Monday, December 31, 2012

unless the wind

Can You Imagine?
by Mary Oliver

For example, what the trees do
not only in lightning storms
or the watery dark of a summer night
or under the white nets of winter
but now, and now, and now—whenever
we're not looking. Surely you can't imagine
they just stand there looking the way they look
when we're looking; surely you can't imagine
they don't dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade—surely you can't imagine they just
stand there loving every
minute of it, the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings
of the years slowly and without a sound
thickening, and nothing different unless the wind,
and then only in its own mood, comes
to visit, surely you can't imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

a miracle

Miracle Fair
by Wisława Szymborska

The commonplace miracle:
that so many common miracles take place.

The usual miracle:
invisible dogs barking 
in the dead of night.

One of many miracles:
a small and airy cloud
is able to upstage the massive moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder is reflected in the water
and is reversed from left to right
and grows from crown to root
and never hits bottom
though the water isn't deep.

A run-of-the-mill miracle:
winds mild to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

A miracle in the first place:
cows will be cows.

Next but not least:
just this cherry orchard
from just this cherry pit.

A miracle minus top hat and tails:
fluttering white doves.

A miracle (what else can you call it):
the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
and will set tonight at one past eight.

A miracle that's lost on us:
the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
but still it's got more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the inescapable earth.

An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
the unthinkable
can be thought.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

the soul's beauty

"As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or Who dwells within them, or how precious they are -- those are things which we seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul's beauty. All our interest is centred in the rough setting of the diamond, and in the outer wall of the castle — that is to say, in these bodies of ours."

— Teresa of Avila,  Interior Castle 

Friday, December 28, 2012

always a reason

"Beauty is always a reason for attending to the thing that possesses it."

— Roger Scruton, Beauty

Thursday, December 27, 2012

the dance of life

"The art of living is based on rhythm — on give and take, ebb and flow, light and dark, life and death. By acceptance of all aspects of life, good and bad, right and wrong, yours and mine, the static, defensive life, which is what most people are cursed with, is converted into a dance, ‘the dance of life,’ metamorphosis. One can dance to sorrow or to joy; one can even dance abstractly. … But the point is that, by the mere act of dancing, the elements which compose it are transformed; the dance is an end in itself, just like life. The acceptance of the situation, any situation, brings about a flow, a rhythmic impulse towards self-expression. To relax is, of course, the first thing a dancer has to learn. It is also the first thing a patient has to learn when he confronts the analyst. It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live. It is extremely difficult, because it means surrender, full surrender."

— Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Make much of something small

by Robyn Sarah

Make much of something small.
The pouring out of tea,
a drying flower's shadow on the wall
from last week's sad bouquet.
A fact: it isn't summer any more.

Say that December sun 
is pitiless, but crystalline
and strikes like a bell.
Say it plays colours like a glockenspiel.
It shows the dust as well,

the elemental sediment
your broom has missed,
and lights each grain of sugar spilled
upon the tabletop, beside
pistachio shells, peels of clementine.

Slippers and morning papers on the floor,
and wafts of iron heat from rumbling radiators,
can this be all? No, look — here comes the cat
with one ear inside out.
Make much of something small.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It came without ribbons

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

 ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2012


"I want
To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees."

— Pablo Neruda, from Love Poem XIV
read the whole poem here

Saturday, December 22, 2012

stand at the window

“O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.”

— W.H. Auden, from "As I Walked Out one Evening"
listen to the whole wonderful
if sad poem read here

Friday, December 21, 2012

invincible summer

"In the depth of winter,
I finally learned that within me 
there lay an invincible summer."

— Albert Camus

Thursday, December 20, 2012

out of the lace

The Only Portrait of Emily Dickinson 
by Irene McKinney

The straight neck held up out of the lace
is bound with a black velvet band.
She holds her mouth the way she chooses,
The full underlip constrained by a small muscle.

