December 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
So, I have a bunch of essays lined up, in various states of completion. The way a story comes to mind, then you get distracted by life or laundry or something, and you quickly jot down some notes so you don’t forget your brilliance – and then a few more days go by of other this’s and that’s demanding your attention, and in that span of time more ideas, more thoughts, more inspirations happen, (that you do or don’t jot down), and the cycle repeats until you realize you just want to be still for a little bit. Mindless.
Of course, this is where I might normally spew the wonders of meditation, but I’ll resist the temptation to be meaningful just this once. I don’t know why exactly – could be a loosening of the grips of an innate need to be mindful, purposeful, responsible.
Instead I’m going to share something interesting but frivolous, in that it really serves no purpose except to tickle the brain. And because it’s Wednesday and I’ve always wondered why it’s spelled so oddly. And because it’s the curse of a writer not to write, so I must write something.
And this is as far as I’m allowing my brain to go for now. (Good thing I jotted down my more impassioned thoughts, though, right? … so they can come marching forth again in all their splendor when I’m back in the mood for them … and less tired. Which, for better or worse, probably won’t be long, once I’ve meditated and such. But I’m veering towards meaningful again, so I’ll stop here and get on with simple, frivolously interesting.)
Why is Wednesday Spelled so Oddly?
Wednesday comes from the Middle English Wednes dei, which originates from Old English Wēdnes dæg, meaning the day of the Germanic god Woden. Associated with both fury and poetic inspiration, Woden thrived as an Anglo-Saxton god in England until about the 7th century. He also had a career in curing horses and carrying off the dead, and Wednesday is his day. Woden’s day has had various spellings – Wodnesdaeg, Weodnesdei, Wenysday, Wonysday, Weddinsday – but even Shakespeare’s quite sensible spelling of “Wensday” didn’t last. So in the end it turns out that (perhaps born from fear of his Woden’s wrath, or loss of poetry) the “d” and the day remain. And now you know.
November 30, 2013 § 3 Comments
The Day is Done
BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
November 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Thanksgiving ~ our very American holiday of feasting; a day with the sole purpose of being thankful for our blessings; a tradition with roots of gratitude that has managed, beautifully, to evade the trappings of modern commercialism. One day to simply appreciate what we have; nothing more.
They come in all forms, these gifts ~ they come as our families, our friends, our health, the ground beneath our feet, the roof over head, blankets to keep us warm, the abundance of this Good Earth we share; for land that lets us turn corn into deliciously simple muffins or set a table of lavish sustenance. And it comes as freedom. Because freedom is breath and possibility. Freedom gives us earthly wings to follow our dreams, and that is no small blessing.
So eat, drink, be grateful…… Happy Thanksgiving to you!
November 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
If only it were true. Unless you count holly berries, there’s really not much in the way of floral color in northeast winter months.
But “Twelve Months of Flowers” can be had via art prints, from the series published 1n 1730 by renowned British horticulturist and author Robert Furber. Mr. Furber’s name is highly attributed to these exquisite prints, and while I’m grateful that he had the insight, substantial research and knowledge (and, no doubt, the funds) to produce the collection, I’m mostly interested in the artistry.
We had two of these prints hanging in our dining room during my growing-up years – one May, one November, the months of my parent’s birthdays. Admired by all, they adorned a modest space with a rich, subtle elegance, (and now that I think of it, may have had an influence on my own interest in drawing things botanical) ~ but in all those years, while we probably did, I don’t remember talking about the artist. Regardless, for some reason they lodged in my mind’s eye today ~ perhaps an unconscious nod to my parent’s wedding anniversary? ~ so I went looking.
First of all, they are hand-colored engravings, produced by English engraver Henry Fletcher from paintings of Flemish-born artist Pieter Casteels . (They also produced an equally stunning second series, Twelve Months of Fruits.) Each work is a glorious detail of plants in seasonal bloom, with each plant numbered, and, at the time, a list of the corresponding names. More than 400 plant species were featured. This was no small project.
And so a few centuries later, I thank them ~ all three of them: Furber, Fletcher and Casteels ~ for their fine, luscious collaboration of study, talent and skill. They are so beautiful, I might even venture to call them a labor of love. But that’s what art is.
November 19, 2013 § 4 Comments
With Thanksgiving around the corner, my mind turns to feasting. Of course, it doesn’t take a holiday for my mind to wander over to food – it’s pretty much a daily event, because, like most human beings, I like to eat. It’s not only essential, it’s tasty.
Food is not, however, an all-consuming thought for me – and to that end, I feel it’s a fairly healthy view, which I’ll share with you here – because, well, my mind is on food all of a sudden, as I already explained.
Caveat – This is not about diets or struggle. If that’s what you were expecting, feel free to stop reading; I won’t be offended. It is about getting back to basics, as it seems that as a society we’re straying off the path, some to one extreme, some to another. That said, my own open attitude and, by some standards, relaxed regard for what my body consumes has served me well, and barring special conditions, might possibly serve others. (To me, much of this falls under the “common sense” category, but who knows, so…) Besides, food is fun.
