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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

The sun attempts to break through an almost white sky. The weather report tells me that this is the best it will do today. Some high winds later on, and for Christmas, perhaps a dash of snow in the morning. This suits me fine – my days of longing for a white Christmas vanished as soon as I had to drive in it. As I looked out the window, I searched inside for my Christmas spirit. I found it to be a little lacking, having been pulled in many directions the last week. I knew one remedy, of course – images and words that bring a smile and/or inspire.

So here you see my gentle snowman, standing at my front door, ready to greet you. His candle lights at dusk, and he blows it out at dawn. But tonight it will burn steadily and all through the day on Christmas.

Inside, the beautiful oak washstand of over 100 years shines as always, with silk poinsettias, my very favorite ice balls holding tea lights, and just a peek at the photo of my Mom and Dad’s wedding portrait.

And though from a winter past, the snowy roofs and lightly dusted bare branches put me in a festive mood.

But what about words that inspire? I remembered some years ago, my Christmas present to loved ones was a print of the piece below, a longtime favorite of mine, to which I added original artwork of forest animals in each season in each of the print’s four corners. I felt my contribution was small in the shadow of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata. I share it here with you, with my warmest wishes for a Christmas filled with the sparkle of magic, hope, and peace.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

~ Max Ehrmann

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CharlottesWeb2This Sunday, September 21, marked the beginning of Banned Books Week which celebrates the freedom to read. An annual event organized by the American Library Association, (the same people that award the Caldecott and Newbery Medals) , Banned Books Week is sponsored by a number of organizations who are against censorship. The website presents a wealth of information on books that are and have been banned, by whom and why, plus activities for teachers to discuss the important issues of censorship, banned books and the books themselves with their students. Additional information on Banned Books Week can be found on the ALA’s own site. On this site you can also find the 10 most frequently challenged books by year. In 2001, the most frequently challenged book was Harry Potter with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men right behind.

The most common reasons for censorship are drugs, nudity, violence, offensive language, sexually explicit, anti-family, homosexuality, racism, religious viewpoint, suicide and unsuited to age group but there are a few others.

A fascinating article on BuzzFeed is about fifteen children’s classics that have been banned, where and why. This includes James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Granted some of these were banned  quite some time ago, and some by local municipalities, but some were banned as recently as 2010.

I don’t know about you, but I find this all fascinating. Censorship is no small issue, and the facts about who censors which books and why is an insight into the fabric of this country – what we, as a people, are afraid of, offended by and threatened by to such a degree that we can’t allow our children to read about it. As best I can tell, it’s usually the truth.

 

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We interrupt this day of seemingly endless shoveling, digging out, car cleaning and bright red cheeks to bring you a message of love for Valentine’s Day …

RaibowHeart2

“To worship rightly is to love each other,
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.”

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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AnnualBookSale2011-2

Did that get your attention? If you, (and your kids), love to read, don’t miss the upcoming Hunterdon County Library Annual Book Sale!

It’s coming up this month on Saturday and Sunday April 20th and 21st at the National Guard Armory on Rt. 12 in Flemington. Check the library’s web site for location, directions and complete details.

Saturday, hardbound books are generally $2.00, paperbacks $1.00, and on Sunday, they’re half that. The main armory houses fiction, children’s books and YA, and the secondary building houses non-fiction. And it’s free as is the jitney transport back and forth from the county complex to the armory when their lot is full. Hard to beat if you love books. It is anticipated that there will be approximately 120,000 books for sale.

I understand that this event draws people from quite a distance, so even if you’re not “local,” come on down and take advantage of the wonder of books for what is truly a pittance.

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Crocus2

First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus —
Crocus.

~Lilja Rogers

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“Imperial Self beyond self that I call my soul,
Climb up into the crow’s nest:
Look out over the changing ocean of my life
And shout down to me whither to change my course.”

