On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. This month I'm focusing on themes that are on many people's minds these days, in many contexts.
As a bonus for reading to the end, I'm including a selection of photos celebrating the colorful autumn season that's drawing to a close.
[I said to Suzuki Roshi,] "I could listen to you for a thousand years and still not get it. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase? . . . He was not a man you could pin down, and he didn't like to give his students something definite to cling to. He had often said not to have "some idea" of what Buddhism was. But Suzuki did answer. He looked at me and said, "Everything changes."
-- David Chadwick
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
-- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
-- Jalaluddin Rumi
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.
Action is the antidote to despair.
-- Joan Baez
The narrow-minded ask, “Is this man a stranger, or is he of our tribe?” but to those in whom love dwells the whole world is but one family.
-- Anonymous (often misattributed to Buddha)
No language is neutral. To speak is to claim a life--and often our own. If more Americans speak to one another, in writing, in media, at the supermarket, we might listen better. It is difficult, I think, to hate one another when we start to understand not only why and how we hurt, but also why and how we love.
-- Ocean Vuong, poet and essayist, in Poets & Writers, September/October 2016
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. Because October has been such a beautiful time to be outdoors and enjoy nature, this month's installment features words about the natural world.
Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, then: What's wilderness?
Maybe wilderness is a place of isolation, of solitude. Maybe wilderness is a place where, through your solitude, you reach toward some larger power or mystery. You could be at the top of Mount McKinley, or you could be in a vacant lot in Colorado Springs, with weeds growing up around the broken bottles. What more do we get out of wilderness when we think of it as our own solitude?
-- Poet David Mason, interviewed in The Sun, April 2015
In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.
I don't think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular . . . but I might learn something of mindfulness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive.
-- Annie Dillard
We still do not know one-thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.
-- Albert Einstein
The act of looking, of paying attention, is akin to prayer for me. It can be transporting. I particularly love observing plants. I like climbing mountains and paddling rivers and chasing butterflies, too, but plants are my doorway to wonder.
-- Robin Wall Kimmerer, interviewed in The Sun, April 2016
I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them.
-- James Russell Lowell
The earth has its music for those who will listen.
-- George Santayana
This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
-- John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir
Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.
-- Gary Snyder
No bonus this month, because instead of adding more content here, I'm going outside for another dose of nature! I encourage you to do the same. See you again soon.
On last month's road trip, Ray and I spent a couple of days in Hannibal, Missouri, boyhood home of Mark Twain and inspiration for many of his stories. The visit not only got me thinking about hometowns, but also gave us a concentrated dose of Twainisms.
Since our return, I've unearthed a few more to share with you. (I also learned that many quotes attributed to Twain were actually spoken or written by someone else. I've tried my best to verify the ones I'm including here, relying on twainquotes.com‚ a site created by Twain House friend Barbara Schmidt. So I do hope they're all authentic.) As a bonus, I'll throw in some photos of Hannibal, MO at the end.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
Grief can take care of itself, but to get full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
The calamity that comes is never the one we had prepared ourselves for.
When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
In America, we hurry--which is well; but when the day's work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we ought to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man's prime in Europe. When an acre of ground has produced long and well, we let it lie fallow and rest for a season; we take no man clear across the continent in the same coach he started in--the coach is stabled somewhere on the plains and its heated machinery allowed to cool for a few days; when a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!
Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more--restful.
Honor is a harder master than the law.
We do not deal much in facts when we are contemplating ourselves.
All good things arrive unto them that wait--and don’t die in the meantime.
When we think of friends, and call their faces out of the shadows, and their voices out of the echoes that faint along the corridors of memory, and do it without knowing why save that we love to do it, we content ourselves that that friendship is a Reality, and not a Fancy--that it is builded upon a rock, and not upon the sands that dissolve away with the ebbing tides and carry their monuments with them.
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. Here's this month's serving of Last Wednesday Wisdom. Your reward for reading to the end: a preview of a can't-miss post coming soon!
Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens.
