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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Distant Piping

Spiritual Journey Thursday posts have definitely been sporadic. This except from The Wind in the Willows conveys such awe and wonder in the face of "a holy Other," as C.S. Lewis would describe it. It's well worth taking a moment to read and then taking a few more moments to let is soak into your skin.

"The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", frontispiece to a 1913 edition by Paul Bransom The Wind in the Willows (c1913) Graheme, K., New York : Scribner. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10765620





Rat and Mole respond to the call of "a holy Other," (in this case the god Pan).


Then a change began slowly to declare itself. The horizon became clearer, field and tree came more into sight, and somehow with a different look; the mystery began to drop away from them. A bird piped suddenly, and was still; and a light breeze sprang up and set the reeds and bulrushes rustling. Rat, who was in the stern of the boat, while Mole sculled, sat up suddenly and listened with a passionate intentness. Mole, who with gentle strokes was just keeping the boat moving while he scanned the banks with care, looked at him with curiosity.

'It's gone!' sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. 'So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!' he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound.

'Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,' he said presently. 'O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.'

The Mole, greatly wondering, obeyed. 'I hear nothing myself,' he said, 'but the wind playing in the reeds and rushes and osiers.'

The Rat never answered, if indeed he heard. Rapt, transported, trembling, he was possessed in all his senses by this new divine thing that caught up his helpless soul and swung and dandled it, a powerless but happy infant in a strong sustaining grasp.

In silence Mole rowed steadily, and soon they came to a point where the river divided, a long backwater branching off to one side. With a slight movement of his head Rat, who had long dropped the rudder-lines, directed the rower to take the backwater. The creeping tide of light gained and gained, and now they could see the colour of the flowers that gemmed the water's edge.

'Clearer and nearer still,' cried the Rat joyously. 'Now you must surely hear it! Ah—at last—I see you do!'

Breathless and transfixed the Mole stopped rowing as the liquid run of that glad piping broke on him like a wave, caught him up, and possessed him utterly. He saw the tears on his comrade's cheeks, and bowed his head and understood. For a space they hung there, brushed by the purple loose-strife that fringed the bank; then the clear imperious summons that marched hand-in-hand with the intoxicating melody imposed its will on Mole, and mechanically he bent to his oars again. And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvellously still.

...

Slowly, but with no doubt or hesitation whatever, and in something of a solemn expectancy, the two animals passed through the broken tumultuous water and moored their boat at the flowery margin of the island. In silence they landed, and pushed through the blossom and scented herbage and undergrowth that led up to the level ground, till they stood on a little lawn of a marvellous green, set round with Nature's own orchard-trees—crab-apple, wild cherry, and sloe.

'This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,' whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. 'Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!'

Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror—indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy—but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

'Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. 'Are you afraid?'

'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. 'Afraid! Of HIM? O, never, never! And yet—and yet—O, Mole, I am afraid!'

Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Light in the Larches

Larch Trees in the Northern Cascades. Photo by Bill Devlin.

Margaret Simon is our host today for the Poetry Friday Roundup, so stop over at Reflections on the Teche and enjoy the offerings.

My "One Little Word" for this year is shine. I keep my eye open for shiny reminders to allow what's on the inside to slip out through the cracked places of my clay pot. I'm feeling quite shiny as I share today's poem with you.

I've mentioned several times this year my readings in Sarah Arthur's devotional collection, Between Midnight and Dawn, published by Paraclete Press. I've found so many new poets to love in her pages.  Toward the end of the book, which I worked my way through on a weekly basis, I found this beautiful, shining poem by Paul J. Willis. Paul is an English professor at Westmont College and former Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, California.

When I contacted Paul for permission to use the poem, he told me it was written during his term as artist-in-residence at Northern Cascades National Park. Having never heard of such residency programs, I went in search of information. Some of you lovely poets may be interested. Click here for information and a map of which parks have residency programs. This link will take you to more poems written by artists-in-residence.

One more thing. I had never seen a larch tree. Actually, I'd never even heard of a larch tree. None of those here in the Deep South, so a bit more searching led me to discover that it's a deciduous conifer. Now we have lots of pine cones around here and lots of pine needles falling to the ground, but never bare pine trees, unless they are seriously dying. I am totally mystified by a conifer that turns yellow and loses all its leaves. It sounds beautiful, and one day I want to see them in the Northern Cascades.

Now, enjoy this very lovely poem.


Sustainability

     (Laryx lyallis)

A few weeks after my mother died,
I dreamed that she was waiting for me
in a ravine of spring-green larches.
There was no worry in her eyes, and
she sat there with her knees drawn up,
content to be in the filtered sunlight.
Funny, because she never lived
among larch trees--my mom grew up
on an orange grove and raised us
in the Douglas fir. I do not live
among them either, apart from my rare
visits to the North Cascades. But when
I'm there, as now I am, sitting barefoot
on Cutthroat Pass among amber larches
bathing every bowl and basin,
I have a sense that she's okay,
and that I am too, born to witness what
I can within this green and golden world
which still persists, with or without us,
but mostly with us, I've come to believe.
Things and people pass away--
but that's when they become themselves.
There's a new heaven, a new earth,
around and about us--and not much
different from the better parts of the old.
We don't live there very often,
but when we do, eternity
ignites in a moment, light in the larches
that shines. And shines.

