Thursday, December 31, 2015

Snowflakes


Like snowflakes, we find a lighter way
to say the things we say,
as we approach the hallowed ground.

One by one our names are called,
in each new means to peace for all.

Then the sun comes out, and a child shouts,
as we silently touch down.



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Canvas 608



Canvas 608

December 30, 2015




As if almost


Clear and cold. I peeled and cut an onion yesterday,
and, despite all the washing, my fingers still smell.

A bird, through the window, wishes me well.

Her eye, sent by heaven, from heaven,
through heaven, arrives in heaven, all to be still.

A frozen field, where once were walls.

Loveliness, astonishment,
the everyday business of ghosts.

A stray thread on a coat.

An unexplained feeling of hope.

A boundless sea, in need of my very small boat.

And everything else a grave never holds.

As if, almost, the bird says, Oh!



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Still Standing: A List of the Books I Read in 2015





If there is one thing living has taught me, it is that the calendar is a poor judge of the beginnings and endings that pass within. Thought ripens in its own time. Loneliness and grief fall away when their uses have been fulfilled. Undue harshness towards ourselves fades in the light of self-understanding. Love, there all along, astonishes when we least expect it with the unfolding of her wings. Suddenly we see truth and joy have no basis in the weary thing called Time. For every page torn from the calendar, countless are inscribed in the heart. Behold your hands and face. See what is written there, some of it quickly, some of it slowly, none of it ambiguous, all of it artistic, subtle, and sure.

Now, it might be safely and sanely asked what any of this has to do with this year’s reading list. My answer, of course, is, everything. For in 2015, no day has passed in which I have not read. The very act is my grateful prayer of the predawn hours, and many other hours besides. Reading is my rhythm, my companion, my faithful, illuminating guide. Through it, inches become miles, hours days, days years, years lifetimes.

Along the way, my own writing and drawing constitutes a kind of running commentary, an extended marginalia which, though not always traceable to any given work, is enough to suggest the thoughts, ideas, and transformation thereby aroused.

This year, too, I rearranged my reading space to accommodate a big library-style dictionary ever open at my side, and made a habit of looking up every word doubtful in meaning or pronunciation. This steady, gentle exercise has had its rewards, the focusing of attention and the cultivating of patience not least among them.

Following, then, is a complete list of the seventy-four books I read this year. The very last, a little volume I picked up recently, I am not quite done with, but expect, if I live, to finish before year’s end. All but one are vintage hardcovers, pictures of which I have shared on occasion. The photo above is of the old Carnegie library in my hometown. Sadly, it is no longer standing. But I am. For now.


~

The Waverley Novels
by Sir Walter Scott

Unusually Illustrated
In twenty-seven Volumes

Adam & Charles Black
Edinburgh

(1900)

Edition de Luxe
Limited to Five Hundred Registered and Numbered Copies. Number 90.

~

Volume I
Waverley

Volume II
Guy Mannering

Volume III
The Antiquary

Volume IV
Rob Roy

Volume V
Old Mortality

Volume VI
The Black Dwarf and A Legend of Montrose

Volume VII – Volume VIII
The Heart of Midlothian

Volume IX
The Bride of Lammermoor

Volume X
Ivanhoe

Volume XI
The Monastery

Volume XII
The Abbot

Volume XIII
Kenilworth

Volume XIV
The Pirate

Volume XV
The Fortunes of Nigel

Volume XVI-Volume XVII
Peveril of the Peak

Volume XVIII
Quentin Durward

Volume XIX
St. Ronan’s Well

Volume XX
Redgauntlet

Volume XXI
The Betrothed
(Novel)
The Highland Widow
(Chronicles of the Canongate)

Volume XXII
The Talisman
(Novel)
The Two Drovers
My Aunt Margaret’s Mirror
The Tapestried Chamber
The Laird’s Jock
(Chronicles of the Canongate)

Volume XXIII
Woodstock

Volume XXIV
The Fair Maid of Perth

Volume XXV
Anne of Geierstein

Volume XXVI
Count Robert of Paris

Volume XXVII
The Surgeon’s Daughter
Castle Dangerous
Index and Glossary
Characters Introduced and Principal Incidents

~

The Poems of Sir Walter Scott

Unusually Illustrated
In two Volumes

Merrill & Baker
London

(1900)

Edition de Luxe
Limited to Five Hundred Registered and Numbered Copies. Number 90.

~

Life of Sir Walter Scott

by J.G. Lockhart

Unusually Illustrated
In four Volumes

Merrill & Baker
London

(1900)

Edition de Luxe
Limited to Five Hundred Registered and Numbered Copies. Number 90.

