May 29, 2015

Terra del Fuego...

Oh, the National Spelling I love to hear those beautiful and obscure words!  I vividly remember a youth symphony trip in 2000, and how all our students were huddled around the television set in the gift shop of the Cheers Bar in Boston, standing awestruck as speller after speller conquered words we had never even heard of before.  Kudos to last night's winners (a tie!) with these two words:  scherenschnitte and nunatak.  

I always loved participating in our town's elementary school spelling bee.  Funny how some of those words stay with you...Renaissance, restaurant and precipice are three that I remember having to think through carefully before I spelled them. I was always so proud to bring home a Superior rating, but I wish I had instead been able to bring home a lovely painting, like the one below.

This is one of our family's prized possessions--the first place "trophy" handed to my grandfather when he took first place at a spelling bee, over a hundred years ago.  I've always pictured the spelling competition taking place in a small Indiana schoolhouse, surrounded by all the community as the spelling bees were quite the social event back then.  In my mind, I always see the scene as described in Laddie, set in Indiana and written by Gene Stratton Porter in 1913:

"...from that you could call it real spelling.  they spelled from the grammars, hyperbole, synecdoche, and epizeuxis.  They spelled from the physiology, chlorophyll, coccyx, arytenoid, and the names of the bones and nerves, and all the hard words inside you.  They tried the diseases and spelled jaundice, neurasthenia, and tongue-tied.  They tried all the occupations and professions, and went through the stores and spelled all sorts of hardware, china and dry goods...they spelled from the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar, Potiphar, Peleg, Belshazzar, Abimelech and a host of others I never heard the minister preach about.  They spelled epiphany, gaberdine, ichthyology, gewgaw, kaleidoscope and troubadour.  Then Laddie spelled one word two different ways; and the Princess went him one better, for she spelled another three."  

They finally end in a tie as well, with both of them misspelling Terra del Fuego.  Only to learn later that they both tried to let the other one win, as both certainly knew how to spell it!  I am pretty sure I could have spelled Terra del Fuego correctly, but some of those words last night?  Highly doubtful!

Congratulations to the winners, and Grandpa Badger as well!

May 28, 2015

Poetry in motion...


Last weekend was jam packed with all sorts of good things!  Time with my mother and siblings, a chance to converse with nieces and nephews that I don't get to see very often, a fun graduation party, and as an added bonus...a volleyball tournament!  It just so happened that my husband and I were driving through the city where the tournament took place, so we had our first opportunity to see my niece in action.
Volleyball Player--
Someone who steps onto the court and
transforms from typical teenage girl, to an
amazing, fierce, and unbelievable firecracker
who refuses to give up.

Characteristics include:
spandex, sweaty face, bruises,
and a look in her eyes 
that says bring it.

What I admire so much about her is her tenacious ferocity...her single minded determination to not give up, not give in.  She has spent the last two years struggling with the physical and emotional repercussions of a truly awful concussion from basketball, but through it all she has hung in there and has never lost her can-do spirit.  Watching her play was a joy--she's beautiful and strong and as I watched her bring everything she had to the game the lyrics of a favorite song of my daughter's kept running through my head.  Yes, she truly was poetry in motion...

There's a whole lot of love in the world today
Going around, it'll come your way
The sun is back and it's gonna stay
Everybody wants some love sometimes
(Poetry in motion)

There's the sound, the feeling everywhere
Reach out and fling, love is in the air
The heart of the song is the life I swear
Everybody needs some love sometimes
Ain't it good to feel this way
Ain't it good to know
Love is back and its gonna stay
Love will bring a toll
Ooh, ooh, ooh, poetry in motion

There's a valley of light from the mountain top
A message of love that'll never stop
To have not to hold is the love you've got
Everybody wants some love sometimes
(Poetry in motion)

Poetry in Motion

So proud of you, my sweet niece! 

May 27, 2015

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 

Sometimes these lines by Wordsworth come to mind when the news of the day seems extra difficult. I went to bed last night with a heavy heart--so many sorrowful stories seem to surround us lately.  A tiny baby, born prematurely, finally gets to come home from the hospital, but her mother is not able to share in the joy of the day, as she has been fatally shot while serving as a police officer in Omaha.  A family in Washington, DC, is murdered in cold blood for a small ransom, leaving two grieving young sons to bear so much pain.  Another family is swept away in a raging Texas river, a family vacation turned to tragedy. 

