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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.”

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Poetry Share

April is National Poetry Month and I think we should all celebrate it with aplomb, like the little girl pictured on this year’s National Poetry Month poster.

There are already loads of organized things one can find online for celebrating National Poetry Month, including Poem In Your Pocket Day, whose title I love but whose date I have found impossible to pin down. Let’s all just have a Poetry Share. I hope you’ll join me. Type up, copy, or write out a favorite poem or line, or many different ones, and print them out. Then start spreading them around. Go to a hospital parking lot and stick uplifting poems on windshields. Put a few in your favorite Little Free Library. Stick one into a library book you’re returning. Hand one to a friend or friendly stranger. Leave one on the table at your lunch spot. Chalk a short poem or line on a sidewalk. Email a favorite poem to someone you know or post one on social media. Add a favorite line to the bottom of your email. Wherever you go, spread some joy with poetry. Our troubled world needs it desperately.

If your idea of fun is to be secretive, do that. If you like the thought of handing a favorite poem to friends you see, do that. Maybe you’d take a few to your book club. Perhaps your book club would have a poetry exchange. You could host a poetry party, with collaborative poetry like Folding Poems, magnetic poetry, and poetry party favors. There are endless things to do. We all have words, right? And we can all put them together in fun or interesting ways. Don’t say No, not me. We can all do this. Whatever you choose to do, let’s just spread positivity via poetry this April.

I don’t take credit for this idea. A few years ago, Missouri’s then Poet Laureate asked people to do it all year long. Or maybe just haiku? I forget. I loved the idea at the time, but I never managed to do much. This year, I will.

Poem In Your Pocket Day shares this goal, too–on either April 18th or April 29th, depending where you look. Pinterest offers lots of ideas for it. I love the idea of celebrating poetry, poets, and words all month long, if not always. Sign up to receive a poem every day in your Inbox! Write silly little haikus! Or serious ones. Let’s make a vow to read, write, copy, and share poems this April, during this month meant to elevate poems and poets.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it” ― Gustave Flaubert

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ― Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook

“Every adjective and adverb is worth five cents. Every verb is worth fifty cents.” ― Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook

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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Equanimity Arising

Can you call it “equanimity” if it comes and goes?

I had a day recently at the beginning of which there was a storybook sky and at the end of which I marveled at my own equanimity. I had a relaxed, open attitude to the whole day and everything in it. Boy, it felt good! I went to pickleball, had fun playing, enjoyed all the people there, and then, somehow (obviously, because I’m 72), pulled a muscle in my hip. Ooh. Played another game even though it hurt and then thought I’d better stop. I called my Super Fabulous Magical chiropractor and as always, got an appointment for later that day.

If it’s not close to dinnertime, Miles is the picture of equanimity.

My hip hurt but I felt peachy, nonetheless. I knew it would pass, as do all my little injuries. I had things to do and I did them. I went to the bank and had a pleasant little chat with the young teller. At home I watched, mesmerized, as a fallen tree was being removed from my neighbor’s carport roof with some kind of giant cutting-and-picking-up contraption. Fascinating! My life felt good.

Then I went to see Mr. Magic, the chiropractor. That was fun, too. A lady brought her little dog in with her. Everyone seemed to be in jolly moods. Mr. Magic did all the adjustments, told me not to sit, to ice and then stretch twice a day. “Stretch how?” I asked. “Use that sheet I gave you.” In all these years I had/have no memory of ever having received a sheet. “Well, could you give me the sheet again?” When he handed it to me, he said, “In ten years when you come in with this same thing, I’ll give you another sheet.” Fun.

I marvel still at that day. I had to stand up for piano lessons. No matter. At little Henry’s lesson, there was the usual fidgeting and messing with the pedals, which I have asked him a hundred times not to do. “The piano is not a toy!” I’d said, again and again. On this day he was doing it again and I was asking him not to. Then he says, while fiddling, “Is this the one that’s just for fun?” Aiyiyi! “No! The piano is not a toy!” I was flat out amused, though. Enjoying this little cutie pie. The whole day long, everything seemed so easy, as if me and my life were sailing along on a tranquil lake in a small blue boat. I marveled. I have marveled at it again and again.

Especially since it was followed by several days of moods, worry about my dogs, and grumbling. Anger with the bank. Wishing for sun when the day was gloomy. Wanting not to do my tax prep. Etc. So if equanimity is defined as “evenness of mind especially under stress” and/or “general balance and harmony,” does one day count? Even though the day included a pulled muscle, discomfort, and inconvenience (but also Henry)?

I think, as Jack Kornfield says, equanimity can “arise.” I let it arise on that great day full of ordinary things. I did do that. Humans are just not capable of letting it arise all the time. Are we? Well, maybe some are. But are they, really? A very few might be. But do you know one? I don’t. Even the Dalai Lama gets rattled. Jack Kornfield too, probably.

