Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Looking Back: Enduring Song

 Welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday. Here you will find a group of authors and poets who write monthly about spiritual matters. You are welcome to write your own response and join in. I'm hosting today so you will find links to other posts in today's comments. Our prompt is about looking into the past for something that has shaped or inspired our current spiritual practice or outlook. 

When I was a child, my family attended a lovely little church. Every Sunday we sang a call-and-response liturgy which became very natural to me and which included these words from Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God

and renew a right spirit within me

cast me not away from thy presence

and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.

Restore unto me

the joy of thy salvation

and uphold me with thy free spirit.

These words are inscribed on my heart and in my head. They come to me unbidden, and have become some of my favorite verses. My current church does not practice a musical liturgy, and I sometimes miss it. For me, there is value in the repetition of these words. Over time they have grown in meaning as they were repeated and reconsidered. I find that now, in my grandmother years, the music and words come to me as both a comfort and a strength. 

Words and music hold immense power. They move us to action or bring us to tears. I've put some of my favorite prayers, scripture and quotes on my walls and over my desk. I like being surrounded with words that lift me up and orient me spiritually.

I hope you have found, or will find, words/songs/psalms that take on deep meaning, that you can fall back on as touchstones. I hope they bring you strength, joy, courage and peace.  

Many blessings, and thanks for reading. 

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Celebrating Picture Perfect Poetry

 Greetings everyone! It is Poetry Friday and I have some poems to share.

Today I'm sharing my delight with Carol Labuzzetta's anthology: Picture Perfect Poetry.  I have three poems in this beautiful book, and I'm proud to share two of them today.  Carol's anthology is such a beauty! It is an anthology of Ekphrastic Nature Poetry for Students. (Ekphrastic refers to writing that describes a visual art, in this case nature photography.) So, this is a thanks to Carol for including my poems, and a sharing of both poems and photographs.

Autumn's Hold

Pumpkins squat and bright and round
Gathered now in autumn's hold
Your droll expressions so renowned
Pumpkins squat and bright and round.
What lessons in this fall playground?
Leave a seed! Shine your light! Be BOLD!
Pumpkins squat and bright and round
Gathered now in autumn's hold.

© Karen Eastlund

A note about this one:  I just now had the idea to BOLD the bold!  Also, this is a form called triolet: the first line is repeated three times.  I love that Carol made the entire page orange for this one.

The next poem was inspired not only by the sunset, but by a prompt from an online workshop I took with Georgia Heard. She suggested we write a poem beginning with "Things to do if you are a ..."

Things to Do if You are a Sunset

Sneak in
Put on neon
Delight in feathered flight
Hopscotch from cloud to cloud
Inspect your reflection on water
Flash on last surprise

© Karen Eastlund

Thanks ever so much for reading and thanks to Patricia Franz for hosting today. Be sure to check in on her blog to read a wonderful poem about planting sugar pines in a national forest. Also, she has a great quote about being part of something larger. Poetry Friday is that kind of gathering, and you can be part of it also.  Find Patricia and learn more HERE.  

Thursday, May 2, 2024

In Praise of all Growing Things


Greetings! My garden has called me and I've already planted lettuce, salad turnips and sugar snap pea pods. All have germinated, but not at well as I would like, so yesterday I put in a few more seeds.

Growing a garden is a new experience every year. Some plants flourish, some are eaten by rabbits. Some perennials thrive, some are flooded out. It's always a challenge, and always carries some reward.

Two plants I'm pleased with just now are below.  The pulmonaria at top, also called lungwort, pleases me every spring with its beautiful spotted leaves and purple flowers. This year I wrote a praise poem about it.

A Song of Praise

I praise all nature for purple lung-

wort, I love its wealth of leaves

pushing up from spring's cool dark earth,

deep green and pointed, mottled with silver

spots, lovely in vision all year long.

I give praise for its purple flowers

royally nestled in their soft leafy bed.

© Karen Eastlund

This poem is a form called kwansaba. It is a praise poem with 7 lines, 7 words per line, and 7 or fewer letters per word. The 7 letters per word was tricky and I had to adopt new words, or split words, as I did the word "lungwort."

The photo below is of my peperomia, which originally was given to me by my future husband a few months before we were married. It has had ups and downs over these 52 years, but this year it is glorious and I love it!

