered and chatted and drank hot apple cider. We had nothing we had to do and nowhere we had to be. It was lovely.

Sometimes what we need is not high adventure and new experiences but, instead, a return to the tried and true experiences of our past. We need the security of going somewhere where we know what to expect and what to do. Sometimes lack of excitement is the best thing of all.

We all left feeling a bit calmer, a bit happier, and as if we had, for a little while, taken a step away from problems and stresses.

My previous posts about Old Sturbridge Village are here, here, and here. We renewed our membership for another year so I think there is a good chance that next spring there will be yet another post about the Village complete with photos of lambs and other baby animals. What can I say. It makes me happy.

A Poem for a Thursday #53

Photo by Nashad Abdu on Unsplash
I do love tea. It is comforting, refreshing, soothing, stress-relieving, and just plain delicious. In this poem, the love for tea and the love for a person are combined.

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you're away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions - sugar? - milk? -
and the answers I don't know by heart, yet
for I see your soul in your eyes and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea's names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it's any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea. 

Carol AnnDuffy

One Day at a Time

Life is a little rough these days. We will get through it but it isn't a great deal of fun. Why do stressful things always occur in bunches? The only thing to do is to get through one day at a time and the best way to do that is to get through one book at a time. When I am stressed I end up doing a lot of rereading. It is undemanding. I am not going to be suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with the death of my favorite character. It is a bit like a visit with old friends.

Lately, I have been rereading Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. They are authors I always go back to. I have read their books again and again. I wish I started tracking my reading years ago so I knew just how many times I have read their books. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice; all of them are comforting books. They are books I can pick up and open at any chapter and sink into the story.

 Frequently, it seems people feel we should be reading books to be informed, to expand our horizons, to read about people different than ourselves. All of those things are valid. However, sometimes I just want to read books to escape. I want to return to a familiar world. I don't want to confront social issues or address the ills of the world. I want to retreat to a world where the girl solves the mystery, where the guy gets the girl, where the family lives happily ever after.

Right now, I want to live one day at a time with a pile of books, favorite books, by my side.

A Poem for a Thursday #52

Photo by Ian Cumming on Unsplash
I started "A Poem for a Thursday" one year ago. I've read a lot of poems in the last year. I've spent a lot of time browsing my way through books of poetry and wandering through the internet looking for words that catch my imagination. My horizons have definitely been broadened. Sometimes, however, I just want to return again and again to a poet that I have fallen in love with. This week that is what I am doing. I have chosen poems by Mary Oliver many times and I am sure I will choose her poems often in the future. This is one of her more famous poems but I love it and I love what it says.

I wrote this post and then realized I used a Mary Oliver poem a couple of weeks ago. What can I say, I seem to like everything she writes.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. 

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

An Apple a Day

Few things taste as good as an apple you have plucked from the tree yourself. It is best eaten while wandering through the orchard with friends. Life is even better if the friends have a three-year-old who is thrilled with everything. Even the teenagers got over-excited and ran around madly filling bags to overflowing with all different varieties of apples. I see apple pie, apple crisp, apple bread, and applesauce in our futures.

There is something so satisfying about something as simple as apple picking. I don't know why. It isn't as if we grew the apples but you watch your bag fill up, you chat with friends, you wander down the rows of trees and watch kids having fun. It is basic in the best sense of the word; "forming an essential foundation, fundamental." Isn't that what we all need in life-food, fun, friends?

 Unfortunately, you don't get any photos of the cute three-year-old since her parents haven't asked for her to be plastered all over the internet. However, I offer a few photos of Celia instead. Just as cute but a bit older.

There was also a cutting garden where you could pick your own flowers. I didn't buy any but one of my friends did. The flowers were so pretty even at the tail end of the season.

Maybe for us in this modern world, it isn't the apple a day that keeps the doctor away. Maybe it is picking the apples that benefits us. We all need to escape from stress sometimes. I recommend a wander through an apple orchard. Enjoy the quiet, the scent of autumn and apples, and the time with friends. May you find a bit of peace in a hectic life. That alone should help keep the doctor away.

Then go home and bake a pie because no one said your apple a day couldn't be encased in pie crust and dusted with cinnamon.

A Poem for a Thursday #51

Today's poem is pure nonsense written by Lewis Carroll. Sometimes life just needs a little nonsense. This poem is best read aloud, at the top of your voice, while standing on your feet. Please use extravagant gestures and enjoy every moment of it.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  the frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought,-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with his head
  He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
  He chortled in his joy.

"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 

Lewis Carroll