“The sense of wishing to be known only for what one really is is like putting on an old, easy, comfortable garment. You are no longer afraid of anybody or anything. You say to yourself, ‘Here I am—just so ugly, dull, poor, beautiful, rich, interesting, amusing, ridiculous—take me or leave me.’ And how absolutely beautiful it is to be doing only what lies within your own capabilities and is part of your own nature. It is like a great burden rolled off a man’s back when he comes to want to appear nothing that he is not, to take out of life only what is truly his own.”—David Grayson. Journalist and author (1870-1946).
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
National Pollinators Week is celebrated June 16 - 22 this year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps to protect these hard-working animals and insects that pollinate an estimated 75% of our flowering plants and crops. We may not often notice the hummingbirds, bats, bees, and butterflies that carry pollen from one plant to another, yet without them, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds to eat, and we would miss the many fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we are dependent upon.
Photo Credit: USFWS Image
This week we call your attention to those little known creatures that help nature bring fruits and vegetables to your table. These insects and animals travel from plant to plant, carrying pollen on their bodies, essential for the transfer of genetic material needed to reproduce most flowering plants. These animals are essential for a healthy ecosystem and are in trouble.
Here are 5 simple steps you can take to help pollinators:
Plant: Provide habitat for a variety of pollinators by planting a pollinator garden. To attract pollinators to your yard, choose native plants of different colors, shapes, and heights. Creating variety in flower color and shape will increase the diversity of pollinators that will use the space! Need help in identifying which plants are native in your area? Check through the Native Plant Societies in your area or explore native planting guides available through the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and Pollinator Partnership.
Photo Credit: USFWS Image
Build: Create structures for pollinators that nest or roost. Free plans are available for construction of a bee block for solitary bees use small cavities. Want to attract bats to your yard? In addition to pollination, bats also can help by eating insects—including mosquitoes! Bats just don’t live in caves, many species use trees, bridges, or buildings as roost sites. By building a bat house, you can provide habitat for bats in your yard.
What might have been? I’d guess we’ve all asked that at one time or another. Here’s a fine what-might-have-been poem by Andrea Hollander, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Long after I married you, I found myself
in his city and heard him call my name.
Each of us amazed, we headed to the café
we used to haunt in our days together.
We sat by a window across the paneled room
from the table that had witnessed hours
of our clipped voices and sharp silences.
Instead of coffee, my old habit in those days,
I ordered hot chocolate, your drink,
dark and dense the way you take it,
without the swirl of frothy cream I like.
He told me of his troubled marriage, his two
difficult daughters, their spiteful mother, how
she’d tricked him and turned into someone
he didn’t really know. I listened and listened,
glad all over again to be rid of him, and sipped
the thick, brown sweetness slowly as I could,
licking my lips, making it last.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
—Nelson Mandela. Speech from the dock. April 1964.
1990: Released from prison, after 27 years, at the age of 71. 1993: Nobel Peace Prize with Frederik Willem de Klerk “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” 1994: Elected president of South Africa in the first multiracial election.
Nelson Mandela was a man of rare intelligence, strength, integrity, compassion. He was hurt so many times, outrageously and deliberately, and yet he said, "Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace," and by example, angled us all further toward reconciliation.
The birth dates of my mother, my two sisters, and my brother are in a 49-day period beginning on 15 August and ending on 2 October. When I was a child there seemed to be a crowd of late summer and early autumn family birthdays, and a crowd of people in the world who were celebrating birthdays along with them. To my parents’ credit, my 4 January birthday was celebrated with family traditions and enthusiasm the equal of any other family birth date.
As an adult, facing my wintry birth date three days after the Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve celebratory period exhausts its final piece of candy and bottle of Champagne makes me feel as if I were floating alone on a wintry birth date ice floe. Until recently, I had never met anyone else with my birth date, which was often the day people trudged back to work after the holidays. When faced with yet another celebration, I often lack the energy or desire to observe the day, and feel with sympathy the effort of those around me to gather their winter-sapped strength for one more event. I’ve thought of moving my birthday out six months, but that date is taken by America. Even my dad’s 9 December birthday, the one that felt paired with mine, seemed more fun to celebrate in its post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas position. All the china and silver were already at hand, and the darkest days following the winter solstice had not yet begun.
The “Which Birth Dates Are Most Common?” infographic by Mike Wiles, included in the book Best American Infographics 2013 edited by Gareth Cook; featured on Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog (I’ve ordered a copy so I can lose myself in its varied infographics and its introduction by David Byrne), verifies what I have long maintained, most people are born in autumn, and even my dad’s 9 December birth date is shared with more people than my 4 January date.
My two sisters thoughtfully produced my three nieces and one nephew with birth dates in the 60-day period beginning on 9 March and ending on 7 May. This gives us a new set of celebrations in a row in springtime. I am still waiting for my family winter match. Maybe in the next generation.
I do have one question about Mr. Wiles’ infographic: Why did he choose a neutral-to-funereal range of colors from beige, through a series of greenish taupes, to black to represent varying concentrations of birth dates? Why not pale-yellow to dark-saffron orange, which strikes me as a palette more representative of the creation of life. Representing the highest concentrations of births in black intrigues me. Despite my love of the color, its use here would in my mind more classically suggest an infographic of death dates, which would in itself be an interesting infographic.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats. Michael Robartes and the Dancer. 1921.
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what
W. S. Merwin. The Second Four Books of Poems. (Copper Canyon Press, 1993)
Happy 30 September Birthday, W, S. Merwin. Wishing you willing to stay in a strange garment, surprised at the earth and telling us about it, for as long as possible.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
—Mary Oliver. Dream Work. (The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1986.)
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver. West Winds: Poems and Prose Poems. (Mariner Books. 1998.)
Pale lemon liquid light. High blue skies. Changing leaves clinging to trees for one more day. Dry leaves in rustling piles on the ground. Smoky air. Crisp nights. Harvest moon. Hunter’s Moon. Glittering star chips. Sweaters. Coats. Gloves.
All day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
—Adam Zagajewski (Translated by Renata Gorczynski.)
h/t Bumble Ward