Thursday, December 28, 2017

Postcards, Pavane, and the Young Unknown

I marvel at everything as if it were new.
~Anna Akhmatova

Happy New Year!

I have an enormous pack of literary and nature postcards that I am planning on sending out in 2018 with bits of poems, quotes, what I did that day, I don't know. If you'd like to receive one (or more?) of said postcards, email me (if I don't have your mailing address) or leave a comment (if I do).

Some poems for the new year...I am certainly praying for the world to be built anew:

from PAVANE FOR THE NEW YEAR (from Dec 1948)
by Elder Olson

And now the stones arise again
Till all the world is built anew
And now in one accord like rhyme,
And we who wound the midnight clock
Hear the clock of morning chime.

read the rest here


By Thomas Hardy

The twelfth hour nears
Hand-hid, as in shame;
I undo the lock,
And listen, and wait
For the Young Unknown.

read the rest here


Talking about pavanes (which are "a stately court dance" or the music for such a dance) always makes me think of Gabriel Fauré's. This performance by a Polish youth orchestra is lovely:

My Juicy Little Universe has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Heidi!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


If you've done something wrong in your dealings with another person, it's as if there's an infection in your relationship. A good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound.
~Randy Pausch

photo by Tiberiu Ana

Thinking about apologies this Wellness Wednesday. When I was a kid, I really hated saying I was sorry. I felt like that it was the apology itself that meant I had done something bad, and if I didn't apologize, I must not have done anything bad. Clearly, there was a flaw in my logic!

Should people be forced to apologize when they aren't sorry? A bit from The Atlantic (Why Apologize? by Noah Berlatsky):
The reason to teach kids to apologize isn't to make the wrong-doer feel better. It's to make the person wronged feel better. Secondarily, it's to make the wrong-doer feel worse, or at least, to make the wrong-doer understand that he or she has done something wrong and unacceptable.

Okimoto and the other researchers argue that...apologizing...strengthens community and reduces interpersonal violence. Vedantam concludes that people who have a low sense of self-worth have trouble apologizing in the service of these greater goods. Or, as he says, it's strong people, not weak people, who can apologize. He concludes that children feel vulnerable, and so are unwilling to apologize. Rather than coercing apology, he says, it would be better to create a loving environment, where the children feel safe and confident enough to apologize. As a parent, you're not just trying to increase your children's sense of self worth; you're trying to turn them into a civilized human being.

Which seems reasonable, but rather overlooks the fact that one way you create a safe and loving environment is by making it clear that treating each other badly is wrong and won't be tolerated. Insisting on apologies may make the wrong-doer unhappy -- but it assures those who are wronged that what has happened to them is, in fact, wrong, and that someone has their back. As a parent, you're not just trying to increase your children's sense of self worth; you're trying to turn them into a civilized human being. Part of doing that is teaching them that they need to think about others' feelings, not just their own. Which means that when they do wrong, they need to apologize -- a lesson which is more, not less, important because it's a difficult one to learn.

I actually do feel better when I apologize. It's feeling like I've done something wrong but haven't done anything to try to fix it that makes me feel awful.

The two following articles about apologizing have good information, although they do come down differently on asking for forgiveness. (The second one sounds right to me. What do you think?)

How to Apologize: The 7 Steps Of a Sincere Apology

How to Apologize (And Seem Like You Mean It)
("Seem like" sounds funny. Wouldn't "Show" sound better?)

Apologizing for Medical Missteps: Whether it's a Mistake for Physicians
An 8-part comic for people who say "I'm sorry" too often

A final quote:
“By the fifth 'I'm sorry' for the same cause, it's better to just say, I meant to do it.”
― Anthony Liccione

Monday, December 25, 2017

Come lads and lasses every one

And now let all the company
In friendly manner all agree,
For we are here welcome all may see
Unto this jolly good cheer.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! And a happy new year to all! The words to this are from 1642, and the tune is "Greensleeves" (also used for "What Child is This").

Baltimore Consort

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Vintage photos

“... I have always thought of Christmas-time... as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
~Charles Dickens

me, age three
Dear all,
I'm wrapping presents and cooking so I don't have a post for today, but I'd like to send you over to Joyce's blog, where she is sharing my shivery Winter Poetry Swap poem. (I'm sorry, Australians, I keep thinking of it as the Winter swap, even though it's the Summer swap for you.)
Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

one-year-old me at Christmas, in Granddaddy's hat...
boy, did I love that Pooh!

me, age two,
and the pure joy of all those colors

Buffy Silverman has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Buffy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jólabókaflóðið, plus book doctors and poetry pharmacists

Story is a butterfly whose wings transport us to another world where we receive gifts that change who we are and who we want to be.
~Harley King

Time to settle down with a good book. This is my combo Wellness Wednesday and Art Thursday post, so we have stunning shots of Iceland (home of Jólabókaflóðið) as well as information about books and poems for what ails you.

