Thursday, January 31, 2019

A curtain of bliss

It's always difficult to keep Fridays confined within themselves...they tend to spill over.
~Kai Sinclair

Welcome! Happy to have you here for the Poetry Friday round-up.

I'm sharing two poems today. If I were a bit more sensible, the poem mentioned in the first one would be my second. But oy, I'm sharing "A Rhinoceros at the Prague Zoo" instead.

by Marilyn Robertson

I laughed out loud this morning.
I was reading a poem called The Buzzard
and it took me through ice storms,
evacuation routes, terrible winds—
an ominous landscape.
But where is the buzzard, I wondered,

Read the rest here


by Phillis Levin

While ducks and swans paddled placidly on the Vltava’s rushing waters, penguins, storks and gorillas were evacuated from the Prague Zoo, and a crane was used to lift two rhinoceros to high ground. But one turned violent and had to be killed, and keepers had to shoot a 35-year-old Indian elephant named Kadir as water rose to his ears and he refused to move to high ground.
–The New York Times, August 14, 2002

A blindfolded rhinoceros
is being lifted
out of the water.
It is important he doesn’t see
what is going on.

Please pass it on:

please pass along
his blindfold
so we can be lifted, too.

Read the rest here


Big Fish

Knowledge is high in the head, but the salmon of wisdom swims deep.
~Neil Gunn

Belfast's Big Fish ("Salmon of Wisdom") today.
According to the story, an ordinary salmon ate nine hazelnuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom (aka Tobar Segais) from nine hazel trees that surrounded the well. By this act, the salmon gained all the world's knowledge. The first person to eat of its flesh would in turn gain this knowledge.

The poet Finn Eces spent seven years fishing for this salmon. One day Finn Eces caught Fintan and gave the fish to Fionn, his servant and son of Cumhaill, with instructions not to eat it. Fionn cooked the salmon, turning it over and over, but when Fionn touched the fish with his thumb to see if it was cooked, he burnt his finger on a drop of hot cooking fish fat. Fionn sucked on his burned finger to ease the pain. Little did Fionn know that all of Fintan's wisdom had been concentrated into that one drop of fish fat. When he brought the cooked meal to Finn Eces, his master saw that the boy's eyes shone with a previously unseen wisdom. Finn Eces asked Fionn if he had eaten any of the salmon. Answering no, the boy explained what had happened. Finn Eces realized that Fionn had received the wisdom of the salmon, so gave him the rest of the fish to eat. Fionn ate the salmon and in so doing gained all the knowledge of the world. Throughout the rest of his life, Fionn could draw upon this knowledge merely by biting his thumb. The deep knowledge and wisdom gained from Fintan, the Salmon of Knowledge, allowed Fionn to become the leader of the Fianna, the famed heroes of Irish myth...

In Welsh mythology, the story of how the poet Taliesin received his wisdom follows a similar pattern, as does the Norse tale of the slaying of the dragon Fafnir by the warrior Sigurd. [Wikipedia]

The Big Fish, Donegall Quay, Belfast
photo by William Murphy
by John Kindness

The Big Fish, Belfast, Ireland
photo by Ardfern
by John Kindness

Big Fish Detail
photo by Jo Jakeman
by John Kindness

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Label-locked thinking can affect treatment. For instance, I heard a doctor say about a kid with gastrointestinal issues, “Oh, he has autism. That’s the problem”— and then he didn’t treat the GI problem.
~Temple Grandin

Thinking about getting the right diagnosis today for Wellness Wednesday. It's a big topic and I don't know how to make sure you get the right one, but I did want to throw out there that if you feel like you've gotten the wrong one, don't stop there.

Undiagnosed physical conditions can present as mental wellness issues and be misaddressed. For instance, I know a boy who was believed to have clinical depression until a celiac test came back positive and they realized gluten was the source of his fatigue and inability to function. If he had just been given anti-depressants, his condition would have continued to worsen. (When you have celiac and you keep eating gluten, you wind up not absorbing minerals, which causes you to have mineral-deficiency symptoms. My daughter had nausea from lack of magnesium before we found out she had celiac.)

