sharing my love of books with you

Month: April 2023 (Page 1 of 2)

Good Morning, by Mary Oliver

"Hello, wren" is the first thing I say.
"Where did you come from appearing so
sudden and cheerful in the privet?  Which,
by the way, has decided to decorate itself
in so many white blossoms."
Paulus is coming to visit!  Paulus the
dancer, the potter.  Who is just beginning 
his eightieth decade, who walks without
shoes in the woods because his feet, he
says, ask to be in touch with the earth.
Paulus who when he says my poems sometimes
changes them a little, according to the
occasion or his own feelings.  Okay, I say.
Stay young, always, in the theater of your
Bless the notebook that I always carry in 
my pocket.
And the pen.
Bless the words with which I try to say 
what I see, think, or feel.
With gratitude for the grace of the earth.
The expected and the exception, both.
For all the hours I have been given to
be in this world.
The multiplicity of forms!  The hummingbird,
the fox, the raven, the sparrow hawk, the
otter, the dragonfly, the water lily!  And
on and on.  It must be a great disappointment 
to God if we are not dazzled at least ten
times a day.
Slowly the morning climbs toward the day.
As for the poem, not this poem but any
poem, do you feel its sting?  Do you feel
its hope, its entrance to a community?  Do
you feel its hand in your hand?
But perhaps you're still sleeping.  I
could wake you with a touch or a kiss.
But so could I shake the petals from 
the wild rose which blossoms so silently
and perfectly, and I do not.
("Good Morning", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2014)

Roosevelt on the Strenuous Life

“In speaking to you, men of the greatest city of the West, men of the state which gave to the country Lincoln and Grant, men who preeminently and distinctly embody all that is most American in the American character, I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life; the life and toil of effort; of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires more easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”

spoken by Theodore Roosevelt April 10, 1899 in Chicago before the Hamilton Club, as quoted in Lion in the White House by Aida D. Donald


Sylvan – of or characteristic of the woods or forest

“[Roosevelt] also tightened laws to prevent loggers from devastating sylvan ares, and he stopped pollutions in the Saratoga area by fiat.”

Lion in the white house, Aida D. Donald

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Good morning! I can’t believe this is the last Saturday of April! I’m going to try to make it a good one with some writing and reading. Then I’ll end the day at the symphony.

This is the first Saturday morning I’ve had to myself in several weeks. I made a cup Key Lime Pie Rooibus tea, stirred in some unflavored matcha, and I am sipping that while I write. My cat is asleep next to my dictionary. I’m listening to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet. It’s peaceful here today.

I haven’t done a lot of reading in the last few weeks. As it turns out, I have a tendency not to devour biographies as quickly as novels. So while I am still reading Lion in the White House, I’ve been sneaking in some poetry too. I finished Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses this week. I can’t wait to share several of her poems with you. She has such a sweet way of writing. You really should find one or two of her books and add them to your shelves. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Happy Reading!

Stebbin’s Gulch, by Mary Oliver

by the randomness
of the way
the rocks tumbled
ages ago

the water pours
it pours
it pours
ever along the slant

of downgrade
dashing its silver thumbs
against the rocks
or pausing to carve

a sudden curled space
where the flashing fish
splash or drowse
while the kingfisher overhead

rattles and stares
and so it continues for miles
this bolt of light,
its only industry

to descend
and to be beautiful
while it does so;
as for purpose

there is none,
it is simply
one of those gorgeous things
that was made

to do what it does perfectly
and to last,
as almost nothing does,
almost forever.

("Stebbin's Gulch", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2014)

What I Can Do, by Mary Oliver

The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won't even mention cell phones.

I can turn on the light of the lamp beside my chair
where a book is waiting, but that's about it.

Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make a fire.

("What I Can Do", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2014)

Franz Marc

Disclaimer: This is not an art blog. This is not a blog for or against any wars. This is not a politics blog.

If you haven’t read my post on Mary Oliver’s poem Franz Marc’s Blue Horses, please read that first. I was moved by Oliver’s words to the point that I had to see the blue horses of which she spoke. I found this website,, with Marc’s history and a gallery of his paintings. I began to look through his works – his horses and forest animals. But the work that moved me the most tonight is called Fighting Forms. In my opinion, it is not particularly beautiful. In fact, it’s not even the picture itself that has made such an impact on me tonight. It’s the emotions I felt looking at it. Here are Franz Marc’s Tower of Blue Horses (left)and Fighting Forms (right).

