Friday, April 30, 2010

Arbor Day

Deciduous Trees: Half full or half empty? You decide:

" . . . the deciduous idea! trees die for half the year
& take all else in the universe . . . "

from "Desire, a Sequence" (1977)
by Lee Perron, California Poet & Antiquarian Bookseller

". . . A tree is a lady in a new
coat in spring. and nothing in
winter because she wanted too much . . . "

by Vicky Williams, age 13
in Begin Sweet World: Poetry by Children (1976)
editing and photography by
John Pearson

"Darsa, the Great Tree, stared down into the valley, keeping an unending vigil over the entire world as her children knew it. The early-morning mist was beginning to lift, and Darsa shivered as a cool breeze slipped through her branches."

My nephew Daniel, who lives and writes in Maryland, has composed a charming parable about Darsa, the Great Tree, who is worshipped by the trusting villagers for miles around, despite her inability to affect the outcome of their lives for either better or worse. Subject to the Fates, as are they, Darsa lives on in this way, frustrated but tolerant for many generations, centuries, until the day she is visited by the little girl Min who impolores Darsa to return her mother from the dead. Certain that Darsa has the power to give and take life as she pleases, Min lashes out and kicks the Great Tree of the Valley in childish anger and despair:

"The place where Min had kicked her ached dully; Darsa suspected there was a gash in her bark now, but it would heal with time. But what was this other ache she was feeling, the one that seemed to have descended upon her entire being? It seemed to extend even to the tips of the few scraggly leaves still clinging to her branches from the previous autumn. She’d suffered many injuries in her lifetime, of course; there was hardly a spot on her bark that didn’t have a scar of some sort, and she’d even lost two limbs, one to a lightning bolt and one to a nasty case of wood rot. But none of those had pained her even half as much as this new ache. What had Min done to her?"

Though not a Deity, Darsa has been suddenly, unexpectedly humanized by Min: "Perhaps that was what came of being treated like a mother for so many generations; sooner or later, whether you wanted to or not, you started to feel like one." And, without even trying, the Great Tree sends Min away with hope, in the form of "one of Darsa’s seeds, a tiny winged thing."

Nice Spot for a Family Reunion!
The Tea Room at Gambrill State Park
Nestled between The Frederick Valley & The Middletown Valley
Frederick, Maryland

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bat Poem

Goodbat Nightman
God bless all policemen
and fighters of crime,
May thieves go to jail
for a very long time.

They've had a hard day
helping clean up the town,
Now they hang from the mantelpiece
both upside down.

A glass of warm blood
and then straight up the stairs,
Batman and Robin
are saying their prayers.

They've locked all the doors
and they've put out the bat,
Put on their batjamas
(They like doing that)

They've filled their batwater-bottles
made their batbeds,
With two springy battresses
for sleepy batheads.

They're closing red eyes
and they're counting black sheep,
Batman and Robin
are falling asleep.

Roger McGough (b 1937)
British poet from Liverpool

For more Bat Poems, see
the most recent post: "Happy Batday"
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pink Moon

The April Full Moon is often called The Pink Moon, because of the moss pink ground phlox, one of the earliest widespread flowers of the Spring,which makes its appearance at this time. Other names for this month’s full moon, all referring to new life and regeneration, include the Egg Moon, the Fish Moon, the Planter's Moon, the Seed Moon, the Sprouting Grass Moon, and the Waking Moon. For more information on these nicknames and all the other Full Moon Names, there's always the good old reliable Farmers' Almanac. Plus Plenty of Lunar Blogs on the web.

Here's one of the best full moon poems I know:

Moon Fishing

When the moon was full they came to the water,
some with pitchforks, some with rakes,
some with sieves and ladles,
and one with a silver cup.

And they fished til a traveler passed them and said,
to catch the moon you must let your women
spread their hair on the water --
even the wily moon will leap to that bobbing
net of shimmering threads,
gasp and flop till its silver scales
lie black and still at your feet."

And they fished with the hair of their women
till a traveler passed them and said,
do you think the moon is caught lightly,
with glitter and silk threads?
You must cut out your hearts and bait your hooks
with those dark animals;
what matter you lose your hearts to reel in your dream?"

