Thursday, May 25, 2023

A Time of Blooms

 Happy Friday. It has been a crazy busy time here, and I've missed several Fridays. Alas!  I must make amends. And so, just to get my foot back in the door, I am posting some blooms from my garden, and some poetry to go with them.  Enjoy.

The poem I've chosen for this iris speaks to me of the May garden, which blooms gloriously and then is gone.  I wait all year for this...

Snow Geese
by Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.

Read the rest of Snow Geese HERE.

The peonies too, unfold their tight fists now with such elegance. Another of Mary Oliver's poems reminds me of this peony, her poem titled Swan, which speaks of "a perfect commotion of silk and linen."  You can read it HERE.

The peonies seem to demand some Japanese poetry... three haikus:

a rice bowl
filled to the brim
one peony
~ Buson

Dear, dear,
What a fat, happy face it has,
This peony!
– Issa

a bee
staggers out
of the peony

My garden is doing well so far. I have hopes of peas soon, and salad turnips. More poems in the offing.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Patricia Franz at Reverie.  Don't miss her celebration of 40 years of marriage which includes a Doobie Brothers poem. Thanks, Patricia!

Saturday, April 29, 2023

2023 Progressive Poem is HERE!

 It's Saturday, April 29th, and the Progressive Poem is HERE!  April is National Poetry Month, and the wonderful poets of the Poetry Friday community take turns adding lines to a poem that emerges/progresses over the month. This lovely tradition was started by Irene Latham and is currently curated by Margaret Simon. My thanks to both of them for this opportunity. This is my second time to participate, and both times I have signed up for the penultimate line. Whether I'm brave or foolish, it's too late now, the challenge is on...

There are few rules other than the poem must be for children, and previous lines cannot be changed without permission from the poet. So... here we are, almost at the end of the month, and below you can find the poem so far.

My line is added in red at the end.  Michelle Kogan will add the last line tomorrow. You can see the list of poets and their websites at the bottom of the page. 

Suddenly everything fell into place
like raindrops hitting soil and sinking in.

When morning first poked me, I’d wished it away
my mind in the mist, muddled, confused.

Was this a dream or reality, rousing my response?
The sun surged, urging me to join in its rising,

Rising like a crystal ball reflecting on morning dew.
I jumped out of bed, ready to explore the day.

My feet pull me outside and into the garden
Where lilies and bees weave…but wait! What’s that?

A bevy of bunnies jart and dart and play in the clover.
A dog barks and flash, the bunderstorm is over.

I breathe-brave, quiet. Like a seed,
as the day, foretold in my dream, ventured upon me.

Sunbeams guided me to the gate overgrown with wisteria
where I spotted the note tied to the gate.

As I reached the gnarled gate, pollen floated like fairy dust into my face. Aaah Choo!
Enter, if you must. We’ve been waiting for you.

Not giving the curious note a thought, I pushed the gate open and ran through.
Stopped in my tracks, eyes wide in awe—can this really be true?

Huge mushrooms for tables, vines twined into chairs,
A flutter of fairies filled flowery teawares 

With glazed nut cakes and apple blossom tea,
I heard soft whispers from behind a tree. Oh my! They had been “waiting for me!”

Still brave, but cautious, I waited for them.
Forested friends filled the glade. “You’ve arrived! Let the reverie begin!”

I laughed as my bare feet danced across the dew-soaked grass,
matching the beat of paws, claws, and wings—around me, above me.

Tea cakes and hugs, twice all around, then silly games and races 'til the sun slid down

Here are the poets and their links. And now, on to Michelle Kogan for the final line. Take it away, Michelle!

April 1 Mary Lee Hahn, Another Year of Reading

April 2 Heidi Mordhorst, My Juicy Little Universe

April 3 Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference

April 4 Buffy Silverman

April 5 Rose Cappelli, Imagine the Possibilities

April 6 Donna Smith, Mainely Write

April 7 Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche

April 8 Leigh Anne, A Day in the Life

April 9 Linda Mitchell, A Word Edgewise

April 10 Denise Krebs, Dare to Care

April 11 Emma Roller, Penguins and Poems

April 12 Dave Roller, Leap Of Dave

April 13 Irene Latham Live You Poem

April 14 Janice Scully, Salt City Verse

April 15 Jone Rush MacCulloch

April 16 Linda Baie, TeacherDance

April 17 Carol Varsalona, Beyond Literacy Link

April 18 Marcie Atkins

April 19 Carol Labuzzetta at The Apples in My Orchard 

April 20 Cathy Hutter, Poeturescapes

April 21 Sarah Grace Tuttle,  Sarah Grace Tuttle’s Blog,

April 22 Marilyn Garcia

April 23 Catherine,  Reading to the Core

April 24 Janet Fagal, hosted by Tabatha, The Opposite of Indifference

April 25 Ruth, There is no Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town

