Thanksgiving Grace and Gratitude

It’s been forty years since I left the motherland and I have only partaken of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey celebration meal a couple handful of times over those decades. Sometimes I travelled back to family. At other times, I celebrated with other ex-patriots in England or Ireland. This does not, however, prevent me from contemplating gratitude on an annual basis. That is bone marrow deep. I don’t miss football games, parades, marathons or anxiety over gravy making. But my husband has often commented that having an annual day for gratitude is A Good Thing. So this morning, instead of making stuffing and pumpkin pie in preparation for the Great Feast tomorrow, I contemplated current events and gratitude…and the state of grace.

I write in Ireland when the L word has not been spoken, but rising infection rates are causing government to somberly talk of ‘extra measures’ and a plea for office workers to go back to working from home. With the riots against increased Covid restrictions across the continent this past weekend they are taking a softly-softly approach. Now Northern Ireland is also asking folk to work at home…but humans are social animals and after so much isolation they appear reluctant to give up on their face-to-face life. And, it has to be admitted, the seclusion and isolation has had a big impact on the collective mental and physical health. High Covid infection means elective and non-urgent procedures get delayed. For want of ICU beds a cancer patient’s delayed surgery may mean they get a terminal sentence.

Ireland has reportedly one of the highest take up rates of the vaccine available to eligible people. But the vaccine is no silver bullet to this viruses. Keeping our distance and wearing masks indoors is going to have to be a feature of our lives for some time to come.

Everything takes four times as long to get accomplished under Covid measures. Everyone is frustrated and sometimes that bubbles over into anger. No one is immune from this pandemic symptom. I suspect even saints are having a hard time of it these days to hang on to their haloes.

The great themes of 2021 have been Safety and Liberty. We have seen time and again great migrations of people fleeing war, civil unrest, the threat of gang rape, torture and death. Who can blame a family for taking to the road in the hope that they have a better chance of surviving. They seek a place of safety. Just as those of us in our various Lockdowns tell others in virtual messages to ‘Stay Safe.’ We do not just want to stay well., we want to stay alive from a virus stalking the globe.

On the other hand, there are the ones I think of as the Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry Brigade. Yes, civil liberties are under threat. But, for the time being, the virus is winning the Four Horseman of the Acopalyse Steeple Chase. Medical staff are quitting because the stress of dealing with this virus has stretched human and institution to snapping point. Even if the virus does not kill you, whether you choose to vaccinate or not, the more freely and widely we mingle we may asymptomatically spread it and unwittingly harm someone. That is a huge responsibility. We may hold the fate of a stranger in a breath we exhale.

Little wonder we are anxious…

Who is not vexed to the point of exhaustion with not seeing loved ones, or having a celebration with more than a handful of people, with the one with the cold masked in the corner. Love now comes with a health and safety risk assessment attached it seems. How much have we mingled before meeting indoors? Who does not want to hug? How many lateral flow tests can you do before your sinuses rebel? How many lockdowns before the economy, if not the health service, falls down?

My Thanksgiving meditations swung from the collective energy around to St. Brigid (random, I know!) and then it settled upon grace.

Gratitude and Grace

The grace for the bread we break.
The grace of the friendships we shape.
The grace of time to create.
The grace of the lucky escape.

The grace when we first awake.
The grace with fading heart ache.
The grace to hold and contain.
The grace, feather light, unexplained.

To partake. To not forsake. To sustain.
Just the same, grace and gratitude remain.



I wish you grace and its filling joy thi Thanksgiving.

Weekly Poem – Pivot

pivot hinge doorway samhain

There is a hard rain pelting on our roof this morning. Outside it felt way too dark to actually be close to 9am. But then again, we are that point of the year when the clocks go back. In Ireland this Sunday the clocks ‘fall back’ and we will be plunged into the darkness of Samhain time. This is one of the main pivot points in the Irish year. Traditionally, Samhain, or Halloween as it is known elsewhere, is the Celtic New Year. We are entering the season of endings and beginnings. Winter is a time where the earth is sleeping and, in our high northern latitudes, the light is too feeble for any growth. But the legends say that this is a time when Mother Earth is gestating. We must be patient, wait, and let the darkness do its own essential work.

