End of the year

Turning of the Year

December 30, 2015

Photo courtesy winterdove

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here’s a New Year’s poem by Judy Ray, who lives and writes in Tucson. I like the way that common phrase, “the turning of a year,” has suggested to her the turns in a race track. Her most recent book is To Fly Without Wings, (Helicon Nine Editions, 2009). 

Turning of the Year

We never know if the turn
is into the home stretch.
We call it that—a stretch
of place and time—
with vision of straining,
racing.  We acknowledge
each turn with cheers
though we don’t know
how many laps remain.
But we can hope the course
leads on far and clear
while the horses have strength
and balance on their lean legs,
fine-tuned muscles, desire
for the length of the run.
Some may find the year smooth,
others stumble at obstacles
along the way.  We never know
if the finish line will be reached
after faltering, slowing,
or in mid-stride, leaping forward.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher ofPoetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Judy Ray, “Turning of the Year,” from The Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers, (Whirlybird Press, 2012). Poem reprinted by permission of Judy Ray and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 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.

End of the year

The Year in Review: 2015 in Pictures and Posts

December 28, 2015

It seems like only yesterday that I was contemplating the fresh new calendar year of 2015, and yet here we are only four days away from 2016. In looking back over the year, I notice that I’ve chosen to write about—and highlight here—mostly 2015’s simple pleasures and everyday adventures—and that’s fitting for the theme of this blog. The one glaring exception is the post I wrote about the death of our dog. I haven’t chosen to share the details of every moment good or bad (you’re welcome), merely the ones I thought you would enjoy hearing about or  possibly learn from along with me. Even though I try to remain positive, and to focus on what good and useful things can be taken from difficult or painful experiences, life is rarely ever all good or all bad, but a mixture of both. Here’s a look back at my 2015 in pictures and posts.

January

Interrupting winter.


February

Completing a sketching challenge and Tanks 20th birthday.



March

Appreciating the delight of little things.


April




May

Picking blueberries and extolling the pleasures of journaling.


June

Making a summer bucket list and  going to the beach with Tank.


July

Cultivating pronoia.


August

Proclaiming my love for books.


September



October

Visiting the Chocolate Kingdom, banishing the B word, and beginning the grieving process for our dog. 


November

Joining the 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge and experimenting with essential oils.



Which brings us to December, where I’ve spent my time keeping the cat out of the tree, taking walks, and trying to finish up my 2015 reading challenges (I’ve finished Mount TBR, I have one book left to make a Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo, but I’ve no hope at all of completing the classics challenge.)

Onward to 2016!

What were the highlights of your year? What were some of your challenges, triumphs, and disappointments? What have you learned in 2015?

D.M. Dellinger

A Wish for You

December 23, 2015


“This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!”
—D.M. Dellinger

Happy holidays, everyone!

Good enough

Spirits of Blog Posts Past: The Good Enough Blog Post

December 18, 2015

Photo courtesy Laure Ferlita
This originally ran in December of 2011. The thoughts expressed are once again on my mind, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m reposting it. I’m pretty sure we could all use reminding.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of Good Enough. The painting trip to NOLA focused my attention on the concept as I created sketchbook pages that were far from perfect, but were “good enough” for their purpose: to help me remember a captivating place and group of people.

For me, that’s the biggest blessing: Good Enough is an antidote to perfectionism. How many times do we avoid trying new things, obsess over details, or become stalled by the idea that something must be Perfect, or even its cousin Really Good, before it sees the light of day? (I know this blog post could be better—I could spend hours “perfecting” it, but it still wouldn’t be “perfect.” I’ve already delayed posting it once because it wasn’t—you guessed it—Good Enough.)

The holiday season is a good time to focus on the concept of Good Enough. How easy it is to fall into the trap of searching for the “perfect” gift, decorating the house perfectly, cooking up delicious and special Christmas treats, and so on. All this on top of your regular, everyday life and its responsibilities! Frankly, that way lies madness and sitting in a corner, slugging down eggnog and biting the heads off gingerbread men on Christmas morning.

Good Enough can be excellent. Or it can be average. It’s not settling, but as author Heather Sellers writes, “It’s celebrating the truth. Good Enough means you know when to quit.” It’s up to us to decide what gets our time, resources and attention—and how much of those resources we are willing to spend. Everything we do cannot be Perfect. I’m sorry, but it just can’t be.

So how can we embrace Good Enough? By applying the three Ls:

Lower our standards. Don’t have time to cook an entire holiday meal from scratch? I know from experience that many grocery stores have really fine options for the harried holiday hostess. Can’t work out for an hour? Take a 15-minute walk. Something is better than nothing, and it will keep us in the exercise habit.

Laugh when things go wrong, or don’t quite come out the way we envisioned. Laughter is a better option than tears, and others are more likely to relax and go with the flow when they see that we’re not overly bothered by the unexpected.

Love the opportunity, love the process, love the result. Sometimes we (I) forget that life is an adventure, full of new experiences, not all of which will seem “good” on the surface. It’s all a process, leading to the result of a full, rich life.

