October 31, 2012

My own trick or treaters, circa 1997
Happy Halloween!  I hope all the little ones on the East Coast had a chance to trick or treat last weekend, before Hurricane Sandy wreaked her havoc. What's not to love about the day?  Yummy treats (I loved the little Tootsie Rolls and packages of Sweet Tarts), and a chance to try on a different persona for a night.   I loved the costumes my mother used to sew when I was little--one year in particular I remember a great Pilgrim costume, complete with long braids made out of nylons!  She is an incredibly creative seamstress and my siblings and I always looked pretty 'cool' out on the streets.  Well, to be honest, we looked cool if you looked past the winter coats, hats, boots and mittens that we were also sporting---trick or treating in South Dakota could be a frosty affair!

I also enjoyed making my children's costumes.   The little witch costume above was particularly memorable, but certainly not in the way I had intended!  I waited until late at night to finish the costume the night before, and was kind of punch-drunk tired.  The costume called for orange glow-in-the-dark fabric paint (the kind in the little tubes) to be applied in little swirls on black tights.  So I cut open the tip of the tube and squeezed.  And squeezed.  And squeezed.  And (you probably know where I'm going with this, right?!) all of a sudden the tube BURST open and who knew a tube of paint could spread so far?!  My face and hair was covered in orange  splotches, and looking around the family room my husband and I found splats of paint on the fireplace, the carpet, the sofa, the window blinds, and even on the ceiling fan!  And let me tell you...this was high quality paint, because it glowed for a long time past Halloween!  

Here's a fun little poem from Carl Sandburg in celebration of all things pumpkin.  And speaking of pumpkins...check out the new recipe I tried last night for pumpkin cake on my recipe page!  It was spookily good!

Theme in Yellow

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

My own little Batman and Pumpkin, circa 1988.  Note the hooded sweatshirts underneath...I wasn't kidding about SD October weather!

October 30, 2012

A sense of something moving to and fro....

Have you ever been sitting at home, when all of a sudden the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise and you have the uncomfortable sensation that you are not  alone?  That creepy, crawly sensation of being watched—the tingling fear that if you turn around you will see someone who doesn’t belong in your house, or even in this century?  It’s especially easy to feel this way if you are reading a scary book (think Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, Mary Shelly, Shirley Jackson, and Stephen King), or perhaps dabbling in the darker verses of a poet.  While Longfellow is usually remembered for his well-known poems like The Children’s Hour, The Song of Hiawatha, Psalm of Life and Paul Revere’s Ride, he also wrote darker poems like the one below.  He never fully recovered from the death of his beloved wife, Fanny Appleton, and perhaps she was the 'harmless phantom' that glided through his halls.
To add to the ‘spirit’ of the day (pun definitely intended!) here is a great photo from artist Mikel Robinson…I don’t think I would want to walk down this hallway and around the corner of this room, would you?
Pinned Image
photo by Mikel Robinson

          Haunted Houses
         Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
clr gif

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.


Longfellow's writing desk...is there a stranger at his fireside?

October 29, 2012

Bwahahahaha......it's Halloween week, and I have been eagerly anticipating the chance to share some spooky poems with you!  Let's start the week with a classic that probably everyone can recite (well, at least the first verse!). It's hard to find a poet creepier than Edgar Allen Poe. 

This summer I was introduced to a fabulous artist, Mikel Robinson, who creates amazing atmospheric photographs.  You can find more of his work on his website, appropriately named www.candlesandghosts.com.  Don’t his pictures capture the very essence of Halloween?


         The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

       Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Amidst the fun and frivolity of the week, let’s not forget to keep those on the East Coast in our thoughts and prayers.  They are getting all ‘tricks’ and no ‘treats’.

