Sunday, November 29, 2015



On this day in 1633, a few young women gathered with Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac and formed the Daughters of Charity in France.

They were educated by Louise.If they couldn’t read, she taught them. Louise also taught them how to nurse sick people and care for infants, not to mention the art of prayer and community living.

Thus began the first religious community of women who worked outside the confines of a cloister.

In the beginning, they adopted a common seventeenth century dress, and the sunbonnet-like hat worn by the peasant women of the time. It protected their heads and shoulders from the sun.


Over the years, the sisters began to starch this hat, which was called a cornette because it resembled what we would call the “horn of plenty”

Their ministry expanded from care of sick poor people in their homes to nursing care in the first hospitals, to orphanages, to schools.

Today there are roughly 12,000 of us in countries all over the world.  The ministries have changed with the times, but care for persons living in poverty is still the main focus.

The “habit”, which comes from the French verb  “s’habiller” or  “to dress oneself,” and that sailboat like headgear has changed as well.

From 1633 to 1964, it was this:


From 1964 to 1975, it was this:


From 1975 to 1997, it was this:


With the option of not wearing something on the head:


Which is what I have chosen:


Painters and photographers have loved to paint the old cornette, impractical though it became in real life service:


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition

Messenger Death  by John Sparacio
Josephine Jacobsen composed the following poem in 2002, not even a year before her death. When she composed it, she was 94. She had been paralyzed by a stroke and was also no longer able to read or write. That’s why I say “composed.”  I visited her in her nursing home around that time, and she told me she composed this poem in her head, overnight one night, and kept repeating it to herself through the night until there was someone in the morning who could write it down for her.
The Companions  by Josephine Jacobsen ( 1908-2003)
Living close to death
Is not just a case of breath after breath.
It is to realize that to fraternize
With the dark prince is possible and wise,
So that in the final weather
When together you quit the room
Though tentative ad weary
You will have the enormous answer
To the enormous query.
She was such a well respected poet that the New Yorker published this poem very shortly after she sent it to them.
The transition from this life to the next is not such a fearsome thing for a 94year old with a full and mostly happy life behind her, and a faith in what/who was waiting for her on the other side, with open arms.
Death to her did not appear as a grim reaper but as a dark prince, much like the film representations of past years:
Frederick March, in “Death Takes a Holiday”

Brad Pitt, in “Meet Joe Black”
And even as the welcoming lover in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”
And the reunion at the end of “Titanic.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

Best Buy

NaBloPoMo prompt for today:

What's the best purchase you ever made?  


It’s actually the best purchase someone made for me.  Seven years ago, when I was facing cancer treatments, my friend Patty bought me an iPod Classic.

Once I overcame my fear of it, and learned how to use it, I became thoroughly enamoured.

She also gave me a gift card for Audible. I downloaded and listened to a number of books, among them:


This Republic of Suffering   by Drew Gilpin Faust

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  by Stieg Larsson

The Life You Save May Be Your Own  by Paul Elie

The Shadow of the Wind   by  Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Historian  by  Elizabeth Kostova


Then I began to borrow and download books from the public library.  What a gift this device has been!

This doesn’t even begin to enumerate the music I listen to on this, or the TV shows and films I have watched on it, or the podcasts.

So that’s it. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

My poet friend Ruth Bavetta posted this one on her Facebook page, and I share it here:


with the night falling we are saying thank you...
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner Guests

NaBloPoMo prompt for November 25:
Do you think it's better to be a recognized expert for one thing, or known to be really good at lots of things?

I just didn’t feel like writing about specialists or generalists.

What I felt like answering was a post I saw on another blog:   The Bookwyrm’s Hoard:  
 Seven Characters I’d Invite for Thanksgiving Dinner.

I thought of seven characters from my favorite detective novels:

1.       Morse

2.       Lord Peter

3.       Harriet Vane

4.       Spenser

5.       Susan Silverman

6.       Armand Gamache

7.       Madame Renne Marie Gamache

But then I couldn’t at all imagine them eating together, as different and quirky as they are.


So I turned my attention to Thanksgiving as an American holiday, and thought of seven of my favorite American poets I would love to have over for Thanksgiving.  I limited my list to those who are gone from this world, in poetry heaven:

What a conversation they would have!