She doesn't blink or look aside,
although her left eye is considering
a slant. She would smile
if she had time, but right now

there is composure to be invented.
She stares at the photographer.
The black crepe settles. Emerging
from the sleeve, a shapely hand

holds out a white, translucent blossom.
"They always say things which embarrass
my dog," she tells the photographer.
She is amused, but not as much as he'd like.

photo: grape-leaf anemone

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

to love life

The Thing Is 
by Ellen Bass 

to love life, to love it even 
when you have no stomach for it 
and everything you've held dear 
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands, 
your throat filled with the silt of it. 
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat 
thickening the air, heavy as water 
more fit for gills than lungs; 
when grief weights you like your own flesh 
only more of it, an obesity of grief, 
you think, How can a body withstand this? 
Then you hold life like a face 
between your palms, a plain face, 
no charming smile, no violet eyes, 
and you say, yes, I will take you 
I will love you, again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the colors of kale in December

"I think it pisses God off if you walk past
the color purple in a field somewhere
and don't notice it."

— Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Monday, December 17, 2012

confusion and conflict

"People aren't either wicked or noble.
They're like chef's salads,
with good things and bad things
chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette
of confusion and conflict."

— Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto

Sunday, December 16, 2012

peas in a pod

"Lives are snowflakes — unique
in detail, forming patterns we have seen before,
but as like one another as peas in a pod
(and have you ever looked at peas in a pod?
I mean, really looked at them?
There's not a chance you would mistake one
for another, after a minute's close inspection."

— Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We hold you, little ones

We are all connected.

Friday, December 14, 2012

turning in the wind

. . . The colors of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind. . . ."

— Wallace Stevens
from the poem "Domination of Black"
Read the whole poem here

Thursday, December 13, 2012

ruin me

"'ll fall in love with me all over again."

"Hell," I said, "I love you enough now.
What do you want to do? Ruin me?"

"Yes. I want to ruin you."

"Good," I said, "That's what I want, too."

— Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12.12.12 !

"Count your age by friends, not years.
Count your life by smiles, not tears."

— John Lennon

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

tea leaves

"I don't feel very much like Pooh today," said Pooh.

"There, there," said Piglet. "I'll bring you
tea and honey until you do."

— A.A. Milne, Winne-the-Pooh

Monday, December 10, 2012

to be happy

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin;
what else does a man need to be happy?"

— Albert Einstein

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I move gently

" . . . The wind changes round, and I stir
Within another's life. Whose life?
Who is dead? Whose presence is living?
When may I fall strangely to earth,

Who am nailed to this branch by a spirit?
Can two bodies make up a third?
To sing, must I feel the world's light?
My green, graceful bones fill the air
With sleeping birds. Alone, alone
And with them I move gently.
I move at the heart of the world.

— James L. Dickey, read the whole poem
"In the Tree House at Night" here

Saturday, December 8, 2012

foreground and background

"My foregrounds are imaginary,
my backgrounds are real."

— Gustave Flaubert

Friday, December 7, 2012

return to a meadow

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under the Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game
a ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sometimes, When the Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles,
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

Lisel Mueller

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

not alone

"It's often just enough to be with someone.
I don't need to touch them. Not even talk.
A feeling passes between you both. You're not alone."

— Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"small" Rilke, in "Night"

Today is Rainer Maria Rilke's birthday
b. 1875, d. Dec. 29, 1926


Night. You with your depth-dissolving face
pressed against my face.
You, counterbalance
to my awestruck gaze.

Night, shuddering in my regard,
but in yourself so steady;
inexhaustible creation, enduring beyond
the fate of earth;

brimming with new stars, who fling
fire from their birth
into the soundless adventure
of galactic spaces;

your sheer existence,
you transcender of all things, makes me so small.
Yet, one with the darkening earth,
I dare to be in you.

— Rainer Maria Rilke,
Uncollected Poems,
translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

sketch by me

Monday, December 3, 2012

love is always new

Sunday, December 2, 2012


There may be chaos still around the world,
This little world that in my thinking lies;
For mine own bosom is the paradise
Where all my life's fair visions are unfurled.
Within my nature's shell I slumber curled,
Unmindful of the changing outer skies,
Where now, perchance, some new-born Eros flies,
Or some old Cronos from his throne is hurled.
I heed them not, or if the subtle night
Haunt me with deities I never saw,
I soon my eyelid's drowsy curtain draw
To hide their myriad faces from my sight.
They threat in vain; the whirlwind cannot awe
A happy snow-flake dancing in the flaw.

— George Santayana

Saturday, December 1, 2012

secret of life

"I think I've discovered the secret of life — 
you just hang around until you get used to it."

~ Charles M. Schulz