Gardening teaches patience and perseverance. It reminds me that life can be messy, and it forces me to get down on my knees. As I pull weeds and water my plants, I witness many blessings of the earth, and I marvel at the power of nature and the webs of interconnection. Gardening promotes respect for the earth, the importance of work and gratitude for each edible morsel. It helps me to appreciate beauty and accept its ephemerality. Each plant has its own family, habit of growth, weaknesses, and needs for flourishing. Keeping track of the names of plants both challenges and fascinates me. Gardens are full of surprises. Two years ago a tiny deep blue liatris showed up under my peony! I have put liatris in pots in the past, but hadn't seen one in some years. What a joy! Gardens and growing things are continual blessings, and upon consideration, I believe lessons from the garden are endless.

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
  The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden,
  Than anywhere else on earth.

These words are from the poem "God's Garden" by Dorothy Frances Gurney, born in 1858

I can't leave without a song or two, since SONG is my OLW for 2024. Here's a cute one I just found, perfect for a little one.

And here's one I learned years ago. There are many videos of this song, but I chose Pete Seeger's because his words are a little different, like a personal prayer. 

Thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for the prompt this month, and for hosting the Spiritual Journey Thursday group. Find Jone and links to others in the group HERE.

Friday, April 26, 2024

National Poetry Month: Two Elfchens


Hello Everyone!  National Poetry Month is nearing its end, and I've written two little poems that I'm happy to share today. Many of my poems this month have been elfchens, a form I have come to appreciate for its challenge of so few words.

This first poem came into being as a storm front came through, and I was fascinated by the clouds. They were low and ominous and deep gray, and they scudded past at a good clip.  At the same time, I was reading a book about a wildlife preserve in Africa. So... maybe I pushed the envelope here with the metaphor?  Anyway...  tell me what you think. (Older photo from a trip to MN.)


Gray clouds
Heavy as rhinos
Stampede across the horizon.

The second poem comes from the view out my front window. Spring is at its height here, and I can tell because my eyes are itchy. It happens when the lilacs bloom. Bummer! I love their sweet scent.

Twirling, Twirling

seeds adorn
maple's graceful arms.
On cue, breeze whispers: 

Hey, have you seen this???  Soon I'll be sharing some of my poems from Carol Labuzzetta's anthology, Picture Perfect Poetry. I'm so pleased with this beautiful gathering of photography and poetry.  I hope you will pick up a copy!

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth, all the way from Uganda!  She has written a beautiful poem about her dreams of Haiti, where she once lived.  Find her blog and links to others HERE.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Progressive Poem 2024 is Here!

 Hello Everyone:

It's my day to add to this year's Progressive Poem. I think this is the third time I've participated in this month-long tradition of adding a line to a poem written by the participants in our Poetry Friday forum.

This idea was started in 2012 by Irene Latham as a celebration of National Poetry Month. The Progressive Poem is now hosted by Margaret Simon. Thank you, Margaret, for this gorgeous graphic and for organizing this year's poem and giving it shape.

Here is the poem so far, with my lines in bold:

cradled in stars, our planet sleeps,
clinging to tender dreams of peace
sister moon watches from afar
    singing lunar lullabies of hope.

almost dawn, I walk with others,
    keeping close, my little brother.
hand in hand, we carry courage
escaping closer to the border.

My feet are lightning;
My heart is thunder.
Our pace draws us closer
to a new land of wonder.

I bristle against rough brush --
poppies ahead brighten the browns.
Morning light won't stay away --
Hearts jump at every sound.
I hum my own little song
like ripples in a stream

And now I pass the poem along to Linda Baie at Teacher Dance. I hope you will follow along!

