Category Archives: Poetry

Inspiration From Poet Mary Oliver

Hiking the Peralta Trail in Arizona with our friends Rudy and Sue

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.

school class 1974-75

With my first class of students in 1974

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

boy-reading-shel-silverstein

Our younger son reading poetry 

As a child, what captivated me was reading the poems myself and realizing that there was a world without material substance which was nevertheless as alive as any other.

In the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

I have become a child of the clouds and of hope

My Mom showing my school students how to bake bread

Eat bread and understand comfort. 

sunrise over praia da luz

Praia da Luz beach in Portugal at sunrise from our kitchen window

Every morning the world is created. 

Ringing the peace bell in Hiroshima

I believe art is utterly important. It is one of the things that could save us.

Hiking in Akaka Falls State Park Hawaii

When I am among the trees,  ………..they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me

My Mom listens intently while her oldest grandchild reads the Christmas story from the Bible

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

Swan photographed on Lake Constance in Germany

Across the wide waters something comes floating–a slim and delicate ship, filled with white flowers–and it moves
on its miraculous muscles

Other post……….

Sisters

Thinking About Work For Labor Day

Inspiration in Sioux Lookout Ontario

 

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Contrasts

Aging

I like the freedom of it, constructing my days as I like, an extra cup of coffee in the morning, maybe a massage in the afternoon, an extra glass of wine in the evening

Exploring the wide world, the delight of a grandchild’s love, stretching my comfort zone, reading books in stacks, time to create and think and write and volunteer

No longer at an employer’s beck and call, I can defy convention, have opinions of my own, spend time with those I like, do things my way 

More cavalier about my appearance, less attached to “stuff”, open to new adventures, long walks

The twinge in my knees, knowing my mother only as a memory, a friend’s cancer diagnosis

Lost keys, a missed appointment, the forgotten name of a former student

Repeating stories, mourning lost ideals, confusing screens bombarding me with Twitter and Facebook and What’s Ap and Instagram

Like the screen on the heart monitor erratic and then slowing to a flatline. 

When I taught high school English I used the poem about smoking below to introduce my students to the art of contrast poetry. Then they had to write their own contrast poems.  This last week the Glaser poem inspired me to write the contrast poem about aging that opens this post.  

Smoking                        by Elton Glaser

I like the cool and heft of it, dull metal on the palm,

And the click, the hiss, the spark fuming into flame,

Boldface of fire, the rage and sway of it, raw blue at the base

And a slope of gold, a touch to the packed tobacco, the tip

Turned red as a warning light, blown brighter by the breath,

The pull and the pump of it, and the paper’s white

Smoothed now to ash as the smoke draws back, drawn down

To the black crust of lungs, tar and poisons in the pink,

And the blood sorting it out, veins tight and the heart slow,

The push and wheeze of it, a sweep of plumes in the air

Like a rack of horses dragging a hearse through Old,

London, at the end of December, in the dark and fog.

Other posts……….

A Fine Balance

Forgetfulness

Growing Old is Not for Cowards

 

 

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Filed under Poetry, Retirement

A Fine Balance

 

Giving folks from Siloam Mission a tour at the art gallery

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done…..

Come, my friends,

T’is not too late to seek a newer world….    –  Alfred Lloyd Tennyson

walking in iceland

Walking in Iceland

 

Earth’s crammed with heaven, 

And every common bush afire with God

But only those who see take off their shoes;

The rest sit around and pluck blackberries. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Those two quotes represent two different aspects of retirement, not necessarily in opposition to one another but requiring a fine balance.  

Beverly McLachlin

I read the first quote by Tennyson in a Macleans Op Ed written by recently retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin.   McLachlin who is some ten years older than I am, is certainly taking Tennyson’s words to heart.  She just retired in December but has already completed writing a novel that will soon be published and has accepted a part-time post as a foreign judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. She is finding ‘work of noble note’ even as she approaches the last decades of her life. 

mom and dad in their flower garden

My parents in their flower garden

I read the second quote by Browning on the Facebook page of a chaplain in a retirement facility.  Retirement offers us an opportunity to take a break from constant work and really notice all the beauty around us here on earth, to ‘take off our shoes’ and soak up the wonders of nature, the kindness of strangers and the excellence of a good book.  Browning warns that if we are so busy working we won’t have time to notice that beauty around us. 

