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Category Archives: literature

Story Time, Greetings and Thanks

It’s been another quiet, stay-at-home, curl-up-with-a-good-book sort of a day today too as  Storm Brian blows a hoolie outside. Today, however, we have had the best treat, two hours of having a story read to us! Not just any old story either but the first of Philip Pullman’s brilliant new trilogy, The Book of Dust,  read by Simon Russell Beale on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon – two and a half hours of entrancement.

Philip Pullman’s new novel

I promised you more of the Onondaga Nation’s Greetings and Thanks to the Natural World. Here are the next two panels.

and from the four directions…..

and now the sun

Tomorrow, the Moon….

Just found this photo which demonstrates the hoolie very well! Thanks to Adam Sprague for this amazing photograph.

 

 
 

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Spring Crochet, Poem and Godot

1   Attic 24 inspired the project which I have finished today and which is to be a birthday present for Grand-baby T who has a  bed all decorated with flowers and who, I am hoping, will love this. I have thoroughly enjoyed making it and made use of Lesley Stanfield’s delightful book, 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet. Click on any photo in the gallery for detail.

2   I saw this delightful little poem the other day and it just seemed right for today. Snow is expected in Atlanta where my brother and Sister-in-law live and Spring is showing here – not too far away for the rest of you I hope.

Winter Poem – Nikki Giovanni

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

3    This cartoon came my way via Facebook today and it made me laugh! An ex-pupil who is now a teacher himself wrote to tell me that he remembered studying part of the play when in Year 7. We also worked on one of my favourite poems, The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas and a non-fiction text on homelessness from Shelter. It was a brilliant  project if I say so myself!

Godot

Godot

 

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Wedding Plans, Poem and Spring Flowers

I spent a delightful morning beginning to plan  a Humanist Wedding Ceremony for July with a lovely couple today. I really love this very happy job!

This poem, High Flight, is one of Mr S’s favourites having found it some years ago. It was written by John Magee, Poet and Soldier, 1922–1941. In his seventh flight in a Spitfire Mk I, he had flown up to 33,000 feet. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck by words he had read in another poem — “To touch the face of God.” He completed his verse soon after landing. It never fails to move both of us and you can truly imagine the feelings of freedom as he ‘chased the shouting wind along’

 “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

Spring is showing in various parts of the garden – crocuses in the little herb wall, little Tète à Tète daffodils in the Monkey planter made for me by a local artist, Jeremy Beswick, and Snowdrops close to the house.

 

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Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Theodore Roethke and Friends

1   My lovely Sister-in-law in Atlanta sent me a photo of a tiny visitor to her garden. Thank you, V.

V's visitor

V’s visitor

2   Today’s poem in Poem of the Day 2  conjures up a delightful mind picture for me.  I hope it does the same for you.

MY PAPA'S WALTZ by Theodore Roethke
 
 	The whiskey on your breath
 	Could make a small boy dizzy;
 	But I hung on like death:
 	Such waltzing was not easy.
 
 	We romped until the pans
 	Slid from the kitchen shelf;
 	My mother's countenance
 	Could not unfrown itself.
 
 	The hand that held my wrist
 	Was battered on one knuckle;
 	At every step you missed
 	My right ear scraped a buckle.
 	
 	You beat time on my head
 	With a palm caked hard by dirt,
 	Then waltzed me off to bed	
 	Still clinging to your shirt.

“Here’s a poem by a Michigan lad, Theodore Roethke, whose father ran a nursery and greenhouse business in Saginaw. This poem avoids all psycho-babble about love-hate relationships, childhood idealization of the father, family tensions and conflicts, the borderline between play and violence, whatever. It avoids those cliches and trite formulations by instead seeing  specific things and moments of experience — by imagery, in a word.
As you read it, avoid cliché reactions having to do with dysfunctional families, alcoholism, child abuse, and other newspaper topics. Such matters are real enough, but stock responses can block your perceptions. Instead, concentrate on the particulars.
Every image here deserves to be pondered and tasted to the full, for its emotional richness. The overall tone and feeling contains love and pain and humor and nostalgia all blended. This is a poem worth memorizing.”

I don’t know who wrote this but I found it here.    I never thought of this poem as being about anything other than a Daddy dancing with his son. It remind me of dancing on my own Daddy’s feet and of watching my children’s Daddy dancing with them. We all loved the craziness of it all.

3   I have had a lovely afternoon with friends – chatting, eating mincepies and homemade cookies and planning  next year’s meeting and social programme for the Cornwall Humanists.

 

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Maya Angelou, Knitted Staircase and Yorkshire Stone

1    Maya Angelou died today. As a spokesperson for her family said, “She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace.”
She was a wonderful woman and a role model for us all. I loved her writings and especially her poem ‘Still I Rise’ which you will find at the end of today’s post. I loved her philosophy and these words that she left us – “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

2    I have joined just five of our knitted pieces together and they fill our staircase! I have eight more here and there are at least five more almost completed by friends. I’ll need the garden to lay them all out!  Imagine SEVEN MILES of peaceful protest knitting  stretched between Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire, where nuclear weapons are made.

Some of our knitting for Wool Against Weapons

Some of our knitting for Wool Against Weapons

3   Another job I have enjoyed doing today is the annual power washing of the Yorkshire stones of the patio. It always delights me afresh to see how pretty the stones are and to re-discover the fern patterns in them.

Feathery markings

Feathery markings

 

Still I Rise          Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

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Walking, Robert Browning and A Cornish Bouquet

1   Grand-baby B took five independent steps on Sunday! I’m  working hard to finish the cardigan for her first birthday in ten days’ time. I’ve just completed the buttonholes so now it’s the sewing up – always the hardest bit.

2   The arrival of April always reminds me of a delightful Robert Browning poem, Home Thoughts From Abroad, another poem we learned by heart when we were youngsters!

Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent
spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song
twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

3   These beautiful flowers arrived for me this morning, gorgeous, scented and Cornish – of course!

Cornish bouquet

Cornish bouquet

 

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Hamlet on Radio 4, Parents’ Tao and Narcissi

1  Confined to the house as I am with pleurisy  (what a bummer!) I am loving listening to BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon play which each afternoon this week is a marvellous interpretation of Hamlet, one of my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays. Today’s episode reached the oh so moving speech when Queen Gertrude tells Laertes that his sister, Ophelia has drown’d.

“There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them.
There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
 Those beautiful, sad words brought Milais’ painting into my head.
Ophelia by John Everett Millais

Ophelia by John Everett Millais

2   A blogging friend, Lou,  introduced me  to The Presents of Presence when she re-blogged a post.  The following words really spoke to me so I, in turn, give them to you here:

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children,
To strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.

The extraordinary will take care of itself.

From ‘The Parent’s Tao Te Ching” by William Martin

3   Last night two of my knitting friends brought me some beautiful Pheasant’s Eye Narcissi. Not only do they look amazing, they smell just lovely. Thank you N and T.

Pheasant's Eye Narcissi

Pheasant’s Eye Narcissi

 

 

 

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