Friday, January 31, 2020

Dutch Masters

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, c.1662 - c.1665 - Johannes Vermeer

I was lucky enough to go on a bus trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week. It had been my dream to see their exhibit of the Dutch Masters, and that dream came true on Monday! What a trip!
I admired 600+ paintings by Dutch artists, including Rembrandt, students of Rembrandt, Franz Hals, Vermeer and more. The exhibit is titled: In Praise of Painting... and it is just that. 

My favorite:  this painting by Johannes Vermeer: Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. I wanted to write about it. Poetry written in response to art is called ekphrastic poetry. Here is my attempt:

In Praise

She stands at the window
Her coif of bleached linen
Gaze tilting out
Light bathing the room

She touches the window
Calm and contented
One hand holds a pitcher
Light bathing the room

The brilliance of white
The depth of the blue
The shadows and hues as they meet
The red on the table
The yellowing map
And the light
Fully bathing the room

© Karen Eastlund

Thanks for stopping by, and... please leave me your comments.

You are invited to join in Poetry Friday, hosted today by Jone Rush MacCulloch at deowriter.  
Learn more about Poetry Friday from Renee LaTulippe at No Water River.  It's poetry fun!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Book Talk featuring Sig Olson

Do you have a favorite book that you look to over and over? One that you read and reread, that never disappoints?  This post is about one of my all time favorite books, one that feels like an old friend. It would be very hard for me to say I have one favorite book, but Sigurd F. Olson's Wilderness Days is certainly among the top contenders.

If you happen to be familiar with Minnesota's famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, or if you are curious about the people who championed this wilderness area, you will know about Sigurd F. Olson. Some have called him the second John Muir. He helped draft the federal Wilderness Act and worked to establish a number of national parks and wilderness areas in the U.S.

In our early days, when we lived in Minnesota, my husband and I took a number of canoe trips into the BWCA. What adventures we had! What beauty!  

I had read some of Olson's books when I lived in Minnesota, but I didn't own any until I rummaged through a box of books at a yard sale after we moved to New Jersey. In the box, in its original but water stained dust jacket, was a copy of Wilderness Days. I eagerly paid a $1 for this treasure.  

Wilderness Days is a collection of writings from Sigurd Olson's several previous books, organized by season, containing those writings that most appealed to or moved his readers. These writings best express his love and respect for this unique wilderness. To me it is distilled beauty. 

There are certain passages that I have to read over and over. The mouse that rapturously and repeatedly slid down the side of his tent during a night of full moon. The wolves that followed him down a frozen lake. I always find gorgeous writing, love of wilderness, quiet adventure, and inspiration in Sig Olson. I always feel a little closer to the beauty of Minnesota. As below, most every line seems poetic.

"Moonlight on a frosted leaf belongs to the world of the intangibles." - Sigurd Olson

If you run into a copy of Wilderness Days, or any of Olson's books, I encourage you to try them. He is a consummate writer. His first book, The Singing Wilderness, became a NYT bestseller. In 1974 he was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for his nature writing. He also won highest honors from the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League, and more.  Sigurd Olson was the real deal. 
In those times when I need to refresh myself in the rich language of nature, this is one of my touchstones. I commend it to you also.

It's Poetry Friday, hosted today by Kathryn Apel,
who posts from Australia. You can find her
here. As you might guess, it is a difficult time for
Kathryn, but you'll want to hear her news, read her
poems and leave a comforting comment. Don't hesitate to join the Inlinkz party to find other blogs
offering poetry.

My best to you for a calm and productive week. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The lowly toothpick

It's January... a cold, windy, gray kind of day. What could be a better time to consider the work of the toothpick!  No kidding... I was looking through some of my poems, wondering what to post today, and I ran across this little ditty about toothpicks. So... I figured... why not???

The Toothpick

The toothpick is a tool
That's so simple
Any fool
Can poke one
'Tween two teeth
To get relief

Yet I give that pick
High praise
For its work on
Baking days
When it declares the cake's not done
In bas relief

© Karen Eastlund

The definition of a bas relief is a piece of artwork that is sculpted, carved or molded in such a way that it barely protrudes from the background flat surface.
A bas-relief inside a crypt in Egypt.

Toothpicks have done many jobs, but would you think of a toothpick as a map? Check out this excellent article by William Boyle, full of toothpick lore as well as memories of his grandfather's penchant for toothpicks:

It's Poetry Friday! You can find more poems by following the links on Catherine's blog:
Thanks for hosting, Catherine.

Have a great week, everyone.  

Friday, January 3, 2020

An Oldie but a Goodie

A poem recently popped into my mind, and I realized it was from a Christmas present I received when I was 3. If ever you doubt the importance and magic of poetry, consider that I still remember bits of a poem that came to me almost... well... let's just say many years ago.  My copy looked like the one to the left, but the background was blue instead of green.

The poem was from this beloved Giant Golden Book which, believe it or not, I've kept it all these years. Recently I've seen updated versions of this same book, but mine has something these newer versions do not.  Open the cover and... Ta DAAA!  Up pops Santa... still intact!

The poem I loved, and still love, tells about Grandfather Monkey, (who lived on the isthmus), who is winking and thinking and dreaming of Christmas.  Too fun, yes?

This poem is probably still copyrighted, so I won't quote it, but I still love the rhyme of isthmus with Christmas, and I love the arc of this poem, which begins with the grandfather thinking of all the good things he would like to get for Christmas, and ends with all the good gifts he gave his grandmonkeys... as well as the gifts he received. 

This was one of my favorite books as a child, and is still a treasure today. 

I commend it to you, if you should see it in the stores. At the time it was quite special to find gold paint on certain pages. I thought that was truly luxurious!

I hope my favorite story is still included: The Goat Who Played Santa Claus!  Something about that story seemed so warm and wonderful to me.

I hope you included some poetry in your holidays this year, and that your new year will be full of rhythm, rhyme and wordplay!

One Little Word 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday:  One Little Word

We used to be able to clean the house and get Thanksgiving dinner on the table in a couple of days. Now we start days ahead to make the side dishes to take to my son’s house. Energy levels change.


I have a number of big projects that I want to work on this year, and it will take serious patience on my part to sit down and dig into them. At the same time, I want my projects to show my best efforts. I want the quilt I have promised to be orderly. Ditto the history project I have begun.  And the blog!

I will need to be patient.

In my attempt to find a word for this year, I considered “Purposeful” and  “Write” … both with the idea of cultivating a disciplined writing life. I like the idea, but I also know myself. I write when and what I can. 

I am working on patience.

I was looking for a poem or quote to exemplify this idea, and I came across this verse: 

Good fruit takes patience… Luke 8:15.

Patience is my word for 2020.

These beautiful cakes were served at a New Year's Eve wedding we just attended. It surely took great patience to make them, and they were indeed "good fruit."  

Best to you all for a wonderful, happy and healthy 2020.