Friday, August 30, 2013

Strip the Willow

[click to hear samples on amazon]

New Fortnightly Post ~ "Every Chocolate Flake"
featuring the poem "Strip the Willow" by Tammy Sandel

strip the willow

I keep going back
to Scotland
which I can only always describe
if people know and care to ask
as Magic

Here’s how you get there:

Journey many hours in the air
then more on a train
where people speak your language
and if you listen hard
you can almost understand

Ride your train through towns
with ancient names
that bloom on your tongue
as you try to roll Glaswegian R’s

Pass sheep inside a stacked stone fence
sometimes a dog running herd
or a shepherd with a staff
and Scottish temper
hurling the staff at fast cars who spook the flock

Other men on this trip nod and tip their hats
like Texas cowboys at the VFW,
wanting nothing but to help you
find your way

The air smells of peat and hops
but you won’t know that yet

You arrive in the dark and sleep late
waking up to a gardener whistling
“Cracklin’ Rosie”
happy tune to welcome
a bright new day

Your clean your teeth
with water so icy it must be pure
and take breakfast
with a lovely girl,
your first Louise

You call home at a decent hour
from a plexiglass phone booth
repeating the numbers twice
distracted by the purring Irish accent
in the booth next door
assuring your parent-loves that you are safe and happy
and you are

You are here to LIVE
to dig in, drink deep
soak up every scrap of knowledge from class
and country and Meadowlark
(even the pub name sounds pretty)

What will happen next?

You cross a small bridge
with other students travelling
one single path to class,
swans swim on the loch below
a castle shimmers beyond

You search their faces
want to know them, their accent and fashion
and you open yourself like a daisy
bringing all you can to the surface
to be shared straight away
so you can meet them, eat them all

You ride horses with Norwegians
study marketing with the French,
opera with the English,
and share coffee with the professor
who turns out to have a different idea
of cultural exchange
well, that’s experience, too

You walk in the drizzle
noticing patterns,
join the old women limping their way
to worship in an old stone kirk
kneel to strolling Westies
who pause a moment before trotting
back to their master

You take a job on Thursdays
noticing rhythms,
serving single malt to blokes
who take squinting measure of their glass
and American-you
discussing their politics and futbol
and once, the mystical power to heal

Finally convinced of successful outreach
you let in some other Yanks
just a few
who prove as interesting and layered
as Mumford & Sons
modern gospel
yearning, jubilant
triumphant horns over bluegrass over bass;
their family stories and characters
draw you in,
warm your belly
and inspire

They teach you the accent and fashion
of your home country
that magnificent, arrogant one
that you alternately hold tight and apologize for

And some teach you by learning with you
jumping in to Strip the Willow
whirling ceilidh dance of
laughter in a big wide barn
celebration of freedom and joy and youth

Tall and rangy Montana
gathers you up like hay
gives you a greater sense of yourself
of your power and insecurity
the way a mirror reflects the beauty and the flaws

A person can do this
just like a place

So in Scotland, you meet
music from voices past
ideas of future film
all of which you somehow already know;
a boy climbs through your window with the moon
stretches his long limbs over yours and
helps you weave a blanket of duvet, wool, and sky

When I remember who I am sometimes
it’s that girl in Scotland
that long-walk every day girl who sought out the wonder,
the soul behind the eyes
who was blessed to have beginner’s mind
come easily

I still see all the shades of mist
and I’m never ever certain of any one thing, for sure
except for love and magic

In Scotland
there were vignettes of simple, stunning beauty
all the time
I climbed Dumyat and
took communion with a lab,
found the heather
and tasted every chocolate Flake;
I knew ‘rapture from an orange
and ecstasy from a blade of grass’*
and it never went away

Why does it happen when it happens?
How’d I get a gift like that?

Is it a specific place we must find,
a person we must know, or
the ripening of our own body inside our skin?
all those things, or none of them
and a commitment to saying yes

I heard bagpipes in the distance
and was completed,
or transformed,
or maybe just returned with gentle magic
to myself.

tammy l. knox sandel, 8/17/13

* Leo Buscaglia, who is (also) not Scottish

For this poem and more
please see my new post
"Every Chocolate Flake"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl, 1780
by Scottish painter and illustrator of historical subjects,
David Allan, 1744 - 96
[learn more about this painting and the ceilidh dance]

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two Gazed Into a Pool:
Echo & Narcissus

Love Gone Wrong: Echo and Narcissus, 1903
by John William Waterhouse, 1849 - 1917

Two poems
by Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1930 - 94

It seems to be understood that Rossetti wrote this first poem, "Echo" in sorrow at the loss of one of her suitors; and the second poem, "An Echo From Willow-wood" in mourning after the death of her sister - in - law, Elizabeth Siddal. Indeed both poems can be read in such a way. However, the language of star - crossed love and eternal separation seems just as applicable to the heartbreaking conflict between the nearly voiceless nymph Echo and the handsome hunter Narcissus, enamored of his own reflection.