Some simple guidelines.
1. Know thyself. Sometimes my body screams out for protein. Sometimes it wants to feel coddled by carbohydrates. Sometimes it says, damn it, give me some more salad, will you! Sometimes it wants a treat. I try to be respectful towards all these requests.
2. Listen. I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t when I’m not ~ unless my body tells me, “hun, you may not feel hungry, but you need to give me something or I’ll make you feel real tired and ornery later”. When that happens, something light will usually soothe the savage beast.
3. Variety is the spice of life. I like all the food groups. If you haven’t discovered a taste for vegetables, you should, they’re fabulous. If you don’t like fish or meat for whatever reason, please be smart about getting enough protein. Fruits are not my personal favorite, but when in season they can be a joy. Chocolate is a daily supplement. (I don’t know why chocolate is always left off the food pyramid, but otherwise, the food pyramid is a good place to look for tips on balanced eating.) Mother Earth has provided for us bountifully; reaping those benefits are one of the graces of being human.
4. Moderation in all things. Fats are not the devil (in fact, we need them) and sweets are not evil. A pat of butter and a pinch of salt on your spinach will not kill you. Pasta, bread, potatoes all have a place on my table. A slice or two of bacon with your eggs is nice. On the other hand, if, bacon is your full source of sustenance, there’s probably a problem. Come to think of it, if your entire diet consists of broccoli, that could be a problem too. Moderation is key.
5. Be real. I admit guilt to a boxed product now and then, but 90% of the time it’s real food for me. Growing your own, even better. Cooking isn’t that hard, nor does it have to be overly time-consuming. Working with food can even be a therapeutic activity, especially in an increasingly electronically-driven world.
6. Beware of label obsession. All that is labeled such-and-such is not necessarily golden. Sadly, you can’t believe everything you read. I also personally feel you can find healthy food at the regular grocery store and it usually costs a lot less than fancy-healthy food at fancy-organic-grocers.
7. Waste not want not. Yes, this is a layover from childhood, being told about the starving children in Biafra, as well as being a product of a father who survived the Depression and a mother with a penchant for Scottish phrases. But really, why toss out perfectly good food? Not to mention the money you paid for it. Leftovers are great, and sure trim down prep time.
8. Know thyself, Part 2. Know when to stop. Sometimes easier said than done, especially when raised to “finish one’s plate”. But if your belly is full, honor that. Save the rest for #7.
9. Avoid soda (or pop, as some people call it), unless with popcorn while at the movies.
10. Please the senses. Food is essential, but what a blessing it is to satisfy our sense of taste. If you use colorful food or make your plate attractive, you’re ahead of the game for visual satisfaction. Different textures please our sense of touch. If it smells good, our olfactory is happy. Even the sounds of cooking can be fun – steaming, popping, crackling, sizzling.
11. Don’t fret. Unless you get a real kick from counting and cataloguing, don’t fret every calorie or ingredient (again, barring special circumstances). You’ll be miserable, and the potential for psychically defeating the purpose of serving the temple that is your body rises exponentially if viewed as punishment. Attitude matters.
12. Be grateful. Give thanks. Enjoy your meal.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I’ve worked up an appetite, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a hot fudge sundae while you digest all this.
November 12, 2013 § 2 Comments
So you’re going along your merry way ~ or maybe it’s even not so merry, because life is damn sure full of potholes, but you’re going along dealing with your world, your daily ups and downs, your struggles, your joys, and then tragedy strikes in a faraway place where you don’t know a soul but you feel it in your bones; you feel this heartache, this profound compassion for their loss and suffering.
And there it sits, staring at you, looking over your shoulder, challenging you to do something, anything, that will matter. At the same time questioning whether any of this matters – this life, this world, with all its glories and its faults, so easily, violently destroyed. Begging you to get a grip on what’s really important, to check your perspective, to remind you that life can turn on a dime so you’d best love those you love with all your heart and soul and value what’s worth valuing and for God’s sake be good to one another because we’re all in this boat together, this sea of life, this beautiful, painful, magnificent life.
And what do you do with that tragedy staring at you from across the globe? Where do you put it, how do you process it? I think it falls into the category of things we just can’t comprehend. Things too great and horrible. But in not comprehending, do we dismiss it? No ~ we are aware, oh so aware, of the roof over our own head, the blanket on our bed, and we take a moment to be grateful, to acknowledge all that we have to be thankful for. We hug our children and count our blessings. But for a twist of geographical consequence it could have been me, or you, or a loved one, and how impossible that is to fathom, the magnitude, the fear, the agony. But for a twist of time, a moment in the right or wrong place, this or that awful thing might have happened to me, or to you. And even while we are safe, we still feel ~ something, deep in our gut ~ for those who’ve been less fortunate in life’s seemingly impersonal doling out of good and bad. Is that our interconnectedness? Because we can’t hear tragic news without feeling for them. And we do feel for them. We pray for them. We pray for their healing and welfare and that some mighty power of goodness and light will shower them with the help they need. We hope. We pray.
