Bees

Stung

May 31, 2017

Photo courtesy Alexas_Fotos

Introduction by Ted Kooser: The University of Minnesota Press has published a wonderful new collection of bee poems, If Bees Are Few, which may in some small way help the bees and will certainly offer some honey to poetry lovers. Here's just one poem, by Heid Erdrich, who lives in Minnesota. Her most recent book is Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems from the University of Arizona Press.

Stung

She couldn't help but sting my finger,
clinging a moment before I flung her
to the ground. Her gold is true, not the trick
evening light plays on my roses.
She curls into herself, stinger twitching,
gilt wings folded. Her whole life just a few weeks,
and my pain subsided in a moment.
In the cold, she hardly had her wits to buzz.
No warning from either of us:
she sleeping in the richness of those petals,
then the hand, my hand, cupping the bloom
in devastating force, crushing the petals for the scent.
And she mortally threatened, wholly unaware
that I do this daily, alone with the gold last light,
in what seems to me an act of love.

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 ©2016 by Heid Erdrich, “Stung,” from If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems (Univ. of Minnesota Pr., James P. Lenfesty, Ed., 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Heid Erdrich and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 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.

Happiness

How the Light Gets In

May 24, 2017


“Perfectionism is our denial of two very basic truths of existence: we are not perfect; and we are not, ultimately, in control. When we absorb the law of perfection, we are infected with the virus of self-doubt, which eats away at every area of our lives. The more perfect we are, we believe, the more valid we are as people. But with every advance in one area, we find ourselves wanting in another. We worry that we are not good enough, and, therefore, on some level that we do not deserve love, happiness, or maybe even life itself.

“We fear our imperfections will expose us as failures when actually they show the places we have grown, the markers of our realizations, our unique situation in the sands of time and cycles of nature. In the words of Leonard Cohen, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’”
—Lucy H. Pearce, “Overcoming Perfectionism in a Culture That Promotes It,” Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself, ed. by Lori Deschene

Announcement

Under (Re)construction

May 19, 2017


I’m in the midst of a redesign and update of Catching Happiness, so it might be a little quieter than usual here for the next week or two, depending on how smoothly the transition takes place, and you know how that goes! I’m excited about the changes, and hope you’ll love the new features, which will include a whole new look, a monthly newsletter, and a special sign up bonus for anyone who joins my brand new mailing list.

I’ll be back to sharing simple pleasures and everyday adventures with you soon!

January O'Neil

No Day Is Promised

May 17, 2017

Photo courtesy Aaron Burden

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here's a celebration of one day in the week, the kids with the father, a brownie for breakfast, everything right with the world. January O’Neil lives in Massachusetts, and this poem first appeared in RATTLE. Her most recent book is Misery Islands (Cavankerry Press, 2014).

Sunday

You are the start of the week
or the end of it, and according
to The Beatles you creep in
like a nun. You're the second
full day the kids have been
away with their father, the second
full day of an empty house.
Sunday, I've missed you. I've been
sitting in the backyard with a glass
of Pinot waiting for your arrival.
Did you know the first Sweet 100s
are turning red in the garden,
but the lettuce has grown
too bitter to eat. I am looking
up at the bluest sky I have ever seen,
cerulean blue, a heaven sky
no one would believe I was under.
You are my witness. No day
is promised. You are absolution.
You are my unwritten to-do list,
my dishes in the sink, my brownie
breakfast, my braless day.

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 January O'Neil, “Sunday,” from Rattle, (No. 41, Fall 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of January O'Neil and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 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.

Happiness

Happiness Is Wanting What You Have

May 12, 2017


Since it’s already 90+ degrees here, I’ve been thinking wistfully of the cooler, drier air we had on our road trip, how invigorating I found it and how nice it was not to be constantly sticky.

I’ve been admiring Debbie’s beautiful flowers, varieties that generally don’t grow well here in central Florida.

And I’m jealous of another friend’s success growing lavender—it doesn’t thrive here in Florida’s humidity.

Enough.

In all this wishing things were different, I’m forgetting the many simple pleasures that are right under my nose. For instance:
  • A backyard my husband is turning into an oasis, not only for us, but also for butterflies and birds:


  • This little face:



  • And this face, too:


  • Beautiful bird life:



I will always wish for a climate less humid, but I am so grateful I have air conditioning to make life livable. (My Florida-native husband grew up in a home without it!)

I’d love to grow peonies, but I’ll make do with the perennials that grow well in our back yard, and the orchids that thrive on the moist air.

It’s time to practice the adage,  “Happiness is not having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.”

Wanting what I have means paying attention rather than taking for granted. It means appreciating what simple pleasures exist in my own back yard, right under my nose, rather than grumpily refusing to acknowledge them because I’d prefer something different. Wanting what I have. And I have so much.

