Friday, April 30, 2010

Poem: The Game of Life

Poem:  The Game of Life

I’ve been sent back to GO
without collecting $100,
without acquiring Park Place,
without accumulating
massive amounts of cash.

My journey back to GO
was self-imposed -
 I needed to regroup,
reset my dial,
regain my bearings.

The game of life
Is fraught with missed turns,
sucker punches,
pulled rugs,
conspiring fates,
and absent muses -
I just got tripped up a bit.

A little stumble isn’t enough
to keep me down;
I’ll be rolling the dice again
very soon
and taking my chances on
The Game of Life.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Repotting for Growth

 I have a couple of large peace lilies that have outgrown their containers.  As a result, I need to water them frequently to avoid finding them in limp dismay.  I just measured the pots they are in and will head out to the garden store later to find a larger, roomier container for them.  

In the midst of this process, I began thinking about human beings needing an occasional repotting.  If we stay in the same container for too long, our roots get all bound up and set into place with no room for expansion.  The constraints keep us from looking beyond our current situation and beyond the walls of our own spaces to see what else might be possible.  Once we free ourselves and allow a little room to breathe and think, our roots will stretch and reach for new sources of sustenance and growth.  This expansion will feed us in ways that may be uncertain but will challenge our roots to reconfigure and grow in a new dynamic way.

Let's consider shaking off the dirt that surrounds our roots and reach for a roomier version of our lives.  A little sun, a little photosynthesis and we will be growing to new heights in no time.  It's spring and time to repot!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Poem: I Wish I Knew Everything

I Wish I Knew Everything

I wish I knew everything
about the earth,
about the sea,
about me.

I wish I saw the beauty
in all things,
in each man,
 in me.

I wish I heard the wisdom
whenever I could,
from whomever I could,
from me.

I wish I could speak clearly
to my family,
to my friends,
to me.

I wish we knew each other
from the inside out,
where nothing hidden
could drive us apart,
and nothing open could create a wedge
between what is and what could be
for you and me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poem: Did You Have to Steal His Bike?

 Did you have to steal his bike?

He rode it everywhere,
it took him places
he needed to go,
he wanted to go,
he longed to go.

But mostly it took him away
to another place
where adventure could be,
most assuredly would be.

his bike was his friend,
his loyal companion,
his faithful servant,
his trusted ally.

Across the country,
across the city,
across the street,
it was always there,
when he needed it.

Did you have to steal his bike?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lunch in Paris

 I delivered library books last week to one of my favorite customers.   Her name is Bee, she is 93 years old, and she is a delight.  We sat and talked about what she had been reading and she said she had read in bed until 2:00 a.m. the previous night and had been "transported to Paris."  She told me that she has always loved a book that can take her to another world.  She doesn't complain about her life, but certainly has an awareness of her age and frailties - the realities of this world.   

I was charmed by her girlish enthusiasm, and could picture her curled up under her covers following the Parisian romance that unfolded on the pages before her.  

She gave me the book to return to the library and I told her I would probably check it out for myself.  I did.

I am now reading Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard and am being swept away by the tale. Next week, Bee and I will compare notes.  Almost 40 years separate us in age, but a good book dissolves the years and brings us together as nothing else can. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back Roads of America

"The everyday kindness of the back roads 
more than makes up 
for the acts of greed in the headlines."
(Charles Kuralt 1934-1997)

For twenty years, beginning in 1967, Charles Kuralt traveled the roads of America and told the fascinating stories of everyday people on his show "On the Road."  He and a small crew covered more than a million miles and went through six motor homes during their nomadic years of travel.  Mr. Kuralt was in search of the stories not heard on the evening news.   With his homespun manner, he would conduct his interviews and bring the people he met into our living rooms.  It was the perfect antidote to a world consumed with the "greed in the headlines."  