Never in love with anyone except himself, Narcissus reminds me of selfish Little Chap in Stop the World, I Want to Get Off who acknowledges at the play's conclusion that "the only person I ever really loved was me." For Echo, Narcissus was the dream "too bitter sweet." They gazed "not hand in hand . . . reluctant, without speech":

Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

An Echo From Willow-wood
"O ye, all ye that walk in willow-wood." (D.G. Rossetti)

Two gazed into a pool, he gazed and she,
Not hand in hand, yet heart in heart, I think,
Pale and reluctant on the water's brink
As on the brink of parting which must be.
Each eyed the other's aspect, she and he,
Each felt one hungering heart leap up and sink,
Each tasted bitterness which both must drink,
There on the brink of life's dividing sea.
Lilies upon the surface, deep below
Two wistful faces craving each for each,
Resolute and reluctant without speech: —
A sudden ripple made the faces flow
One moment joined, to vanish out of reach:
So those hearts joined, and ah! were parted so.

Waterhouse's Study for the Head of Echo

~ And just for fun! ~

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bouguereau & Stettheimer

Nature's Fan: Girl With a Child
Bouguereau ~ 1881

I've had the good fortune so far this year to visit several old friends and several new museums. In January, in between my visits with Diane and Len in Portland, Oregon, I spent an afternoon on my own at the Portland Art Museum and came across two artists, new to me:

1. the French academic painter and traditionalist,
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825 - 1905)


2. the American painter, designer, and poet,
Florine Stettheimer (1871 - 1944)

Portrait of My Teacher, Fraulein Sophie von Prieser
Stettheimer ~ 1929

In July, I visited Victoria and Steven in Minnesota, where our first stop was the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I was delighted to see once again works by each of the two artists whose work I had discovered in Portland. Wandering through the MIA, I immediately recognized Strettheimer's distinctive use of collage, pastiche, and embedded artworks:

Portrait of Our Nurse, Margaret Burgess
Stettheimer ~ 1929

And the amazing natural light in this one told me right away that it was another Bouguereau:

Bouguereau ~ 1880
{See also Spinning & Denver}

To learn more, see Artsy's
William Adolphe Bouguereau Page
& Florine Stettheimer Page

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


This has been a good summer for spotting sunflower paintings in museums!

Sunflower Tango
by Gina Litherland
Seen in May at the Chazen Museum of Art
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Magically entitled and magically realistic, Litherland's painting is just a touch eerie yet most enchanting. The central figure is mesmerizing from head to toe. I love the way in which her hairstyle is a continuation of the sunflower petals; and those darling yellow dancing shoes are the perfect choice for a tango!

Seated Female Figure Seen from Behind
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Seen in July at the Minniapolis Institute of Arts

Chavannes' title -- which could be better! -- pays no mind to the delicate bouquet in the subject's hand. Yet, the sunflowers are what caught my eye in the first place, and they remain the detail -- along with the model's charming French twist (can my hairdresser do that for me?) that makes the painting such an elegant and memorable representation of Botony (see musuem note above).

In my search for just the right words to accompany these painting, I located poems by William Blake, Allen Ginsburg, and Mary Oliver; plus quotations from Oscar Wilde and of course Vincent Van Gogh, who so aptly laid claim: “The sunflower is mine, in a way.”

Not completely satisfied with my results, however, I asked my friends Len and Eileen if either had written any kind of ode to the flower of my birth state. Len said not yet; but I did look through his paintings and took the liberty of naming this one in honor of my quest for a late summer sunflower poem:

Late Summer Sunflowers ~ Leonard Orr

Eileen sent me these inspiring words from Theodore Roethke: "Deep in their root, all flowers keep the light." Yes, deep inside, we all do! She also overheard my wish that I could find a source identifying the Full August Moon as the Sunflower Moon! Well, I'm an authority, right? Could I just make that claim? Eileen's advice: "Self-authorize, woman!" Time to renounce the "self - effacing" and embrace "self-inscribing" (for more on these terms, see Robert Kegan and Thaisa Frank).

So, in the spirit of self - authorizing and nostalgic narrative therapy, I hereby write my own sunflower poem and re - christen the August moon:

A Sunflower Haiku:
A Kan - Sun by birth
Full August Sunflower Moon
Flower to live by

Moonrise, 20 August 2013, 9pm

Monday, August 19, 2013


"Did it take long to find me?
I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me?
And are you gonna stay the night?
Oh I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow,
moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin' and hoppin' on a moonshadow,
moonshadow, moonshadow . . . "


words & music
by Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam
Stevens "considers 'Moonshadow' his favourite of his old songs."