-- Br. David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk
In the throes of creativity, a lively brain tussles with a mass of memories and rich stores of knowledge, attacking them both sub rosa and with the mind wide open. Some of it incubates offstage until a fully fledged insight wings into view. The rest it consciously rigs, rotates, kneads, and otherwise plays with until a novel solution emerges. Only by fumbling with countless bits of knowledge, and then ignoring most of it, does a creative mind craft something original. For that, far more than the language areas are involved. Hand-me-down ideas won't do. So conventions must be flouted, risks taken, possibilities freely spigoted, ideas elaborated, problems redefined, daydreaming encouraged, curiosity followed down zig-zagging alleyways. Any sort of unconsidered trifle may be fair game. It's child's play. Literally. Not a gift given to an elect few, but a widespread, natural, human way of knowing the world.
-- Diane Ackerman in One Hundred Names for Love
We must overcome the notion that we must be regular . . . it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.
-- Uta Hagen, actress
Imagination, dreams, spirit, delight, craziness, goofiness, chaos, dance, song--they're all important. Without them we're hardly human beings. In a materialistic society the artist is always a bit of an anarchist, tossing the Molotov coktail of the imagination into the bank foyer: C'mon! Wake up!
-- Poet David Mason, interviewed in The Sun, April 2015 (Read the full Interview here)
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
-- Edith Wharton
We give life when we learn from our own weeping how to give ourselves with gentleness and compassion to the sighs and struggles of other people.
-- Eugene Kennedy, psychologist
I think of each day as a gold coin that you are required to trade for something. You'll never get that coin back, so whatever you trade it for had better be worth it. You also don't know how many coins you have left to trade, and you don' know what will happen when your bag is empty: the other side of death, if there is one, is a mystery.
-- Physician Raymond Barfield, interviewed in The Sun, January 2016 (Read the full interview here.)
". . . I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.' "
-- Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country
Coming soon: An interview with river guide and nature photographer Kevin Feenstra, whose photographs are on display as part of an exhibit on The Art of Fishing at Artsplace in Fremont, Michigan. Kevin will also make a presentation, "Photographing A Big River," at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 13, during the exhibit's reception.
Stay tuned for my conversation with Kevin!
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. Here's this months' serving of Last Wednesday Wisdom. As always, you get a reward for reading to the end, this time, a preview of coming attractions!
What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass
and loses itself in the sunset.
-- Crowfoot, (ca 1830-1890), Blackfoot warrior and orator
We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master, "In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness? How can we find security when we see that we can't count on anything being the way we want it to be?" The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass that had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, "You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over, or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.' When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is, and nothing need be otherwise."
-- Stephen Levine in Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying (Anchor, 1982)
The intellect can understand a story--but only the imagination can tell it.
-- Stephen Koch in The Modern Library Writer's Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction (Modern Library Paperbacks, 2009)
He who has made a thousand things and he who has made none, both feel the same desire: to make something.
-- Antonio Porchia
I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.
-- Sylvia Plath
Be joyful/though you have considered all the facts.
-- Wendell Berry (in "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front:)
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks.
If you read through to the end (no fair skipping ahead!), you'll get a treat: a visual recap of a fun event from the past month.
Such things . . . as the grasp of a child's hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of a friend or a lover, the silk of a girl's thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind—what else is there? What else do we need?
--Edward Abbey, author, essayist and environmentalist
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now?
--William Stafford, American poet and pacifist
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.
--Diane Ackerman, author, poet and naturalist
I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.
--Robert Brault, blogger
Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you're passionate about something, then you're more willing to take risks.
--Yo-Yo Ma, cellist
I love the sutra sthira sukham asanam: "Effort without tension, relaxation without dullness." It reminds me that energy should not be confused with anxiety and stress.
--Renee Loux, author, chef and green-living expert, interviewed in Yoga Journal, May, 2016
To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
--Arthur Ashe, the first African-American man to win Wimbledon
And now, as promised, a virtual visit to Tulip Time, an annual Holland, Michigan event that took place earlier this month. Put on your wooden shoes and come along!
So, readers, where has life taken you, and what wisdom have you gleaned in the past month?