Yesterday my daughter received the sad news that one of her good friend's vibrant and young mother had passed away unexpectedly.  I grieve for this lovely young woman and her family and the void her passing leaves behind.  I have friends and relatives struggling with health concerns, pain, financial worries...the list could go on forever.  And yet, hard as life can be at time, I still choose joy.  I believe we were put on earth to learn as much as we can in our short span of time here about love.  About compassion.  About kindness.  And then, we share our knowledge of the goodness of life with others.  In the end, it's pretty simple, isn't it?  

My orchid is blooming again...for the third time!

Which is why 6 am found me in my robe and garden shoes, capturing a few new garden shots after last night's storm.  I hope you enjoy them, and the poem by Emily Dickinson which seems to mirror my feelings this morning.  May your day be filled with joy, with love, and with kindness.

 If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain. 

May 20, 2015

No, dear neighbors and passersby, I have not been turned to stone like Lot's wife.  Nor have I taken to meditation, doing my statue pose in front of my kitchen window.  If you passed by my home this morning and wondered at the silhouette in the window, it was just me, quietly watching my new hanging plant.  

After losing the "battle" yet again last year with nesting birds and expensive hanging plants, I opted for an inexpensive pot of impatiens from Home Depot this year.  I also found this charming wire basket on sale, which dresses up the humble plastic pot.  And as expected, it hadn't been up for more than a few hours before I witnessed the first turf war...two mama cardinals each took up residence on opposite sides of the pot, and after they noticed each other, had a rather alarming duel outside the window!  And while they were flapping and darting at each other, a cozy little sparrow hopped in the basket and made herself at home.  So this morning, I spent a long time quietly watching at the window to see if I could identify the "winner"...every so often the basket would shake so I knew my new tenant was home, but I have yet to figure out if baby cardinals or baby sparrows will grow in the shelter of my front porch basket.  I'll keep you posted!

In the meantime, here are two Emily Dickinson garden poems for your enjoyment.  In case you ever wondered, Emily only gave a very few of her poems titles, so most of them are now either given numbers or categorized into collections by subject.  These are two of her "nature" poems.

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields—
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!  

Nature rarer uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets, —
Prodigal of blue,
Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover's words.

May 19, 2015

a little bit of this, a little bit of that...

The song from Fiddler on the Roof seems appropriate for today's blog...catching you up on some of the comings and goings around here.  Yesterday heralded the new "living arrangements" at my workplace...I think I can safely speak for most of my colleagues when I say we were a little dismayed to discover what close quarters a cubicle meant for one can be when it is shared by two.  I ended up sitting at a funny angle in my chair because of a slanted keyboard stand, and by the time I got home my evening revolved around Aleve and a heating pad.  

Displaying IMG_20150515_123534434_HDR.jpg
Who would have thought I'd actually be missing my old cubicle??
My back probably was also suffering from a little too much gardening this weekend, but it was wonderfully gratifying to peek outside this morning and see the progress!

Front and back window boxes planted...

Front walkway weeded and cheerful geraniums and violas planted...

Umbrella table planter decked out in colorful moss roses and impatiens...I seem to be gravitating towards bright oranges and yellows in my garden this year instead of my traditional pastels.

All gardening done, of course, under the watchful eye of my faithful companion...

You can see why I just had to buy this garden flag!

It's almost Lily time!  And yes, that means my lilies of the valley are blooming, and my day lilies are filling out beautifully...

But it also means that my darling Lily is getting ready to turn one!  Oh my gosh, where did this year go?!  She celebrated with her Milwaukee relatives and friends last weekend...what a party girl!


 And if that wasn't enough to celebrate, it turned out that yesterday was an extra special day at our house!!  Kudos to my husband, who after thirty four years of golfing, had his first HOLE IN ONE!  Way to go, sweetheart!!

Special ball is proudly displayed on our You Are Special plate...

Here's a celebration poem by Mike Birdscratch just for you, honey!

As I approach the beauty of the waving blades marked with golden stakes
I feel the gentle breeze brushing through my hair standing on the overlooking mound
The power rushes through my hands as I pick up my powerful staff to tame this green beauty
I swing my staff with all my might at the unusually round white evil of the average man
As I forcefully strike evil and watch, it soars gently through the air
It slowly lifts towards the heavens but is just as slowly denied and falls to the final battlefield
Softly landing on the forbidden grounds it shakes a white flag at me signaling submission
Finally I have won I have been accepted in to God’s green heavens

May 18, 2015

Prithee...into my garden, come!

A lovely, quiet weekend, with a lot of time spent in the garden.  My guess is Emily would have approved...

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, 
Our little Sexton – sings. 

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

In the name of the bee
And of the butterfly
And of the breeze, amen! 