 – Sarah Cleghorn
from “The Lookout”
 Portraits and Protests

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I know I am not alone in having dreams and goals. And just like you, I experience periods of seemingly endless challenges and/or loss in which those dreams are so far on the back burner, the stove isn’t even in the room.

There are numerous ways to find our way back, and one of them that I resurrected this morning is the book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Greater Creativity by Julia Cameron. I read the book awhile ago and did a number of the exercises, but I think, right now, checking in with artist/writer/teacher Julia will help me get back on the path to my dream. While I have never stopped being creative, I’ve not had the energy, focus or desire to pursue what I most want to do with it. I’m seeing a spark again, and I want to grow that glimmer.

Feeling stuck artistically? I recommend The Artist’s Way for any creative person who is struggling with getting their show on the road.

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In Memory of Kathy  –  1/31/1942 – 2/2/2012

While you were dying,
my wings were open.
the empty breeze whistled through,
an exhalation of sorrow,
and I, half frozen,
watched the clouds, the rain, the moon
go by for days.
They took no notice of me
hovering in place.

I fed the cats and swept the stairs
Got the mail, ran laundry through
Got dishes washed, paid the bills
Answered e-mails, watched TV,
All while you were dying.

Though miles away
I held you close and we
laughed at life
in all its beauty and contrariness.
Why should now be different?
I watched your angels
light the way,
knowing
their wings would soon enfold you.
I held my breath
while you were gently dying.

And then …

A light within the light.
Unanticipated joy.
You, luminous.
And me,
Wings beating,
Soaring
in love,
remembering,
and remembering,
dear friend,
that you
were never dying.

Jeanne Balsam
February 3, 2012

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” … but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply…. ”

~Edna St Vincent Millay
Sonnet XLIII

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“This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

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Although I wrote this poem December 4 and had made a few edits, I intended to tighten it up further and submit it before the deadline to children’s book author David Harrison’s blog. He has a poetry contest each month, writing to a specific topic. December’s was “Bones.” I’m guessing with the holidays, my intentions got lost in the shuffle as I missed the deadline, so I’m posting it here. If interested, David’s topic for January is “Time.”

BONES

In violet, indigo and dusky blue,
they shadow their bones
across silver snow
in the sharp morning sun.

They bare their essence
and nod in silence
to admiring passersby.

Standing tall
in their most primitive selves
they are visions
of grace and pride.

I am Oak.
I am Ash.
I am Poplar.

Soon enough
Spring will come
cloaking their branches in
effusive greens,
in camouflage,
and playful disarray.

But for winter …

I am my bones.

Jeanne Balsam
December 2009

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Zombie Delight

The Epicurean Z

You ask what makes my culinary bell ring?
I’ll tell you, dear friends, it’s only one thing.

ZombieFingersSmallFingers!

With garlic and butter in a delicate sauté,
Or toss with linguine and a sauce de Mornay.

Cut thin and layered for a scalloped delight,
Or simmer in red sauce … it’s Italian tonight!

Chopped and toasted gives salads a crunch,
Or slice thin on rye for a delectable lunch.

Breaded and deep-fried, tartar sauce on the side,
With brainslaw, you’ll think you went to heaven and died!

Thumbs work best in a rich brown stew,
Or slather with honey on the barbecue.

Now when baking, you’ll want to remove all the nails,
Smooth texture’s a must or the recipe fails.

Chop and add raisins, for a great autumn pie,
Puree as ganache for a torte layers high.

Arrange young fingers with a tart lemon mousse,
Or serve them with custard for a fab Charlotte Russe.

(Well, where did you think they got the idea of ladyfingers from?)

Studded in ice cream with a fudge sauce that’s hot,
Can fingers be more flexible? I really think not!

They’re suited for dinners, or occasions quite grand,
But if in a rush, eat `em right off the hand!

Ready to cook? To scramble or bake?
Pick up Zombie Gourmet – turn to page forty-eight.

© Jeanne Balsam, 2009

HappyHalloween

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