The challenge lies in achieving a balance.  Doing some noble work so we have a purpose, so we still feel like we are making some small contribution to a ‘newer world’,  but also making sure we have time to revel in the beauty of the natural world, spend time with family and friends and enjoy literature, music, theatre, physical exercise, travel and art. 

It’s a fine balance. I often am tilted too far to one side or the other, but I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to try to continue to balance my life before ‘death closes all.’ 

Other posts…………

Self Care

Start and End Happy

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Filed under Poetry, Reflections, Retirement

Lineage- Strong Women

I went to the Garden City Collegiate choir concert on Monday night. It was a terrific concert with many great performances. My favorite piece was Lineage by composer Andrea Ramsey. It was sung by the women’s choir. The lyrics were taken from a poem written by Margaret Walker

 
grandma and grandpa peters

My grandmother Margaretha Peters in a grain field on the farm where she worked for much of her life

My grandmothers were strong.

They followed plows and bent to toil.
They moved through fields sowing seed.
They touched earth and grain grew.
They were full of sturdiness and singing.
My grandmothers were strong.
grandma laundry

My grandmother Annie Schmidt doing laundry on her back porch

My grandmothers are full of memories

Smelling of soap and onions and wet clay
With veins rolling roughly over quick hands
They have many clean words to say.
My grandmothers were strong.
Why am I not as they?
I often think of the hard lives my grandmothers had and how despite this they remained kind, caring, open hearted women with a sense of humour. They inspire me. I come from a lineage of strong women. 
Other posts………

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The Song My Paddle Sings

Be strong O paddle!  Be brave canoe!  The reckless waves you must plunge into!

winnipeg singersThat’s a line from  poem by Emily Pauline Johnson called The Song my Paddle Sings.  At their most recent concert featuring Canadian composers the Winnipeg Singers performed a musical version of the poem.  Listening to them brought back lots of memories for me.  

My grade four class at Kornelson School. I am third from the right in the last row. 

My grade four teacher Miss Toews made me memorize the poem My Song My Paddle Sings and I recited it during a parents day performance.  I still remember every line of the poem that tells the story of a sailor going from calm waters to churning rapids and back again. 

emilyEmily Pauline Johnson was a Mohawk poet who became famous as a touring artist. She went across North America reciting her poetry.  Her father was a First Nations chief and her mother an Englishwoman so Emily grew up influenced by two different cultures.  Her aboriginal name was Tekahionwake.  

I used to do a unit of Emily Pauline Johnson poems with my grade eleven English classes.   Although The Song My Paddle Sings is about a nature experience Emily did not shy away from writing about controversial issues as she did in her poem A Cry From An Indian Wife where she looks at who really owns Canadian land.   

Emily was featured on a Canadian stamp in 1961 and was one of the Canadians under consideration for the first woman to be featured on a bank-note in 2018. She wasn’t chosen but her poetry lives on in people’s minds and hearts and also in music like the beautiful piece I heard at the Winnipeg Singers concert.

Other posts……..

Flunky Jim and Gopher Tails With Grandpa

Lessons from Leonard

Getting to Know Oviloo

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Katherena Vermette on the Wall

the breakKatherena Vermette came away from the Manitoba Book Awards with three prizes for her novel The Break.  She received the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction as well as the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.  Although I would encourage you to buy her novel as well as her book of poetry North End Love Songs a taste of Katherena’s wordsmithing skill is available to everyone even if they can’t afford her published work. 

I pass one of Katherena’s poems almost everyday as I walk through Winnipeg’s downtown area.  It is called pieces and is inscribed on a wall at the north end of Portage Avenue flanked on either side by the work of local artists. 

pieces by katherena vermette

Other posts………..

Spring and Love

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

The Comfort of a Poem 

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Spring and Love

spring by louis bako

The red Chinese character is for love.  It is superimposed on the green character for spring.  I’ve walked by this painting on a Portage Avenue wall a hundred times but finally decided last week to stop to photograph it. The work is titled Spring Over Love Under and is by Louis C. Bako a Winnipeg artist who was born in Hungary.

The painting brings to mind a line from Le Miserables by Victor Hugo.  

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.

Other posts…….

It Must Be Spring

Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring

Hope

 

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Filed under Art, Poetry, Winnipeg