Thursday, December 21, 2023

Merry Christmas 2023

 In the middle of wrapping presents and listening to good music, I realized it was time to wish you all a deeply peaceful and joyful Christmas. So... welcome!

The big tree near our front door had to be taken out this year. It was sad to see it go, but a small one now stands in its place. Time will fill it in. Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages, and luckily the size of the package does not limit the amount of hope it carries. Hope soars. Hope radiates at Christmas.

And do you see the star in front of the bush?  That star used to top our big tree.  I decided it could shine its light where it is, hung on a small metal post. Our new tree isn't ready for it yet, but the star still glows. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

We won't put up a tree this year, but I'm decorating the house with some of my favorite ornaments.  Love is at the heart of Christmas, tree or no tree. 

For the past several years, the telling of the 1914 truce titled All is Calm on PBS, sung by an extraordinary men's choir, has been one of my Christmas highlights.  Watch for it! I recommend it to you wholeheartedly.  

My wish for all of you is in the poem below, with my thanks to Linda Mitchell for creating the perfect star for the top of my poet-tree.  


time of year

presents a mystery

That out of darkness

comes a ray of light...A

time to dream, to gather family

To tell the holy tale of that first night

To hug a child and sing to heart's delight

To feast and laugh and bask in family lore

May all these yuletide blessings find your door.

@Karen Eastlund


It is Poetry Friday, and you can find all the Poetry Friday gang at Jone's... click HERE.  

Thanks so much for hosting, Jone!  

Constructive comments welcome! 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Leaning into the Dark

 Welcome to another Spiritual Journey Thursday, a group that gathers monthly to share insights into our spiritual lives.  Thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for hosting this month, and for offering these prompts:

How do you honor/embrace this time of darkness?
Where do you find the points of light in your life?
Find Jone's thoughts and links HERE.

In many ways, darkness is my friend. I have been avoiding direct sunlight for a number of years, and I've come to value the night for its quiet shroud of mystery and beauty. I'm relieved at the summer solstice, when days begin to grow shorter. The hardest time of the year for me is late spring and summer. It's become a joke that I'm always in these clunky dark glasses, so in a moment of solidarity my grands and I made this photo. It always makes me smile.

Recently we rented a house on a quiet lake in the Adirondacks. The first night it rained, but the next two nights were beautiful: the clear deep blue allowed me to see the Milky Way. Have you seen it?  What overwhelming beauty and depth! Its great clusters of stars are both inspiring and humbling. Who am I in comparison? I think we lose this perspective under city lights.  I was so drawn to the dark world that I slept on a couch on the screen porch, looking at the stars and listening to loons and owls. Temperatures dipped into the 40s, but still it felt glorious. Restorative.

It's ironic that the dark allows us to see more stars, and it also points to another truth. We need a time of shadow or darkness in order to appreciate and filter the barrage of the day's events. We need to mull, to let our minds go dark and see what surfaces. Times of dark can facilitate that.

In Genesis there are two days of creation dedicated to appointing and separating the dark and the light. Two days! And God saw that it was good. Night is provided for rest, prayer, mulling and creating

Before the onset of industry and electricity, the darker seasons offered extended time to rest and reflect. Like a seed in the earth, these times were good for germination. At night people gathered
 around a fire as they mended nets, laughed, hugged and told stories. 

Nighttime is still story time, still the weaver of dreams. Many of our favorites feature the night, all the way from Good Night Moon and Owl Babies to Little House in the Big Woods and Something Wicked This Way Comes, stories help us address the challenge and fear of darkness and find a way to endure it.  

Professor A. Roger Ekirch wrote At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, which I've started but not finished. One interesting claim is that the "oldest occupation" is not prostitution, as we've often been told, but instead is night watchman. We have to admit that night demands precautions and can be a trial for many of us. I'm not immune.

