Saturday, December 11, 2010

...the thing with feathers...

Celebrating my brother Joel's wedding today.
And wanting to share the poem Cary selected for the occasion.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune-- without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickinson

Monday, November 29, 2010

tell it slant

"Tell All the Truth but tell it slant"

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind--

- Emily Dickinson

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

12 years ago...

If I remember correctly, Brett was supposed to look pensive and I was supposed to be looking at him dotingly. We never pulled it off, but this has always been my favorite shot from the occasion.

Monday, August 23, 2010

for your reading pleasure

Reading with Olivia has been a lot of fun this summer. I could listen to her reading Hop On Pop all day long, her laughing after every reading of, "NO! PAT! NO! Don't sit on that!" And though she loves her new skill, she still prefers us on the couch reading to her. Much like a conversation between Olivia the pig and her mother, our version goes something like this:

"Only one book tonight, Olivia."






"Oh, alright, two."

Four favorites of late:
I shared our love for Underwood's Quiet Book a few months ago, and she's charmed us again with this one. Isabel the porcupine wants to get a balloon for class graduation, just like everyone else in her class, but because of the quills, she and her porcupine friend Walter have to settle for bookmarks. My absolute favorite passage:

Isabel gazed out the window. "Sally told me that when you first get it, a balloon can bounce
on the ceiling. If you pull the string and then let go, it makes a soft, thumpy sound," she said.

"I heard that after a few days, a balloon floats halfway between the ceiling and the floor," said
Walter. "It just hangs there like a ghost."

Isabel's determination to figure out a way to solve the problem is inspiring, and it very much reminds me of a couple of other strong-willed girls I know quite well.

Salma and Lily are best friends who do everything together, but they let their different tastes in sandwiches drive a wedge into their friendship. What started as confusion and hurt feelings turns into anger. This is a great book about celebrating our differences, and it took me back to a high school lunch period when hummus first entered my world through the coaxing of my friend Amy.

Olivia took to this one immediately. I think it spoke to her anxiety about the start of kindergarten (tomorrow!). Willow has a lot she wants to say, but she hasn't yet found her voice, and so she's often misunderstood. Who among us can't relate to that? She seems to gain the necessary strength from a tender moment with her father at bedtime:

But Dad was an expert at hearing Willow's whispers. He never said "What?" or "Pardon?" or
"Who?" He just wrapped Willow tight in a big bear hug and whispered right back...

This one came across our path this summer just as Olivia's own interest in drawing was taking off. Bridget is "drawn to drawing," but only if she's wearing her beret. When her beret gets lost, she experiences artist's block, but ultimately the artist within triumphs. I really liked Lichtenheld's short sidebar with suggestions to cure artist's block:

1. Make up a funny animal
2. Draw people with funny hair
3. Draw something REALLY BIG!
4. Make a scribble, then turn it into something.

These were all found at our local library. Perhaps they'd be at yours, too. If you've come across a favorite, please share.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

... but I digress

"Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine; -- they are the life, the soul of reading."
-Tristam Shandy

I've recently learned that the use of the timeline as we know it is just a little over 250 years old. Apparently, until the mid 18th century, chronologists (one whose name happened to be Joannes Temporarius!) had used tables, charts and matrices of varying forms to convey the passing of time with a visual image, but were admittedly stumped as to how to create a "common visual vocabulary for time maps."

And just as a fellow named Joseph Priestley and his chronologist buddies were playing around with the idea of the timeline, Laurence Sterne was publishing his satirical novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentlemen, in which Tristam, the main character digresses throughout his entire narration. In Sterne's novel, Tristam offers this wonderful diagram, similar to a timeline, to illustrate his pattern of digression.

My brother Joel, the best and most effective digressor I know, will arrive here tomorrow for a weekend visit. I've always held that my passing the World and U.S. History portion of the PRAXIS test had more to do with my regular exposure to his offshoots in conversation than any formal history instruction I ever received. The content of his digressions is always worth hearing, and I'm looking forward to a weekend filled with them. His late birthday present from me will be Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline, by Daniel Rosenburg and Anthony Grafton. In our family, we have the habit of enjoying the presents we choose before actually giving them to the recipient, and I've been enjoying this one immensely. Here are a few of my favorite images from the book:

Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg's Chronographie universelle. He referred to it as a "time machine." It actually folds up.

Emma Willard's Temple of Time.

The Long Now Foundation's comparative time scale of the concept of the long now.

