Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The snow was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrivedat evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
—T. S. Eliot

Friday, 16 December 2011

``I don't know what to do!'' cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laoco├Ân of himself with his stockings. ``I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!''
He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there: perfectly winded.
``There's the saucepan that the gruel was in!'' cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fire-place. ``There's the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered! There's the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present, sat! There's the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It's all right, it's all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!''
Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of briliant laughs!
``I don't know what day of the month it is!'' said Scrooge. ``I don't know how long I've been among the Spirits. I don't know anything. I'm quite a baby. Never mind. I don't care. I'd rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!''
He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer, ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!
Running to the window, he opened it....Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!

-from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The spirit of Christmas

My intention for this blog from now up until Christmas is to post music, videos, poems etc. that carry the spirit of Christmas. If any of you reading have something to add, please share. I wish everyone a warm heart this Christmas season.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Winter Landscape by Wassily Kandinsky (1909)

I had a print of this picture up on my wall when we were living in Scotland. I loved looking at it and especially appreciated it's name "Winter Landscape". I've been to Moscow in the winter time and love that this bright vibrant painting came from a soul who had lived through more than a few Russian winters. Having lived in Canada most of my life I know how drab and dreary winter can be at times but also how dazzling it can be as well. Crisp air, sunlight making the snow seem as though it is dusted with diamonds, the beautiful calm white cozy blanket covering hills and rooftops - some winter scenes can make your heart sing. I love that Kandinsky chose that lovely yellow and pink to warm up the coolness of the blue. And most of all I love that there is a little happy yellow home in the middle of that winter landscape. I think my favorite Kandinsky paintings are from 1908 and 1909 but I also really like "The cow" which was painted in 1910.

"Kandinsky was born in Moscow, the son of Lidia Ticheeva and Vasily Silvestrovich Kandinsky, a tea merchant... Later in life, he would recall being fascinated and stimulated by colour as a child... he likened painting to composing music in the manner for which he would become noted, writing, "Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul"

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Was I really just dreaming?

Last night I had a dream. I was in the state I am in now - pregnant and struggling - and a man came over to my house. My house in the dream was different than the one I'm in now. The house in my dream had an unusual amount of windows and a high ceiling. The man in my dream didn't ask but just brought over a ladder, bucket and cleaning supplies and got to work cleaning all of my windows. In my dream I was so grateful and was delighted to see that as he cleaned, the sun was able to shine brighter and brighter into my home. When he finished, he came to me and told me that he had been given a gift of service himself and that he was told he needed to make payment by washing some one's windows. He then said that it was now my turn to "pay it forward" and gave me a little card that had my assignment written on it. All it said was "give lots of hugs."

Friday, 25 November 2011

Let it go, let your sword of vengence rest...

This is the kind of song that's so beautiful to listen to especially while sitting up high on a rooftop after having swept one too many chimneys.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

My guess is Mary Wollstonecraft would have not been a Twihard...just a guess.

I saw the movie Breaking Dawn last night. I thought the movie was pretty fun and I had a good time. I especially enjoyed the enthusiasm of the audience (almost all female) who whooped and hollered when their favorite man came on the screen. Women seem to love this story despite how ashamed some are made to feel when they admit "I love the twilight series".

Over 200 years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft (27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797) an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights wrote the following:

" Another instance of that feminine weakness of character, often produced by a confined education, is a romantic twist of the mind, which has been very properly termed sentimental. Women subjected by ignorance to their sensations, and only taught to look for happiness in love, refine on sensual feelings, and adopt metaphysical notions respecting that passion... These are the women who are amused by the reveries of the stupid novelists, who knowing little of human nature, work up stale tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a sentimental jargon, which....tend to corrupt the taste.... Unable to grasp anything great...they [are] necessarily dependent on the novelist for amusement.... When, therefore, I advise my sex not to read such flimsy works, it is to induce them to read something superior... In fact the female mind has been so totally neglected, that knowledge was only to be acquired from this muddy source, till from reading novels some women of superior talents learned to despise them."
- exerpt from A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft

That was two hundred years ago. She was fighting for women's rights; writing that women were driven to sentiment only because they didn't have the proper access to education or the motivation to read higher lit because of their extreme limitations due to their sex. Also that "Females, in fact, denied all political privileges, and not allowed, as married women...a civil existence, have their attention naturally drawn from the interest of the whole community to that of the minute parts." Yet there I sat, 2011, after having completed a degree in political science with other educated, well read women watching and for the most part enjoying being entertained by a story very much dedicated to sentiment. Women are more educated now then ever before and Twilight - dripping with sentiment and cheese - is hugely successful. I wonder if Mary is rolling over in her grave at this phenomenon.

I think Mary was right in encouraging women to read challenging texts however I think she may have been misguided in trying to purport the idea that women's fondness of sentiment is a weakness. Sometimes I wonder if in the pursuit of equality, women have shamed one another out of indulging in sentiment and taking serious note of their emotional selves because if it's not important to men - it shouldn't be important to women. I'm finding with being a mother that understanding my emotional self is hugely important in my job as their primary caregiver - an asset, not a liability, not a weakness, not something to be ashamed of. Being pregnant, my emotions are very much at the forefront of my life and my gut tells me there might be a good reason for it.

Friday, 18 November 2011

what are you storing for winter?

Winter Stores - by Charlotte Bronte

We take from life one little share,
And say that this shall be
A space, redeemed from toil and care,
From tears and sadness free.

And, haply, Death unstrings his bow,
And Sorrow stands apart,
And, for a little while, we know
The sunshine of the heart.

Existence seems a summer eve,
Warm, soft, and full of peace,
Our free, unfettered feelings give
The soul its full release.

A moment, then, it takes the power
To call up thoughts that throw
Around that charmed and hallowed hour,
This life’s divinest glow.

But Time, though viewlessly it flies,
And slowly, will not stay;
Alike, through clear and clouded skies,
It cleaves its silent way.

