21 November 2010

The Empty Space

Oh the futility of reaching out
to take another's hand.
How vast the open sky!

The yawning gap between us isn't space,
or time,
or distance.
It's something else entirely.
Something huge,
and invisible,

(Though sometimes a strain of music
or a remembered word
trickles through.
Or is that just an echo
bouncing off the bleakness?)

What is out beyond the edge?
The action is completed.
Those beyond need rest,
not perpetual prodding.
They've had their day, their say.

Bach's notes fit together like a complex puzzle.
Don't add pieces or take any away.
What is there is complete.

Write your own music,
speak your own unuttered words.
Then when you spring into the familiar,
forgotten ether,
You'll have something to talk about
in your own voice.
Grow into your words.
Even now there are those who strain to hear.

12 November 2010

Part of the Answer

What is success?
Grasping at icicles,
Harvesting the drips,
Eating gold.

Aren’t beans more substantial?

You look at each others' store of
chocolate, with envy.
Who could possibly eat so much?
There aren’t enough days in the
year to wear all those clothes even once.

Don’t you have anything to love?
Nothing to treasure?
Nothing to hold in your hands, or your arms,
Or even stroke with your fingertips?
Nothing so comfortable to wear that it molds
to your body from long use?


Come sit down here on this box.
I’ll give you some thoughts,
and my attention.
I’ll stay up late and write a letter,
one you can hold in your hands
and feel the paper crinkle
against your fingers.
It’s the attention that really matters.

To how many people in your life did you really pay attention?
Did you really never see that golden light
streaming onto the concrete
through the turning leaves?
How do you think you’ll recognize it now?
When the shell is gone, you’ll be hollow inside.

So sit outside in the sun or the rain.
Then at least you’ll be filled with
light and water.
And something planted in your soil
can grow.

24 October 2010


Open a door into a quiet, changing room.
Sometimes it has no roof, no walls.
Sometimes it is dark and still, dusky light with a comfortable couch.
Still other times it is simply a window with a raindrop trailing down, following almost but not quite the tracks of countless other drops,
And the quiet of the room behind the window.

Who is there, sharing that vast, enclosing, freeing space?
There is a presence, benign.
Malignancy can’t find the door, doesn’t even know to look. But if he did, the way would be indistinguishable in his dark corridor.

But for you, the outline shines with a silver light.
Step inside. Everything is waiting for you.
Lining the walls are the placidly smiling Buddhas, their eyes twinkling with delight and welcome.
But don’t be shy. They’re in their own rooms, after all.
This is the in-between space where everyone and no one is.

One is waiting, ready to let you see through his eyes.
You can feel it, can’t you---
The acceptance, the peace, the air like breathable music?
Veiled though you are, and shrouded in blind mortality,
Here is the space between.
Come, wander and rest,
There's a door on this side, too.

03 October 2010


What is it?
Longing mixed with involuntary music,
Upwelling from the heart of things,
Unfinished, hidden, partially obscured.

Why is there no resolution?
It takes a kind of perseverance
Beyond just the regular flitting from thing to thing.

Dig deep into the recesses.
Find the glittering prize and bring it out into the light.
It's worth showing to the world.
Things shouldn't remain hidden.
That smacks of ingratitude.

It doesn't matter if you can't do it all.
At least do some,
And do it well.
Don't leave one treasure covered in muck
Because you're so anxious to find the next.
These things take time.

And in the end there will be jewels enough,
Sparkling in starlight.

25 September 2010

A Gift upon Awaking

Words of the Sculptor

We will now discuss Death,
That changing of one thing into another,
A reality beyond which we cannot see,
Stuck as we are in the undaunted hereness of now.
We work upon substance
As firm as marble, as fragile as porcelain.
Don't go into the next room.
There is nothing inside---
No floor.
Take this chisel. Make your scratches on the rock.
Let the people coming in later wonder what you meant
By your wild profusion of grapes.
In a little while you can go stand
At the door of the floorless room
And toss in a shard.
But don't expect to hear it clatter at the bottom.
The one I threw is falling yet.

13 September 2010


TIME does not bring relief; you all have lied
    Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
    I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,        5
    And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
    But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear
    To go,—so with his memory they brim!        10
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
    And so stand stricken, so remembering him!
                                                             Edna St. Vincent Millay

02 September 2010

Suite for Cello Number 2 in D Minor

Everywhere I see a solitary bird.
I see his ragged silhouette against the
bleak and empty winter sky.
Where is your lovely black-winged mate
who flies so often by your side, inside your cries
where has she flown, wherever has she fled,
oh, is she lost beyond your feathered ken?
Will she return? Will she return? She will return.              

Dear lonesome bird, you're not alone in seeking for elusive wings,
for my eyes too, they scan the skies, the hidden tops of mountain peaks,
the lonesome ways, the thronging crowds, the gentle slopes,                      
the rocky shores, the narrow alleyways between
the hostile brick and concrete walls. Sometimes I think I see a flash              
of color in a graying sky and trace it with my eyes to where it lands,
but when my hasty feet arrive I find no bird but just
a scrap of cloth tormented by the hungry wind in twilight, going, and now gone.      

But now I know I look in vain for what I seek.              
How can I ever hope to see the form that does not even
to my knowledge haunt my dreams?
The sun still shines and makes things grow.
The tawny grass flows up and over slopes               
and covers paths I followed innocently long ago.
The time goes on, the years go by, the seasons pass,
the bright sun sets and rises every day anew.               
But just on earth, just for us here, for us alone.
And still I walk the rocky trails and laughing banks of mountain streams,
the arid hills, and wooded groves. I tread the dark and thorny paths
I never knew in brighter days; I never realized were there.

But everywhere I set my feet, in all those winding, narrow ways and rocky tracks,
I see the subtle, simple signs of one who's passed along that way and placed       
with purposeful intention there some stones.
I read the messages intended for my eyes and placed where only I will see.      
And so I step in company with one I seek, but slightly slipping out of time.       
I walk alone but not alone, but not alone, not quite alone.

But everywhere I look I see a solitary bird,
alone against the
bleak and empty winter sky.
Where is your lovely black-winged mate
who flies so often by your side, inside, inside your cries, inside your cries?
Where has thy love flown, will she return? She will return.

