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In my attempts to de-clutter my e-mail (a monumental undertaking since I’m an e-mail hoarder!), I came across this sage advice. Maybe hoarding e-mail is not so bad after-all…?

A little background. This is part of an e-mail I wrote to a then-pen pal of mine. Most of my life I’ve lived in Michigan. When I wrote this I was in New Jersey. I moved there after I became engaged to a man who lived in New Jersey. I originally met him on an online dating service. I went to visit him and his family in May 2000. He came to visit me and my family in October 2000. That’s when he proposed. I moved to New Jersey in December 2000.

Before I took the leap and got on that plane to move out there, I wrote this poem:

The Road of Life
We all walk down
the road of life
blindly
having faith
that through the
twists and turns
and forks in the road
the path we choose
will lead our souls
to an ultimate happiness
unbounded.

In March 2001, my fiancé broke off the engagement.

This e-mail excerpt was written in June 2001.

The e-mail to my then-pen pal (later we dated some when I got back to Michigan) was an attempt at a “get to know me/my family/where I’m coming from” kinda thing. A previous paragraph expressed the negativity of my family after they learned of our relationship (my then-pen pal was Brazilian-American, but as far as my family was concerned he was a “dirty Mexican” Sigh!). Another paragraph expressed the attempts by my ex to give me dating advice. (Yes, really!)

Here’s the (edited) excerpt:

Before, yes, I was the type to cave in to my family and did what they thought I should do and think. After all, when you get negativity all your life, you think that your feelings and ideas don’t matter. But, getting away from that, and living on my own, and handling xxxx, and the rest on my own gave me a re-newed sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. I took my life into my own hands, and well, I did pretty good, if you look beyond the narrow “xxxx’s a jerk and I was crazy for falling in love with him” thing. (Which I know that most of my family members can’t see past.) xxxx was a means to an end. An end that I can’t get to if the detour didn’t take me away from my family and to New Jersey. I truly believe that. And truly, my heart, God, and my life took me here. It’s not like I’m starving, it’s not like I’m homeless, it’s not like I’m penniless, and I still have a secure job*. Like I’ve been saying all along, I gained much more in the walking of the path, than I would’ve by staying cooped up, miserable and alone, …. And, even if no-one else in my family sees it, I know that I am a better person for all that’s happened and that I shouldn’t be afraid of wisely following my heart.

I was reading in my Oprah Magazine an article that expresses my past year’s life so “right on the nose” so to speak. It’s amazing. It even brings up those people in the author’s life that criticized her for following her heart and taking a risk, and she brings up some pretty good perspective on the matter. She writes:

“Whatever your circumstance, people will start to give you advice as soon as you disturb the status quo. That advice is likely to be bad. It will be bad because they are seeking not to understand and further your calling but to preserve the world as they know it. And yet, in the midst of the shouting and the falling masonry you will know with an unusual quietness that it is happening in the only way that it can, and that whichever way it turns out, no matter what suffering you endure, it will be all right. There in the midst of the cyclone, is the peace that passes understanding.”

She also says that … if you try to tend to your needs, you are looked on as selfish. (That was [a certain family member’s] argument for me not moving out here, that I was being selfish). But, I agree with this statement she says: “Far from being a display of selfishness, this is the most compassionate act you can do for anyone: to stand by the truth of your own life and live it as fully and passionately as you are able.”

This is actually the entire poem that she wrote, which brought tears to my eyes, because this literally is my life. And, it began that day that I stepped on the plane for the first time in May 2000:

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But, little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

*Thanks to Monique and Arsen for letting me follow my heart!

And, thank you to my friends who stood by me throughout it all!

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Perhaps there should be an RDA (recommended daily allowance) of poetry, just as there is an RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for vitamins and minerals? Vitamins and minerals nourish our body. Poetry nourishes our soul.

When power leads men towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.
— John F. Kennedy

Some in our society may need a higher dose, however.

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Recent Summer Evening

Clear blue sky.
Cool summer breeze.
Picnic dinner
Under a canopy
Of ancient
Oak and cedar,
Serenaded by
Carillon melody.

A little something I scribbled at the time. My husband’s comment: “you should sit outside under a shade tree more often.” I wholeheartedly agree!

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What Was Said

I recently watched the documentary I Am. Twice. Within a week. This is one DVD that I would like to own. The director of this movie goes all over the world, asking influential people two questions: What’s wrong with the world? and What can we do about it? The answers always come back to the title of the film: “I Am”. The journey the director takes the watcher through is fascinating and enlightening. And entertaining.

If you want to watch the trailer click here.

While watching this film I was struck by something that Coleman Barks, author of The Essential Rumi, said:

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

A quote from Rumi’s poem “What Was Said to the Rose.”

I had never read Rumi before, but this quote made me think that I should. So, I sought out the poem.

Then I sought out Coleman Barks reading this poem:

Something for our souls to ponder as we soon head into the Easter season.

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Path InterruptedApril is National Poetry Month. At the beginning of this month I set out to read at least one poem a day. I scoured my shelves for poetry books, and found that I had apparently given most of them away during one or more of my “purging” sessions. I’m sure the library book sale people were happy, and I hope these books found good homes, but I was somewhat regretting giving away a volume of poetry that I bought back when I was in grade school. I was looking forward to re-reading at least some of the poetry in it. Oh well.

