Friday, July 13, 2018

Racism in Children's Poetry

not the version, I got --
mine is the 1961
"Platt &  Munk Classic"
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sylvia at Poetry for Children for Roundup. I look forward to reading everyone's posts today!

Last month when I was in Memphis, we shopped at a used/new bookshop called Burke's Books, and I brought home a beautifully illustrated version of A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES by Robert Louis Stevenson.

This is not a book I recall from my childhood, but I do know a few of Stevenson's poems, like "My Shadow" and "The Swing."

Many of the poems are simple and delightful, like one I will share below called "Summer Sun." But there are other not-so-sweet poems, like "Foreign Children," which is flat-out racist. The poem is bookended with this stanza:

"Little Indian, Sioux or Crow,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanee,
O! don't you wish that you were me?"

The middle of the poem talks about how these "other" children live, and how

"Such a life is very fine,
But it's not so nice as mine:"

So NOT the message we want to send any child!

It reminds me of the recent name change of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. I grew up on the Little House books and love them to this day. BUT. These books require some discussion with today's reader -- a discussion that might include ways these attitudes are wrong and how this kind of language is inappropriate and also how the fact that we are aware now of its wrongness and inappropriateness shows how far we've come as a society.

Also, part of the discussion might be in how to "take what you like and leave the rest." How can we still honor/support/love these authors and/or their works in spite of these things? For I will always love the Little House books. I will still recommend them to others. Just as I will recommend Robert Louis Stevenson's "My Shadow."

But now I feel I need to say more -- and I will, as I am doing here today. No one need wish s/he were anyone but exactly him or herself. People live DIFFERENT lives, not better or worse. All humans are equal and should be treated as the valuable, precious gifts that they are.

It helps me to look at these people and their words as historical artifacts. We can learn something from them. We can learn about ourselves.

And now, on a happier note, the aforementioned lovely "Summer Sun:"

Summer Sun
 by Robert Louis Stevenson

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven without repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlor cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles,
Into the laddered hayloft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.
--------

Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WHEN IN GEE'S BEND


 Last week Paul and I took a quick jaunt down to Camden and Gee's Bend for a program arranged by Alabama Folklife Association. It was great to get away! We especially enjoyed visiting one of my favorite shops ever: Black Belt Treasures, where there are lots of quilts and other folk art created by Black Belt artisans.

I also got to take Paul to Gainesridge Dinner Club, where you can enjoy black bottom pie, which is listed as one of the 100 Things to Eat Before you Die. (We also had key lime pie, and Paul said it was the best he's ever had!)

selfie in front of Gainesridge

 In the morning we drove over to Gee's Bend -- drove over, because the ferry is currently closed as it's being converted to all electric. Y'all, this is a big deal! When it's completed in August, it will be one of only 2 all-electric ferries in the world! I can't wait to come back and ride it. :)

The workshop was held at the Gee's Bend ferry terminal, and while I have been there a number of times, I never noticed in the yard parked an older version of the ferry! How have I missed this?! It's not the chain ferry from LEAVING GEE'S BEND, but it's close.

 The workshop was conducted by Tinnie and Minnie Pettway (sisters!) of That's Sew Gee's Bend, who helped us make potholders in the Gee's Bend style. Tinnie was the very first quilter I got to know in Gee's Bend, so it was a great pleasure to see her again.

 But the best part? Watching Paul put in his very first stitches on his own potholder! Minnie came over and got Paul set up, and then he went to town. I was super impressed with his tight, even stitches... especially as I opted for machine stitching both for the piecing and the quilting. Not Paul! He did it old-school. Fun!

On our way out, we stopped in at Mary Margaret Pettway's house where Marlene had her quilts out in glorious display. She told us stories behind many of the quilts, and we walked away with this one:
 Don't you love the bright pinks and blues? Also, you can't tell from the pic, but the brown fabric is actually a velvet, so it's got a lovely texture. We love it!

Finally, here's a pic of the potholder I made. I got the award for finishing first. Ha! (There's a reason our son Andrew calls me Speedy Irene-y. :)

I'll be going back to Camden/Gee's Bend later this year, just as soon as the great Mary Ann Pettway has completed the quilt I've commissioned... and maybe to talk with a book club that's reading LEAVING GEE'S BEND. I can't wait!



Monday, July 9, 2018

Movie Monday: GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

This past weekend we watched GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, not to be confused with CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (with Ewan McGregor) coming from Disney next month.