Alike the bitter cup of grief,
Alike the draught of bliss,
Its progress leaves but moment brief
For baffled lips to kiss

The sparkling draught is dried away,
The hour of rest is gone,
And urgent voices, round us, say,
“'Ho, lingerer, hasten on!”

And has the soul, then, only gained,
From this brief time of ease,
A moment’s rest, when overstrained,
One hurried glimpse of peace?

No; while the sun shone kindly o’er us,
And flowers bloomed round our feet,—
While many a bud of joy before us
Unclosed its petals sweet,—

An unseen work within was plying;
Like honey-seeking bee,
From flower to flower, unwearied, flying,
Laboured one faculty,—

Thoughtful for Winter’s future sorrow,
Its gloom and scarcity;
Prescient to-day, of want to-morrow,
Toiled quiet Memory.

’Tis she that from each transient pleasure
Extracts a lasting good;
’Tis she that finds, in summer, treasure
To serve for winter’s food.

And when Youth’s summer day is vanished,
And Age brings Winter’s stress,
Her stores, with hoarded sweets replenished,
Life’s evening hours will bless.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Elizabeth Gilbert: A new way to think about creativity

Even if you hated Eat, Pray, Love - this talk is so encouraging to anyone who strives to create...

Worth watching to the end.

Monday, 7 November 2011

'cause it isn't every day that you get to give

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin' gettin' me up off the wall

I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

How did Mandela get the will to surpass the everyday
When injustice had him caged and trapped in every way?
How did Gandhi ever withstand the hunger strikes and all?
Didn't do it to gain power or money if I recall

It's a gift, I guess, I'll pass it on
Mother thinks it'll lift the stress of Babylon
Mother knows, my mother she suffered blows
I don't know how we survived such violent episodes

I was so worried and hurt to see you bleed
But as soon as you came out the hospital you gave me sweets
Yeah, they try to take you from me
But you still only gave 'em some prayers and sympathy

Dear mama, you helped me write this
By showing me to give is priceless

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin' gettin' me up off the wall

I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

All I can say is the worst is over now
We can serve the hard times, divorce, it's over now
They try to keep us out but they doors is open now
My nigga, Akon is gettin' awards and covers now

This is K'naan and still reppin' the S
Comin' out of Mogadishu and still draped in the mess
And no matter how we strong, homie
It ain't easy comin' out of where we from, homie

And that's the reason why, I could never phony
Tell 'em the truth is what my dead homies told me
Ooh yeah, I take inspiration from the most heinous of situations
Creating medication out my own tribulations

Dear Africa, you helped me write this
By showing me to give is priceless

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin' gettin' me up off the wall

I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

Nothing is perfect man, that's what the world is
All I know is I'm enjoying today
You know 'cause it isn't every day that you get to give

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin' gettin' me up off the wall

I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

I got nothin' to complain about
You know where I'm from
You know where I'm at, so...

I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I'm just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Waving Flag by K'naan

First of all - where have I been? The first time I heard this song was last night on the radio and as I listened to the words tears started streaming from my eyes. I'm sitting here having listened to it again and again tears are streaming. (Remember I am pregnant) This song is by K'naan: "Born in Somalia, K'naan spent his childhood in Mogadishu and lived there during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. When he was 13, K'naan, his mother, and his three siblings left their homeland and eventually settled in Toronto."(wiki) This song was the offical 2010 World Cup anthem and was bought by Coca Cola. It was huge (again how did I miss it?) Please take three minutes to listen to it here (I know the time count says it's five but the song ends at around three.) I just think this is such a beautiful, powerful song - the music is fantastic and those words "when i am older, i will be stronger, they'll call me freedom just like a waving flag" I know this is a grown man singing but those words seem as though they come from a young boy or girl who knows they've been wronged, knows that things should be better for them and believes with the strength of that chorus that one day they will be old enough to fight back, to make things right and to bring freedom to the others who he/she knows is suffering alongside them. When I think of all the children around the world who do suffer I hope a song like this plays in their hearts.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Numa Numa

I fell in love with this the first time I saw it a few years ago. For some reason I recently started thinking about this clip and have enjoyed it probably a few too many times on youtube today. There's just something about the (then 18 year old) Numa Numa guy that brings a smile to my face. How did he even find that Romanian pop song in the first place? He wasn't trying to sell anything, or accomplish anything productive. He was just young, interested, funny, joyful....things I miss being as I trudge through this pregnancy. I remember driving in Aberdeen (Scotland) one day and I was either pregnant or had just recently given birth and I was tired. I drove through a round about that had a tall statue in the middle of it. There was an orange traffic pylon on top of the statue's head. My first thought was WHO? Who in the world has enough energy in their lives to take the time to somehow climb a statue and put a pylon on it's head. Who has the energy to even think of the idea in the first place? And then I thought - a young person. A young person with so much excess energy, interest and humour that they turn to giving statues funny hats and dancing to obscure Romanian pop songs. I love young people for that. I love my own little young sons for a family dance party this evening that Jordan and I never would have had on our own. We danced to ABBA, and Queen and Chantilly Lace and it was nice to be apart of something young, interested, funny and joyful.

Monday, 24 October 2011

"C'mon people now, smile on your brother..."

noted astronomer and director of the Hayden Planetarium Neil DeGrasse Tyson is quoted:

“We are all connected:
To each other, biologically;
To the Earth, chemically;
To the rest of the Universe, atomically.”

Thursday, 22 September 2011

well, I didn't rage against the dying of the light...but garden tomatoes are pretty close

Today I yelled at my boys for throwing our garden tomatoes on the deck. The last time they did that I just looked at the mess, felt sad and ignored it - I was too sick to do anything about it.

Sad, how this sub par performance as a mother is somehow a triumph in my eyes.
You go into motherhood thinking it's going to be a certain way and then you find yourself in this bizarre Alice in Wonderland world that seems crazy and almost impossible to navigate because all too often it seems as though you never know where you are - are you falling down or up? Will you grow or shrink with your choices? And after balling last night while watching "Parenthood" I feel madder than the Mad Hatter with my pregnancy hormones turning me into the craziest woman I know. "Clean cup, clean cup, move down, move down, clean cup, clean cup, move down."