I know of two girls in one grade who had tachycardia (POTS, specifically), which caused heart palpitations that were mistaken for anxiety. POTS generally develops in adolescent girls, so keeping an eye out in high schools and colleges for this easy-to-test-for condition is important. Being a teenager is often stressful, so people tend to assume that stress is the cause of teens' problems, but sometimes there's something else going on.

Other physical conditions that can be mistaken for anxiety or depression include epilepsy, mast cell disorders, anemia, diabetes, lead poisoning, hyper and hypothyroidism, COPD, and others. There are a bunch of things that can make you feel on edge or make you feel exhausted, low, less able to cope. (Lack of sleep, not eating well, or too much caffeine can do that, as well.)

Thistles by Dave Bleasdale

Anybody can be misinterpreted, and girls and women seem particularly prone to being brushed off by medical personnel. Maya Dusenbery explains:
Of course, the fact that women are more likely to have “medically unexplained symptoms” might have something to do with the fact that medicine just hasn’t devoted much scientific study to explaining them. It’s this maddeningly mutually reinforcing dynamic ― the way the knowledge gap perfectly feeds into the the trust gap and vice versa ― that explains why, despite the fact that both problems have been recognized for decades, they’ve nonetheless persisted well into the 21st century.

On one hand, the knowledge gap creates the stereotype that women are hypochondriacs and hysterics whose symptoms are often “all in their heads.” Each time a woman sees a doctor for symptoms that go unexplained ― whether it’s “atypical” symptoms of “female-pattern” heart disease that’s undetectable by a traditional angiogram, or fatigue from an autoimmune disease that is missed for years, or unrecognized side effects of a medication that was tested only in men ― it reinforces the impression that women are prone to complaining of symptoms with no evident physical cause.

This stereotype, which is born of medicine’s own failure to recognize women’s diseases, in turn, affects how all women are perceived when they enter the medical system. In a self-fulling prophecy, doctors take their symptoms less seriously and, prematurely concluding there’s probably no medical explanation, more quickly abandon their search for one. The fact that doctors get very little feedback on their diagnostic errors perpetuates the problem. Since they rarely learn if that woman they sent home with a prescription for antidepressants is eventually correctly diagnosed by another doctor, they assume that she really was the stressed-out somatizer they judged her to be.

I tried out a few symptom checkers to see how they did with unusual stuff, and this one seemed the best: Isabel
Second best: Esagil

I've been reluctant to talk about this topic because it's too BIG, but I wanted to support people who are wandering in the wilderness of not having the right diagnosis. Don't give up!

Lastly, a link to an old Wellness Wednesday post: Being Your Own Health Advocate

Monday, January 28, 2019

Keep your sisters close

I wanna say it loud
For all the ones held down
We gotta change the plan
~Natalie Prass

Natalie Prass this Music Monday:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saturday Bits

A few bits this morning:

Karen shared a poem of mine yesterday: Imaginary Billy and I Discuss the Founding Documents

I read a book over Christmas Break that was described as "unputdownable," which I laughed about before I started it but darn if I didn't have a hard time putting it down. I bought the sequel but I'm afraid to start it. Does that happen to you?

My younger daughter volunteers sometimes at a historic home and this morning I drove her to help out with their booth at a special event. At previous special events, she's demonstrated how to use old typewriters and rotary phones, things she didn't know how to use herself before the older volunteers showed her. Me, this morning: You'll have a time travel advantage over other people your age. They won't be able to blend in. E: That's why I'm doing it. Prep.

Speaking of time travel, I kind of time traveled in 2012 to interview Edna St Vincent Millay. The interview came up this week, so here's the link in case you missed it the first time.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Danger Thin Ice

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise.
~Julia Cameron

I come by my eccentric imagination from both of my parents. My father writes and makes digital art and my mother makes mixed media art, among other things. I thought it would be cool if we did something like the SPARK project, where an artist and a poet swap work and create something. My dad made a digital art work to go with my donut poem and I used this piece by my dad to write a poem:

Danger Thin Ice by Harry W. Yeatts, Jr.