October 27, 2012

 I decided it would be fun today to link to one of my favorite blogs, Claudia's Mockingbird Hill Cottage (http://mockingbirdhillcottage.com/).  Her Saturday post gives other bloggers a chance to feature some of their very Favorite Things, something I certainly don't have a shortage of!  So today I'm sharing with you a favorite spot from my childhood in Indiana.  My grandparents and my aunt and uncle had farms about five miles apart and my favorite way of getting from one place to the other was via a gravel back road that had a small bridge and a stream tucked away among the trees and cornfields.  I always loved the way the little stream looked--mysterious and private.  Here is what it looked like this summer, when I was back for my uncle's birthday celebration. When I stand on the bridge and look out at the water, I feel like whispering...there is something remote and removed from the hustle and bustle of every day life.

"No haunts of earth so fair I deem..."

When I went to college I was fortunate to be close enough to Kansas City for weekend trips to the beautiful Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where I spent hours wandering through rooms of breath-taking art.  My favorite painter has always been Claude Monet--the way he captures light on canvas fascinates me.  So you can imagine my delight when I came face to face with his lovely painting, Sunrise on the Seine near Giverny.  The painting immediately reminded me of 'my' stream (or 'crick' if you are from Indiana!)--the evocative, other-world effects of light on water draw you into the picture.
Claude Monet, "Arm of the Seine Near Giverny"

My stream and the Seine River may be half way around the world from each other, but both have the ability to soothe my soul and lift my spirits.  And that makes them a favorite thing today!  And to finish today's post, here is a lovely poem by Isaac McLellan, which captures some of the beauty and mysteriousness of  the pictures above.

              Forest and Stream
Wide and far the woods extend,
Leaf-laden branches graceful bend;
The old oaks, like great tents, outspread
Their verdant canopies o'erhead;
The fir, the hemlock, and the pine
Their interlacing shoots entwine;
The cypress of the swampy glade
Enweaves a dark impervious shade;

The slender willows stoop to lave
Their tassels in the rushing wave;
The chestnuts cast their treasures down,
Their opening burrs, their nuts of brown;
And thick the clusters of the grape
With purple wealth the alders drape,
And on the forest kings unfold
Their draperies of green and gold.

Each river, each transparent stream,
Amid the woodland vistas gleam;
They toss with foam where rocks impede
The arrowy swiftness of their speed;
They glide with smooth, unruffled sweep
Where flow their currents dusk and deep,
And fathomless abysses hide
The sand and shells that pave the tide. 

Forest and Stream! I love to trace
Your inmost depths, your watery race;
I love your dense, primeval shade,
O forest monarch! to invade.
I love, O grand, majestic Stream!
To wander where your ripples gleam,
To plunge beneath your ice-cold breast;
To seek the wild-fowl that infest
Your wooded shores; to spread the sail
In gusty breeze or howling gale;
To take the springing trout that skim
Your face, or in abysses swim;
In storm, in calm, in shade, in shine,
My heart, my steps to thee incline.
No haunts of earth so fair I deem
As Forest-side and banks of Stream!

October 26, 2012

Books are the hot topic this week!  Yesterday my blogging friend Claudia at http://mockingbirdhillcottage.com/ wrote a lovely recollection of happy times spent selecting just the right books to carry home from her local bookmobile.  Her readers chimed in with childhood favorites--and almost all of them were the same books I held so dear when I was young!   Among them were the Little House on the Prairie books, the Anne of Green Gables series, the adventures of Trixie Belden and her good friend Honey Wheeler, all of Gene Stratton Porter's books (Laddie and Girl of the Limberlost were my favorites), and one reader even mentioned a series I had loved but forgotten about...Nurse Cherry Ames! 