Late - night literary repartee . . .

Len: Nostalgic narrative theory.

Elieen: I thought for a sec you said "therapy."

Kitti: Nostalgic narrative therapy* -- I feel better already.


A couple of authors who seem to understand
the concept of nostalgic narrative theory / therapy . . .

Cat Stevens: "Some say there are only two kinds of stories:
those about leaving home and those about coming back."

Jopseph Addison: "The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth / Repeats the story of her birth."


The Spacious Firmament on High

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,**
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
"The hand that made us is divine.”

by Joseph Addison
set to the music "Creation" ~ by Franz Josef Hayden

August Full Moon:
Sometimes called the Fruit Moon, When All Things Ripen
Moonrise, 20 August 2013, 9pm

RE *Nostalgic Narrative Therapy
& **Wondrous Tales:
"If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors, or mounted policemen." ~Dashiell Hammett

Friday, August 16, 2013

Home is Where the Hardest

"The Long Road Home"
Painting by my talented cousin and mixed media artist
Pam Carriker
who lives art at the speed of life and vice versa!
Thanks Pam!

New Fortnightly Post!
Please click to read a variety of selections on going home
and acting your age (if possible!)
"At Least Eleven"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

. . . including one of my favorite Office-isms:

Michael: This is where I belong.
This is my home,
and home is where the hardest.
Oscar: Home is where the heart is.
Michael: Heart is. That makes a lot more sense.

Actually, as is so often the way, I think Michael might have had it right the first time; for indeed, so / too many times, "Home is where the hardest."

I love the way that in every case, Michael's mixed up versions of these common sayings seem to make more sense than the original! Here are a few more few more:

"The business world is a doggy-dog world."

"This thing is going to spiral out of amok."

"I've been hit by Cupid's sparrow."

"Dwight betrayed me once before. So this is his strike two. You know what they say, fool me once, strike one, but fool me twice -- strike three."

Betrayal ain't just a river in Egypt.

She cut off her nose to spiderface.

It just seems awfully mean. But sometimes, the ends justify the mean.

The odds of them getting together were insurmountainable.

Plus, a couple from Madmen:

1. Creativity: "the least important, most important thing there is."

2. Anxiety: "Stop barging in here and infecting me with your anxiety."

. . . which in turn reminds me of a great Office quote from Kelly:
"You can't just come into my nook and call me stupid!"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hanging Onto the Dream

"There's an in between time when you wake up,
hanging onto the dream, but beginning to remember
things you need to do today."
by epigrammatist and collage artist
Michael Lipsey
Contemporary poet, Barbara Kunz Loots describes the tension between possibility and duty with elegant simplicity. For her the "infinite possibilities" are "delicate grain," the "infinite duties" are "the plain bread of day," and "hanging onto the dream" is watching "the gold illusion drift away":
How hard it is to winnow the dreams from waking,
To watch the gold illusion drift away
And turning to the delicate grain of morning
Grind it into the plain bread of day.

by Barbara Kunz Loots

Last day for
"Winnow the Dreams"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

New fortnightly post coming tomorrow:
"At Least Eleven"

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hear the Voices Singing

Cover art designed by Beverley Coulson
Thanks to Ben McCartney
for uploading our St. Peter's ~ Choir CD ~ to YouTube
Click to Hear All Tracks

My favorites:

Christmas Lullaby
Lyrics from Laurie Lee: "Christmas Landscape" & "Twelfth Night"
Music by Gerry McCartney

Hear the Voices Singing
Music & lyrics by Gerry McCartney

Peter the Rock
Music & lyrics by Gerry McCartney

Ave Verum
Lyrics: 14th Century hymn, attributed to Pope Innocent VI
Music by Mozart
Performed on the piano by Ben McCartney

Saints of God
Lyrics: Traditional Prayer for the Deceased
Music by Gerry McCartney

The Lord Hath Been Mindful of Us

The Lord hath been mindful of us,
and he shall bless us:
He shall bless the house of Israel,
he shall bless the house of Aaron.
He shall bless them that fear the Lord:
both small and great.
Ye are the blessed of the Lord:
you, you, and your children.
Ye are the blessed of the Lord:
who made heaven and earth.