April 26 Patricia J. Franz, Reverie

April 27 Theresa Gaughan, Theresa’s Teaching Tidbits

April 28 Karin Fisher-Golton, Still in Awe Blog

April 29 Karen Eastlund, Karen’s Got a Blog

April 30 Michelle Kogan Illustration, Painting, and Writing

Thursday, April 27, 2023

In Celebration of the Pencil

 There's something about writing with a pencil. When I find the perfect one... the "right" one... my hand fairly flies across the page. The lead should be soft enough to make a satisfying mark, and the ease of erasure removes the anxiety of putting words on the page. A pencil mark is easy to change, and the pencil feels good in my hand. Confident. Easy. Ready to go.

Some time back I wrote this pencil poem, and I don't think I've shared it here, so here goes:

Hug it!

Have you hugged your pencil?
It's a handy utensil
It loves to make 
A good point

It doodles, erases
It even makes faces!
And it wiggles your words
Into print.

© Karen Eastlund

Thanks for joining me today, and a huge thanks to Ruth who is hosting today from Uganda!  Click HERE to find her post and links to the rest of the gang in the Poetry Friday community.

Special Alert: 

Check back here tomorrow for my penultimate line to the 

2023 Progressive Poem. 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

A Lesson in Flexibility and Pride

 It's National Poetry Month, and many of my poet friends are pulling out all the stops to celebrate.  I volunteered to add a line in the Progressive Poem, and offered to give a poetry program for school-aged children at my library.  Today I report on that adventure.

The librarian told me they weren't getting many school-aged children. Sad news. I called the day before the program. No one was signed up. I decided to show up anyway. When I arrived she said that two children were signed up, ages 7 and 4.

My plan was to engage in conversation about poetry, elicit some poems they might know and build on that. So... we started... yes, they knew several simple poems. I read some more and shared a poem or two of mine.

The four-year-old stayed with us for a while, then went to the lego table. His sister and I talked and read, enjoying especially some poems for two-voices. She is an excellent reader already at 7.  At some point I shared a photo from Margaret Simon's blog and elicited her reactions to it:

Then I read my poem:

Yes, yes!
Yes, I did!
I caught this fish
I did!

Mama's proud
Daddy too
I caught this fish!!!
I'm over the moon

    © Karen Eastlund

I had promised to send each child home with a poem in their pocket.  

My young friend, Fatima, chose the paper with the butterfly and bow, and we used my poem as a starting place to write her original poem:

Yes, yes!
Yes, I did!
I read this book
I did!

Amma's proud
Abba's proud too
I read this book
I'm over the moon!
    - Fatima

Fatima was proud of her poem, and she chose to stand up and read it to her mom, brother, the librarian and me. Of course we all clapped and congratulated her.

(An aside: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater had graciously offered to let me use one of her poems as a mentor text, but because of the age of the child, I used my own. Thanks, Amy.)

It's been some years since I've given a library program, and although I had hoped for an older group, and at least 4 children, I felt that sharing with one child helped me learn what worked and what didn't. The younger brother didn't care to make a poem for his pocket, and I didn't feel that a 4-year-old was ready for my offering, so that was okay. 

Just as David L. Harrison wrote this week after no one showed up for a poetry reading, we poets can be flexible... and proud. In retrospect, I'm happy with the outcome. One little girl went home with a poem in her pocket.  I'm proud of that.

Today's Poetry Friday gathering is hosted by Jone Ruth MacCulloch. Click HERE. Jone is hosting a collection of poems found in classic books. What a fun idea!  Be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

To Breathe a Prayer

 One of the practices I have learned, and that I call upon from time to time, is a breath prayer.  I am no longer sure how I learned it, but I do know that it brings me comfort and strength. 