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Cause there's a million ways to be...

Heard this song on the radio a while ago and it kind of stuck with me. It just made me happy to hear it for some reason.

This reminds me of a quote I put up on my wall when I was in university:

"Never be afraid to tread the path alone. Know your path and follow it wherever it may lead you. Do not feel you have to follow in someone else's footsteps."

~Eileen Caddy in "Footprints On The Path"

I think goodness is not in following someone else's lead OR in blazing your own trail but in knowing when in your life it's appropriate to do either one.

Friday, 9 September 2011

I don't have feathers, no beak either and I never eat worms.

Self Pity - D.H. Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

I, however, am not a bird. During this time in my life, I feel sorry for myself every single day. The upside is that I'm not wallowing in it as much as I wallowed the past two pregnancies. That's been good. I wish I could transform myself into some rough and tough old bird like what I imagine cave women were like. I am not a bird and I am not a cave woman and so I suffer and feel a little sorry for myself. So, this is mostly not good, however, there is a little nugget from these patches of suffering: I understand and respect the place of suffering in our human experience. I'm not saying I'm out looking for punches - I just no longer mentally fight with WHY?? What's the point of this senseless suffering?? Because I now see and appreciate how suffering can bring people closer together.

Example: today my husband took a day off work to take over at home for me so I could just rest. I'm almost crying as I write because this gesture meant so much to me. And my heart is filled with love and gratitude for him and my marriage is better for this. And all that thanks to my little patch of suffering.

But I'd leave my little patch of suffering in a second if it was offered to me - like I said, I'm no bird.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

I HATE morning sickness.

I'm in it. In the thick of "morning" sickness. I have about six or seven weeks to go of this (if this pregnancy is like the last two). I'm trying to keep my spirits up through this miserable time. There are a few things that help. One of those things is that there is a window on the wall of my shower and out that window I can see my neighbours' apple tree. It's not a crab apple tree - I can see big lovely apples when I shower and for some reason that sight seems very hopeful and happy to me. Also, I have some lemon oil and when I smell it - for a few seconds - my head is full of freshness and optimism. Another thing that brings a waft of temporary relief is hearing my boys laugh together - and I remember why I'm doing this in the first place. I'm not very good at suffering, I know that. I know some people who are pros, it seems as though they don't even flinch in the face of pain and suffering. Me, I crawl through it on my hands and knees hanging on for dear life to apple trees, lemon oil and laughter.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

love is in the air

This is a lovely little song that some old roommates and I sang at a wedding for a former roommate of ours this past week-end. We changed the words in the chorus to:

"You, two and the candles will be all that you need. Your faces bathed in the firelight will be all you want to see. And he'll still sing you a song, to last the whole night long. You, two and the candles..."

I've been to a lot of weddings this year, three this summer. Different couples, different dynamics, different reasons why they love who they love. I've loved witnessing these declarations of love, hope and commitment. With each heartfelt kiss at the end of the ceremony, it seems as though there's no way their beautiful love won't last forever.
Enter real life + time.
It seems to be getting tougher and tougher for people to stay together, stay committed, and stay fighting in the trenches of life together. I don't know why some make it and some don't. It's been nice though to have been reminded this summer of what a blessing it is to be married, to have someone by your side, and to have the opportunity to create a little piece of heaven on earth with your partner. Commited love can create so much beauty and happiness in our lives. So if you're reading this, go give your hubby(or wifey) some love, perhaps you could light some candles as well.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

This might need to be my new mantra

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I'm about to embark on something tremendously difficult for me. My guts kind of shiver when I think about what lies ahead. And I know that my light will tend towards dying a little bit as I make my way through this. I don't know if I have the energy to rage but Dylan Thomas seems so very sure that I ought to - I must say, I'm tempted to try. I'm not dying, not even close to it. But sometimes, life's waves just tire you out, y'know?

Friday, 12 August 2011

To thine own self be true

Sometimes "positive thinking" drives me NUTS!

Notes written on walls of statements you don't truly believe but recite each day in hopes that you can convince yourself to ignore your true feelings. "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me."

What if people don't like you? Seriously, what if there was something about you that repelled others. Is it really better to try to convince yourself otherwise and be "positive" than to take a serious honest inventory of yourself and figure out why you are repelling people and then work on fixing the problem.

Same with people who aren't happy with a situation in their lives but pretend that they are happy with it. Like in the past four years of staying home with my boys I wish I could say that I've loved every minute of it - but I haven't. And I think those moments when I just leveled with myself and opened myself up to how I was really feeling - when I let myself admit "I hate this." that's when I was able to deal with my unhappiness. When you don't allow yourself to say "I hate this" then you also make no room for "I hate this, and am having a hard time with.......what can I do to make this work." Then solutions start presenting themselves and when you pray, you speak honestly with God about what you need - and because God LOVES honesty, miracles can happen and genuine happiness and gratitude can replace the misery.

I guess what I think is: if it smells like bull*$#% - don't buy it
because I think the truth is the only way to true happiness.

The truth of it all is that life constantly offers us reason for happiness, gratitude - a song in our hearts, and if we follow the truth we'll hear that music playing...eventually. It may take a little longer going the truth route rather than the lying to yourself route but I think the end result will be satisfyingly worth it.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

sleeping is great until you wake up and realize you've missed the carnival

The following is an excerpt from a post on the blog "state of friss"
She doesn't write as often as I'd like, but maybe if she did, I wouldn't like what she wrote as much as I do.

"my challenge today is how to say what i mean, and to be brief.

that's one of the great challenges of poetry of course, and you all know how i like to record those moments when a poem intersects my real life perfectly. sometimes those moments are truly, rarely, devastatingly accurate. for just a bit you can forget to breathe and your whole body says, gah, that's it!

the German poet, Ernst Stadler died in 1914 on the Western Front, killed by a British shell. the poem following poem, "The Saying" is a translation {hence, an imitation} by Stephen Berg of Stadler's original poem, which ends with the line, "Mensch, werde wesentlich!" ("Man, become substantial!").

