Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning




“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.” Gandhi

Don’t You Wish You Wrote Like This?

And if you don’t write like this (maybe you do), at least we can try to live like this:

From Derek Walcott:

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

The Ponds

Ever feel like Eeyore? Sometimes when I do I read this poem:

The Ponds

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Just A Little Sanskrit

Saw this today:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction”

Followed up by reading this:

Click on this link and read…

Made a whole lot of sense.  Something to keep in mind as you travel through this wild and precious life.  That last phrase, the one about this wild and precious life, that is not mine.  It's from Mary Oliver.  Read the whole thing here.

Lots to think about with these two links today. 

A Favorite Poem

I especially love the last line.  Keep that in mind…your one wild and precious life.


The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Jayhawk Poet

Once again, more inspiration from Light Skinned-ed Girl.  She has paid a tribute to the poet, William Stafford, by posting his work You Reading This, Be Ready, on her blog.  He is from Kansas, and happened to go to KU….perhaps this is partly why I feel connected to him since practically my entire mother’s family, including my mom, went to KU.  Go Jayhawks!

Take a read.  May want to bookmark this one:

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
~ William Stafford ~

Potted Plants and Poetry and Stuff

April is National Poetry Month.  I happen to be a big poetry fan, and so am thrilled every year when various poetry organizations email out a poem a day in April.

In reading a poem today – not one from the official orgs, but from 37Days, a verse caught my eye.  It’s as follows:

"And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were
holding hands —

Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some
medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling
tradition. Always

Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere."

I believe it’s a Palestinian tradition…could be wrong about that.  In any event, I like traditions as much as I like poems, and this one is worth noting. 


I read poetry on a regular basis.  And though I enjoy poems that are complex and multi-layered, that you need to approach with puzzle like focus, I also really enjoy poems that make sense and have a clear message.  Jane Kenyon’s poem Otherwise, below, is such a poem.  I find this is especially good – like most poems – when it is read out loud.

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach. It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birchwood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

At noon I lay down

with my mate. It might

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together

at a table with silver

candlesticks. It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

He Was More Than A Dog

<Mom, stop reading right here if you don’t want to read about Hershey.>

Our family dog died yesterday.  He was 16 years old (otherwise known as really old in human years – and he was still young at heart).  We got him when I was a sophomore in college.  His name was Hershey and he was kind of a mutt.  We think he was a lab/whippet mix.  He was a very cool, cute, happy-go-lucky dog.  When my sister went to college, Hershey became the child in the house.  He had toys (hundreds), a special seat in the car, a ritual before dinner (our dinner, not his) where he would go get my dad and have the first bite of food after we said grace.  He loved burgers but would only eat them with fries.  He hated the smell of lamb roasting.  He loved spaghetti.  The word "RIDE" made him shake and wag and jump around.  He loved going for rides.  He really liked to sleep on beds, not the floor.  When my sister or I would go home, we had to pull the trundle bed out in the guest room so he would have a proper bed.  With a pillow.  He was a hell of a dog, and he will be greatly missed.

Losing someone is hard, and it never ceases to amaze me how hard losing a pet can be as well.  We found out a few months ago that he had cancer.  And today it took over his body in a way that was too much for him.  I am happy to say that it was only last week that I saw him run up the stairs and get dad for dinner, and run frantically around the dining room one last time before collapsing in exhaustion on the couch.  Before the big C he would do those same things and not collapse; I was glad to see that even while sick, he could still muster up his old ways and act like a pup.

I am not feeling so eloquent…I tried hard today to pretend I did not miss him (was in meetings and getting teary over losing a dog is just not meant for business settings).  I like poems, and here is a poem that talks about loss.  It’s about pretending that losing things is not that hard, that it’s manageable.  Yet at the end, the writer starts to subtly admit that she is kidding herself – loss, especially of a (pet) friend, is really hard.

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day.  Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch.  And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

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