Happy Easter

April 8, 2012

Easter scrabble

My sole Easter decoration this year -- a bowl of plastic eggs

Here’s a poem about resurrection, which I thought appropriate for Easter:

Still
by A. R. Ammons

I said I will find what is lowly

and put the roots of my identity

down there:

each day I’ll wake up

and find the lowly nearby,

a handy focus and reminder,

a ready measure of my significance,

the voice by which I would be heard,

the wills, the kinds of selfishness

I could

freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,

I can find nothing

to give myself to:

everything is

magnificent with existence, is in

surfeit of glory:

nothing is diminished,

nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:

ah, underneath,

a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:

I looked at it closely

and said this can be my habitat: but

nestling in I

found

below the brown exterior

green mechanisms beyond the intellect

awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:

I found a beggar:

he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying

him any attention: everybody went on by:

I nestled in and found his life:

there, love shook his body like a devastation:

I said

though I have looked everywhere

I can find nothing lowly

in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,

transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,

stood in wonder:

moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent

with being!

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“. . . poets themselves are finders and keepers, that their vocation is to look after art and life by being discoverers and custodians of the unlooked for.”
— Seamus Heaney

Poetry scrabble

April is National Poetry Month and this year I’m going to make an effort to celebrate.  I’m inspired by the  list of “30 Ways to Celebrate” created by the Academy of American Poets, and I plan to actively do at least some of them.  Here are a few ideas that caught my eye:

  • watch a movie about a poet
  • put a poem in a letter (the Academy provides some lovely ideas and blank cards you can download here)
  • keep a commonplace book for quotes (I already do this)
  • read a book of poetry (Right now I’m reading Can Poetry Save the Earth?  A Field Guide to Nature Poems by John Felstiner.  But the link provides other good book ideas.)

So you can expect a few poetry posts on my blog this month.

How do you plan to celebrate?

“But I would say to my fellows, once for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Freedom

Thoreau was 28 when he began his experiment in simple living at Walden Pond.  But prior to that, he admits that he spent days dreaming about buying a home:  “At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house. . . . In imagination I have bought all the farms in succession.”  He went so far as to make offers on some properties, but the deals fell through.  He said, “I never got my fingers burned by actual possession.”

It is in this context that Thoreau wrote this week’s quote about remaining free and uncommitted.  He is talking about the burdens of possessions, and not, I think, staying free of commitments to people or relationships or work.

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”
— Bertrand Russell

Home ownership seduces with its promise of security and settling in the world, but a mortgage does shackle one to a steady job.  You trade hours of your time for the income to maintain the encumbrance of a house or farm.

“Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live.”
— Rolf Potts, Vagabonding

“We create ourselves by our choices.”
— Kierkegaard

In my experience,  commitment to my spouse, daughter, family, friends, and work provides the largest measure of meaning and satisfaction in my life.  I hold those individuals luckiest whose daily work is so intrinsically interesting and rewarding that the money is a secondary consideration.  And possessions, such as a house you own, are simply a by-product of a life with more fulfilling priorities.

 

St. Patrick's Day Scrabble

A few green decorations for St. Patrick's Day

In keeping with the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to finally read one of the books buried for years on my bookshelves, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill.  Much of the book is devoted to the life of St. Patrick.  I realize now how very little I knew about him other than that his holiday is celebrated every year on March 17th.

The perfect read for St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick was born in the far reaches of the Roman Empire in Britain, but during the precarious times when they were under attack by barbarian hordes which ultimately sacked Rome.  The Roman Empire, including its libraries, was pillaged and burned, and the people in Europe lived illiterate.

Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 by marauding Irish.  He was taken to Ireland and lived six years as an enslaved shepherd.  During this time, he prayed constantly to the Christian God of his parents, and then one day he heard a voice telling him that his ship was ready to take him home.  Patrick followed this voice, became a fugitive, and walked 200 miles to the sea, where he caught a ship back to Britain.

Patrick apparently was somewhat of a misfit at home, still experiencing visions and voices.  He left for a monastery in Gaul, where at length he became an ordained priest.  In his 40s, he took the extraordinary step of becoming a missionary bishop to Ireland, the first missionary bishop in 400 years, and the first ever to a land beyond the reach of Roman law.  (Ireland was never part of the Roman Empire.)

And what a humane emissary he was, truly loving and identifying with his adopted people at a time when British Christians did not recognize the non-Roman Irish Christians as either full-fledged Christians or even human beings. The Irish Christians accepted differences in a generously open-spirited way.

Cahill says, “Ireland is unique in religious history for being the only land into which Christianity was introduced without bloodshed . . . And this lack of martyrdom troubled the Irish, to whom a glorious death by violence presented such an exciting finale.”  So instead of martyrdom, the Irish called themselves to glory by retreating to hermitages and monasteries to commune with God and study Scriptures.  They accepted anyone for learning, even commoners, and they accepted anything into their libraries, even old Greek and Latin pagan literature.

Their respect for differences and love of language shaped “literacy as their central religious act” (Cahill).  While the rest of Europe struggled under barbarians, Ireland was at peace and focussed vast energies on copying out old texts.  Ultimately, the Irish undertook to become exiles and establish monasteries on the European continent, spreading literacy and literature in the emerging medieval era. This, then, is how Ireland saved civilization:

“For as the Roman Empire fell. . . the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of Western literature.”  Without St. Patrick and the Irish scribes, most, if not all, of our classical legacy would have perished.

Wow, that’s an impressive story and worthy of honoring on St. Patrick’s Day.

Book, chair and window

Valentine’s Day Scrabble

February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day scrabble

“One kind word can warm three winter months.”
     — Japanese saying

Hold words of love in your thoughts this Valentine’s Day.

Happy Fourth!

July 4, 2010

Fourth of July Scrabble

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Summer Alphabet

July 2, 2010

Summer Alphabet

Summer Alphabet

 A is for ants at a picnic

B is for bare feet, barbeques, beach, bumble bees, and bicycling

C is for corn on the cob, camping, campfires, croquet, canning, and crickets chirping

D is for daisy chains and dahlias

E is for electric fan

F is for freckles, fly swatter, fishing, fireworks, fairs, flip-flops, and farmers’ markets

G is for gardening, green grass, gnats, and grasshoppers

H is for hauling hay, hiking, and hammock

I is for iced tea, ice cooler, and homemade ice cream

J is for canning jars, preserving jams and jellies, and juicy berries

K is for kites and kick-the-can

L is for lemonade, lavender, long days, and lawn mower

M is for mosquitoes

N is for naps and neighborhood block parties

O is for outdoor concerts, oars, and Off insect repellent

P is for peaches, parade, popsicle, picnic, porch, and postcards from vacation spots

Q is for quart mason jars and quilts on the lawn

R is for roses and road map

S is for sunburn, shade, screens, sandcastles, s’mores, sprinkler, straw hats, and seersucker

T is for thunder, tent, tomatoes, and toasted marshmallows

U is for U-pick berries, umbrellas at the beach

V is for Vitamin D, vacation, and fresh vegetables

W is for weeds, white shoes, and watermelon

X is for exploding fireworks, playing with the X-box in the backseat of the car

Y is for yard sales and yard work

Z is for zucchini, zinnias, and the buzzzzzzz of flies trying to get outside