A book from Iceland, photo by YoungDoo M. Carey
Jólabókaflóðið (Icelandic for "The book flood of Christmas") is the annual flood of new books in Iceland occurring in the months before Christmas every year.

Its name refers to the fact that new books are generally published only during the Christmas season in Iceland...the custom stems from both Iceland's centuries long literary tradition, and strict WWII currency restrictions which limited the amount of imported giftware.

Given that restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than on other products, books became a massively popular Christmas Eve gift, and indeed the default gift, and thus the custom was established for the settling in and of the reading of said books. [Wikipedia]

Black Waterfall, Iceland, NMK Photography

William Seighart has been offering poetry prescriptions to people in the U.K. since 2014. If you can't see Seighart in person, you can take his poetry prescription quiz.

photo by Renan Portela

The Novel Cure offers literary remedies for everything from apathy to zestlessness.

photo by Renan Portela

"Book Dr." Caroline Donahue offers suggestions for books to read for particular needs, such as having a baby and living far away from family.

Poems to Lean On

Monday, December 18, 2017

Stand together

We meet no ordinary people in our lives.
~C.S. Lewis

For Music Monday, a song from Stand Together: Choirs with Purpose. I hadn't realized that no two people with cystic fibrosis can ever be together. But still, they made a choir:

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Grow on me like moss

Learning to see mosses is more like listening than looking. A cursory glance will not do it. Starting to hear a faraway voice or catch a nuance in the quiet subtext of a conversation requires attentiveness, a filtering of all the noise, to catch the music. Mosses are not elevator music; they are the intertwined threads of a Beethoven quartet.
~Robin Wall Kimmerer

Moss by Matthew Rogers

My buddy Joyce sent me a completely delightful package for the Winter Poem Swap, complete with adorable wee animals for my mini garden, a journal, chocolate, and this wonderful poem:

Ode to Moss
by Joyce Ray

Woodlands hold trees and flowers,
critters and mythical folk,
play-fullness, seeds of promise and

who carpet Zen gardens,
Scottish moors and even
a childhood storybook where
Belinda searched for a friend.

We say, “A rolling stone gathers no moss,”
yet you, Sphagnum, staunched the bleeding
of WWI soldiers, lined the cradles
of indigenous babies, and

you, Peat, are the reason we have
bog bodies and Scotch.
Better yet,
you sequester carbon while

Africans say, “The people who love me
grow on me like moss,”
like soothing balm to ease the hurt
from rolling through troubled times, so

let me create a garden of still
stones whose only purpose is to grow
moss, and you will invite me in
to gather what I need.


Random Noodling has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Diane!

You don't need to cook

In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.
~Kobayashi Issa

Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939) painted quite a few tables, already set, ready for people to have a seat. Tables in spring, in autumn, with dahlias, in the moonlight, etc. Very inviting. Come, let me give you a taste!

Le Dejeuner
by Henri Le Sidaner

Small Table in Evening Dusk
by Henri Le Sidaner

OK, not a table, but:
Lunch in the Woods at Gerberoy
by Henri Le Sidaner

One last quote:

Many cooks and food writers have nothing but negative things to say about people who have dietary restrictions or preferences. Quite often it's suggested that you just make what you want to make, and everyone can find something to eat, most likely. But if feeding people around your table is about connecting with them more than it is about showing off your menu or skills, isn't it important to cook in such a way that their preferences or restrictions are honored?”
~Shauna Niequist

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dr. Duke

“Hell yeah I'm a botanist! Fear my botany powers!”
~Andy Weir, The Martian

For Wellness Wednesday, I'd like to pay tribute to a man who literally wrote the book on wellness -- ethnobotanist James Duke. I met Jim in 2014 when I came to visit his garden. He loved writing and reading poems about plants and I would send him poems occasionally. He was generous with his knowledge and would answer my botanical questions. I'm glad I had a chance to make his acquaintance. (I wanted to write a children's book about him, but when I would interview him, he would pile chemistry up on me and I would wonder how on earth we could make something that would interest kids. Maybe I'll figure it out someday.)

how I remember him

The American Botanical Council alerted me to his passing last Sunday at the age of 88:
He was a brilliant, dedicated, funny, and humble man, who earned the admiration, respect, and love of thousands of scientists and herbal enthusiasts.

