Years ago, when my kids were busy teenagers playing sports, taking music lessons, and all the rest, I heard a report about the danger of velocitization. The idea is that driving too fast on the highway distorts your sense of speed, which can make you drive even faster. The story pointed out the related danger of continuing to drive fast once you were off the highway.
For some reason, I felt like my whole life was velocitized this week. It was an awful feeling.
What better antidote to this feeling than reading poetry? A member of my book club suggested we read a book of poetry, so our selection this month is Sailing Alone Around the Room, by Billy Collins. I read this book years ago, but I’m savoring each poem as I read them again (and again).
“The Brooklyn Museum of Art” is one of my favorites. It has reminded me to put on the brakes and let “birdsong…[halt] me in my tracks”.
“The Brooklyn Museum of Art” by Billy Collins
I will now step over the soft velvet rope and walk directly into this massive Hudson River painting and pick my way along the Palisades with this stick I snapped off a dead tree.
I will skirt the smoky, nestled towns and seek the path that leads always outward until I become lost, without a hope of ever finding the way back to the museum.
I will stand on the bluffs in nineteenth-century clothes, a dwarf among rock, hills, and flowing water, and I will fish from the banks in a straw hat which will feel like a brush stroke on my head.
And I will hide in the green covers of forests so no appreciator of Frederick Edwin Church, leaning over the soft velvet rope, will spot my tiny figure moving in the stillness and cry out, pointing for others to see,
and be thought mad and led away to a cell where there is no vaulting landscape to explore, none of this birdsong that halts me in my tracks, and no wide curving of this river that draws my steps toward the misty vanishing point.
Please be sure to visit Linda Baie at Teacher Dance for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
Today is NCTE’s National Day on Writing. This year’s theme is #Why I Write. As I thought about how to respond to this, I realized there isn’t just one reason. There are as many reasons as stars in the sky.I write to remember the moon winking at me in the morning as I stand at my kitchen sink. I write to feel the warmth of my grandmother’s hand in mine once more, and the sweet smell of her kitchen when she baked pies. I could go on and on. Or maybe there is only one reason: love. I write because I love watching people and the world around me and trying to capture the beauty of it all in words.
This poem was inspired by a lone ladybug crawling along my porch railing last weekend. As I watched, I realized it’s just about time for the invasion of the ladybugs.
As red as ripe berries, a horde of ladybugs swarm every room, crawling on walls, buzzing over chairs, scuttling into corners where walls meet ceiling nestling into beams of warm October sun, punctuating autumn’s golden days, declaring summer’s end.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~ Albert Einstein ~
I recently finished reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf. At 400 pages, this book isn’t a quick read, but it’s worthwhile and enlightening. Born in 1769, “Humboldt gave us our concept of nature itself.” In this amazing book, Wulf describes Humboldt’s life and work as well as his influence on Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir, and countless other scientists, artists, and writers. In fact, Wulf writes, “Humboldt’s views have become so self-evident that we have largely forgotten the man behind them.”
A “sense of wonder for the natural world” lay at the heart of Humboldt’s work and writings, and is also found in the work of his followers. The importance of sharing and nurturing this wonder feels more urgent today than ever.
With Wulf’s words about Humboldt still swirling in my brain, it felt like serendipity when I came across these much-loved lines from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—there are millions of suns left, You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the specters in books, You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
Here’s to listening to the world from all sides and learning the lessons nature is desperately trying to teach us.
I was two years old when John F. Kennedy declared “we chose to go to the moon…and do other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Space exploration was woven into the background of my childhood, and it has always captivated me. So I was paying close attention last week as the Cassini spacecraft met its fiery end in Saturn’s butterscotch clouds. Cassini and its mission to explore Saturn, its rings, and moons seemed like a worthy subject for Michelle Barnes’s September ditty challenge from Carole Boston Weatherford.
It soon became clear, though, that writing an abecedarian about Saturn and the Cassini mission would be hard! It threatened to become a list of some of Saturn’s 53 named moons. Not giving up, I expanded my focus to include the whole universe and came up with this draft.
Astral bodies: comets, dwarf planets with eccentric orbits, frozen moons, glowing stars, haloes of hydrogen and helium illuminating jet black space, kindling wonder, launching dreams to mine the mysteries of nebulous interstellar dust, the Oort cloud, pulsing quasars, and rotating spiral galaxies tumbling through the universe, emitting visible and invisible wavelengths of light and X-rays, yielding amazement and awe, our zeal for discovery never-ending.