© 2014, Paul J. Willis. Used with the author's permission.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Timeline


Arghh!!!

Yes, that's what I said.

I'm trying my best to find a way to approach what feels like a very large project without getting overwhelmed, flipping out and taking refuge in dark chocolate and multiple episodes of NCIS.

Today's effort was to produce a timeline within which I can fit incidents, voices, and poems.

Maybe.

My track record for long, big projects is not exactly stellar, but this one is one I really want to figure out. So...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Riding on the Wind

It's Poetry Friday and I'm trying to get back on track. After traveling for ten days and teaching at a yoga training and writing a month worth of poems a day (my first time for managing such a feat), I'm finally coming back to some equilibrium!

Violet Nesdoly is hosting Poetry Friday at her blog. Stop by and enjoy.

There were moments in the last month when I felt the astonishing freshness of walking into a strong wind. You know how it feels when the press of air is so fierce, you can stand still and lean into it and not fall flat on your face? And then there were moments when I felt like a fallen leaf blown helter skelter with no ability to determine its own course.

During the month, I re-read this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I love the power of this picture of the falcon riding on the current of air.



Photo by Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


The Windhover
by Gerard Manly Hopkins

             To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
       dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
       Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
      As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
      Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
      Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

      No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
     Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.


Click here for a beautiful reading of the poem.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Completion!





"Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest 
form of learning."— George Bernard Shaw

Welcome to Day 30 of FEET IN THE CREEK.

Well, it's been a month! I've had fun. I've learned, among other things, that I can write a lot more poems than I thought. And I've made some new friends, so April has been a good, full month. I leave you with one final creek poem. Then I'm going to put my feet in the creek and stay there for about a week!

Evening Nonet

Dusk.
The creek
clothes itself
with mystery.
Familiar shapes change
from sunlit certainty
to murky paths through darkness.
Unafraid, the creek surges on,
trusts it will find the way and the song.


Whether you find yourself on a path full of certainty or one with only the next step in view, may you move forward with a song and stop along the way to dangle your feet in the creek! Thanks so much for joining me on this poetry journey.


Week 1 Poets:
April 1: Ralph Fletcher
April 2: Douglas Florian
April 3: Progressive poem. Catch up here.
April 4: Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
April 5: Walt Whitman
April 6: Irene Latham
April 7: Carmen Bernos de Gasztold

Week 2 Poets:
April 8: Janet Wong
April 9: George Ella Lyon
April 10: Bobbi Katz
April 11: Nikki Giovanni
April 12: Margarita Engle
April 13: Mother Goose
April 14: William Carlos Williams

Week 3 Poets:
April 15: Myra Cohn Livingston
April 16: Mary Ann Doberman
April 17: Christina Rosetti
April 18: Rebecca Kai Doltish
April 19: Wallace Stevens
April 20: April Halprin Wayland
April 21: Robyn Hood Black

Week 4 Poets:
April 22: Lee Bennett Hopkins
April 23: Langston Hughes
April 24: Margaret Wise Brown
April 25: Allan Wolf
April 26: Renee Latulippe
April 27: Carl Sandburg
April 28: Joyce Sidman
April 29: J. Patrick Lewis

Friday, April 29, 2016

J. Patrick Lewis


"Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest 
form of learning."— George Bernard Shaw

Welcome to Day 29 of FEET IN THE CREEK.

And we're CELEBRATING this final Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month with Buffy Silverman over at Buffy's Blog

Week 4 Poets:

April 22: Lee Bennett Hopkins
April 23: Langston Hughes
April 24: Margaret Wise Brown
April 25: Allan Wolf
April 26: Renee Latulippe
April 27: Carl Sandburg
April 28: Joyce Sidman

For each day I have chosen a favorite poem, a favorite poet, or a favorite friend. I will look at the work, decide what draws me to it, what makes it resonate for me, and then write my own poem about the creek with those techniques in mind. These are first drafts, so nothing will be especially polished, but they will be starting points for revision after the month is done. Feel free to follow along or join in.

Today's poet is J. Patrick Lewis who was U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013. I have not met Pat, but I'm grateful for his poetry, his sense of humor, and his gracious personality. Some day I'll tell you about my poetic faux pas. (How do you make that plural?) I seem destined to make my most horrifying blunders with famous poets! 

Enjoy Pat read from National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry!


from A Burst of Firsts: Doers, Shakers, and Record Breakers


Illustrations © 2001, Brian Ajar.



First Girls in Little League Baseball

December 26, 1974
Title IX of the 1972 Education Act is signed, providing for equal opportunity in athletics for girls as well as boys.


The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen,
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is "Atta boy!" and "Atta girl!

© J. Patrick Lewis, 2001. All rights reserved. Printed with the author's permission. 

My Intention:  Write a poem about history at the creek using couplet rhymes.

