The Melancholy Tree

October 30, 2013

Photo courtesy Emil Bacik
Robert Morgan, who lives in Ithaca, New York, has long been one of my favorite American poets. He’s also a fine novelist and, recently, the biographer of Daniel Boone. His poems are often about customs and folklore, and this one is a good example. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Living Tree

It’s said they planted trees by graves
to soak up spirits of the dead
through roots into the growing wood.
The favorite in the burial yards
I knew was common juniper.
One could do worse than pass into
such a species. I like to think
that when I’m gone the chemicals
and yes the spirit that was me
might be searched out by subtle roots
and raised with sap through capillaries
into an upright, fragrant trunk,
and aromatic twigs and bark,
through needles bright as hoarfrost to
the sunlight for a century
or more, in wood repelling rot
and standing tall with monuments
and statues there on the far hill,
erect as truth, a testimony,
in ground that’s dignified by loss,
around a melancholy tree
that’s pointing toward infinity.

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 ©2012 by Robert Morgan, whose most recent book of poems is Terroir, Penguin Poets, 2011. Poem reprinted from The Georgia Review, Spring 2012, by permission of Robert Morgan and the publisher. 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.

25th Anniversary

On the Road

October 25, 2013

By the time you read this, my husband and I will be on the road in New England, taking our very-belated 25th anniversary trip. We’re hoping to see some fall foliage, enjoy crisp autumn air, and explore an area of the country we’ve never visited before. You can bet that I’m hoping to see some places of literary interest, like Concord, MA where Louisa May Alcott lived, and perhaps also Mark Twain’s home in Connecticut. We’ll be on the lookout for used book stores, places to sketch and take photos, quaint restaurants and shops…pretty much whatever strikes our fancy. I promise a full report when we return!

Have a great weekend!


To Find the Beautiful

October 23, 2013

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyday adventures

Today I'm Grateful For...

October 18, 2013

Gratitude has much to do with happiness, and I sometimes forget to stop and think about what I’m grateful for. As a part of paying more attention to my life, I’m making it a regular practice to jot down what I’m grateful for at least once a week. Here are just five things I came up with this morning:

Libraries. I’ve learned so much from library books (how to grow herbs in Florida, where to stay and eat in Boston, what is a happiness project?). I’ve been entertained by fiction and magazines, DVDs and CDs. I can download free music (through Freegal) and borrow materials from libraries all across the country. And those are just the services I use. My library offers much, much more. I don’t know what I’d do without the library system and I’m so grateful to be able to access it.

“Ordinary.” I love my daily routines and “ordinary” life (which I know is a very nice one). I don’t need anything big and extravagant to happen—I’m 99 percent content with the stuff of everyday life. That is a huge blessing.

My office. When I walked in here this morning and flipped on the light, I felt a rush of peace, contentment and happiness. I’m grateful to have my own space to inspire and recharge me.

My mother-in-law. She’s one of my best friends, and I know I’m lucky to feel that way.

Freedom to set my own schedule. I have plenty to do—as do we all—but I answer only to myself. I can decide when to write, when to cook or clean, when to run errands or when to chuck it all and play. I’m in charge, and sometimes I forget that. When I contemplate working in an office for someone else, I’m grateful that, for now, I don’t have to.

What are you grateful for?


Being Happy

October 16, 2013

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.
It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”