Monday, July 13, 2015


Feeling the Way

by Julia Hartwig

The most beautiful is what is still unfinished
a sky filled with stars uncharted by astronomers
a sketch by Leonardo a song broken off from emotion
A pencil a brush suspended in the air

I read the Polish poet Julia Hartwig's poem at the beginning of what turned out to be a very exhausting week, partly because Rob was away on a rare trip from home, but for other reasons, too. There are always reasons to be exhausted. (Insomnia, the heat, the smoke from forest fires rolling into town and filling my puny lungs, among them). But that's fine. I'm loading up on vitamins and naps this summer, from here on in. Part of my training regimen.

So I read the poem in Jane Hirshfield's Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. It stuck with me. And then I suppose I forgot about it, and then later as I was sitting with my fountain pen poised for rather a long time over a page, the image came back to me. And I wanted to read more by her. Happily, it turns out my library has a copy of her book, In Praise of the Unfinished, and so that will soon be mine. In the meantime though.

From the Writer's Almanac:

Demand It Courageously

by Julia Hartwig

Make some room for yourself, human animal.
Even a dog jostles about on his master's lap to
improve his position. And when he needs space he
runs forward, without paying attention to commands
or calls.
If you didn't manage to receive freedom as a gift,
demand it as courageously as bread and meat.
Make some room for yourself, human pride and
The Czech writer Hrabal said:
I have as much freedom as I take.

And from the Random House site:

Tell Me Why This Hurry

by Julia Hartwig

The lindens are blossoming the lindens have lost their blossoms
and this flowery procession moves without any restraint
Where are you hurrying lilies of the valley jasmines
petunias lilacs irises roses and peonies
Mondays and Tuesdays Wednesdays and Fridays
nasturtiums and gladioli zinnias and lobelias
yarrow dill goldenrod and grasses
flowery Mays and Junes and Julys and Augusts
lakes of flowers seas of flowers meadows
holy fires of fern one-day grails
Tell me why this hurry where are you rushing
in a cherry blizzard a deluge of greenness
all with the wind racing in one direction only
crowns proud yesterday today fallen into sand
eternal desires passions mistresses of destruction

In an excellent article on the poet by Cynthia Haven, Hartwig is quoted as saying, “My way of poetry is a long way.”

As often happens, I find a new poet, mainly because I'm looking for a poem for this blog.

And it does seem like summer could just slow down. I find it impossible to keep up to the cycles of blossoming. To the deepening of colours. To the changes and to all the pretty things woven in secret and silence.

So in between walks, and work and the daily tasks last week, I read Wendell Berry poems, and I read Raymond Carver poems. Both books from my own library.

Let's start with Berry.


If you love it, do not photograph
the woods as it now is, the leaves
in sunlight and shadow hardly stirring
in the air of the hot afternoon.
Do not try to remember it, stopping
the flutters of leaves and sings,
the dead life slowly spinning
on an invisible thread. Do not ask
the trees to linger even to be named.
You must live in the day as it passes,
willing to let it go. You must set it
free. You must forget this poem.
Then, into its own time forever
gone, it is forever here.


by Wendell Berry

By courtesy of the light
we have the beautiful shadows.
Because the trees darken
the ground, shade-lovers thrive.
To one who stands outside,
the woods is a wall of leaves
impassable by sight, passable
by foot or wing. Come in
and walk among the shades.

{from This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems}

And so it was, that as I was walking in this wreck of a forest, the remains of some lost place, that I also felt I was walking in a Wendell Berry poem. Which was fine and good.

Next, Raymond Carver, who is better known as a writer of short stories, than as a poet. But some of his poems are among my favourites. 

Diagnosed with cancer, he continued to write. 

I keep re-reading the following two poems:


by Raymond Carver

No other word will do. For that's what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years. 
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years 
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it it, up to and including when he was told about, 
well, some things that were breaking down and 
building up inside his head. "Don't weep for me,"
he said to his friends. "I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don't forget it."

No Need

by Raymond Carver

I set an empty place at the table.
Whose? Who else's? Who am I kidding?
The boat's waiting. No need for oars
or a wind. I've left the key
in the same place. You know where.
Remember me and all we did together.
Now, hold me tight. That's it. Kiss me
hard on the lips. There. Now
let me go, my dearest. Let me go.
We shall not meet again in this life,
so kiss me goodbye now. Here, kiss me again.
Once more. There. That's enough.
Now, my dearest, let me go.
It 's time to be on the way. 

{from A New Path to the Waterfall}

Heartbreaking, yes, but also wonderful, a celebration of a life lived and savoured. And so should we all live, remembering that it's all gravy, every minute. 

This next one is the one often quoted on the internet, but I think is even more beautiful and profound when read in the context of the above poems from the same book. 

Late Fragment

by Raymond Carver

And did you get what 
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want? 
To call myself beloved, to feel myself 
beloved on the earth.

That he's just so damned grateful for it all. And that it's all pared down at the end to this one thing: to feel beloved on the earth. Which sounds simple and it isn't and of course it is. So. 

I'm walking through the week thinking, it's all gravy. The spider webs, the light, the colour green.

My buddha garden is coming along.

The flowers are blooming, the colours a gift.

And even this guy is a gift though he torments the dog so.

And they're selling containers of wheatgrass at the grocery store. Haven't yet put it in a smoothie - it's too pretty.

Even the weeds are amazing - their roots so lovely.

So I'm going between shooting photos in my backyard, and then out on a walk. These will be similar to the ones last week - but you can see how the purples are darker and deeper. And the light is something quite different because the smoke had started to roll in, and it's so much hotter.

All along the path, these little birds alight, and are gone, and rarely pose. But this one:


  1. Beautiful words and images. xx

  2. That's a whole lot of marvelous gravy!

  3. I'm so grateful for this feast of gratitude, Shawna. Needed this so much today and everyday. And the colours, the light. Amazing.

  4. Why the hurry? Oh my gosh, that is exactly the question I ponder in summer. I always think about how when the solstice arrives it actually the beginning of the end of the warm season. From there on out the days get shorter and everything around me seems to speed up in terms of all the changes. I'm finding cobwebs all over the place, in the doorways, down in the basement, in the corners. They come back a couple of hours after I sweep them away. Hurry, hurry is what everything is saying and doing around me. And that's exhausting. But that is when I start to enjoy the heat and humidity because it invites me to slow down and nap for a little while (at least that's what I think I'm going to do).

  5. Thanks everyone for the lovely comments. Manisha - we're SO on the same page ;)

  6. Thank you for slowing me down and keeping me in this moment. It's very hot and humid here today so I think I'll stay inside and linger in all your beautiful gravy.

    1. We've finally had some rain and cooler temps! So refreshing! Hope you get some soon, too. xo

  7. I did not know that about Raymond Carver. Like him, I too feel the same. All these days, years, it's all gravy. I survived a serious life-threatening horse accident at Rainbow Valley when I was 10, survived cancer in 2000, and survived a stroke just over a year ago. I'm now living a life of gravy.

    1. You are incredible, Diane. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. These poems are just particularly touching. I purchased myself the Carver book on Amazon for .02. Crazy. I also jotted down some of your lines to ponder. Thank you so much!

    1. Glad you like the Carver. Thanks, FairieMoon.


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