Over in my Word Alchemy group we have been working on the theme of Light considering that what we see more of reflected in the outer world of media is deep shadow. This led on to the topic of joy. The prompt for one of our in-Zoom writing sessions was “What Brings You Your Greatest Moments of Joy?” Our further discussion touched on joy as a consciousness…and a conscious decision, one that does not refute the sadness or pain, but can be one where you can lace your fingers around a cup of hot chocolate and sip of something other for a moment.

Here is an excerpt from my own musings.

Sunset on the beach, the light slipping below the horizon, sending a burst of magenta, marigold and blue ink across an oceanic slate… the splash and plash of low tide rolling across sand and pebbles, sweeping up shells, sandblasted glass, cork, seaweed…watching the tideline rise and recede and my ankles sinking deeper and deeper into the sand…seeing fossils etched in ancient rock, the stars and spirals from which we all come from there to remind us of the spiral waltz of stardust that comes down to find a body who can stand at the tideline, ankles lapped by salty seawater that sink lower and lower into the silty sand, making a pearl inside of an oyster shell of a human body…

Moments of Joy, Bee Smith, 2021

Nature, the people and pets in our lives, our five senses, memories from the past, the now of the present, the hopes and plans for the future all weave a tapestry of joyfulness.

So many times over these anxious weeks, I stop myself and breath and pay especial attention to giving gratitude for the everyday…the roof over my head sheltering us from the pounding rain, the neighbours up and down the lane, the technology that helps us reach out and connect with those physically far from us, the cup of hot chocolate that does not deny the trouble and strife, but lifts us in a moment. And I give thanks for the cocao farmer and I hope that their family is well and free from suffering, too, and getting a fair exchange for their skill and labour. Little may they know or imagine what joy they are bringing in higher latitudes as rain pelts down and the year winds down to one of its pivot points.

Pivot

It's just the hinge needs grease
to ease its creak.

Just get at that rusting point.
Anoint the joints.

Just move back and forth,
back and forth. Do it smooth.

It's just metal won't give or grow.
A hinge opens. And it will close.

It's 180 degrees, you know? You're thinking 360.
That kind of swing sheers off everything

To a point that the point can
lose all its meaning.

You've only so much room
for manoevering.

A door remains two-faced. Replace grace for grease.
Then. Pivot.

Copyright Bee Smith, 2021. All rights reserved.

I invite you to recount your own moments of joy this week like you might say your prayers on rosary beads. Write it, paint it, crochet it – choose whatever creative activity gives you pleasure and joy. As another student commented in our Zoom Room last Saturday…creativity is an act of self-actualisation. Yet while we are actively shaping ourselves, we are also shaping and becoming the world we live in. We can take a conscious act to shape it and make it one of joy.

As we approach Samhain’s hinge of the year’s seasons, may your own pivot points be joyful.

Featured image Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Grit, Resilience and Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving. I don’t have turkey for dinner here in Ireland, but I am making my own version of Hoppin’ John. I also baked a sweet potato pie. While all my blood relatives are in the States I did manage to have a socially distanced meet up with my Irish friends who are family in the Carrick on Shannon Farmer’s Market today. We needed to see each other’s faces after a couple months of only having phone and message contact. So I am grateful to all those people patiently queuing six feet apart and wearing masks outdoors unless they were sipping a coffee to keep the chill out of our bones. The bangharda (woman police officer) really had very little to do other than be a discreetly watchful presence on the sidelines.

And isn’t it strange how you can still recognise people even when they are masked? Maybe it is mostly voice recognition, but I did correctly identify someone who I have not bumped into for years! And he spotted me, though my husband thinks the accent and voice volume probably announces my presence.

