3 Days Called Days of Grace

pretty, pink and spindly

A, B and C Rent a Pasture Together (a found poem from Hagar’s Common School Arithmetic)

Two boys were employed
to measure the length of a ditch.
An officer is in pursuit of a thief
who has some miles the start.
If you should leave home
and travel ’til your watch
is 35 minutes fast . . .
Rules for estimating hay,
in mows, well-settled,
divide by 550 for clover,
or by 450 for meadow hay.
Three days
called Days of grace
are usually allowed.

watercolor painting and poem by mary macgowan

Lucy Finds Her Thumb and 10,000 Joys

Lucy finds her thumb

Hey, Lucy, what’s that on your toe? — My 3-month-old granddaughter, Lucy, sometimes accidentally pulls out her pacifier and then manages to find her thumb to suck. It goes like this – She starts to fuss, pulls out the pacifier, finds the thumb, loses the thumb, cries, I give her a pacifier, and so on… Sometimes I show her: Here! Here is your thumb! And thus, within the microcosm of one baby, we find the macrocosm of joy united with suffering. Little girl, I give to you: 10,000 joys, 10,000 sorrows.

Illustration by Mary MacGowan, pen and watercolor pencil and a collaged butterfly
10,000 Joys, 10,000 Sorrows is an old Buddhist saying

MYOM #9: Kisses

This cartoon was posted many months ago, but I’m reblogging it because it fits
in well with My Year of Mindfulness.

Bailey licking humans’ faces (or any body part) is a subject frequently discussed earnestly.
Most human dislike it. Bailey has learned the term “NO LICK!” which she hears often.
I’d estimate that she successfully restrains from licking about 75% of the time.
No, make that 50% of the time. Maybe even less. Some say a dog’s desire to lick
stems from the behavior within a dog pack. The submissive dogs supposedly
lick the ears of the alpha.

For me to be fully in the moment with Bailey, I occasionally let her lick my
face as long and as thoroughly as she chooses. It makes her happy.
Which makes me happy. But now I’m discussing my cartoon which really says it all.

– cartoon illustration by mary macgowan

Hidden In the Poem

  Hidden inside an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem is the loveliest few lines:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware…

These few lines have oft been quoted.  The entire poem, Aurora Leigh, fills a large  book.  Seems to me she was an early Whitman – if you keep reading Aurora Leigh it winds around and around and glorifies herself and God and all the richness of humanity.

I’m wondering about today’s poets. We all strive to be so compact, concise. Brevity is usually our goal. Getting to the point and to the negative space within in the shortest way possible. An editor nowadays would select those 5 lines and advise Browning to leave it at that.

#86

TRUTH, so far, in my book;—the truth which draws
Through all things upwards,—that a twofold world
Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural things
And spiritual,—who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse,
Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men,
Is wrong, in short, at all points. We divide
This apple of life, and cut it through the pips,—
The perfect round which fitted Venus’ hand
Has perished as utterly as if we ate
Both halves. Without the spiritual, observe,
The natural’s impossible,—no form,
No motion: without sensuous, spiritual
Is inappreciable,—no beauty or power:
And in this twofold sphere the twofold man
(For still the artist is intensely a man)
Holds firmly by the natural, to reach
The spiritual beyond it,—fixes still
The type with mortal vision, to pierce through,
With eyes immortal, to the antetype
Some call the ideal,—better call the real,
And certain to be called so presently
When things shall have their names. Look long enough
On any peasant’s face here, coarse and lined,
You’ll catch Antinous somewhere in that clay,
As perfect featured as he yearns at Rome
From marble pale with beauty; then persist,
And, if your apprehension’s competent,
You’ll find some fairer angel at his back,
As much exceeding him as he the boor,
And pushing him with empyreal disdain
For ever out of sight. Aye, Carrington
Is glad of such a creed: an artist must,
Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common stone
With just his hand, and finds it suddenly
A-piece with and conterminous to his soul.
Why else do these things move him, leaf, or stone?
The bird’s not moved, that pecks at a spring-shoot;
Nor yet the horse, before a quarry, a-graze:
But man, the twofold creature, apprehends
The twofold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him,
A mere itself,—cup, column, or candlestick,
All patterns of what shall be in the Mount;
The whole temporal show related royally,
And built up to eterne significance
Through the open arms of God. ‘There’s nothing great
Nor small’, has said a poet of our day,
Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
And not be thrown out by the matin’s bell:
And truly, I reiterate, nothing’s small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim;
And (glancing on my own thin, veinèd wrist),
In such a little tremor of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.

– watercolor painting by mary macgowan

Lepomis Megalotis

We called them sunnies and bluegills. Small fish that crisped up nice in the frying pan. This one’s a Longear Sunfish.

One summer day, fishing with my dad in Celery Bay, we caught so many of these lake fish that they filled our pail. Casted out, landed them. Casted out, landed them. Dad finally said, “We’d better fill the bottom of this boat with water and keep ’em that way.”

He poured the pail full of fish into the boat and they flopped about while dad, fast! fast! bailed backwards & water poured into the boat until there was enough to keep the fish alive, but not so much that we’d sink. Slippery fish skimmed past my ankles. An occasional gill prickled. We kept casting out and landing them until they stopped biting.

We rowed home laughing and yelling for our friends and family to see our empty pail and our rowboat a quarter full of water and 44 Lepomis Megalotis. And they did. And they laughed and yelled too.

We bear witness for each other – that’s what makes it true.

I was 9.  It’s a perfect memory.

– watercolor painting (and life story!) by Mary MacGowan

Start A Huge Foolish Project

These spiritual windowshoppers

These spiritual windowshoppers
who idly ask, “How much is that? Oh, I’m just looking.”
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.

What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.

But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.

Where did you go? “Nowhere.”
What did you have to eat? “Nothing.”

Even if you don’t know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.

Start a huge, foolish project,
like Noah.

It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
– Rumi, These spiritual windowshoppers

Blueberries

The following poem was written in response to Mary Oliver’s poems in which she so often depicts herself falling asleep in wild grasses or under feathered trees – lovely images such as those.  At some point in time I was quite aggravated at all of her sleeping in the wild flowers! Can anybody really do that? Does it make them a better person than one who cannot?

I’ve slept in hammocks,

in beach chairs,

on towels on sandy beaches,

but I have never slept among blueberries.

Wild leaves and fruits scare me,

don’t laugh, it’s their way.

They’ll make us a soft bed, or not,

they’ll feed us, or not,

they’ll scratch us, or make a bridge

for bugs to crawl upon our arms.

Imagine such indifference during

ground-level messy grassy sleep!

Please let’s stay in our pillow-topped bed.

What was I thinking, sleeping

in my car at rest stops?