The Saying

In an old book
I stumbled across a saying.
It was like a stranger
punching me in the face,

it won't stop
gnawing at me.
When I walk around at night,
looking for a beautiful girl,

when a lie or a description
of life or somebody's fake
way of being with people
occurs instead of reality,

when I betray myself with
an easy explanation
as if what's dark is clear,
as if life doesn't have thousands

of locked, burning gates,
when I use words without really
having known their strict openness
and put my hands around things

that don't excite me,
when a dream hides my face with soft hands
and the day avoids me,
cut off from the world,

cut off from who I am deeply,
I freeze where I am
and see hanging in the air in front of me

:: :: ::

and anyway, who out there is fully awake? who is living out every second, confronting fear and earnestly seeking understanding? i think there are such people. but not me. i think i am mostly half asleep."

Friday, 5 August 2011

Money does buy happiness...and maybe sometimes misery too.

When I was young - I think I was in fifth grade - I remember a teacher telling the class "money does not buy happiness." I shot up my hand and said something like "Then why do I feel happy when I have money?" The teacher firmly maintained her position and after a few minutes of arguing with me...gave up, and moved on. I wasn't convinced. I'm still not. Extreme povery can be soul destroying:

watching your children die of starvation = misery.
buying your children food so they don't die of starvation = joy.

It's pretty hard to argue that having enough money to cover your basic necessities buys a lot of happiness. The saying "money isn't everything" - I have no problem with that one. I think money buys happiness up to a point and then, I don't know...does it buy a little bit of misery? Does too much money take away from the satisfaction of life the way eating too much food does. I don't know, I've never really had too much money (except when I was teaching in Taiwan and had so much money I was taking taxis everywhere I went...perhaps I should have been walking...perhaps my extra money did buy me some misery)

Jord and I watched a documentary "Lucky" the other night which followed the lives of several lottery winners. Pretty interesting to watch how money changed all of their lives.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Does Mozart make you feel free?

I love art. There is something so rejuvenating about lifting your head from the mundane labours of life to watch someone try to show you what heaven looks like to them. I know that isn't the goal of all artists but I think for so many who try to create beauty whatever the medium, what they are really trying to do is remind those around them that heaven is closer than we think and that life can be glorious, magical and so, so beautiful.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Success is counted sweetest - by Emily Dickinson

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

Monday, 18 July 2011

a good life

I wrote the following in a journal of mine a couple of months ago:

"aprons and open windows
chubby bums, laughter, soap bubbles
the good life"

Sometimes it is that good ladies... it really is. There is, I'm sure, a counter poem lurking within myself as well - too dark to pull out on a lovely summer day like this. But when I have a great day staying home with the boys, I kind of feel like I've earned it. I've been working at being happy as a stay at home mom for over four years now (it's taken me a while to adjust). And even though I still sometimes struggle with this role, I'm getting better y'know - and sometimes it is that good ladies... it really is.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A drop in the bucket

Saw this on a blog this morning and it brought up old questions about world poverty that I used to spend quite a bit of time thinking about. I think giving aid is very complicated and that sometimes offering help without understanding anything about the people you're offering it to can do more harm than good. I also doubt that the solution to cutting world poverty in half is a single number and am less convinced that the answer is totally about money. In a class of mine in university the prof told us about some country (I can't remember which country she was talking about specifically here) that was given aid from the U.S. The aid money was to be used to grow cash crops. The farmers would use the money, grow the product, and then sell it overseas (to the U.S. for a pretty good price.) But the farmers who were all men, took land that was being used by the women to grow food for their family. The men in the end had more money but more often then not, used the money for their own benefit (booze, prostitutes) and left the women and children with even less than what they had before the aid was given because they no longer had access to land to grow food for themselves.

The website says this:
"The Life You Can Save seeks to change...If everyone who can afford to contribute to reducing extreme poverty were to give a modest proportion of their income to effective organizations fighting extreme poverty, the problem could be solved. It wouldn’t take a huge sacrifice."

I think things have changed and people have gotten smarter about the way they give aid. There are some aid organizations that are very good.(microcredit is one of my favorites) But my own personal view is that world poverty is less about money and more about morality. Rich countries unwilling to live with less and dealing in a cut throat way with poorer countries. Fathers unwilling to commit to their families and do whatever it takes to provide for them. Tyrants who want it all. Corruption in government. People unwilling to forgive, sacrifice and compromise for the greater good. Greed, jealousy, pride and selfishness will always make a world with haves and have nots.
So the solution for me is so much more than just a sum of money. I think acts of giving and helping and trying to sacrifice for the greater good is pretty much the only remedy for this crazy little world we live in. And sometimes that means giving a little bit of your income away to a cause you really believe in.
There was something in the video which really touched me. "What if your daughter was the drop in the bucket? Real lives are saved every single day. People with real names whose families weep with joy to see them still alive."

I think sometimes thinking small is the best way forward - so right now I'm kind of wondering, what small things could I do to help one other person...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

To bee or not to bee, is that the question?


What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They’re small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness? The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
that life is a blessing. I have found them — haven’t you? —
stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings
a little tattered — so much flying about, to the hive,
then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,
should the task be to be a scout-sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t
admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I
haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,
and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and
read books, I have to
take them off and bend close to study and
understand what is happening. It’s not hard, it’s in fact
as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,
it’s love almost too fierce to endure, the bee
nuzzling like that into the blouse
of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course
the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over
all of us.

~ Mary Oliver

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

East of Eden is one of my favorite books. This quote reminded me of how much I loved it.