Whether you light a candle in the dark or go out to look at the moon, I hope you will find some way to be comfortable in the darkness. Maybe we should practice night vision, searching for night's beauty. If we allow our eyes to adjust and our spirits to be willing, who knows what we will find?

Finally, no matter our attitude, some nights can seem too long. Remember that Christ declared, "I am Light of the World." Remember the Gospel of John reassures us with this powerful statement:
John 1:5  The light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. 

May it be so.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Poem written for David Wiesner's Tuesday

 Hello and welcome to Poetry Friday, where children's poets, teachers, and librarians gather to have some poetic fun. Today's gathering is hosted by Anastasia Suen, who shares a lovely poem about first snow. Find her and the rest of the group HERE.  

Recently I decided to use Tuesday by David Wiesner as my prompt.  I was culling through my collection of children's books when reminded of a certain young student, doubled up with laughter, over this book. It is a gem.  

I admit to some pride in this artist because David Wiesner graduated from Bridgewater Raritan High School... our own local high school. Wiesner bloomed on my radar when I was working as a children's librarian in Raritan, when I learned that he won three Caldecott Awards:  Tuesday in 1992, The Three Pigs in 2002, and Flotsam in 2007. Amazing!

Tuesday tells a story in pictures, a tale of considerable mystery and mirth. It is a great conversation starter for you and your children or students, and indeed it was a good prompt for me.

Eerily, eerily
Out of the marshlands
Frogs rise on lily pads
Lift to the sky
Warily, warily,
People look up to see
Frogs flying everywhere
No one knows why

Finally, Finally
On goes the mystery
Snackers and canines and
Cops on the beat
Rescuers mutter and
Lily pads litter and
Something suggests 
There may be a repeat

        © Karen Eastlund

Find Tuesday on Amazon to see several video reviews to further whet your appetite.  Even though published in 1992, it is still available. Highly recommended, this book deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Happy December, everyone!

Thursday, November 2, 2023


 Thanks to Fran Haley for hosting this month, and for providing the theme of Renewal for our consideration.  Find her post and links to others HERE.

We had our first hard frost last night, and this morning every twig and blade of grass is dressed in diamonds. In the realm of renewal, there is a cycle. This is the time of last harvest, a time to pull out the day lilies that didn't bloom and that I never liked, dig in some good compost, and let the garden rest over the winter. A fallow time. 

I love fall: the color change, the cooler days and brisk breezes. And this week, once again, the smell of candle flame on pumpkin flesh. I do love it. But over time, seasons offer new perspectives. We change, and our expectations change with them.  I don't jump into piles of leaves anymore. I gave that up years ago. I do like raking leaves: fresh air, crisp leaves crunching underfoot and the rake scritching music in my ears. Raking, I tell myself, is good exercise. 

Still, as I raked yesterday, I began to think a new thought. Raking is beginning to hurt my arthritic hands. Do I really need to do it? Maybe I could get someone to do it for me? Maybe I could give up my quiet protest against leaf blowers? Maybe I could be less stubborn? 

Maybe I'm giving in, but I'm calling it renewal. Each day is a gift, and with it comes change and the challenge of dealing with that change. I will probably resist for another season, but sooner or later I will have to accept changes. When I do, I'll call it healthy renewal.

For me, renewal is an aspect of our beings that points to the image of God. Our bodies aren't static, instead they constantly renew themselves. We have the capacity to learn and create. The patterns of nature give us a blueprint of renewal. Each drink of water and slice of bread renews us. Songs and stories renew us. Wind in the face renews us.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made... Psalm 139:14

Mary Oliver asks us, in the last line of her wonderful poem The Summer Day:  Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I plan to keep writing, and reading, and trying to figure out what God is telling me. I plan to keep working on renewal. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Almost Bewitched

 It's almost Halloween, and the cool nights and the bright leaves and the pumpkins are all gathering.  I saw photos of witches on paddleboards, which was amusing but beyond my current abilities. Haha. I ordered a new witchy hat in red, but it's big for me. I look like I'm hiding under a red mushroom. Maybe I'll find another recipient.  