And repeat after me: Good Enough is…Good Enough.

Has there been a time when you’ve embraced Good Enough and found the outcome was just fine, or even better than you expected?

Christmas

The First Ornament

December 16, 2015


Introduction by Ted Kooser: The first winter my wife and I lived in the country, I brought a wild juniper tree in from our pasture and prepared to decorate it for Christmas. As it began to warm up, it started to smell as if a coyote, in fact a number of coyotes, had stopped to mark it, and it was soon banished to the yard. Jeffrey Harrison, a poet who lives in Massachusetts, had a much better experience with nature.

Nest

It wasn’t until we got the Christmas tree
into the house and up on the stand
that our daughter discovered a small bird’s nest
tucked among its needled branches.

Amazing, that the nest had made it
all the way from Nova Scotia on a truck
mashed together with hundreds of other trees
without being dislodged or crushed.

And now it made the tree feel wilder,
a balsam fir growing in our living room,
as though at any moment a bird might flutter
through the house and return to the nest.

And yet, because we’d brought the tree indoors,
we’d turned the nest into the first ornament.
So we wound the tree with strings of lights,
draped it with strands of red beads,

and added the other ornaments, then dropped
two small brass bells into the nest, like eggs
containing music, and hung a painted goldfinch
from the branch above, as if to keep them warm.

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 ©2011 by Jeffrey Harrison, whose most recent book of poems is Incomplete Knowledge, Four Way Books, 2006. Reprinted from upstreet, No. 8, June 2012, by permission of Jeffrey Harrison and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Home

Scenes From a Morning Walk

December 11, 2015


Trying not to take for granted the beautiful place I live—despite the less-than-ideal climate, I do love to take a walk in the morning. The pictures in this post come from two different walks, but are indicative of what I see when I make time to look:


You can barely see it, but there's a hawk on the sign!




If we were to move, I think our trail would be one of the things I’d miss the most. Why is it we take for granted the simple pleasures that are always available to us?

What treasures, what simple pleasures, are right under your nose?

Buddha

Share Some Happiness

December 09, 2015

Photo courtesy Thomas Muhl

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
—Buddha


What’s making you happy today?

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Activities

December So Far

December 04, 2015


If the year were a car, someone just stepped on the gas. We’re accelerating—streaking down the road toward the end of the race that is 2015.

How did that happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was exploring in Georgia?  Or a couple of weeks ago that I was interrupting winter?  Even though we’re only a few days into December, I've already enjoyed many simple pleasures and everyday adventures. For instance:

We’re expecting out of town relatives this weekend, so we decorated the house for the holidays. We haven’t done this since Prudy joined the household for this reason:


You might think that she’d stay out of the tree now that she’s a big ol’ cat rather than a tiny little kitten. You would be wrong. I remove her from the tree several times every day. Her general attitude seems to be, “How kind of you to place this giant cat toy in the family room!” My husband and son have a bet going on how many ornaments she’ll break (only one so far but it’s early days yet). Our most special or sentimental ornaments are safely displayed where she can’t get to them, but I imagine the tree will be somewhat ragged by the end of the month if she continues to be fascinated by it.

I’ve been sulking about the weather, which remains stubbornly and unseasonably warm and humid. I predict simultaneous use of the central air and the fireplace on Christmas.

I saw Kinky Boots at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. 

I’ve had to start my horse on a fat supplement because he needs to gain some weight in preparation for the cold weather that will, eventually, I hope, come. That’s just all kinds of unfair.

I’ve been reading a lot. I just finished the delightful Cold Comfort Farm, I’m reading (or rereading) Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss novels, and I’ve started reading graphic memoirs (is that a thing?)—An Age of License (Lucy Knisley), and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Roz Chast). My reading challenges languish while I read at whim. 

Despite the full schedule (notice I didn’t say busy), I’m doing my best to think about what I’m doing and enjoy it, instead of rushing through it. No need to make that car go any faster!

What have you been up to lately? What plans do you have for the end of the year?

Michael McFee

Call Her Back

December 02, 2015


Introduction by Ted Kooser: This may be the only poem ever written in which a person claps the mud from a pair of shoes! Michael McFee’s poetry is just that original, in all of his books. His most recent is That Was Oasis (Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press, 2012), and he lives in North Carolina.

Ovation

He stood on his stoop
and clapped her sneakers together
hard, a sharp report,
smacking right sole against left,
trying to shock the mud
from each complicated tread,
spanking those expensive footprints
until clay flakes and plus
ticked onto the boxwood’s leaves
like a light filthy sleet
from the rubber craters and crannies
where they stuck weeks ago,
until her shoes were banged clean
though that didn’t stop
his stiff-armed slow-motion applause
with her feet’s emptied gloves,
slapping mate against mate
without missing a beat,
half-wishing that hollow sound
echoing off their neighbors’ houses
could call her back.

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 ©2010 by Michael McFee, “Ovation,” (River Styx 83, 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of Michael McFee and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 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. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.


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