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A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution

While I’ve never been much for making New Year’s resolutions, I do try to think about the things I’d like to do differently and the things I’d like to accomplish each New Year. And that is the thing about resolutions – they are all about “I”. This is not necessarily a negative; goodness knows there are an infinite number of things I could and should work to improve upon in my life and in my self. But this is where most resolutions begin and end – with ME. Which is likely why most of mine fade into the background, because I lack the resolve, strength, memory, or will to fulfill them over the course of the year. There is a paradox here – I want to be the one to make the necessary changes, but the truth is I am my own biggest obstacle.

Mary Untier of Knots. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mary Untier of Knots. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It isn’t a coincidence that the Catholic Church celebrates New Year’s Day as the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. This is a day, the first day of a new year filled with hope and promise, in which the Church invites me to remember that I have a mother who is very concerned with everything that concerns me and all those I care about. She wants me to remember to involve and include her in my thoughts, plans, hopes, dreams, and resolutions for the year. This year, instead of going it alone as has been my past practice, I’ve decided to turn over my resolutions and all that needs fixing and improving and adjusting in my life to someone else’s more capable hands: Mary, the Untier of Knots. (Read more . . . )

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Changes and Something To Celebrate

Womanhood, 1925 (oil on canvas) by Mostyn, Thomas Edwin (1864-1930); 127.5x101.5 cm; Private Collection; © Christopher Wood Gallery, London, UK; English,  out of copyright

Womanhood, 1925 (oil on canvas) by Mostyn, Thomas Edwin (1864-1930); 127.5×101.5 cm; Private Collection; © Christopher Wood Gallery, London, UK; English, out of copyright

To everything there is a season . . .

Lots of changes have been taking place in my personal life which have encouraged me to re-examine and reorient my priorities such that regular readers will likely see less activity on one tiny violet in the near future.

My newly increased teaching schedule is taking up the majority of my time, leaving precious little to devote to my writing. Finishing my novel is a priority (I’m so close!), and since some of my health issues have improved, I plan on directing my energy to finishing my book. To assist with meeting this goal, I enrolled in a writing class/workshop which comes with its own demands for my diminishing time. All of which means I have had to choose to spend less time and energy writing for both my blogs.

In addition, I have cause to celebrate a new opportunity to explore the interplay between faith, beauty, and living a writing life. Recently I was invited to be a regular contributing writer to Deep Down Things, the blog affiliated with the gorgeous quarterly literary/art journal Dappled Things. This is a wonderful opportunity for me and I am excited to work with such an inspiring, enthusiastic, and devoted group of writers and editors. The entire Dappled Things project is truly a labor of love — all of the time to produce the journal and website/blog is donated by individuals committed to reinvigorating Catholic arts and letters. The combined effort of these talented people results in high caliber prose, poetry, and art, an unusually beautiful print edition of the journal, and a growing, engaging online presence. I hope you will celebrate this new opportunity with me and follow my writing on Deep Down Things and perhaps even consider giving yourself the gift of a year of Beauty Breaks by taking a subscription to this unique literary journal. My first essay, a meditation on living the writing life inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux, can be found here.

I do plan to write here when time and energy allow, and I’ll definitely post updates to my pieces published on Deep Down Things. But my intention is to take something of a sabbatical and use it to focus and quiet my mind to make progress on those larger projects which are very important to me. I hope you’ll continue to stay tuned . . .

A Poem For Your Pocket

It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Celebrate by choosing and sharing a poem you love with others. My choice: the first poem I was ever required to memorize and which I’ve never forgotten, a selection from Sonnets From the Portuguese, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

“Sonnet 43: How Do I Love Thee?”

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love the to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose 
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, and tears of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
— Elizabeth Barret Browning
 

Poetry can be a reminder of the beauty and range of emotion words can convey. It can remind us of a special person, place, or time in our lives. It can open our eyes to a new way of seeing or being in the world. It can set a musical rhythm to the simplest human experience and elevate it to greatness. Once learned by heart, a poem can rarely be unlearned and will be forever “in your pocket,” a valuable treasure that cannot be stolen.

The Academy of American Poets has other suggestions for celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day, listed below.  And if you’re late getting the memo, don’t worry. Every day is a good day to share a poem.