I walk alone but not alone.
And everywhere I set my feet, in all the winding tracks,
I see the messages from one who's gone ahead
and placed the stones where only I will see.
I see a solitary bird, I see his ragged silhouette
against the sky.
I read the messages he left
in odd-shaped stones, along my path,
a subtle message just for me.
I see a solitary bird.
I walk alone but not alone.

19 August 2010

Bear Dreams

For nearly sixty years, he walked around alone
and bearlike in his cumbersome fur coat.
Rain dripped off the brim of his hat
and trickled down his neck.
He was cold, sometimes,
and damp, and more
than a little
the sun
shone in the trees
and the bear looked up,
and learned to play the piano
and began to sing in his gruff bear voice
and everyone laughed with delight. Then he slipped
out of his worn fur coat and danced away out of our ken.

16 August 2010

Two Thousand One Hundred Ninety-One Days!

Six years ago today I began my wonderful job at the library. How can it have been that long? How can it have only been that long? So much has happened since that hot August day that I first met the staff by the secret door and was inducted into the hallowed halls of book dust and camaraderie. Here, using that fancy and wonderful widget that tells me what the number of the day is in SQL calculations and then doing some clever subtracting with the handy calculator, I will give you some other figures.

2191 days ago I had 467 more days of marriage left, 1079 more days until I wrote that first note to Roger (we had 776 days together), and I would have 246 more days to endure before things came to a head in the home situation.

Interestingly, I had spent 1949 days in the bakery in the years preceding the move to the hall of books, and exactly 1900 as an editor in the years before that. Well, I believe I will stay in this present profession approximately 9496 more days, and then live another 13100 days after that when I finally kick the bucket at age 100 (plus one day).

Now my head is tired from so much math. I think I’ll go read.

10 August 2010


Module 10
Pilkey, D. (2000). Captain Underpants and Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. New York: Scholastic.

Poor, poor Professor Poopypants. He has been saddled with a terrible name. Even though he is very smart, no one takes him seriously. Will innocent children treat him with more kindness? You’ve got to be kidding! When he becomes a science teacher, the children’s taunts drive him to the brink of madness, then push him over the edge. This is a job for . . . Captain Underpants!

My View:
Say this three times fast: Pippy Peepee Poopypants, Pippy Peepee Poopypants, Pippy Peepee Poopypants. Now, wasn’t that fun? Hey, you can stop now!

I think that any parents who refuse to let their children’s innocent minds be exposed to Captain Underpants should be made to sit for an hour or so on a hot day in an unventilated room that has a poopy diaper in the garbage can. What’s not to like? There’s a refreshingly irreverent look at a stuffy principal, hilarious silliness, boys who might be incorrigible but are good at heart, and a Superhero! The Harry Potter books have similar mischief makers in Fred and George Weasley. Who else would come up with: “Forget You-Know-Who—get You-No-Poo, our exclusive constipation candy!” Such things bring needed comic relief to terrible ordeals, and for some kids, school itself is as hideous as a face-to-face encounter with Voldy. Why not let them fantasize about their own troubles disappearing with the snap of the fingers? It sure beats putting squishies on real toilet seats, or effectively blowing up property. Let the kids read!

“With its bathroom humor, madcap pranks, gross adventures, mini-comic strips, and flip-book pages, this rollicking laugh-out-loud cartoon story is certain to be a hit, especially with reluctant readers.”
McNeil, S. (2000). Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants (Book Review). School Library Journal 46(5), 151.

Ideas for the library: Howell Library had a Captain Underpants day. Why not do something similar. Judy sent me the clipping about it: there was a beanbag toss through a toilet seat, a diaper race, a mad lib with potty words. Ugh, but I know lots of boys who would really groove on the idea. I don’t know if I could do the mad lib unless I had a bowl of adjectives, a cup of nouns, etc. that the kids would draw from. What about treats? Ketchup packets? No! How about No-Bake Cookies—yeah— petrified throw-up, perfect!

Life Goes On

Module 10
Smith, J. (2005). Bone: Out from Boneville. New York: Graphix/Scholastic.

Fone Bone and his cousins, Phoney and Smiley have been run out of town. They are lost in the desert and become separated by a storm of locusts. Fone Bone eventually meets and falls in love with the beautiful Thorn. His feelings are not reciprocated, but he stays happily with Thorn until rat creatures and fears for his cousins drive him to the town where he meets up with them again. Complex plot twists foretell many additions to the series.

My View:
Bone has been part of our lives for several years now. Even before Will had learned to read beyond his Title 1 books, he enjoyed poring over Bone. As each new book came out, he would save his money to buy it, and now, at nine years old, he is a Bone aficionado. Tom, too.

What makes Bone so appealing? Maybe it is the sense that these little folk are involved in something larger than life. They don’t know how things will turn out, but they (especially Granny Ben, Fone Bone, Lucius, and Thorn) are going to try their darndest to make sure their loved ones are protected. I love how even in the middle of the rat creatures incidents or the incursion of the “invisible” dragons, life goes on. That is a good lesson.

“A whimsical journey, cunningly told. It combines fable with American legend in a tale of greed, friendship, and struggle. . . . The story is well paced with smooth transitions. It is dark, witty, mysterious, and exciting. The full-color art reflects that of classic comic books . . . . However, the animation and fresh story line put Smith in a league of his own.”
La Counte, S.; Jones, T. E.; Toth, L.; Charnizon, M.; Grabarek, D.; Raben, D. (2005). Out from Boneville. School Library Journal 51(5), 164.

Ideas for the library: I think one of the best things I can do to promote this book is order multiple copies often. Jamie’s book group was going to read this, so I supplemented our three copies with four more, and now I just looked in the catalog and all but one is checked out!

Everything Is Stitched with Its Color

Module 9
Howe, J. (2001). The Color of Absence. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

The introductory quote is a line from a poem by W. S. Merwin about grief drawing the color of absence through everything as a needle draws thread. Everything takes on the tinge of what is missing. These stories range from a vampire tale to realistic stories of love and life and death. Some end with utter tragedy, others have a hint of hope.

My View:
Here is the poem by W. S. Merwin:


Your absence has gone through me  
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

In the past, regime changes or dynastic evolutions have been the stimulus for the renumbering of the year. How the ancient Sumerians numbered the years I don’t know, but I do know that after historically important events, there have been civilizations that have said, in essence, “Life is completely different now than it was. Here, then, begins a new numbering system.” I have a big thick binder filled with heavy, creamy blank paper. For several years now I have been listing in order all the books I read, along with the bibliographic information and a brief impression of the story. In a way, those entries are rather like this blog, though these blog entries are far more extensive. I write just enough in that binder to trigger memories and put down certain crucial information. It is a completely private thing, and my cryptic notes probably wouldn’t mean much to anyone but my own self.

