Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Richard Wilbur, My Poet Friend

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Richard Wilbur, my favorite living poet, is no longer on the planet with us. He died on Saturday at the fine age of 96, and I'm thankful he stayed with us so long, and gave us such beautiful word gifts. I wish I'd met him, but he is great, and I am small, and that meeting will have to wait for another time.

I pulled out my anthology of Wilbur's poetry, New and Collected Poems, 1988. 
Image result for wilbur new and collected poems
I've perused this book and used it in teaching and for my own enjoyment. But I feel now a desire to study Wilbur's work more thoroughly, so I plan to study a poem each day until I'm done. I turned to the last poem, "The Beautiful Changes," a lovely piece. Somehow, I wanted to drift through the book from front to back, but then I told myself that was silly, and turned to the table of contents to see if perhaps they were in chronological order from front to back. However -- they are not. They are in chronological order from back to front! So my desire to study "The Beautiful Changes" first, going back to his early work in 1947, was intuitively spot-on! I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow of my thinking on each poem, but occasionally I may plop a Wilbur poem here for our enlightenment. 

I love Wilbur's work because he is clean and rather clear-speaking, for a poet. He has a deep skill in rhyme. His poetic agility appears as effortless as Mary Lou Retton's routine on the balance beam: actually the result of years of grueling work, I'm sure. He eschews flounce and fluff and involved, dramatic expressions. If he can't say it with simple elegance, he won't say it. 

His dislike for useless metaphor is the topic of this poem, "Praise in Summer":

Obscurely yet most surely called to praise
As sometimes summer calls us all, I said
The hills are heavens full of branching ways
Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;
I said the trees are mines in air, I said
See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!
And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savor's in this wrenching things awry.
Does sense so stale that it must needs derange
The world to know it? To a praiseful eye
Should it not be enough of fresh and strange
That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay,
And sparrows sweep the ceiling of our day?

And while asking such good questions, and giving perfect examples of both arguments, he also writes a sonnet. (Sigh)

Even in his last three lines, designed to showcase a simple voice in poetry, he cannot escape alliteration and just a little bit of metaphor. Does the day have a ceiling?

Do you know Wilbur? Do you have a favorite poem of his?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


On facebook this week a new hashtag has sprung up: #metoo. Women post it who have experienced sexual abuse/assault or sexual harassment. Many friends, particularly younger ones, have shared that this offensive experience has been theirs.

I pondered. I've never been sexually abused. But have I ever been sexually harassed? At first, I thought, "No ... I don't think so." I reviewed my workplace experiences, and could not find an example. I've worked with and for some kind men who knew how to behave. And about 20 years ago, when sexual harassment became a more public issue for women, the workplace was the focus; women should be able to stand at the copy machine without their sexuality being brought up.

Then I remembered when I was 12. One Saturday I dressed in my favorite "cool" new outfit: cut-off blue jean shorts and a gray t-shirt that stated "West Virginia Is for Lovers." A strip mall across the street had a little store far in the back, in the dark inside of the mall, that sold something I was interested in -- I forget what. That mall was always empty. A guy was the sales clerk, and as I looked around the store at the wares, he began standing too close to me. Then he began brushing up against me, and it made me very uncomfortable. I wanted to think it was an accident, but when it happened a few times in five minutes, I knew it wasn't. I quickly left the store. I never went back.

He was a creeper, as we'd say now. I wasn't much damaged by the event except that I was scared. I was a child; he was an adult. We were in an isolated place. The physical contact was intentional and inappropriate.

For a funny story, about 15-20 years ago we were tubing down the French Broad River in Brevard, NC. It's the last time we went, because low water made for a tedious, painful ride. Failing to float over a rocky stretch, I picked up my inner tube and walked clumsily, bedraggled, plump in my ugly purple bathing suit, wrangling the tube, my wet hair plastered across my grumpy face. Suddenly I hear from the river bank a loud wolf whistle. For me! In such a state! I look over, and some very rotund geezer is standing there, grinning at me. I stood in mid river on the rocks, and I laughed. I laughed at him, and I made sure he could hear my assessment of his taste in feminine beauty. Because he was ridiculous (and blind) and I wanted him to know it.

When the #metoo thing came up on facebook, I asked Adam about these incidents, whether they qualify as harassment, and he said yes, they certainly do. He's a man, and he knows how men think. The whole idea that a man can look innocently upon the female form and, without a sexual thought, let out a big wolf whistle to let the woman know he's looking, is ludicrous. The man on the river bank was lewd, period. Adam said he probably was not primarily trying to communicate to me; he was probably doing it for the sake of his buddies in the truck.