And they fished with their tight, hot hearts
till a traveler passed them and said,
what good is the moon to a heartless man?
Put back your hearts and get on your knees
and drink as you never have,
until your throats are coated with silver
and your voices ring like bells."

And they fished with their lips and tongues
until the water was gone
and the moon had slipped away
in the soft, bottomless mud.

by Lisel Mueller, American poet, born in Germany, 1924
Pulitzer Prize For Poetry, 1997

Pink Moon Phlox

See also
~ "Many Many Moons" ~

Monday, April 26, 2010

Grief & Relief

Dandelion Dancer

For an updated version of this post,
please read "Grief & Relief"
on the Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
March 28, 2023

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some of my favorite Anne Lamott quotations here and on my Book Blog. Another one of her anecdotes that has always stayed with me is the conversation she has with a priest in Traveling Mercies when she is first pregnant with Sam and can't decide what to do.

This passage is tied in with her difficult decision about whether or not to let young Sam go paragliding for his seventh birthday. I like the way that "grief" and "relief" are woven together in Lamott's thought process and in the priest's advice. He says that when it's a question of feeling "a deep and secret sense of relief, pay attention to that. But if you feel deeply grieved at the thought, listen to that" (Traveling Mercies 86).

Of course, sometimes (this is my observation, not Lamott's), the decision that brings deep relief is also deeply grieving. Maybe in those cases you just have to focus on the relief and give it precedence over the grief. Otherwise, you end up trying to fix one mistake by making another mistake, and that never works.

Additional thoughts on grief and relief:

"The truth about our childhood is stored up in our bodies, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our bodies tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill."

Alice Duer Miller (1874 - 1942)
American writer, mathematician, suffragist

I came across this passage a few years ago in The Old Farmer's Almanac Millennium Primer. This turn of the (recent) century handbook features a lot of silly old rhymes and folklore, but occasionally a thought or two will strike me as meaningful. I was wavering on this passage -- smart or stupid? love it, hate it? I kept going back to it, even though I had moved beyond that page. It seems a rather modern idea if you assume that what she means by "body" is what we post-Freudians might call "psyche" and if we assume that "childhood," as Miller uses the term, can be equated with "grief." Thus: "The truth about our childhood [GRIEF] is stored up in our bodies [PSYCHES]."

Rereading Anne Lamott, I came across a comment that increased my understanding of Miller's perspective:

"But what I've discovered . . . is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it" (Traveling Mercies 68)

Anne Lamott (b 1954)
American writer and progressive political activist


And yet another way in which the bill is paid:

"Time engraves our faces with all the tears we have not shed."
Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972)

American writer, lesbian activist, and salon hostess
expatriate living in Paris and writing predominantly in French


You can cover grief [or childhood] up and refuse to experience it, but it's still there, under layer upon layer of life, making you sad at the very core of your being -- that "barren, isolated place." Maybe experiencing all that buried pain as a path to self - acceptance is our 21st Century understanding of Miller's earlier metaphor of the body presenting a bill. The psyche will present its bill. Or the disasters of your life will be your bill. We either experience and accept that grief (i.e., pay the bill), or we live out our adult lives sick at heart, sick in body, soul, and spirit.

But not to sound too hopelessly hopeless! In fact, Lamott says that sometimes something amazing can happen. She says, "I would call it grace, but then, I'm easy. It was that deeper breath, or pause or briefly cleaner glasses, that gives us a bit of freedom and relief, " (Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith 232, my emphasis).

Here's to briefly cleaner glasses! That's a good start!

The Cosmic Dandelion!








Friday, April 23, 2010

To Us, Fair Bard, You Are Immortal

Four Hundred and Forty - Six Beauteous Springs:
Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers' pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion and mine eye may be deceived:
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
Ere you were born was beauty's summer dead.