In the "nowadays" it's become increasingly difficult to work out schedules and find time for trips to see loved ones, and living so far from those who know me best, I am very happy that my brother is coming to visit with us here, and "now."

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Evolution of the Signs of Friendship

In the beginning (early 80's) were friendship beads. The less sense they made, the better.

Then came the friendship bracelets. Actually, they came before the beads, but I didn't really know about them until my friends and I were old enough to master the art of making them. They were handmade and took a lot of time, the level of difficulty in the pattern conveying the depth of the friendship. To honor the hard work of it's maker, the recipient was expected to wear it until it fell off naturally, and even then, it was usually displayed on an overcrowded bulletin board in the recipient's bedroom.

And now we have the aptly named "silly bands." No labor required, except perhaps to untangle them. I'm not sure what this suggests about the quality of young friendships these days, but I think Lewis Hyde would have a thing or two to say on this subject.

Yesterday at the pool, Olivia gave away two and came back with three, one of which broke before the end of the day. And today I'm not sure that she'd be able to tell me the names of any of the children involved in the exchange. They're cute, but I think it's time to pull out the beads and the yarn.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. Berry

"There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say 'It is yet more difficult than you thought.' This is the muse of form.
It may be, then, that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings" (96, 97).

- Wendell Berry, "Poetry in Marriage," Standing By Words

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

... the worth of my words ...

I wondered what would be the worth of my words in the world
if i write them and then recite them are they worth being heard
just because i like them does that mean i should mic them
and see what might unfurl

i think of the significance of my opinions here
is it significant to be giving them does anybody care
just because i’m into this does that mean i should live like it
and really do i dare

art, art i want you
art you make it pretty hard not too
and my heart is trying hard here to follow you
but i can’t always tell if i ought to

so i pondered the point of my art in this life
if i make it will someone take it and think it’s genuine
will they be glad that i did ’cause they got something good out of it
will they leave me and be any more inspired

i question the outcome of the outpouring of myself
if i tell everyone my stories will this keep me healthy and well
will it give me purpose, to this world some sort of service
is it worth it, how can i tell

art, art…

– by Tanya Davis

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visions of Visions

It's hard to know what to do with the awe we feel toward our children--so much wonder to absorb. Then we want to share it with the world, but the "how" gets tricky. I love what this lady has come up with. Please Enjoy!
And go here for more.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Poetry 101: First, untie it.

While in Kentucky earlier this summer, Brett was able to attend a poetry reading by Billy Collins. Good man that he is, Brett brought back for me a signed copy of The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems which begins, "The birds are in their trees, the toast is in the toaster, and the poets are at their windows."

Now, as I prepare to share with my students (future teachers) how to teach poetry and incorporate it into their English/ Language Arts classroom, I return to Collins and the idea behind his Poetry 180 project which, simply put, exposes students to a poem a day for the entire school year. Here is the poem he starts with, one of his own:

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Friday, July 2, 2010


This time five years ago, we lived in Athens, GA. I was going through a Jolie Holland phase and was trying to read The Economist cover to cover every week. I craved corn dogs frequently and napped a lot. And on this particular day five years ago, one of those daytime naps was abruptly interrupted by a sign. It was the clearest message Olivia had sent to me up to that point. She was ready.

Now we live in Mount Vernon, Ohio. I still enjoy Jolie Holland, among others, but my own Little Bird with her pretty songs prefers Paul Simon. The Economist subscription expired long ago. I'll pick it up again one of these days, but for now it's all things E.B. White.

In my own reading time I often choose poetry. I'm finally starting to get it, and I credit her for that too. It's been in her message to me every day of her life. She is poetry in motion, and this weekend she turns five.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

...all the ingredients are here...

Over the years, my mother has acquired some wonderful books of poetry which are now strewn about her house-- on the coffee table, on the side table, on the desk-- easy access for someone like me trying to keep up with a roaming toddler. Certainly some of my richest moments during our recent visit to her house involved recognizing the poetry at play in the motions and conversations of our visit, an awareness which was heightened by a quick but lingering glance at words like these:

By Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

the imagination, which dwells apart...

"But is it not rather that art rescues nature from the weary and sated regards of our senses, and the degrading injustice of our anxious everyday life, and, appealing to the imagination, which dwells apart, reveals Nature in some degree as she really is, and as she represents herself to the eye of the child, whose every-day life, fearless and unambitious, meets the true import of the wonder-teeming world around him, and rejoices therein without questioning?"

