Thursday, June 30, 2016

Give Me Words

I am so thankful today for the sweet Summer Poem Swap gift of homemade art, joyful words, and creativity that arrived on my doorstep from Margaret Simon. It has been a week! One that needed  some happy, settling thoughts! 

I'm in the process of assuming a role in my in-laws' finances. That, in an of itself, is a scary thought since I have a hubby who does the personal stuff and a bookkeeper daughter does the business stuff. But dad is 92 and blind, and mom is 90 and forgetting things, important things, like paying bills.

I began the afternoon by calling the retirement office on my cell phone. There was a twenty minute wait, so while I was on hold, I called the insurance company on my home phone. They needed permission from dad to talk to me over the phone, so I walked next door with both phones, forgetting that my home phone could only go so far before the signal cut off--which it did while dad was talking to them. I called them back on dad's phone and got that straightened out. Cell phone is still on hold, so I called the cable/phone provider on the home phone. While she had me on hold, the retirement office finally answered and we resolved that very quickly after my forty-five minutes of standing in an invisible line. The cable lady came back and we resolved another one.

Then I headed to the insurance office. I walked into the State Farm building but they had no record of mom and dad in the computer and told me I was probably at the wrong office. Seems there's another State Farm office less than a mile down the road, so I turned around and went back to the other one, who also had no record of them. I looked down at my notes and realized I was supposed to be at the Allstate office, which by the way was two doors down from my first stop. Finally reached the right place, talked to the right person, and checked another one off my list.

Good grief!

I prefer words over numbers. Words, give me words!

And that's just what Margaret did. Hooray for the Summer Poem Swap!

The quote at the top is from Emily Dickinson: To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

Margaret was my swap partner and I sent my poem to her last week. She posted it at Reflections on the Teche. Then, feeling very serendipitous, she took four words from my poem and used them in her poem to me. What fun this was to receive--a handmade card, a hand-lettered poem, and a tiny little book of quotes, called Living a Joyful Life.


Easy smiles
Roads are long
Every midnight
     becomes a
New morning
Dripping grace
Invitations arrive
Peace bubbles
In water's
Time hears
Your gratitude

© Margaret Simon, 2016.

Many thanks to Tabatha Yeatts, who masterminds these poetry swaps and also hosts today's Poetry Friday Roundup at The Opposite of Indifference.

The Real Problem

For Spiritual Journey Thursday, I'm sharing a few quotes from C.S. Lewis that I've been meditating on this week.

What is concrete but immaterial can be kept in view only by painful effort.
       --C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Christ says, "Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you."
     --C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

    That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking the other point of view, letting the other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day...
    We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our systems because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us.
     --C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Song

Photo by Neal Simpson

Summer Song
by William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon 
smiling a 
faintly ironical smile 
at this 
brilliant, dew-moistened 
summer morning,— 
a detached 
sleepily indifferent 
smile, a 
wanderer’s smile,— 
if I should 
buy a shirt 
your color and 
put on a necktie 
where would they carry me?

Hoping this summer day carries you to grand adventures.

Visit Diane at Random Noodling for today's roundup. 

Friday, June 17, 2016


Add caption

Lane Smith is a wonderful illustrator with many recognizable titles. Visit his website and take a look.

There is a Tribe of Kids opens with our body decked in a costume of leaves hugging a kid (the goat kind), but left alone the the tribe of kids climbs a mountain slope too steep for our hero to accompany them. Through the book, we follow our hero on his adventures through the natural world. Perhaps he's looking for his own tribe of kids, but along the way, he struts with "a colony of penguins," flaps his wings with "an unkindness of ravens," and crawls with "a turn of turtles."  

Gorgeous illustrations add layers of delight to this lovely lyrical text. 
This is my favorite spread from Lane Smith's new book There is a Tribe of Kids
Visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for a study of Smith's sketches from idea to finished manuscript.

For a review and excellent interview, visit Shelf Awareness

Be sure to stop by Carol's Corner for the Poetry Friday roundup!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Earth's Crammed with Heaven

It's Spiritual Journey Thursday, so I'm sharing these bits from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I especially like the "lily-muffed hum of a summer bee" and the idea that even something so small is a reminder of the grandeur of our spinning universe and the one who created it. So much here to contemplate!

from "Earth's Crammed with Heaven"
(excerpt from Aurora Leigh, Book VII)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

....Natural things
and spiritual,--who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift,
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures writes unreal verse,

...Without the spiritual, observe,
The natural's impossible;--no form,
No motion! Without sensuous, spiritual
Is inappreciable;--no beauty or power!
And in this twofold sphere the twofold man
(And still the artist is intensely a man)
Holds firmly by the natural, to reach
The spiritual beyond it,--fixes still
The type with mortal vision, to pierce through,
With eyes immortal, to the antitype
Some call the ideal,--better called the real...

