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Tennis Lessons

Inspiration comes from everywhere. My son and I have been watching a lot of tennis lately. I’d mostly always rather play a thing than watch others do it, but I’ve learned that one can take life and even painting lessons from watching others play tennis.

Iga Swiatek, ranked by the Women’s Tennis Association as the world No. 1 women’s singles player is absolutely fierce on the court and at 23, has an incredible record. She says, again and again, that the key for her is staying in the moment. Her focus is on this point–not the endpoint, not the score (she claims sometimes she doesn’t even know the score). She’s assessing what this point needs from her right now. Here and now. (When she’s about to serve, she’s silently saying something. What is it? I want to know.) And when she wins the match, she’ll run around the court, arms wide as if to embrace the whole world, a big smile on her face–the picture of pure joy.

She played Naomi Osaka recently in the French Open. Osaka, former world No. 1, had taken time off to have a child and has returned with a ranking of 134. Their game was amazing. Osaka essentially had nothing to lose going in, and it showed in her play. She seemed loose, free, and unencumbered, and she gave Iga a run for her money. Iga won but still, there’s another nugget of wisdom. Play with joy. Play loose. Play free. Paint with joy. Paint loose. Paint free.

Carlos Alcaraz, asked about his ready smile, said his team tells him he plays his best tennis when he smiles.

So I’ve been feeling pretty low lately about my aging dogs. I’ve had a hard time shaking my malaise, looking ahead with dread to what’s to come and ultimately, to losing them. Failing miserably at staying in the here and now. Only pickleball and Mahjong have taken my mind off of that worry and sadness.

Last week I pulled out a big (36″ x 48″) canvas that I’d bought for $5 at the Salvation Army and gessoed a while back. Hung it on my painting wall, got out happy colors and big brushes, put on the Beatles, and slung some paint around. Painting on a big surface, on the wall, is just so freeing. It’s partly the physicality of it but also the size. And bouncy music always helps. I had no agenda other than wanting to feel better. It was a used canvas–just $5–wouldn’t matter if I made a mess of it. Nothing to lose. So? I was loose and I had fun and I felt better.

I brought my son in to see it and told him basically what I just wrote above, and he said, “That’s how you should always do.” True. Very true. That is just what I should always do. I love my big painting! I love what it stands for and I do love how it turned out. Best of all, it took me out of my funk and into the present moment, at least for a little while. There it is, up at the top of this letter.

Do what you love. Stay in the moment. Set yourself free.

“The sparkle in your eyes which shows up when you do what you love, becomes a starting point to a grand carnival of your new life.” ― Hiral Nagda

“Do what you love. Do what you are. Do what you do.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

“Previous chapter is closed. Doesn’t matter what happened so far this season, good or bad. My mind needs to be clear and I need to focus on what’s coming next.” – Iga Swiatek

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Querencia

In my last letter I included this quote, from G. Severino: “I am my own querencia. I am my own home. I am my own sounding board. I am my own soulmate. And what a beautiful feeling to carry with me . . . ”

I only looked up the meaning of the word “querencia” after sending the letter out, simply because I loved all the rest of the quote. But now that I’ve found the definition, I love the word itself, very much.

Wikipedia calls the word “a Spanish metaphysical concept. 1. Emotional inclination toward someone or something. 2. Tendency in people and animals to return to the place where they grew up. . . It has also been defined as ‘homing instinct, a favorite place.'”

This is available as a card or a print.

It is a layered word packed with meaning. Other interpretations include: to want, like, love; fondness; favorite haunt of an animal (the place where a bull goes in a bullfight, for safety); the place where one feels most secure, where you find your strength of character and feel at home; the place where you are your most authentic self.

I love all of this, as well as its use in Severino’s quote from On the Verge, a journal-style novella. He is his own soulmate, his own favorite place, his own strength, carried with him wherever he goes. True inner strength!

I found his words when I searched last week for a quote about journaling, more specifically that beautiful Morning Pages ritual that I keep, that has sustained me for the past 26 years and that continues to surprise and support me. That is my querencia, my strength, my favorite place/time/haunt, the place where I feel my most authentic self. That is where I gather myself together, with words, pen to paper, my two dogs close by. My haven, my sanctuary. My querencia.

Do I carry it with me? Not sure. Probably not. But I’d like to. Things certainly do jostle one throughout a day–the news, petty disagreements and slights that should be easily shaken off, misspoken words that one regrets, discourteous or unkind encounters, a sick dog or friend, even tech irritations and drama on the pickleball court. All these things lure us away from our center. Life, in other words. Life happens. But in the morning at least I have my querencia before I venture forth.