Then this morning another blogging friend, Karrlin, posted her own blog about books here at  http://poemifyme.blogspot.com/2012/10/do-you-love-books.html.  And meanwhile, a few days ago I started writing today's post with a book theme.  Maybe it's the idea of curling up with a good book by the fireplace now that the weather has turned cold that is drawing us towards our bookshelves, the library, a bookmobile, or for some lucky people, the shelves of the Free Little Library boxes that have caught the interest of a number of homeowners in my neighborhood.  It's a wonderful way to recycle books and provide young people in my area with books they may never have had the chance to read before.  If you would like more information on this great project that is spreading across America, you can read about it at http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/

I simply couldn't write a post about books and my love for reading without thanking my mother for sharing her love of reading with me.  She is as voracious a reader as I am, and many of our conversations are about fictional characters that, much like the bedraggled Velveteen Rabbit, have become real friends.  I, like the lucky little boy in the poem below by Strickland Gillilan, was given the world on a flying carpet of imagination by my mother, and for that, I feel extremely blessed.  Thanks, Mom.

Mother and I, circa 1959

                       The Reading Mother

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings--
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.

October 25, 2012

Isn't modern technology both intimidating and liberating?  Just when I have figured out how to work a remote control, take a picture on my digital camera, actually get a Netflix movie to stream on my television via my son's playstation, download a new song on my MP3 player or use social media, something new comes along and you have to start all over!  In this ever-faster, do-it-now, instant gratification world of ours, it's sometimes nice to take a big breath and think back on days that had a more natural pace and rhythm.  My pictures today are of my aunts, uncles and my mother when they were growing up in southwestern Indiana.  There is just something so sweet and innocent about the pictures that makes me want to step into their world for a little bit and play with them.  I'm sure they had as much fun as Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley's barefoot boy!

Oh, and how did I manage this step back in time?  My mother found these pictures and passed them on to a cousin of mine, who scanned them and put them on his facebook page.  I copied them from his facebook page on my computer and pasted them in my blog post.  I guess technology has its good points!  I hope you find time today to find your own 'pause' button and enjoy some of the simpler things in life.  Tea, anyone?

Aunt Mary, Uncle Lowell and Uncle Phil, 1938

A Barefoot Boy

A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play --
For May is here once more, and so is he, --
His dusty trousers, rolled half to the knee,
And his bare ankles grimy, too, as they:
Cross-hatchings of the nettle, in array
Of feverish stripes, hint vividly to me
Of woody pathways winding endlessly
Along the creek, where even yesterday
He plunged his shrinking body -- gasped and shook --
Yet called the water 'warm,' with never lack
Of joy. And so, half enviously I look
Upon this graceless barefoot and his track, --
His toe stubbed -- ay, his big toe-nail knocked back
Like unto the clasp of an old pocketbook.

James Whitcomb Riley
My mother is the youngest girl, standing in between her sister Hester and her brother Lowell, 1928
Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going. 
--Tennessee Williams

October 23, 2012

I don't know about you, but there is something rather....ordinary about Tuesdays.  They aren't the start of the work week so you can't really grumble about the commencement of a new week at work, they aren't 'hump days' that signify the middle of the week, and they sure aren't close enough to the weekend to give you anything to celebrate.  They just exist. Tuesday derives its name from the Middle English Tiwesday, named after the Nordic god Tyr, who was the approximate equivalent of the Roman war god Mars, and the Greek god Ares.  In the Greek world, Tuesday (the day of the week of the Fall of Constantinople) is considered an unlucky day. The same is true in the Spanish-speaking world, where the proverb 'En martes, ni te cases ni te embarques' translates to "On Tuesday, neither get married nor begin a journey."

These are the cheery thoughts that were tumbling through my head this morning before I got up and looked out at the window...at a world encased in fog.  Not beginning a journey (to work) seemed like an eminently sensible idea, but since I have a new job and very few vacation days saved up, staying home really wasn't an option, much as I would have liked to curl up by the fireplace, sip a soothing cup of tea and either read a fog-shrouded London mystery whodunit or perhaps watch a lovely old black white and movie.  Fred Astaire singing A Foggy Day in London Town in the 1937 Damsel in Distress would be just about perfect for today, wouldn't it?

A Foggy Day in London Town

Had me low and had me down
I viewed the morning with alarm
The British Museum had lost its charm
How long, I wondered, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn't passed,
For, suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London Town
The sun was shining everywhere.