I was about to post on facebook: #metoo, followed by a question mark. Because my very-mild experiences of harassment are almost an insult to the women who've experienced horrific abuse, assault, or harassment. I was about to post, I had my fingers on the keys to type ... and then I remembered.

I remembered the experience I should have thought of first, but I'd forgotten. It was the earliest, and certainly the most damaging, sexual harassment in my life of limited harassment. I was about 4 years old. It was spring, I think. We would move from West Virginia that summer. It was an ongoing experience over months. My four older brothers sometimes played football in the field next to our house with other neighborhood kids. A boy from down the street, probably 5 years old, would come find me and tell me to come into the big bushes with him. The bushes were tall and large enough that we could stand inside them like a little room. He would then take off his pants and urinate, and tell me to come watch. He also told me to urinate for him to watch, which I think I did once, but I didn't like that, so later I refused. I was scared and embarrassed, and he told me not to tell anyone. I was ashamed and guilty. This event happened various times - I don't know how many, or for how long. I was quite young. But when it became clear our family was moving away, he was upset, and he threatened to tell my grandparents (who lived in town) about what we'd been doing, if I moved away. His last name was Main; I don't remember his first name. I only give the name so that any childhood friends would not mistake some other family or boy for the offender.

He was five years old. Can a five year old commit sexual harassment? Was it sexual? He didn't learn such behavior on TV (back then), so where did he learn to threaten, to hide, to humiliate, to demand? What was happening in his home? 

I didn't tell anyone about this for many years. The shame of a 4 year old girl, scared in the bushes, lasted so long. I could have yelled for my brothers, who were only a stone's throw away, and they would've beaten him up. How did he know I wouldn't do that? How does a five year old boy balance thrill, risk, control, manipulation? What, in his character, was already so broken that he found this pleasurable in some way? I don't know.

So, yes. Me too. But women's experiences are so different, so unusual, so nuanced. My early experiences taught me to be distant with guys, intimidating, stand-offish. I became a young woman who, without an abuser in the family (thankfully!), was fairly safe as long as I did not allow guys close to me. I did not flirt (unless I knew the guy was safely off limits); I did not send out "bids" or invitations for romance. I would never be "caught in the bushes" again. That early harassment impacted my temperament, my relationships, and how people thought of me -- for decades.

I'm proud of those who are willing to say, "me too." We'd be wise, men and women alike, to think carefully about what constitutes harassment, about how we think about each other's sexuality, about how careful we are to treat everyone with dignity, privacy, and respect.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Blog Banners And Sad Poetry

Hi, friends. Since I have a "creative space" now, I've been painting and dabbling, and I painted three blog banners. The third one you see above with the leaves, pecans, acorns, and pumpkin. 

I also painted this one:
I never was satisfied with it, so I didn't take it over to Ribbet and apply text to it.

The first one I painted I really liked:
But with its roses, it seemed better suited for spring, so I'm saving it until later. I'm enjoying this banner-making, and it gives me an excuse to paint something specific. That's another reason I love the Autumn Journal -- I have somewhere to PUT my paint dabblings. Before, I would paint something, and lacking any purpose for it, or any place to display it, I ended up stacking various "paintings" (it's a stretch to call them that) in a drawer.
One more page of fallish dabbling:
That was pecan-practice for the banner.

Here's a little poetry from the Forest's Robe book I mentioned before. I'll only give you one stanza of "Desolate" by Gerald Massey because the rest of it is so depressing!

Wild winds of Autumn go wailing
Up the valley and over the hill,
Like yearning Ghosts round the world sailing,
In search of the old love still.

Isn't that lovely? The rest is about the sadness of loneliness -- too much!

I'll end with a poem by William Morris -- yes, the textile designer. He was a poet too.


O Love, turn from the unchanging sea, and gaze
Down these grey slopes upon the year grown old,
A-dying mid the autumn-scented haze,
That hangeth o'er the hollow in the wold,
Where the wind-bitten ancient elms enfold
Grey church, long barn, orchard, and red-roofed stead.
Wrought in dead days for men a long while dead.

Come down, O love; may not our hands still meet,
Since still we live today, forgetting June,
Forgetting May, deeming October sweet -
- O hearken, hearken! through the afternoon,
The grey tower sings a strange old tinkling tune!
Sweet, sweet, and sad, the toiling year's last breath,
Too satiate of life to strive with death.