Once again, it's time for Last Wednesday Wisdom. On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. We've been celebrating National Poetry Month all of this month, so today I'm sharing poetry-related morsels.
And if you're wondering how I did with the poetry month challenge I introduced at the beginning of the month, read to the end for a report.
Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.
-- Joseph Roux
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
-- Emily Dickinson
Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.
-- Lawrence Ferlinghetti
We all tell stories and write poems . . . to keep awe and aspiration and comprehension and the other components of hopeful lives bright in each other's hearts.
-- Barry Lopez in Poets & Writers, Jan/Feb 2016
If you can't be a poet, be the poem.
-- David Carradine
Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.
-- Carl Sandburg
When I first started writing poetry as a high schooler, I adopted what I call "The Seven Layers of Enigma" model. I wrote a verse that I did not understand, but was sure that others would marvel at simply because it was so inscrutable.
-- Joseph Bathanti in The Writer, April 2016
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.
-- William Butler Yeats
Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.
-- Yevgeny Yevtushenko
So, about that challenge. At the beginning of the month, I vowed to read poetry every day. That I did. I read my way through David Tucker's poetry collection, Late for Work and dipped into Trumbull Ave. by Michael Lauchlan, whom I met at this year's Rally of Writers in Lansing, Michigan. I also discovered Ada Limón and John Brehm, whose poems appear in the May 2016 issue of The Sun. And of course, I loved reading the work of HeartWood guest bloggers Jonathan Riedel and Sandra Bernard.
But there was another part to that challenge. I pledged to write a poem a day. I did write poems, more than I've ever written in one month (fifteen so far, and the month isn't over). But some days slipped by poem-less. Other days, I deliberately followed the advice of Ansel Adams, quoted in last month's installment of Last Wednesday Wisdom:
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
I guess there were quite a few fuzzy-word days and not many silent ones, because I took a LOT of photographs. For example:
But even if I missed some days, I kept coming back to writing poems--trying different forms and sometimes making a game of it. One of the most fun things I tried was taking random words from someone else's poems and trying to make my own poem from those words. I won't go into detail here, but if you'd like to read more about the process and what I came up with, click here.
Now that I've given you my report, tell me how you did with your poetry month challenges. I know some of you planned to read poetry, others were inspired to write their own or paint pictures. Let's hear how that went!
With this week's post, I'm introducing a new feature called Last Wednesday Wisdom. On the last Wednesday of every month, I'll serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks.
This installment comes with a bonus: If you read all the way to the end, you'll get a sneak peek at a few more fairy houses created for the Camp Newaygo Enchanted Forest event, plus another surprise photo. So read on (and no fair jumping to the end to see the pictures first!).
Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.
-- John Updike
When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
-- Ansel Adams
Even work you consider to be your worst is good for something. Every effort teaches you about your desires and tendencies, or guides you toward some new possibility, or shuts the door on an avenue you mistakenly thought was the right one.
-- Novelist Téa Obreht, quoted in The Writer magazine
The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because sh*t worked out. They got that way because sh*t went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes.
-- Elizabeth Gilbert
Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
-- Martin Luther King
You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
-- Pablo Neruda
Are you ready for your treat now? Me, too! But before the fairy house preview, here's a new creative challenge. Ray made up a fairy tale to go with his fairy house. Can you come up with one for your own or someone else's fairy house? (If you missed the earlier preview, find more inspiration here.)
Now take a look at these creations by "Sylvan Sally" Kane, "Elfin Eileen" Kent, "Diaphanous Diane" Sack, "Linda of Lilliput" Cudworth, "Spritely Sue" Schneider and her granddaughter "Artsy Ayla":
LINDA OF LILLIPUT
SPRITELY SUE AND AIRY AYLA
And finally, in response to last week's post on serendipity, Cindi McDonald of San Antonio sent this:
I have no story, but I do have a pic.
Thanks, Cindi, fairy house builders, contributors of wisdom. . . and readers! Have you come up with any fairy stories or do you have discoveries from the past month to share?
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.