But even if we have to go to work on this foggy Tuesday, let's carry with us this lovely thought from the artist Henri Matisse and be a lantern in the fog!

Derive happiness in oneself from a good day's work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.

October 22, 2012

Our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.
 My heart was filled to the brim yesterday...my whole family gathered to celebrate my second son's birthday. My youngest son came home on Friday when his college classes were finished so that they could celebrate together on Friday evening, my daughter and her boyfriend drove down from college on Sunday morning, and my oldest son and his wife came straight to dinner from the church youth retreat they had run all weekend.  It was a celebration of life, and family, and love....like any other family we've had some real highs and lows the last few years, and it felt so good to gather together because we like to be together and enjoy each other's company.  And yes, all five pounds of mashed potatoes were consumed--in fact, the only left overs were just a couple lonely slices of birthday cake!  Because I grew up with Sunday family dinners after church, the quaint hymn below seems a perfect tribute to our family gathering yesterday and a nice reminder as we start a new week to work towards a true fellowship of kindred minds, united in perfect love and friendship. 

Methodist Church, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Blessed Be the Tie that Binds

1. Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.

2. Before our Father's throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

3. We share each other's woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

4. When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

5. This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

6. From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

October 21, 2012

Good morning!  Due to technical difficulties (translation: my son wasn't home to help me) I was without internet for most of yesterday (and yes, I did try jiggling the cords in back of the computer!) so I didn't have a chance to post anything.  Today, however, I am up bright and early because it's a special day.  My second son has a birthday today, and all his siblings are coming home to celebrate with him.  This means a day filled with laughter, joy, and for me, some serious cooking in the kitchen.  I always serve the birthday 'child' their favorite dishes, so today it's meatloaf swirls (meatloaf with a layer of seasoned croutons, green pepper, cheese, tomato sauce and cheese, rolled like a cake roll and cut into round slices), company mashed potatoes (I will make five pounds of potatoes mashed with cream cheese and sour cream and I can guarantee you there won't be any leftovers--my boys love their mashed potatoes!), broccoli/cheese casserole, coleslaw, iced tea, and funfetti cake for dessert.  What more can a mother ask for than to have all her children home for a joyful family dinner? 

Today I have a special poem to share with you.  It may not be one of the 'best' poems I've shared with you so far, but it is from the heart and very dear to me.  My mother recently passed down to me a book called Birthday Greetings, a hand-bound collection of verses penned by my great-grandmother Mary Belle Cowen Badger.  There was a picture of Mary Belle that hung in my grandparents' bedroom and her stern and disapproving visage used to frighten me and all my cousins (and maybe some of my aunts and uncles as well!).  I could never look past her picture to imagine a woman with a heart.  Her collection of poems changed all that for me--her verses are filled with love and pride and the strong religion that sustained her through difficult times.  In honor of my son, Jason, here is a lovely poem Mary Belle wrote to her son Ozro Bruce, who was born on May 8, 1887.  The poem was penned in 1911 to celebrate his 24th birthday.

On the eighth day of May
Eighteen and eighty seven
A precious baby boy
To his parents was given.

He arrived at the close 
Of a bright Sabbath day
And was so sweet adn winsome
We could not tell him nay.

We took him to our hearts
And loved him with a zeal
I am sure none other
But parents hearts could feel.

A roguish little lad was he
From the time that he could walk
We had to curb and chasten
Ere he began to talk.

It took a lot of patience
A lot of grit and grace
But amply feel repaid
When we see his manly face.

Now he is helping boys
Their niche in life to find
By teaching and training
And developing their mind.

May  Christ our great example
His model always be
Who taught with love and patience
By the sea of Galilee.

Bruce, my son, be careful
Of what you say and do
For those lads are watching 
And taking note of you.

Oceans of love, Mother

And if the poem wasn't sweet enough, here is a picture of my son on his first birthday!

May your day be filled with love.