But because it is so personal, when Roger died I turned to my binder and saw how the pages were filled with books we had shared, journeys he and I took together or separately but that followed a similar contour to shape our lives. For years I would keep track of how many books I had read over the course of the year by beginning again at One every January. But last September I drew a thick line across the page and started my numbering all over again. This renumbering acknowledges in a very small way how his absence has colored every aspect of my life.

“Young adult readers will appreciate that while some of the stories end with the bleakness of loss, others end with the suggestion that healing is possible, offering a sense of hope and renewal.”
McCaffrey, B. (2001). The Color of Absence. Horn Book Magazine 77(5), 586.

Ideas for the library: The first story in here is a vampire tale. That alone should help this book find a ready audience. But of course not everyone would persevere through the other stories. I think instead of taking the easy way—the vampire way, I will talk about this book to teens after a breakup, after a loss, at a time of grief. Better yet, I’ll share this book with Kath Ann, who has a great rapport with the teens and can approach them more easily. Actually, they come to her with their troubles, and this could be a bandage for some. Yes, she should know about this. It’s not bibliotherapy so much as a careful look at what absence is, or is not.

Double Gift

Module 9
Sidman, J. (2007). This Is Just to Say. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

There are many ways to say “I’m sorry” and also many ways to forgive. A fictional class writes poems to apologize and then responses in forgiveness to a whole range of situations. Some are very touching, others hilarious.

My View: Several years ago I made two tiny books filled with 40 haiku each. I gave one to Keith for his birthday and our anniversary, the other to Kathy for her birthday and to celebrate our friendship. In a way, the gifts made my own awareness of our relationships ever so much deeper. I realized then that part of the gift was really to my own self. These dear folk could respond with thanks, or not, but it wouldn’t change the inner good that putting things down in words did for me. Then after reading this book I started thinking about different apologies I have made over the course of my life. Most of those have been after days or nights of a troubled conscience or other stark realization of my error. Never have I thought to write a poem! Maybe that option never crossed my mind because the strain and stress of a shredded conscience doesn’t feel like poetry to me. Also, maybe I don’t know if the person I offend would appreciate the gesture. Well, there is one lady at work whom I have both offended and who is a poet herself. Maybe a carefully worded poem would heal something there. Now I have to examine my conscience and see if I am actually sorry for my stubborn ways. Or, maybe that stubbornness itself can be the topic of the poem. In any case, I have a chance now to put Joyce Sidman’s example to the test. Wish me luck.

“The author . . . uses a variety of poetic forms, including haiku, pantoums. and concrete poetry, to say ‘sorry’ and then ‘I forgive you.’. . . Inspired by a ‘sorry’ poem she wrote and sent to her own mother. Sidman's collection could help young poets both express themselves and learn from their mistakes.”
Tillotson, L. (2008). This Is Just to Say: Poems of apology and forgiveness. Book Links 17(3), 22.

Ideas for the library: We haven’t done much poetry in Write On! This is a sad lack on my part, and I will remedy the situation as quickly as I can. After we publish the upcoming chapbook, I’d like to turn to poetry, and this book is a wonderful example of ways to make common, everyday situations into a forum for poetry. I don’t want to force my own ideas onto the kids, so this will be a way that they can think of a situation and make something poetic from it. Their poetry can take the form of concrete poems, haiku, or anything. This book shows so many different forms. Oh, just for laughs I think I’ll bring in Math Curse as well. It’s okay to be irreverent as well as earnest.

Hints from the Universe

Module 8
Balliett, B. (2004). Chasing Vermeer. New York: Scholastic.

Sixth graders Petra and Calder find themselves drawn together by several factors: a love of art, blue m&ms, and the terrible disappearance of a painting by Vermeer. They explore clues together, decipher messages using the cryptic coincidence of Calder’s pentominoes, and meet amazing and strange people as they try to figure out the thief’s hiding place and save the painting.

My View:
Two things: Vermeer and Perception. I remember running to the university library from the Orson Spencer Hall to look up then pore over large tomes of Vermeer’s paintings. How had I lived 23 years without an awareness of Art? Maybe one of the reasons for my friendship with Paul was to awaken my mind to an appreciation of art. I certainly didn’t seem to be getting there on my own. (And now, what about music?) I think it’s interesting that Vermeer was the first artist I studied to any extent, and he is the one more children know than maybe any other—due to Blue Balliet’s book. Yes, Vermeer is an entry point to art, but he isn’t a namby-pamby blue and pink flowers kind of artist to appeal to the home decor, eucalyptus, frosted mirror crowd. His excellence has lasted for a reason.

Now perception. When Calder would reach into his bag of pentominoes, how would he figure out the hidden meaning behind whatever letter emerged? It’s that kind of perception that so easily can be blocked by cynicism or over rationalization. How do I read an I Ching throw, for example, or how did Lyra know what the Aelethiometer was saying? Maybe it is the suspension of rational thought and going with the first impression. I think these types of intuitive guesses are a way to tap into hints from the Universe.

“A fast-paced, exciting mystery with a host of quirky characters, puzzles, and plot twists.”
— (2005). Chasing Vermeer. School Library Journal 51(Supplement), 54.

Ideas for the library: Art, of course! We’re approaching the end of our weekly Summer Art Institute activities, and I know we’ll do more next summer. One thing we haven’t done so far is introduce different styles of classical art like Dawn does with her kindergarteners. In fact, next year maybe we can follow her curriculum and actually make a Jackson Pollack and a Georgia O’Keefe and others. For Vermeer, we could have the kids draw interior scenes of their own homes. Of course I will promote this book at the same time, and maybe even bring out our Pentominoes as a prop.

Tikkun Olam

Module 8
Greene, J. D. (2009). Changes for Rebecca. Middleton, Wisconsin: American Girl Publishing.

Rebecca is a budding actress who is appalled at the terrible treatment of workers in the textile industry. She speaks out at a rally and tries to help her cousin. In this simplistic story, all the problems are solved and there is a happy ending for everyone.