This film centers on A.A. Milne and how he came to create Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and all the fine friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. It depicts him as suffering from PTSD after serving in WWI, in a marriage with Daphne, who in one moment is essential in pushing him forward in his writing, and in the next abandoning him and their son, the real Christopher Robin, whom they called "Billy Moon."

For starters, I did not know Christopher Robin was based on Milne's son. I also didn't really understand the context of the books, and how important they were as a source of happiness and healing after the War. England NEEDED Winnie the Pooh!

And the movie kind of broke my heart. I have to know now how much of it is true, because I was completely sucked into Billy Moon's world, his heartache, and how what started out as innocent father-son playtime in the woods turned into interviews and appearances and FAME. Unwanted fame, for Billy. What he wanted was time with his father, and his mother -- and they were mostly absent. Thank goodness for Nou, his nanny, who seems to have been the anchor in Billy's life. I can't wait to learn more!

I'm also very curious now to see how Disney handles Christopher Robin in this new movie coming in August. How much of the movie is real, how much invented? I'm excited to find out!

Finally, I'd like to share the poem that first made A.A. Milne famous: "Vespers." According to the movie, it was his wife who sent it in for publication.

Vespers
by A.A. Milne

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

God bless Mummy. I know that's right.
Wasn't it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold's so cold, and the hot's so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy - I quite forgot.

If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny's dressing-gown on the door.
It's a beautiful blue, but it hasn't a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good.

Mine has a hood, and I lie in bed,
And pull the hood right over my head,
And I shut my eyes, and I curl up small,
And nobody knows that I'm there at all.

Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said "Bless Daddy," so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember it. God bless Me.

Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Lost Words

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for Roundup.
I am away from my desk yet again (O, Summer!), but I wanted to share with you two things:

1. a podcast with me and Charles Waters and  Matthew C. Winner, where we talk the writing process and CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Matthew was a fun host with great questions... lots to love here.

2. a gorgeous book of poems I've recently discovered: THE LOST WORDS by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (House of Anansi, 2017). I learned about this book in an article in which one of my literary heroes Geraldine McCaughrean (who wrote THE WHITE DARKNESS) was talking about how kids are smart, and they deserve rich language in children's literature. The book she cited as an example? THE LOST WORDS. So right away I secured myself a copy. (It's published in the UK, not US, but you can find used copies online.)

Here's the publisher's description of the book:
In 2007, when a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary -- widely used in schools around the world -- was published, a sharp-eyed reader soon noticed that around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped. Apparently they were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary. The list of these "lost words" included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow. Among the words taking their place were attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail. The news of these substitutions -- the outdoor and natural being displaced by the indoor and virtual -- became seen by many as a powerful sign of the growing gulf between childhood and the natural world.
Ten years later, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris set out to make a "spell book" that will conjure back twenty of these lost words, and the beings they name, from acorn to wren. By the magic of word and paint, they sought to summon these words again into the voices, stories, and dreams of children and adults alike, and to celebrate the wonder and importance of everyday nature. The Lost Words is that book -- a work that has already cast its extraordinary spell on hundreds of thousands of people and begun a grass-roots movement to re-wild childhood across Britain, Europe, and North America.

And oh boy, what a treat this book is! Rich language? YES. The book is oversized for one, and there was no skimping on the art, that's for sure. The poems are all about wildlife of one kind or another, and they are presented in alphabetical order. All of the poems are a variation on the acrostic: instead of the first letter of each line spelling out the poem's subject, the first letter of each stanza does that. Which allows the poet a great deal more freedom! I have never been a fan of acrostic poems, but these I do like, very much! Here are two favorite examples:

Ivy

I am ivy, a real high-flyer.

Via bark and stone I scale tree and spire.

You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.

------
An example of a poem that has changed the way I look at ivy... forever!
------

Kingfisher

Kingfisher: the colour-giver, fire-bringer, flame-flicker,
  river's quiver.

Ink-black bill, orange throat, and a quick blue
   back-gleaming feather-stream.

Neat and still it sits on the snag of a stick, until with . . .

Gold-flare, wing-fan, whipcrack the kingfisher -
   zingfisher, singfisher! -

Flashes down too fast to follow, quick and quicker
   carves its hollow

In the water, slings its arrow superswift to swallow

Stickleback or shrimp or minnow.

Halcyon is its other name - also ripple-calmer,
   water-nester,

Evening angler, weather-teller, rainbringer and

Rainbow bird - that sets the stream alight with burn
and glitter!

----------
I mean, what a glittery poem for a glitterbird! Such a celebration of language, and of the bird, too.
---------

And just for fun, I decided to write a poem in this style, about the skunk my husband photographed last week:


-->
Skunk

Stealthy as moonlight (and as predictable),
    you saunter past blackberry brambles,
    all regal swagger and peaceful gaze -- you, O

Keeper of night --
    you wear your stripe like a scar,
    just part of who you are.


Unfazed by fox, you rough your fluff,
    release a warning scent
    before lifting your tail in a blaze of battle . . .


No need to spray when wily fox turns tail,
    leaps to safety (anything to avoid being musked)
    while you forage for frogs and mushrooms.

Kingdom of kudzu awaits your return,
    soon welcomes you back to greentree hollow
    where you curl into a furrow to nap away daylight hours.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Middle Me This

Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! Today we are gathering at Dori Reads to share "midpoint musings" for this year that's nearly half over. (!)

Before we get to that, I blogged earlier this week at Smack Dab in the Middle about a writing habit I've freed myself from in a post titled Writers, Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. Wanted to be sure and share with all of you, as it certainly has to do with my Spiritual Journey!

For me the year 2018 has been a ripe blueberry: we moved Dec. 31, so for the entire year so far we've been adjusting to our new place -- learning where to go to the dentist and how long it takes to get to the library and all the quirky things about our house.

We shepherded our baby boy through his final months of high school and sent him on his way to his summer camp job, leaving us empty-nesters.

quilted bear discovered
at Springville Preservation
Society's antique toy display
We've been exploring our area, visiting the tiny museums and shops in nearby towns, looking for stories, and smiling as stories have found us!

We attended a family wedding and had houseguests. We tried three different homemade ice cream recipes and found our favorite.

I traveled quite a lot for CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?, and I've written (and sold!) two new books. So, lots of happenings, lots of joy, and some growing pains, too. Life.

Behold: skunk!
In terms of my 2018 One Little Word BEHOLD, oh my, has there been beauty to behold! I'm amazed and delighted about how much our conversation and days revolve around wildlife: bald eagles, birds at our feeder, squirrels, skunks, dragonflies, fish, wildflowers.

Also, mice: we apparently have an attic-full, so each night we put out the mouse cube, and each morning we meet our caught-mouse and marvel at each one's distinct personality (which becomes evident as we release them into the woods -- some freeze, some hit the ground running, some dart-hide, dart-hide before disappearing).

Truly, life is good!

stained glass at the church
where my niece was married
As for my expectations for the second half of the year, the calendar seems to be peppered with a number of short trips -- some related to books and authordom, others simple (and not so simple) adventures with family. And more of the same, I think: walks and nature and writing and beholding and reading and discovering.

Cheers to life in the middle (and the muddle!). Excited to read all of your offerings. xo

Monday, July 2, 2018

Meeting Mrs. Vandenberg


Reed Books (Birmingham, AL)
When Charles Waters wanted to name the teacher in our book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? after a special real-life teacher, I was delighted! Teachers are heroes and should be celebrated. I was also delighted to connect with Becky (aka Mrs. Vandenberg) on Twitter and learn all the ways she's impacted Charles' (and others!) life. It never occurred to me that I might someday get to actually *meet* her.

But that's exactly what happened! It was my good fortune that a wedding brought Becky and her family to Birmingham last week, so after they visited the Civil Rights Museum, we met up at one of my most favorite Birmingham spots: Reed Books and Museum of Fond Memories, curated by my dear friend Jim Reed.

not "just" a bookstore... so much stuff!

so many books, so little time...

Becky and her family immediately shared my love of Reed Books, and I'm so grateful to Becky's son for taking these gorgeous bookstore pics with his fancy camera -- including this one:

Mrs. Vandenberg and Me

... and one final shot of Reed Books to savor, because Jim will be moving the store soon... 

yes, all these books will have to be moved! Wow.




Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The King & I

Summer is the season for new adventures, and this one has been no exception! This past week I traveled with my dear friend Pat to Graceland, Elvis's home in Memphis, Tennessee. Pat had never been, and she's writing a book that required some research, so off we went!

