by Judith Heron
Our need is surely now for gentle news.
Lives, stilled by necessity, call out for calm,
a kind of deep attention monks have known.
My kneeling stool has become a friend.
The garden and my small abode are alight
with both loss and pleasure. Old songs spring
easily to an open heart. The call, to replenish
gratitude, knocks each day on my door.
Odd that I have perfected now, the recipe
for scones. Buttermilk with ginger, apricots,
free range eggs that turn them golden.
Tops brushed with milk, a dust of sugar.
Old friend, it is you I wish I could
bring them to -- in a basket covered
with a cotton cloth -- and walk again,
arm in arm, round that mountain lake.
~ as published at Your Daily Poem (March 2021)
No matter how truly sad, frightening or stressful it all was, having our lives “stilled by necessity” in the early days of the pandemic gave us a unique opportunity to self reflect and focus on what truly matters: human connection.
When we were suddenly thrust into unpredictable lives of isolation, we learned to take nothing for granted. Have we ever been as vulnerable or felt as powerless in the face of an invisible enemy?
“If we love flowers, are we not born again every day . . .” (Emily Dickinson to Mrs. George S. Dickerman, 1886)
Happy Good Friday and Happy Passover!
We are celebrating this rejuvenating season of renewal, reflection and rebirth with our dear friend Emily Dickinson.
Ever since Spring donned her yellow bonnet and tiptoed into our woods, I’ve been immersed in Emily’s words. Rereading her poems fills me with the same wonder and elation as seeing those first daffodils pop up or the dogwoods proudly showing off their white blossoms.
Her inimitable voice remains fresh, clever, startling, a little subversive. For someone who once wondered if her verse was “alive,” she could never have imagined that it has remained so to millions for over a century.
A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown -
Who ponders this tremendous scene -
This whole Experiment of Green -
As if it were his own!
Although she normally shies away from company, the Belle of Amherst couldn’t resist Mr Cornelius’s invitation to stop by (he has a way with 19th century poetic geniuses). She agreed to share a few of her poems if we provided tea and treats.
Our three cups of tea represent the triad of Emily’s existence: Garden, Writing, Home and Family. We have selected YOU as our society, so put on a clean white dress or shirt, place a crown of dandelions in your hair, and ring when you’re ready for your first cup of verse and victuals.
“Yellow is capable of charming God.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
YELLOW BUTTERFLIES BRING HAPPINESS
by Sharon Lask Munson
When she relocated to her new home
I gave my darling niece a teapot,
bestowed lifelong advice --
every home needs a touch of yellow.
Days later, a friend wrote
she was wearing the butter-yellow sweater
I gave her on a blustery day.
There have been other yellows --
first daffodils of spring,
my citron slicker,
daisies -- he loves me, he loves me not,
the gold ring on my finger.
I slice fresh lemon for tea,
spread local honey on toast,
sing "My Only Sunshine."
I admire the canary a friend
keeps in her kitchen,
the melody of his song.
I remember Dagwood and Blondie
in the Sunday funnies,
snap up Atlantic Avenue
and Marvin Gardens playing Monopoly,
watch out for children
as yellow school buses pull up to the curb.
I bake lemon meringue pies,
buy butter to spread on sweet corn,
make goldenrod toast
for Sunday night suppers,
center the table with beeswax candles,
keep curtains open as the moon rises.
Just a touch of yellow, even a tiny bit, brings joy, sunshine, radiance, optimism, vitality, freshness, hope.
It’s almost impossible to be sad once yellow flutters in.
One Christmas when I was 10 or 11, I received a yellow cardigan — it had pretty scalloped trim around the collar, sleeves, and hem — and yarn covered buttons! How I loved it, even though it was usually too warm to wear it. The important thing is that it came from a favorite aunt who had excellent taste in all things. Her gift made such an impression on me that I’m still thinking about it over 50 years later.
Like Munson, I, too, rejoice at those first spring daffodils (the only flowers we have that are deer proof), and I love all things butter, baking delectable treats with it, melting it over popcorn, spreading it on warm biscuits or toast. It simply makes everything taste better. Hello, beautiful butter, my lifelong friend. You can make me ecstatic with a single pat.
This poem also made me think of my parents. My dad’s favorite pie was lemon meringue, and though there were no sunflowers in our yard, we had cheery oncidium orchids and an abundance of yellow plumeria thanks to my mom’s green thumb. Yellow plumeria lei for May Day and Aloha Week — such good memories!
It’s snowing! As I type this, we’re delighting in the first snowfall of the season. Big fat fluffy flakes are drifting down from the sky, coating each bare branch and gently blanketing the earth as if to tuck it in for the rest of winter.