What is it that makes you feel your strongest and most authentic self? Go and do it right now. Do it as much as you can.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

“I’m safe inside this container called me.” ― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” ― James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Cicada Summer

They brought him out to the waiting area, saying, “He misses you!” “I know!” I replied.

I have loved the song of cicadas for a long time. I mean, really loved. But the bloom is off that rose. Let the katydids come and the crickets hum. But this year I’ll be glad when the cicadas have died off.

It’s not been a great week. I just spent my Sunday morning, not in one of my personal churches–woods, lakeside, studio–but at the vet hospital with Miles. As an older dog he has kidney and pancreas issues and as a dog who is young at heart, he loves to hunt cicadas. In his younger years, it did not bother his healthy body to snack on them. But this year he’s like an addict, eyes glittering, panting, keening to get out the door and follow their call.

Staring at the door . . .

And so this year he got sick. By yesterday I was fearing the worst.

This morning I was doing my journaling in bed, dreading the experience and the cost of taking Miles to the vet hospital, a thing I’d decided must be done. My last experience had been terrible. I knew it would be expensive. So I started strategizing about how I could pay for it. Another Open Studio? It would have to be a VERY successful one. A big (I hoped) sale of paintings? I just felt like I had to do it.

And then, suddenly, as often happens when I write about a thing, I leapt from worry and dread to gratitude. I realized how lucky I am to have this resource, less than 10 minutes from my home. I have everything I need very close by. I would come up with the money. I felt hopeful and somehow even confident that if I took him there, Miles would be fine.

I bet there are cicadas out there.

So, two things.

a) I have often, as I read or think about gratitude, thought, well, it’s easy enough for me to list many things for which I’m grateful. But how easy would it be for people who are very sick, or who have loved ones who are very sick or struggling? Sure, I can make a list every day. But what about all those people in the midst of war, refugees, the sick and grieving? Gratitude must be very hard to come by.

b) Writing. Journaling. It is SO good for you. Try it! It can change your whole day.

P.S. Right now Miles is doing better. We’ll see how the week unfolds. Cicadas have fallen in my Love Scale, even though it’s not their fault animals love to eat them. And I’m sure they would rather not be eaten. But I’ll be happy when they’re gone.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

“I am my own querencia. I am my own home. I am my own sounding board. I am my own soulmate. And what a beautiful feeling to carry with me…” ― G. Severino, On the Verge

“You think those dogs will not be in heaven! I tell you they will be there long before any of us.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Bearers of Joy

I bet if you’re on Instagram you, like I, get those ads for various workout programs. I’ve been interested in the seated workouts that advertise unbelievable results “for senior women” in 28 days. Well, interested, but not really believing. I searched on YouTube for a free version and discovered a gal whose workout videos are called Fabulous50s. Why not give it a try, I thought? After all, 72 is the new 52, isn’t it? Say yes, quickly, or some old gal falls and breaks a hip!

This beautiful soul, Schellea (Shelly) has 1.77 million subscribers and I, who had never previously subscribed to any YouTube channel, am one of them. She has such incandescent energy! She says, “I am 57 years old, live in Australia and it is my greatest joy to help women over 50 feel great about who they are, and help them to feel excited about where they are going!” Amen! Watching the videos, one does feel her joy and her intention. She is lovely.

Shelly is a meditation and yoga guru, spiritual guide, life coach, and then an exercise instructor, in my view. She says things throughout like, “You are beautiful!” “Smile!” “Say out loud three things that you like about yourself.” “Think of three things you are grateful for.” I find myself smiling and feeling happy during and definitely after these short workouts. The stretching videos are accompanied by beautiful classical music or vocal music that is both uplifting and calming. The last screen is of the ocean, with the words YOU ARE LOVED super-imposed. Oh yes, I do feel loved! Thank you!

How many ways are there to bring joy to others? So many. I never would have imagined that exercise videos would be one of those ways! I suppose it all comes down to how you do what you do, what kind of energy you bring to the role, work, or play, and how fully you bring your positive intentions out onto the page, the screen, the pickleball court . . . Each of us has ways we impact others. We can have a neutral impact, a negative one, or a gorgeously positive one.

I love discovering new bearers of joy. I want to be one, as well. I hope that these letters bring some small measure of joy to you. Or a great big heap of it.