It wasn't my first time to visit Graceland. Paul and I went in 2013. But it was my first time to stay at the Guesthouse at Graceland (like Disney World, except for Elvis!), and to go during crazy-busy summer, and to ride in a pink Cadillac (a service for hotel guest dining at Marlowe's  -- which was delicious!).


It was also my first time to see an actual Elvis movie all the way through! (Of course I've seen clips.) It was another offering from the hotel, shown in their ginormous theater: JAILHOUSE ROCK. I sort of can't believe how much I enjoyed it.


So I'm a bit young for the Elvis craze, but I sure can respect and admire his rise to fame, and how he brought something different to popular music. In fact, it was a quote from his first producer Sam Phillips (who also "discovered" Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and others)  that caught my eye, and reminded me of the creative life, the marketplace, and what it takes to "make it" in a creative industry:



"If you're not doing something different, you're not doing anything." - Sam Phillips

The best part of the trip, however, wasn't Elvis-related at all, but book-love related: we lunched with a sweet group of Mississippi (just a short drive from Memphis!) librarians at The Beauty Shop (a converted restaurant space, where Priscilla once got her hair done). As my father (who was a true-blue Elvis fan) would say: "the food was delicious, and the company was outstanding!" Thanks, ladies!! So happy to know you.

 Here's a picture of the group, as taken by one o so talented daughter who joined us for the meal:

Librarians are the best!

Friday, June 22, 2018

KNOCKOUT by K.A. Holt

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for Roundup.

Summer is for reading, right? And I've been doing as much of that as possible. Today I'd like to share with you some bits from KNOCKOUT by K.A. Holt. I love this book! It's a companion to HOUSE ARREST, which I also loved. Fast-forward 11 years, and enter the mind of Levi (the baby who was sick in the first book).

Now rewind to 2016 when I sat on a panel with Kari Anne at TLA as part of Sylvia Vardell's Poetry Round Up. I loved hearing Kari Anne talk about her books. And in KNOCKOUT, I really love Levi's voice. He's tired of being the sick kid, and when he discovers boxing... well, it does play a part in changing his life!

Here are a few passages from the book I found particularly wonderful:

When I hit the bag
BAM   BAM  BAM
it stopped all my thoughts
and I'm just ... in the moment...

arms
fists
feet
moving
moving
an animal
not a boy
a beast
a different
me
--------------------
We all should have something in our lives that makes us feel that way, yes? For me, it's cello-ing.


Trust can't really be explained
because it's a feeling
like love.
But it's kind of more than that
because trust has long arms
and an open face
and it believes the words 
you say.

Love can't be lost
when it comes to moms
but trust can
curl back its arms
close off its face
and disappear
a puff of smoke
a memory
nothing left for you to hold on to.
Nothing left for you to do.

------------------
Nice distinction between love and trust, isn't it?


It's not just that I want to hit people
or that I like to hit people,
really it's not.
(OK, sometimes it is.)
It's that I like to fee strong.
I like to feel ten feet tall.
And when I am slap dash fast
when I pop and feint
when I dart and jab
I am so fast
I am so strong
I get in my hits
not because I want to hurt someone
but because
it makes me not hurt
anymore.

-----------------
I love that explanation!! I think many of us do hurtful things to stop the hurting...


This past year has been bananas
so this year I'd like bananas
and whipped cream.

-------
Ha! Pretty sure I am having myself a bananas and whipped cream year right now. :) This book is a cherry on top! I do hope you'll give it a whirl. xo

Thursday, June 21, 2018

First Day of Summer Poem

To celebrate this sweet-taffy day, I give you a short poem for the longest day of the year:



Sun Speaks on the First Day of Summer

O devoted Moon,
thank you
for your light!

Say --
why don't you
sleep in  
            tonight?

- Irene Latham

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Wildflower Walk

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for Roundup.

Today is my beloved niece's wedding, so I'm putting on my party dress. Will be great to see her and the groom and other members of my family! More on this later.

Every day Paul and I walk the old country road where we live. It's great exercise, and our dog Ruby loves her leash-free runs into the woods -- and back to us. One of the things we're enjoying is the bounty of plant life, especially wildflower. Here are some pics from this week... if you are a flower person, I would love some help identifying these!

?

black-eyed susan

?

?

?

mimosa


daylilies

Pretty colorful, right? And next week it will probably look completely different. All in nature is temporary... which makes me wonder why we humans so often crave permanence...

It also reminds me of this poem by Walter de la Mare, which appears in a book gifted me by sweet Linda!