The Creek

The Red Sticks were a tribe of Muscogee
who lived by a creek they called Ocmulgee.
The red tribes made war, the white tribes made peace.
They celebrated victory with dancing and feasts.
The men hunted quail and squirrels and deer
while women grew beans and corn each year.
Then white men came and called them Creeks
and took their lands and spread disease
until all that's left are memories
and marks they carved on ancient trees.

© Doraine Bennett, 2016. All rights reserved.

Week 1 Poets:
April 1: Ralph Fletcher
April 2: Douglas Florian
April 3: Progressive poem. Catch up here.
April 4: Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
April 5: Walt Whitman
April 6: Irene Latham
April 7: Carmen Bernos de Gasztold

Week 2 Poets:
April 8: Janet Wong
April 9: George Ella Lyon
April 10: Bobbi Katz
April 11: Nikki Giovanni
April 12: Margarita Engle
April 13: Mother Goose
April 14: William Carlos Williams

Week 3 Poets:
April 15: Myra Cohn Livingston
April 16: Mary Ann Doberman
April 17: Christina Rosetti
April 18: Rebecca Kai Doltish
April 19: Wallace Stevens
April 20: April Halprin Wayland
April 21: Robyn Hood Black

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Joyce Sidman



"Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest 
form of learning."— George Bernard Shaw

Welcome to Day 28 of FEET IN THE CREEK. 

Week 4 Poets:
April 22: Lee Bennett Hopkins
April 23: Langston Hughes
April 24: Margaret Wise Brown
April 25: Allan Wolf
April 26: Renee Latulippe
April 27: Carl Sandburg

For each day I have chosen a favorite poem, a favorite poet, or a favorite friend. I will look at the work, decide what draws me to it, what makes it resonate for me, and then write my own poem about the creek with those techniques in mind. These are first drafts, so nothing will be especially polished, but they will be starting points for revision after the month is done. Feel free to follow along or join in.

Today's poet is Joyce Sidman. You may enjoy this Twin Cities Public Television program on the stories behind Joyce's award-winning book, Winter Bees. Here, Amy Meythaler interviews Joyce on combining science and poetry. I enjoyed this creative, collaborative work with teens.


Photograph © Doug Mindell, 2008.


from The World According to Dog: poems and teen voice


           Noses


                           Mine          Yours
        is an afterthought          is the main event:
                    a molehill          a long, elegant,
         a period between          labyrinthine
  two sentences of eyes         echo chamber of smell

                                  I           You
                  might deter          are sorting out
                      wet earth         the relative age of
  rank fists of marigolds        squirrels
       the distant tsunami         that passed this way
                       of skunk         last week

                            I live          You're sifting
            for bright quilts          the mystery
                        of color           of invisible breezes
the inflection of voices           messages
         ciphers on a page          from hoof and beak

        Wouldn't it be fine         And I could dive
                                  if,         through
                for a moment,        that ocean of smell
we could switch places?        finding answers to
               You could see         questions
             the distant stars.        I've never asked.

© Joyce Sidman, 2008. All rights reserved. Used with the author's permission.

My Intention: Write a comparison poem using Sidman's right aligned/left aligned format. 

As I was brainstorming body parts to compare and how this could fit into the creek series, I settled on the raccoon, a critter as yet unnamed in these poems. But then there was this girl that showed up last week with Lee Bennett Hopkins' poem. So I settled on a three-character poem--the raccoon, the girl, and my narrator.



                             Raccoon          Girl

                                    Your          Her
                        tender paws           long, thin fingers
          dabble the creek bed           brush dirt
              searching for food.          from a stone.

                                                I watch
                                   from my den in the trees.


                         Your hands          Her hands look
              name you arakum--        soft, keen, precise.
      "he who scratches with          What name would
his hands." Algonquin, who         the Algonquin
    never came this far south.        give her?

                                               I call her
                                           water sweeper.

        You churr your happy          She hums and holds
 sound and rinse your food,         her rock in the stream
  feel it with your forepaws,        picks stubborn dirt from
   find the best place to bite.        its surface with her nails.

                                       I listen in quiet wonder,
                                             want to speak.

                Your paws hover          Her hands gather
           in the shallows, feel          the rocks in a sturdy pile,
                 small vibrations          top it with a willow flag
              the crayfish make.         and stretch toward sky.

                                     I stand, rub my sweaty palms,
                                              decide to wave.

© Doraine Bennett, 2016. All rights reserved.

Week 1 Poets:
April 1: Ralph Fletcher
April 2: Douglas Florian
April 3: Progressive poem. Catch up here.
April 4: Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
April 5: Walt Whitman
April 6: Irene Latham
April 7: Carmen Bernos de Gasztold

Week 2 Poets:
April 8: Janet Wong
April 9: George Ella Lyon
April 10: Bobbi Katz
April 11: Nikki Giovanni
April 12: Margarita Engle
April 13: Mother Goose
April 14: William Carlos Williams

Week 3 Poets:
April 15: Myra Cohn Livingston
April 16: Mary Ann Doberman
April 17: Christina Rosetti
April 18: Rebecca Kai Doltish
April 19: Wallace Stevens
April 20: April Halprin Wayland
April 21: Robyn Hood Black