My View:
After recommending these books, to many girls, I figured I ought to read one of the series. I probably discovered these 38 years too late. But the faults I find now are nothing I would have grasped back then. As Joan Aiken said, books written for children should be even more carefully wrought because children have read so many fewer books than adults. These are good springboards into more detailed stories, and I know they add a dimension of awareness these young gals who throng my library would not have otherwise. About Rebecca in particular: she is a typical ten year old, the center of her own universe. I think her conscience and disobedience are both true to her age. But WHY are all the loose ends tied up so neatly? That is the source of my underlying sense of irritation with the whole series, I think. It is earnestness winning over realism, and maybe I am so bothered by it because that has been my approach for far too long. Well, I’ll try to heal the world in a slightly different way.

“American Girl often tackles difficult topics from history, attempting to make them more accessible for children. While labor issues are a dark historical truth, this issue is an important one and is presented in an age-appropriate way, though some children may be frightened by some of the events. This is the most educational title in Rebecca's series, placing Rebecca right in the middle of history and showing her hoping to help shape it.”
Honeybee, S. (2009) Labor issues and working for change. Amazon reviews. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Changes-Rebecca-American-Girls-Collection/product-reviews/1593695306/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_summary?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

Ideas for the library: It’s been four years since our last American Girl tea. I can hardly believe how quickly time flies. Well it is high time for another! Girls (and of course boys, too, but I doubt any will come) will come in period clothes, chosen for whichever girl is their favorite. I’m sure Grace will wear her pioneer dress for Kirsten. For me, a party like this is a chance for a new costume. Last time I wore Nineties (1890s) clothing, maybe this time I can make a Depression-era housedress or wear a lovely wool suit and fedora for the 40s. I had better start walking more so I will fit it well and not look like a waddling librarian. I think spring would be a good time for this tea. April, maybe.


Module 7
Partridge, E. (2005). John Lennon: All I want is the truth. New York: Viking.

A carefully documented biography of John Lennon with photographs throughout. Elizabeth Partridge portrays Lennon as the complex human being he was, including the hard facts about some of his choices and the way his life and then death impacted so many millions of people. The book discusses the relationship with Yoko Ono and the powerful effect each had on the other. Most of the information was taken from John’s own writings and interviews, so much of the speculation and false rumors were put to rest. The photos add a dimension of reality and depth.

My View:
At the bakery we played a LOT of Beatles. I kneaded bread to the strains of the White Album, scooped scones to Abbey Road, and cut off slabs of warm slices while bouncing to Yellow Submarine. So in my mind, the atmosphere that is set as soon as I hear those familiar voices includes the hint of yeast in the air and a sense of both gemutlichkeit and a bit of tension. The bakery was difficult but good, and it was the entity around which our lives revolved for some years. Similarly, the Beatles’ history was patchy in places, especially John Lennon’s life and role, but the group was at the center of many people’s lives for many years. They set the tone for an entire generation. I liked learning more of John’s story so I could see motivations that seemed irrational or at least confusing at the time. Maybe knowing that there were reasons behind those actions gives hope that there were also reasons behind some of the choices WE made. Life is always getting better, so much better all the time.

“There are many Beatle books on the market, but this photographic biography by Elizabeth Partridge is one of the best for pleasure reading and research reports. . . . The quantity of large black and white pictures of the Beatles make this book a collector’s item.”
Johnson, S. S. (2008) John Lennon: All I want is the truth. Florida Media Quarterly 33(4), 19.

Ideas for the library: We’re more than ready for another Music in the Library event. This time, why not highlight the Beatles! We have many books and other library materials about the Beatles, so I’ll have a display right by the circulation desk with these enticingly arranged for folks to take. And of course, there must be music! I’d like it right INSIDE the library like we do for classical concerts, but if the staff is worried, we can easily move it outside to Library Park or beside the Peace Statue. Hmmm. Wouldn’t September in the Rain be a nice time for an indoor concert?

The Benefits of Less

Module 7
D’Alusio, F. (2008). What the World Eats. Berkley, California: Tricycle Books.

Faith D’Alusio and her life companion Peter Menzel visited countries all over the world and photographed 25 families in those countries surrounded by the food that each family would typically eat in one week. The text gives a little glimpse of the life of each family. Interspersed are charts and facts and figures having to do with eating habits and caloric intake and other aspects of food throughout the world.

My View:
This was one of my favorite books this semester. Maybe it’s my social consciousness streak taking over, but I found much to love here. The 25 families represented in the book’s pages seemed so fresh and approachable and willing to be known. I loved the smiles of pure kindness that shone out of what could be, by our standards, situations of utter misery. It reminds me of the Nepali faces I love so well. Innocence, or at least openness doesn’t have to disappear when there is little to go around. In fact, it seems that when there is less, there is even more determination to share. Another thing I liked was the abundance of fresh food in some of the poorest areas and the stark example of processed food in the areas where the economic condition allows the people access to more variety. For me, I want to live more simply and on less. Of course I would rather this be voluntary than enforced by economic stricture, but these wonderful families show it can be done, and done cheerfully. Now to help the boys get on board as well . . .

“Adapted from last year's Hungry Planet, this brilliantly executed work visits 25 families in 21 countries around the world. . . . Engrossing and certain to stimulate.”
— (2008). Children’s Books.  Publishers Weekly 255(35), 55.

Ideas for the library: One of the suggestions for this year’s Summer Reading Program was that the kids choose one day and read every single label on the stuff they eat. In my family we don’t eat much that comes out of boxes and cans, but I know even so we have a whole pile of recycling every week. I’ll clip labels from those boxes and cans and ask my staff save labels from their food as well. I could paste them on a poster and have a whole display about our eating habits and ingredients—and the trends of our society. We have copies of Hungry Planet as well, and wouldn’t it be fascinating to have people think seriously about what they take into their bodies. I think I’ll add a few copies of Material World, Fast Food Nation, and Supersize Me as well. Interesting commentary and stimulus for discussion, eh? I hope it’s not TOO political.

My Dutch Uncle

Module 6
Borden, L. (2004). The Greatest Skating Race: A WWII story from the Netherlands. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Race, can’t be held every year in the Netherlands because the canals don’t always freeze. But Pim Mulier, who was Piet’s hero, raced in record time. Then Piet, whose young Jewish neighbors must flee from the German soldiers. They need Piet to skate with them on a very long, cold winter afternoon across the border and to their aunt’s house and safety. Piet must call on his reserves of strength and courage as he takes his little neighbors out from under the watchful eyes of the soldiers. He carries the story of Pim Mulier in his heart, as well as a little red book that reminds him of the Elfstedentocht.