October 19, 2012

In my fantasy life I am still in bed this morning, snuggled under the comforter with hot tea in one hand, a Victorian novel in the other and my sweet puppy curled up next to me.  I might later on drift to the family room and doze by the fireplace, still in my flannel pajamas of course.  I might even muster up enough energy to bake some scones or Irish soda bread, perfect for a mid-morning tea break!  But since my fantasy life is, well, a fantasy, I am instead in my office clothes, high heels and makeup, getting ready to head to the office on this very rainy, gloomy day.  Did I mention I work in a cubicle with no windows in sight?  Thank goodness I tucked extra English Breakfast tea bags in my purse this morning for a little tea-time cheer on this rather dreary day!

I think Louisa May Alcott must have been looking out her bedroom window at her garden on just such a day when she penned the little poem below.  I feel the same sense of poignant loss looking out at my garden this time of year..flowers, dear flowers, farewell! 

The Frost-King - Song 1
by Louisa May Alcott
We are sending you, dear flowers
Forth alone to die,
Where your gentle sisters may not weep
O'er the cold graves where you lie;
But you go to bring them fadeless life
In the bright homes where they dwell,
And you softly smile that't is so,
As we sadly sing farewell.
O plead with gentle words for us,
And whisper tenderly
Of generous love to that cold heart,
And it will answer ye;
And though you fade in a dreary home,
Yet loving hearts will tell
Of the joy and peace that you have given:
Flowers, dear flowers, farewell!

Alcott Garden at Orchard House

October 18, 2012

Pinned Image

Brr...last night the rain and wind blew into town, and this morning is mighty chilly!  I wish I could stay home this morning and read my new poetry book that arrived in the mail yesterday, wrapped in an afghan by the fireplace.  Instead, I'm searching for a warm sweater to wear to work!  And to make it worse, I have a dentist appointment this afternoon.  Rain, cold, wind, gray skies, and the dentist.  What did Wordsworth say?   Sometimes the world is too much with us!  Here's a fitting poem for today, by Canadian poet Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon, who wrote this poem in the late 1800s.  I've condensed the poem, and if you are interested in reading all the verses, you can find the poem here http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/autumn-winds-2/comments.asp.

Autumn Winds

“Oh! Autumn winds, what means this plaintive wailing
Around the quiet homestead where we dwell?
Whence come ye, say, and what the story mournful
That your weird voices ever seek to tell—
Whispering or clamoring, beneath the casements,
Rising in shriek or dying off in moan,
But ever breathing, menace, fear, or anguish
In every thrilling and unearthly tone?”

“We come from far off and from storm-tossed oceans,
Where vessels bravely battle with fierce gale,—
Mere playthings of our stormy, restless power,
We rend them quickly, shuddering mast and sail;
And with their, stalwart, gallant crews we hurl them
Amid the hungry waves that for them wait,
Nor leave one floating spar nor fragile taffrail
To tell unto the world their dreary fate.”

“And, what of that, ye cruel winds of Autumn?
Spring will return again with hope and mirth,
Clothing with tender green the budding branches,
Decking with snowdrops, violets, the earth;
And, oh! sweet hope, sublime and most consoling,
The sacred dust within those graves shall rise
In God’s good time, to reign on thrones of glory
With Him, beyond the cloudless, golden skies.”
Pinned Image

October 17, 2012


A trip down memory lane wouldn't be complete without stopping by DeSmet and visiting the family home and school house of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I loved the Wilder family--the books, the 1970s television show (although I always wished that someone would have shown Michael Landon how to really play his fiddle!), and of course, the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant held outside DeSmet on the prairie each July.  And Laura wasn't just a South Dakota phenomenon--one year my husband and I traveled to Sweden and stayed with a family, and that evening when I was escorted to their daughter's bedroom I found myself surrounded by Lilla Huset Pa Prarien on the bookshelves!  One thing I didn't know about Laura, though, was that she also published a small book of Fairy Poems, from which the poem below is taken.  I can't say it's a great poem, but I have a fondness for all things Laura.  I think it is charming that in the midst of the family's struggle to survive on the unforgiving prairie, Laura managed to bring a little fairy magic into her life. 
My sisters ala Mary and Laura
The Fairy Dew Drop

Down by the spring one morning
Where the shadows still lay deep,
I found in the heart of a flower
A tiny fairy asleep. ...