1.       Emily Dickinson

2.       Elizabeth Bishop

3.       Theodore Roethke

4.       Josephine Jacobsen

5.       Claudia Emerson

6.       eecummings

7.       Denise Levertov

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Expert Human Being

NaBloPoMo prompt for today:   Who is an expert you admire and why?

my answer:   Julie Zickefoose
Julie Zickefoose is a painter and writer who lives on a nature sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio. She is the author of Letters from Eden and The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds With Common Birds.

She writes a delightful blog which I encourage all nature lovers, gardeners, and birders to visit:

I’ve been reading her blog and her Facebook page for several years, and have become a devoted fan.

Julie knows so much about birds and bats and gardens and plants and photography and painting,

and she is such a fluid , engaging, and entertaining writer.

On her blog, she shares her experiences as a wildlife rehabber, and also her family life, with her husband, raising two beautiful children and a much-loved dog.

                                    ( in her hand is a red bat she was rehabbing)
She does it all with unpretentiousness and humor.

What follows is an excerpt from an article Julie wrote in “Before It’s News” about one rehabbing experience. The photos are hers:

“Next was a baby robin that a woman had found a week earlier. She called me about it. After I talked with her awhile, I could sense that she had the right stuff and the desire to take care of it. I didn’t have time to mess with it, so I told her how to feed it until I could take it. Which was just as I fed the downy. 


“She did a marvelous job. Just look at it! She’d never fed a baby bird before. She loved it. Said it had been the best week of her life. I felt sorry that she couldn’t finish raising it, but she wasn’t permitted to do so, and lived in an apartment complex full of cats which would be a bad place to try to soft-release a robin. 


“It was easy to tell that robin had had plenty of love. As well as plenty of kitten chow. FAT.


“It sat on my shoulder like a friendly parakeet. It was time to get this bird with other robins, in a big net flight enclosure where it could learn to be a robin instead of a parakeet. 

“ How I wished I could do that myself, but I had to go. So I took it in and fed it up, too, and prepared a carrier for it. That’s two. But there was a third call, another one I couldn’t say no to. I don’t care how busy you get as a rehabber, there are just some birds you can’t turn away. To be continued…

“So we’re dealing with a paralyzed downy woodpecker and a very sweet fledgling robin. Last but not least, I got a call on the phone the day before my departure. Someone had found a tiny owl on the ground in the woods behind Tractor Supply and brought it, of all places, to the local We Love Pets. Christy the manager has my number. I asked her to send me a cellphone photo of the bird, just to be sure what we were dealing with. 


“Yep. Babeh eastern screech-owl. OMG, squeeee! Literally the size of a navel orange, with a creaky little voice that stole my heart. Reeek. Reeeek. 

More anon…”
Julie's husband is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest, and she contributes many articles and artwork to the magazine.

This should be enough to make you look her up on Google! 


Monday, November 23, 2015

Nobody Does It Better

NaBloPoMo prompt for today made me think of the Carly Simon song , and James Bond:

What do you do better than anyone else?

My answer? Nothing.  If you qualify that question a bit, I can manage some response.

Among my sisters, I do these things better than anyone else:

1.       Write poetry

2.       Identify wild birds

3.       Bake Challah

4.       Bake Date Walnut Cookies

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Famously, Tellingly, Worryingly

Welcome to the American Conversation

I’ve been noticing for the past ten years how many speakers and writers have changed the syntax of words in ways that I don’t like.

The oldest examples are the ways that articles and prepositions have been disappearing:

You don’t graduate from high school anymore, you graduate high school

It’s not the prom anymore, it’s Prom

More recently, I have noticed that the word “fun” which used to be simply a noun, has also become an adjective:

We had a fun time.

The word “famous” which was used as an adjective, and then as a noun ( Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous)  and then as an adverb  ( We got along famously) has now become an adjective:

Henry Ford famously said “History is bunk.”

Television and advertising are responsible for many of these, which have come into common usage. In my college students’ essays, I find

A revelation has become  “the reveal”

A reward or lesson learned has become  “the takeaway”

‘the” has been replaced with “that” ( She worked to achieve that desired weight)

Cause for Concern  has become  “concerning”

And so many participles have become adjectives by adding “ly” to the “ing” ending .

I could go on, but these are the first to come to mind.

The English Language is a living thing, and so it keeps changing. I guess I am an old grump, but these bother me

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trios, Triangles, Trilogies

Art by Jessica Boehmann: “Hibernation”

Question for this week’s Photo Challenge in The Daily Post:
What comes in threes?

Just a little brainstorming and many images come to mind.

As an English teacher, I always think of Macbeth:
Remember my childhood, I see these:
and trios from films:
and from both science and poetry:
and from my religion: