Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Things to Do in Nashville Not-Just-For-Music Tennessee

Earlier this summer Paul and I spent a week exploring Nashville while our musician-son Eric attended Grammy Camp. We rented a place near Belmont University so we'd be close to Music Row, and it was a great spot. Here are some of the things we most enjoyed (in no particular order):

1. The Parthenon. Originally built for Tennessee's Centennial Expo (1897), the building stands as a centerpiece of Centennial Park -- and it was one of places my father said we have to visit while in Nashville. I'm so glad we did.

2. Parnassus Books, where I bought two books: The Color of Water by James McBride and The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky -- both memoirs, and both wonderful. I also visited with author-friend Rae Ann Parker, who happens to also work at Parnassus.

... and here is the pic that made me smile so big I had to tweet it right away:

3. Arnold's Country Kitchen. Paul and I love meat-n-3 restaurants, and one of the things we always try to do when we travel is scope these places out. We loved Arnold's so much we ate there three times. :)

... and here's proof that we aren't the only ones who like it!

4. Carnton Plantation. Okay, so this is actually in Franklin, which is a little town just south of Nashville, but I can't not mention it. Paul and I both love history, so this home that survived the 5-hour oh so devastating Battle of Franklin (Civil War) absolutely captivated our imaginations. I came away wanting to write poems and poems and poems!

Other places we enjoyed: Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, Johnny Cash Museum, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Gray's on Main (restaurant in Franklin housed in an old pharmacy where the walls are papered with old prescriptions!).

Eric wants to go back to Grammy Camp next year, so who knows? We might do some more Nashville exploring! If we do, you can find us at Arnold's for lunch.

Meanwhile, I am headed south with some dear writing friends... I'll fill you in on my adventures next week. Hope you have a great rest of the week. :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Delight

I've just been shuffling through some things at my desk and found again this clipping that happens to feature my 2016 One Little Word "Delight."

One of the things I most enjoy about choosing a One Little Word is how it finds you again and again during the year, often in the most unexpected places. (This came to me while in North Dakota for my father's funeral.)

While we're on the subject of One Little Word, a friend shared with me a OLW-themed gift given to her after I gave some presentations (also in North Dakota, different trip) about the power of One Little Word.

Behold, this bucket of her (nursing) team's One Little Words:

...and inside:

What a thoughtful gift and wonderful way to incorporate One Little Word into daily life!

And now, something that brings me delight: this painting "Just a Peek" by Mike Hooper spied in Gallery 202 in Franklin, TN. Makes me smile every time! Probably because I have often been the one peeking... hazard of a curious mind! :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

North Dakota is Everywhere

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Let's see if I can get the Roundup location right this week.... let's all go meet Chelanne at Books4Learning!

Here at Live Your Poem it's been a catch-up kind of week. I've been cleaning out drawers and closets, doing some crafting (more on this soon!), reading, and remembering.

On my last trip to North Dakota, I visited the Heritage Center in Bismarck where I learned, among other things, that there are many types of barbed wire.

I also witnessed for the first time, cottonwood fluff.

And, in the gift shop, I found a book of poems titled NORTH DAKOTA IS EVERYWHERE: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets, edited by  Heidi Czerwiec.

I started reading it on the airplane, and over the past weeks a few poems have emerged as favorites, and I'd like to share them with you here today. I mean, is there any better way to learn about a place than from its poets? Reminds me of an NPR piece years and years about about any mission to meet alien life should include on the ship a POET... if anyone knows anything about that piece, I would love to hear about it! (It was pre-internet days... wouldn't even know how to go about finding it.)

A Moment of Clarity
by Dale Jacobson

The leaves were green flame.

The birch tree was a white journey
from dark water to clear sky,
roots to radiance.

The crow was a long echo that took flight.

North Dakota Sestina
(ending with a line from Psalm 19)
by Rhoda Janzen

Beyond the matchbook parsonage
in fields reduced to stubble,
the rows untangled, as if a comb
had pulled them taut. The sigh
of the wind, sad at harvest, came rolling
like an old-fashioned wagon wheel.

The Leibelts' combine wheeled
around the tiny parsonage,
the great machinery rolling
toward the stiff August stubble.
Hulling loganberries, the child sighed
as she watched the combine comb

the wheat. Mornings, Mother's comb
straightened, thus: the braided wheel
of hair loosened like a sigh.
Racing from the tidy parsonage
to the fields of wild stubble,
the girl, hot, began rolling

her long sleeves. She tripped, rolling
down the incline into a catacomb
of indifferent yellow stubble,
sharp as the spokes of a wheel.
Her mother in the parsonage
came running. and the child sighed,

as if in all the Dakotas one full sigh
could stop the stupid tears rolling
or the thought of the stiff parsonage
and the terrible pull of the comb.
The mother roller her like a wheel,
to see the scratches from the stubble,

but the girl saw on the stubble
collapsing in the filed. She heard the sigh
of the combine finishing its summer, the wheel
of winter like a thunderous silo rolling.
In her hair she spread her hand like a comb
and pinched her eyes shut to the parsonage.

Hair scythed short as stubble, she'd cartwheel
the parsonage and land in the field rolling,
a sigh sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.

The Memory of Water
by Mark Vinz

Here where the Sheyenne joins the Red --
upstream, the Bois de Sioux, and down
the Buffalo -- imagination finds its way
in swirls of white stirred by the prairie winds.

These are the places towns were built,
water flowing underneath snow-covered ice
laced with tracks of skis and snowmobiles
and creatures rarely glimpsed by passersby.

Today I'm home from a desert visit, where
two weeks of rain had finally broken --
arroyos carried everything away
except for the pools on asphalt roads.

How inevitably it all flows off and disappears --
water and what it has been named for --
here, in this glacial lakebed where I live,
still dreaming of the great herds passing.

Also in the gift shop I spied on the top shelf a sculpture of Sacagawea that matches the one my father left for me. "That's yours," he said, the last time I visited him. "When the time comes, that's yours."

Papa said Sacagawea reminded him of me. Now she keeps me company in my studio. And oh, what adventures we are having! Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Westerns & Nature & Life

I've just finished THE MYSTERIOUS RIDER by Zane Grey (1921). Like most westerns, the landscape becomes a character. And like many characters in westerns, a love of the land/outdoors/wide open spaces/freedom is a key element in terms of motivation and personality. 

Life may be hard sometimes, but o the blessings of Nature!

Photo taken at Smith Rock in Oregon.

"But here, after the first few moments of exquisite riot of his senses, where fragrance of grass and blossom filled the air, and blaze of gold canopied the purple, he began to think how beautiful the earth was, how Nature hid her rarest gifts for those who loved her most, how good it was to live, if only for these blessings." -  Zane Grey
The book is also a love story. And, I didn't consciously realize it until I finished the book, but it's also, at its heart, about the love between a father a daughter.

Of all the Zane Grey books I could have picked, how did THAT one wind up in my hands? Perfect, I tell you. Perfect.

Life may be hard sometimes, but o the blessings of BOOKS!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Things I'm Learning from Papa's Book Inventory

Papa in bookstore, consulting
book directory before making
a purchase
My father was a collector. Stamps, magnets, photos, books.... Sometimes his collections morphed into dangerous territory -- if you'd seen his refrigerator and the number of cans stuffed in his kitchen cabinets you'd know what I mean. There's a thin line, I think, between the "collector" and "hoarder."

Anyhow, of all his collections, his books were by far, his most prized. His dream was to retire and build a library in the backyard of his Florida childhood home. He spoke of afternoons spent sitting in a rocking (or was it "easy?") chair, surrounded by his immense collection of books.

When I think of him now, of the afterlife, I know that's what it looks like for Papa. He's somewhere reading in a room surrounded by books.

Anyone who collects anything knows that some organization is required. For his books, my father kept a "Book Inventory." Basically it's a big binder with computer pages listing the titles he owned, when he read them, and what box they were then stored in. (The last printing/update was 02/25/2016.)

Yes, we have HUNDREDS of boxes of books to go through! The good news is that the Inventory makes all that so much easier. Each of us children is going through the Inventory and making a list of the books we'd like to keep. (I chose 70 titles.) Then we'll go find the boxes (some marked with numbers, some letters, some a combination: for instance, books he collected in Bismarck landed in boxes marked "BIS" plus whatever number).