Anyway, I have a new poem. I was inspired to write this by a recent experience. 


In soft evening light
Lake lapping
I find a performance
Just at the shore

Acrobats in black
Doing stunts for their supper
I see them flutter

Watching the troupe
I see flying near-misses
But look: This one kisses
Her lake-mirrored image!

It's a natural act
A banquet on the wing
I see flutters and swoops
Daring dives and braided loops
It's a traveling circus!

In soft evening light
Acrobats flutter and feast
Lake mirrors their moves
And I am a sister

© Karen Eastlund 2023

Have a fun Halloween, everyone!  And don't forget to join the gang for Poetry Friday. This week is hosted by Carol Labuzzetta... she's sharing more bat goodness!  Find it HERE.

Friday, October 13, 2023


I love to carve a pumpkin, no matter how the face turns out. The gooey pumpkin innards and the smell of singed pumpkin take me back to early days. I always have candle stubs to light inside and watch the flickering light. It's much spookier that way, but of course I have to be careful.  I suspect it's more fun for me than for the children who come to my door, but that's fine. It amuses me each year.


Jack-o-lanterns' homemade faces

Teasing, grinning


Bright --

See them peek from

Sills and

Gates --

Will they spook us

On that


©  Karen Eastlund

Thanks to J. Patrick Lewis for this poetic form, called a zeno.  The syllable count is 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1.

If you start practicing now, you can learn THIS SONG by Halloween.

 It's Poetry Friday!  Find the whole gang and their poetry offerings at Reading to the Core. Thanks to Catherine Flynn for hosting today and writing about the human urge to leave our mark.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Autumn: A Gathering of Gladness

Thanks to Ramona Behnke who prompted our group to write about gladness this month.  In particular, how to gather gladness. You can find Ramona's post and links to others at her blog Pleasure From the Page. 

I was looking through old photos when I was unexpectedly struck by the many blessings of my life. To be honest, some photos took my breath away. Why unexpectedly? In some I didn't remember the faces being so beautiful. Or I didn't remember the tenderness I had witnessed.  I didn't remember some moments at all. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed. 

I sometimes feel that my entire life has been one long journey out of fog. It seems that blessings have been staring me in the face, and oftentimes I've been blind to them. What was I thinking? Where was my focus?

Then I came across this poem by Chesterton. I think it speaks very well to my experience and this prompt.   

Lo! I am come to autumn, When all the leaves are gold; Grey hairs and golden leaves cry out The year and I are old.

In youth I sought the prince of men, Captain in cosmic wars, Our Titan, even the weeds would show Defiant, to the stars.

But now a great thing in the street Seems any human nod, Where shift in strange democracy The million masks of God.

In youth I sought the golden flower Hidden in wood or wold, But I am come to autumn, When all the leaves are gold.

        - G.K.Chesterton

Marlene Figge wrote about this poem: This unexpected discovery that he (Chesterton) is surrounded by an abundance of what he seeks is a metaphor for his encounter with grace.   
You can read her entire article HERE.

One way to gather gladness is to look back at photos. They can surprise you and bless you.
Also, gather gladness as you read! Many blessings...many tidings of comfort and joy... can be gathered from scripture. 1 Corinthians 13:12 promises:
12 For now we see only a reflection, as in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
I wish you an autumn full of gatherings and gladness.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Moon, The Moon... How we love the Moon!

Evenings darken earlier now, and when I go out I notice the moon, right there, shining down on me.  This past week it was a waxing crescent, lightly clouded over and gauzy.  Leaves are beginning to turn, the air is nippy, and the moon looks spooky. Perfect!