No doubt about it, snow is magical — silently transforming the world, making it appear so pristine.
On a day like today, it’s nice cozying up indoors, safe and warm, gazing out the window while noshing on hot chocolate and snowball cookies. Join me?
STILL DELIGHTING IN SNOW
by Richard Greene
I still delight in snow
some seventy years after I first did.
Though my body now is tentative,
my spirit weary of life's contests,
I still take pleasure
in that world of whiteness
just as I did when I resided
in a frame so small
I can no longer remember how it felt.
Was I an infant?
No way of knowing,
but when I see snow fall
I sense boy-feelings of decades ago,
flakes on my lashes,
against my skin,
the bracing scent,
the compact blizzard
as I tumbled from my sled
a scattering of cold powder
turning my eyebrows white,
as now do other causes,
my clothes encrusted
the wetness soaking through,
the warm kitchen
where I disrobed
("Get out of those wet clothes!"
my mother said)
into the one where I sit now
tapping out this poem.
Haven’t we all wanted to have the last word at one time or another? Of course, we have! 😊 But, if you’re like me, that golden last word—the game-changer, the elegant riposte, the witty put-down, the conversation-stopper—bursts into my brain about an hour after I could have used it. Naturally.
In my newest picture book, CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD (Tilbury House, October 2020), Calvin is constantly searching for the perfect word to describe his rascally, annoying brother. Yes, that’s the same brother who waits to tell a joke at the dinner table till Calvin has his mouth full of broccoli. You guessed it—Calvin sprays broccoli all over the table!
Who wouldn’t want to find the right word for a bratty brother like that? When I first thought of writing this story, I was toying around with the idea of a kid who is enthralled by words and wants to use them perfectly in all kinds of situations. Naturally, as a lifelong reader, retired English teacher, and author, words have always been important for me. Well, *true confession, here*—when I was in junior high, however, I secretly wanted to be voted “Best Actress” of the ninth grade in the yearbook. Nope. I was voted “Walking Dictionary.” Sadly, there’s probably nothing more I need to explain to you. 😊
As I thought about Calvin, it came to me that if he was always looking for the right word, his dictionary would certainly become tattered and worn out. Then—it hit me. Calvin’s poor, beleaguered dictionary would be the narrator, and so that’s how he became to be exactly that. He helps Calvin out with all sorts of words, but it’s Calvin himself who discovers just the right word for his brother—and his dictionary is overjoyed. I hope young readers will be surprised and tickled, too.
Because we know kids are multi-dimensional, Calvin is not only a word nerd, but a kid who stands up to bullies, who passes notes in class, and who loves baseball. Being a huge baseball fan myself (go, Angels!), I was delighted to see how the talented illustrator Mike Deas wove the baseball thread throughout his whimsical illustrations, using a baseball, bat, and glove on Calvin’s bedroom floor from the beginning page all the way to the end of the book. I’m sure kids will have fun exploring all of Mike’s other humorous details in the pictures. Look for the baby’s and the cat’s and the ever-present dad’s expressions. My editors cooked up the clever idea for the end pages, which set the perfect tone for the book. It’s been a team effort. I hope you are always able to find just the right word whenever you need it!
In honor of the broccoli that hapless Calvin sprays on the dinner table, I thought it would be fun to share a recipe for a Broccoli-Cheese Casserole, so you can all make it for dinner.
Caveat: ask all your guests and family members promise NOT to tell a joke when anyone’s mouth is full. The clean-up won’t be fun!
Drain cooked broccoli. Combine soup, eggs, mayonnaise, onion, salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Place in buttered 8″ x 8″ casserole. Leave at least 1 inch of room on top. Sprinkle 1 cup grated cheese on top. Melt butter and mix in dressing. Sprinkle on top. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.
~ from Margo Sorenson, author of Calvin Gets the Last Word (Tilbury House, 2020)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author of thirty-one traditionally-published books for young readers, Margo Sorensonhas won recognition and awards for her books, including ALA nominations and finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. To learn more about Margo’s kids’ books, visit Margo at www.margosorenson.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @ipapaverison, on Instagram: margosorensonwriter, or on Facebook: Italia Writes.
CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD written by Margo Sorenson illustrated by Mike Deas published by Tilbury House, October 6, 2020 Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Flap copy: Calvin’s dictionary is proud to go wherever Calvin goes—the breakfast table, school, baseball practice, and home again—helping Calvin search for the perfect word to describe his super-annoying older brother. After looking all day, Calvin finally finds the word he’s looking for at bedtime. And when he does, the dictionary is as surprised and delighted as you will be.