“Be the light or the one who carries it.” ― Germany Kent

“I love the smell, the lovely aroma of indulgent lushness, of people with inner peace.” ― Bhuwan Thapaliya

“Be the sun in someone’s dark sky.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Mothers and Sons

Today, as I’m writing, is Mother’s Day. I’m thinking of motherhood and childhood, of course–being a mother and having a mother. For this, I direct you to a favorite Billy Collins poem called “The Lanyard.” I’ve been handing out copies of it all over the place. Yesterday a woman eagerly asked, “Are you Billy?” Ah, no. Anyway, I’m going to copy it below for you to read, if you like, but also, if you click here, you can listen to Billy Collins himself reading it. I send this to my sons every Mother’s Day. If you don’t read it or listen to it, I’m sorry for you. If you do, I guarantee it will make you smile.

I expected to have daughters. I have three baby girl outfits still packed away in a trunk. Yet I have three sons. I have come to believe that once you have two boy babies and you get pregnant again, you’ll have another boy. It’s a given. And won’t you be lucky! At least, I have been. Although I never had confidence in myself as a mother, I must have done at least some little thing right, because I have three loving sons. Loving, irreverent, whip smart, creative, adventurous, smart aleck, inventive, generous, handsome sons. They have made me feel lucky, loved, and happy.

So then, related but not closely, I said last week that I had offered poems to anyone not dangerous looking. The very day that I sent that letter out, I saw a youngish guy approaching on the path around the lake. Tattoos all over, even on his face, a rough look, combat boots and shorts, a big backpack with things hanging off of it. We said hello and I thought, well, why not? “Hey,” I called out as he passed, “would you like a poem?” He turned and said, “I would love a poem. Thank you, ma’am.” He began reading it immediately, so I gave him another one (Alice Walker’s “Expect Nothing”) and we parted ways.

I walked away a little bit dumbstruck, not sure what I had expected. But again, the power of poetry! Of words. He still looked rough around the edges, and he didn’t really ever smile or look me in the eyes, but he was polite and thankful. I wondered about his situation, what his mother was like, how he grew up, and whether or not he was in trouble. What’s his story? Is he homeless? I hope he has a mother that he’ll contact today. I hope he is okay, happy enough, safe.

I’m immensely grateful that my sons are healthy, happy, safe and sound, and living good lives. And that we all love each other. Isn’t that what we all want for each other?

The Lanyard
By Billy Collins
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy lightand taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truththat you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.“The Lanyard” from The Trouble With Poetry: and Other Poems by Billy Collins, copyright © 2005 by Billy Collins. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”
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Poems in My Pocket

So here we are in the merry month of May, no longer National Poetry Month. Am I sad? Not at all. I adore May and especially this May, which has favored us with gorgeous day after gorgeous morning, again and again. My cup overflows.

And this morning, writing, with tea at my elbow, windows open to the cool air, I marveled at the enormity of green out my windows, the leaves bouncing and bobbing all around, looking so jolly, so free though somehow not free, but rather, attached within their community of others, and it gave me such a feeling of wellbeing, though I’ve been sick.

And I thought about what to write, fully expecting it to be some sort of concluding report, an official accounting of the Poetry Share, since April is now behind us. But I am far from finished handing out poems, because of the joy. So I will likely be carrying poems around in my pockets for a long time to come. Look out!

Here’s a thing. I went to Old Navy yesterday to see about some shorts and I found a pair, black linen with a comfy elastic waist (just to prove that, yes, I really am an old lady), but most importantly with FOUR big serviceable pockets, the better to carry poems in. Yes. That becomes a box to tick off now. Pockets for the poems. I gave poems to three of the salesgirls there. And one to a gal on her knees on the concrete floor of the Salvation Army, sorting through donations. Big smiles of wonderment and lights in their eyes again and again at the question, “Would you like a poem?” Oh sure, maybe they think I’m crazy, but I don’t think so. I think it’s more of who can resist the offer of a poem? Only one person, so far, and I feel pretty sure he has lain awake at night with regret over that. What have I done? that hapless man at the Post Office is asking himself. Who in their right mind refuses the offer of a poem?

I gave to the nurse at Quick Care and the young woman at the pharmacy counter, the checker at HyVee. A woman humming past me on a walk. Bank tellers. A young guy called Zamboni, running through the park. Three ladies at the thrift store. People gathering signatures on petitions. The egg and bread sellers at the Farmer’s Market. The dear postman whose name I now know is Sean, is Irish, and his brother and sister were almost named Seamus and Siobhan. All of this I know because of the Seamus Heaney poem. La!