Peter and I counted ourselves to be blessed to live in the part of Ireland with the lowest infection rate and with people who have kept with the programme. We also are blessed to live in a beautiful part of the country with plenty of nature for exercise within 5 km of our home. Having a rural setting and low population density is no guarantee of low infection rate, so thank you all you vigilant residents of West Cavan and Leitrim.

I am also very grateful to the band of Word Alchemists who have Zoomed twice weekly, many since September. They have provided me with social engagement, intellectual stimulation, and a little bit of income. I am also grateful to all those who have subscribed to my December e-course A Light in the Window:  A 21 Day Journey Together Through December’s Dark Days.

Another thank you needs to go out to Cavan Arts Office. They have been running Zoom workshops to support artist’s spirits during Covid 19. Lots of our projects have had to be cancelled or re-configured. I attended one facilitated by Louise Gartland of Artonomy on Grit and Resilience. This pandemic has had us dig deep to discover what qualities of endurance we have to call on. We also looked at how we can nurture our resilience, to get up when we are down. Just this week I have been able to see the truth in challenges being opportunities. I had a 2020 Artist Development Award project for work in schools. Well, the virus and no vaccine put paid to that plan. But I came up with another idea, partnered with another organisation I am connected to, and we found out yesterday that we got the €6,000 grant of a project I will curate. It is far more ambitious than my original plan and its scope is wider. So, thanks for the challenges that turn out to be fun opportunities. More news about that later.

Fortitude was not a word that came up on the Zoom whiteboard when we talked about resilience and grit, but in hindsight I think it should have been there. Here is a revised poem originally posted on Thanksgiving 2018.

Fortitude

I thank you ancestors for
your spine and pluck,
for your knowing of when to leave,
the courage to try your luck.
 
I thank you ancestors for
your endurance of marathon runners,
for keeping some faith when
hope hoisted up its anchor.
 
I thank you ancestors for
my very blood and bone.
I thank you thousands who loved,
and those that felt all alone.
 
I thank you ancestors for
bringing me here, for the going through,
the getting safely passed over,
all of you inside me helixing.
 
I thank you ancestors for
feeling your fears, for your shadows,
for this task of mining the golden vein
in even the most chaotic fandangos.
 
I thank you ancestors for
now you may rest in peace,
bestowing on descendants the tasks 
like rescuing Jason’s golden fleece.
 
I thank you ancestors for
your quests and heroic journeys,
for the tiny triumphs and huge betrayals,
for your centuries’ continual re-sorcery.
 
I thank you ancestors for
the heart that is able to forgive,
the memory that will never forget,
and – most of all – you own will to live.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020

Even if you are eating a turkey club sandwich in your pjs, you are not alone. We are all connected somehow and someway. We can thrive even in seclusion.

May you feel all your blessings in your very marrow today and everyday.

Best of Times,Worst of Times

Who, in the English speaking world, has not read Charles Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities at some point during their teens? It was a set text when I was in 10th grade in the early 1970s. But that was a world ago. Do teenagers know Sidney Carton’s heroic speech these days? At any rate, those opening sentences resonate with this year. Well, some may not be feeling it for the former, but the tale of those two cities does illustrate how that sentence can be true.

We are not quite a week into Ireland’s second lockdown, which we are told will last until 1st December. In truth, I barely registered that it was a bank holiday in the Republic yesterday and it almost escaped me that today is Tuesday. I nearly forgot that today is the day I post a weekly blog. And ideally, a new poem.

