Jonathan Greene

One Light to Another

August 27, 2014

Photo courtesy Vyolett
Introduction by Ted Kooser: Jonathan Greene, who lives in Kentucky, is a master of the short poem, but while he prunes them down to their essentials he never cuts out the wonder and delight. Here’s a good example from his most recent book. Can you feel the exclamation point that’s suggested at the end? You can’t see it, but it’s there.

One Light to Another

The storm
turns off
the lights.

The lightning
lights the whereabouts
of the flashlight.

The flashlight
takes us to matches
and candles, the oil lamp.

Now we’re back,
the 19th century.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by Jonathan Greene, from his most recent book of poems, Seeking Light: New & Selected Later Poems, Broadstone Books, 2013. Poem reprinted by permission of Jonathan Greene 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.


Summer Rerun--Routine or Rut-ine?

August 25, 2014

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.

I was standing in the shower, puddle of body wash in one hand, nylon pouf in the other when I remembered that I hadn’t yet put the John Frieda glaze in my hair. This glaze requires three minutes of time on the hair to do its job, according to the packaging, and therefore during my shower, it must go on before the body wash step for it to have that time. My mind had been elsewhere, apparently, because OMG! I’ve already reached body wash stage and I HAVEN’T YET PUT THE GLAZE IN MY HAIR!

Armageddon. (This is what it’s like to be me.)

(Let me back up and explain the importance of the JF glaze in my life. My hair is thick and coarse, and the minute it detects any humidity in the air, it doubles in size like a frightened cat. Let me remind you I live in Florida, and it’s a rare day when the humidity isn’t detectible. Using this glaze helps keep my hair under at least partial control.)

So I stood there in the shower, debating—put down the pouf, put the glaze in my hair and hope I leave it on long enough, even though I’ve clearly missed the ideal moment? (I’ve never actually timed the process, so maybe I NEVER leave it in long enough, who knows?) Do I skip the glaze altogether? (Nope, today I’m running errands and going out to dinner so the hair needs all the anti-frizz help it can get).

Routines can be helpful, essential, even. Routines and habits offer comfort and stability. Having a routine to deal with daily tasks can often speed them up and make you more efficient. I can shower, dry my hair, put on makeup, dress and be out the door in half an hour (on a good, non-glaze-dilemma day) and routine is what enables me to do that. Laundry and cleaning have their routines. Without them, I’d be buried in filth.

Many small and sometimes unnoticed routines add pleasure to the day. They become rituals that add to the beauty of life. I spend the first half-hour of my day with coffee, a few bites of scone or muffin, and a notebook and pen. I love this ritual and find it centers me before I begin to work.

Routines can become ruts, however. Ruts can make you feel bored, trapped, or locked into a certain path and unable to alter the course of life. (Or they can leave you feeling plain silly while you stand in the shower with body wash dripping down your arm.)

It pays to examine routines now and then to see if they still serve you, or to see if you’ve become slave instead of master. My shower/glaze moment reminded me that I’m in charge of my routines, not the other way around. It’s also possible you’ve stuck with a routine that has become outdated—your life has changed, but your routine hasn’t, and maybe it should.

Also, occasionally stepping outside routine makes life more interesting and exciting, keeping routines from becoming ruts. You might change anything from the route you take to work to the day you do your grocery shopping. Order a different sandwich at your favorite lunch spot…or choose another lunch spot altogether. Listen to a different type of music, read a magazine you wouldn’t normally pick up, or stop into that little antiques store you keep promising yourself you’ll visit. Maintain the routines that keep your life humming along, but also do something “different” every week—or even every day!

Now I’m off to take a shower…and I won’t forget the glaze.

What are some of your favorite routines? What rut(s) would you like to escape from? What small change can you make to liven up your life?

A Nature Art Journal

Happy Little Things--Resurrection Ferns

August 22, 2014

A few days ago, I read this post on Elizabeth Smith’s blog, A Nature Art Journal. I recognized the ferns she described from my yard—I had just noticed them and was delighted to learn what they were called. I resolved to take some pictures of them. When I did, this is what I found:

We’ve had record high temperatures this past week, and none of the usual summer afternoon storms. Poor little ferns. However, I knew from reading Elizabeth’s post that the fronds could transform from these dead-looking specimens into something lovely. So I decided to water one group of them to see how long it would take to come back from the dead. This is what I found when I went to look later that day:

Amazing! I didn’t water the other group, but it rained last night and this is what I found when I checked this morning:

These little ferns make me happy and inspire me with their delicate beauty and tenacious clinging to life. They find a way to survive even when their environment is hostile, and with the least encouragement, burst out into their true beauty. I should be so resilient!

Please check out Elizabeth’s post for more information on the resurrection fern, and to see her beautiful drawings.

What happy little things have you discovered lately?

Jennifer Louden

Sculpting Time

August 20, 2014

“Time is never lying around waiting for us to find her. She is elusive. She wants you to sculpt her like clay, to mold her into exactly the form you desire your days to take. If you refuse to do that, if you spend your mornings worrying and your afternoons catering to others, always hoping there will be a few minutes left for you, time will play you like a sucker, making you run harder and faster with each passing week. Time wants you to realize that she is the most precious and irreducible fact of your life. Make her into what you will.”
—Jennifer LoudenThe Woman’s Retreat Book



August 18, 2014

I pulled out my yoga mat and one of my favorite yoga DVDs on Saturday. Immediately I attracted the attention of Miss Prudy, who felt that yoga practice was not complete without her participation:

After a few minutes of licking and biting my toes, she retired to the bed where she napped until I finished my workout.


How was last week? Any new simple pleasures or everyday adventures to report?


Break Time

August 11, 2014

I will be taking a break from blogging this week. Hope to see you back here soon, and have a happy week!

Gretchen Rubin

Link Love, Self-promotion Edition!

August 08, 2014

I have a travel essay entered in the WeSaidGo essay contest! You can read “The Bits and Pieces Tour” here. Please stop by and take a look.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Change your password, change your life! What a great idea. Read about how the lowly password can remind you of what you want more (or less) of in your life. 

Don’t let these habits steal your happiness. 

Want more reading time? Check out Gretchen Rubin’s “13 Tips for Getting More Reading Done.” 

Interesting piece on how getting rid of expectations can help you “master the art of living.” 

These made me laugh (and almost made me miss working in an office). 

Visit A Blog Made Vibrant for a free downloadable “Emergency Mood Booster” worksheet.

Have a happy Friday!


Starry Voices

August 06, 2014

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Readers of this column during the past year have by now learned how enthusiastic I am about poems describing everyday life. I’ve tried to show how the ordinary can be made extraordinary through close and transforming observation. Here Tess Gallagher goes to the mailbox to post a letter. We’ve all done that, haven’t we? But notice how closely she pays attention to this simple experience, and how she fits this one moment into the meaning of her life.

Under Stars

The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.

I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.

In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.

Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.

“Under Stars” copyright 1987 by Tess Gallagher. Reprinted from “Amplitude: New & Selected Poems” with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Gallagher’s most recent book of poetry is “Dear Ghosts: Poems,” Graywolf Press, 2006. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.