Friday, May 29, 2015

Good news and Book Reviews

With the encouragement of my poet friend Valerie Fox,  I signed up my book for Poetic Book Tours,
in which some bloggers have read and reviewed  Reconnaissance. 

Here are some of them:

It's been great fun for me to read these positive reviews, and very encouraging, too.

Tapdance Day  by Sandra Boynton

Cape May: changing and staying the same

When you vacation at the same time, almost the same week, for many years, you notice the buildings, the shops, what changes and what stays the same.

Yesterday afternoon I took some photos and then found the "before" shots on Google.

Gone from the Washington Street Mall:

The Jackson Mountain Café

same building, but new management , new menu, new culture, and name changed to Delaneys' Irish Pub:

The Pilot House:

now closed and being remodeled:

no idea about name now.
Those were just two of the old standbys that had survived since my memory of Cape May began in 1986.   Many other places have come and gone.
I keep thinking of the Simon and Garfunkel song: 
Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Procrastinating with Susan Hill

This morning I had a marvelous, long walk through the State Park at Cape May Point... one of my favorite birding places.  I've had some truly mystical encounters with birds there over the years. Today wasn't mystical, but I was delighted by several long looks at a Yellow-breasted Chat, who nests there every year.  I believe it is the same bird!
Yellow-breasted Chat... photo by Julie Zickefoose

I also heard a birdsong I didn't know, and searched a long time to see the singer, who was very loud, but hidden behind the leaves.  It might have been an Orchard Oriole.  I have to look up the bird and listen to the song on the Cornell website.

When I'm not out birding, I'm spending time with the murder mysteries of Susan Hill.
I've read almost all of them at least once; when I say "read," I mean that I have listened to them, unabridged , either borrowed from the library or purchased from audible.  Besides the gripping plot and excellent characterizations, her prose , especially her descriptions of the countryside by the fictional English village of Lafferton, is so vivid and elegant.


I read the novels out of order, and now I'm reading/listening to them in order.  The story of Simon Serallier, the main detective, is absorbing. His family members - sister, father, mother, stepmother, brother in law, are interesting characters in themselves... not to mention the women who fall in love with him.  The murderers and victims and even the other police constables and sergeants are well-developed and interesting.

I should be working on reflection questions for the June 24 retreat, or writing more reflective pieces myself, or writing more poetry, but here I am, just enjoying the views of the ocean, and the picturesque houses and gardens of Cape May, and reading Susan Hill.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cape May 2015

Photos and artwork in this post were not done by me, but they capture the beauty of the place, so I posted them with credit when I could.

Cape May harbor   by Zach Mullock

Congress Hall     painting by Scott Griswold

Villa Saint Vincent -  photo by me in 2013.

It's different here for me in Cape May this year.  I'm vacationing by myself in the old house on Stockton Avenue, at least for the first five days.  Four of my sisters arrive after that,  and about twelve more, the day after that.

I feel that I am vacationing with ghosts.  I've been coming here for a week at this time of the year since 1986, and have only missed about two or three years.  But so many of the women who vacationed with me have died; if they lived, they would be in their hundreds.  Around the quiet living room, and on the quiet front porch, I see Margaret D, Denise, Dolores S, Marcella S, Jackie K, Beatrice W, and Maureen B.  That's only a few.    And of the living, so many can't do the steps anymore.    Our declining and aging population really shows itself this year. 
My parents visiting us down here in 1992.

Of course, the young and able women are here, but most are still in school, and many live so far away, now that our province stretches from Texas to Massachusetts, that they vacation elsewhere.

But I am still here, and in many ways I am relishing the solitude.  I'm out birding a good part of the day, as I was when there was a housefull.   But I am an Only Child,  and I rarely mind being alone.

I have lived with women who have never been alone in their entire lives. Some of them come from families of ten, and joined the community right after high school, and have lived in community houses with as many as twenty sisters, and they are actually afraid to stay in a house alone.
Not me.

So I'm reading and writing and birding and listening to books on tape and watching DVD's...
and walking around this beautiful town.

Perry Street    by Jennifer Ward 

Friday, May 22, 2015

My summer job

or -  my job this summer -   because this is one I haven't had for a while.  I'm giving a retreat to my sisters.  It's what is known as a guided retreat.  That means that I guide them through the eight days with material I have chosen for them to read and pray about. 

                                              Bluebell Forest    by Mrie-Line Vasseur

The format is this:
One conference each day of the retreat –probably no more than twenty minutes. The director also  
 invites the sisters to come speak with her at least once or twice during the retreat; not required, but offered.  Also, I plan to  offer one or two optional group sharings in the late afternoon before supper, or in the evening. 

This particular retreat is a Praying with Poetry retreat.  They are not writing poetry; they are reading it. 

This week I have been working on this.  I looked at the Scripture readings for the day of each retreat, and found them rich with possibilities for prayer and reflection.  I located a theme for each day, and have gathered poems for each day, from a variety of sources.  This has been fun!

I'll share some of the poems on this blog.   Here's one:

A Walk   by Rainer Maria Rilke


My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

Gazing far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

It has its inner light, even from a distance –


And changes us, even if we do not reach it,

Into something else, which hardly sensing it, we

Already are;

A gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…

But what we feel is the wind in our faces.


                                    What you seek is seeking you.   -  Rumi

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's a Jungle Out There

After finishing my thirty poems in thirty days, I abandoned this blog for most of the month of May! I was busy with final days of classes, exams, grading and turning in grades.
 We had graduation on May 10
After that, the pace slowed a bit.  I was able to turn my attention to my garden, which looked like a jungle.  All those lilies of the valley, in particular, had galloped away, encroaching on other plants. The hostas weren't far behind.   I had planted these things over the past ten years, hoping for good ground cover.  I got more than I bargained for!

in all its glory!