I wrote a golden shovel (poem where the last words of each line form a sentence) inspired by my dad's "Danger Thin Ice" and using the following quote:

I am fascinated by the idea that our civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness
~Werner Herzog

by Tabatha Yeatts

The dog delights in being where the snow is
and circles the pond with happy abandon like
a baby for whom the bathtub is a
playground for squealing and smacking the thin
bubbles. The dog skitters around the ice,
making her owner nervous. But it's the boys up on
the hill, readying their sleds to go down again, a
run in a long line of runs, while the sun considers drifting deep
behind the mountain, sliding behind an ocean
of clouds, whom the dog's owner should be thinking of.
Even though they have coasted that path before, chaos
is not such a far detour from laughter, and
the glint of ice's light, not so far from darkness.


Going to Walden has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Tara!


If you entered a tunnel, you can be sure that the tunnel has at least one exit!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

Could you use a little light at the end of the tunnel? I know I could.

by Tuncay

Autumn in the tunnel
by coniferconifer

by benmacaskill

by Charlie Marshall

Water tunnels
by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Tunnel Vision
by Tony Fischer

Maybe no one else thinks of this song re: lights at the end of the tunnel? I hope it ain't no train!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


I'm desperately trying to unplug. The last thing I want is a watch that connects to my phone which connects to my iPad that connects to my computer that airplays to my TV.
~Kerby Jean-Raymond

I'm glad that social media like Instagram didn't exist when I was a teenager. I would have been interested in what everybody else was doing, but it would have been too much information. Staying so connected can lead to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Patrick McGinnis, coiner of the term FOMO, says a problem with it is that you are “taking your cues from someone else” instead of prioritizing doing what you want.

Kristen Fuller from Psychology Today says: You do not need to compare your life to others but instead, practice tuning out the background noise of the “shoulds” and “wants” and learn to let go of worrying whether you are doing something wrong.

A quote from Anne Lamott: Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

While you are taking care of yourself and enjoying disconnecting, maybe you'd like to try making yourself some Cinnamon White Hot Chocolate or Homemade Chai? It's cold where I am! If you're somewhere warm, maybe it would be fun to try Lavender Lemonade. Whatever you're doing, I hope you get your batteries recharged in the way you want.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Maybe she's got a point

I was broke for more than 10 years. I remember staying up all night one night at my first company and looking in couch cushions the next morning for some change to buy coffee.
~Evan Williams

For Music Monday, Samm Henshaw:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The fortitude of eyelashes

I have an extra set of eyelashes because you never know. I could cry or laugh, or it could be windy, and I'll need a standby pair.
~Niecy Nash

Long Eyelashes by Luca Sbardella

Hi folks! I wrote this poem in kind of a funny way (for me) in that I started with the title, and then wrote it gradually over the course of a week. I am posting it here partly to stop myself from continuing to fiddle with it.

The fortitude of eyelashes
by Tabatha Yeatts

the atmosphere of the soft planet of our eyes
extends as far as our vision: the low-lying cloud smudges

on spectacles giving way to the clear skies of the stratosphere:
the table, the chairs, the bird hiding in her nest, the squirrel

sitting on the fence, the tree branch leaning to almost scratch
the window, the pine needles arrayed around the branch

like so many resolute eyelashes-- you won't catch them
lying down on the job. No matter what the world

of your eyes has seen, if its orbit has swirled past
burning winds and eruptions that turn its moons

to rubble, asteroids that your eyelashes
must buffer against -- even if they are sentries

for a bloodshot, brokenhearted planet,
the eyelashes are still on duty.

their only weapons--
their willingness to shield,

their constancy in pointing the way,
always scanning ahead,

the way they never leave
until their watch is over

and they fall, alone,
blown, floating --

their last gift:
a wish.


The Miss Rumphius Effect has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Tricia!

Like everyone, I am touched by Mary Oliver's passing. Although I don't usually share poems on Wednesdays, I shared one of hers this Wednesday.


The man who pauses on the paths of treason,
Halts on a quicksand, the first step engulfs him.
~ Aaron Hill

My first idea for this Art Thursday was "traitors," but I found that it was a little tough to come up with enough art so I branched out to include people who sponsor treason (and protesters).