* Hand out poems in your school or workplace.
* Teachers: reward students “caught” with a poem in their pocket.
* Local business owners: offer discounts to those carrying poems.
* Start a street team to pass out poems in your community.
* Add a poem to your email footer.
* Mail a poem to a friend.
* Post a poem on your blog or social networking page. Use #pocketpoem on Twitter.

Which poem will you choose?

Beauty Break: Music For Your Ears, Part II

I don’t think there’s any such thing as too much Shakespeare. The Bard never gets old and when his poetry is read aloud by the likes of Alan Rickman, well, it’s simply time to drop everything and be seduced.

Sonnet 130 has always been a favorite of mine because it is so unexpected in its use of metaphor. Renaissance poets used the sonnet form to wax poetic about the beauties of the lady of the moment, comparing her to roses and sun beams and wildflowers and jewels. Metaphors and similes, lovely though they were, described human beauty in classic motifs that were decidedly familiar and revered. Shakespeare himself is no slouch in this department — we need only recall his 18th Sonnet or the glorious metaphors in the Petrarchan-style love poetry of Romeo and Juliet.

But Sonnet 130 turns all of those classic comparisons of beauty upside down and celebrates the true Beauty of the ordinary, true Beauty which is often overlooked or ignored simply because it doesn’t measure up to the grandeur of what is deemed beautiful by the culture or by history. Sonnet 130 rejoices in quiet Beauty that is hidden and not ostentatious and it celebrates a love that is more than skin-deep. This makes it the perfect poetic selection for one tiny violet, which focuses on discovering extraordinary beauty in an ordinary life. Sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy.

This is the second post in a series of three, celebrating National Poetry Month. You can find the first here.

Beauty Break: Music For Your Ears, Part I

National Poetry Month Poster 2013April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate the beauty of the written word spoken well, I’m sharing an audio series of three of my favorite poetry readings. Each is a YouTube video of one of my favorite actors reciting a poetic selection and, perhaps with the exception of today’s post, watching the video is completely unnecessary to enjoying to depth of music, emotion, and linguistic precision in these pieces. In fact, it is best to close your eyes and simply LISTEN and resist the temptation to be distracted by the visual images on the screen. With perhaps the exception of Hamlet, the images lend nothing to the experience of the poem itself, for the experience is dependent upon well-chosen language spoken beautifully. I chose these pieces not only because of the beauty of the written works themselves, but because they seem to me to come particularly alive delivered through these select “voices.”

Today, the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, performed by Kenneth Branagh in his gorgeous film production of the play.

For more information about National Poetry Month or for ideas on how to plant the seed that will grow a poetry garden in your own daily life, visit The Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.

Beauty Break: A Found Poem

Skippy’s up to almost 2 hours a day between piano, electric guitar and acoustic guitar. The house is filled with music and I love it. My favorite part of it all is when he just relaxes and it becomes something other than a practice session. I call it “plinking,” meaning he just goes into the zone and composes or picks a favorite song out by ear. Simply lovely….

Today, I heard strumming on the acoustic behind a podcast I was listening to while cooking in the kitchen, and next:

“Mom, did you hear what I was playing?”

“Yes…it’s a little noisy out here, so yes, vaguely, and it sounded good.”

“I found a new favorite song. . . ”

“You did?” Me, semi-distracted. . .

“Want me to show you?” And he starts singing a song that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. “And the leaves that are green, turn to brown. . . . “

Skippy playing Simon and Garfunkel's "Leaves That Are Green"

Skippy playing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Leaves That Are Green”

And he proceeds to sing and play Simon and Garfunkel’s song of the same name, nearly impeccably, by ear. My boy and I are kindred spirits when it comes to music and I love that he appreciates and hears the poetry in a song like this.

If you’ve never heard it, or have forgotten it because its been too long, do yourself a favor and listen now. There isn’t enough poetry in the world today, and we need to grasp it and hold onto it when we find it, wherever that may be.

Recovering A Sense Of Awe

Snowflake

They say that every snowflake is different. If that were true, how could the world go on? How could we ever get up off our knees? How could we ever recover from the wonder of it? — Jeanette Winterson, The Passion