The one volume of poetry I did find was The New Pocket Anthology of American Verse from Colonial Days to the Present, edited by Oscar Williams. Copyright 1965 by Washington Square Press. My aunt gave me this book years ago. It used to be her son’s book back when he was in school. He left it in his old room after he moved out and got married. My aunt knew I liked books so she said I could have it. I took it, and it has sat on my bookshelf, unread, for nearly 20 years and 5 moves. Now, if it has sat so long without being read why didn’t I give this one away, you ask? Well, I think it’s because I thought that I “ought” to keep it. It’s one of those books that, at least on some level, subconscious if you will, that I feel “should” be on my bookshelf if I am to be called an educated person. “But if you’ve never read it…”, you say. I know. It’s something I struggle with and one day I’m hoping to get to the point where the only books on my bookshelf are books that I intend to re-read or books that have meant a great deal to me. In the meantime I struggle with this irrational thinking.

But, for this month, I intended to at least read some poetry from this volume. My initial intent was to read a poem a day. That didn’t last for long. Some days I wouldn’t read any (sometimes out of laziness, sometimes because I had other things to do), sometimes I would read three or four or five poems. I tried to not just read poetry by people I’d heard of before, but I wanted to branch out and read poems from poets I have never heard of before. After all, I had not heard of Mary Oliver before I read her poem “The Journey,” in 2001. And, that is one of the most powerful and meaningful poems to me still to this day. So, one never knows….

Unfortunately, in this volume of poetry, reading many of the poems by poets unknown to me just left me with a feeling of “Huh?” None of the new (to me) poets’ poetry spoke to me at all. However, these poems did speak to me:

To My Dear and Loving Husband,” by Anne Bradstreet. Self-explanatory.

The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost. There was one day in the month of April when it was 84 degrees. My husband and I went to a park with a blanket and a book. There was a lone, shady, untaken spot at the base of a fork in a hiking trail. This spot reminded me of “The Road Not Taken.”

The Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost. I’m of the mind “Good fences make good neighbors.” Recently I moved into a subdivision where the subject of fences has been quite contentious for years between residents and the Homeowners Association Board. In the April meeting, the Board voted to not allow any new fences. I guess I’ll have to live without a fence…* But, I’m already thinking about what sort of living fences will look nice around our property. We are still allowed hedges and bushes, with Board approval.

————
*Picture taken April 23, 2011 by Joyce P. Simkin. Path leading from the side yard of my house to the backyard, interrupted by a low fence. Yes, that’s a fence around my yard. The previous owners had a dog. This was to keep the dog in the yard. Despite my “good fences make good neighbors” philosophy coupled with the “no new fences” rule imposed by the Board, my husband and I still intend on removing this fence. We both agree that removal will be an improvement overall.

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April is National Poetry Month. How will you celebrate?

Maybe some of you will go the high-tech route. Yes, there’s an app for that. Maybe some of you will go the low-tech route. Visit the library, a favorite book store. The Curious Book Shop is a local favorite here. Maybe some of you will want to celebrate with others. Find a poetry event near you on poets.org. Maybe some of you will not venture so far. Open up an old, dusty, long-forgotten volume of poetry that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for years. Scribble a beloved poem on a piece of paper and stick it in your pocket, ready to share with a loved one, coworker, or friend.

Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 14th!

Then others, the creative type, may just write a poem or two this month. (But, don’t think that you have to be the “creative type” to do just that.)

I think that I will go the low-tech route and find some poems upon my shelf,
but I will also try to find the time to write some poetry myself:

A Lesson Learned

The ice has melted,
the warmth has come,
the river flows once more.
The geese along the shore
say “Welcome Spring!”
“But, ’tis March,” I say,
“The warmth will not endure.”

A goose honks back: “I know!
Each year papa says ‘It’s time!’
and each year I say ‘No.
Don’t you remember last year,
when our feet froze in the snow?'”

“‘This year will be different,’ he says,
and this year it is so.
For now the warmth is here,
but…”

“The cold will come,
the flurries too,
and the river flow
will stop once more.
Some more suffering we must endure
before the Springtime warmth is here.”

“Then this year papa will say ‘It’s time!’
and I will say ‘Yes it is!’
Time to find my true love
and start a family all my own!”

“Next year I will be the papa.
The papa that says ‘It’s time!’
But I will wait until April or May
when Spring is warm,
and flowers bloom,
and the river flows unceasing!”

I smile at the goose.
He smiles at me.
Then suddently he cocks his head
and thinks most seriously.

“No,” he says, “I won’t do such.”
“I must say ‘It is time’ in March
just as my papa does.”

“Without the cold,
the flurries too,
without the river flow ceasing,
I would not appreciate
the warmth, the beauty,
the river flowing deeply.”

“And as a papa, I must teach
my little ones the same:
The warmth is warmer,
the beauty more,
after one has suffered pain.”

Creative Commons License
A Lesson Learned by Joyce P. Simkin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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My Lenten Reflection

Just as the flower bulb
drinks slowly in
the nourishment
from the fertile soil,
from the melting snow,
preparing…

So does my soul
drink slowly in
the nourishment
from the Word of God,
from the Body and the Blood,
preparing…

To flower,
to beautify,
to please,
to nourish
all that surrounds it.

Crocus in bloom

— Photos taken by Joyce P. Simkin on March 17, 2011 in her front garden.

Creative Commons License
My Lenten Reflection by Joyce P. Simkin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at walkingthepathways.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://walkingthepathways.wordpress.com.

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