William Shakespeare
b. 23 April 1564
d. 23 April 1616

Happy 446th!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy (Heaven On) Earth Day

A Springtime Revelation
by Sarah Vowell (b. 1969)
American historian, humorist, journalist
from her essay, "the End is Near, Nearer, Nearest,"
in her book Take the Cannoli

"While I'm hardly the most optimistic American, I [do not share a] wholly cynical picture of current events. Heaven, such as it is, is right here on earth.* Behold my revelation: I stand at the door in the morning, and lo, there is a newspaper, in sight like unto an emerald. And holy, holy, holy, is the coffee, which was, and is, and is to come. And hark, I hear the voice of an angel round about the radio, saying, 'Since my baby left me I found a new place to dwell.' And lo, after this I behold a great multitude, which no man could number, of shoes. And after these things I will hasten unto a taxicab and to a theater, where a ticket will be given unto me, and lo, it will be a matinee, and a film that doeth great wonders. And when it is finished, the heavens will open, and out will come a rain fragrant as myrrh, and Yea, I have an umbrella" (p 52).

read more about Sarah Vowell's books on KITTI'S LIST
See "My Favorite American Historians" (July 2009)


*Similarly, Walt Whitman has written:

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk
of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now.

Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now.

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

from Song of Myself

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opinions & Facts

My friend Burnetta posted the following quotation on facebook a few days ago:

"You're entitled to your own opinion. But you can't have your own facts."

I told her that I might just have to add it to my "Built-In Shit Detector" Mottoes" (see right-hand column -> -> ->)
but first, I was curious to learn more. Bounce around on google for a little while and here's what you'll find:

"Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts”
--Credited to American financier Bernard M. Baruch (1870-1965), who probably said it in the 1940

“Each of us is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
--Credited to James R. Schlesinger, United States Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
--Credited to Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), United States Senator from New York from 1976 to 2000

Gender inclusive revision of Moynian:
"‘Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts,' said Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York."
--Credited to Kenneth R. Weiss, 25 April 1989, New York (NY) Times, “States Circle Their Wagons for the Money Wars,” pg. A24.

P.S. Thanks Burnetta! I also have to thank Burnetta for bringing the vernal poem "Invitation Standing" into my life, back in grad school, thirty beauteous Aprils ago!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back When They Were the Gnomes

Current Fortnightly Post:
"Play With This!"
1995: Ben, Mom, Sam

PS. Some have asked me if it was oppressive, having the iron security bars on the windows (back in West Philadelphia in the 90s). No! I just thought of it as a rather elegant decorative Mediterranean feature!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Little Gnome, Little Mice

Current Fortnightly Post:
"Play With This!"
I can appreciate Anne Lamott's anecdote about the evening when her son Sam hugged her good-night and they both suddenly realized how much taller than her he had grown: "Wow," he said, stepping back, "When did this happen? You're like a little gnome to me now."
(PLAN B, 150)
Speaking of which, in above photo:
My Younger Son Sam, Me [Little Gnome], My Older Son Ben
March 2010, Formby Pine Woods, Merseyside, England

Lamott on quieting the voices in your head: "Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on . . . imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down . . .and get back to your shitty first draft" (Bird by Bird, 27).

Another Safe Place: Little Mice in Cookie Jar
(click & scroll down)

Lamott on caution / conscience / consciousness: "Don't be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done. . . . Don't worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it" (Bird by Bird, 226).





Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taste & See

O Taste and See
by Denise Levertov(1923 - 1997)
British-born American Poet

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

Verbs: active and ambitransitive. Levertov's list of verbs -- "To breathe them, "bite, savor, chew, swallow, transform" -- reminds me of what Terry Tempest Williams calls a "faith of verbs":

"This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek. To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers."
Terry Tempest Williams (b 1955)
American author, naturalist and environmentalist

Nouns: abstract and concrete. We are separated from Nature: "tangerine, weather . . . plum, quince." And also from Imagination: "grief, mercy, language." But we needn't be. We can open our senses, take the time to taste and see, cross that busy street, visit the orchard, retrieve our hearts. Levertov suggests an alternative version of Communion and Paradise: "living in the orchard and being hungry and plucking the fruit." It seems so straightforward, yet we have so often been warned against it that we must retrain our senses in order to embrace the world enough.

For more on this poem and others, see
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Hesperides

The Garden of the Hesperides
by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833 - 98)

The Garden of the Hesperides is the Goddess Hera's orchard, in the distant western corner of the mythical world, where was said to grow a grove of immortality-giving golden apple trees, with golden leaves, golden branches, and golden apples. The apples had been planted from the fruited branches that the Great Earth Mother Gaia gave as a wedding gift to Hera and Zeus.