What simple pleasures do you take for granted?

Attitudes

Happiness Advice From Martha Washington

May 10, 2017


“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”
—Martha Washington

Michelle Menting

A Frame of Air

May 03, 2017

Photo courtesy Michael Gaida
Introduction by Ted Kooser: Once the carpenter put the sash-weights into the wall next to the window, they were never seen again. Eventually they fell off the ropes and with just one loud outcry fell deeper into the dark. But we propped the windows open with this and that, and forgot about the weights. Here's a poem about those props by Michelle Menting, who lives in Maine, and who was once our assistant at American Life in Poetry. Her forthcoming book is Leaves Surface Like Skin from Dancing Girl Press.

Objects Used to Prop Open a Window

Dog bone, stapler,
cribbage board, garlic press
   because this window is loose—lacks
suction, lacks grip.

Bungee cord, bootstrap,
dog leash, leather belt
   because this window had sash cords.
They frayed. They broke.

Feather duster, thatch of straw, empty
bottle of Elmer's glue
   because this window is loud—its hinges clack
open, clack shut.

Stuffed bear, baby blanket,
single crib newel
   because this window is split. It's dividing
in two.

Velvet moss, sagebrush,
willow branch, robin's wing
   because this window, it's pane-less. It's only
a frame of air.

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 Michelle Menting, “Objects Used to Prop Open a Window,” from Decomp Magazine, (February, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Michelle Menting and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 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.

Arizona

Pictures of Rocks--the Meander Continues

May 01, 2017


Third and final installment of road trip adventures (see part one here, and part two here).

In addition to the striking scenery, good food, and precious hours spent with a friend, one of the best things about my recent trip was the complete break in routine. Routines can become ruts, where life sort of runs on automatic pilot and I don’t think about what I’m doing. After coming home, I have the choice of picking up my previous routines… or not. That’s one of the things I’m still figuring out, two weeks into my return. I feel like I need to change up how I operate.

But I digress.

Before I continue with the travelogue, I have to share with you the Best. Breakfast. Ever.  We ate at Crema in Cottonwood, Arizona both mornings we were in town. If you’re in the area, do not miss it. (No affiliation.)

Crepes with fresh berries and marscapone cheese

Egg sandwich with arugula and sriracha aioli


After fueling up at Crema, we waddled to our car where we took off for further exploration, including: 

The cliff dwellings at Montezuma Castle were home to the Southern Sinagua, and were occupied until the 1400s. Montezuma Castle is one of the best-preserved historic structures of the Southwest. It rises 100 feet above the valley, and consists of five stories and 20 rooms. Early American settlers assumed it was Aztec in origin, so they named it after Montezuma. We walked an easy paved loop trail past the cliff dwellings, down to the river, and back to the visitor’s center.



After the Castle, we stopped by Montezuma Well right at the end of the day, and what a lovely spot it turned out to be! The Well is fed by springs, and more than 1.5 million gallons of water flow into it every day.  The water eventually flows into an irrigation ditch, which has sections that date back over 1,000 years. The Southern Sinagua used water from this well to irrigate crops, and the residents of Rimrock, Arizona currently use it for gardens and livestock. There’s a pretty stiff climb up a hill that leads you to this:



We also climbed down to the water level of the well, and followed a trail along where the water flows out of it. 

In a previous post, I promised striking rock formations, and here they are:



Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, near Sedona, Arizona. We stopped here briefly before sunset, dinner, and heading back to our hotel for the night.

The last place I’ll take you on this road trip is also one of my favorites: Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend is near the Grand Canyon, but not technically part of it. You can take an aerial or land tour, but you can also park and walk to the rim for free. Once there, look down 1,000 feet to the Colorado River as it winds around a 270-degree, horseshoe-shaped bend. This is known as an entrenched meander. Isn’t that a wonderful name?



We visited Horseshoe Bend twice, hoping for some good sunset photos, but it was too hazy each time. That didn’t matter—with or without sunset, Horseshoe Bend is photogenic, and the people watching was also entertaining. Stressed-out parents trying to keep their kids safe but still allow them to see and photograph the scene, couples cautiously creeping to the edge of the canyon to take selfies (or foolhardily marching up to the edge), Kerri trying for the perfect shot without losing her camera and tripod into the abyss. Once I snapped my photos, I sat and soaked up the scene while she experimented with settings and tripod placement, letting my eyes wander over the landscape, feeling the slight breeze on my face.

Scenery around Horseshoe Bend

Yes, we were this close to the edge
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little jaunt into Arizona and New Mexico. It’s not always a pleasure to hear about someone else’s adventures when what you really want is to have your own! (Fair warning: there will probably be at least one future Field Trip Friday post based in the Southwest!)

What is your next adventure?


Look for my travel writing here