... All the colors of the rainbow
Were in her robe so bright
As she danced away with the sunbeam
And vanished from my sight.

Laura Ingalls Wilder - February 1915
My son and daughter at the Ingalls Family gravesite, DeSmet, South Dakota
I hope you find a little magic fairy dust to sprinkle on your day today!

October 16, 2012

Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park

I had planned a different post for today, but I found myself reluctant to leave the Black Hills of South Dakota quite yet so I decided to visit one of my favorite places on earth--Custer State Park.  My family has so many memories of camping, hiking and fishing in this beautiful park.  One year when we were camping there for a week I took my son Michael, who was about three at the time, on a hike and we ended up at log cabin where poet Badger Clark once lived.  A pair of his boots were on display, and for whatever reason the boots made a huge impression with my young son, and we spent the rest of the week 'hunting' for Badger Clark.  Michael would see a cabin or shelter and run up to it, shouting "Badger Clark, Badger Clark, I know where your boots are!"  To this day I cannot separate the poet from his boots, and I hope he is somewhere in a heaven that looks like Custer State Park, hiking the trails in his well loved boots.  Here's a beautiful poem of his that I have always loved...I hope you enjoy it too.

A Cowboy's Prayer
(Written for Mother)
Oh Lord, I've never lived where churches
    I love creation better as it stood
That day You finished it so long ago
    And looked upon Your work and called it
I know that others find You in the light
    That's sifted down through tinted window
And yet I seem to feel You near tonight
    In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains.
I thank You, Lord, that I am placed so well,
    That You have made my freedom so com-
That I'm no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
    Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I've begun
    And give me work that's open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
    And I won't ask a life that's soft or high.
Let me be easy on the man that's down;
    Let me be square and generous with all.
I'm careless sometimes, Lord, when I'm in
    But never let 'em say I'm mean or small!
Make me as big and open as the plains,
    As honest as the hawse between my knees,
Clean as the wind that blows behind the rains,
    Free as the hawk that circles down the
Forgive me, Lord, if sometimes I forget.
    You know about the reasons that are hid.
You understand the things that gall and fret;
    You know me better than my mother did.
Just keep an eye on all that's done and said
    And right me, sometimes, when I turn
And guide me on the long, dim, trail ahead
    That stretches upward toward the Great
 Badger Clark Cowboy Poet

October 15, 2012

I have a confession to make.  I am a happily married woman (see last Monday's post) but if Kevin Costner were to walk in a room my knees would start to tremble, big time.  And because I'm a South Dakota girl every time I watch the movie Dances with Wolves my heart bursts with pride for the beautiful depiction of the Native Americans, the amazing scenery, the lush soundtrack and yes, the handsome Lt. Dunbar. 

Since I visited a few of my favorite South Dakota places in my blog this weekend, I thought I'd move to the Black Hills this morning and drop in on my favorite actor and this great scene from the buffalo hunt.  I remember vividly the night my family was camping in Custer State Park and we heard a buffalo roaming the campground near our tent...you can't forget the snorting, kind of whuffling sound bison make, especially when they are just feet away from you, with only a thin tent between the two of you!  Carl Sandburg's poem is certainly true about the magnificent bison herds, but if you visit the western part of South Dakota you can still see this beautiful animal roaming the plains.  It's quite a sight.

Buffalo Dusk

 Carl Sandburg
The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.


Have a great start to your week!  And later this week, we'll talk about Colin Firth, but shh...don't tell my husband!