- George MacDonald, Phantastes

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

"Listening is a leaning towards others, the opening of ourselves in a receptive attitude toward the reality around us; it is only the capacity to listen that prevents us from revolving around ourselves."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cracking the Code

The fact that any of us figure out how to read completely astounds me. Watching my 4-year-old master this skill makes her even more mysterious to me. And that her first book would be about a robot riding on an elephant, well that part makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

a better plan

cozy PJ’s? check!

girls asleep? check!

a warm bowl of my neighbor’s blackberry cobbler? check!

a tall glass of milk? check!

a new episode of Lost? check!

Ok, we’re in the past. In the WAY past. There’s Allison Janney. On Lost. Interesting! I bet she’s the original smoke monster....And this other girl. She’s pregnant. Perhaps with Jacob? Ok, J.J.Abrams, where are you going to take me this hour? I’m ready.

but wait...

rain? check.

lightning? check.

thunder? .......... check ... and...

“MOMMY!!” check.

Ok, change of plans. We’re in the present. The actual, real world present. Here’s Olivia. In my bed. With me. It’s just a stage. One day I’ll long for the days I could comfort her during a storm. Lucky for me she’s requested the glow of the computer screen.
No biggy. Tomorrow evening Brett and I will be able to watch Lost together in its entirety. And really the best thing about this evening is that tomorrow morning I’ll wake up to the wondrous, fill-me-up feeling of my 4-year-old daughter draped over my back. Or if she awakens first, I’ll slowly re-enter consciousness as a tiny hand gently tickles my neck.

Good night? check.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

... (silence) ...

These days are rather crazy. Lots of fast and loud to take in. Most of it's good but also exhausting. Laughter, song, and play with occasional meltdowns and time-outs. So the quiet becomes very important. A chance to reset, recharge, remember. And The Quiet Book (by Deborah Underwood), with it's simple statements and soft images, serves as an invitation to embrace the "many kinds of quiet" that so kindly sneak into our days.

Some of our favorites:
- don't scare the robin quiet
- coloring in the lines quiet
- swimming underwater quiet
- lollipop quiet
- sleeping sister quiet

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Story of Stuff

Happy Earth Day! Celebrate with me by watching Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff video that explores the life cycle of our material goods. I'm posting it to draw attention not so much to the corporate character, "those guys" illustrated as bloated men with dollar signs on their bellies, but rather to the consumer character, the "me," as shown above- also a bloated man carrying as many shopping bags as he can. "My" story begins somewhere around 40 seconds into minute 8. And the bit on "perceived obsolescence" convicts me. I can remove the golden arrow's perception filter in any number of ways. My niece Dorothy taught me one such way with her practice of walking down the toy isle pointing to things saying, "I don't need you, I don't need you, I don't need you." I suppose her mantra is a good place to start.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Twinkle, Twinkle...

" lights of evening, find a voice..."

The Rosette Nebula, a stellar nursery

(thanks to Elizabeth Streight for bringing this to my attention)

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poetry."
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The opposite of faith is not doubt...

"When I was a little kid, nine years old, I remember a rainy Sunday afternoon and you couldn't go out to play and you were stuck in the house. And my mom came out with a deck of cards and dealt them out and we played rummy together. Now, my mom can beat me in cards because I'm nine years old. That wasn't the point of the game. The point of the game was this was her way of telling me she loved me, in a way that she couldn't just say, you know, "Son, I love you," because I'm nine years old. I'm going to squirm and go, "Aw, Mom," and run away. In a way, being able to do science and come to an intimate knowledge of creation is God's way of playing with us. And it's that kind of play that is one way that God tells us how he loves us."

- Brother Guy Consolmagno, Jesuit astronomer in a great conversation with Krista Tippett and Father George Coyne (Asteroids, Stars, and the Love of God)
...perhaps my favorite Speaking of Faith show thus far...

The title of this post comes from Brother Consolmagno paraphrasing Anne Lamott, "The oppposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty."

And it all seems to go nicely with this photo from the Hubblesite....each speck is a different galaxy.

Friday, April 2, 2010


"With ominous frequency, I can't think of a right word. I know there is a word; I can visualize the exact shape it occupies in the jigsaw puzzle of the English language. But the word itself, with its precise edges and unique tint of meaning, hangs on the misty rim of consciousness. Eventually, with shamefaced recourse to my well-thumbed thesaurus or to a germane encyclopedia article, I may pin the word down, only to discover that it unfortunately rhymes with the adjoining word of the sentence. Meanwhile, I have lost the rhythm and syntax of the thought I was shaping up, and the paragraph has skidded off (like this one) in an unforseen direction."