"After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had two sons. The elder was called Cain. He was the first man born outside of paradise. In time Cain grew up and cultivated his land and brought the first fruits as an offering to God. The offering was rejected. Jehovah explained to Cain that he was tangled up with evil - it lurked around his door. "But," Jehovah said, "you may triumph over evil and have abundant life."
That's a crucial sentence - the last thing Jehovah says to Cain. "You may triumph over evil and have abundant life." The critical word is the second one, the verb - may. Timshel in Hebrew.
This term has vexed scholars and theologians for a long time. It sits in the middle of a passage considered one of the five most difficult in the Scriptures to translate and understand. In context it has varied meanings, especially in this interchange between Jehovah and Cain.
Timshel has been interpreted to mean "you shall" - that's an order, a command. Timshel has been interpreted to mean "you will" - which implies predestination. Timshel has even been interpreted to mean "you cannot," which suggests hopeless dependence. All these interpretations define a relationship with God that leaves little freedom.
My friend the rabbi feels that the practical meaning of that passage of Scripture concerns vitality - meaning "Don't be dead," or "Don't be a passive victim - be active - be alive." He reads it as good advice: There is this problem with evil - you really should deal with it.
Carry that one step further - if you should, then you may.
To interpret timshel to mean "you may" is to use a word that implies the possibility of choice. This is not a matter of theological hairsplitting. I think a strong case can be made that human beings have at least acted as if "you may" was the correct interpretation - acting as if our destiny is in our hands.
Whatever we may think or believe, what we have done is our story.
You don't need to be a theologian or belong to any particular religious group to enter this discussion, but you do come down somewhere on this issue of what's possible in your life by how you in fact go about your life. You live this truth, one way or another.
In modern English, timshel means "it may be," or simply, "maybe."
Maybe. There's our word.
The wisest answer to ultimate questions.
A word pointing at open doors and wide horizons."
--Robert Fulghum

Friday, 24 June 2011

Another way to look at my stay at home gig.

Creation Continued
--Carol Lynn Pearson

I will continue
To create the universe today
Right where God left off.

Little pockets of chaos
Somehow survived the ordering
And I feel moved
To move upon them
As in the beginning
The Spirit of God moved
Upon the face of the waters.

I will move upon my backyard today
And the weeds will be subdued
And the flowers can grow
And it will be good.

I will move long distance
Upon a broken heart
And leave a little balm
And it will be good.

I will move upon the hunger of my children
With salad and spaghetti
Which is Emily's favorite
And it will be good
And even they will say so.
And I will move too upon their minds,
Leaving a little poem
Or an important thought
And that will be even better
Though they won't say so.

I will move upon
Birth defects and AIDS
With five and ten dollar checks
To help the scientists
Who are battling the big chaos
And I will move upon world hunger
With a twenty-four dollar check
For little Marilza in Brazil
And it will be good.

I will move upon
The kitchen floor
And the dirty laundry
And a blank piece of paper
And at the end of the day
Have a little creation to show.

And the evening and the morning
Are my eighteen thousand
and ninety-sixth day
And tomorrow will start another one.
And here is chaos and there is chaos
And who knows if creation
Will finally be done?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

On being a water fixture.

This morning I woke up and fed, cleared, washed, wiped and nourished. The rest of my day will be largely comprised of the same actions.

I let my boys play in the backyard a lot. Play for them there is fun but it just isn't the same without some water to play with as well. Water is amazing, facinating and transformative. It feeds the grass and plants, clears paths, washes the mud off of my boys, wipes the dirt off of the herbs I'm growing and nourishes them as well. The thought occured to me today...I think my function is to be the water in our family.

I once heard somewhere that a garden (like a Japanese or English garden) needs to have running water. A water fixture, a fountain or a stream completes it. There is something about moving water that resonates with people and reminds them of something they need in their own lives - constant refreshing, renewal, nourishment and washing.

I've been pretty amazed at how many times I've cleaned the same spot, over and over, and over again - contantly refreshing and renewing it. Everyday my boys need nourishing and washing.

"Give said the little stream
Give, oh give. Give, oh give.
Give, said the little stream
as it hurried down the hill.
I'm small I know but wherever I go,
the grass grows greener still."

Monday, 20 June 2011

When I Was a Boy - Dar Williams

Again, I don't know about some of these photos...the old lady will make you laugh though. I find this song to be quite touching. I'm less interested in the feminist, transgender connotations in this song and more just love being brought back to that blissful uncomplicated state of climbing trees, catching fireflies and riding bikes. Kind of where my own beautiful boys are at right now - and they do pick flowers, cry at tender moments, want to tell me everything and haven't lost their kindness....yet. They are magical to me and as tiring as it can be to have their energy around all of the time, I'm having a more difficult time watching them grow so quickly.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Canadian apartheid

Joining and Disjoining - by Samuel Butler (England, 1835-1902)

These are the essence of change.
One of the earliest notes I made, when I began to make notes at all, I found not long ago in an old book, since destroyed, which I had in New Zealand. It was to the effect that all things are either of the nature of a piece of string or a knife. That is, they are either for bringing and keeping things together, or for sending and keeping them apart. Nevertheless each kind contains a little of its opposite and some, as the railway train and the hedge, combine many examples of both. Thus the train, on the whole, is used for bringing things together, but it is also used for sending them apart, and its divisions into classes are alike for separating and keeping together. The hedge is also both for joining things (as a flock of sheep) and for disjoining (as for keeping the sheep from getting into corn). These are the more immediate ends. The ulterior ends, both of train and hedge, so far as we are concerned, and so far as anything can have an end, are the bringing or helping to bring meat or dairy produce into contact with man's inside, or wool on to his back, or that he may go in comfort somewhere to converse with people and join his soul on to theirs,or please himself by getting something to come within the range of his senses or imagination.
A piece of string is a thing that, in the main, makes for togetheriness; whereas a knife is, in the main, a thing that makes for splitty-uppiness; still, there is an odour of togetheriness hanging about a knife also, for it tends to bring potatoes into a man's stomach.
In high philosophy one should never look at a knife without considering it also as a piece of string, nor at a piece of string without considering it also as a knife.
- Samuel Butler, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler:Selections, ed. Henry Festing Jones (London: Jonathan Cape, 1921), 21

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Starry Starry Night

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Monday, 13 June 2011

"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy."