My View:
When I was in the middle of my student teaching and realized that the responsibilities I had would necessarily expand to fill all my available time, I decided to take a community education class so that there would be a little chunk of my life that was not governed by lesson plans of my own making, and the first growing pains of discipline issues. The class I wanted to take was Beginning Dutch. Uncle Darrel had lived in Holland for two years sometime after the war, and he was interested in taking the course with me. I had never spent much time with my uncle, but this class brought us together. He, with his bushy salt-and-pepper hair and his eagerness, and I with my German pronunciation and careful studying must have been an unlikely team. But we had a wonderful time and formed a bond with each other. He died not long afterward, and I get a little teary thinking of the sweet days we spent practicing our Dutch together. I had only an inkling then of what I know with deep certainty now, that language and communication are just vehicles for connection. Words are important to me, and it is through words that bonds are formed, even between an old Dutch uncle and his naive niece, and even between two little Jewish children and their brave but young neighbor. Connection matters.

“An exciting historical tale, fraught with suspense and illustrated with evocative watercolors.”
— (2005). School Library Journal 51(Supplement), 26.

Ideas for the library: Every year, Marcia teaches the storytime children to ice skate on paper plates. Wouldn’t it be fun to read this story aloud to the elementary aged Book Magic group and then let them skate a course through the library! I just love those windmill gingerbread cookies, and I think they sometimes appear at Costco. Here is the plan, we’ll read the story, then don our paper skates and maneuver through a course. We can do figure eights around the Children’s Fiction, weave in and out of the paperback racks, and cross the finish line by the Marshall Public Library rock. Then, heading back to the warmth and safety of the Kids’ Corner, we will eat hot cocoa and those delicious cookies. What fun!

An Angel in Hell

Module 6
Yolen, J. (1988). The Devil’s Arithmetic. New York: Viking Kestrel.

Hannah, who is a little tired of her grandfather’s tirades about the Holocaust, opens the door to bid Elijah the prophet welcome to the family’s seder meal. When she opens the apartment door she is immediately swept into the Polish countryside and is caught up in the events of World War II. Hannah finds herself as part of a family, and is called Chaya by everyone. She is torn between her memories of home and her awareness of what may come. The whole village is rounded up and taken to a concentration camp where Chaya has the opportunity to save the lives of the people who will become Hannah’s family.

My View:
There are times when it seems as if one is plopped down in the middle of an uncomfortable situation, or at least an unfamiliar one. Every beginning of a semester, for example, brings the need to become familiar with a new set of rules, a new gathering of people, a new formula for learning. Similarly, when I moved from Ogden to Pocatello twelve years ago I found myself completely removed from friends and family and thrust into a new neighborhood with different terrain and unfamiliar people. Somehow, time makes things more congenial. For Chaya, or Hannah, there was the added dimension of some foreknowledge of the utter misery of the situation she saw unfolding all around her. Yet, despite the unfathomable horror of the events surrounding the Holocaust, she was able to think clearly and act in love and give others a chance for life. In my much easier life, I hope I can reach out and make some slight difference on the side of good in the lives of those around me. I may never be in a situation like Chaya’s. Oh, I hope not! But even so, I would rather practice small ways of improving life than leaving that to some indeterminate future that I hope will never arrive.

“Through Hannah, with her memories of the present and the past, Yolen does a fine job of illustrating the importance of remembering. She adds much to children’s understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow.”
Harding, S. M. (1988). The Devil’s Arithmetic (book). School Library Journal 35(3), 114.

Ideas for the library: I have multiple copies of this book, and students will have access in their school libraries as well. After our wonderful discussion at the coffee shop with the ecumenical forum, I’m sure I could ask Rabbi Levinson to come to the library and join a book group discussion about the Holocaust. In fact, this would be an opportunity for many more people than children. What if we had a Holocaust Memorial Day event. In 2011, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) falls on May 1, which is a Sunday. If we had an event at the library, a lecture or discussion or even a display, although I lean toward a combination of these ideas, it would be good to have in the week preceding the actual memorial day. Well, I’ll talk with Rabbi Levinson. If we start thinking about it now, we can do something significant when the time draws near.

The Power of Esperanza

Module 5
Farmer, N. (2002). The House of the Scorpion. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Matt has always lived on the Farm with Celia, who loves him. But when El Patron calls, everyone jumps, including Celia and Tam Lin, who is El Patron’s henchman. Young Matt doesn’t know where he fits into the whole system. Is he a favored son? It doesn’t seem like it. Is he a peon? Then why has El Patron taken such a fancy to him? Matt slowly comes to the realization that he is a clone of El Patron—built to be spare parts for the ancient man! After a very close call, Matt escapes and finds himself in one horrific situation after another. Is there nowhere in this Dystopia that he can be free? His only hope is to reach Esperanza.

My View:
Matt is certainly his own person. He has thoughts and feelings and dreams for himself. He wants to find Maria, for one thing. That is a huge motivator, as is the fact that El Patron has just tried to annihilate him. Survival is a very big motivator as well. He also hopes to reach Esperanza, which means Hope. Something about the very significant word and meaning makes me think of a poem by Rumi. It has a line that says, “When you ask the question, the answer will come.” Matt asked certain questions, and he thought about things hard enough that when the answers did come, he recognized them: for example, his organizing the orphan boys. They were without hope, he gave them Esperanza. Now, inevitably, the question comes around to the personal. What do I hope for? What is my life all about? Just as I can’t believe a clone’s life doesn’t have value, I believe my own also has value. Of course I’m not writing in any sort of despair or melancholy—I’m just stating that I recognize that everyone, clone or regular human, librarian or mom or both, each has value. As Roger said, questions trump answers. I think the hardest part is finding the correct words or images or thoughts or feelings or whatever it is, to mix together to formulate an effective question. And like the I Ching, an answer is something that can take a multiplicity of forms. Learn to ask, then to listen, then to act.

“The House of the Scorpion is a many layered, complicated novel about a clone becoming a man. Despite the science fiction aura of the tale, it is a coming-of-age story about a boy striving to find out who he is. Is he nothing more than a beast, a photograph of another human being, a repository of spare parts?”
Schneider, D. (2005). A clone becomes a man. Book Links 15(2), p23-26.