What emerged is very rough and raw. It is a monument only to my commitment to keep up the practice. It is not for want of idleness. I have a couple projects in train with only twelve days off between the end of my Zoom Short Fiction workshop in October and the Poetry one that starts the first week in November. I am currently writing a e-course provisionally titled A Light in the Window: A 21 Day Journey Through December’s Dark Days. The plan is for participants who register to get a daily reflection and journal prompt in their email inbox for twenty-one days. As a bonus, there is a Sunday Zoom ‘Virtual Fireside’ where participants can check in, share and companion one another as we journal and journey our way to winter solstice. Watch this space for full details to get released early in November.

I also have a grant proposal to write before 6th November, as well as prep for the Poetry workshops in November. So I may be living in splendid isolation, but I am far from idle. The side of my brain that engages with prose is more active at the moment. It felt like I had to wrench it bit to get it into gear for the draft of poem that follows. Or there may be two poems inside this particular draft. I have not got the bandwidth to decide today! Only some revision time will allow for me to decide. But that may not be until Yuletide!

  The Best of Times, The Worst of Times
 
 Which, in truth, tremulously hover 
 between terror and hope.
 Just this year we said goodbye
 to the Indian cheetah
 the Sumatran rhino,
 turtles, paddlefish, macaws.
  
 Perhaps we only truly feel grateful
 once we have destroyed, 
 then indulge in nostalgia. We mourn
 with crocodile tears from a croc
 with a ticking clock inside.
  
 We will only know them as figures
 in the illustrated guide to ecocide,
 or as shadows behind the rice paper
 sliding door separating us 
 from our own transmutation
  
 into hungry ghosts wandering,
 not knowing that our life – the old life-
 with its morning rites like
 tea and toast or coffee and brioche
 has gone. 
We can only watch it, 
looking from outside in
through the steamed up glass of a transport caff.
  
Once there was a child who dimpled
as it smiled for no particular reason,
flexing its thigh muscles as it got used
to the their power as they bounced 
up and down for the admiration
of a doting giant.
  
 Once that child twirled itself round and round
 before hurling itself onto the grassy ground
 to feel the pull of the world as it revolved
 on its skewed axis. And it knew happiness
 as it watched cloud and sky fly past.
  
 Perhaps it was always thus.
 That only when we sacrifice for the sake of love
 do we know the best in the worst
 and time stops
 being relevant. 
That then there is only
 
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
 And
 We miss you. 
 We miss you. 
 We miss you.
 
 Copyright ©Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved. 

Featured image Photo by Daniel Joshua on Unsplash

All Shall Be Well

The great Irish poet Derek Mahon died on 1st October. In terms of contemporary Irish poetry giants, this was the second great loss of the year. Eavan Boland passed away in April. Both were also influential on the international English language poetry scene. Boland was a professor at Stanford in California. Belfast born Mahon was a member of Aosdána, one of the select writers who received Irish Arts Council support to keep writers writing.

Mahon is the author of one of the poems nominated as a poetry prescription for our Covid19 times by The Atlantic magazine -“Everything Will Be Alright.” You can listen to the incomparable Andrew Scott (The Priest on Fleabag, Moriarty in the most recent Sherlock series) read the poem on this You Tube clip. https://youtu.be/kfjYhje2zrE

You might think from the poem’s title that it’s a bit Pollyanna-ish. But here is a line quoting from the poem to set you right. “There will be dying, there will be dying, …”

It reminds me of the mystic Mother Julian of Norwich, who is famous for her saying “all shall be well.” Mother Julian lived through, and survived, the Bubonic Plague and the Peasant’s Revolt. Catastrophe visits every century. We are not unique. Yet, amidst all that turmoil she set down her mystical visions in a book, Revelations of Divine Love.

I do not think that you need be a theist to contemplate that we need a great deal more love, empathy and compassion in our world. Julian of Norwich was an anchorite. She was literally isolated from the world, immersed in prayer, fasting and entertaining the angels of revelation, which she shared first with the people of Norwich, and then with the wider world.

Isolation can be hard, and harder still for some who rely on literal human connection on a daily basis. But perhaps there is a missed opportunity. A student of mine wrote a wonderful dialogue between grief and gratitude this week. To immerse yourself in loss alone is to miss the connection with its twin, gratitude. There will be death, but everything will be alright.

