Thursday, December 2, 2010

This tree is naked now

but less than a month ago, it was shimmering.

More on my reading life

I ask my first year students to write about their reading life in one of their first journal entries.
Their responses tell me about the lovers of reading, and those who hate to read - and who, consequently, are in for a hard time in college.

Of my own reading life... I have always loved to read. Right from the beginning. I wrote a poem about those first words in first grade:

Pick it up and read,

sang the child's voice beyond the wall.
The first word was SAID.
Three children -
a boy and two girls,
played with a dog and a cat.
White children with brown hair
whose plain names excited me
to hear in the air from my own mouth.

I had trouble telling
through from thought,
though from thorough.

My father picked me up at school.
We walked by the statue of Saint Agnes,
through the cement arch
from schoolyard to street.
I thought about knowing how to read SAID
though, by itself, it was lying alone in a corner,
but put it behind someone,
and it opens its mouth to a thorough coverage
of the news of the day.

I remember my delight at learning to read. I've been reading rather indiscriminately ever since.

When I got to college, I was sorry I had had such minimal guidance in choice of books, and consequently, such a dearth of classics under my belt. I have made up for lost time since then,in my years teaching literature.

In the past two years, I have discovered and come to love the book blogs and podcasts I can get on my iPod. One of my favorites is Books on the Nightstand.

My Reading Life

A number of my Facebook friends have been posting this list. I decided to examine my own reading life to see how many I have read.

The question:

"Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here (Does anyone REALLY believe this statement??). Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety. Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt. "

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible ( over the years, in small pieces)

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
( maybe not all the histories)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mom died

the night of October 6. She was 95, and was very debilitated, but she still knew me. I was glad that I was able to drive down to Baltimore and be with her. I had never been with anyone at their moment of death, and it was both intimate and mysterious.

She and I certainly had our ups and downs over the years, especially when I was in my teens and twenties, but in these last fifteen years, all of that was put away.

There was so much about her as a person that I never knew. She was orphaned in childhood, and would never talk about her first twenty years. Only when I was in my twenties did I learn that her father was raised Amish... and only in the last four years did I learn ( from my cousins)

that I have a small army of Amish second cousins. So many questions I wished I had asked her

when she still had her memory.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Warm and humid here in the country... Hurricane Earl is passing us by.

School is in full swing. This semester I am teaching 3: Freshman Seminar, Intro to Short Fiction,
and Christian Spirituality. I've taught them all before, but seem to need a good bit of time to improve them this time around. I am enjoying all three classes.

Am tearing myself away from reading/listening to a Maisie Dobbs mystery: Pardonable Lies.

Here are some photos of my garden in this late summertime.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My new book arrived on Wednesday!

I've been sending this manuscript around for about nine years, and it finally found a home with Wipf and Stock. The poems are more religious than the ones in the other books; that's probably why the manuscript kept getting rejected. Over the years I've kept revising it, and last Spring I changed the format , adding prayer reflection questions after each of my poems.

I love the cover! The publisher designed it, and nothing I would have come up with could equal it.

Here are some more details about it:


Designed for daily use as well as for retreats, DIGGING FOR GOD is an invitation to linger in the gardens of the Bible and the gardens of the heart. Using the passages concerning five biblical gardens, and then her own experiences distilled into poetry, Anne Higgins provides meditative ideas and questions as springboards to prayer. These poems will nudge memories. For all who are, as May Sarton said, "hopeful gardeners of the spirit," this volume offers fertile ground for prayer and reflection.


My book is available for order as of August 18, 2010at


It will be available on Amazon in 6-8 weeks.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photos from California

From June 22-July 6, I enjoyed the wonderful, cool, dry weather of Northern California, living at our Provincial House in Los Altos Hills. These Photos come from there.

More Summer photos

The final segment of Summer

Today I went to the first faculty meeting of the new semester. This time next week, the first year students will be on campus.

It's been a lovely summer - some good trips and then some slow-moving and peaceful weeks.

I confess I've done more murder-mystery reading than anthing else. I'm feeling guilty about not producing any poems. Just couldn't break out of my inertia.

I do have a new book coming out, though. Perhaps when I get home today, it will have arrived in the mail.

Again, I'm going to try to post some photos from the summer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Flowers before the drought and heat

These photos were taken in mid-June. After that, I was away for two weeks in California,
and during that time the East Coast suffered with record heat and no rain. So my garden doesn't look this good at present. Though we have had rain, the heat and humidity keep me indoors.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June garden photos and a poem or two

The narcissist in the garden

Every tulip an accolade
Every weed a reproach
Every rabbit a personal greeting
Every groundhog flinging brick bits and powder a deliberate attack
I dreamed the Hollyhocks
grew tall as trees,
proliferating on an inner wall of my house.