Come - Gone

Gone the snowdrop- come the crocus;
With the tulip blows the squill;
jonquil white as wax between them,
And the nid-nod daffodil.

Peach, plum, cherry, pear and apple,
Rain-sweet lilac on the spray;
Come the dog-rose in the hedges-
Gone's the sweetness of the may.

- Walter de la Mare

Thanks so much for visiting!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

TINY INFINITIES & a Firefly Poem

I've just finished TINY INFINITIES by J.H. Diehl. It's a middle grade novel about a friendship, and changes, and things out of our control. It has a glow to it, much like the fireflies on its cover (and in its pages)!
I'll start by sharing a few quotes, and then a poem inspired by the quotes:


-->
“We're going to call a firefly with your magic wand,” I went on. “You'll like fireflies, because they don't use sounds to find other fireflies. Only their lights. The way they flash on and off is code to talk to each other. So you don't have to talk, either. You can use light language.”

--------

-->
“Here are my fireflies, “ I said. “Well, they're not mine. They belong to summertime, but I know you liked them before. Maybe they're your friends, Piper.”

And now the poem:

To a Child of Summertime

Show me your light language,
speak to me with glow and flash.

Run with me through a thicket
until we are both breathless,

our speech prickly with brambles
and sweat.

Swim with me in these gin-tinted waters,
our legs pulsing promises:

save me.

                  I'm yours.

Does the breeze still tease
your damp hair to whippoorwills?

I would catch you, hold you,
but not in a jar, no –

I carry you on my chest,
an ambush of freckles.

- Irene Latham

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Latest Adventures of Me and Lady Godiva

photo by my sweet sis Lynn
of me practicing wet-headed
(as I often do!)
Three-and-a-half years ago I started playing the cello.

Two years ago I walked into Atlanta Violins and came out with Lady Godiva - my very own instrument. And we're still making music together. Though she has a few new nicks than she had when I first brought her home... and her strings probably could be replaced... and the bow most definitely has shed some hair!

We've performed with Birmingham Cello Project a few times, which has been lovely! I also graduated from Suzuki Book 4. :) Which means I can play a couple of minuets from Bach's cello suite 1 -- pieces I'm told I will play the rest of my cello-life.

Now I am learning the first piece in Suzuki Book 5 - Sonata in E minor by Vivaldi. I kind of love it. Though I am still struggling with intonation and drawing the bow straight (especially on the A string) and double stops and keeping my hand in the proper position and and and... so much to learn!

I did have a wonderful, encouraging thing happen this past week. I was practicing when the termite bond guy came around to inspect the house. When my husband was signing off on the paperwork, the termite bond guy asked who was playing the cello. He said he'd never heard a cello in real life before (yet he knew it was a cello!), and how beautiful it was.

So, yeah, I think I may have found my audience: people who've never heard the instrument in real life before. :) Totally made my day and has renewed my enthusiasm. Thank you, termite bond guy!

See? Just like poems, music is meant to be shared... you don't have to be a maestro. (Just typing the words I need to hear...)

Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to Adult Strings Weekend at University of Alabama.

Friday, June 8, 2018

How the Dead Live On, Let Me Count the Ways

The 8-1-1 section of my studio
features several "Papa" mementos:
"Go Away I'm Reading"
is one of them!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge for Roundup.

Today marks the two year anniversary of my father's death. One of the biggest surprises in my life is how my relationship with my father continues to evolve. So many things continue to make me feel close to him, and I love the ways he continues to "live."

Whether it is a friend telling me about her visit to Corinne Costin Gibson Memorial Public Library (Port St. Joe, FL) where she sat in my dad's rocker...

read more about
this special rocker here
... Or seeing my father's words in print as I did when Birmingham Arts Journal ran my father's story about his hometown of Port St. Joe, FL (a paper-mill town) titled "A Smell of Sulfur" (You can read it here, p. 12.)... these things help me feel connected to him.

Then there are things that slay me utterly and unexpectedly, like an email I received from an acquaintance of mine/friend of my father's:

"I must also share with you a special story about your Dad, which occurred after his death. C, my husband, was in the St. A’s emergency room, close to dying, and in and out of consciousness, when he suddenly said he was visiting with Ken Dykes. He could see him as well.  He was very comforted by that experience - as was I. 

Your Dad was a comfort to so many, at the Cancer Center and at St. Georges, and we treasured our friendship with him. I wanted you to know that he brought comfort to C, even after death. C himself died a few weeks after that emergency room stay."