I am revisiting a poem written for NaPoWriMo 2020 this week, tweaking it and revising. The brief was to write about something handmade, but is really a litany of gratitude.

Handmade 

Once, 
a Celtic knot clock
was in the Christmas box.  

Also,
hand painted silk scarves,
a Technicolor Joseph’s coat shawl  made 
way back in the early 1970s,
knitted coffee mug cozies.

Each year,
jars of pumpkin chutney, 
blackberry jam, apple jelly -
gifts
the visitor brings to the door.

Decade after decade,
the meals my mother made daily,
casseroles from leftover ham at Easter, 
tuna melts on Fridays for
when I got off the bus from college.   

Once,
My father’s hand touched my mother’s shoulder. 
She turned towards him 
and let me in.   

Copyright© Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved

The world is going through heavy weather. We know multiple kinds of bereavement. But there is much to be grateful for, too. I am reminded that Quakers write not obituaries, but testimonies “to the grace of God as lived in the life of X”, giving thanks and celebrating the luminosity of a life well lived. Gratitude can help us navigate and mediate grief.

Featured image Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

In the Round

If Turning was last week’s post then Round and Round seemed logical for the title of this Sunday’s Weekly. Actually, the poem for this week is a rondeau, so you have been warned.

The earth energies – the weather that is not externally climactic, but inwardly true – have been stressful this week. The elderly dog, who has made guest appearances in past poems in this blog over the years, is declining. A new problem appeared this week. While she does not seem to be suffering she needs to be seen by the vet this week. In these days of Covid-19, the waiting time to be seen at the vets is much longer than usual. Normally, we might be seen in two days when ringing for an appointment. We had previously made a check-up appointment that involved a nine day wait. The sweet receptionist did some diary contortions to move Ellie’s appointment up from Friday to Tuesday. There is no avoiding the fact that she is a biggish medium-sized dog and she is past her 17th birthday.

If that wasn’t enough to surge the adrenaline in one week, I launched the Zoom workshops this week. Just to spite me, the cyber demons locked me out of my tablet two days before launch day. Thanks to our local Computer Guy – shout out to Charlie Connor of We Fix Computers in Belcoo – I had an unlocked tablet by 3pm Thursday. The laptop where I do my writing is ancient. I suspect computers age in dog years. This one – whom I love and treasure – is still Windows 7, but is over nearly eight years old, and well past menopause. The backup was a mini-Ipad. But I didn’t fancy having to host a group peering at a seven inch screen. It is difficult enough with an 11 inch tablet! The audio and video on the old laptop was poor and Zoom felt counterintuitive. Two hours before launch time, a friend was helping me do a dummy run to make sure everything was going to work. Shout out to Siobhán for being the friend in deed!

I disapprove of drama on the home front. Specifically, I disapprove of electronic devices throwing hissy fits in time sensitive situations.

But I have just named four instances of people being kind to me this week. And that does not even include those who belatedly delivered my husband’s 70th birthday present. Last February, I commissioned one of the lads at Loughan House to wood burn some lines from Tony’s favourite poems on signs to dot around the garden. Also, there was one adorned with a guitar and bees, saying “Tony’s Garden”, the design suggested by the Sign Maker. (I am incredibly indebted to the visual artists in my life who know what I want better than I do.) The signs were ready early, but I asked the Sign Maker to keep them until closer to Tony’s vernal equinox birthday. I wanted it to be a surprise.

Then, of course, the biggest surprise of them all – Lockdown. And even as restrictions eased the gates at the local open prison remained closed. Credit where credit is due, the Irish Prison Service has zero Covid-19 cases because of the protocols they put in place. Not all countries can claim to have cherished their incarcerated as well.