Just about anyone who doesn’t look dangerous has been offered a poem.

In case you want more recommendations, here are a few of the ones I’ve handed out since the last update. Rumi’s “The Guest House;” Mary Oliver’s “Peonies;” Billy Collins’ “Aimless Love;” Reed Whittemore’s “The Party;” Lewis Carroll’s “The Jabberwocky;” Tony Hoagland’s “The Word;” e.e. cummings’ “[anyone lived in a pretty how town].” And more. I forget. I’ve been sick, so I’m a little bit fuzzy-headed. But really, I can’t be expected to do all the poetry, can I? Your favorites are bound to be different from mine. Go on a poetry safari. Find the ones that speak to your heart. And then spread the love. And then you, too, can call out to others that you’re “on top of the world!” as you walk jauntily by.

It’s just another way to enjoy life. There are so many. This is just one more to keep in your back pocket.

“Then you have to remember to be thankful; but in May one simply can’t help being thankful . . . that they are alive, if for nothing else. I feel exactly as Eve must have felt in the garden of Eden before the trouble began.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

“As full of spirit as the month of May, and as gorgeous as the sun in Midsummer.”― William Shakespeare

“Everything you invent is true: you can be sure of that. Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.” — Julian Barnes

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Some Bonuses

Here’s my painting, “Green Pot,” which did make it into the Still Life show.

Today I feel as if the world is my oyster, as far as what to write about. I’m tempted to give yet another update on the Poetry Share, as it’s gotten better and better as I’ve gone along. Then, my son is visiting from New York, and that is a joyful topic. But a goal I have for myself in writing these letters is to make sure they’re not too Facebook-y, so I won’t. Then, too, I have an update on the Still Life gallery exhibit at our local arts organization, an affirmation of my writing on Totality in which I struggled with the assignment. I struggled, that is, until I realized AGAIN that it’s always best to draw from within oneself for art, writing, and everything, really.

Then there’s piano teaching, which has become more and more lovely and fulfilling, with students of all ages. And then there’s pickleball, another joyful part of my life. The world is my oyster, of late.

The other day I was walking with Miles on the trail that so many of us love here in beautiful Columbia MO. We dawdled, as we do. Well, Miles is mostly searching around everywhere for a snack of some sort. Dandelion puffs, fallen dog treats, dried up worms, sticks, bits of bark. While the world is my oyster, it is Miles’ smorgasbord.

I was admiring the beautiful polka-dotted bluffs and as I looked up I saw a lovely little columbine growing out of the rock. So pretty! That made me smile, and of course I paused to take photos. Such a pretty little thing springing up out of a bunch of rock. I felt a wellspring of happiness.

Here’s a closer view.

Anyway, we’re dawdling along, ambling, you could say, with the wellspring and the smorgasbord and all–and a voice says, “On your left.” I turn. It’s an older man (my age, I presume), on foot, with a walking stick. Well, I smiled at the warning. I mean, he wasn’t on a bike, or even running. There was no danger. What could happen? I suppose he could have fallen on me or I on him, since we’re old, but we were both quite ambulatory. It just struck me as not only polite but funny. So I say, “How are you?” (I failed to offer a poem, though I had some on me, darn it.) He says, without slowing his pace at all and rather jauntily, the words fairly shooting out of his heart, “Top of the world! How are you?” So I say, “Same!” And we carry on, me with the wellspring, Miles with the smorgasbord, and the elderly gentleman with his walking stick.

What a moment! Two old strangers, senior citizens, you might say, meeting and greeting with that assessment of our lives–Top of the World! I thought, we are two lucky people, aren’t we?

So there you have it. All sorts of grace. Beautiful day, lovely walk, son about to visit, poetry, pickleball, piano, painting, and people. All of the important things in a little jaunty parade, marching through my life. It doesn’t get better.

Yes by William Stafford

It could happen any time, tornado,

earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.

Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That’s why we wake

and look out – no guarantees

in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,

like right now, like noon,

like evening.

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Poetry Share Update

I just thought I’d report on my progress with Poetry Share. You might recall that on April 1st, I had decided to celebrate National Poetry Month by sharing poems all around. I started that very day and it has been so much fun and quite surprising. I also asked you to join me. Please let me know how it’s gone for you, since I am certain that all of you have been very busy at it, as well.