Thinking of my father somewhere waiting for me -- and comforting others along the way -- just destroys me and uplifts me. I have found so much comfort in that.

I also received a letter I want to share here about my father's stories, which he wrote diligently, in the last years of his life. One of our last conversations was about how to structure the book we were going to create -- not surprisingly, his ideas for organization were different than mine-- and we'd hoped to get the book out for Christmas 2016. He died before that could happen. So I have been sharing his stories whenever I think of it. Here is one response:


Any writer would love reading these words: "Every story that he has written comes to life." That's the goal, isn't it?

And now I'd like to share a poem I discovered in HOME: Where Everyone is Welcome: Poems & Songs Inspired by American Immigrants by Deepak Chopra, Kabir Sehgal, Paul Avgerinos. I learned about this book on a Poetry Friday Roundup earlier this year (though I can't remember who posted about it... maybe Diane?) To whomever: THANK YOU!

Here is the poem:

Father
Inspired by Krishan Chopra

If awareness is existence
You have existed in me
From when I first became aware
And now
If awareness is life
Then you have been my life
Since I incarnated into experience
And now
From the stories you told
To the magnificent hero you were
I am
Because you were
And are
We exist in the awareness
Where I is thou
Thou is me
In every 
Everlasting
Now
--------------
Thanks so much for reading!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

#lakelife Spiritual Journey Thursday June edition

front porch chalkboard message
Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! Be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup. Our topic today is "summer."

I actually posted earlier this week about some things I've been struggling with -- always obstacles on the Journey -- so today I wanted to share a few of the ways I'm enjoying summer so far.

As some of you may recall, our baby boy graduated high school last month and departed the day after for his summer camp counselor job. So we are adjusting to the empty nest! (We did see him last night, so yay for that!) AND there's been all sorts of other things going on in our lives, what with birthdays and sale of our house and me working on a new book... but really, all of that fades during these juicy-sweet June days.

Top 3 Ways I'm Spending My Time this June:


1. Swimming, with dog Ruby looking on... she hasn't been brave enough yet to jump in. Maybe today?




2. Reading/Writing/Dreaming on the dock. One great thing about not-great internet: more poems swim their way to me!




3. Lake-watching. This never gets old. Whatever the weather, whatever time of day... I am 24-7 inspired.

Looking forward to reading about everyone else's thoughts on summer!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Finding the Answer to my Writing Problem

This post is going to be a little bit backwards: Instead of first telling you what my writing problem is, I am going to start with the answer -- and not surprisingly (at least for this book loving gal), the answer has come in the form of a book: THE BOOK OF JOY: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. I read it a few months ago on my Kindle. Here are some quotes that spoke to me:

Impermanence, the Dalai Lama reminds us, is the nature of life. All things are slipping away, and there is a real danger of wasting our precious human life. Gratitude helps us catalog, celebrate, and rejoice in each day and each moment before they slip through the vanishing hourglass of experience.
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As part of ARTSPEAK! Portraits, I wrote a poem titled Gratitude.

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Gratitude, as we have seen, is an important part of joy because it allows us to savor life and to recognize that most of our good fortune in life comes from others.
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The book offers this as a "Joy Practice:"

Gratitude: Think of three or more people or things that you are grateful for in this problem of your life right now. Can you find ways in which your problem is actually contributing to your life and growth? Are there people or things that are supporting you to face this challenge?
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storm rolling in
(while we were boating)
The problem I am having right now is this: I am feeling a little lost and not-quite-there-yet with a work-in-progress --- and it's due July 1. There's no time to wander. It's got to be done NOW. I feel under pressure, probably mostly from myself: I want this to be the best book ever!

So when I apply this practice to my problem, here's what I've got:

3 people/things I am grateful for:
1. my editor and agent -- for having the opportunity to write this book at all.
2. my writing partner -- I am not alone!
3. the subject matter of the book is really making me think about what's important to me. I mean, it brought me back to the BOOK OF JOY, right? :)

almost home
Yes, I am growing through this process. I am writing things I'd never have written before. Yes, it's hard. But I've got support from so many corner of my life -- and blessedly, this slow-down season and this beautiful (lake) environment to cushion me as I do the work.

I'm going to keep at it -- with joy! Because yes, this moment, our lives, are impermanent. And yes, I'm grateful. xo