Time to Fill the Well

I’ve felt a little drained lately. It seems I’m in good company, so maybe you can relate. When my well is empty, I always trust it will be refilled. And drop by drop, it always is.

A loon singing in the early morning mist. Drip Drop.

A fuzzy green fern unfurling from the ground. Drip Drop.

A red fox sneaking down the porch steps. Drip Drop.

A kind gesture from a loved one or a stranger. Drop. Drop. Drop.

I’m going to take a little break from writing The Simple Swan, but I will return. I leave you for now with the gifts of some other creative souls. I hope it fills your well, as it fills my own.

A haiku and watercolor by my sister, Melinda ~

melinda

 

A haiku by a reader, Cindy ~

Bulbs

They rise from the ground
After a long winter sleep
Like us in springtime

 

And one by my husband, Mike ~

Orchid

You’re like an orchid
Simple, delicate, stunning
And quite beautiful

 

And finally, this week my talented friend Nikki included a poem I wrote in her video about living a beautiful life at home. I’m sure you’ll want to watch the whole video and follow Nikki on YouTube and Patreon at Inspired by Nikki. My poem Forever in a Day is featured at the 10:00 mark. Her lovely voice, painting, music and videography truly lift my simple poem off the page, encouraging me to heed my own words and focus on living a beautiful life day by day by day.  §

Pandemic Poetry ~ It’s Rhyme Time

poetry roses

National Poetry Month couldn’t have come at a better time. The Coronavirus pandemic has extended our stay-at-home orders at least through the rest of April, giving us plenty of time to let poetry soothe and strengthen us.

Last week we explored haikus, and I was thrilled to receive some of your original poetry! This week, let’s write a poem that rhymes. Please share your poem here or email it to me at aliciawoodward4@aol.com. I plan to feature readers’ poetry later this month.

Poetry might be just what the doctor ordered to get us through an unfathomable time in our global history. It helps us express our emotions and fills our heads and hearts with loftier thoughts. Our country’s Poet Laureate Joy Harjo said, “Without poetry, we lose our way.”

Poetry reminds us we’re not alone and nothing we experience is unique to the human condition. I urge you to curl up with a poetry book you have lying around your house or search out poetry online. The Academy of American Poets hosts a wonderful poetry site at poets.org. Reading poetry is also a sure way to get our own creative juices flowing.

Just get out a piece of paper or fire up your laptop and start writing. If you’re anything like me, whatever you start writing about will transform into something completely different and surprisingly therapeutic.

This week I’m hoping you’ll try to write a poem that rhymes. Certainly the pandemic is giving the feels to the most stoic among us. Whatever emotion you’re experiencing could become the theme of your poem.

Here are some common types of rhymes found in poetry ~

  • End Rhymes –  rhyming the final words in the lines of a poem
  • Internal Rhymes – rhyming of two words within the same line of poetry
  • Slant Rhymes – a near rhyming of two words that share the same vowel or consonant sound (like heart and star)
  • Rich Rhymes – a rhyme of words that have the same sound (like raise and raze)
  • Eye Rhymes – rhymes on words that look the same but are pronounced differently (like bough and rough)
  • Identical Rhymes – simply using the same word twice

I don’t consider myself much of a poet, but I wrote this poem containing end rhymes in celebration of Easter morning and every morning. It suggests a simple, gratitude-filled approach to life inspired by the hope and promise of daily, seasonal and infinite renewal and rebirth.

Forever in a Day

To see forever in a day
Wake up and lift your voice to pray
Watch sunlight spread across the land
Just as it’s done since time began

Feel the earth so lush and green
Where brown and dormant ground had been
Hear sweet birdsong fill the air
Smell the flowers everywhere

To see forever in a day
Ask for wisdom come what may
Seek timeless lessons to be learned
Toil for honest wages earned

Heed tales told by wrinkled eyes
Sing a baby lullabies
Reach for a neighbor’s hand in love
We look the same from up above

To see forever in a day
Have faith that stones can roll away
Let starlight fall upon your face
Older than the human race

Allow great mysteries to unfold
Dream of ancient stories told
Sleep peacefully until the morn
Each break of dawn we are reborn §

 

 

 

Pandemic Poetry ~ Let’s Write a Haiku

National Poetry Month

There’s something wonderful on April’s calendar that hasn’t been cancelled or postponed. It’s National Poetry Month. The celebration is taking on new meaning and importance this year as people all over the world turn to poetry for comfort, creativity and connection during this challenging time.

Each Sunday in April, The Simple Swan will offer a brief workshop of sorts to explore a certain type of poetry and encourage you to write and share your own poems. This week, let’s take a look at a familiar Japanese form of poetry called haiku.

Haikus were always a favorite of my literature students for an obvious reason ~ they’re short. Well-known for the rule of 5-7-5, a haiku consists of just three unrhymed lines. The first and third lines have five syllables, and the second line has seven syllables. (You probably remember tapping your pencil on the desk to learn syllables in school. For example, the word frog has one syllable. The word silent has two syllables.)