What is a breath prayer?  As mentioned in the link below, it is prayer in which our breathing supports our practice. With each inhale I pray a short line, and with each exhale I pray a short line. The prayer I learned goes like this:

Inhale: Jesus Christ
Exhale: Son of God
Inhale: Have mercy on me
Exhale: A sinner.

This is also called the Jesus Prayer. There are occasions when I pray this prayer over and over, each breath and repetition bringing me clearer focus on the content of the prayer.  It is a prayer of praise and humility, a prayer of intercession, and a prayer that is always in my heart when I don't know how or what to pray. 

This web page suggests that we create our own breath prayers and offers further examples:

Today I tried creating my own for the first time. I find that I prefer a four-line prayer so that I have two sets of inhales and exhales.  My prayer is:

Lord of Life
Gentle shepherd
Grant me courage
To walk your path

I hope you will try breath prayer, and I wish you a glorious month. 

Be sure to visit Ruth at There's No such Things as a God-forsaken Town. You will find links in the comments to others in our Spiritual Journey group. Click HERE.  Thanks for our prompt this month, Ruth, and for hosting. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

Hope Chest

 Today's blog celebrates my mother's old hope chest, which is 100 years old this year. She was given this chest when she turned 16, and little did she know then of the ten children she would raise, or of the many grandchildren and great grandchildren that followed. I admit, I am currently behind in the count. 

I was surprised that no one else in the family wanted her hope chest. As furniture goes, I suppose it shouldn't have been a surprise. It is anything but pristine. I remember it sitting in our upstairs, full of blankets and quilts. We sat on it, stood on it as a stage when giving a play, and probably used it as a barrier during rubber band wars.  The scratches and dings remind me of our life together, and I view them warmly. 

Today the chest holds a quilt made by Mama's mother, Grace Pierce. Hand stitched, it is a beautiful lone star quilt which was once on my wall but is now a bit lumpy and needs rest. It also holds some weavings that I made years ago, some hats and mittens, and a flag or two. The beauty of the chest, however, is that it prompts memories. One hundred years of memories. 

Hope Chest

She would have loved 
the shoes of grands
and great-grands
huddled around 
her battered old 
hope chest.
If only she 
could hear 
their voices...
If, for a  
single day,
she could
join us...
catch the aroma 
of fresh coffee,
hear the clatter 
of pans 
on the stove
and a child
practicing piano,
or playing cards 
on the table,
laughter erupting,
whispers of comfort,
shuffling chairs,
a contented sigh after 
homemade bread
with butter...

How her eyes would shine.

 - Karen Eastlund

It dawns on me that even Mama would be surprised at some of the tales this chest could tell. And then again, maybe it's silence is a treasure also.

Margaret Simon's photo prompt this week set me off to find these photos and write this poem. Thank you Margaret!  

It's Poetry Friday at Rose Cappelli's blog... she's sharing poems celebrating spring HERE.  Thanks so much for hosting, Rose.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Words We Fall Back On


Welcome to our Spiritual Journey for March, 2023. Today I've asked members of the group to write about words they fall back on. I think that many of us have special verses or poems, hymns or quotes that give us strength and encouragement, and act as touchstones. 

Frederick Buechner wrote these words about the Power of Language:

I started to sense that words not only convey something, but are something; that words have color, depth, texture of their own, and the power to evoke vastly more than they mean; that words can be used not merely to make things clear, make things vivid, make things interesting and whatever else, but to make things happen inside the one who reads them or hears them. 


-Originally published in The Sacred Journey

Like Buechner, I love words and their power, life and texture. 

I am drawn to words, as any poet will admit. 

To me, nothing is more powerful than the first verse of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, 

and the Word was God.

I try to surround myself with words that encourage, delight, elevate, challenge, focus and lead the way. 

Lately I find myself falling back on this verse from Philippians 4:8 --

Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 

The world offers many temptations

At times I need a reminder to focus my thoughts, to remember that God is in charge. This Philippians verse has become a touchstone for me. 

Think about things that are excellent!!! 

Reflect beauty... reflect light...

Over my desk is this quote from Ray Bradbury: 

We all are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.  

 Bradbury endorses my OLW for the year: beauty. He suggests we act as filters, shedding the mundane and downright ugly, and sharing beauty. 

I'm all for it.

I hope you will leave your comments and links below. 

I look forward to reading the words you fall back on.