Just going through the Inventory taught me a lot of things -- about my father, and about life. (See, Papa? You're still teaching me!)

1. The most books in Papa's collection were authored by Louis L'Amour. (He loved westerns! In his honor, and because we recently stayed in the "Zane Grey" room at Historic Prospect Hotel near Crater Lake National Park, I am currently reading THE MYSTERIOUS RIDER by Zane Grey.)

2. GOD is an author. (This is how Papa organized different versions of the Bible in a inventory organized alphabetically by the author's last name.)

3. All my mss, whether they wound up published or not, counted as books and were listed in his collection alongside the published ones. I'm so grateful and honored.

4. There were no "X" authors in the collection. (Want to stand out? Choose a pen name with an "x" last name!)

5. When I kept seeing "BOT" after a book title, I worried that I would never know what it meant. Then it came to me: "Book On Tape." (My father loved listening to books as much as reading them.)

6. The best represented poet in Papa's collection is Kahlil Gibran, who is the poet Papa introduced to me when I was a teen, and whose work Papa read aloud at my wedding.

7. A "want" list is every bit as important as the "I've got" list. I am filled with tenderness when I see the pages of titles Papa hadn't yet acquired. Most of them were books he'd listened to on tape, loved, and then wanted to own a print copy. (I do this, too! Listen to a book, love it, NEED to own it.) It reminds me that the fun of being a collector is often in the hunt, in the building of the collection -- not just in the "having" it.

The biggest thing I am learning is that death does not mark the end of a relationship -- we still have relationships that change and grow with people who are dead. Papa is with me in the pages of this Inventory, and in my daily life. Just like a good book, "The End" of life is just another beginning. xo

Friday, July 15, 2016

What It Means To Be a Promising Poet

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for Roundup.

Big thanks to all who sent me notes in relation to the lovely news that I won the 2016 ILA-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. !! I was traveling with Paul in Oregon when the announcement came, with spotty internet, and I'm not on Facebook... so my reaction has been a bit delayed. Please forgive me if you reached out and didn't get a response. Thank you for sharing this with me!

Here's the nutshell version, from the website:

The International Literacy Association (ILA) Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award is a US$500 award given every three years to a promising new poet of children's poetry (for children and young adults up to grade 12) who has published no more than two books of children's poetry. 

The book that was under consideration was my debut DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. Isn't that lovely?! I'm so grateful to the one and only LBH for all the ways he supports poetry and poets, and to ILA and specifically to the committee headed up by Laura Apol.

I really can't think of a better way to be a poet than to be "promising." It makes me think of the wonderful Rilke poem I keep at my desk:


If the angel
deigns to come
it will be because
you have convinced
her, not by tears
but by your humble
resolve to be always
beginning; to be
a beginner.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to always write as a beginner, to see the world with fresh eyes, to stumble through syllables and stanzas. That's where the joy is, truly -- not in the polish, but in the polishing. In that way, each poem is a promise, and each moment we struggle with words holds promise -- when we try, when we write, we are all promising poets.

And now, it is my pleasure to share with you the first poem I've received in the Summer Poem Swap. It comes from Tabatha, the Swap Queen herself, and it is so, so special because it is so, so personal. Read on.

Cello Bow
for Irene
by Tabatha Yeatts

In your wildgraced
wood, forests
of wings
leaves. Low
notes of
winter’s slow
stirring sap
and dark
are held
in your
glow. Come
closer, closer.
Bridge the
past and air.
Find your
song in taut,
tender strings.

For those of you who don't know, I am a new-ish cello student. I started playing about a year and a half ago, and it's a challenge, and I love it. Read more about my cello adventure here. So you can see why I love this poem so much. Plus, how 'bout those jammedtogether words like "wildgraced" and "windchurned" and "lovepolished" ?? LOVE. Thank you, Tabatha!

And thanks to all of you for reading. May we all find our songs. xo

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

See Crater Lake

Paul and I are just back from a lovely week exploring central Oregon. We loved the evergreens and waterfalls and mountains and wildflowers. The whole adventure was lovely and restful and inspiring. What a wonderful world!