Bishops weed I was betrayed into planting
which now aggressively threatens
The pink feathers of the astilbe, mine – all mine!

Summer already

Sorry for the long delay between postings. Grading papers and other semester ending details kept me away. Also, I finished another round of "30/30" - a poem a day for 30 days - with some of my friends at Inside the Writer's Studio, and that kept me busy.

Now I have been out of school for almost a month, and have trouble accounting for the days. I've spent many of them gardening, writing, catching up on myriad doctors' appointments, sorting out my messy room, etc. Recently I spent five days in West Chester PA, attending the West Chester University Poetry Conference... my seventh time attending this much loved gathering.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

here's my favorite Easter poem - by ee cummings:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Peepers

This photo from Google images...

In the last two weeks, the Spring Peepers have begun their chorus - deafening love songs from what must be millions of tiny bodies. I drive by Tom's Creek , along South Seton Avenue at dusk, and their voices envelop me.

Spring Peepers

In spring the frog sounds like a bird
who with his cousins curves the night
around the pond with hot blue songs
that bend the mud and send the slight
sounds shivering into the dark,
across wet pasture, black with sleep

Across the field the undulating
chorus bites through rock and mud
to say the winter yields its howling
to the tough truth’s greening blood
The eyes of songbirds cut the clouds,
their silent flight to north and nest.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Visiting Cape May

I was checking the Cape May Bird Sightings site and found this guy... a Harbor Seal photographed by Mihcael O'Brien near Convention Hall in Cape May. I didn't know seals came to Cape May!

No warbler sightings yet. I'm rushing the season.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Break

As I've said before, I don't have a digital camera anymore since mine died.
So this photo is taken from on Google images. But it looks like my garden today. So happy to see the spring flowers emerging, and the snow receding.

Towards March

Trees shake their shoulders restlessly.
What to do with those wandering
songs we used to sing?
Singing about Autumn in a Summer Song...
What is the season for leaving
when is there no more leaving?

Wines age gracefully, though
some sour
when opened.
You should drink some of them
six hours after they are bottled.

Old love
hear at the creek ,
wild phlox blooming still.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Gift

I found this photo on Google Images, but it shows the first time visitor to the birdseed bell on my windowsill: a Northern Flicker. Actually, there were two.
All the usual food sources are buried in snow.

February 10 blizzard photos

Sr.Francine Brown took these Tuesday night and Thursday morning. We've had about 50 inches between the two back-to-back storms.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Here is a poem I wrote back in 1979, in Emmitsburg, the last time we had a snow event this size:


The deaf snow speaks in sign like a prophet.
His fingers remark the landscape swiftly, stolidly.
They say
This time I am serious.
He cups his thick hand on the birdsnest,
levels the driveways,
leans on the trees,
pulls the sky down to the earth -
nebulae swirl by the second story windows.
This time I am serious.
This time you will hear me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Snow Predictions

Dire predictions for blizzard conditions-
twelve to twenty inches possible
between tomorrow and Saturday.

I found this photo on - caption says it's from a friend of a friend in Missoula... The cat looks like Jerry, one of ours.

enthralled students

I've taken this photo from Roger Bourland's blog, but it reminds me of the atmosphere in my MOD CIV class... I'm the professor, mind you!
The class meets from 12:30-1:45 on Tuesdays-Thursdays, a sleepy time of the day anyway. But my PowerPoint lectures are clearly soporific. I've had a number of the students in other classes, and I know they can be lively and talkative. My challenge is to help them get that way in this class. I'm working on it...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poem in The Coe Review

My poem "Sonnet on a Line from Elizabeth Bishop" is on p. 43 of the Fall 09 print edition of The Coe Review. I can't find it online, so here it is:

If you taste tears too often, inquisitive tongue,
you'll crave more salt on everything you eat,
taste blandness even in the rarest meat.
Tears tear, obscure the vision of the young.
too many elders leave their loss unsung,
often deny the pain they daily meet.
Inquisitive neighbors murmur and entreat;
tongue locks the secret grief away among
long stored up packets far back in the deep freeze.
Avoid the frequent tongue touch to your grief;
instead, taste food whose sweetness pain will ease
if you would seek a gossamer relief.
The tongue will savor sweetness more than salt;
with icing more than cheese your pain will halt.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Hymn to Longwood Gardens

I grew up visiting Longwood Gardens, which was a ten minute drive from my home.