So here is my report. I’ve shared copies of the following poems: Mary Oliver’s “Percy Speaks While I’m Doing the Taxes” (on April 15th) and “The Journey;” Seamus Heaney’s “Postscript;” Ellen Bass’ “Gate C-22;” e.e. cummings’ “[In Just]-“; Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things;” “Summons” by Robert Francis; and “Yes,” by William Stafford. Is that all of them? I think there are more. In any case, I’ve given out almost 300 copies of these poems and now you can click on them and read them for yourself, so by now I bet I’m way ahead on the count. Not that it’s a contest, of course.

I was a little bit nervous to do it at first, as I began with pickleball players at my gym. The pickleball crowd is very mixed, people from all walks of life, and I had no idea how some of them would respond to being handed a poem. Boy, was I ever surprised! They loved them. No one turned me down, even though every day I was handing them out again. I did, of course, give out great ones and new ones each day. One of the guys, a self-described “bum,” who says he educated himself at the public library, brought a very nice poem he’d written, to share with everyone. Another said he also writes poetry and a couple of them declared that they thought poetry should rhyme, prompting a fun discussion.

I dropped poems into the Suggestion Box at the gym, and left a few lying on tables where you can sit and wait for someone or eat a snack. As I got bolder, I started handing the day’s poem to the attendant at the desk. Big happy smiles greeted me every time. I handed them to people who were collecting signatures for petitions outside of the gym or the Post Office or the Farmer’s Market or the library. Almost to a person, people’s faces lit up when I gave them. Only one guy, in line behind me at the Post Office on Tax Day, declined, even though we’d been chatting. He is the only one. It has been so much fun.

I’ve handed some to people I know that I’ve run into on the street but also to a few people I just met on a walk. Again, they were so happy to get them! I hung a new one each day on my mailbox for the postman. Once he saw that they were for him, he, too, looked forward to getting them, thanked me, and took them along with him.

I put some in Little Libraries and inside of books I was returning to the library. I put them in pants pockets and purses for sale at the thrift shop. I forgot about putting one in my tax check and have failed, oddly, to give them to good friends and adult piano students. But I’ve done pretty well and it has been one of the more fun things I’ve done. One of these days I’ll hand out a poem that I’ve written.

So tell me–have you shared any and if so, what happened? And if not, why not? It’s fun!

” . . . everyone here [in heaven] can read and write, the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.” – Billy Collins, from The Revenant

“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” ~ Khalil Gibran

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” ~ T.S. Eliot

“I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is prose; words in their best order; – poetry; the best words in the best order.” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Totality

Before and after the recent eclipse, everyone was using the phrase ” the totality” to refer, of course, to the sun being completely hidden behind the moon’s shadow. Being a word person, it got me thinking about “the totality” of being human.

Merriam-Webster defines totality as a) an aggregate amount : SUM, WHOLE and b) the quality or state of being total : WHOLENESS, ENTIRETY. Totality of being or existence. Totality of our humanness. Totality of knowledge. Totality of purpose. We don’t often use it to think about ourselves, though.

What does it mean to be totally you or totally human, or more importantly, to embrace the totality of our selves and our humanness? I think of our totality as the sum of all the parts of ourselves, good and bad, even or maybe especially those that we don’t particularly like or would rather hide. Those are myriad and some definitely differ from person to person.

But others? Wrong-headed ideas and attitudes, prejudices, fear of missing out, feeling unloved or lonely, judging others, wondering if and where we fit in, worrying about things that haven’t yet happened, on and on. There are so very many things we all do at one time or another, to greater or lesser degrees, things that are just parts of our humanness, bits and pieces of it that we all possess, try as we might to ignore them. I’m reminded again of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Hello, old friend,” in response to some of these troublesome things we all think and do.

My “Four Dogs” print, though inspired by Matisse’s cut-outs, expresses the totality of me.

With art, our best pieces will be imbued with the aggregate of who we are, what and who we love, made of colors we love with tools we love to use. So my best work expresses the totality of me. Yet for the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to create a still life for our next local arts exhibit. I had said I would submit to each of the gallery exhibits this year but I had very little confidence about painting a still life or painting anything at all realistic. So I had resorted to looking at abstract still lifes on Pinterest for ideas. I can tell you that this project had, as a result, been highly unsatisfying. No fun. Poor results. The work did not reflect me. Until today.

