Sunday, March 24, 2019

The month of expectation

Two more March poems, the first, from Emily Dickinson:


"March is the month of expectation,
The things we do not know,
The Persons of Prognostication
Are coming now.
We try to sham becoming firmness,
But pompous joy
Betrays us, as his first betrothal
Betrays a boy."

-  Emily Dickinson, XLVIII


 the second, from Grace Paley:

"This hill
crossed with broken pines and maples
lumpy with the burial mounds of
uprooted hemlocks (hurricane
of ’38) out of their
rotting hearts generations rise
trying once more to become
the forest

just beyond them 
tall enough to be called trees 
in their youth like aspen a bouquet 
of young beech is gathered

they still wear last summer’s leaves  
the lightest brown almost translucent 
how their stubbornness has decorated  
the winter woods"

-  Grace Paley, A Walk in March


Art:   Moon Tree  by Lupi

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Scarcely the day to take a walk

photo by Chris Cheadle

Two more March poems, this one by John Clare, many centuries ago:

"The spring is coming by many a sign;
The trays are up, the hedges broken down
That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines
Like some old antique fragment weathered brown.
And where suns peep, in every sheltered place,
The little early buttercups unfold
A glittering star or two- till many trace
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.
And then a little lamb bolts up behind
The hill, and ways his tail to meet the yoe;
And then another, sheltered from the wind,
Lies all his length as dead - and lets me go
Close by, and never stirs, but basking lies,
With legs stretched out as though he could not rise."

-  John Clare, Young Lambs

and this one, much more like the weather today, by Elizabeth Bishop, from the 20th century:


"It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist."

-  Elizabeth Bishop, The End of March 

photo by Martin Ruegner


Friday, March 22, 2019

Equal Dark, Equal Light

full moon March 20

"Equal dark, equal light
Flow in Circle, deep insight
Blessed Be, Blessed Be
The transformation of energy!
So it flows, out it goes
Three-fold back it shall be
Blessed Be, Blessed Be
The transformation of energy!"
-   Night An'Fey, Transformation of Energy 

"The word 'March' comes from the Roman 'Martius'. This was originally the first month of the Roman calendar and was named after Mars, the god of war.  March was the beginning of our calendar year. We changed to the 'New Style' or 'Gregorian calendar in 1752, and it is only since then when we the year began on 1st January. The Anglo-Saxons called the month Hlyd monath which means Stormy month, or Hraed monath which means Rugged month. All through Lent the traditional games played are marbles and skipping. The games were stopped on the stroke of twelve noon on Good Friday, which in some places was called Marble Day or Long Rope Day.  The game of marbles has been played for hundreds of years and some historians say that it might have been started by rolling eggs. In the past, round stones, hazelnuts, round balls of baked clay and even cherry stones have been used."
Facts About March  


Monday, March 18, 2019

First Time Solitaire Player

I have been subscribing to the wonderful Jacquie Lawson online cards for at least four years now.
One very inexpensive yearly charge and I can send an unlimited number of these on any and every occasion.  And they are so inventive and lovely!

So just in the last week, I sent in $5 and purchased her "English Garden"  , an interactive - what shall I call it?  Delightful fantasy garden setup. It includes a number of games/activities as well, and one of them is Solitaire, or "Patience" as the Brits call it. 

I have reached the age of 70 without ever learning to play this card game.  So now I am learning, and losing every game!  It's quite addictive; I am glad I never played it before!   However, it is a good game to play while recovering from surgery!

here is part of the English Garden scene.
Here are the rules
Here is the game.   By playing this, I hope to keep dementia at bay! I hope also that a poem or two comes out of my struggle.

Here's a piece about it that John Updike wrote in 1972:

The New Yorker, January 22, 1972 P. 26
A man sits playing solitaire. He has reached a point in his life where there is nothing to do but play solitaire. It is the perfect, final retreat, with nothing beyond it but madness. Only solitaire creates that blankness into which a saving decision might flow. He has to choose between his wife and his mistress. The week after he graduated from college, he returned to the Vermont farm where his mother sat playing solitaire every night. He was already married. As he sat that night playing cards, he drew a straight line from that night to the night of his death and began walking on it. He rapidly gave his wife children, to make his escape irrevocable, and because he wished them a less solitary life than he had had. He hoped that his mistress and his wife would dissolve into each other, become one person, so that he would not have to make a decisions The only way left to choose is on the simple turn of a card, for he is faced with a problem without solution. There are two cards remaining in his hand. He turns one over. The ten of hearts for his wife, a strong card. He tears up the other, only then noticing that it is the black ace he needs to win the game. But he is not a superstitious man. He will not change his mind. He sits and waits for grief to be laid upon him.

