Easy to say, but hard to do is to concentrate on our thoughts. Really concentrate. I was recently asked how negative inner voices are serving me? Working on changing that, hon. I hope you are, too.
There we were, hiking down a trail in Meyer Ranch, Colorado this summer, when we came upon a meadow with the largest dandelions I’d ever seen. It’s like the universe was saying, “Hon, writing and publishing Kidlit is such a herculean ask, you need wishes big enough, loud enough, and strong enough to be carried all the way from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Take a deep breath and blow!”
Turns out the palm-sized puffballs aren’t dandelions, but Western Salsify whose flowers looks like a yellow daisies. Soon after, we met the infamous llamas, Stardust and OnFire, and that chance meeting was even more spectacular than hiking in the Rockies, discovering golfball-sized dandelion lookalikes, listening to the click-click-click of a flying grasshopper, passing an elderly man hiking uphill with a cannula and portable oxygen, and saying hi to many happy dogs with their people.
Then, a week ago I was on a run and stopped mid-stride to take a pic. I asked the homeowner if he’d put “Don’t Give Up” out just for me and he said, “If that’s what you need…”
It is. It’s what I need.
So, in an effort to take a deep breath and blow my wishes and energy and thoughts and words and characters and layers and stories all the way from my imagination to the page to childrens’ imaginations, I’m posting a series called Sorbet for the Soul–photos and sentiments along with literal and figurative signs which beg for my attention.
Maybe if I take a moment to blow giant wishes and absorb messages and do the thing that informs my life–finding the extraordinary in the ordinary–my herculean ask will one day soon come to fruition.
I’m re-posting this poem, a prayer, from last Memorial Day with an added line.
In this year,
an historic year
of a global pandemic,
economic and educational disparities,
racial and religious hatred,
ideological and political divides,
innocence and freedom terrorized,
and our beautiful, irreplaceable earth
in deep trouble,
remember those who have served our country
and those who still do,
sons and daughters
whose families long to embrace them
and welcome them home.
Last in series of posts from Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona.
I found many of Miró’s works intriguing for their artistry and for their meanings. As a writer whose Kidlit language is lyrical and seemingly simple, but actually layered with emotion and action, I appreciate knowing the thoughts that inspired the process.
When it comes to canvases saturated with one color, I have a harder time connecting to the work, but the meaning behind “Landscape” felt different–it’s like us as individuals in our lives or us as humans in the universe.
“Letters and Numbers Attracted by a Spark(V)” called out to me. Letters float in the sky and look down on water and earth. I wonder,
Do the letters which form sentences and tell stories that are derived from my imagination with the goal of resonating with children ever going to get a chance to come to life?
The depth of meaning in Joan Miró’s work springs from a desire to capture the essence of human existence. On a personal level, this desire also implied an affirmation of identity that arose from Miró’s strong connection with the land–with Mont-roig, the original source of his creativity. ‘It is the land, the land. It is stronger than I. The fantastic mountains have a very important role in my life, and so does the sky. It is the clash between these forms within my soul, rather than the vision itself. In Mont-roig it is the force that nurtures me, the force.’Excerpts from Fundació Joan Miró
We can’t avoid the saddest part of our humanity and though we know we’ll have to deal with it, as my husband’s Aunt Pauline said, “It never gets easier.”
I haven’t posted in awhile because Cecile Gruer, my 86 year-old mother-in-law and matriarch of our family, passed away last week. There’s so much to say about her decline, measures that were taken to try to restore her health, and the month she spent under hospice care. The last time she celebrated a happy occasion with the family was her granddaughter’s wedding in September 2021. Even then, she wasn’t truly herself.
There’s much more to say about Cecile, who as a young girl in Poland, ran with her parents and siblings from the Nazi’s during WWII. She spent years in Siberia, freezing and starving. After the war ended, she was a teenager in an Austrian displaced persons camp. Her immediate family eventually moved to America, first to St. Louis and then to New York. She met Morris, another Holocaust survivor, in Brooklyn, NY and they married and built a home and family. So much to say…
The outpouring of sympathy from family and friends illustrates the importance of community. It may sound cliche, but it’s crucial to support each other when a life starts and when it ends.
Hubby and I are exhausted from the many months of Cecile’s decline, reeling from witnessing her personality change, saddened by her loss of communication, and grieving her passing. A tribute post will have to wait. Though Cecile didn’t die young, Jon Pineda’s poem on grief strikes a chord.
My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task was published in The New York Times Magazine January 16, 2022 with commentary by Victoria Chang. She said, “I first read this poem on Twitter, and even though it’s a simple poem about grief, it stayed with me. I’m fascinated by the way that it discloses so much in its title, showing how a title can get important information out of the way so that the poem can breathe on its own. Yet the reader doesn’t know what the ‘task’ is until the third stanza. The poem is an example of how abundant emotions can be conveyed by stripping language down to the bone.”
My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task
A basket of apples brown in our kitchen,
their warm scent is the scent of ripening,
and my sister, entering the room quietly,
takes a seat at the table, takes up the task
of peeling slowly away the blemished skins,
even half-rotten ones are salvaged carefully.