~

The Book-bills of Narcissus
by Richard Le Gallienne

The Quest for Corvo : An Experiment in Biography
by A.J.A. Symons

Alfred de Musset : A Biography
by Henry Dwight Sedgwick

The Intimate Journal of George Sand
translated and edited by Marie Jenney Howe

Balzac
by Frederick Lawton

Spiritual Adventures
by Arthur Symons

The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne
by Sir Edmund Gosse

The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse
by Evan Charteris

The Letters of Algernon Charles Swinburne
edited by Sir Edmund Gosse and Thomas Wise

A Study of Shakespeare
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson,
1834-1872
(Two Volumes)

The Painting of You
by William Michaelian

Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle
(Two Volumes)

Arthur Conan Doyle : A Life in Letters
edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, & Charles Foley

Letters of James Russell Lowell
edited by Charles Eliot Norton
(Two Volumes)

James Russell Lowell : A Biography
by Horace Elisha Scudder
(Two Volumes)

James Russell Lowell and His Friends
by Edward Everett Hale

~

Standard Library Edition
The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson
With a General Index and a Memoir
by James Elliott Cabot
With Steel Portraits and Etchings
In Fourteen Volumes

~

Volume I
Nature, Addresses, and Lectures

Volume II
Essays : First Series

Volume III
Essays : Second Series

Volume IV
Representative Men : Seven Lectures

Volume V
English Traits

Volume VI
The Conduct of Life

Volume VII
Society and Solitude : Twelve Chapters

Volume VIII
Letters and Social Aims

Volume IX
Poems

Volume X
Lectures and Biographical Sketches

Volume XI
Miscellanies

Volume XII
Natural History of Intellect and Other Papers

Volumes XIII and XIV
A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson
by James Elliot Cabot

~

The Confessions of St. Augustine
Translated by Edward Bouverie Pusey

The Imitation of Christ
by Thomas à Kempis
Translated by William Benham

The Pilgrim’s Progress
by John Bunyan

The Complete Poems of John Milton
Written in English

Lowell & His Poetry
by William Henry Hudson



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Eyes as windows


When these grand heavens first felt their need, I know not;
that eyes, as windows, should open and close at their behest and trust,
ancient then as now do ours; sight, spiritual; bones, as so much dust;
sails the wind through wild forests springing, yields both to touch;
as the first dove seeks mate to love; I know not but to bow,
and kneel, and shout; open, shut, ’t is not my will,
nor the grace that comes to fill yours,
these windows still, now waking;
or how the sun comes up,
the other stars quiet
but not forsaking;
I know not,

only that I find them waiting.



Friday, December 25, 2015

Which shows so well


Alive in the knowledge that less is more,
and that wanting nothing is having everything,
a hungry bird, thus sure, comes out to sing,
and thereby sweetly calls your name;
by any word or little thing secured,
a ribbon, say, or bow, a seed
dropped on the ground,
her song a poem,
or daylight
ringing
bell,

which shows so well, the love that binds us all.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

We as poets


It does not need words to show
we might never reach the end of our sentence,
that our very presence is a message
of greeting and farewell.

Thus to embrace, a plum ripe
falls through space, into a hand out held,
where we, ever as poets,
come to dwell.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

For friends missing loved ones


It is good to weep; in truth, I wish you would;
not your sorrow to keep, but to purify the good
that even now doth speak in your darkling mood;
like crackling wood, in a fire that leaps, they wink
for all you can, instead of could, or should;
and that is one way their lives still teach
gratitude for the pain and grief
that makes their absence
presence, where once
they stood.



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Canvas 606



Canvas 606

December 22, 2015




Of each my trial and pain


And when, of each my trial and pain,
I say, Rejoice,

Think me not a Fool; but rather school me
in your Choice,

That keeps your Burden so dear to you;
for I confess,

I have not found the weight I stress
so Noble,

That the Deformity it doth impress
hath not shone through;

Or is the roar of Self so grand,
you mistake

The Sea of Life for the Drop of Sorrow
in your hand?



Monday, December 21, 2015

Speaks thus the storm wind


Not when all you have has fallen away,
but when you have fallen away from all you have,
and fear not whether or where,
you, or they, will land.



Saturday, December 19, 2015

Old Grandpa Moon


I wrote this simple, old-fashioned children’s story many years ago, long before I was a grandpa myself. This is its first, and perhaps last, publication. I do wish it were illustrated. Maybe I should take on that challenge. I might surprise myself. I would have to. Then again, I do so love the pictures in your head. Isn’t that what makes our friendship so easy to imagine, so vital, and so real?



The whole great countryside was asleep. The night was clear and cold, and the stars were winking above the farmhouses and fields.