“Those who are doomed to become artists are seldom blessed with equanimity. They are tossed to drunken heights, only to be brought down into a sludge of headachy despair; their arrogance gives way to humiliation at the next curve of the switchback.” – Patrick White, Flaws in the Glass

“To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion, before it hardens into grasping or negativity.” – Pema Chodron

“Equanimity arises when we accept the way things are.” – Jack Kornfield

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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Taxes

Doesn’t it seem rather uncivilized and frankly ugly that income tax reporting happens on April 15th? Or in April at all? In the middle of spring?? It does to me.

Who wants to think about money and expenses and unreported tips and foreign income and grantors and transferors when one should be traipsing through the wildflowers? Not me. Okay, taxes are one of those “get to” things I wrote about earlier, because if I didn’t have enough income to even report, I’d be pretty darn poor. However, why couldn’t this heinous task be set for, say, November 15th, after which we’d celebrate Thanksgiving, being thankful for all we have, including income?

My sister, a CPA, has been my tax accountant for many years. She did this for me out of love, in exchange for a few greeting cards and perhaps a box of chocolate covered pretzels (which I often forgot). Now, however, she’s retired. A local friend agreed to take me on as a client. I asked him for a deadline for all my info and materials and he suggested March 15th. Okay. But then he stretched that to the last week of March. Uh-oh. Never remove a deadline from a deadline-dependent artist type who hates numbers and figures. Now I’ve hardly begun. The pile of papers on the dining room table grows more menacing by the day.

I like to think that Mary Oliver and I would have been right in step with each other, with regard to taxes. She wrote a poem titled “Percy Speaks While I Am Doing the Taxes.” I’ve copied it for you, below. Surely she, like I, would like to have simply tossed all her receipts into a box and handed that over to the hapless accountant. “Do your worst, fine fellow! I can’t be bothered. I have spring to attend to.” Surely she, like I, would so much rather have been out in the woods somewhere with a small dog, sending love and kisses to the baby wildflowers, tiny shoots of green, and blue blue sky. As my sister, too, would rather have done for all those years. Now she is released from my 1040, Schedule C, Business Use of Home, 1099, etc., etc. Whereas I will ever and always, in Just-spring, have a pile of papers on the dining room table, mocking me.

I add now, to my list of desired household employees, in addition to the“dreamy-eyed gardener,” a bright-eyed, cheerful bookkeeper.

Percy Speaks While I Am Doing the Taxes – Mary Oliver

First of all, I do not want to be doing this.
Second of all, Percy does not want me
to be doing this.
bent over the desk like a besieged person
with a dull pencil and innumerable lists
of numbers.

Outside the water is blue, the sky is clear,
the tide rising.
Percy, I say, this has to be done. This is
essential. I’ll be finished eventually.

“Keep me in your thoughts,” he replies. “Just because
I can’t count to ten doesn’t mean
I don’t remember yesterday, or anticipate today.
I’ll give you ten more minutes,” and he does.
Then shouts—who could resist—his
favorite words: Let’s go!

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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Early Spring

Spring Beauty, so very early!

Oddly, I find the early spring we are experiencing not only unsettling but a little sad. Of course I adore spring! And winter is my least favorite time of year. But I do live in a land of four seasons and this year we barely had a winter at all.

There are things both natural and unnatural about this early spring that bother me. On the unnatural side, there is, of course, global warming. We are wrecking the natural order of things and that is very sad. All kinds of terrible things are happening across the globe because of what we humans have done and are still doing to this planet that is our home.

Toothwort, too, so early!

On the natural side, there’s time slipping away. Being a woman of a certain age, I am acutely aware of the passage of time. I look out my windows now, in early March, and see lots of green already. Oddly chagrined rather than joyous yesterday, I felt ashamed to actually feel a little sad about it. This is not just a sweet little blip in the middle of winter. I’ve always loved those. No, it’s done, it’s over; and we haven’t put in our dues with ice and snow and freezing toes and fingers yet. Two weeks only of it, I’d say. We’ve paid almost nothing for the rewards of spring.

Wildflowers, bulbs and flowering trees are already doing what they do so well.

Shouldn’t I be reveling in it? Crusty Old Winter’s zoomed away in a rush without even a sly goodbye. Yet this year I’m not yelling, Good riddance!

No. For I have passed another winter on Earth. How many more will I have? So I feel a bit unsettled and not quite as celebratory as usual.

But signs of spring are signs of spring, and color and blue skies and the cheerful little flowers are always lovely and welcome. I just hope they don’t disappear in a rush because summer’s landed too soon! I like FOUR seasons. Four. This is where I live, in Four Seasons Land, which is located on Earth, which we need to somehow protect. Sigh. So many things to fix.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ― Anne Bradstreet

“That is one good thing about this world . . . there are always sure to be more springs.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

” . . . always
it’s
Spring)and everyone’s
in love and flowers pick themselves”
― e.e. cummings, Collected Poems

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.”