...Nothing's small!
No lily-muffed hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,--glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,--
In such a little tremor of the blood
The whole strong clamor of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Summer Reads 2

I don't especially like writing bad reviews of books. I generally just don't comment, but since I told you in my summer reads post last week I would let you know what I thought about Eligible, the new rendition of Pride and Prejudice, I will keep my word. I didn't care for it.

One of the things I love about Jane Austen is that she plants her characters solidly in a world where there is objective right and wrong and forces those fictional people to face up to their foibles in such a delightful way we can't help but laugh. However, when her characters come face to face with themselves in the mirror, they acknowledge their flaws (at least the character we love do), humble themselves, make amends where they need to be made, and change their behavior. When the hero gets heroine or heroine gets hero, I am delighted because they've earned that happy ending.

Sittenfeld drops the Bennett family down in a world without objective truth as a boundary. There is no objective right or wrong, and thus there are no consequences for poor choices, and therefore no need for redemption. In the end all the couples are matched up appropriately, but I didn't feel any satisfaction that they deserved one another. Or perhaps they did.

I'm not a fan.

More Letters from Pemberley was much more to my liking. In this sequel from Letters to Pemberley, (which I haven't seen) Jane Dawkins gives readers a window into about seven years of Lizzy's life with Darcy through letters Lizzy writes to her sisters and aunt. An enjoyable read that keeps the characters firmly grounded in Austen's world.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


This excerpt from The Baron's Apprenticeship by George MacDonald spoke to me this week, so I thought I would share it today for Spiritual Journey Thursday. MacDonald was a Scottish author contemporary Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll. The photo was taken by my son-in-law a few weeks ago while he was doing architect things in Australia.

Moon over Sydney, Australia. Photo by Espirito Meller, ©2016

The moon kept rising and brightening, slowly victorious over the pallid light of the dying sun; at last she lifted herself out of the vaporous horizon, ascended over the treetops, and went walking through the unobstructed sky, mistress of the air, queen of the heavens, lady of the eyes of men. Yet she was lady only because she beheld her sun. She beheld the source of her light, and told what she saw of him.

"When the soul of man sees God, it shines!" Richard said.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer Reads

Set in the sixties in Denver, Colorado, a single woman, Kitty, who owns a book store with her friend Frieda wakes up in an alternate dream universe as Katharine, a married woman with three children. Swanson's first novel is intriguing and captivating as she moves seamlessly between  these alternate realities. There are moments when I felt like Swanson was working too hard to place the reader solidly in the sixties. In fact, I am still uncertain as to why she chose the sixties as the backdrop for the story. But that aside, I was quickly drawn into these two worlds and often wondered how she was going to reconcile dream with reality. No spoilers here. You'll need to read it for yourself. A good summer read.

Next on my list: a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I love all things Jane Austen, so I'm looking forward to reading. I'll let you know what I think.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Poetry Friday: Marilyn Nelson

I enjoyed reading My Seneca Village last weekend. It was a delicious read that one must take time to digest and enjoy. I've always loved Marilyn Nelson's work. I blogged about her book, Carver: A Life in Poems here. It's one of my all-time favorites. In her new book, Nelson's poems span a period of thirty years, from 1825 to 1855. The voices reflect the characters as they grow and change with life in Seneca Village. It's no easy feat and beautifully accomplished.

Before each poem, the author reflects on what she sees in the poem. It reminds me of how an actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience in the midst of his lines in a play. It's not a modern technique, especially when it happens in fiction. I remember the variety of opinions expressed when Kate DiCamillo addressed her audience in A Tale of Despereaux, but I loved it there, too. I like that connection between the author and the reader. Nelson manages it so seamlessly we don't feel the slightest hint of intrusion, and it's a useful tool that helps to connect the voices through the years.

Here are a few excepts.

Frederick Riddles is a boy in 1828.
excerpt from "Under the Fathomless"

Am I the only person that dreams my dreams?
Does anybody else on this planet think my thoughts?
Are my ideas like darting lights I've caught?
Is my mind a net sieving through thought-filled streams?

Twenty years later, the same Frederick Riddles writes to his girl.
excerpt from "New York to Nicaragua"

Sailing choppy coastal waters. Seasick
Nothing but blue to see, both sea and sky.
Our wooden vessel crackled, banged and creaked.
Twenty awe-making sunrises and sunsets.

In her note at the end of the book, Nelson discusses some of her rhyme patterns and forms. She explains what she calls conceptual rhyme, used in the poem "New York to Nicaragua." Rather than sound rhyme or visual rhyme, conceptual rhyme, she says, "'echoes' related intellectual concepts," like "sky" and "sunsets" in the excerpt above.

So much to enjoy in this book. If it's not already on your list of to-read books, you should add it!

Click here for SLJ book review.
Click here for a lesson plan and discussion guide for the book.

More about Seneca Village and the property taken from African American residents to become Central Park.

Marilyn Nelson reads.

Jone hosts our Poetry Friday round up today at Check it Out. Stop by and enjoy the poetry.