But inside an old stone cottage, there was one little boy who could not sleep. It was Simon. Simon was still awake, because Grandpa, who always slept beside him, was snoring too loudly.

“Lo-ho, lo-ho,” Grandpa said as he breathed in, and as he breathed out. “Ho-ho, lo-ho.”

It was now very late, and Simon didn’t know what to do. Quietly, he sat up and looked around the room.

Papa was stretched out asleep by the fireplace, and Mama was there beside him.

Grandma, who always seemed so busy during the day, was sound asleep in her chair, cozy beneath her favorite quilt.

Big Brother was asleep, and Sister too.

Even the family’s lazy old dog, Bobo, was asleep.

Everyone was asleep but Simon!

Simon lay back down beside Grandpa, feeling like the only person in the world who was still awake.

Meanwhile, Grandpa went right on snoring. “Lo-ho,” he said. “Lo-ho.”

Simon tried putting his hands over his ears, but he heard the snoring anyway.

Then he rolled himself up into a little ball. But that didn’t do a bit of good.

He unrolled himself and closed his eyes as tight as he could. He whispered the word Sleep over and over. That almost worked, but a few minutes later his eyes popped open by themselves and Simon was more awake than ever.

Well, if Simon couldn’t fall asleep, then he would have to think of some way to make Grandpa stop snoring. At the same time he knew he must not disturb his grandfather, because he worked hard all day and needed his rest.

Simon’s first idea was to poke Grandpa in the stomach with his little finger. He did this, ever so lightly.

But it didn’t work.

“Lo-ho, lo-ho,” Grandpa snored.

Then he remembered how much Grandpa liked ripe tomatoes and fresh green cucumbers. So he whispered softly in his ear, “Grandpa, are you hungry? The tomatoes and cucumbers are ripe.”

But that didn’t work either, and Grandpa kept on snoring.

“Lo-ho, lo-ho,” he said.

Simon couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. But then he remembered something Grandpa liked even better than tomatoes and cucumbers, and that was Grandma’s raisin pie. Grandma made the best raisin pie in the world.

“Grandpa?” whispered Simon again. “There’s a big raisin pie baking in the oven. I think it’s almost ready.”

“Lo-ho, lo-ho-ho,” answered Grandpa.

Now Simon was beginning to wonder if Grandpa would ever stop snoring. But just then he remembered how much his grandfather liked to go fishing during the summer.

“Grandpa, let’s go fishing,” Simon whispered hopefully.

But, “Lo-ho-ho, lo-ho-ho,” snored Grandpa.

“Grandpa, the cows are singing in the barn,” said Simon.

“Ho-and-lo, lo-and-ho,” snored Grandpa.

“Grandpa, the horses are dancing in the garden.”

“Heave-ho,” answered Grandpa, “heave-ho.”

“Grandpa, the chickens are up on the roof,” said Simon.

“Happity-lo, hippity-ho,” snored Grandpa.

“Grandpa, there’s corn in your ear.”

“And a crow in the snow,” snored Grandpa, “a crow in the snow.”

Well, it was just no use! Simon had tried everything he could think of, and Grandpa was still snoring! Only now, he was snoring louder than ever!

Simon sat up again and looked around the room.

Everyone was still asleep — Papa and Mama by the fireplace, Grandma in her chair, Big Brother and Sister, and even lazy old Bobo. But how could they sleep with all that noise?

Simon lay back down. Then he looked out the window and up at the night sky.

A big round moon was just coming up.

And how many stars there were! One couldn’t hope to count them all, not even in a million years.

“One, two, three,” Simon said to himself.

The moon rose a little higher.

“Four, five, six.”

And the stars shined a little brighter.

“Seven, eight, nine.”

For some reason, Simon’s eyes felt heavy. It wasn’t easy to keep them open. But he must, because there were so many stars, and he had to count them all.

“Ten, eleven, twelve.”

Simon didn’t know it, but he was almost asleep.

“Thirteen . . . fourteen . . . fifteen . . .”

And the whole great countryside was quiet, except for Grandpa’s snoring.