One of the places we were most excited to visit was Crater Lake National Park. I've wanted to see Crater Lake ever since I wrote a series of poems inspired by photos from the National Parks... here is the photo I selected from Crater Lake:

Can you believe that snow?! We, too, saw snow, though here in July it wasn't that deep, of course. Turns out Crater Lake is a very snowy place and gets on average 44 feet of snow per year.

On the day we visited Crater Lake, it was chilly and overcast. When we arrived at the guard station, the park ranger warned us that we might not see the lake (which is visible 99% of the time). He was brusque --  "No refunds," he said. We didn't care -- we were there, and we were going to have a good time no matter what! 

Well. Here is what we saw:

I know! Talk about disappointed... especially after we watched the 22 minute film (with a number of other disappointed tourists) showing us the glorious bluer-than-blue water. So we thought we'd do a little hike. But guess what? It was COLD. We needed hats and parkas and gloves... that we didn't have. So, reluctantly, sadly, we left the park. Big, big sigh. 

AND THEN.... that night, as we were cozying into our digs at Bend, Paul said, "you know, it's only a two hour drive. We could go back, give it another try."

So we looked at the weather, and the forecast was awful for the next two days, with only a slight chance of things improving the following day, when we were scheduled to attend Sisters Quilt Show -- another major reason we chose to visit central Oregon (after I learned about it during my travels related to Leaving Gee's Bend). We went early for the quilt show, thinking that if the weather improved (we kept an eye on it by checking the handydandy webcam online that shows the rim view), we'd dash back to the park.

And guess what? The weather DID improve! We could see the lake on the webcam! So, goodbye, quilts! (Here's a picture for your viewing pleasure... oh, I took so many pictures! What gorgeous, gorgeous works of art!)

And here's the Crater Lake we found waiting for us (video courtesy of Paul):

Yay! So, so gorgeous. In the movie they show at the park, people report what they felt when they first saw Crater Lake. For me, the words that come to mind are grateful and awestruck. My throat got tight, and I couldn't even talk. What a beautiful moment.

All this to say: See Crater Lake. You won't be sorry. xo

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thrift Store Poetry: Winnie's Book of Poems

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! IT'S JULY!!! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

Earlier this spring while antique/thrift shopping with my dear friend Pat in Florence, Alabama, I happened up a poetic treasure:

WINNIE'S POEMS - a binder lovingly covered in felt and a hand-cut Pooh-bear!

Here is the dedication page:


A Book

A book, I think, is very like
A little golden door
That takes me into places
Where I've never been before.

It leads me into fairyland
Or countries strange and far,
And best of all the golden door
Always stands ajar.

- Adelaide Love

...and here is the Contents page:

 Collected by Nancy Simmons

Now: Who was Nancy Simmons? How old was she? How did she come to love poetry? Why these poems? I want to know more more more!

And here is a sampling of some of the poems, with lovely illustrations:

Buttercup Cow

Buttercup Cow has milk for me
I drink in my silver cup at tea.
Buttercup cow is speckled and white,
She lives in the meadow from morning till night,

Buttercup Cow hasn't got any bed,
But the moon and the stars look in at her shed.
Buttercup Cow, I'm glad to be me,
Drinking your pretty white milk for my tea.

- Elizabeth Randall

The Hairy Dog

My dog's so furry I've not seen
His face for years and years:
His eyes are buried out of sight,
I only guess his ears.

When people ask me for his breed,
I do not know or care:
He has the beauty of them all
Hidden beneath his hair.

- Herbert Asquith


A cat sat quaintly by the fire
And watched the burning coals
And watched the little flames aspire
Like small decrepit souls.
Queer little fire with coals so fat
And crooked flames that rise,
No queerer than the little cat
With fire in its eyes.

- Peggy Bacon

...this next one might be my favorite (and I'm dedicating it to you, Michelle!):

The Ichthyosaurus

There once was an Ichthyosauraus
Who lived when the earth was all porous,
But he fainted with shame
When he first heard his name,
And departed a long time before us.

AND there's even a bibliography at the end! Yes, each poem is sourced. Isn't that wonderful? (Maybe Nancy was a teacher? Or an older student following instructions? Or a POET ? I like to think so!)

So now me and Nancy are Friends for Ever. Thank you, Nancy, whoever (and wherever) you are!