And we too -- will it not be soft and kind,
That rest from life, from patience and from pain;
That rest from bliss we know not when we find;
That rest from Love which ne'er the end can gain? -
Hark, how the tune swells, that erewhile did wane!
Look up, love! - ah, cling close and never move!
How can I have enough of life and love?

I read this poem very slowly this afternoon, letting each phrase sink in and materialize into a picture in my mind. The poet sways back and forth in his emotional state -- things are over and nearly done; no, they're not! There is still time for love! Poor man. The final word for him is that he longs still for a little more of life, a few more moments of love.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Three Fun Reads, and Yummy Tea


I've finished the above two books. I enjoyed both although they're quite different. I'm wondering if Mr. Smith's books are all as delightful as his #1 Ladies Detective book. I love the narrative voice.
Elizabeth Goudge is in a league nearly by herself. I'd like to print a passage from late in The Scent of Water that will give you a feel of her smooth, comfortable, elegant style:
"She went to bed early and lit the oil stove she had purchased with the fist cold weather. She thought she would keep it alight in this her first snow, especially as Tiger had favored her with his company. When she was in bed with her lamp out, and the little cat asleep on her eiderdown, its glow gave her a cozy feeling of nursery comfort and warmth. The flame had a murmuring voice but no louder than the ticking of her watch, and neither voice could so much as finger the garment of the silence. She did not at once sleep deeply yet she was not aware of weariness. She dozed and woke again and saw the light shining on John's photo and on her six snowdrops in a vase beside it, and smiled and slept once more."
The book is full of delight, sorrow, growth, and love. It has a fascinating old house inherited by a woman trying to find her way in life. Don't you love that line above: "The flame had a murmuring voice but no louder than the ticking of her watch, and neither voice could so much as finger the garment of the silence." Who could imagine silence as a garment, and little sounds in a room as fingering the edges of that garment?
Now I'm beginning this fun book. Her first-person style is matter-of-fact, lively, direct, quick. It's a traveling book from the early 1920s.
 The opening flyleaf has a large map, so I can follow along as she drives her car around France, over 4000 miles.
 In the first few pages she describes attempting to legalize her car in France after its been shipped over. She asks the crane operator to pause so she can take a picture. He does ... and then we get to see the photo she took:
 The book is full of photographs. She traveled, a woman, with only a maid/companion. I think she'll be delightful as a tour guide through France when the roads were made of stone.

And now ... some very good news. I have a dear friend from years ago who, unhappy at my treatment at the hands of the TSA, sent me some of that delicious Teavana tea!!
 What a thoughtful thing to do! And she inquired about the specific type of tea, so she sent just the right thing.
 Many dear friends were alarmed at my (not atypical) experience, but it is a special person who then seeks to alleviate the awful effects of the fall in our world, and reverse the offense with joy.
Then! Another dear friend (who wanted to surprise me, but then gave it away), also sent me the tea too -- look at how gorgeous it is. You can see the cardamom pods:

 Adam and I would love to attempt to replicate this tea someday, from our tea-garden-to-be, if possible.

This friend also sent me a pretty tin to keep the tea in, and I've been enjoying it in my green cup and saucer. I found a cookie tin at the thrift store this week to keep my biscoff and windmill cookies in:
 (Windmill cookies always remind me of Jean Belz at Cono -- for all you old Cono/Iowa friends.)
And one last thing -- Granny Marigold and any other bloggers who want to be sure NOT to be a "no-reply" commenter, here is a link that may be helpful:
Carol sent me this link. I checked my own status, just to be sure. Gretchen has said before that it's not really hard to email a reply to a "no-reply" commenter ... but ONLY IF I already have her email address in my system. So for Gretchen, if I want to email a reply to her, I simply delete the "no-reply commenter" email address, and replace it with hers. But Granny M., I've never had an email address for you, so I can't do that either. Today, I noticed Melissa's email actually disappeared straight out of my inbox! It was there, and then when I clicked over to it, it was GONE. I could still see it on blogger, and publish it, but I don't know what's going on with Gmail. Grrr. Someday we will figure it all out!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

First, Some Business --

I've been meaning to talk with you gals about comments. Recently, many of your comments (which come to me via email) were dumped into my spam folder, and I failed to check. So I did not reply, and I'm sorry. Granny Marigold, yours went there, and then after I found them, I discovered you are a "no-reply commenter," and I can't reply to your comments! I do like to (try to) reply to most comments, if I can. I don't know how one changes the "no-reply" status. If anybody does know, leave a comment ... and we will hope I see it, haha!
And Una, dear English friend, I'm not getting your comments in any email spot at all :( For some of you, I just randomly discover you left a comment when I look back on a blog post! Why does blogger (or gmail?) do such a bad job with all this?
Another piece of blogging business: Picmonkey. For us who use that site to make our blog banners, we've discovered they now require a membership (or a 'free trial' that expires) to use their site. Quite sad. After looking around, I did find Ribbet, another free photo editing site. In addition to blog banners, I use these sites to make my soap packaging labels, so I need them for my business. I found Ribbet easy to use. If you're looking for a new site to replace Picmonkey, give it a try. Or if you've found one you like too, please leave a comment about it! Thanks -- we all need to help each other in this murky world of ye olde blogge.