Then, lo-ho, the moon went down, and one by one the stars all turned into butterflies.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Show and Tell


In his dream, he wandered the narrow, winding streets of an ancient city. Along the way, he saw an old blind woman selling nuts and grains, and a young boy carrying fresh warm bread to customers as yet unknown to him. Hearing his footsteps and smelling the bread, the woman bade him stop; this he did, bowing theatrically, as was his wont. Speaking in a singing sort of way, he asked after her health, with such a facial expression as to suggest a profound connection between her answer, whatever it turned out to be, and his aromatic wares. Her answer, however, took him by surprise: “That we both live only in the dream of another, I sense you are unaware.” Hearing this, of course, he thought her crazy, though harmless. He also bore in mind that no matter how crazy she was, she was still someone’s daughter and quite likely someone’s mother, and therefore deserving of respect, even if that respect was partially hidden behind a smile. His teeth, at least the cleanest ones that weren’t missing, shone from out his handsome, youthful face. “I had assumed as much,” he said, “and was hoping you would care to explain it.” “You laugh,” she said. “I do not mind. But explain it I can, and explain it I must.” As amused as he was, at this juncture the boy remembered his rapidly cooling bread, and that the cooler it became, the harder it would be to sell. And so his next words were uttered with a little more haste than was consistent with respect and good manners: “You had best get on with it, then,” he said, “because I have a living to make.” Hearing this, the woman smiled. Then, before he even had time to blink, his bread, and the flat, floury board he used day in and day out to transport it, evaporated into thin air. “There,” she said. “Now you have all the time in the world. Even more.” And as she spoke those last two words, she, too, disappeared, along with the nuts and grain she had arranged around her. But that was not all. No, it was not all, because next the place where she had been sitting disappeared, as did the old stone wall behind her, and the tired shops on either side, each with their sorrowful doorway and forlorn keepers and attendants. Seeing all this, or rather not seeing it, he cried out, “What strange, evil magic is this!” But lo, expecting its familiar, proud echo, he heard not his own voice. Then, as if about to call on God, he held up his hand, which was also missing. And yet, somehow, he felt it was still there. “Is it possible,” he wondered, “that the woman was right, and that all of this is part of the dream of another? And if it is, what will become of me? Would it not be best to run?” So saying, he turned, only to discover that the street, too, was gone, as was the very city itself. And then suddenly he felt as if he were drifting in space. Around him were galaxies of stars, planets and moons of every description, hanging all about him like ripe fruit, as if he were lost in the branches of a universal tree. “I am dying,” he said. “Unless —” and for some reason this surprised him even more — “I am he who dreams.” Here the dream ended. Soon thereafter, but what might as well have been a century or more, a beautiful little girl bent down where she found the dream half-covered by the sweet, green, wet grass behind her house. She took it up gently and carried it in to show to her mother, who, as mothers did then and often still do in these beautiful times, was just taking some bread out of the oven. “What is that you have there,” she asked her daughter. “I don’t know,” the little girl replied. And the two were silent a moment, marveling at the existence of such a strange, lovely thing.



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Storm and Demand


When you predict or expect the worst, you are sure to help bring it about. Repeat the pattern, and your negative outlook becomes a habit; ultimately, the habit becomes an excuse to remain the same, and to blame fate or others for something you were instrumental in helping to bring about. The illusion is that there is a future. When we say, “I will try to be a better person,” or, “I will find happiness someday,” or “I am working on becoming enlightened,” we are in effect saying that we do not feel the urgency, or sense the opportunity, in this the present moment. We would rather be distracted, or comforted, or intellectually teased, or shown an easier way. But the revolution is not in philosophy, religion, or politics; it is not a matter of struggle or proud effort; it is in the sudden startling storm and demand of your existence. It is the joyful turning out of your pockets, and finding the rainbow within.



Saturday, December 12, 2015

If I Tell You


If I tell you that these winter days are a procession of flowers,
and that your ready gaze has soft warm fingers,
will you understand how touched I am
by the divine mercy
we call ours?



Friday, December 11, 2015

Gratitude


I the one last leaf, and you, the snowflake that taught me how to fall.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

Angels


It is clear to me that we are all angels in this life, and that we are at our best when we know, or remember, this sweet, simple, joyous fact. You are mine; I am yours; our children and grandchildren and the children of others all minister to us with their tears and wings and smiles; every breath is an invitation to help and to be helped, to lift and to be lifted; and always to rejoice. And even when we don’t know, even when we don’t remember or recognize our true status in this timeless, boundless, ever renewing life, we are guided to where we are to be the most of help, or to where our spirit-needs are most apt to be filled. So why not yield?



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Canvas 594



Canvas 594

December 3, 2015




That your butterflies may rest


That your butterflies may rest, say not, make not, act not to impress; by inspiration blessed, and instinct’s test, give the best of what is near and dear to you, as a prayer that might uplift.



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Canvas 593



Canvas 593

December 2, 2015




bell weather


how blue and sweet the stars today

how grain to meet the tongue

how saint the nurse of this quaint verse

how old to be this young



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

other thoughts


a butterfly in frosty air

above a frozen summer pond

and other thoughts that carry you

away adrift along