--from poems by Emily Dickinson

May 15, 2015

I am a "nester."  Not as in empty nest, but as in wanting to always make where I hang out feel homey and comfortable.  I've lived in umpteen apartments that, truth be told, were pretty dreary, but I somehow managed to hang art on the walls, drape a quilt over a sofa and make it feel like home.  And since so much of my time is spent at work, I tend to do the same with the office space I inhabit on a daily basis.  Kind of a cubicle, sweet cubicle, thing.  This, however, is coming to a screeching halt today as my place of work is starting a building wide remodeling project and that means temporarily all of us cubicle dwellers are being displaced.  It will be an interesting summer, combining workstation sharing, working from my home office, working in coffee shops, and maybe even occasionally working on my laptop on my deck near my garden.  

So today I bid adieu to the gray cubicle that I tried my best to infuse with warmth and a touch of personality. Everything is safely packed up and in my car trunk.  My cubicle is empty and all I need to do is unplug my phone and laptop and walk away. And to close out the end of my cubicle era, I thought you might enjoy a few of these humorous parodies, because even if my office space no longer has room for my poetry books, fortunately poetry can be carried in the heart...

The Cubicle Less Traveled By
Two cubicles in my new office stood,
And sorry I could not claim them both,
I pondered longer than I should
Which would do the greater good
To stimulate careerish growth.
The first was colder than I could bear,
Beneath an overzealous vent;
The other was fine, with warmer air,
But to the network printer there,
A steady stream of people went.
And long I dithered there in vain,
Weighing the less distracting glitch.
Would cold or traffic render me insane?
And knowing how moving’s such a pain
I doubted I should ever want to switch.
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Someday ages and ages hence:
Two cubicles vacant stood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Goodbye, Monets, that made me want to step into the picture and glide down the river or sip a cool glass of lemonade...

Goodbye, Prairie Woman (artist Harvey Dunn).  I've admired your strength and grace since I was a teen--and I have always carried a piece of South Dakota in my heart and on my walls...

Goodbye, lovely reminders of Kensington Palace and all the fun I had in London...

Goodbye, lovely prairie prints and my graceful McCoy vase, that I filled with garden flowers all summer long...

Goodbye pictures of Greece and Maine, and all the sweet memories they remind me of...
Avoiding One’s Cubicle on a Busy Morning
Whose cube this is, I think I know–
Its owner’s in a meeting, though.
She will not see me stopping here
To watch her philodendron grow.
It’s odd my feet should try to steer
This way when there is no one here.
It’s just to keep the office flake
From blithely talking off my ear.
“Hello,” I said–a big mistake,
Which led to an extended break,
In which I barely gave a peep,
Nor he a pause, a breath to take.
The chance of an encounter’s steep,
But I have deadlines still to keep:
Back to my cube, I’ll have to creep…
Back to my cube, I’ll have to creep.

Goodbye, family photos that make me smile, and the philodendron that added a much needed touch of green...

Emily Dickinson’s Lunch Hour
Because I could not stop for lunch,
And leave at half-past three,
I stayed inside my cubicle,
And worked on, grumpily.
I soon recalled I hadn’t brought–
Or purchased on the way–
A sandwich, drink, and bag of chips,
For this contingency.
My window showed where children played
A game out in the sun–
I watched–then turned to face
The work still to be done.
Or, rather, tried to face the work–
Distractions do abound–
And hunger just accelerates
The mental runaround.
My fellow workers paused outside
My cube and talked of food,
And ever since my abdomen
Has given rumblings rude.
‘Tis hours since lunch, and yet there seems
No ending to the day.
How long until my work’s complete?
Right now, eternity–

Goodbye, little reminders of my love for my family, my passion for travel, my enjoyment of a good cup of tea (and Jane Austen!), my enthusiasm for poetry...

Goodbye, banker's lamp, favorite coffee mug and a little reminder to keep calm...

Emily Gets the Last Word
The bustle in a cube–when an employee quits–
Would give the former occupant a half a dozen fits.
The clearing off of shelves, and filching of supplies
That they won’t need to use again is Practical, not Nice.

Poems based on “The Road Less Traveled,” by Robert Frost
“Because I could not stop for Death,” by Emily Dickinson
“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost
“The bustle in the house,” by Emily Dickinson

May 14, 2015

God thought about me, and so I grew...

Where Did You Come From, Baby Dear?

~George MacDonald

Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.

Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes left in.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than anyone knows.

Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into hooks and bands.

 Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs' wings.

How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.

Being a mother is wonderful.  Being a grandmother is sheer bliss.  Happy Thursday!