October 14, 2012

Trail of the Spirits

Entrance to Sica Hollow, State Park
It's that time of year again...if we were still living in South Dakota we would be making our annual family pilgrimage to Sica Hollow, located in the northeastern part of the state near the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Reservation.  Every year my parents would round up all the siblings and our families and caravan to this spirit-filled state park for an October family reunion.  We'd bring a picnic of fried chicken and hike the trails, ending with a beautiful fall drive to a nearby apple orchard where Mother and Dad would buy all of us bushels of apples.  I always had pie dough waiting in the refrigerator at home so we could have a fresh apple pie that evening!  

We would hike along the Trail of the Spirits, so named because of the eerie legends of the place.  The Native Americans named the hollow 'sica' (evil) because of the horrific stories that were passed down about its dark and damp ravines.  Even today, natural occurrences like glowing swamp gasses and tree stumps fuel the mysterious atmosphere.  The Dakota Sioux told a creation and vengeance story about this area, and claimed mythical figures fought here, which explained the red-tinged water.  The fears of the supernatural quickly spread to the early white settlers as well, and the area has never been settled, becoming a state park instead.  For those that have been brave enough to stay overnight in the park, many have reported hearing voices and chanting, the sounds of cries and war whoops and a few have even reported sighting ghostly braves.

What better place for a spooky, fun-filled pre-Halloween adventure?  I must admit though, we never felt anything supernatural--for our family it was just another wonderful place where we could admire the beautiful South Dakota outdoors and celebrate coming together with our extended families.  It was memory-building time, and to this day there is always a Sunday this time of year where I think how much I'd love to be with everyone again, eating chicken and hiking the trails of Sica Hollow.


Trail of the Spirits, Sica Hollow

I hope you enjoy this lovely Native American prayer, translated by Chief Yellow Lark of the Sioux tribe in 1887:

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds
Whose breath gives life to the world, hear me
I come to you as one of your many children
I am small and weak
I need your strength and wisdom
May I walk in beauty
Make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
And my ears sharp to your voice.
Make me wise so that I may know the things you have taught your children.
The lessons you have written in every leaf and rock
Make me strong--------!
Not to be superior to my brothers, but to fight my greatest enemy....myself
Make me ever ready to come to you with straight eyes,
So that when life fades as the fading sunset,
May my spirit come to you without shame.

At the entrance to the Trail of the Spirits, @ 15 years ago.  We won't talk about the matching wind suits, okay?!

October 13, 2012

I couldn't let the opportunity to post this picture pass me by...I absolutely love this photo of my mom and dad in the early seventies, getting ready to head off for a day of hunting.  What's so very funny about this picture is that my mom was NOT a hunter.  We are very much alike--books are our passion, not hunting!  But my mom and dad shared adventure after adventure together for fifty years, so here they are, ready to take on the day.  Here's a funny little poem about the bird who 'got away'....I hope my parents had better luck!

The Last Cock-Pheasant

R. C. Lehmann

Splendour, whom lately on your glowing flight
  Athwart the chill and cheerless winter-skies
I marked and welcomed with a futile right,
  And then a futile left, and strained my eyes
To see you so magnificently large,
Sinking to rest beyond the fir-wood’s marge—

Not mine, not mine the fault: despise me not
  In that I missed you; for the sun was down,
And the dim light was all against the shot;
  And I had booked a bet of half-a-crown.
My deadly fire is apt to be upset
By many causes—always by a bet.

Or had I overdone it with the sloes,
  Snared by their home-picked brand of ardent gin
Designed to warm a shivering sportsman’s toes
  And light a fire his reckless head within?
Or did my silly loader put me off
With aimless chatter in regard to golf?

You too, I think, displayed a lack of nerve;
  You did not quite-now did you?-play the game;
For when you saw me you were seen to swerve,
  Doubtless in order to disturb my aim.
No, no, you must not ask me to forgive
A swerve because you basely planned to live.

At any rate I missed you, and you went,
  The last day’s absolutely final bird,
Scathless, and left me very ill content;
  And someone (was it I?) pronounced a word,
A word which rather forcible than nice is,
A little word which does not rhyme with Isis.