Nature often inspires poetry, but a haiku, by definition, is about nature. It can be traced back to 9th century Japan where it evolved as poetry that specifically celebrated the natural world. Matsuo Basho wrote one of the most famous haikus in the 1600s.

“The Old Pond” 

An old silent pond

A frog jumps into the pond –

Splash! Silence again. 

While you keep yourself and others safe by staying at home, I hope you find the time to pen your own haiku. Maybe you can make it a family activity. Find something in nature that makes you happy and form your thoughts about it into a simple three-line poem that follows the 5-7-5 rule.

Please consider sharing your poem by leaving it in the comments or emailing it to me at  aliciawoodward4@aol.com. You might want to get really creative and illustrate your poem. Haikus are often accompanied by simple watercolor paintings. Hang it on your refrigerator as a little food for thought.

Poetic inspiration struck me early this morning when, wrapped in a blanket, I stepped out on the porch for a fresh look at the new day. I inhaled deeply and watched my exhaled breath quickly disappear in the cool spring air. From inside, I heard the television mumble news of virus and ventilators. Closing my eyes, I took a slower, more intentional breath filled with gratitude and hope.

“Air” 

Nothing more precious

A calming, life-giving flow

In and out. Just breathe. §

 

 

 

Staying Home Offers Time for Nesting

nest

My usual enthusiasm for spring cleaning had so far eluded me this year, clouded by cold dreary weather and, oh yes, a pandemic. Fortunately, a lovely pair of doves offered just the motivation to do a little nesting of my own.

As I pulled into a long line of cars at the pharmacy drive-up, I caught a glimpse of an iridescent mourning dove through my rainy windshield. He flew straight into a large evergreen tree carrying something in its beak. Moments later out he darted out on an obvious mission.

He soon swooped back into the tree carrying a twig and a piece of grass. Again he disappeared into the dense foliage for a few seconds, flew out, and returned minutes later carrying more building supplies. Deep in the tree, I spied the bird’s mate busy at work. I watched the pair’s efforts continue for nearly ten minutes until it was my turn at the pharmacy window.

I returned home with the perfect prescription for the blahs. I was inspired to feather our nest! I shared my new-found enthusiasm with my husband by telling him what I’d learned about the nesting habits of mourning doves.

The female dove actually builds the nest with twigs, conifer needles and grass gathered by the male. In an impressive act of teamwork, the male stands on the female’s back and gives her the supplies while she assembles the nest. (I’m not suggesting this exact process, but teamwork is always a good idea.)

Our orders to stay at home during the Coronavirus outbreak is the perfect time to do what comes naturally in springtime ~ nesting. I don’t know what’s on your home to-do list, but it probably falls into similar categories as ours.

Tidying ~ Cupboards, drawers, closets, shelves and surfaces in every room can use a once-over to straighten and reorganize for the new season.

Cleaning ~ In addition to routine cleaning, spring is a good time to do those annual or bi-annual chores we tend to put off. Cleaning behind the refrigerator isn’t very exciting, but it might be more rewarding than another show on Netflix.

Decorating ~ Simply rearranging what we already have can help us appreciate our treasures even more. A few cut daffodils or budding limbs from the yard add a pretty touch of spring.

Indoor Projects ~ We all have those nagging little tasks that need to be done such as patching nail holes, painting chips and tightening loose screws. Make a list and tackle them one by one.

Outdoor Projects ~ When the weather cooperates, get outside and sweep the porch, do some yard work or take on a bigger job. Mike and I are tearing down an old shed and building a new one.

It’s a project that requires teamwork. He tried standing on my back, but it’s easier if I just hold the ladder. §

 

 

Some Things Never Change

snowdrops

While we hold our collective, anxious breath and nervously adjust to the challenges of a pandemic, nature seems blissfully above it all. The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. The moon still lights the darkness, and the Earth still steadily spins. Some things never change.

Everything from school to restaurants to sporting events is cancelled or closed, but nothing is stopping nature from putting on its annual spring show. “That is one good thing about this world,” wrote author Lucy Maud Montgomery, “there are always sure to be more springs.”

Robins have returned with their round orange bellies. They poke their beaks into ever-warming ground with delight. Forsythia bushes bloom in wild sprays of yellow. Willow trees glow with a promising haze of green. Daffodils, crocus and purple snowdrops decorate tired brown corners with cheerful bouquets.

At a time when nothing seems certain, it’s as if nature understands the importance of offering something beautiful on which we can depend. The familiar signs of spring urge us to take notice of other comforts and joys we tend to take for granted.

We still have running water and electricity. There is plenty of food and, despite our concern, enough toilet paper. A free press keeps us well-informed. We stay in touch with loved ones through phones and computers. We borrow a tool from one neighbor and lend an egg to another.

We still sleep, work, play, talk, worry, love and laugh. Some things never change.

We know life may get worse before it gets better. If history tells us anything, we can trust the better angels of humanity will prevail. We will help each other and count on each other just as we can count on the sun to come up each morning.

No one could argue the joys of a pandemic, but it could bring us a positive shift in perspective and gratitude. Poet May Sarton wrote, “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.”