Here’s the schedule for the 2024 Progressive Poem:

April 1 Patricia Franz at Reverie
April 2 Jone MacCulloch
April 3 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
April 4 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
April 5 Irene at Live Your Poem
April 6 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
April 7 Marcie Atkins
April 8 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God Forsaken Town
April 9 Karen Eastlund
April 10 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
April 11 Buffy Silverman
April 12 Linda Mitchell
April 13 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
April 14 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
April 15 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
April 16 Sarah Grace Tuttle
April 17 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
April 18 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
April 19 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
April 20 Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
April 21 Janet, hosted here at Reflections on the Teche
April 22 Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading
April 23 Tanita Davis at (fiction, instead of lies)
April 24 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
April 25 Joanne Emery at Word Dancer
April 26 Karin Fisher-Golton at Still in Awe
April 27
April 28 Dave at Leap of Dave
April 29 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
April 30 Michelle Kogan at More Art for All

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

A Song of Everyday Miracles

Thanks to Bob Hamera for hosting this month.  You can read about two miracles in his life HERE. Look through his comment section to find links to others in this group. Bob provided our prompt this month, to write about everyday miracles.  

Do you experience miracles in your life? I find miracles through my life experiences, and also through the books that come my way. Frederick Buechner, Kathleen Norris, and Madeline L'Engle were authors who spoke to me in small miracles. Also Sigurd Olson. 

Right now, Jennifer Ackerman's What an Owl Knows is on my reading table. It isn't exactly spiritual, but it does celebrate the many aspects of owls. And owls are one of God's miracles.

We saw a little saw-whet owl sitting on a wire just outside our window in one of our earliest apartments in Minneapolis. It was a cute little thing, no bigger than a robin, and we got a very good look at it. It didn't mind being out during the daylight hours, sheltered as it was between our duplex and the hill full of trees just behind. How lucky to be visited by such a creature.

Thanks to Cornell Lab

Later, walking in her Minneapolis neighborhood with my sister Marion, an owl flew just over my head. To be honest, I missed this encounter altogether, but Marion exclaimed and ducked on my behalf. 

My most memorable owl sighting was in Omaha, visiting my niece Becky.

Just before dusk we began to hear an owl, so we walked into the wooded area to see if we could find it.  No more than twenty steps and there it was, perched on a low branch: a great horned owl! What a gorgeous creature. We stood and stared for a long time, and the owl stared back. After a while we went back in the house and then into the woods again, and the owl was still there. It seemed to be communicating with another owl a short distance away, which we couldn't find. We thought the adult might have been shadowing a fledgling to be sure it was safe.

Now Ackerman's book brings me back to this memory, and teaches me about owls. The vocalizations of owls, for one thing, are much more varied and interesting than I understood. Did you know that owls don't just hoot, they shriek, yap, chitter, squeal, squawk, warble and wail plaintively?  Among great horned owls, the hoot is distinct from one individual to another. The number of notes can differ, and the spacing between hoots can change from one great horned owl to another. Did you know a nesting great horned owl will produce a broken-wing display when threatened? Fascinating!

Check out this little video of owl calls:

Communing with nature centers me and brings me peace. Looking into the eyes of an owl is an exciting and extraordinary experience. And consider that there is always more to learn, and that we as humans hunger for learning. These to me are miraculous.  

I believe the world is full of more miracles than we can imagine. Today it may be owls, but who knows what it will be tomorrow? 

Perhaps the miracle of surprise.

Have a wonderful, miraculous month. The world is waking up. Don't miss it!  

Friday, March 22, 2024

First Blossoms

 It has been off-and-on spring here.  Maybe it's the same with you. We've had 70 degrees and 25 degrees. We've had rain and sun, and the wind has been quite phenomenal.  A front came through yesterday and hit the house like a blast, and knocked over a recycling container. I was concerned for the guy who was taking down a tree at the end of our block. He as hanging from a giant crane, cutting branches from some old white pines. Fortunately he was done with that part of the job. 

Anyway, spring IS here and the early blossoms are nodding in the wind. Do the first bright flowers of spring give you a spark of delight? I tried to capture that feeling as I wrote this haiku.  

Holding my breath for

first flash of lightning - striking

yellow daffodils.

---draft Karen Eastlund

I was reading Diane Ackerman's poetry last night, and came across this lovely poem:

School Prayer Poem

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night

and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.

Diane Ackerman   (read entire poem HERE.)

The forsythia are blooming now also. New Jersey has a lovely long spring. Today it feels like winter, temperature now is 28, but spring will be triumphant!

Have a wonderful week, and thanks for visiting. Say Hi! in the comments!

Find the rest of the Poetry Friday group at Rose Cappelli's Imagine the Possibilities. She has some lovely bird poems for us today.  Thanks for hosting, Rose!  Click HERE to read her post.