As the blissful garden is near Mt. Atlas, it is the three daughters of Atlas, also called "The Hesperides" who receive the task of tending to the primary tree in the blissful grove. As an additional safeguard, and perhaps to prevent the nymphs from plucking gold apples for themselves, Hera also placed in the garden a serpent-like dragon named Ladon who twines about the tree and never sleeps.

The beautiful Hesperides -- sometimes referred to as The Western Maidens, The Daughters of Evening, or The Daughters of Night -- also serve as the Goddesses of Evening and the Golden Light of Sunset.
The Garden of the Hesperides
by Lord Frederick Leighton (1830 - 96)

For more Golden Apples, see
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We Remember

I think continually of those who were truly great . . .

What is precious is never to forget . . .

The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre
Born of the sun,
they travelled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

from the poem
"I Think Continually of Those Who Were Truly Great"
by Stephen Spender

Purdue's Polish Student Organization and
The Polish Community of West Lafayette
Will hold a Memorial Service
to Remember Polish President Lech Kaczynksi
and 95 Polish Dignitaries who died in Saturday's plane crash.

All who would like to pay their respects are invited to attend:

Tuesday evening, April 13, 2010
7 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas Center
535 State Street
West Lafayette, Indiana

Monday, April 12, 2010

If Only My Mind Can Be Truly Beautiful

"In the mornings I drank the dew that fell from the magnolia:
At evening ate the petals that dropped from chrysanthemums.
If only my mind can be truly beautiful,
It matters nothing that I often faint for famine.
I pulled up roots to bind the valerian
And thread the fallen clusters of the castor plant;
I trimmed sprays of cassia for plaiting melilotus,
And knotted the lithe, light trails of ivy."

Excerpt from "Lament on Encountering Sorrow / Li Sao"
Found in the Songs of Ch'u / Qu Yuan (340 - 278 BC)
(Translated by David Hawkes)

My friend Tony Crossman will be teaching the following series of classes in the Boston area in the coming weeks (Tuesday evenings in April May, June):
To Enlarge Text, Click Twice On Document Above

See Also:


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wild Violets

Just a few days ago, my sister took this photograph of her favorite flower, such a subtle variation of the violets we usually see. Plus she captured just a few dandelions to spice things up: always the real world, lurking right at the edge of Paradise! And I see a Fall leaf there: Remembrance of Things Past!

guest Photographer, Diane Burrows

see also Di's essay "Happy Five Audacious," August 2009
(includes recent photo update)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April Leaf


Bring a leaf to me
just a leaf just a
spring leaf, an
april leaf



Blue sky
never mind
Spring rain
never mind
Reach up and
take a leaf and


just come

by Paul Blackburn (1926 - 71)
American poet and translator (from the Spanish)

Was it only a month ago that March stopped by to say hello to Emily Dickinson? If you remember, she invited him in -- "Put down your hat"! -- for a long chat about the hues and tints and shades of Spring. In the closing stanzas, the poet is astonished -- aren't we all? -- to realize that right in the midst of her visit with March, here comes April!

So soon:

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 --

from Poem #1320
by Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)
American Poet

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Lost & Found Story

I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

from the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
English Romantic Poet

Back when I was a Freshman in college, about this time of year, my twin brother, who went to the same school, had been home for the weekend -- but not me. To make up for my having stayed behind (for whatever reason, can't remember now), my mom sent back an armload of daffodils in all colors from our big yard and instructed my brother to deliver them to my dorm when he got back to campus on Sunday evening. This he did, along with a couple of his friends; and naturally I was overjoyed to put the daffodils on display, a burst of Spring and a reminder of home.

Later than evening, one of my neighboring suite mates, who had yet to meet my brother, came into my room and immediately exclaimed, "Did your brother bring you those flowers from home?"

"Uh . . . yes . . . ." I answered, more than a little puzzled. How did she know that? Because awhile earlier she had passed three guys in the Student Union, one of whom was carrying a big brown grocery bag full of daffodils and complaining to his buddies, "I don't know why my mom is making me bring these stupid flowers to my sister."