Farewell! I may behold you once again
  When next November’s gales have stripped the leaf.
Then, while your upward flight you grandly strain,
  May I be there to add you to my sheaf;
And may they praise your tallness, saying “This
Was such a bird as men are proud to miss!”

From The Vagabond and Other Poems from Punch | John Lane Company, 1918

I hope you have some adventures of your own today!

October 12, 2012

I have mentioned several times in my blog that I was born in Indiana, and what wonderful memories and close ties I have with my relatives there.  But when I was five I moved to South Dakota and became a girl of the prairie--wide open spaces and a horizon that goes on forever.  Fields of flax, golden sunsets, snow mounds so high we pretended they were the Alps and climbed them on our way to school, and .... pheasants.  Driving in the country we would spot the famous Tinker Town concrete pheasant...a symbol of the rugged outdoor/hunting lifestyle of my adopted state.  And since my dad was a rugged outdoor/hunting type of guy, October meant one thing to him...pheasant hunting.  As the poem title below implies, there is more to pheasant hunting than just throwing your gun in the car and heading to the country.  Oh no, you must FLUSH out the pheasants from the fields!  This involves taking all your children, lining them up in the corn rows and telling them to start walking until you heard a heart-stopping whrrrr and a bird, wings flapping wildly, would fly up from his hiding spot right in front of you.  Then, of course, you were supposed to drop flat on bristly cornhusks while the hunters took aim.  This was not my favorite weekend occupation.  But now, looking back, I'd give anything to be tramping the cornfields with my dad again.  
Pheasants, by James A. Meger

Flushing Pheasant

Robert Barboza

They will of course have heard you coming
long before you ever see
or hear them,
even though you imagine yourself
being as sure-footed and quiet
as a fox in springtime

You may step ever so lightly
down the well-worn deer trails
silently push away the clinging branches,
always be careful to stay
cloaked by the sound
of rushing water

But they will of course have heard you coming
long before the male bolts out from the brush,
exploding up and away in an instant,
into the trees to distract you
with beating wings
and angry cries

And if you patiently back-track
from the launching place, carefully follow
his muddy steps in the damp ground,
with luck you might discover
where the hen sits hidden
on speckled eggs

Lying half-buried beneath her,
cradled in the softest nest of grass,
breathing slowly through their thin shells,
feeling safe and warm and invisible,
and they will of course have heard you coming
for a long time now

Tinker Town Pheasant, built in 1950

October 11, 2012

Good morning!  Last week we visited Elizabeth Barrett Browning, so I thought it only fair to take time to say  hello to the man who swept her off her feet and out of her father's household.  While he is best known for his dramatic monologues, this poem caught my eye because I loved the imagery of the earth smiling and basking in the warmth of the autumn sun.  I hope you have time today to 'bask in the sun' and enjoy these treasured fall days, all the more sweet because of their transcience. 

Photo: Red tree beside stream in Utah

Among the Rocks

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
      This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
      Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
      Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
      Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

October 10, 2012

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere...

Anyone else out there a 'sweater weather' girl?  I admit it--I love autumn and all the food and celebrations that go with the season.  Chunky sweaters, homemade breads, a big pot of soup, fireplaces crackling, warm socks on chilly nights, flannel pajamas and best of all....pumpkin pie.  I love pumpkin pie.  It's my favorite dessert, and I used to ask for pumpkin pie instead of a birthday cake!  Fortunately, my mother is the world's best pie maker, so pies graced our table frequently.  I made two pies this past Sunday, and guess what I had for breakfast this morning?  Hazelnut coffee and pumpkin pie....hello, autumn! 

I've been waiting for the perfect fall day to post one of my favorite poems by Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley.  I first learned this poem in Mrs. Gilman's third grade reading class and I've loved it ever since.  Poetry serves so many purposes--it can calm us, it can inspire us, motivate us, and touch our souls, but sometimes poetry exists just to make us smile and rejoice in another day.  I hope you enjoy the poem, and your day!

When the Frost is on the Punkin
James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!