On his computer most of the day, he was an author of hundreds of articles, an estimated three dozen books, both popular and technical. He was an avid compiler of botanical data from all types of sources for his “Father Nature’s Farmacy” database, and, a humble botanist who preferred to walk barefoot in his extensive herb garden, or, when possible, in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.

Jim was one of the three founders of ABC in 1988 (along with the late Norman Farnsworth, PhD, and myself) and served on its Board of Trustees, in the last years as a Director Emeritus (he would call it “Director Demeritus”).

Jim’s huge body of work, his love of plants and people, his sense of humor, and his generosity of spirit are positive examples for all of us.

A poem about what we leave behind:

The Poets light but Lamps — (930)
By Emily Dickinson

The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —


Michelle posted a poem of his about a skink.
Jim Duke's books
My posts about herbs

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sing we loud!

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
Nowell, sing we loud!
God to-day hath poor folk raised
And cast a-down the proud.
~William Morris

Do I get sick of Christmas music? Not much. For Music Monday, a carol you might not know, plus one you do. French composer Marin Marais composed the tune to Masters in this Hall in 1706, and English poet William Morris wrote the words in 1860.

I'm a sucker for banjos. From Christmas in the Attic:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Do dull tasks

People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.
~Alice Duer Miller

Poems from The White Cliffs by Alice Duer Miller today. The White Cliffs, about an American woman who falls in love with a British soon-to-be-soldier, came out in 1940. The copy I own came out in 1944 and is part of the 34th edition! It sold very well -- 300,000 copies between 1940-44 in the U.S. and 300,000 internationally. Amazing, eh?

The post title comes from "Englishmen
Will serve day after day, obey the law,
And do dull tasks that keep a nation strong."

From The White Cliffs
by Alice Duer Miller


Young and in love--how magical the phrase!
How magical the fact! Who has not yearned
Over young lovers when to their amaze
They fall in love, and find their love returned,
And the lights brighten, and their eyes are clear
To see God's image in their common clay.
Is it the music of the spheres they hear?
Is it the prelude to that noble play,
The drama of Joined Lives? Ah, they forget
They cannot write their parts; the bell has rung,
The curtain rises, and the stage is set
For tragedy--they were in love and young.



When the sun shines on England, it atones
   For low-hung leaden skies, and rain and dim
Moist fogs that paint the verdure on her stones
   And fill her gentle rivers to the brim.

When the sun shines on England, shafts of light
   Fall on far towers and hills and dark old trees,
And hedge-bound meadows of a green as bright--
   As bright as is the blue of tropic seas.

When the sun shines, it is as if the face
   Of some proud man relaxed his haughty stare,
And smiled upon us with a sudden grace,
   Flattering because its coming is so rare.



The English love their country with a love
Steady, and simple, wordless, dignified;
I think it sets their patriotism above
All others. We Americans have pride--
We glory in our country's short romance.
We boast of it and love it. Frenchmen, when
The ultimate menace comes, will die for France
Logically as they lived. But Englishmen
Will serve day after day, obey the law,
And do dull tasks that keep a nation strong.
Once I remember in London how I saw
Pale shabby people standing in a long
Line in the twilight and the misty rain
To pay their tax. I then saw England plain.


After the young lovers are married, and she goes to stay with his mother while he is away at war:


I settled down in Devon,
  When Johnnie went to France.
Such a tame ending
  To a great romance--
Two lonely women
  With nothing much to do
But get to know each other;
  She did and I did, too.
Mornings at the Rectory,
  Learning how to roll
Bandages, and always
  Saving light and coal.
Oh, that house was bitter
  As winter closed in,
In spite of heavy stockings
  And woolen next the skin.
I was cold and wretched,
  And never unaware
Of John more cold and wretched
  In a trench out there.


Steps and Staircases has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Lisa!

Name that art

If you can give your child only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.
~Bruce Barton

I found out about "Kids Explain Art to Experts (Name that Art)" from my friend Buffy. Really adorable stuff:

Monday, December 4, 2017

Save them all

If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.
~Woodrow Wilson

I am both a cat person and a dog person, so this video hits the spot:

Best Friends

Saturday, December 2, 2017


To act without a conscience, but for a paycheck, makes anyone a dangerous animal.
~Suzy Kassem

Politicians who've sold their soul to the devil got you down? After you've registered to vote, donated money, written your congresspeople, etc., come listen to this and calm yourself a bit.

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia cd