Ted Kooser wrote a poem that I like very much, from his collection of poems titled "Winter Mornings: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison." It begins:

Only a crust of moon is left
to offer the morning,

I can almost feel that crust, rough and dry in my throat. But in spite of that crust sounding like a cold dry leftover, it also sounds intriguing. There's something about the tiny crescent that fascinates and even amuses. Not much to offer the morning, perhaps, but much to offer the imagination.

Speaking of imagination, I'm dedicating some space to a new book by Irene Latham titled The Museum on the Moon: Curious Objects on the Lunar Surface. Myriam Wares illustrated it with just the right tones for the calm bright surfaces of the moon, and Irene wrote poems for each artifact that has been left there. I really like the premise for this book: curious objects that have been left on the moon. What a fascinating topic!

Irene's poems are delightful. I have several favorites, but I'd like to share a bit of this one because in just a few words it made me think about something I had not considered:

Forever Footprints

Human tracks tattoo
Moon's rutted face --

With no wind, no rain
There's no way to erase...

I invite you to find Irene's book and share it. It will be perfect for a classroom or that young person who is enthralled with space.  And don't miss the final pages, which are full of astronauts and timelines and many good notes about the moon and its visitors.  Congratulations, Irene! Stellar!!!

And now... 

How about a fun Moon craft?  I did this with kids ages 4 to 12, and they all loved it.  Mix paint with flour until it looks like paste, brush a thick layer on a paper circle and stamp it with various sized circles. After a day for drying: Tada!!! A moon with craters.  So fun!

I wrote a moon poem some years ago, and decided to rework it for today's blog.  Today is a full moon, by the way... the Harvest Moon!  I hope the clouds give me a chance to see it.

Sister Moon

Come close
Sister Moon
Show me your 
Glowing face
Whisper to me 
Of your mystery
Of beauty, strength, 
And grace

What do you keep
In your thin crescent bowl?
When you melt away
Where do you hide?
What makes you blush
Bright as a cardinal?
What enchantment
Charms the tides?

We're sisters, dear Moon
We share a wealth
Of sunshine 
From above
I'm glad for your glow, 
Little Sister Moon,
And I send you
All my love.

© Karen Eastlund, 2023

It is Poetry Friday, and you are invited to join the gang at 
Jama Rattigan's where she shares some
hilarious poetry.  Click HERE to join the fun.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Life at the Speed of Grace: Finding Beauty

 I turn 75 next month. Three quarters of a century! At times it feels like crazy talk, but of course it is true. I have the documentation. (Tiny chuckle inserted here.)

Life is slowing. I was reminded this summer when I overdid getting some chores done and felt several subsequent repercussions. I had to slow down and rest. Just rest. Time to be still and trust. Be still and listen. Be still and know...

What came of it? A lesson in patience. These are a constant need for me. A lesson in gratitude when I began to feel better, when I found some helpful hints on how to go forward. Gratitude for the ability to search and to learn. Gratitude for a body ready to go again. And a lesson in paying attention to my physical self and taking time to take care. Another constant need.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven...  
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8   

No matter the speed, grace continues to offer the best surprises. In the middle of CostCo recently, a little girl shrieked and I looked up. Our eyes met and she gave me the most knowing and beautiful smile that a tiny child could give. Yes! You got my attention. And for that moment of time, we shared a bit of humor that brightened my day.

Seasons come and seasons go. Each day is a chance to identify works of grace (in our church we call them God sightings), to celebrate, explore, find beauty, share laughter, give thanks.

Here are some images of beauty and grace in my world. 

Delicious beefsteak tomatoes from my garden

I'm trying a couple of fall crops this year... a hopeful venture.

Spider flowers/cleome reseed year after year. Summer ends "in the pink!"

While walking I found this blossom in the midst of wreckage

Peperomia at summer's end.

My peperomia looks so healthy now after breathing in the summer's air and light. I'll bring it in for the winter and it will bring me beauty and joy all winter long.