So as soon as my suite mate saw the bouquet on my windowsill, she put two and two together, realizing that by coincidence she had caught a glimpse of my mysterious brother, whom she had yet to meet, even though the school year was nearly over (I can't really remember how that happened either; it wasn't a large campus).

In the meantime, I had folded up the brown grocery bag and stuck it in my closet along with a some other empty boxes and bags. The following month, when I was heading home for the summer, most of the bags in this stash were leftover, unused. I debated: Keep "just in case" or "throw away" (remember, this was pre-recycle). At the last minute, I just tossed them in on top of some other stuff and carted them back home. So what if they were destined merely for the trash? I could worry about that later.

Somewhere along the way, it dawned on my brother, also home for the summer, that his Senior Ring from high school was missing since . . . he couldn't remember when. You can probably guess by now where the ring turned up. Sorting through my dorm debris, I shook open a grocery bag to use for trash -- yes, that same grocery bag that had been used a few months before to transport those stupid flowers -- and there clunking around in the bottom of the bag was the missing class ring with its big blue stone. Funny I hadn't noticed it on the night of the daffodils, but good thing I hadn't thrown that bag away!

Little did we know what wealth those daffodils would bring!

For more Lost & Found, see
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

For reading ideas, see
my running list of recent reading

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fair Easter

Flowering Plum in Our Back Garden

~ John of Damascus, 8thC ~

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Peter the Rock

Rene Castle as Mary Magdalene
Cavin Cornwall as Peter
in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2000

Peter the Rock
(click title to locate CD & click on the playlist at 33:58 to listen)

Peter the Rock
Peter the Rock on which you built your Church
Peter our Foundation
Christ our own Salvation
Do you know me now?
Don't deny me now!
Peter the Rock
Peter the Rock
Peter the Rock on which you built your Church

At Transfiguration
Moses and Elijah met and talked with me
Don't you know me now?

For all those times when we denied your name
For all those times that now fill us with shame
Give us Lord the mercy of your Name

Peter friend, James and John
Stay with me 'til this hour is gone
You walked on water and the sea obeyed you
Do not be afraid!
Do not be afraid!

Peter the Rock
Peter the Rock on which you built your Church
Peter our Foundation
Christ our own Salvation
Do you know me now?
Don't deny me now!
Peter the Rock
Peter the Rock
Peter the Rock on which you built your Church

Three times you denied me
While the Romans tried me
Don't you know me now?
Don't deny me now!

For you are Peter, Fisherman of God
The Gates of Hell cannot withstand your Church
Take these keys and bind thyself to me
For what you bind shall be bound here below
For what you loose shall be loosed up in Heaven

Simon Peter, be my earthly Rock
Peter, weak fisherman
Peter who denied me three times
Peter friend, Peter Rock
Peter whom I build my church upon

Words & music by Gerry McCartney

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sleight of Hand

Be careful!

April fools!

Pay heed!


I'll give you a hint:
the trickster likes attention.
Sometimes he pretends to love you
and tells you stories
as full as the sky.

Dance with him,
he might laugh
or maybe hold you as if
there were just one slow tune.
The future is his guess.

And the past
he trims like a bush,
plants it at your front door
and keeps it green--
the season doesn't matter.

It's not magic--
sleight of hand is all.
Recognize him, that's the trick.
But pay heed:
he looks strangely like you.

by Jan Donley (b. 1956)
American novelist, playwright, poet, teacher

My friend Jan (see earlier post) wrote this poem and gave me a copy in 1982, when we were in grad school together. All these years I have kept it one of my special notebooks and often thought of it. When I asked her about putting it on my blog for April Fools Day, she said, "Oh! Right. Trickster. I wonder when I wrote that. I love crows--how they are often depicted as tricksters. I miss this kind of writing--short, compact, full of image. I wonder now, reading it, if the ending is too much--too overstated. But I like the first three stanzas. Hmmm."

My favorite image: the past, planted at your front door.

Look for Jan's novel, The Side Door, forthcoming from Spinsters Ink Pubishers in 2010.