The very first day the Education Centre at Loughan re-opened the Sign Maker approached one of the teachers to help organise Tony getting his present. Later that day, five months after his birthday, one of the Education Centre teachers who lives locally delivered his present to our door.

Wasn’t that kind?

The cyber angels smiled on us Thursday night. The wifi fairies held the signals steady for both weekly sessions, barring a few moments of wobble from the eastern fringes of County Cavan Saturday. The transatlantic participant flashed a view of a Rhode Island harbour for her new mates to glimpse, much to delight all of us who are new scenery starved. The first unit of Pick n Mix is complete and we move on to Poetry in Week 2.

More reasons to be grateful.

One participant needed to drop out but didn’t want a refund. That made a scholarship place for someone who really appreciated the opportunity.

Wasn’t that kind? The scholar was incredibly thankful.

In a roundabout way this Sunday Weekly has come round to kindness and gratitude, even in a week that has been fraught. Life offers much to surprise. Much like a good poem.

With poetry next week in mind I shifted gears and decided to flex my lyrical muscles and practice a tight form this week in poetry practice. It has been a while since I concentrated on technicalities. A book opened onto a page outlining the rondeau. It has a refrain and my eye had picked up a phrase from a past notebook that was rattling around my imagination. .

A rondeau is usually thirteen lines, though the prompt I read suggested making one fifteen lines long, with each line is between eight and ten syllables. There are three stanzas: a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet – five, four and six lines per stanza. There are only two rhymes in a rondeau. The first line becomes the final lines of the second and third stanzas. The repeated line is a well used device in the poetry tool kit.

Let Your Secrets Breathe

Let your secrets breathe. Let truth be set free.
If, as my friend says, the world is a pea
then the mote in the eye - no cause for tears.
Let no storm blight your sight or cause you fears
or leave you bereft, adrift, out at sea.

Yes. If the world is basically a pea,
tight in its pod, no thing is so weighty
an axis for shame to revolve this sphere.
Let your secrets breathe. Let truth be set free.

Though many might - and will - disagree,
preferring to keep the truth mystery.
Avoiding presence in atmospheres
gone silent. Ruminative. Insincere.
Blinded by eye mote that cannot foresee.
Let your secrets breath. Let truth set you free.

Featured image Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Noticing

A lot can happen in a week’s time. This week I piloted my first creative writing Zoom session with a handful of volunteers who are helping me find my way towards the most workable method and format. I have been facilitating creative workshops in the Marble Arch Caves Geopark region now for nearly ten years. I know I will need to alter some of my teaching methods, but I also want to maintain the integrity of the sharing sessions. Besides, come winter when we are all holed up, we will need these kinds of interactions as we isolate to keep the bugs at bay. We have another session at this week’s end which I hope will tease out the details of how I will operate in the Word Alchemy Zoom Room.

Also this week, our Taoiseach announced that the Roadmap to Re-opening is being accelerated since we have maintained our flattened curve. From next Monday we can drive anywhere, not just stick to our county or venture 20 km if we have to cross county boundaries. We still need to mask on public transport and in crowded shops, but we are also asked to be sensible and leave anywhere as the it begins to build a crowd. And, as always, maintain two metres social distance and wash your hands! But I cannot say I am hankering to go any great distance. I can now book a hair dresser appointment and get a trim from my local hairdresser who will be in mask and PPE and providing for customers likewise; I am waiting patiently for my appointment. That may be about as much excitement as I can take. Appointments with Nuala are generally jolly.

And I guess it was like this for our ancestors before the advent of the car or automotive mass transit. We stayed local. We knew our locality intimately – the blades of grass as much as all the human inhabitants. Currently, I am slowly savouring an excellent book written by a fifteen year old from Northern Ireland. Diary of a Young Naturalist shows me so much of what I do not notice. I wish I could match the all of the bird species to the songs I hear. Sadly, I may know many by sight, but few by sound.