Ideas for the library: So often, when I recommend a book, I imagine the child or teenager embarking on a journey into another land. Because I have already taken that particular trip, I really want to know what they thought of it. Did they meet the same people, did they have similar impressions of the landscape and the activities? How were they affected by some situation or other? I often ask kids to tell me what they thought of a book I’ve recommended. In a way, those conversations become, as it were, an impromptu book group or community of the mind. This book is one that I especially wonder about. It would be a good book group selection—for a REAL book group, not just my little impromptu one-on-one ones. So, I’ll put this on the list as a potential candidate.

The Surest Way to Travel Back in Time

Module 5
Juster, N. (1961). The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Epstein & Carroll.

Milo, who is never very happy to be where he is, but when he goes somewhere else is not happy to be there either, finds a mysterious package in his bedroom. It is a tollbooth that takes him to the Lands Beyond. Oh my! He travels through the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, Digitopolis and other places with his faithful Watchdog looking for Rhyme and Reason to put the messed up kingdoms straight. A book of many levels.

My View:
When I picked up this book and began to read it one afternoon at the farmers’ market, I was amazed to find myself transported back to my fifth grade classroom at Emerson School. I could recall my seat, the long waterfall of Kristine Nordstrom’s hair in front of me, and even the quality of light coming through the west windows of the class. Now all those things are gone. The school has been replaced these thirty years now with a brick and glass structure on the old field. I haven’t seen or thought about Kristine for years, and I’m pretty sure that my old teacher is no longer among the living. But somehow reading those words I read so many years ago brought back the experience as if I had been eating a madeleine. For me, words do evoke more than just images. They are a sort of memory bank that records more than just the plot but also all my surroundings at the time I read it. I turned back into a fifth grader as I mined numbers and threw away jewels in Digitopolis. Similarly, I can go back to the feeling I had of new love whenever I read A Ring of Endless Light—recalling my first and last lovely days with Jeff so many years ago. And I’m sure that when I revisit The Book of Ebenezer LePage in years to come, I will again be back in those lovely final days before my life changed so drastically and Rhyme and Reason fled. Like Milo, I still seek them. Maybe they will reappear in time.

“Since its publication, the book has delighted young and old with Juster's humorous writing style and his wonderful play on words. It's time for this book to be re-introduced to a new audience. Students and teachers alike will find wonderful sentences for motivational quotations.”
Burdbridge, C. A. (1996). The Phantom Tollbooth, Book Report 15(2), 39.

Ideas for the library: Oh, this book has such potential! I can imagine an entire Phantom Tollbooth Party with different stations marked with the names of places Milo visited. In the Doldrums, kids would have to follow a maze or labyrinth, in the city of Dictionopolis, they could fill in a mad lib. Digitopolis could be a station where the kids could hunt for treasures (mine numbers) in a little wading pool filled with shredded paper. Oh, the ideas are limitless. I was thinking it would have to be done for a group of kids very familiar with the book, but now I’m not so sure. Plenty of newcomers came to the Narnia party and the Lemony Snicket day who just showed up for the fun. Those who know the story will get more out of it, but even those who just want something to do on a Saturday morning would have fun. Hmmm. I’ll see what the staff thinks.

Each One Different, Each One the Same

Module 4
Birdsall, J. (2008). The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

The Penderwick sisters are back. This time, they have to work together to thwart their father’s half-hearted attempts to date again. (I completely understand his reticence). But this book is more than just scheming. It is sisterly love and support and the odd sisterly violence as well. It also has an extremely satisfying end.

My View:
I don’t remember having this much fun as one of the three Luker sisters. Oh, we all had our areas of expertise: I was the writer, Mara the musician, and Willow was the artist. In a way we all developed in each other’s areas as well, but with less whole-heartedness. The Penderwick sisters are also brilliant individuals, but with enough heart and caring for one another to make them human. Mr. Penderwick is one of my favorite characters. He is smart, funny, and broken hearted. I loved how the girls grew so quietly accustomed to their next door neighbor.

“ Jeanne Birdsall's second book about the Penderwick family is even better than her first. . . .  Birdsall plans at least three more installments to this series.” Steele, L. (2008) The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Review). School Library Journal, 54(9), p75-76.

Ideas for the library: In German, Hilary McKay’s Exiles book is titled Vier Verr├╝ckte Schwestern, or Four Crazy Sisters. Well, the Penderwicks are the closest characters I have found to an American approximation of McKay’s wonderful people. Over the years I have introduced many to McKay’s works, and now she has quite a following in Pocatello. The Penderwicks are just as enchanting and I will promote these books to the same folks.

The Greatest Treasure of All

Module 4
Barrows, A. (2006). Ivy + Bean. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books.

Looking out from their own yards, neither Ivy nor Bean wants to get to know the other. But when circumstances bring them together, they immediately become best of friends. Neighborhood, look out!

My View:
It was my second day in Michigan and I was still reeling from the huge changes in my life. I had arrived home from a wonderful and life-enriching study abroad in England, then left to live in Michigan almost before the jet lag had worn off. I was still missing my friends in that green and pleasant land, and not quite ready to make new ones in a new, humid, rapid-paced place. But my roommate persuaded me to go to Ann Arbor to a meeting, and afterwards, a middle aged woman and her husband came up to us and asked us to join them for dinner. My roommate was pleased, I was quiet, and off we went. I don’t remember much about the dinner, just an impression of friendly country folk and a sense of welcome amid the strangeness of everything. Then we drove home to Howell and I went to sleep, still a bit askew in my directions and thoughts.

The next day we ran into the couple again, and as I was more awake and alert, we began to talk. Over the course of the next six months, my internal compass was completely realigned. I woke up to the realization that these fine folks were some of the best and most sincere friends I could ever have. I knew almost innately where their farm was, no matter where I moved throughout southeast Michigan. Even now I can point with precision to that center spot. Friendship is the greatest treasure of all.

“With echoes of Beverly Cleary's "Ramona" series, this easy chapter book will appeal to children who are graduating from beginning readers. The occasional black-and-white illustrations highlight the text and provide visual clues. The characters are appealing, the friendship is well portrayed, and the pranks and adventures are very much on grade level.”
Stone, E. O. (2006). Ivy and Bean (review). School Library Journal 52(7), 68.

