One of the positive things about our extended time of quarantine for the Covid-19 virus, is that there have been so many excellent online events and experiences to lift our spirits and remind us of the beautiful and special things in life. I found one of those online events and enjoyed an amazing performance serial of the classic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I read it once long ago (in high school), and probably wouldn’t have read it again until I found this link. It’s a MUST experience, because each section is read by a different performing artist, and the artwork that accompanies it is phenomenal. It’s a completely immersive art experience, and is incredibly powerful. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the experience!
everything here seems to need us
~Rainer Maria Rilke
This poem by Ellen Bass speaks to my heart today, so I wanted to share it with you. With the news filled with sadness and madness, we must try harder each day to feel that “invisible tug between you and everything.” The beautiful words of Ellen Bass remind us that each one of us is a precious meaningful being, and that each one of us can and must make a positive difference in a world gone mad.
Kim Stafford is the Poet Laureate of Oregon. He’s a wonderful poet, as was his father, William Stafford. He’s been publishing on InstaGram a series of poems during this pandemic and time of quarantine, and I’ve looked forward to reading each one.
Here is his poem that greeted me this morning. He introduces it by saying, “In the web of our connections now, there are no random strangers. All become kin in our mutual concern.”
His work is another one of the beautifully creative endeavors that are helping us get through this crazy time with compassion and understanding.
CLICK HERE to visit his own website.
CLICK HERE to visit his InstaGram page.
Today, May 8th, is Gary Snyder’s birthday. He’s 90 years old! I have a book of his poems, Regarding Wave, bought long ago when Byron and I were newly married. That book has traveled with us through all our moves and book purges. I still enjoy opening it occasionally and revisiting some of my favorites in that slim little volume.
Here’s one that I loved way back then, and still do…and it seems quite appropriate to reread it during this time of shelter-at-home. Also, by coincidence, our grandson is named Kai, so there is even a greater connection to this poem now. Isn’t it interesting how a poem weaves itself into your life in many different ways?
Queries to My Seventieth Year
~ by Walt Whitman
Approaching, nearing, curious,
Thou dim, uncertain spectre–bringest thou life or death?
Or placid skies and sun? Wilt stir the waters yet?
Or haply cut me short for good? Or leave me here as now,
Dull, parrot-like and old, with crack’d voice harping, screeching?
Sharing this poem is part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old.
Today is my seventieth birthday. In all the old classic books I’ve read, the female characters that are 70 years old are really old ladies. Actually, they are portrayed as really old ladies at age 60! But I don’t feel that old and am probably in better physical condition that I was ten years ago, before I retired, thanks to being able to spend time at the gym and keep a challenging walking schedule on top of that. I’ve had a number of friends who are already well into their seventies and eighties and are very active, involved women so I am inspired to follow in their footsteps.
I embrace this birthday and this new decade! I’d like to read a lot, love a lot, and do what I can for the people around me, and try and make a little bit of difference in this crazy world.
by Mary Oliver
I wish I was twenty and in love with life
and still full of beans.
Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.
Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch
though I’m not twenty
and won’t be again but ah! seventy. And still
in love with life. And still
full of beans.
It is with great sadness this morning that I say goodbye to one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I heard the news of her passing just a moment ago, and I can’t believe her voice is now silent. We will miss you terribly, Mary, but your poems will live on in our hearts. Thank you for what you did with your one wild and precious life, and for all the beautiful poetry you shared with us.
I confess that I’m a worrier. I really have to keep reminding myself to just “let it go,” that worrying doesn’t get you anywhere! This poem, by Mary Oliver, is so perfect for those of us who waste precious energy in the worry loop!
I took her advice earlier this week (before the rains returned) and this was what greeted me when I took my old body and went out into the morning. It was so much better than worrying!
April flew by so quickly this year! We continued to have record-breaking rains here in the Pacific Northwest throughout the month, but the temperatures moderated and there were days when we could finally get out in the garden and start cleaning up after such a long winter. Hubby and I spent two days in Silverton, Oregon, enjoying the early Spring beauty of the Oregon Garden and a short, but beautiful visit to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival.
My reading time slowed down but April was a good reading month anyway. I completed 8 books and a knitting project! My favorite book this month was the science fiction novella, Binti! It was so well written and enjoyable, and I loved spending some time out of this currently crazy world. I enjoyed listening to another audiobook in Craig Johnson‘s Walt Longmire mystery series. And I loved reading more poetry during this National Poetry Month! I also read and reviewed three books for The Classics Club, books chosen from my 50 books in 5 years list.
I always love April, and the beauty of the spring flowers and blossoms is wonderful after the darkness of our winters here. May will be a busy month, including a road trip to visit my 97 year old mother and many more days to spend outdoors in the garden and on long walks around town, but I’m looking forward to my May reading, as well.
One of the special books on my bookshelf is The Unicorn and Other Poems, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I bought this book many, many years ago, and revisit it often to read the poems that touched my heart when I first read them and now have special meaning in my life. They express so eloquently many of my own inner feelings and thoughts, and so have become treasures for me.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the wife of the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, who was a hero to many. After finding this book of poetry, and then reading all of AML’s diaries and fiction, she became for me the real hero in the family. She was a gentle soul, but with a tremendous inner strength, forged partly through tragedy. She lived an amazing life traveling all over the world with her husband, and she became a pioneer aviator herself. She was intelligent and introverted, and a beautiful writer. Her books, North to the Orient and Listen! The Wind told fascinating stories of their world travels. Her diaries and letters were her way of processing life as it happened.
“I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”
In her wonderful book, Gift From the Sea, she “shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea.” (words from her daughter, Reeve).
But as I said before, it is her poetry that really touches my heart. One of my favorite poems in this book is called “Bare Tree.” I loved it the first time I read it, but it is even more meaningful to me at this age and stage of life, so I love it now in a whole new way.
Already I have shed the leaves of youth,
stripped by the wind of time down to the truth
of winter branches. Linear and alone
I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own,
a frame through which another’s fire may glow,
a harp on which another’s passion, blow.
The pattern of my boughs, an open chart
spread on the sky, to others may impart
its leafless mysteries that I once prized,
before bare roots and branches equalized,
tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun
are all the same, shadow and substance one.
Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside,
there’s nothing left to shield, nothing to hide.
Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone,
so fragile and so fearless have I grown!
I chose to reread this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club. It’s a book I have re-read many times in my life and each time I read it, I love it even more.