On to fun things!
 Oriental had their 4th Annual "Ol' Front Porch Music Festival" on Saturday, and my friend Nadine and I shared a vendor booth to sell our wares.
 I sold my soaps, lotions/balms, and yarn goods.

 She sold her stoneware pottery she's been making for decads.
 The festival drew a large crowd this year - this is hours before the main event, which was a couple hours' music from Tony Award-winning band, "The Red Clay Ramblers." They were fabulous.
 Here's a little youtube video of that band, just to give you a sense of their style: 

Adam and Darryl (Nadine's husband) visited and laughed a good bit.
Last, but certainly not least, for those of you who haven't seen her on facebook, please meet our newest family member, Trixie:

 She's a Pom-Chi, a Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix. 
She's extremely bright and smart, quick to learn, happy and very confident. She'll be a good friend for Beau. We bought her on Craigslist (which can at times be a nervous thing), but this time, Craigslist certainly delivered! Adam is thrilled with his new pack member.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Brightness in October

I pressed these little weed flowers in a heavy book, and have started painting them. I finished a blog banner and have started on another one. (They will make an appearance after I'm tired of the flowers you see above.) I'm still journaling. It has been a little helpful. I have simply not been myself since coming home. Life feels very different since Lorien's death. I am in a slump of some kind and cannot seem to see everything as I used to. Life feels different, perhaps because one of us - a very dear one - is elsewhere, and this world is depleted, deflated. I find myself thinking of her and of our family out there, all day long. I pray a lot. I do not grieve hopelessly; I believe Lorien is with Jesus, in heaven, and we'll all be together again after this world is gone. And I'm not angry about it. It's a cloud of some sort -- I don't want to say gloom or sadness, but it has slowed me down, silenced me.
 I'm painting pumpkins and pecans. I ought to be writing and playing the piano, but they don't soothe me as painting does.
And I'm sipping tea.
 A lady came to the farmer's market and liked my wreath weaving (remember it?) -

 - but she didn't have room for the whole wreath. So I'm weaving her something similar, but on a grapevine twig. I found the right twig:
 Now I just need to get on with the weaving! 
Happily, I am reading this lovely book by Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water. So many of you dear ladies have recommended it, and I'm loving every single word.
I was using that silly cocktail napkin as a bookmark. The dog reminds me of Beau. But I just painted up a better bookmark with a book and pages and letters falling from it.

The copy of the book I bought used online. It's old, and the pages are frail and crumble on their edges. Isn't it nearly miraculous that such a humble object can contain an entire world from one human's mind, and transfer it to all of us? That people's lives and mistakes and secrets and homes are all held within such a flimsy binding? Is it any wonder books are so wonderful to us, so mysterious?

On Saturday I'll be a craft vendor at Oriental's Ol' Front Porch Music Festival, a town event that has exploded in size and popularity in the past three years. I've been making scarves, lotions and salves, and wrapping lots of soap this week. Hopefully lots of people will come ready to buy! I want them to think: "Oh, what perfect Christmas presents!" and pat themselves on their backs for buying early :)

Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by. I am trying to find a brightness in October that has dimmed for me. Its beauty is all there, out my window. It's my eyes that are dim.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Painting and Poetry

For the Autumn Journal ~

I may use this as the background photo for my next blog banner:

A new poem for today, as a feel of autumn is finally in the air.
I painted it first, and then traced it lightly with pencil,
but it's still difficult to read.
(So I've typed it underneath.)

So here it is, typed out for you to read more easily:

The Golden Cry

Without the sun and shadow both,
The dappled light would not delight.
I watch it flicker on the wall
As afternoon fades into night.

The midday of my life it here
And dusk is clipping on its heels.
This Autumn is my favorite time
Of shadows stretched on yellow fields.

O, lengthen all the Autumn days!
Expand the years of quiet peace -
Now hold me, Love! I hear above,
The insistent calling of the geese.