All posts by cynthiainmahtowa

How to choose…Post Script

I received permission from Robert Bly’s wife Ruth to post the poems I had chosen for my book club, the ones Renee suggested we not post because of not having permission.  But with permission, she suggested I share them now.  So…here they are:

Or Robert’s The Dark Autumn Nights…?

Imagination is the door to the raven’s house, so we are

Already blessed! The one nail that fell from the shoe

Lit the way for Newton to get home from the Fair.

Last night I heard a thousand holy women

And a thousand holy men apologize at midnight

Because there was too much triumph in their voices.

Those lovers, skinny and badly dressed, hated

By parents, did the work; all through the Middle Ages,

It was the lovers who kept the door open to heaven.

Walking home, we become distracted whenever

We pass apple orchards. We are still eating fruit

Left on the ground the night Adam was born.

St. John of the Cross heard an Arab love poem

Through the bars and began his poem. In Nevada it was

Always the falling horse that discovered the mine.

Robert, you know well how much substance can be

Wasted by lovers, but I say, Blessings on those

Who go home through the dark autumn nights.

 

I love the tiny book, Four Ramages, with illustrations & graphics by Barbara LaRue King.

Grief lies close to the roots of laughter.

Both love the cabin open to the traveller,

the ocean apple wrapped in its own leaves.

How can I be close to you if I am not sad?

There is a gladness in the not-caring

of the bear’s cabin; and in the gravity

that makes the stone laugh down the mountain.

The animal pads where no one walks.

Meanwhile, I found my Yeats collection and further inspired by Barbara in Rivertown, I also found “Now We Are Six” by A A Milne…and decided to do “Down by the Sally Gardens” and “He Bids His Beloved Be At Peace” by Yeats; “Wheezles and Sneezles” by Milne. But I still love Bly’s poems…

 

PS…I just changed my mind again, well, added one (I hope), “King John Was Not A Good Man” by Milne because it is about Christmas.

Enough of my favorites, please share more of yours.

How to choose?

Our Library book club has a “sort-a” December tradition of reading aloud a favorite poem or two. In the past I have read a Lady Gregory, plus several by Louis Jenkins, Mary Oliver and Yeats. This year I am at a loss, having covered many favorites.

So far, these are the books I have pulled off the shelf…

Galway Kinnell’s Body Rags, Mortal Acts Mortal Words, Selected Poems

 Lawrence Durrell’s Selected Poems

Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems

Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation

 Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s Four Ramages

Olav Hauge’s Trusting Your Life to Water and Eternity translated by Robert Bly

Tomas Tranströmer’s 20 Poems translated by Robert Bly

Robert Bly’s My Sentence Was A Thousand Years of Joy

 A Julius Berg Baumann poem from his Fra Vidderne translated by Josh Preston

I can’t find my book of collected Yeats poems. Or the ever-so-old copy of D.H. Lawrence poems. But perhaps I have enough to sort through – though I’m afraid we might be limited to only one or two.

My favorite Rilke poem?

I live my life in growing orbits

which move out over the things of the world

Perhaps I can never achieve the last,

but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

and I have been circling for a thousand years

and I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm,

or a great song.

 

Or Robert Bly’s The Dark Autumn Nights…?

 

I love the tiny Bly book, Four Ramages, with illustrations & graphics by Barbara LaRue King.

 

Okay, my decision has been made…I’m going for all three Bly poems!

(plus the other 3 Ramages)

 

Who (or what) are your favorite poets (or poems)?

Am I Old Yet?

Yup, I am officially an Elder. It was announced in the last couple weeks. First a young waitress called me “Sweetie.” Then when handing me my annual fair gyros, the vendor said, “Here you are, My Dear.” And yesterday when I called to make a doctor’s appointment, the nurse ended the call with “Honey.”

No one (much less a stranger) in my previous life as an adult has ever used such endearments to address me. I can only attribute it to my being 75 and it’s “safe” (or is it patronizing?).

P.S. When I was in pre-op before hip surgery a nurse told me I was a “poor imitation of a 75 year old.” Have I aged that much since May?

How do you mark the various stages of your life?

Teaching a Toddler

Today’s post comes from Cynthiainmahtowa.

Joe asked his 2 ½ year-old son, Jack, if he would please take his empty coffee cup to the kitchen. Jack said no. Joe then explained to Jack that when he asked his father to help, Joe always did. So it was only right and proper that Jack should honor his father’s request and help him when asked. Jack thought about that for a while, picked up the coffee cup, held it up to Joe and said, “Help me.“

I’ve heard that smart dogs are not for everyone. Neither are smart children.

Have you ever been outsmarted by a toddler…or, any child (or, dog)?

Minute Memories

Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa

Barb in Winona’s recent post asking “What have you learned about animals over the years that has surprised you? “ made me recall one of my first goats and her hysterical pregnancy that accompanied her daughter’s actual pregnancy. Today going through old papers in a desk, I found what I had written about her in 1987.

This is a time of great changes in my life. The old and familiar features of the landscapes in my life are dropping away. I am left with feelings of disorientation as the trappings of a new landscape are as yet undefined. Sadness tears through my body as beloved people and creatures leave my world.

