Celebrating Life*

September 11, 2013

Writing poetry, reading poetry, we are invited to join with others in celebrating life, even the ordinary, daily pleasures. Here the Seattle poet and physician, Peter Pereira, offer us a simple meal. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

A Pot of Red Lentils 

simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.

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. Reprinted from Saying the World, 2003, by permission of Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 2003 by Peter Pereira. Introduction copyright © 2013 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. 

*I think there’s no better way to move ahead in life than to appreciate the simplest of daily pleasures. On the anniversary of 9/11, I’m grateful for these continued simple pleasures and I wish for you a life full of celebrations of all kinds.

Baby steps

September Is the New January

September 09, 2013

Photo courtesy Candace Penney

Is it just me, or does September feel like a new beginning? Most of my life I’ve treated September the way most people treat January: as a new year. Even before I had a child going back to school or lived in Florida where the promise of the occasional cooler, drier day bumps up my energy, I reevaluated my life in the fall. My birthday is in September, so I think that adds to the “new start” feeling since like most of us I become more introspective around birthdays.

I’ve thought about starting my own Happiness Project, like Gretchen Rubin has written about in the book of the same name, and its follow-up Happier at Home (where the title of this blog post came from). I even began listing areas I’d like to focus on, but decided I’m not ready to attack things I want to change or enhance in quite that fashion. Planning all those months in advance felt too overwhelming to me. Instead, I decided to take baby steps and do some very simple things to get my new year off to a good start:

First, I’m keeping a time log this week to see where I’m spending my time. (I’m using this one.) From there, I hope to come up with a flexible schedule so I can get the important things done while still having time to play.

My weight has become a concern again, so I’m tweaking my eating and fitness routines to combat those creeping pounds.

I’m making plans for fun by figuring out the details of our postponed anniversary trip and scheduling some upcoming Field Trip Fridays.

I’m purging—the freezer, my closet, my file cabinet. I’m always battling stuff!

Even though it’s still blazingly hot here and it doesn’t feel like fall yet, I’m starting to feel more energetic, more likely to make some changes and explore new avenues. I’m ready to savor simple pleasures and take part in everyday adventures. Even though the calendar says September and not January, I’m ready for a new year!

Do you make any special plans in September? Are there any other times of year you evaluate life, set goals or take up challenges?


The Return of Link Love

September 06, 2013

When I’m supposed to be writing/cleaning/exercising/being a productive human being, I am often playing on the internet. I have no excuse, other than I usually start out doing legitimate research or tending to my blog, and *somehow* find myself two hours later, fingers cramping, legs asleep and eyeballs begging for mercy, staring at a blog post with a name like “10 Ways to Decorate Your Home Using Only Pine Cones and Bubble Wrap,” wondering how I came to waste my life in this manner, and if it’s possible to burn a crayon for 30 minutes in an emergency (the answer, according to the Pintester: it will burn, but not for 30 minutes—whether it’s an emergency or not).

Even though I spend far too much time fooling around, I do often find some pretty cool stuff, and that stuff I herewith share with you in the fourth installment of Link Love. Yes, friends, I do it all for you.

You’ve probably heard of The Bloggess—Jenny Lawson, author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Her blog is laugh-out-loud funny, if you’re not offended by a quirky sense of humor and strong language. This post, “Rules for Life,” is one of my favorites. Read the comments that follow if you have the time—they’re pretty awesome.

If you want to have more fun, be more childlike: “Remember. Fun is an attitude. Fun is an option. Fun is a decision.”

I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, and I regularly read her blog. This post discusses some of the contradictions of happiness.

This article lists patterns of negative thinking that harm our happiness. I especially like number three and number 10.

Did you know there’s an entire website devoted to disapproving rabbits?  Check out Bruce “Disapproval in front, party in back.”

Laura Vanderkam’s “Journey Through the Checkout Racks” compares women’s magazines then and now, for a snapshot of how women’s lives in America have changed.

And finally, I just love these two. Watching this video makes my day every time.

You’re welcome.

Eric Hoffer

Feeling Hurried

September 04, 2013

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else.”
—Eric Hoffer

Armchair travel

Where I Went This Summer (Reader’s Edition)

September 02, 2013

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because it never hurts to have another set of eyes proofread your work, even if they’re automated!*

Well, it’s Labor Day today in the U.S., and that marks the unofficial end to summer. I’m sad to say that I didn’t literally get to go on vacation. So far in 2013, my travel has been limited to family visits. I haven’t explored any place new or exciting…so it’s a good thing my reading has taken me all over the world! While my passport languishes and my suitcases gather dust, here are a few places my bookshelves and library card have taken me:

The island of Crete, courtesy of Mary Stewart’s The Moon-Spinners.

Roqueville, on the Cote d’Azur, via Spinsters in Jeopardy (Ngaio Marsh).

Toronto, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, because of L. M. Montgomery’s published journals (I read the third volume of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery—it was the only one my library had). Montgomery was the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, and had already created in me a burning desire to visit Prince Edward Island someday.

Eudora Welty’s Mississippi, where I attended a Delta Wedding.

Kishinev (now called Chisinau), Moldavia via the letters in From Newbury With Love (incredibly touching book and one of my favorite reads all year).

Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina, with Amy Elizabeth Smith’s All Roads Lead to Austen. (More about this book in an upcoming post.)

France and England, where I swashbuckled all over the place with The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas).

I actually spent quite a lot of time in the United Kingdom this year—making stops in Crampton Hodnet (in the book of the same name by Barbara Pym), Edgecomb St. Mary (Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand), Newbury (see above), London and Cornwall (Jacqueline Winspear’s Messenger of Truth), among other fictional and real destinations.

So you see, when time and/or finances don’t permit me to explore the world firsthand, I turn to books to satisfy my craving for travel. And now, as I finish this post, I’ll be returning to rural Appalachia with Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior.

Where has your reading taken you this summer?

*This post sponsored by Grammarly, an online grammar checker and proofreading system.