-John Updike, The Writer in Winter, from AARP Magazine (that's right)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thanks again, John Updike.

This, posted last year, continues to be the most beneficial tool of meditation for me during this holy week. Perhaps, as you reflect on the resurrection, you also find yourself coming back to an inspired work. If so, please share.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

farewell, bommyknockers

To celebrate our first walk home from school this spring, Olivia wanted to find a memento from our 3- block journey to put on display in our house. She frequently celebrates the changes of the seasons by bringing the outside in. It's nice. Soon we'll harvest daffodils and lilac, come winter we'll have pine cones, but just now, as we wait for spring buds to bloom, our pickings are slim.

Her first choice this time was a bommyknocker, the spikey ball that falls from a sweet gum tree. They are also called gumballs or conkleberries, but bommyknockers are clearly the best choice of name, don't you think? She actually chose four of these-- one for each member of the family. I wasn't appropriately thrilled about decorating the house with spikey gumballs, but it turns out I didn't need to worry.

As we crossed a busy street, all four bommyknockers fell out of her hands. We watched from the safety of the sidewalk as they were conklecrushed by a U-haul truck. Judging by Olivia's reaction, you would have thought she'd just witnessed the death of a beloved pet. Her mourning period lasted the entire walk home until she discovered this fragil floral bundle of translucent petals skipping in the wind just as we turned into our alley. I don't even know what it's called (anyone?), but it was a godsend. Olivia set her mind that it was a bommyknocker all grown up. I suggested otherwise but didn't push it too much.

It looks completely dried to me, somehow perfectly preserved despite the elements, but Olivia wanted it to have water. She also wanted her pet caterpillar (thank you Mendy and the Franklin Conservatory) to be able to enjoy it before he/she disappeared into his/her chrysalis. The chrysalis is now hanging in a box. In a short time it will become a painted lady butterfly. And hopefully by then, there will be more colors, textures, and scents outside to select for home decor. In the meantime, I think this is quite lovely.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Christoph Niemann

While my husband is finishing up our taxes online, I'm passing the time exploring the art of Christoph Niemann. Clever fellow. I'm now a fan. Officially. I just took a few seconds to click a few buttons on Facebook to make it so. Here, you can enjoy one of my favorites thus far, his history with coffee. I can especially relate to his third and fourth napkins. And here is another one about why it can be so hard to get a good night's sleep.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"production polish"

Inspiration can be found in the most rotio of places. Maybe what I am about to share is an indication that my writer's block has hit a completely new level of lihintle, but over the past few months I've noticed lots of creative chuies coming at me from word verification requests. I click to post a comment on a friend's blog, or I am about to attach a link to my facebook profile when I'll be asked to type little jewels like "ambushed yesterdays" or "confusion walked." Boom. Unexpected poetry. Mine for the taking. Or I'll be asked to type singular non-words like "ducalker" or "unhug," so nicely constructed that I want to assign them a meaning just so I can pariad them.

After my encounter with "commander klondike" and "his peanut," I decided to start a list of these lovely phowns, determined that one day I'd steant them all together in some crazy narrative form, like a mad lib of sorts. My own version of a Jabberwocky, I suppose. Crybaby what? You'll notice some of these are easier to incorporate than others.

But who do I thank? Who do I cite as I use these? Some of them are just too cursh to be random words or word combinations generated by a computer. They can't be. It's just not poldstoc. Then I made a calsine discovery, a carpenter's tate if you will (thank you). These random words and word pairs have a name. They're called CAPTCHA's (Completely Automated Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart). And a number of them, particularly the word pairs, come from a service called reCaptcha, which uses their "anti-bot" system to digitize books. In the process of digitizing books, computers will come across illegible words or passages. reCaptcha takes one of these unknown words, pairs it with a word the computer can read, and then creates a CAPTCHA. When we, as pickies, type in these words, we're helping verify what the word is. If enough users recognize the word to be the same word, reCAPTCHA can then confirm the word, pholy it away, and folch on with book digitization. By typing these words when requested, we're not just preventing spam, we are actually participating in a giant community service project. So carry on with the word verifications, and give yourself a pat on the gorchap. You're helping with the preservation of the written word.