Some of us will give money, clothing, supplies. Some will just up and go, in person, do whatever they can. Some will write about it. We’ll wish these things didn’t happen. Some will dwell and stew on the horror and unfairness, some won’t let it go much deeper than surface level. The truth is we all have a different capacity for processing things, different points of saturation, different approaches, different degrees of self-preservation. There is no right or wrong way, but to care, however we can. Here, now.
November 7, 2013 § 1 Comment
Why do we paint? Or write, or play an instrument or dance? Because we have to. Because if we don’t, we’ll become cranky and irritable. We’ll be rotten company not only for others but ourselves.
Some say it’s because they have a message or a moral or a special meaning to it, but I say it’s instinct. There’s a story that needs telling, and we happen to be the vessels. It’s gut. It’s primal. Like eating or sleeping or hugging. You just gotta do it. It’s for survival of the spirit.
So this is for all who answer that call. The poets, novelists, essayists, and scriptwriters; for the orators, artists and musicians; for all who move our hearts and elevate our minds, take us to new worlds, teach us new ways of thought, bring us tears, laughter, wisdom and peace with the richness of their expression, the telling of stories ~ blessed are the storytellers. Please, keep doing what you’re doing. ~ Patricia
November 4, 2013 § 5 Comments
I think I time travelled today. If not that, at the very least I entered an alternate universe for about an hour.
It started innocently enough, on a mission to find vacuum bags. First I stop to pick up some pet supplies, (so far, a thrilling batch of errands, no?), and notice a Sears Outlet store next door so I think to bop in and see if they have said vacuum bags. No, but the regular Sears store across the highway will. I fire up the truck and head over. I’d forgotten there was a Sears in this location, but am glad, so I can wrap up all this domestic excitement sooner than later.
Pulling up to a parking space, I’m reminded that I used to come here as a kid. Haven’t set foot in this store for many decades, but in I now go ~ and as I’m directed to the appliance section, an odd déjà vu sensation starts to settle in. I turn a corner. I notice a huge mural on the wall and BAM, I’m sucked in to a vortex of sights, sounds and smells and the giddiness of my little 7-year-old feet exploring plaid flannel shirts and leather chairs and the shoes of friendly staff wearing glasses and I’m no doubt anticipating the promise of hot chocolate when we get home. And the painting. I’m enamored. I keep going back to it. It’s gigantic! It’s got Indians, and a dog and a canoe and a waterfall. It’s very special, and so unexpected, hanging in this store. It’s a piece of history, staring out from an open wall above a double stairwell, right here across from socks and coats and fur-lined hats. It’s a magical place for little me.
I realize I’m smiling. There’s an extra bounce to my step. I share a laugh or two with the salesman who sells me my vacuum bags; there’s a feeling of mutual satisfaction that comes from enjoying something pleasantly unmemorable with a stranger. A moment of connection that carries us more lightly to our next task.
On my way out, I snap a quick picture of the mural to capture this strip of memory lane. I’m not 7 anymore, but it sure was fun going back for a visit.
I couldn’t find the name of the artist (if and when I do, I will credit), but for the history buffs, this is the “legend” behind the painting (which of course I had to look up when I returned to my 2013 world):
Around 1670, a group of Dutch settlers was traveling from the Amboys up an old Indian trail which is now Somerset Street. They were under the leadership of Captain Michaelson. The Watchung tribe of the Lenni-Lenape Indians was traveling the same trail for their summer trip to the ocean to fish and collect shells for wampum.
During the night the settlers were camped near what is now the center of the Borough. Deer Prong, an advance scout for Chief One Feather’s tribe, was shot when he surprised a sentry. During the skirmish, Captain Michaelson was captured and was to be burned at the stake. Princess Wetumpka, who was traveling with the Dutch, and had some years ago saved the life of Chief One Feather, intervened and saved the life of Captain Michaelson. The Indians befriended the Dutch and allowed them to settle in the valley. The legend ends with the full tribal ceremony marriage of the Princess and Chief.
October 31, 2013 § 3 Comments
I’ve been thinking ”I need to make a Halloween post on my blog”, like I’ve done every year (whether it’s cancelled or not!). I usually gather up some of the coolest pumpkin carvings I can find and make a nice spread here. Write something clever to go with it. But instead, I’ve been immersed in the far spookier world of finishing my next book ~ which I’m happy to say is progressing well, but it’s quite time consuming, and then there’s client work, and there’s life. All that.
So rather than my pumpkin fare, I’m taking a “loftier”, more spiritual approach …. and hoping you all conjure up a very happy, magical, appropriately creepy and preferably hot-chocolate-filled All Hallow’s Eve, with blessings all around.