Kiss of Judas
by Giotto di Bondone

Benedict Arnold
Copy of engraving by H. B. Hall after John Trumbull, published 1879

Meanwhile In America...
by Greg Auerbach

Russian support for Donald Trump at the Twitter/Facebook Election Carnival 2016 Studios

The Psychos
photo by Matt Brown

Pussy Riot performing a song against Vladimir Putin in the Christ Savior Cathedral
The Prayer, a.powers-fudyma

Protest for Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya (murdered, 2006)
photo by Amnesty Finland

Russian Authorities Order the Destruction of a Digital Artwork
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen
A bit about Putin's Russia by Anna Politkovskaya
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder
The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy by Greg Miller

Nemo unquam sapiens proditori credendum putavit.
No wise man ever thought that a traitor should be trusted.
~ Cicero

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Getting started

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music.
~John Keats

by D

excerpt from The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

so why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

~Mary Oliver

Monday, January 14, 2019

Otava Yo

It was his nature to blossom into song, as it is a tree’s to leaf itself in April.
~Alexander Smith

Playful songs by Otava Yo to wake you up this Music Monday:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hands I do not know

As far as we could tell, the face of the revolution was a sea of embroidering women, patiently waiting the resignation of their repressive governor.
~Diana Denham

One more quote!
She was passionate about knitting because it allowed her to reach a state of peacefulness, and she loved to embroider because it let her express her creativity. Both activities were liberating. They allowed her to exist outside of time.
~Laura Esquivel

I posted embroidery yesterday for Art Thursday, and I'm following up with this poem for Poetry Friday. Sadly, Hazel Hall, who had scarlet fever as a child and needed a wheelchair thereafter, only lived to age 38.

by Hazel Hall (1886-1924)

MY hands that guide a needle
    In their turn are led
Relentlessly and deftly,
    As a needle leads a thread.

Other hands are teaching
    My needle; when I sew
I feel the cool, thin fingers
    Of hands I do not know.

They urge my needle onward,
    They smooth my seams, until
The worry of my stitches
    Smothers in their skill.

All the tired women,
    Who sewed their lives away,
Speak in my deft fingers
    As I sew today.


Kathryn Apel has the Poetry Friday round-up today. Thanks, Kat!


I have a profound interest in embroidery, as I have female ancestors on both sides who embroidered their way through great trials.
~Emil Ferris

My younger daughter discovered recently that she likes embroidering. She embroidered two presents for her grateful sister and now she is excited to embroider all the things.

It would take a while to work up to any of these projects (and she would need to have a lot of time to do them!):

Portugal, circa 1845

Men's coat, probably England

Portugal, circa 1825

Wall hanging

Chinese Dragon at Mystic Seaport

photo by Rusty Clark

Four Roundels, China, late 19th century

photo by Rick Semple

Embroidery tutorials
Embroidery Hand Stitches (MostCraft)
Sarah's Hand Embroidery Tutorials

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Connections and Comfort

How good it feels to be fed!
~Janet Reich Elsbach

You might not be surprised to hear that I asked for a number of books for Christmas. One of them was Extra Helping: Recipes for Caring, Connecting, and Building Community One Dish at a Time by Janet Reich Elsbach. I like "reading" cookbooks no matter what they are, but this one is especially meant to be read. Elsbach writes comforting commentary before each section, which covers cooking for people who have had babies, moved, been sick, or lost someone, plus "food for cheer, distraction, and celebration," "food for a crowd," and "food for lunch boxes and care packages." I marked "Life is Upside-Down Cake" as something I'd like to try myself (is it okay to make something for yourself out of a cookbook like this? Let's say it is.)

Another thing that caught my eye (but I don't have plans to make any time soon, knock on wood) is a koliva, a Greek dish eaten at memorials, such as on the ninth day after a death. Elsbach was brought one after her sister died, and she says that the food gifts from that time "made indelible impressions." "Each one was a strand in the rope that tethered me to the land of the living and together they eventually pulled me to my feet again, altered but upright." A beautifully-put reason to try to be present when someone is in need.

Elsbach notes that it's best not to say, "If there's anything I can do, just let me know" because often nothing comes of that. If you can, offer to bring a meal on a certain day, or ask if they need anything from the store, or if they need a ride somewhere, or if they could use having their library books returned, or what-have-you. I know I have said that generic statement before but in the future, I will try to be more specific.