Today, mostly as a result of writing this letter, I’ve realized that I was looking away from myself rather than into. I asked my son’s opinion on what I was doing, instead of trusting my own–all because I was thinking of my own totality as lacking. I can’t paint anything realistic. Don’t we just do this so often, and to our own detriment? I can’t. I’m not good enough.

As an artist I have been advised to look to my own best work and to what I love for inspiration, rather than looking outside myself. But here I’ve been, all tied up in knots, trying to create work like something I’ve seen, while at the same time thinking about totality. One should have informed the other, but I’ve been at cross purposes. Until today. Shaking my head. Suddenly remembering that my art is mine and therefore needs to express me. It needs to reflect my totality and not someone else’s. How often do we have to learn the same thing?

So as of 5:30 p.m. I’ve had a breakthrough, with TWO pieces that I love. Yippee!! I don’t expect or need to win a prize (though I would like at least one of my pieces to be accepted into the show). I feel the joy one feels from having produced something that is genuine and authentic. Yeah. These little paintings are ME. That feels so good.

In everyday life, as in art, we are our best selves when we embrace our unique totality and accept those of others. I am happiest when I’m being authentic. We all are.

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” ― Lao Tzu

“Explore yourself in silent contemplation. You will find a breathtaking person you were completely unaware about.” ― Hiral Nagda

“The closer you come to knowing that you alone create the world of your experience, the more vital it becomes for you to discover just who is doing the creating.” ― Eric Micha’el Leventhal

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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Total Eclipse of the Sun

My brother, his wife, and The Total Stranger

Today there will be a total solar eclipse! And, weather permitting, it will be viewable across a nice swath of the U.S. A great occasion and a thing well worth viewing. I won’t be able to see it this time around, but I did host a little watch party on August 21, 2017, when we were able to see the totality right from my backyard.

I invited my brother, his wife and my friend Bean to come and stay. Surprisingly, my son had called from New York to say a young woman he knew had been clamoring to see it and so he asked if she could come here, too. I agreed reluctantly, since our house is tiny but I thought, Cole’s friend . . . When she got in touch and I’d said yes, I told my son his friend was coming. “Oh, she’s not my friend,” he said. He’d met her briefly somewhere and the subject had come up. After that my friend Bean and I privately referred to her as The Total Stranger (TTS for short).

Oliver got out his cool telescope.

I have no photos of the sun/moon, as the ones I did take were pretty pathetic. Anyway, the few moments of totality were so stunning, so otherworldly, as to toss out all thoughts of photo-taking. One wanted just to have eyes on the sky for those brief seconds.

A total solar eclipse and a partial one can barely even be compared. The totality, even though you’re expecting it, is shocking, amazing, and sudden. The natural world’s response is immediate, too, as insects immediately change the course of their singing and chattering.

I’m not even sure why I’ve chosen to write about this, as words fail me. Look to The Marginalian for a reference to Annie Dillard’s words, instead. She wrote, “Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you. But during an eclipse it is easy. What you see is much more convincing than any wild-eyed theory you may know.” Please do click the link above for more, though.

To celebrate the occasion, I baked an eclipse cake!

I hope if you missed out on the 2017 event you’ll get to see this one. It’s a once in a lifetime treat (even if you get to see it twice). You might like to check out the very fun They Might Be Giants song, “Why Does the Sun Shine?” before or after. I played it more than once during our little party, for the edification of family, friend, and Total Stranger.

Virginia Woolf wrote, on seeing a total eclipse in 1927: “How can I express the darkness? It was a sudden plunge, when one did not expect it; being at the mercy of the sky; our own nobility; the druids; Stonehenge; and the racing red dogs; all that was in one’s mind.”

Well, I am no Virginia Woolf, but I’ve been pondering the greatness of the words “totality” and “eclipse” lately. I’m hoping to write something pithy about the various implications of the word “totality” that eclipses my writing here, for next week’s letter. Wink wink, see what I did there?

“The clouds I can handle, but I can’t fight with an eclipse.” ― Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse

“In the deep sky where there had been a sun, we saw a ring of white silver; a smoking ring, and all the smokes were silver, too; gauzy, fuming, curling, unbelievable. And who had ever seen the sky this color! Not in the earliest morning or at twilight, never before had we seen or dreamed this strange immortal blue in which a few large stars now sparkled as though for the first time in creation.” ― Elizabeth Enright, Doublefields

“I’d seen a great many partial eclipses, but a partial eclipse has the same relation to a total eclipse as flirting with a man does to marrying him.” – Annie Dillard

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,
Kay

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”