I bring this up today because I think it is a lesson we need to keep relearning.  The things we see on the news each evening are important world events but the focus tends to be on the sensational story and even the frightening story.  Murders, corruption, infidelity and dishonesty are the fodder we are fed on a daily basis.  While these stories are playing out, the stories on the back roads of America are much more palatable.  They are the tales of hard-working, honest people who would help a stranger, cook for a neighbor, care for an elderly resident or give away the shirt on their back.  

Good people are everywhere and they are quietly leaving a positive footprint on the earth.  Let's stop absorbing the negative energy that permeates the airwaves and seek out a neighbor or a stranger on a back road anywhere in America.  The journey will surely leave us refreshed.   

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poet: Nikki Giovanni

 I heard poet, Nikki Giovanni, being interviewed today and was touched by her engaging honesty, warmth, empathy and sense of humor.  She has been writing for over thirty years.  In reading her biography, I was struck by the following line:  her focus is on the individual, specifically, on the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus, in the lives of others.  She is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, and wrote a stirring poem that she read after the massacre that occurred on April 16, 2007 leaving 32 students dead.  Her words resonated at a time of great sorrow. 

Through her career, she has written over 30 books, many of them works of poetry.  She said in her interview that poetry is what we turn to during the important moments in life:  weddings, births, deaths, tragedies and celebrations.  She also commented on how poetry allows for clear and honest expressions of love.  Her most recent book is called Bicycles: Love Poems and indicates that the balance and trust needed to ride a bike are the very same things needed to enter into a successful love relationship.  She believes in love and the possibilities that exist through love in this world.

There was one comment that really stuck with me today.  She said in a discussion of excessive internet use, "If you let too much in, pretty soon you don't know what is yours and what is someone elses."  She has someone who manages her website and she chooses to personally interact very little with computers.  She tries to remain uncluttered so that her creativity flows naturally from her mind and from her experiences.  While understanding the value of computers and the internet, she voices caution to protect what is our core being from being diluted by excess.  It's a message worth heeding from a woman who's creativity is still flourishing.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Epic Journey Revisited

1980 Paris, France - Laurenz, Sophie, Tanya and Mike

In 1980, when my husband Mike was 29 and I was 27, we took an epic bicycle journey through Europe.  Over three months, covering 3000 miles, we bicycled through Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Greece. We set a budget of $30 a day that included all food, camping fees and occasional train or ferry passes.  Besides our flights going and coming from the U.S., we took one flight from Athens, Greece to Paris, France to expedite our journey.  Each time we flew, we had to box up our treasured bikes for their own journey in the baggage hold.  Thirty years later, I can remember entire days from our trip.  Many of them include the kindness and generosity of strangers. 

After spending three weeks in Greece in the middle of our trip, we flew from Athens to Paris on July 19th, landing at a very busy Orly airport.  We collected our bikes (thankfully undamaged) and considered our options.  We were both extremely tired from spending a sleepless night in a very chaotic Athens airport (forming lines for any reason seemed unnecessary!).  Finding a campground or youth hostel was at the top of our list.  I approached the tourist information counter, explained our situation to a delightful French employee (we later learned she spoke 7 languages) who listened with great interest.  She seemed quite intrigued by our bicycle travels.  After discussing several options, and no doubt sizing us up, she spontaneously invited us to stay at her house.  Being wary Americans, we were at first a little reticent to take her up on her offer, but she was so engaging and enthusiastic that it seemed like accepting was the right thing to do.  It was.

Over the next four days we were ensconced in a cozy third story room of a charmingly old stone house in the suburb of Athis-Mon.  We dined on sumptuous meals, were taxied all over Paris and engaged in fascinating conversations with Nadia, her husband Jean-Jacques (a doctor) and their three daughters, Tania (17), Lorenz (15) and Sophie (9).  We discussed the French health-care system, visited the Eiffel Tower, ran errands with Nadia (who circumnavigated the city with a race car driver’s abandon) and saw the last day of the Tour de France. Magnifique!  We embraced this family and they embraced us with generous hearts and curious minds.  The memories of our trip include dates, locations, miles traveled and sites seen, but the lasting memories are of the people who touched our lives.  