She makes sure to carve out the mealy flesh.
For this, I am grateful. I explain, this elegy
would love to save everything. She smiles at me,
and before long, the empty bowl she uses fills,
domed with thin slices she brushes into
the mouth of a steaming pot on the stove.
What can I do? I ask finally. Nothing,
she says, let me finish this one thing alone.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kindness is the theme at preschool. Kindness is taught all year, but this week it’s emphasized with child-led acts of kindness. What can young children do?
Transcript of speech by
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
August 28, 1963. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the comers of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to change racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice ring out for all of God’s children.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted citizenship rights.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
And the marvelous new militarism which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize that their destiny is part of our destiny.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and before the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the mount with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, )mowing that we will be free one day.
And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”
One of my favorite sounds is the nighttime chirping of grasshoppers and crickets. Summer chirping lulls me to sleep the same way as ocean waves. Right about now, in mid-October, I pay close attention to insect mate-calling. There will be a night when the air is filled with nature’s stereo, and the next night the record’s put back in its sleeve. Though I love autumn, it makes me melancholy to bid an official farewell to perfect-temperature-nights, warm-sand-days, and a summer’s promise of possibilities.
As I continue to work towards my writing goals, I’ve added something to my thought process–manifestation. I concentrate on my goals; what they are and what it would feel like to achieve them. If you see me gazing at the sky, know that I am sending my independent-minded characters, lyrical writing, and layered stories out into the universe, hoping they find champions who will bring them to life.
Did I know that when I read the poignant poem Postlude, I was also manifesting a grasshopper? I did not, but there he was, away from his lawn forest, a striped-leg, little guy who let me scoop him up. When I opened up my palm, he hung out and studied me with his five eyes. Then, he hopped out of my hand.
Do you think it’s a sign? A coincidence? A message from the universe that my-work-my-heart-my-passion to share the wonder in the world by writing Kidlit is traveling on both puffy white clouds and waving green grass? I pray so.
Stay by the hearth, little cricket.
You prefer me invisible, no more than
a crisp salute far away from
your silks and firewood and woolens.
Out of sight, I’m merely an annoyance,
one slim, obstinate wrinkle in night’s
deepening trance. When sleep fails,
you wish me shushed and back in my hole.
As usual, you’re not listening: Time stops
only if you stop long enough to hear it
passing. This is my business:
I’ve got ten weeks left to croon through.
What you hear is a lifetime of song.
by Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winning poet
I wanted to post a poem on 9/11 and found “For Our World” by teen poet Mattie Stepanek. Though my memories flooded back and I wrote “Who Can Forget?”, Stepanek’s poem is as relevant now as the day it was written. The poem addresses strife in our world while, also, speaking to anguish on a personal level. On Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year, we ask G-d and our loved ones to forgive us for our sins as we contemplate our mortality.
And. And, this year is the 5th anniversary of my mom’s and, three weeks later, sister-in-law’s passings. My mom would have been 80 and Sharon would have been 60. When my mom thought, for a brief moment, that she might live, she talked about what she wanted to do with her future. Up until her diagnosis of lung cancer, she’d spent most of her time working, with some time for reading and gardening. Granted, she had an amazing career as an award-winning investigative journalist and editor, but she lamented not finding something else besides occasionally spending time with friends and grandchildren that brought her joy. My mom said she wanted to volunteer at Stella Maris, a long-term care facility where she’d interviewed the nuns.
My mother-in-law, an 86 year old Holocaust survivor, whose health has recently declined, has also been talking about what she’d like to do in her future. When is the right time to add into our lives “the blessing of songs that grow in our hearts?”
The culmination of the Days of Awe is the fast day of Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). This is the day…according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year. Because of the nature of Yom Kippur and its associated rituals, it is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.My Jewish Learning
For Our World
We need to stop.
Stop for a moment.
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice.
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Be for a moment.
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace.
September 11, 2001
© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek 1990 -2004
from Hope Through Heartsongs, Hyperion, 2002
Mattie Stepanek was 11 years old when he wrote this poem on the day of 9-11.
Sadly he passed away in 2004 after a long battle with Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy.
You can learn more about his brief, amazing, inspiring life at his website: http://www.mattieonline.com/
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11,
Who Can Forget?
Our nation’s loss of innocence,
a class parents’ meeting at elementary school,
the nurse whispering in the principal’s ear,
one mom fleeing upon hearing the news
implementing the emergency call system,
watching annihilation in real time,
screaming and crying at the t.v.,
clinging to my three-month old baby,
rushing my triplet seven year olds home,
my son vowing to become a soldier,
praying for my husband who worked in Manhattan,
fielding concerned calls from across the country,
learning that a friend ran to the city to canvas hospitals
while her children stayed at a neighbor’s
hugging my husband when he walked in the door,
witnessing smoke curling into the heavens
from an altered skyline,
passing empty cars in parking lots,
working at a childrens boutique,
crying with customers who were dressing their children
for parents’ funerals,
learning whose spouses came home
and whose didn’t,
attending the funeral for my friend’s husband,
and recognizing how unspeakable horror
wreaks everlasting destruction
on hearts, minds and lives.