The holly bush and the boxwood that the birds planted have expanded to ten times their original size.

The Astilbe, just getting ready to unfold its gorgeous pink feather-like flowers, is squeezed on all sides by lilies of the valley  and Ajuga.

It's a battle for territorial control between the Sedum and the lilies of the valley.  An Easter lily from years past is also making its appearance, not to mention the weeds.  I should learn the name of this weed.

From another angle, one can see the daylilies, hosta, and lamb's ears growing into each other, encroached on the right by lilies of the valley.

from another angle, another volunteer holly, a gladiolus, two hostas, a swamp milkweed, and bee balm. 
from another angle, more hosta, azalea finishing blossoming, lilies of the valley, crocosima, sweet woodruff, and weeds. 
I'm working an hour or more most mornings, weeding , spreading mulch, and beating back the lilies of the valley.
The garden will still be disheveled and disorganized, but it will not be the jungle that it is now.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not Only/ But Also

National Poetry Month, Day 30

I made it.   The quality of these is uneven, but here they are, available for revision.

Not Only/But Also
The nuns taught us that pair.
Not only that one, but also
Neither /Nor
Correlative conjunctions
Not only related to each other,
But also offering alternatives.
The testimonial dinner offered
Not only the Boeuf Bourguignon
But also the Chicken Divan
Either you drink Cabernet
Melding that satin mouth filling taste
Or you go with Chardonnay
And get citrus and cool silk.
So many choices
I feel ashamed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


National Poetry Month, Day 29

The title of today's poem is  "Meet and Just"   which is a phrase from the liturgy. But what is
"meet and just" about the troubles in Baltimore I do not see.

Baltimore has been on my mind and in my prayers, but I was having a bad time writing a poem about it.   This one came about as a stream of consciousness , play on words piece.

   Meet and Just


Meet for the poem,

Just right for it,



That’s where we meet

In the fall of the charming city,

 the rise of riots and

Rioters cutting the fire hoses.


Salvation is near

For those who fear

When the stores run low

Who pray

For a rainy day


 We’re Saving

S&H Green Stamps,

candy for later,

the oriole,

Meat for late home son,

Stamps for letters,

For redemption, for discounts,

For a free haircut,

For children who think value means

A good buy.



the walls of the city,

brick, plaster, wood, concrete,

saving them from the fire,

the  soul of  the city

we love.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

At the School Picnic

National Poetry Month, Day 28

The merry-go-round at Lenape Park, Pennsylvania, very central to my childhood memories

At the school picnic



Riding the merry go round

on the last day of school

at the school picnic,

March music smooth, cool as a current of

water on the evening breeze of mid June

coursing through the open pavilion.

Round and round,

 seeking to walk on the still earth when landing.

Ring a round the rosy the sky

 and the farmer in the dell and go in

 and out the window all going in circles

for balance for the development of the inner ear

the inner ear which listens to the ocean of blood

and the reliable heart beat

the inner ear which notices the sound of something small

dropping in a distant room,

a distant ocean down by

 the bellowing of pipes of guts,

something clattering to the floor of my stomach,

breaking into small pieces.

"Escape from the Carousel"  painting by Erika Heller

Monday, April 27, 2015

On My Sixty-seventh Birthday

National Poetry Month, Day 27

I woke up this morning and thought to myself:  Girl, you are pushing Seventy.  How did this happen?

Lately on Facebook I have been hearing from the other kids in my neighborhood from childhood, and those I went to grade school with. Here we all are, senior citizens.

Perhaps that's where this poem originated.  I came across the quote from Transtromer, and it really hit me as well:

On my sixty-seventh birthday

"We always feel younger than we are. I carry inside myself my earlier faces, as a tree contains its rings. The sum of them is ‘me’. The mirror sees only my latest face while I know all my previous ones.”
- Tomas Transtromer

One previous face, nose wrinkling at
the gluey smooth smell of candy on my hands
in the schoolyard…

Another, at the supper table,
child’s mouth squinching up in disgust
at asparagus,
at the sink,
at the feel of fried egg crust
wrapping itself around my fingers,
coffee grounds between my fingers
in the dishwater.

Another, staring 
into the bathroom mirror for hours,
worried that the face was too round,
the nose too big.

Fate’s face, fat and funny,
Fine wrinkles around the eyes, cheeks
Pocked with pimple scars,
Oh smooth face, fair as flour, when did you leave me?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Getting Over Clint Eastwood

National Poetry Month, Day 26

I wrote this one as a prompt for a contest on "Clint Eastwood!"  Why else would I be writing about him?!

Getting Over Clint Eastwood



Too pretty for me as a young man,

even with your grungy cowboy scowls.



I loved you in “In the Line of Fire”

with that grim determination

to catch the assassin.

I would sit next to you

on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

any day.

I knew I was middle-aged when

 I fell for you in

The Bridges of Madison County.

You could drive up to my door in the middle of nowhere

and rest your camera in the summer heat

any day.

But when you talked to the empty chair

at the Republican convention,

I left you for

Agent Gibbs.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


National Poetry Month, Day 25

Just a short one today:

The form is called a Pensee:


Chestnut leather

Embrace my unlovely feet

As we walk uneven brick paths.

Hospitable comrade.

No, I didn't photograph my own feet!  Too lazy to go outside on this chilly morning.  I went to Google and found these.
Also found some truly hideous photos of feet, which I may write about another day!