And here's a poem about it by Sam Riviere:


I think I always liked the game
because it sounded like my name
combined with the concept of alone.
(My name really does mean “alone”
in Slovenian!) We don’t actually care
if it’s true, but we want to know
the person telling us is telling us
the truth. Say his name is “Hank,”
as in, “of hair.” (It’s not.) My upbringing
was classically smooth/chaotic, apart
from traumatic events I’ve never detailed,
even to myself. Traumatic but methodical.
But why say what happened even.
In the tech block the blinds were down
and I cleared my way to the final marble
under the indistinct gaze of an indistinct
master. My success had allowed me
to become the bastard I always knew
I could be. What did it mean, to clean
the board like this, counting down to one?
By these gradual and orderly subtractions
my persona was configured. The goal
was to remain single. Sometimes telling you
the truth wouldn’t be telling you anything
much. For a while I’ve felt torpid and detuned,
as if I want to share a view with you,
so we can both be absent in one place.
Look, the sky is beautiful and sour.
I’m not here, too. I’m staring out of this cloud
like an anagram whose solution
is probably itself. I am only the method
that this stupid game was invented to explain.

Source: Poetry (October 2014)                   
I'll see what I come up with.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

The bright shillings of March


For St. Patrick's Day, here's one from the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh:


My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel. 

My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket. 
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage. 

The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: "Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor."
I hear, and is my heart not badly shaken?
-Patrick Kavanagh
Copyright © Estate of Katherine Kavanagh

Saturday, March 16, 2019

On this day last year

I took the train from Paris to Chartres.  It was a Friday in Lent, and on those Fridays, they take the chairs off the Labyrinth, which is designed right into the cathedral floor.

Not too many other people there.  I walked it.

Later, I wrote this poem:


Thin Place


I walk the labyrinth at Chartres.

The subtle knife can cut the veil.

I hear the whisper on the other side.

I stretch my hand and touch the air.


The subtle knife can cut the veil

where walls are thin as plastic wrap.

I stretch my hand and touch the air.

Heaven and earth just feet apart


where walls are thin as plastic wrap.

So glad to have the eyes to touch

heaven and earth just feet apart,

where eerie ears can hear the veil.


So glad to have the eyes to touch

a humming in the silent air

where eerie ears can hear the veil

the place itself has called to me.


A humming in the silent air

I hear the whispers on the other side

The place itself has called to me

I walk the labyrinth at Chartres.


In his essay  "Touching the Veil of Thin Places", Jean-Paul Bedard said:
"The Celtic Christians believed that there were mystical spaces, called “thin places,” where the veil between the holy and the human is traversed. A place in which the physical and spiritual worlds are knit together, and if we are so attuned, we can transcend the ordinary for a glimpse of the infinite. I’m sure you’ve been in such places jarring with kinetic energy, and simply by your presence, you are in someway changed.
"Thin Places are not necessarily sacred places, or peaceful places. I consider them to be places of dissonance, or transformational plateaus. The energy that flows through me is an experience that leaves my heart open — more grateful, more empathetic, and less alone. It’s a disarming feeling of being brought to your own attention, knowing that you are forever changed by the experience. "




Friday, March 15, 2019

Terrorist Attack in New Zealand


My poet friend Mary Ann Corbett posted this:

I fall back on Auden when the news is too awful to bear.
Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.
If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.
There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.
The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.
Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.
Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A mild March afternoon

Kosachek       The art of slowness

Here's a March poem from Antonio Machado:


"The afternoon is bright,
with spring in the air,
a mild March afternoon,
with the breath of April stirring,
I am alone in the quiet patio
looking for some old untried illusion -
some shadow on the whiteness of the wall
some memory asleep
on the stone rim of the fountain,
perhaps in the air
the light swish of some trailing gown."

-  Antonio Machado, 1875-1939
   Selected Poems, #3, Translated by Alan S. Trueblood

Shuang Li      First Sign of Spring

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

That's how the light gets in

Emerson's Cup      painting by John Slaby

Here's one of Leonard Cohen's wonderful songs:




The birds they sang at the break of day Start again,

I heard them say, Don’t dwell on what has passed away or what is yet to be.


The wars they will be fought again The holy dove be caught again bought and sold and bought again; the dove is never free.


Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


We asked for signs the signs were sent: the birth betrayed, the marriage spent; the widowhood of every government – signs for all to see.


Can’t run no more with that lawless crowd while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud. But they’ve summoned up a thundercloud.

They’re going to hear from me.


Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


You can add up the parts but you won’t have the sum You can strike up the march, there is no drum. Every heart to love will come but like a refugee.


Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Out of what immense goodbye

Joseph Stella      Another Dance of Spring

I love this poem by Li-Young Lee.  It's called "Nativity" but is about inner birth, which I associate with both Lent and Spring:



Li-Young Lee


In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?

just to hear his sister

promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,

just to hear his brother say, A house inside a house,

but most of all to hear his mother answer, One more song, then you go to sleep.


How could anyone in that bed guess the question finds its beginning in the answer long growing

inside the one who asked, that restless boy, the night's darling?


Later, a man lying awake, he might ask it again, just to hear the silence charge him, This night

arching over your sleepless wondering,


this night, the near ground

every reaching-out-to overreaches,


just to remind himself out of what little earth and duration,

out of what immense good-bye,


each must make a safe place of his heart, before so strange and wild a guest as God approaches.

Monday, March 11, 2019

I am drowning in a stormier sea

Here's a poem/prayer by Oscar Wilde:

E Tenebris[1]



                Come down, O Christ, and help me![2] reach thy hand,             

                            For I am drowning in a stormier sea  

                            Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:[3]

                The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,             

My heart is as some famine-murdered land,

            Whence all good things have perished utterly,                       And well I know my soul in Hell must lie   If I this night before God’s throne should stand.     

“He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,  

                            Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name

                            From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.”[4] 

Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night,  

            The feet of brass,[5] the robe more white than flame,[6]             The wounded hands, the weary human face.

Eleni Dadi     Christ Calming the Storm


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Here's a poem for the beginning of Lent, from Scott Cairns:

Crucifixion at Barton Street Mall      art by  James B. Janknegt

Late Results               by Scott Cairns

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers. —Milosz

And the few willing to listen demanded that we confess on television.
 So we kept our sins to ourselves, and they became less troubling.
The halt and the lame arranged to have their hips replaced.
 Lepers coated their sores with a neutral foundation, avoided strong light.
The hungry ate at grand buffets and grew huge, though they remained hungry.
 Prisoners became indistinguishable from the few who visited them.
Widows remarried and became strangers to their kin.
The orphans finally grew up and learned to fend for themselves.
Even the prophets suspected they were mad, and kept their mouths shut.
 Only the poor—who are with us always—only they continued in the hope.

Source: “Late Results” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems, by Scott Cairns. Lincoln, Nebraska: Zoo Press, 2002.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Sixties Changed Everything

Some character in the Peter Grainger books says this, and it is true. True in so many ways!

I have for quite a while both read and watched Inspector Morse, the brilliant and sad detective of Colin Dexter's creation.  Lately I have discovered how much I like the "prequel," not written by Dexter, but a BBC TV series about the young Morse, whose first name turns out to be Endeavour.

The two actors who play Morse in his 1960's days and in his 1980's or 90's days are excellent.

In my mind, I always put Morse back in the 30's or 40's , but the clothing in "Endeavour" reminds me,brings me up short in fact,  that it is set in Oxford in the 1960"s.
The same goes for Midsomer Murders.
  In many episodes,  the misdeeds of characters from their youth in the Sixties end up resulting in murders in the Nineties.
The Oblong Murders is one.
Death in the Slow Lane  is another
Dark Secrets is another
Right now, I am listening to the audiobooks of Peter Grainger's really wonderful Sgt. Smith police procedurals.  They are set in the Norfolk area of England, and are even better character studies than plot grabbers.  The dialogue is witty and understated.   But again, they are set in the present time but often harken back to bad behavior in the Sixties, Here are the eight books in the series:

These are so good!  If the library didn't have one, I bought it on Audible.
These are books I want to listen to more than once.
But that statement that the Sixties changed everything:  so much.  Often for the good, but also often for the bad.  So many repercussions none of us could have imagined.
This is long enough.  Maybe I'll return to that topic in another entry.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

At 140 rue du bac, Paris

This day in 2018 marked the beginning of the 8 day silent retreat that I made with 65 other Daughters of Charity at our Motherhouse in Paris.  Here are some photos of the Motherhouse:

After the French Revolution, the government transferred this complex, which had been the chateau of some aristocrat, to the Daughters of Charity.  We moved in in 1810. Lots of additions to the buildings over the years.

the alley leading from the street ( rue du bac) into the Motherhouse Chapel

the back courtyard
the central courtyard and staircase

a side courtyard leading to the central one

the conference room, where we had all our conferences in French, with headphones and translators

an interior staircase

another courtyard, probably where the horses and carriages were parked

an ancient elevator

another staircase, between the buildings

the Motherhouse Chapel

another interior staircase

Some of it might look luxurious, but the sisters who live here ( it's the retirement home and infirmary as well as the center of government and place for student sisters and sisters who work in the Shrine) live very simply.  No air-conditioning, etc.