It’s been thirty years; it might be time for another epic journey.

Epilogue:  We stayed in touch with our host family for several years but ultimately lost touch.  Nadia and her husband divorced, she moved, and our last correspondence was returned.  I may do an internet search someday to try and locate them once again.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It's Really So Simple

"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path 
without brightening our own."
Ben Sweetland

    I guess there are many ways to interpret this quote, but I feel that it speaks to the intrinsic value of human kindness.  When we act with compassion and a generous spirit, there is a ray of light that shines on us.  We don't ask for the light, but it is there nonetheless.  We hold our torch high in the hope of making another's path a bit easier and we end up easing our path as well.  
    We are all connected in the most intricate of ways. Where one person ends, another begins.  Our actions effect others and their actions ultimately effect us.  If we assume this to be true then it makes perfect sense to extend our torch whenever we can.  It's really so simple, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's Already Tomorrow in Australia

 "Don't worry about the world coming 
to an end today.  
It is already tomorrow in Australia."

Charles Schulz, famous for the Peanuts comic strip, brought us laughter and insights into humanity during the 50 years he brought Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, Linus, and others to life.  He showed us that the foibles and pratfalls of life will occur - it is how we deal with them that makes the difference.  Every time Charlie Brown tried to kick that football, he learned another lesson on the necessity of picking himself up and getting through another day.
By acknowledging that Australia is already a day ahead, I think Schulz is saying to keep moving forward, and don't fret too much about what you do or don't get done on any given day, just stay in there and pitch - tomorrow might be better.  And if your problems grow too big and your stressors too stressful then just say, "Good Grief, I've had it," and then book a flight for Australia.  Their tomorrow might look even better.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Prairie Dogs in Sun Salutation

 Prairie Dogs in Sun Salutation
    I took a walk this afternoon and tuned my pocket radio to Weekend Edition on NPR.  The guest was Terry Tempest Williams and she was being interviewed about her new book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.  I have not read her book, but gleaned from the conversation that she discusses through a mosaic of words, the connections of human life to nature's unerring cycles.  She is an environmentalist and spiritual writer who sees nature as a force for healing.  She suggests that we just need to slow down and pay attention.
    As part of her research, she spent time in Utah studying prairie dogs in their natural habitat.  Utah prairie dogs are endangered after decades of being subjected to human encroachment, hunting and poisoning.  They graze on the same grass that cattle use for grazing, so cattle farmers are less than amenable to their presence.  The prairie dogs are highly intelligent, living in complex family units in elaborate underground tunnels.  Their vocalizations have been studied and it has been determined they have a very distinctive language of sounds and chirps that alert each other to very specific dangers.  
    All of this was interesting to me, but the following information grabbed my full attention:  Every single morning, she saw all the prairie dogs stand outside their burrows with their paws pressed together for a full thirty minutes facing the rising sun.  They did this in total stillness.  At the end of the day, they returned to their burrows thirty minutes before the sun went down and once again faced the sun with their paws pressed together in total stillness.  
    I am interested in animal intelligence and find myself awed by the kind of research and discovery that Ms. Williams has been a part of.  There is so much more to learn about how animals communicate and behave.  It's encouraging to hear of ongoing efforts being made to try to understand their complex worlds.  If we can understand that we are all part of a natural continuum and that all creatures deserve respect, we will come closer to understanding the mysteries that surround us.  If the prairie dogs understand that it is important to pause each morning and evening in stillness, there may still be hope for us.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poem - An Easter Kind of Day

 An Easter Kind of Day

A bright bouquet of
blue irises,
yellow and purple tulips,
sits on the table
in a clear vase,
reflecting sunlight through the room,
chasing cobwebs 
gloomy days away,
leaving softness, cheer and comfort -
an Easter kind of day.