Thanks to Patricia Franz for this prompt and for hosting this month.
You can find her offering and links HERE.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Gerard Manley Hopkins

The summer is nearing its end and I am just beginning to harvest tomatoes. The deer ate all the early ones, but we finally had a lovely one with our dinner last night. And speaking of deer, they were nibbling on some new elderberry bushes again, so I got some peppermint spray and headed out to the yard when there, caught in the act, were two fauns. Still sporting their spots but getting leggy, they ran when we clapped.  Such a heart tug because they are beautiful and graceful, but so destructive.

Two weeks ago was the birthday of Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I just discovered Moonrise, shared below. What a treasure!  

You can find more about Hopkins' life HERE.  and more of his poetry HERE.  

Image by gmccrea from Pixabay


I awoke in the Midsummer not to call night, in the white and the walk of the morning:
The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a finger-nail held to the candle,
Or paring of paradisaïcal fruit, lovely in waning but lustreless,
Stepped from the stool, drew back from the barrow, of dark Maenefa the mountain;
A cusp still clasped him, a fluke yet fanged him, entangled him, not quit utterly.
This was the prized, the desirable sight, unsought, presented so easily,
Parted me leaf and leaf, divided me, eyelid and eyelid of slumber.

Hopkins always surprises and delights me with his word choices... his "fringe of a finger-nail" and "paring of fruit" in this poem, and elsewhere his "dappled things"  and "shook foil."  

I hope you will find some favorites.

Thanks to Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting the Poetry Friday roundup today. Believe me when I say that you will not want to miss her hilarious poem.  What a hoot!!! 

Good summer wishes to you all.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Til by turning, turning...

Linda Mitchell suggested the word "turn" as our focus for this month. Funny thing -we both referenced with the Shaker hymn below.  You probably know it, or have heard it: 

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come out right.

I remember singing this song but not being sure about the use of "turning, turning" in this instance, so I did a little digging.

This song was relatively unknown throughout our country until Aaron Copland used it in Appalachian Spring. The origin of the song, however, was in 1848 from Elder Joseph Brackett of a Shaker community. Some histories claim it was Elder Joseph Brackett's own song, and mention that Eldress Caroline Helfrich remembered seeing him sing it in a meeting room, turning about "with his coat tails a-flying." You can read more history HERE.

Shaker's believed in living a simple life, going so far as to embrace celibacy and communal living. You may have seen their beautiful but simple furniture, unadorned but graceful in line. Their beliefs stressed humility, so "to bow and bend" was their way. 

"To turn, turn, will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come out right"... the song accompanies a dance, but aside from the dance steps, does "to turn, turn" have a deeper meaning?

I remembered a lesson from long ago, and found this quote which confirmed my memory: from the website... MORE HERE:

You may be surprised to learn the word repent in the Greek New Testament simply means to turn around. It was a military term describing a soldier marching in one direction and doing an about-face, 180-degree turn. And when it’s used spiritually, it means to change your heart, mind, and habits.

Does this Shaker song speak of "turning" in the sense of repentance? Maybe. Isn't it by repentance that we "come out right?" Don't we all have times when we need to turn, to rethink a matter? To bend some... to practice humility?

"To turn, turn, will be our delight" brought another thought. The result of repentance is often a sense of easing our load, getting a weight off our chest. Yes, that is a delight. 

I wish I could have seen Elder Brackett's dance and asked him about these words. The concept of turning has long been part of the Christian tradition, and I suspect he knew that. Still, it didn't come to my mind right away, I had to think on it. How about you?

"Turn" has many definitions. I look forward to your thoughts.

I wanted to try a Fibonacci poem, and the words of this simple song inspired me. As often happens, one poem begets another:

To Turn: A Fibonacci Poem

Lift your heart
Turn as faith guides you
Delight in simplicity's grace

© Karen Eastlund


I turn to you, my friends, with these questions and comments, and I invite your response.

Many thanks to Linda Mitchell for this prompt and for hosting this month's Spiritual Journey.  You can find her post and links to others HERE.