- Abraham Joshua Heschel (January 11, 1907 – December 23, 1972) a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century.

So, I'm sitting here trying to decide whether or not to put up the pictures that came to my mind as I was thinking about this quote. At first my mind thought of pictures of sunshine, forests and morning dew...but then I thought, living/being is a lot more than sunshine, forests and morning dew. My mind starting thinking of starving children in Africa, deformities, violence, war, chronic pain, mental illness, concentration camps...you get the idea. I'm sure there are times in so many people's lives when being and living doesn't seem like a blessing and perhaps feels like the farthest thing from holy. I've just decided I'm not going to put up horrible pictures of suffering amoungst pictures of flowers, loli pops and rainbows - but that's what being is - that's the holy blessing of life. And although I'm not sitting on a bunk in Auschwitz writing this, I would like to timidly say...I agree, I think just to be is a blessing and just to live is holy.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Shotgun shack redux: mortgage-free in 320 square feet

This is so interesting to me. When we went to the UK, I was impressed at how well thought out space was there and was surprised when we moved back to realize how often space is wasted here. My sister in law is living in a house with a very small kitchen and once when I was visiting she remarked that an advantage to a small kitchen is that everything she needs is within arms reach. I also think that smaller spaces feel very cozy. The space you live in can dictate how your family interacts and I think there are certain advantages to smaller spaces. When Jord and I were living in an apartment we had one living room area and so every evening we spent together because...well we kind of had no other choice. Now that we've moved back we have a basement and a T.V. down there. Some evenings he'll head down to watch a hockey game, I'll stay upstairs and be on the computer or find a movie of my own - the extra space means that we aren't forced to compromise and find something that we both enjoy doing. There are also, of course, advantages to extra space as well. I guess I'm trying to figure out what kind of space I want for my family and I'm finding it to be a complex issue.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

at least watch the first full minute of this...I guess Benjamin Franklin isn't the only fountain of wisdom out there.

"In 1984, Mr. T made a motivational video called Be Somebody... or Be Somebody's Fool!. He gives helpful advice to children throughout the video; for example, he teaches them how to understand and appreciate their origins, how to dress fashionably without buying designer labels, how to make tripping up look like breakdancing, how to control their anger, and how to deal with peer pressure. The video is roughly one hour long, but contains 30 minutes of singing, either by the group of children accompanying him, or by Mr. T himself. He sings "Treat Your Mother Right (Treat Her Right)," in which he enumerates the reasons why it is important to treat your mother right, and also raps a song about growing up in the ghetto and praising God. The raps in this video were written by Ice T." - wikipedia

Here is a three minute video clip of "Treat Your Mother Right"

Let the sun shine.


by Mary Fullerton

The poet was exuberant,
Along his labyrinth shouting.
"Good fellow, you must trim,"
The critics came a-clouting.

And so he cut and pruned,
At the behesting...
And now remain no bowers,
Nor sweet birds nesting.

This poem reminds me of a famous quote by Nelson Mandela:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

I don't know if I would have been best friends with the guy but...

Benjamin Franklin said some pretty solid things but I can't help but think he was a bit of a fat head. From his "The Way to Wealth": "my Brother Authors....have been very sparing in their Applauses; and no other Author has taken the least Notice of me, so that did not my Writings produce me some solid Pudding, the great Deficiency of Praise would have quite discouraged me. I concluded at length, that the People were the best Judges of my Merit; for they buy my Works; and besides, in my Rambles, where I am not personally known, I have frequently heard one or other of my Adages repeated...this gave me some Satisfaction, as it showed not only that my Instructions were regarded, but discovered likewise some Respect for my Authority; and I own, that to encourage the Practice of remebering and repeating those wise Sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself with great Gravity."

Was he joking? I don't know - it seems as though he took himself quite seriously. Here's a bit more of "The Way of Wealth".

"The Hour of Sale not being come, they were conversing on the "Badness of the Times, and one of the Company call'ed to a plain clean old Man, with while Locks, "Pray, Father Abraham, what think you of the Times? Won't these heavy Taxes quite ruin the Country? How shall we ever be able to pay them? What would you advise us to?" Father Abraham stood up, and reply'd..."Friends," says he, "and Neighbours, the Taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the Government were the only ONes we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. WE are taxed twice as much by our Idleness, three times as much by our Pride, and four times as much by our Folly, and from these Taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an Abatement. However let us hearken to good Advice, and something may be done for us; God helps them that help themselves.

It would be thought a hard Government that should tax it's People one tenth Part of their Time, to be employed in its Service. But Idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent in absolute Sloth, or doing of nothing,with that which is spent in idle Employments or AMusements, that amount to nothing. Sloth, by bringing on Diseases, absolutely shortens Life. Sloth, like Rust, consumes faster than Labour wears, while the used Key is always bright...But dost thou love Life, then do not squander Time, for that's the Stuff Life is made of."

Monday, 6 June 2011

Dial M for Murder...

Tonight, for no reason in particular, I decided to pick up a bucket of chicken and swing by Jordan's work to pick him up. When I saw him, he mentioned that there was a house just listed an hour before and the price was fantastic. As we drove along beautifully treed streets, we headed closer and closer to the lush river valley. I was getting excited. Finally we made a turn onto the street of my dreams. Quiet, big trees, lovely houses - we pulled up to the house, I turned to Jordan and said "let's buy it!". We drove two blocks to a beautiful park, ate chicken, watched the kids play and thought to ourselves that this could be our new home. Jord thought I should go by again and see if I could perhaps take a peek inside. There were a few people in front: someone coming to look, their realtor and a neighbour. I approached the crowd and was chatting about the neighbourhood - the neighbour seemed to know a lot about the state of the house, he was very interesting to talk to. The woman who lived there previously was a 49 year old woman who was a pipe fitter. The reason for the sale is the woman's daughter (who has children of her own), walked into the house and killed her mother.

Is that a legitimate deal breaker? It is for me. Irrational? Maybe.