This still doesn't explain the brilliant word combinations. And I'm still not convinced that they're random. I want to hold on to the idea that there is an actual person, a bearded sortie, in a room somewhere, creating these rhomies for me. But if there is no area commoner, if my agenda ouster is simply a computer, so be it. I will extend my gratitude to artificial intelligence, but my fascination with the code that gives me "inhuman island" and "eject names" will continue. Thanks Hal, or do you prefer "mister minicams"? Much deref to you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All the World

To celebrate what some are calling World Read Aloud Day, I give you some favorite lines from All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon.

...Road, street, track, path
ship, boat, wooden raft
Nest, bird, feather, fly
All the world has got its sky...

...Spreading shadows, setting sun
crickets, curtains, day is done
A fire takes away the chill
All the world can hold quite still...

...Nanas, papas, cousins, kin,
Piano, harp, and violin
Babies passed from neck to knee
All the world is you and me...

And if you want some more, read aloud, here...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

To the motion be true

Today is sort of my birthday. As usual I've been treated with a care and appreciation that I can't begin to deserve, and the gifts, in all their varying forms, have been abundant and surprisingly perfect, despite my own belief that I'm pretty hard to shop for. I have amazing friends and family, I know that. This year, before the birthday celebrations began, even before Olivia, my 4-year-old, started her anxious attempts to keep the secrets yet give appropriate clues (these started weeks ago), my mind was already mulling over this practice of gift-giving.

A few posts ago, I tried my hand at public wishing for a second time. Hardly a week later my wish was granted. Many thanks to my personal genie, Jenn who arranged for The Trumpet Child Songbook to be waiting for me on my front porch one Saturday afternoon. I'd already spent the first part of this particular Saturday involved in a significant fender bender (no one injured), and I was resolved to embrace defeat for the rest of the day. Then I spotted Jenn's package. Hers was the gift I needed to shake me back into grateful humility. I love you, Jenn.

Another gift I've more recently received, one that seems to reinforce the significance of the gift from Jenn, came from my husband. It's a book, appropriately entitled The Gift, by Lewis Hyde. No doubt I will share a number of quotes from this work here in the near future.

I've only just started it, but Hyde's exploration into the tradition of gift giving and the cultural value of creativity has already enriched my own understanding and practice. And his study of gift economies, their potential to strengthen our connections with one another, is vision casting to say the least. According to Hyde, the gift (tangible or intangible), in order to remain a gift, must always be moving, It's essence must remain in circulation. The flow can't stop.

He writes in his introduction,
"...a work of art is a gift, not a commodity. Or, to state the modern case with more precision, works of art exist simultaneously in two 'economies,' a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art."

and then later,
"I have hoped to write an economy of the creative spirit: to speak of the inner gift that we accept as the object of our labor, and the outer gift that has become a vehicle of culture. I am not concerned with gifts given in spite or fear, nor those gifts we accept out of servility or obligation; my concern is the gift we long for, the gift that, when it comes, speaks commandingly to the soul and irresistibly moves us."

I find I've been on the receiving end of these types of gifts lately. And I want to continue to receive with faithfulness. So for now, and in the spirit of keeping these things flowing, I'll leave you with another gift: Bruce Cockburn's lyrics to his song entitled, that's right,
The Gift:

These shoes have walked some strange streets
Stranger still to come
Sometimes the prayers of strangers

Are all that keeps them from
Trying to stay static
Something even death can't do

Everything is motion

To the motion be true

In this cold commodity culture
Where you lay your money down

It's hard to even notice
That all this earth is hallowed ground
Harder still to feel it
Basic as a breath
Love is stronger than darkness

Love is stronger than death

The gift

Keeps moving

Never know

Where it's going to land

You must stand

Back and let it

Keep on changing hands

Hackles rise in anger

Heat waves rise in sex

The gift moves on regardless
Tying this world to the next

May you never tire of waiting

Never feel that life is cheap
May your life be filled with light

Except for when you're trying to sleep

The gift
Keeps moving

Never know

Where it's going to land
You must stand

Back and let it

Keep on changing hands

-Bruce Cockburn,
The Gift

Friday, February 26, 2010

Receive with me...

If only holiness were measured by the volume of our incessant chatter, we would be universally praised as the most holy nation on earth. But in our fretful, theatrical piety, we have come to mistake noisiness for holiness, and we have presumed to know, with a clarity and certitude that not even the angels dared claim, the divine will for the world. We have organized our needs with the confidence that God is on our side, now and always, whether we feed the poor or corral them into ghettos.