Ideas for the library: Last year we made a Valentine’s Day display with the banner “Red any good books lately” hanging above it. This coming year, if I remember, I’d like to stock my children’s display shelf with books highlighting Great Literary Friendships: Anne and Diana; Ivy and Bean; Betsy and Tacey; Frances and Thelma; Henry and Mudge; Mr. Putter and Tabby; Nancy, George, and Bess; and of course, Arabel and Mortimer.

08 July 2010

Thank Goodness for a Comadre!

For Module 3
Canales, V. (2005). The Tequila Worm. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

Sofia wants to continue her education, and she has won a scholarship to a prestigious school in Austin, Texas. But is she emotionally ready? Her large and loving extensive family helps her in many ways. There are chapters about making beans, planning a quinceanero, and other family activities. How can Sofia even think of leaving all that support behind? 

My view:
One of the best books I've read so far for this intensive class has been The Tequila Worm, by Viola Canales. Maybe because in my neighborhood there are several wonderful, strong women whom I consider my "Comadres", I resonated very much with this idea as presented by Canales. I am a single mother, and I know there are some things I just don't do very well. As much as I try, I just can't be all things to my boys. But thankfully there are some wonderful people who have been able to step in at key times and give my children careful mothering (and fathering) in areas where I just am not qualified. My gratitude for these people is tremendous. I liked how Canales explained the role of the comadre, and I recognize such in my own life. I will be sharing this book with these key friends and pointing out how much their influence affects my life and the lives of my boys. This book also gave us a delicious meal. When I was reading the part about Sofia and her father cooking beans together, I put some pintos in a pot and cooked them the same way. As I was finishing the book, my beans were also done, and the boys and I had a delicious meal of pinto beans, sour cream, fresh green onions, spicy salsa, and chopped avocado. It was mouthwateringly good, and we will have this again. What more could anyone ask---a book full of love, and a wonderful, easy to follow recipe at the same time.

"Canales' exuberant storytelling, which, like a good anecdote shared between friends, finds both humor and absurdity in sharply observed, painful situations--from weathering slurs and other blatant harassment to learning what it means to leave her community for a privileged, predominately white school. Readers of all backgrounds will easily connect with Sofia as she grows up, becomes a comadre, and helps rebuild the powerful, affectionate community that raised her."
Engberg, G.(2005). The Tequila Worm. Booklist,102(4), 47.

Ideas for the library: Well, how could we possibly read this in a book group without eating chips and salsa? Maybe I'm just hungry, but all my library ideas involve food right now. We can have a quinceanero party for all the 15 year old teens, complete with cake and dresses. That's all Kath Ann needs---another crack-brained idea from above that she has to implement. At least she knows I'll help her! 

Time Travel

For Module 3
Stead, R. (2009). When you reach me. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

Miranda is so sad when her erstwhile best friend gets punched in the stomach and stops hanging out with her. To make things worse, a strange man seems to be living underneath the mailbox and chants strange words to himself. Then pieces of a strange mystery start to appear and Miranda finds herself part of something temporally impossible. Or is it possible?

My view:
I wish time travel was really possible. A couple of years ago I stumbled on I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. You remember him---he wrote The Book Thief and won many honors for it. Anyway, I Am the Messenger was entrancing and confusing and beautiful---and written for an older audience than Rebecca Stead's Newbery Award winning book When You Reach Me. But the premise is somewhat similar. I liked the twisting and turning, even braiding of the different aspects of the plot together---like the "streaker" who ran through the streets and prevented school from being out one day. It was reminiscent of The Time-Traveler's Wife, in a way. Mainly, I loved the tying together of the love and the sacrifice and the cryptic phrase the man (I don't want to spoil anything) muttered. I also liked the connections between A Wrinkle in Time and the narrator---it shows that books can have marvelous and lasting impact on life. I feel an essay about this subject starting to sprout inside of me.

Because this book won the Newbery Award, it has myriad reviews. One from School Library Journal says, "The climax is full of drama and suspense. This story about the intricacies of friendship will be a hit with students."
Crewdson, A. (2009) When you reach me (review). School Library Journal 55(12), 69.

For an older group of kids in a book group, I could see pairing this book with the movie Somewhere in Time, or in a writing group having the participants write about something they would like to go back in time to change. Hey, maybe that can be a topic for my next meeting of Write On!

The Best Superhero Ever

For Module 2
Grey, M. (2005). Traction man is here. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Traction man comes in a cool box with several changes of clothes and loud pants. From the very beginning he shows his true mettle by battling the evil pillows and saving the farm animals, then volunteering to explore the hidden submerged regions to search for the lost Wreck of the Sieve. Because it's Christmas, the superhero has to take a trip to Grandma's house where he, along with everyone else, receives a fancy knitted Christmas gift! But how can a superhero be brave and strong while wearing a green romper suit? Suddenly, Traction Man's loyal sidekick, Scrubbing Brush, comes up with a marvelous idea!

My view:
What a wonderful story! This is one of Will's favorites. We've read and reread this tale even though Will, at 9 years old, thinks he is too old for most picture books (he's not). But I don't think we ever outgrow Traction Man!

A review from School Library Journal had this to say about Traction Man Is Here: "Powered by a young boy's imagination, an intrepid action figure embarks on several perilous adventures accompanied by his faithful pet, Scrubbing Brush. Traction Man---along with everyday objects cast as villains and victims--springs to life through lively comic-book-style pictures and witty text.

In the library: Although this book is much more geared for lap reading (with so many different captions and interesting asides), it would be wonderful in a Superhero storytime lineup with such other books as Superhero ABC and Robot Zot! I can imagine making capes or loyal sidekicks as a craft.
--- Traction Man Is Here (review). School Library Journal, 51, p38-38

19 June 2010

A Home Full of Light

For module 2: The House in the Night.

Swanson, S. M. (2008). The house in the night. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.

A child gets ready for bed and explores many different aspects of the house in the night and its contents.

My view:
Written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes, this beautiful book is, in my opinion, fully worth all the awards that can be bestowed upon it. Ever since I became acquainted with scratchboard in my botanical illustration class, I have been impressed with its excellent use. Beth Krommes has such beautiful artistry that I am impressed all over every time I see this lovely book. For me, however, the words are just as lovely as the pictures. I am a wordsmith and word lover first of all, so the simple story of a little one getting ready for bed is touching, especially because the language used is so evocative and simply resonant with beauty. Just try saying "starry dark" over and over again and maybe you'll be as enchanted as I. Not least is the chiasmic repetition of the elements in the story---moving forward and then tracing backward to make the reader exceedingly satisfied and moving into even a little bit of snuggly sleepiness at the end. Yes, this is a favorite book---one I intend to read to my grandchildren (when they come along in a couple of decades).