Would any of you buy a house where a murder had recently taken place?

not just for farmers.

Almanacks were very popular books in colonial America, with people in the colonies using them for the mixture of seasonal weather forecasts, practical household hints, puzzles, and other amusements they offered.

Poor Richard's Almanack (sometimes Almanac) was a yearly almanac published by Benjamin Franklin, who adopted the pseudonym of "Poor Richard" or "Richard Saunders" for this purpose. The publication appeared continually from 1732 to 1758. It was a best seller for a pamphlet published in the American colonies; print runs reached 10,000 per year.

The Almanack contained the calendar, weather, poems, sayings and astronomical and astrological information that a typical almanac of the period would contain. Franklin also included the occasional mathematical exercise. It is chiefly remembered, however, for being a repository of Franklin's aphorisms and proverbs, many of which live on in American English. These maxims typically counsel thrift and courtesy, with a dash of cynicism.

Several of these sayings were borrowed from an earlier writer, Lord Halifax, many of whose aphorisms sprang from, "....[a] basic skepticism directed against the motives of men, manners, and the age." In 1757, Franklin made a selection of these and prefixed them to the almanac. This was later published as "The Way to Wealth", and was popular in both America and England.


I was reading through "The Way to Wealth" the other day and found it pretty interesting. I'll post some of Poor Richard's wisdom tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

"My gut is telling me no...but my gut is also very hungry." - Gob from Arrested Development

What is intuition? I'm finding different people bring different definitions to the table when they speak of it. One of the ways I've heard it explained (which seems close to my own experience with it) is: It's when someone processes various bits of external information in a non linear fashion and then comes to a decision based upon concrete variables and facts but manifested by a strong gut feeling rather than a line of rational thoughts. I also think that when one opens themselves to being counselled by their intuition, they are inviting any whisperings of the divine to be seamlessly calculated into their equation as well.

"[intuition] is a heightened awareness of themselves and what's going on in their system. Some folks that are easy to observe with this in mind are sports people. They seem to be able to process a lot of information very fast. They spot patterns much sooner than non-experts.

They arrive where the ball is going before the ball even gets there. Or they change what they are doing in an instant for no apparent reason, and it turns out to be the right thing to have done. Or they switch tactics because of a seemingly inconsequential move on the part of their opponent. And they end up winning."

I think the sports analogy is interesting. There seems to be different kinds of intuitive reasoning. I've found relying on my own intuition to be very helpful in a lot of different areas of my life and have found myself thinking about this very process a lot lately.

p.s. did I mention we are house hunting?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Westward Ho!

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

-from the poem "Little Gidding" by T.S. Eliot

I haven't read the entire poem. I don't think I could handle that in my life right now - but this little excerpt, I love. I find T.S. Eliot to be very difficult to understand but in my limited reading of him, every once in a while he'll offer a morsel of heaven that even a peasant like me can understand.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

this salad could change your life...forever.

mixed leaf salad with mozzarella, mint, peach and prosciutto

ingredients for one serving:
mixed leaves
1/4 - 1/2 ball of mozza
1 peach
few pieces of prosciutto
generous handful of fresh mint (torn up by hand)
lemon dressing

Try to get hold of buffalo mozzarella. Use any mixed leaves you fancy.
Dress your mixed salad leaves and torn-up mint with a lemon-olive oil dressing (2 tbsp lemon juice, 4 tbsp olive oil, salt and ground black pepper to taste)
Slice the peach, rip the mozza into small pieces and place mozza and peaches on top of the mixed leaves and mint. Lightly season. Lay a couple of slices of prsciutto over the top.

-recipe taken from "The Return of the Naked Chef" by Jamie Oliver.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

the allegory of the can opener?

Jord and I once owned a very cheap, very weak can opener. We shook our heads at how terrible of a can opener it was and vowed that the next can opener we bought would be a can opener of value, integrity and strength. As anticipated after a few months of use our humble can opener broke. With expected disappointment I went out and bought a higher end can opener the price of which was at least ten times that of the pitiful one that had failed us so miserably. With pride I showed it to Jordan "you see, sometimes in order to save money in the long run you have to spend a little extra in the short term."

can you imagine my shock when one day six months after my triumphant purchase I went to open a can of tomatoes and my prized can opener DIDN'T WORK!!! The grips only hold onto the can for brief stints leaving the job of opening any tin can for me to be a difficult and uncertain one. What happened? Did one of the kids throw it or bash it against something? Who knows? All I am left with is this:

When it comes to purchases, things, material possessions - you just never know...you just never know...

p.s. did I mention we are house hunting right now?

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

In the beginning...

One of the reasons I started this blog is because music, art, literature all have helped me maintain my sanity during this busy, messy, labour intensive time in my life. So I thought I'd start a blog featuring some things that I've enjoyed having sit in my own soul a while to keep it company - a poem, a song, a thought, a picture...

On youtube, amoung the comments written about the song below was this one: "My daughter's name is Connie (aged 8) and we have a special place where we go to remember her Daddy, this song has touched us so much."

I really love any effort by humankind to create - it's good for the creator and it's good for...whoever stumbles upon it, identifies with it and has an experience with it. The following song is one of my favorites to listen to - such a fresh little piece.

Colours of the rainbow a new gift with each new sun
Green green and sacred from all its drink
And all its love
Connie stands with pride here
She offers thanks with all her heart
For here in this garden beneath these trees
She is at one,
She is at one

An olive tree for peace selected stones and a totem
The symbols of her blessings to Mother Earth
For all she's done
A precious life was lost here
But spirit grows as time moves on
With each breath of wind his presence felt
Smiling down, Smiling down

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Pack your innocence - it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

When reading the two poems in my last post I thought it interesting that Blake gave hope and comfort in God to the innocent but criticism and blame (rightly felt) to the experienced. The innocent find solace, the experienced seek justice.