Franz Marc died March 4, 1916. He was 36. He was killed on a World War I battlefield. Franz spent his life painting the things he loved best: animals. But at the close of his life, especially after the war began, his paintings began to take less and less form. His animals were obscured by bold lines and colors, ’til there were no definable animals left in the works.

Can you see the despair in his last painting, Fighting Forms? Can you feel it? War robbed Franz Marc of love, art, and, eventually, life. When I look at Fighting Forms, I see chaos, fire, violence, hatred, and sorrow. I feel so sad for Franz Marc who would never return from the war. He would never paint animals again. He would never feel peace again. It makes me cry. It’s been a long time since a work of art moved me this deeply. No wonder Mary Oliver said, “I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses what war is.” She also said:

“Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.”

“Franz Marc’s Blue Horses”, Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2016

Franz Marc’s is a sad story, but don’t let it end with Fighting Forms. Let it inspire you to keep making your art. Whether you write, draw, sing, play an instrument, keep doing it. Don’t let even war stop you. Marc painted in the middle of World War I. It changed the way he saw things, and the way he painted, but he still painted. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to come out of your war (literal or figurative) into peace. You will be able to use your experiences to make your art better. Today, you may only be able to paint forms, but tomorrow, you’ll be able paint horses again. I’m rooting for you.

Franz Marc’s Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver

I step into the painting of the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.

One of the horses walks toward me. 
His blue nose noses me lightly.  I put my arm 
over his blue mane, not holding on, just
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his brain.
I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses
what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
are bending their faces toward me
as if they have secrets to tell.
I don't expect them to speak, and they don't.
If being so beautiful isn't enough, what
could they possible say?

("Franz Marc's Blue Horses", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses 2014)

This is Franz Marc’s Tower of Blue Horses. It is the picture on the cover of Mary Oliver’s book, Blue Horses, so I believe it is the work that she wrote the poem about. I retrieved the image from I don’t know much about Franz Marc, but I think it would have made him happy to know Mary Oliver appreciated his work and wrote about it so that her readers could know about him too. How special, that she would pay such a great tribute to this artist who died so young in World War I.


Astrolabe – an astronomical instrument used in ancient times to determine the position of the sun or stars

“Man is the astrolabe of God; but it requires an astronomer to know the astrolabe. If a vegetable-seller or a greengrocer should possess the astrolabe, what benefit would he derive from it? With that astrolabe what would he know of the movements of the circling heavens and the stations of the planets, their influences, transits and so forth? But in the hands of the astronomer the astrolabe is of great benefit, for ‘He who knows himself knows his Lord’.

Just as this copper astrolabe is the mirror of the heavens, so the human being – We have honored the Children of Adam – is the astrolabe of God. When God causes a man to have knowledge of Him and to know Him and to be familiar with Him, through the astrolabe of his own being he beholds moment by moment and flash by flash the manifestation of God and His infinite beauty, and that beauty is never absent from his mirror.”

from “Two Discourses” by Rumi, translated by A.J. Arberry

“[An astrolabe] consists of rotating discs and rulers to show the positions of astronomical objects at any given time throughout the year.” (BBC Sky at Night Magazine) I am including this link to BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine article on astrolabes in case you would like to read more (and because I used their quote). I had no idea what these were, but it is fascinating to think astronomy has been so advanced for so many centuries. The image below is a replica of an astrolabe used in the ancient Islamic world, perhaps even in the time of Rumi. Image also courtesy of BBC’s Sky at Night Magazine article.


Redoubtable – evoking fear; fearsome; formidable; commanding respect or reverence

“Most of the nation’s fleet was in the Pacific, and it was a formidable force under the command of the redoubtable Admiral George Dewey.”

Lion in the White House, Aida D. Donald

(Yes, the “T” is pronounced in Redoubtable, but not the “B”. I wasn’t entirely sure when I read the word, so I wanted to let you know as well.)

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