Here is a poem I wrote last year about the place:

Hymn to Longwood Gardens

How is it that I was born five miles from you,
born to walk your three hundred acres for twelve years?

Now, thirty years later,
in the satiny iced lawns of February,
I dream of your sumptuous beds
of lavender
glowing numinous in summer twilight,
your solitary fountain
stumbled upon in deep shade,
of thrush revealing her speckled breast in the mulch
behind the Italian water gardens.

I dream of my first love
plucking my hand into his,
a young, thin, fine, freckled hand,
the first holding of hands
as we entered the garden
for a fountain display
on a starlit July evening.

In those days, you were free.
Now, you have flourished,
and your entrance fee is costly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thinking of West Chester PA

I was going to drive to my hometown, West Chester PA, today, but changed my mind.
It snowed again last night, and show showers and bitter cold winds dominate the day.
I'll go tomorrow. But travelling to West Chester always makes me think of my parents,in the summer days when we went to Longwood Gardens, and the winter nights
in the kitchen at supper. I wrote a poem about that a number of years ago:

Four Thousand Suppers

At the kitchen table
at six o'clock.
Dark winter evenings
with my father in his winter underwear,
quilted like an astronaut.
Blue summer evenings
after my mother called my name
on the lilting breeze
which reached me
at far corners of the neighborhood,
her voice known
among all the others.

We ate four thousand suppers
in that small room together.
What did we discuss?
Linoleum and carpet, casement windows,
the wild McElroys,
the loud Mrs. Supportas,
scenes from the fifth grade,
my problems with bushels and pecks.

Four thousand suppers -
oceans of tea.
The man and woman at the table
grow grey.
I grow up -
feet finally
reach the floor.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Book Thief

Over our semester break, I read this novel and loved it. I read it with a mind to assigning books for the MOD CIV class I'm teaching this semester, but this book will stay with me long after that course concludes.

The writing is loaded with figures of speech and images. I think the writing is superb. The narrator is Death - though not in any mordant or obnoxious way:
" I would introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away. At that moment, you will be lying there ( I rarely find people standing up) You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps. The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying?" (4)

Death tells the story of a young German girl in a small German town during WWII.
It's the most gripping story I've read in recent memory.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blustery January Saturday

This photo came from Google images, from a blog called "Spike's Backyard" - but it looks like the scene at my window these days. A Carolina Wren comes regularly, along with a host of Chickdees, Nuthatches, Downies, Finches, etc.

On another subject... I'm writing again; first poems since the summer. Here is a draft of one I worked on yesterday. The end of the year, end of the decade has preoccupied me this past week. Re-reading my journals, I realize what a rough and momenous decade it has been in my life. This is very self-focused; I realize that the tragedies and losses this country has experienced, and the world! are so much larger. But anyway:

Spending down the Decade

Say the years like rosary beads:

Year of cobweb cancer cut from my nose,
Frankenstein scar from repairing graft,
Year of Alzheimer’s Father,
AWOL from the old folk’s home
In his soon to be confiscated car,
Driving hours in the snow
To the home town,
Chatty with the state police,
Surprised to see me there
To retrieve him.

Glory be

Year of Planes flying into tall buildings,
Melting the steel beams like licorice sticks,
Flames and people jumping,
Straight down collapse

Glory be

Year of spending down my parents’ money
To qualify for Medicaid.
None left for me.
Year to shun the fantasies
Of wealth and escape.
Year of Susan’s death,
Breast cancer chewing her liver.

Glory be

Year of the hole in retina,
curtain of detachment
but still, the central vision gone.

Glory be

Year of Paris, Lourdes,
green Mediterranean heaving
On the rocks below Quercinella

Glory be

Year of the wide paintbrush of burning
Inside forearms and palms,
Heart Attack,
Recalling me to life,
Numb, relieved to
Flee from bombastic boss.

Glory be

Year of the Amish –
My newfound family tree,
Familiar faces in the farmformal dress,
Of the Nickel Mines massacre,
My cousin’s shattered mouth
Repaired, speaking to me.

Glory be

Year of my Father’s drowning
departure during his afternoon nap,
The sudden absence,
The rabbit’s comforting kiss.
Year of Scattered Showers

Glory be

Year of collapsing convent,
crumbling stock rock, shrinking savings,
lost fortunes.
Year of Pick it up and Read

Glory be

Year of Cervical Cancer,
terrible mating with radium,
flushed colon,
blurred vision,
months marooned,
recalled to life.
Year when lilacs were never so dear
Year of Bob’s Brain Cancer,
death by brain fever.
Year of How the Hand Behaves

Glory be