An old professor of mine (in a Middle English lit class) once suggested that there were powers of high political/religious authority in England who he thought encouraged the writings of the day to favour the principles of submission, duty, obedience, long suffering...not because they were noble ideals to live by but in hopes that the peasantry wouldn't rise up, demand rights, shake up the social order and cause them trouble. Maybe Blake is echoing (and mocking?) that type of rhetoric because when I read the first poem it's powerless, submissive and weak tone bothered me. But the two poems really do compliment each other.

In Songs of Innocence, the boy in “The Chimney Sweeper” sees his situation through the eyes of innocence and does not understand the social injustice. In Songs of Experience, the boy in the poem sees the injustice and speaks against the establishments that left him where he is. Different aspects of one poem illuminate opposing aspects of the other poem. Ideas addressed in Innocence contrast the different views of Experience, as Experience does for Innocence, emphasizing the need for a balance of the two. The fact that these poems can influence the reader’s interpretation of one another confirms Blake’s notion that neither innocence nor experience is a correct view and that one completes the other. - K.L. Reiser

On a trip to Mauthausen - a former concentration camp in Austria - I remember hearing that after it was cleared out someone found writing on a wall that read "When I die, if there is a God after all, he will have to beg for my forgiveness."

I think a lot of people let go of God as they grow more experienced in the pains and heartache of life (many understandably so). But some hold on, tighten their grip, and keep a bit of their innocence even into the rough waters of experience. What a gem to hold on to because I think that our innocence contains fountains of love, forgiveness, faith and hope. Handy things to have when you're sailing on a stormy sea.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Editorial call for: reactions, opinions, analysis...

The Chimney Sweeper  - by William Blake
(from Songs of Innocence)

When my mother died I was very young,                                   
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet; and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, -
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.

The Chimney Sweeper - by William Blake
(from Songs of Experience)

 A little black thing in the snow,
 Crying "weep! weep!" in notes of woe!
 "Where are thy father and mother? Say!"--
 "They are both gone up to the church to pray.

 "Because I was happy upon the heath,
 And smiled among the winter's snow,
 They clothed me in the clothes of death,
 And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

 "And because I am happy and dance and sing,
 They think they have done me no injury,
 And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
 Who make up a heaven of our misery."

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Songs of Innocence and of Experience

"Songs of Innocence and of Experience" is an illustrated collection of poems by William Blake.   I think the first edition was printed in 1789.  Five years later he added more poems to the collection.

The book (which I haven't read...yet) is divided into two parts. 
The first part contains his songs of innocence and the second part his songs of experience. 
Within the book there are two different poems with the same title -  "The Chimney Sweeper".  One is placed amoung the songs of innocence the other amoung the songs of experience.

In Songs of Innocence, the boy  in “The Chimney Sweeper” sees his situation through the eyes of innocence and does not understand the social injustice. In Songs of Experience, the boy in the poem sees the injustice and speaks against the establishments that left him where he is. Different aspects of one poem illuminate opposing aspects of the other poem. Ideas addressed in Innocence contrast the different views of Experience, as Experience does for Innocence, emphasizing the need for a balance of the two. The fact that these poems can influence the reader’s interpretation of one another confirms Blake’s notion that neither innocence nor experience is a correct view and that one completes the other. - K.L. Reiser

Clever of Blake, don't you think?  I'll post the two poems tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

...chim, chim, cheree! A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be....

"Martin Nurmi discusses the plight of the chimney sweep extensively in his essay “Fact and Symbol in ‘The Chimney Sweeper.’” In 1788, there was an attempt to pass an act to improve the treatment and working conditions of these young children. This would have made many people, including William Blake (author of The Chimney Sweeper), aware of the lives that these chimney sweeps would live. For instance, they slept in cellars on bags of the soot that they had swept (Nurmi 17), and they were poorly fed and clothed. They would sweep the chimneys naked so their masters would not have to replace clothing that would have been ruined in the chimneys, and they were rarely bathed. Those who were not killed by fires in chimneys usually died early anyway of either respiratory problems or cancer of the scrotum. Sweeping chimneys also left children with ankles and spines deformed and twisted kneecaps from climbing up chimneys that were about nine inches in diameter (Nurmi 16). Many people viewed them as subhuman creatures and not a part of human society."  - K.L Reiser

Monday, 23 May 2011

Got an extra 15 minutes kicking around?

I think the pictures in this video seriously detract from the music (you might want to avert your eyes or just shut off the monitor) but there are a couple of cool shots of Moscow at the end.

The first minute and fifty three seconds is my favorite part of the entire piece - it evokes the same feelings that swell when I think of some of my most cherished childhood memories: apple blossoms, my mother's sweetness and the look of sunshine glistening on spring puddles. Then the music loses it's sweetness - tension and struggle enter the scene. I think we all know how the story ends but if you haven't listened to it in a while - why not - what a miracle that you can listen to Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture whenever you feel like it!

I'd love to know what music makes you happy....recommendations anyone?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

on a lighter note...

From the movie Wit:


Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For, those whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me;
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better then thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death thou shalt die.

This interests me because it paints death -the biggest change a human being can experience - to be just a pause, nothing to be afraid of. Does that mean all the smaller changes we experience (as we approach the peaceful comma that awaits us all) could also be truthfully met with the same grace, calm and serenity? Really? my aging skin? another house move? Oliver starting kindergarten? watching my parents move into their senior years? Arrested Development being cancelled? I'm not that enlightened yet - but I do find this poem encouraging.

"Life, death, soul, God, past, present. Not insuperable barriers. Not semicolons. Just a comma."

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Dick van dyke unplugged.

by Carol Lynn Pearson

When she learned that she
Didn't have to plug into
Someone or something
Like a toaster into a wall

When she learned that she
Was a windmill and had only
To raise her arms
To catch the universal whisper
And turn
She moved.

Oh, she moved

And her dance was a marvel.

I think it's kind of scary to unplug - it takes confidence or faith or something gutsy anyway. I guess being a chimney sweep has it's advantages...there aren't as many power outlets to plug into...just you, lots of soot and a desperate prayer that you don't fall off your roof.