A review from Booklist, written by Irene Cooper, says in part, "Executed in scratchboard decorated in droplets of gold, Krommes’ illustrations expand on Swanson’s reassuring story (inspired by a nursery rhyme that begins, “This is the key of the kingdom”) to create a world as cozy inside the house as it is majestic outside. The two-page spread depicting rolling meadows beyond the home, dotted with trees, houses, barns, and road meeting the inky sky, is mesmerizing. The use of gold is especially effective, coloring the stars and a knowing moon, all surrounded with black-and-white halos. A beautiful piece of bookmaking that will delight both parents and children."

Cooper, I. (2008). The house in the night (review). Booklist, 104(16), 46.

In a library setting, I can see this book being used as an example of art and pictures. Maybe a class could create chiasmic poetry, or try scratchboard art. It is a great example of both types.

11 June 2010


For Module 1, Journey to Topaz

Uchida, Y. (1971). Journey to Topaz. Creative Arts Book Company: Berkeley.

Young Japanese girl
Goes to an internment camp
In Topaz, Utah

Delicate yet stark
Record of atrocity
Wreaked on innocents.

A cup of hot tea
And a handful of peanuts
Treasures between friends

Powerless and weak,
The maligned patriots wait
For a better time.

Strikes the young without warning
Falling in the dust.

A small trilobite
And a shard of arrowhead
Are they worth a life?

So many bright stars
Shine in the dark desert night
There is beauty here.

Freedom, freedom, free!
The air is somehow sweeter
Outside the barbed wire.

"As with many other picture books about war, The Journey is not for the very young. A sense of history and social justice is required to understand the events depicted. Children in grades 5 and up will see why Japanese Americans were among the first to speak up for Arab Americans during the current conflict. They'll also see how easily justice and compassion become casualties of war."
Polese, C. (1991). Journey to Topaz. School Library Journal 37(4), 43.

So many uses in the library! This would be excellent coupled with The Devil’s Arithmetic to discuss what similar things were happening in Europe. Or how about as part of a larger discussion about the American Immigrant Experience? There are many possibilities for expansion and exploration.

09 June 2010

We Are His People, and the Sheep of His Pasture

During the next weeks I will be posting analyses of children’s and young adult books for my master’s degree class. This is an analysis for Module 1 of Slake’s Limbo.
Holman, F. Slake’s Limbo. New York: Aladdin Publishing. 1974.

Slake runs down into the subway station and doesn't emerge for almost six months. What he finds and what he learns turns an ordinary story of a boy finding a place in the world into an extraordinary tale of insight, friendship and redemption.

I just finished reading Slake’s Limbo, by Felice Holman. What an amazing, refreshing, compassionate story. Where has it been all my life? I am surprised that in all my reading I have never come across it before. Aremis Slake, who has no one except a harsh, disengaged aunt, runs down into the New York subway one day to escape some tormenters. He does not emerge into the fresh air and sun and sky again for 121 days. As I read I was reminded of Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road. I found myself reflecting on McCarthy’s book again and again as I read about Slake’s experiences in the subway. Certainly The Road is grimmer than Slake’s story, but there are glimpses of brightness, even joy as the father and son interacted. Similarly, there are bright flashes of goodness as Slake finds compassion in people around him, learns to feel compassion himself, and is given ways to survive that seem to appear quite serendipitously.

One of the things I loved best was the sub-plot of the subway operator: Willis Joe. This man had a secret desire to be a sheepherder in Australia. Even though he has never realized this dream, he rides the bumpy rails and sometimes almost feels as if he has become a sheepherder, gathering the sheeplike riders from one station and delivering them to another. But now he is grown and has a wife and children, and his dream seems far away. Who is the head sheep, the ones who lead and don’t follow. And is there no more to life than this? His life is careening down a dark tunnel, away from the dreams he once had. And then, and then, he sees Slake’s sign and realizes in a moment of epiphany that he is not some type of overlord unwittingly living out his life and controlling others senselessly, but the head sheep himself, and therefore led by a wise Shepherd. The realization changes Willis Joe’s life, and Slake’s life as well. Indeed, as Psalm 100:3 states, “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

I am thankful that I’m not alone in my praise for this amazing book. As Claudia Moore wrote in a review of the audio book: "This unusual story combining coming of age with adventure will be sure to please many young teens."
Moore, C. (2001). Slake's Limbo. School Library Journal 47(4), 92 .

This would be a great book to couple with books like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, or My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. It is a survival book in its own way—just the urban jungle instead of the Canadian north or the Adirondacks in winter. It would also be nice to pair with From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. Can you see the similarities? I think it is a natural combination.

13 May 2010

One Thin Dime

Yesterday while filling in at the circulation desk, I was giving change to someone after she paid a fine, and I saw something odd in the dime drawer. When the woman left, I looked again and found a silver Mercury dime. I dropped a quarter in trade, and have been feeling the slippery, 66-year-old surface all day. A sign? Maybe so, maybe no. At any rate, it is an unexpected treasure.

19 April 2010


Yes, spring is here.

18 February 2010


I have lived before this with a silence
That sank into the rhythm of my soul.
It started quiet and almost welcome---
A thin, peaceful gap between stress and stress,
A space to reacquaint myself with me.
But slowly, as the chasm spread, I felt
Color and music draining from the world.
Until a light, a bridge, a slender strand
To reconnect with everlasting bands
Each yearning side---no more to separate.
So now I know that silence will not last:
After a needed pause a voice will sound,
And make the union stronger than before.

There is silence
And then there is an end to silence.

Joy and reconciliation will come.

The one for whom the silence exists
Feels the heavy air.

I'm still praying.
I haven't stopped praying.
I won't stop praying.

Whenever my mind quiets,
It drifts into prayer,
and hope flits into view.

They can prohibit contact
but not thought.

Nothing is lost forever.
It will come back brighter than before.

05 February 2010

Cause and effect

No, I'm not cynical. I just know that when all the other options are gone or impossible, what is left must be the truth, whether people will accept it or not.