Tonight, billions of stars will shine in our universe and billions of prayerful faces will look up to make a surprisingly similar wish. Some things never change. §

A Poem that Spreads Hope (Not Germs)

Emily Dickinson
Poet (and known recluse) Emily Dickinson enjoyed the practice of social distancing

Long before the Coronavirus became part of our vocabulary, I planned to write this week about Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope” is the Thing with Feathers. I thought it a perfect poem to usher us through the last days of winter and into a lovely spring. Little did I realize the Belle of Amherst might help us find hope during a pandemic.

In this well-known poem, Dickinson uses a beautiful extended metaphor to compare hope to a selfless little bird perched in the soul of every human being. The poet reminds us hope and optimism are positive qualities we can all summon, especially during adversity.

In the first stanza, Dickinson creates the imagery of a bird endlessly singing a song of no words, just the purest form of hope. She reminds us in the second stanza that hard times don’t dissuade the little bird. In fact, that’s when the song is the sweetest. The pronoun I appears for the first time in the third stanza, revealing that hope helped her survive the tests and trials of her own life.

Dickinson is often thought of as a hermit, but perhaps she was practicing a healthy form of social distancing. She spent most of her adult life at her family home enjoying nature, writing poetry, and nurturing a close relationship with her siblings.

It seems we can all help stop the spread of the Coronavirus by following her lead and hunkering down for a little while. Maybe we can find time to relish the pleasures of home, watch spring miraculously unfurl, and hear the universal song of hope Emily Dickinson wrote about more than a century ago. §

(No. 314) “Hope” is the Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

The third Sunday of the month, The Simple Swan is devoted to poetry. Nature has inspired poetry for as long as there have been poets. Reading these poems helps us slow down, contemplate the beauty in our world, and connect with timeless and universal themes. As a retired literature teacher, I want to do my little bit in keeping the classics alive. Thank you for joining me!

A Look at Human Nature through Enneagrams

IMG_3582

I never could resist taking a personality test. It started with those silly ones in Tiger Beat magazine and continued with more sophisticated tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC Assessment and Enneagram of Personality.

As fascinating as nature can be, it’s equally interesting to observe the habits and behavior of human beings. The Enneagram is a model of nine personality types that can help us better understand the curious nature of ourselves and others.

There’s much to learn about this theory, but here’s a broad look at the nine Enneagram personality types. (I combined some elementary research here for the sake of simplicity.)

Do any of these types shout your name or the name of someone you know? Like most personality tests, the point is to increase our capacity for personal growth and self-awareness. As Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Type 1 The Reformer  ~ The rational, idealistic type described as principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic. Belief: I must do things right. Motto: A job worth doing is worth doing well. Try not to criticize a Type 1. Famous Quote: Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. ~ C.S. Lewis

Type 2  The Helper ~ The caring, interpersonal type described as demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing and possessive. Belief: I must help others. Motto: Home is where the heart is. Try not to take a Type 2 for granted. Famous Quote: Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. ~ Mother Theresa

Type 3 The Achiever  ~ The success-oriented, pragmatic type described as adaptive, excelling, driven and image-conscious. Belief: I must succeed. Motto: Winners never quit and quitters never win. Try not to ignore a Type 3. Famous Quote: The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it. ~ Henry Ford

Type 4 The Individualist  ~ The sensitive, withdrawn type described as expressive, dramatic, temperamental and romantic. Belief: I must be unique. Motto: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Try not to tell a Type 4 what to do. Famous Quote: I have to change a tune to my own way of doing it. That’s all I know. ~ Billie Holiday

Type 5  The Investigator  ~ The intense, cerebral type described as perceptive, innovative, secretive and isolated. Belief: I must understand. Motto: Good fences make good neighbors. Try not to underestimate a Type 5. Famous Quote: The unexamined life is not worth living. ~ Socrates

Type 6 The Loyalist  ~ The committed, security-oriented type described as engaging, responsible, anxious and suspicious. Belief: I must be prepared. Motto: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Try not to lie to a Type 6. Famous Quote: Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it. ~ Dale Carnegie

Type 7 The Enthusiast ~ The busy, fun-loving type described as spontaneous, versatile, distractible and scattered. Belief: I must be happy. Motto: Eat, drink and be merry. Try not to control a Type 7. Famous Quote: My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh. ~ Jim Carrey

Type 8 The Challenger  ~ The powerful, dominating type described as self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational. Belief: I must be strong. Motto: He who is not with me is against me. Try not to betray a Type 8. Famous Quote: Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Type 9 The Peacemaker ~ The easy-going, self-effacing type described as receptive, reassuring, agreeable and complacent. Belief: I must be at peace. Motto: Live and let live. Try not to talk over a Type 9. Famous Quote: In seeking truth, you have to get both sides of a story. ~ Walter Cronkite

Our world is filled with unique and amazing creations, from the hummingbird and eagle to you and me. Understanding and appreciating everything in nature, including ourselves and each other, increases the love and tolerance in the world. Desmond Tutu said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” §