Back to kolivas. Elsbach explains:
"Seeds, sweetness, and spices were beautifully arranged in the bowl she presented, adorned with blossoms though it was deep winter. The notion, she said, is to take in the seeds in the name of the departed. Once consumed, you carry on the spirit of that person, whom you offer eternal life through your continued existence, I reckon, until someone eats a koliva for you, and on, and on.

Very poetic, isn't it? Here's a recipe:
Greek Kolyva (Koliva) Wheat Berry Memorial Food

A bowl of koliva by Goran Andjelic

In the celebratory chapter, Elsbach talks about making teeny cakes. She says, "Making a teeny cake is far less daunting for the maker than a grand creation that is destined to serve a crowd, and even if the thing turns out ever so slightly wonky, it is likely to charm." I think she's right, and will certainly make one sometime. Yesterday, we had a cupcakes for my older daughter's birthday. To meet her dietary restrictions, it had to be gluten-free and low-histamine. I used King Arthur gluten-free muffin mix (she knows the amount of sugar in it is doable for her) and added blueberries and coconut milk, and made a vanilla frosting with toasted coconut. It was tasty enough to want to eat even if you didn't have a bunch of dietary constraints.

Food restrictions can pose a daunting dilemma, but I encourage you and salute you in your efforts.

Is there a dish you always bring for special occasions like births, deaths, moves?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Thunder and Lightning Winter

[Bach] died of a stroke (after an unsuccessful eye operation) in 1750, at the age of 65, and was buried in an unmarked grave.
~Chris Zimmerman

This is the wrong time of year for thunder and lightning (it's usually performed in March or April -- Good Friday), but I liked it with the poem, so here it is:

Bach Winter
by Jane Mead

Bach must have known—how
something flutters away when you turn
to face the face you caught sideways
in a mirror, in a hall, at dusk—

and how the smell of apples in a bowl
can stop the heart for an instant,
between sink and stove,
in the dead of winter when stars

of ice have spread across the windows
and everything is perfectly still
until you catch the sound of something
lost and shy beating its wings.

And then: music.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Makers, Gatherers, Melters of Frost

The word poet, which has been in use in English for more than 600 years, comes from the Greek word poiētēs, itself from poiein, meaning "to make." The word also shares an ancestor with the Sanskrit word cinoti, meaning "he gathers, heaps up."
~Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When the frost has melted
by Peter Shanks

A poem by Zen Poet Ryokan Taigu (1758–1831) about letting go:

Though Frosts come down
by Ryokan

Though frosts come down
night after night,
what does it matter?
they melt in the morning sun.
Though the snow falls
each passing year,
what does it matter?
with spring days it thaws.
Yet once let them settle
on a man’s head,
fall and pile up,
go on piling up –
then the new year
may come and go,
but never you’ll see them fade away

translated by Burton Watson


Poetry for Children has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Sylvia!

A Winter's Walk

Throughout their fifty-year-long friendship, Abbéma would paint Bernhardt’s portrait numerous times, and would serve as her companion and confidante until Bernhardt’s death in 1923.
~Bill Rau

Sharing just one painting today.

An elegant woman, said to be Sarah Bernhardt, on a winter's walk
by Louise Abbéma (French, 1858–1927)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Vision Boards

Hope dreams into being what is possible but not yet formed.
~Sharon Weil

Happy 2019!

I wasn't going to post anything today because I'm short on time, but then I thought about vision boards...I made one for the first time yesterday and really enjoyed it. Maybe you'd like to give it a try? You can find tips here (but I would encourage you to ultimately just do whatever pleases you):

The Chopra Center's Vision Board 101
Vision Boards (Pinterest)
Artful Parent: Make a Vision Board

The supplies I used: a sturdy piece of paper (printmaking paper), rubber cement, scissors, and a bunch of old calendars, magazines, catalogs. I thought about what I wanted to strive for and attract this year, and cut out pictures that represented those things. I'd read that it's a good idea to leave space and not cover every square inch of your paper, which felt good even though it was the opposite of what I would have done without that recommendation.