Today Minute died. Sunday, 15 February 1987. Just shy of eleven years old. She was a goat chosen ten years ago because of her splendid set of horns and black coat. She looked a though she had been whisked out of the Swiss Alps. She came as a young, dry does to be a companion to our first milk goat Snow. They came from a large heard of goats that roamed the acreage at will. I thought they would do the same here. They wanted leadership, however. And I was their appointed leader. They would go nowhere nor eat anything without me. They stood on the deck at my window and baaaaaed until I could stand it no longer and would go out with them. Then we built fences. Then they felt safe. Then I felt sane.

img_0344

Minute was not a wonderful milk goat, but she was a remarkable being. I first noticed the tenderness in her when her first daughter had her first born. Minute was not having babies of her own that year, but she stood with Dritte all through her labor, then helped her clean and nurture the newborn son.

When Minute’s next daughter, Carob, became pregnant, Minute who was not bred, grew in size along with her through the five month gestation. Minute went into labor when Carob did, giving birth to water, never leaving the side of the kidding pen, while Carob gave birth to twins. When Carob was finished delivering, Minute was once again as thin as her single self should have been. When we let Minute into Carob’s pen, she cleaned and warmed the babies as if they were her own.

The next spring Carob was found dead in the barn—an apparent victim of rough play. As the goats were let into the barn for the evening, Minute walked to the body, licked it and talked to it with the same tenderness as she had greeted her when  she was born. Then Minute turned her attention to the matter of supper.

Minute became weakened and somewhat crippled in her later years. I do not know whether she had been injured as she dropped lower in the pecking order, or whether it was arthritis as part of her aging. It made her life more difficult as the younger, stronger goats were often brutal and unforgiving. And in the summer when the herd would run from the far pasture to get away from the rain or the playing horses, she would have great trouble keeping up with them, her back quarters giving out beneath her. She couldn’t have done it another summer.

This week she stopped eating and drinking. She had a look about her that was strained and stoic and brave. She died in a dark corner of her pen. She rests there now. I will move her body to the woods, but not yet. I need more time to acknowledge her passage from my life—hers as well as all the others who are passing from my life.

What interesting things have you found in your desk drawers?

Birthday Specials

Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa

On Sunday I turn 75 years old. In the past I have celebrated “landmark” birthdays with gatherings of almost everyone I know. The first one was for my 60th. It was a potluck (I provided ham and turkey) in the basement of church-turned-theater. I called it “The Funeral of my Youth” and decorated with photos from my past. Since I have friends from several different pieces of my life, I asked them to wear a nametag indicating why they knew me and when they met me. I think about 50 people were there. Upstairs in the “sanctuary/theater” a couple friends performed songs they had written in my honor, another sang John Hartford’s “Tall Buildings” for me. A friend and I performed a short play (vignette?) of “I’m Herbert” by Robert Anderson (it’s one of a collection of four short one acts titled “You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running”). It is two old folks sitting on the porch trying to remember their past.

When I turned 64 I threw another party based on the Beatles song. Again in the basement of the small church-turned-theater. Less elaborate, again a potluck but no “performances.” Well, one. We had to hear the song, of course. A friend sang it right before everyone walked out the door.

Then at 70 I invited friends again, even more as my circle had expanded. The church-turned-theater had been purchased for a home, so I found another lovely venue nearby—the Scott House. It is a historic-once-was-a-stagecoach stop between St Paul/Mpls and Duluth/Superior. It was still beautifully decorated from the holidays. The entertainment was the movie “Lumber Jill” where I played a “Creepy Old Woman.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYf8quaYcGs ) Another potluck of exceptional tastiness. Another success…another group of 50+ or so. I promised everyone I would do it again…

But this year, even retired and with time to prepare, I opted for a less celebratory event. This year I decided I wanted to meet with people for dinner or lunch in small gatherings so I get to talk to everyone and enjoy their company more one-on-one and spread out throughout the month.

What do you do to celebrate those “special/landmark” birthdays?

Christmas Past

Header photo of Adliswil by Parpan05 (Own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa.

Christmas is not one of my favorite times of the year, Memories are loaded with emotional and physical loss – each of my parents died, I received divorce papers, old reminders of the difficult maneuvering after my parents separated and divorced and remarried. Then there was exhaustion after the long hours working in my father’s retail business wrapping presents, followed by a six hour drive to southern Minnesota to be with grandparents, my parents smoking and arguing what seems like the entire way.

But one Christmas I love to remember: the year I was in Switzerland.

After my first year teaching I quit to travel in Europe. I ended up staying with a family in the small village of Adliswil just outside Zurich. They lived above their tearoom and bakery but also had a home up in the mountains near Einsedeln. The month leading up to Christmas they made candies — delicious Swiss chocolates, many with nummy hazel nut cream. (I thought they were called Moor’s Caps/Moorenkoppen, but I can’t find what I remember them being on the web…so memory being what it is…who knows what they were called.)

Not only did they put up with me, but they graciously allowed me to invite a college friend who was studying in England to join me for the holiday.

On Christmas Eve we drove up to their mountain home. The tree was decorated (did I help decorate it? I don’t remember) with real and lit candles. Interestingly my friend remembers many more details of the holiday than I do, but this we both remember: There was snow. In the evening, we walked somewhere I don’t recall and on our way up along the mountain road a man was riding a bicycle down the road yodeling. A perfect Swiss moment.

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?