My Zoom session picked up on a quotation from an article in the 13th June Guardian Review section. Several writers were asked what they had learned under lockdown. I picked up on one quotation from Kiran Millward Hargrave.

What lockdown has taught me is to notice. My luck, yes, and also the many blessings of where I live.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/13/overcoming-fears-discovering-nature-what-i-have-learned-from-lockdown

We have just passed one of the great axis points of the year. In Ireland, summer solstice happened at 10:43 pm last night. The wind was wild and the rain sometimes quite fierce. Then we have the solar eclipse (a new moon) at 4:45am. Yes, I did set the alarm and I scrabbled around trying to get the live feed to the Solstice Gathering in Glastonbury. (I visited at Bealtaine 2018; Chalice Well gardens are beautiful.) But they had some tech difficulties with the wind and weather and the opening was a bit delayed. By the time of the peak of the eclipse it was 7:40. The rain had stopped and wind eased, so I took my drum out onto our new patio area and drummed prayers of gratitude to the land that has held us in its verdant palm through the months of maintaining the collective quarantine.

Love the land and the land loves you back
What I Noticed In My Cocoon

I saw:
the early purple orchid for the first time in eighteen springtimes
I have walked up and down and up and down again
and again on the lane just outside my front door.

I heard:
the cuckoo calling and calling from week three of staying put.
Out in the garden one day my husband called out to me.
A great buff cuckoo had flown over our nest.

I smelled:
anxiety in my sweat. Sometimes it hurt so much to think about... 
I would lean into the kitchen sink and think 
"Brace! Brace! Brace!" and wait for the wave to crash.

I tasted:
so I cooked up whatever deliciousness made from the anything to hand. 
And I baked, rationing out the butter, eggs and the sugar 
to make sure we always had some sweetness on our tongues.

I touched:
I could pat the dog and carry around the cat.
I picked flowers from the garden and arranged them artistically.
I held my husband's hand. Sometimes guiltily. Because I could.

Then:
one day when I pegged the washing on the line I looked up
and saw a jet stream's track arching across a clear, blue sky.
I asked:
Why?

I wanted to write something that was included both the summer solstice and the eclipse. I tried some haiku, a senryu and tanka. In the end, I was most satisfied with the tanka.

weekly poem each Sunday by Bee Smith
solstice eclipse tanka
The weekly poem each Sunday

Keep in touch each Sunday with this blog when I will announce when creative writing workshops will be up and running in the Word Alchemy Zoom Room.

Handmade Gratitude

Day 20 of NaPoWriMo is all out of order. I slept ten hours and rose late for me. It was sunny. So that dictated doing laundry. Also, I had the lines of a completely other poem going through my head as I was waking, so I jotted that draft down before I would forget, as I drank my first cup of tea. So here I am well past lunchtime getting down to the the daily promp for posting . And although I am sort of writing according to spec, I feel as if I am colouring a bit outside the lines. Rather than concentrate on a single item, I found myself in list poem land. Or maybe it is a litany of (handmade) small and great gratitudes.This was the actual (optional) prompt.

Today, in gratitude for making it to Day 20, our (optional) prompt asks you to write a poem about a handmade or homemade gift that you have received. It could be a friendship bracelet made for you by a grade-school classmate, an itchy sweater from your Aunt Louisa, a plateful of cinnamon toast from your grandmother, a mix-tape from an old girlfriend. And whatever gift you choose, we wish you happy writing!

http://www.napowrimo.net/
Handmade
 
Once, a Celtic knot clock.
 
Several hand painted silk scarves,
and crocheted woolly ones, too.
A Technicolor Joseph’s coat shawl
way back in the early 1970s.
A cover to keep my iPad toasty.
 
Jars of pumpkin chutney.
Blackberry jam and apple jelly.
Chocolate chip cookies.
Knitted coffee mug cosies.
 
The meals my mother made daily
decade after decade,
casseroles from leftover ham at Easter,
and tuna melts on Fridays
when I got off the bus from college.
 