To a nation filled with intense religious fervor, the Hebrew prophet Amos said: You are not the holy people you imagine yourselves to be. Though the land is filled with festivals and assemblies, with songs and melodies, and with so much pious talk, these are not sounds and sights that are pleasing to the Lord. "Take away from me the noise of your congregations," Amos says, "you who have turned justice into poison."

-Charles Marsh

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paying Attention

I took Mae, my 16-month-old, for a morning walk in the snow earlier today.
She lets me know its time for a stroll by putting a mitten on her foot or carrying a boot as she follows me around the house,
locking her gaze on me until I get a clue.
This morning she enjoyed determining our route.
She was delighted by the occasional bird sighting and would try to mimic the song.
I secretly hoped that a later walker might take some joy in the trail of tiny footprints she was leaving behind.
At one point she stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and started "woof woof"ing at a quiet house.
Not five seconds later the house started "woof woof"ing back at her.
She doesn't know the name of the street or the income bracket indicated by the structure,
but she knows the house where the dog lives.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing is Collaborative

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing some research online and found a quote that rang true. A voice in my head said, "Take note! Take note!" And I did, for about 3 minutes. Then I went back to my initial search and research. Today I wanted it back, but I couldn't remember where I'd found it. I looked in all my usual spots, clicked on links, clicked on boxes, to no avail. The I remembered some key words, "collective being" and "Goethe." Here it is, so next time I'll know where to find it:

"What am I then...? Everything that I have seen, heard, and observed I have collected and exploited. My works have been nourished by countless different individuals, by innocent and wise ones, people of intelligence and dunces. Childhood, maturity, and old age all have brought me their thoughts,... their perspectives on life. I have often reaped what others have sowed. My work is the work of a collective being that bears the name of Goethe."


Monday, February 8, 2010

When kids make things less scary

Many thanks to Cary for sharing this, which she found at The Daily Dish. I love everything about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Love Songs

A few months back, I posted here about the one item on my own personal Christmas wish list; a copy of Webster's Pictorial Dictionary done by John Carrera at Quercus Press, going for somewhere around $4600 with finger tabs.

Today I'm happy to report that, thanks to brother Joel and sister-in-law-to-be, Cary, pictured here in all their adorable goodness, and thanks to Chronicle Books for putting out an affordable trade edition, my Christmas wish came true. Now, said dictionary resides on the coffee table in our front room, where I can pick it up whenever I please and receive immediate inspiration, or simply another way to visualize a common word or idea. Some favorites of late: dead bird, cusp, Leviathan, and the Four Nelsons.

Since that post worked so nicely in my favor, I thought I'd throw out another gift wish, conveniently appropriate for all the sentiments and feelings wrapped up in the tradition of our up and coming Valentine's Day. Here it is:

The Trumpet Child Deluxe Songbook from Over the Rhine.
In addition to the songs from their Trumpet Child album, this songbook includes photos from photographer Michael Wilson, and an essay or two written by Linford Detweiler.

I've wanted a collection of OTR's sheet music for years, and up to this point I've made do with what they've made available, which until now, consisted of sheet music for two songs they had up on their website once upon a time. My family has been very patient listening to me play Run Dark Olive and Little Genius over and over again for the past six years, and I'm sure Olivia knows Little Genuis to include my regular mistakes, as I need a hand span just maybe a fourth of an inch wider to really nail some of Linford's chords of choice. But it's time for more. A few Christmases ago, I attempted to pick out their version of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear by ear, and I got pretty far, but I didn't write any of it down. I'd forgotten most of it by the time the next Christmas rolled around. But now, if I get this book, I'll just need a few evenings with my piano and I'll be able to add new music like this to the sounds of our home.... Now, if I could just get Karen's voice for my birthday...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Want to Write Something So Simply

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think-
no, you will realize-
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.

-Mary Oliver, Evidence

(Can you tell I received some Mary Oliver books for Christmas?)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Divine Genuis

I'm always hesitant when a book becomes a bestseller, and I'll admit I have yet to read a line of anything written by Elizabeth Gilbert other than articles and interviews, but as her new book Committed is making its debut, this talk of hers from (which came out in February of last year) has come up in multiple conversations over the past few days. It has encouraged me enough to share. Hope you enjoy:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

An aid in understanding my little girls...

...and everyone else's for that matter:

"Signs are small measurable things, but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet, ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, vast as a sky, and coloured by a diffused thimbleful of matter in the shape of knowledge."

George Eliot, Middlemarch

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Today, some Mary Oliver

Mysteries, Yes
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
~ Mary Oliver ~