Lyrics from Psalm 115: 12 - 14
Music by Samuel Sebastian Wesley

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Dreadful Bother

In honor of World Cat Day . . .
Sam thought the cats should wear sunhats while napping in the sunroom:



Pine escaped a similar fate by hiding
in the cereal cabinet, along with
the lace tablecloths & the Pillsbury Dough Boy

The Cat
Well, cat, did you find enlightenment in the Western Paradise?
You serve the Buddha well, unseen by the temple monks.
In the kitchen you hang about, while the dog gets kicked out.
You could even teach tricks to a tiger, though he still can't climb trees.
Does anyone know how to keep you out of a room,
Or to stop you from making a meal whenever you feel like it?
Truly you are a dreadful bother, but we give you a home . . .

by Vietnamese Confucian scholar, Nguyen Trai (1380 - 1442)
translated from the Vietnamese by Jess Williamson
found in The Poetical Cat: An Anthology
edited by Felicity Bast

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Comfort Me With Apples

Rescued From the Roadside ~ Soon to be Applesauce

Small Comfort
Coffee and cigarettes in a clean cafe,
forsythia lit like a damp match against
a thundery sky drunk on its own ozone,

the laundry cool and crisp and folded away
again in the lavender closet - too late to find
comfort enough in such small daily moments

of beauty, renewal, calm, too late to imagine
people would rather be happy than suffering
and inflicting suffering. We're near the end,

but O before the end, as the sparrows wing
each night to their secret nests in the elm's green dome
O let the last bus bring

love to lover, let the starveling
dog turn the corner and lope suddenly
miraculously, down its own street, home.

by American Poet Katha Pollitt (b. 1949)
found in The Mind-Body Problem (Random House, 2009)

Thanks to Ned Stuckey-French for recommending
this "nice poem by the wonderful Katha Pollitt
over at "The Writer's Almanac" today."

Couldn't help thinking of Joan Didion:
" . . . the repeated rituals of domestic life. Setting the table. Lighting the candles. Building the fire. Cooking. All those souffles, all that creme caramel, all those daubes and albondigas and gumbos. Clean sheets, stacks of clean towels, hurricane lamps for storms, enough water and food to see us through whatever geological event came our way. These fragments I have shored against my ruins, were the words that came to mind then. These fragments mattered to me. I believed in them. That I could find meaning in the intensely personal nature of my life as a wife and mother did not seem inconsistent with finding meaning in the vast indifference of geology and the test shots; the two systems existed for me on parallel tracks that occasionally converged, notably during earthquakes." ~ from The Year of Magical Thinking, 190 - 91

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Girls of Summer

Two Girls Reading
by Robert Lewis Reid, 1862 – 1929
American Impressionist painter and muralist

"I was the youngest, shiest, most self-conscious adolescent
that -- I believe -- ever lived. In addition, I have to confess
that my adolescence lasted a phenomenally long time.
Dare I say I have outgrown that period even now?

"But if one eliminates adolescence from life and records,
how much is suppressed: youth, hope, dreams, impractical ideals,
falling in love with 'countless not impossible He's,'
gaiety that spurts up for no reason,
despair that is gone the next morning,
and a foretaste of the inevitable tragedies of life along with
one's early confused attempts to understand or meet them. . . .

"Besides, I have a certain respect
for the early efforts of this struggling adolescent,
who now seems so many lives removed from the self of today.
I can laugh at her and am often embarrassed by her,
but I do not want to betray her.
Let her speak for herself."

from the 1972 introduction to
Bring Me a Unicorn:
Diaries & Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1922 - 1928

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1906 - 2001

Should you care to devote the remainder of your summer to reading some great girl narratives, check out my latest book blog for a list of novels that honor the "struggling adolescent," whom Anne Morrow Lindbergh so eloquently urges us to respect, featuring girls who are filled with a "gaiety that spurts up for no reason," a "despair that is gone the next morning, and a foretaste of the inevitable tragedies of life along with one's early confused attempts to understand or meet them."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The River Simply Manifest

Summer evening on the Wabash,
taken from the window at McGraw's

"Then Glory had seen the place as if it were the kind of memory a woman might wish for her child, and it was exactly that, the river broad and shallow, the intricacies of its bed making rivulets of the slow water, bloom on the larger little islands and butterflies everywhere. And the trees meeting high above it, shading it, making the bottom earthily apparent wherever there was calm. They all loved the river, in all generations. . . . the river was simply manifest, a truth too seldom acknowledged. When she had been on her own, sometimes she had thought of it."
from Home, (283 - 84)
by Marilynne Robinson

Happy Lughnasa ~ Feast of the First Corn
Midway Point between
the Summer Solstice & The Autumnal Equinox
Thanks to my friend Victoria Amador
for this beautiful photo from Wisconsin.

To Victoria & Steven ~ the first fruits are upon us!
Indeed a blessed conclusion to your Midwestern Summer --
and now begins your Sojourn Abroad
(I just had to capitalize those words, German style)!
Wishing you a lovely Lughnasa!
Dance wherever you may be -- land, air or sea!