My father’s hand
as he touched my mother’s shoulder.
She turned towards him
and let me in.
 
Copyright© Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.
handmade gratitude
My handmade gratitude journal done in a Crafting Your Soul Workshop back in 2018.

Today’s featured image is a Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

After the Poetry Marathon, the Work

…really begins. What I found out by writing a poem a day for 365 consecutive days was that I had stamina and focus. I could sit down and write longhand and then transcribe and refine on a keyboard and post it out in the world to prove to myself that the day’s job was done.

By the very nature of the process some of the work was lame. But not all of it. Some of it just needed tweaking, punctuation, better spell-checking, chopping, and rearranging. Editting, in other words.

I have been really fortunate to have been given a grant from the Cavan Arts Office to work with a mentor/editor since October. The process of finding the mentor was more difficult than anticipated, but I ultimately found the right poetry midwife for me. Maggie Hannan has the knack of when to guide me to puff and when to push and then squeeze out the revised draft.

It’s made me a better crafter of poems, the new ones written in the aftermath of the marathon. Poems generally do improve, like a stew or soup, left alone for a day or two for the flavours to macerate. When you stir the pot you know what to add or how to improve on the recipe. (I like food. With the holidays and house guests I have been cooking a lot. Please forgive the food metaphors.) The Weekly poems I publish each Sunday have sometimes had up to seven days of sitting and getting seasoned.

But make no mistake. Editting is hard. It’s not so much about killing your babies as, to paraphrase Maggie, as when and where to separate the conjoined twins so they can go to live and breathe in separate cots.

By nature I am a fast writer. I get lots of ideas and learned long ago the trick of slipping under the internal censor’s radar to get that first draft down. (Don’t ask me how. It’s maybe a superpower.) Editting is slow work and one that can try the less patient. This process that began by myself last August has taught me that craft is not slipshod. It is slow, painstaking, sometimes boring. It also brings out the inner insecurities that can snare you and make you give up. Unless you have that mentor/editor to companion you in the process. Who is patiently keeping you at it and quietly encouraging you.

The solo collection work is ongoing with revised poems piling up. I can see the end in sight. Almost. I had a certain idea about it in the beginning, but that went out with the tide many moons ago. Now I am swept up in the process and letting the poems lead me a comma and cut at a time. But soon it will be time to take the next scary step and approach publishers.

While I have an enormous sense of gratitude to Maggie, I also want to say thanks to you readers, those who faithfully keep in regular touch, as well as those who just pop by now and then. I have had three special reader/friends who trawled through the old posts at the beginning of this editting process to suggest ones they felt were the strongest or really resonated.

But I am also often surprised and touched to find from my stats that there is someone in Liberia or Finland who cares enough to read what I have written. I wonder that my descriptions of this misty Celtic isle are of interest to so many who live on the Indian subcontinent.

When you are writer, some days it really does feel like the world is the size of a pea.

Gratitude

They say it is an attitude and I suppose they speak the truth. I woke this morning late, after a night of broken sleep. The phone rang, which interrupted my morning contemplations. Yet, these did not toss me off centre. What filled me with wonder amidst so much that is shadowy and just plain wrong in the world was a thankfulness . Perhaps I am just one of those glass half full kinds of people. Or, perhaps gratitude is the anchor that keeps me centred amidst small trials and gives courage in the face of major tribulation. Regardless, I woke up full of the amazement that is core of gratitude.


Gratitude


It’s a small cup

forever full,

an unseen hand

pouring from a teapot

that never needs

replenishing.

“Just like that!”

But it’s no

sleight of hand trick.

Though just as magic.

It makes us “Oh!” and “Ahhhh!”

We applaud.

Bravo! Brava!

We appreciate the show,

the ticket to ride

home to the small cup

of hot tea

at the ready

by our elbow.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All right reserved.