Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Knee-deep in Green

Photo courtesy Bill Davenport

Introduction by Ted Kooser: The Impressionists, on both sides of the Atlantic, gave us a number of handsome paintings of  rural scenes, and here’s a poem by the distinguished American poet, Catharine Savage Brosman, that offers us just such a picture, not in pigments but in words.

Cattle Fording Tarryall Creek

With measured pace, they move in single file,
dark hides, white faces, plodding through low grass,
then walk into the water, cattle-style,
indifferent to the matter where they pass.

The stream is high, the current swift—good rain,
late snow-melt, cold. Immerging to the flank,
the beasts proceed, a queue, a bovine chain,
impassive, stepping to the farther bank—

continuing their march, as if by word,
down valley to fresh pasture. The elect,
and stragglers, join, and recompose the herd,
both multiple and single, to perfect

impressions of an animated scene,
the creek’s meanders, milling cows, and sun.
Well cooled, the cattle graze knee-deep in green.
We leave them to their feed, this painting done.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of  Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by Catharine Savage Brosman, whose most recent book of poems is On the North Slope, Mercer University Press, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Catharine Savage Brosman. Introduction copyright 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Rerun--Attention: Your Peppers Are Shriveled

Note: I'm taking a more relaxed approach to blogging this summer, so occasionally I'm going to rerun a previous post. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2010. 

This is what happens when 95 degrees meets inattentive gardener:


Here’s the same plant after a drink of water and a good night’s rest:


This little ornamental pepper is amazingly resilient—I’m sorry to say this is not the first time she’s wilted in the heat. Still, she survives, even after freezing temperatures in the winter and practically dying of thirst in the summer.

If you look closely, you’ll see a few peppers still a bit wizened from their lack of water. Just like the peppers, we often wear the battle scars of what we’ve been through—in our faces, in our eyes, in our hearts. Yet still we come back for more, still we reach upwards toward the light—even though sometimes that light scorches us. For us, a drink of water and a good night’s sleep may be only the beginning of what we need to recover. We may need a box of assorted chocolates, an hour of solitude, a friend’s ear, or even professional help.

If you’re struggling right now, wilting in the sun, reflect on what you really need to get through today, and the day after, and the day after that. Be an attentive gardener—don’t wait until your leaves are drooping and your peppers are shriveled before you give yourself that cool drink of water that makes all the difference. I promise you’ll feel better in the morning.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

More Like the Movies?

Photo courtesy mconnors

“They say the movies should be more like life—I think life should be more like the movies.”
—Myrna Loy


Which movie(s) would you like your life to be more like? 

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Afternoon Nap

When I was a child visiting my grandparents for the summer, my grandmother often insisted that I take an afternoon nap. I detested this practice because I didn’t need a nap: I was far too busy running through the cow pasture or swimming in the irrigation ditch or lying under a tree reading to take a nap. Plus I was far to old to be taking naps! What was wrong with her?! (I realize now she likely needed a break from me and the nap was her tactful way of corralling me for at least an hour. And yes, much to my chagrin, I often fell asleep while lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling.)

Naps are wasted on the young. I don’t know about you, but there are many days I’d love to have the simple pleasure of an afternoon nap! Occasionally, I do take one, but I live with pets who have no compunction about sleeping whenever and wherever they want to. Need proof?




Perhaps we should follow their example and indulge ourselves in an afternoon nap now and then this summer!


How do you feel about naps?



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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writing Our Names

Photo courtesy Ryan McGuire

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I’m especially fond of sparklers because they were among the very few fireworks we could obtain in Iowa when I was a boy. And also because in 2004 we set off the fire alarm system at the Willard Hotel in Washington by lighting a few to celebrate my inauguration as poet laureate. Here’s Barbara Crooker, of Pennsylvania, also looking back.

Sparklers

We’re writing our names with sizzles of light
to celebrate the fourth. I use the loops of cursive,
make a big B like the sloping hills on the west side
of the lake. The rest, little a, r, one small b,
spit and fizz as they scratch the night. On the side
of the shack where we bought them, a handmade sign:
Trailer Full of Sparkles Ahead, and I imagine crazy
chrysanthemums, wheels of fire, glitter bouncing
off metal walls. Here, we keep tracing in tiny
pyrotechnics the letters we were given at birth,
branding them on the air. And though my mother’s
name has been erased now, I write it, too:
a big swooping I, a hissing s, an a that sighs
like her last breath, and then I ring
belle, belle, belle in the sulphuric smoky dark.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation  (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Barbara Crooker from her most recent book of poems, Gold, Cascade Books, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Barbara Crooker and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

This Week's Words to Live By

Do you ever have words or phrases pop into your head, seemingly from nowhere? I do—I had it happen to me this weekend, in fact. I’ve been working really hard the past couple of weeks, on both writing projects and around the house, and even though I was happy with what I’d accomplished, I was feeling a bit tired out. My mother-in-law was coming to spend the night with us, and I was looking forward to a three-day weekend. But sometimes it’s hard to switch from all-out work mode to relaxation mode. Fortunately, my subconscious kicked in with these words:

“This is your one, beautiful life. Enjoy it.”

So instead of fussing and over-working this weekend, I relaxed with my family. We sat on the lanai and floated in the pool. I made cinnamon waffles for breakfast and we ate ice cream while watching Independence Day on TV. Yesterday I slept in until 8 a.m.—almost unheard of because usually my pets wake me up long before that. Before I did anything, I asked myself, “What do you feel like doing now?” (Not “What should you be doing now?” “Should” was banished, at least for the weekend.)

Even though it’s Monday and time to get back to work, I’m going to continue to hold those words in my heart: “This is your one, beautiful life. Enjoy it.” Even while I’m cleaning bathrooms, or feeding the dog, or writing an article. This is my one, beautiful life.

What words will you live by this week?


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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Way to a Joyful Life




“Experience has taught me that the way to a joyful life is always fraught with fear, that to find it you must follow your heart’s desires right through the inevitable terrors that arise to hold you back. If you don’t do this, your life will be shaped by fear, rather than love, and I guarantee, the shape will be narrow and tiny compared with your best destiny.”
—Martha Beck, The Joy Diet

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