“I am fifty four years old, the age my mother was when she died. This is what I remember: We were lying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us. I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder. It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside. Yet inside, Mother’s tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth. She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously.
“I am leaving you all my journals,” she said, facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. “But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone.”
I gave her my word. And then she told me where they were. I didn’t know my mother kept journals.
A week later she died. That night, there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals.
On the next full moon I found myself alone in the family home. I kept expecting Mother to appear. Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals. They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful clothbound books; some floral, some paisley, others in solid colors. The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves. I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It, too, was empty, as was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth – shelf after shelf after shelf, all my mother’s journals were blank.”
This site would not exist without Garrison Keillor. For it was in his book Good Poems that I first read the poem that would go on to change–and save–my life, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver. His daily poem at The Writer’s Almanac was often the highlight of my day, and many of his offerings found their way here to this very site.
Minnesota Public Radio has ended distribution and broadcast of The Writer’s Almanac effective immediately.
Today is a sad day for poetry lovers.
Garrison Keillor fired for ‘inappropriate behavior’
JEFF BAENEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 29, 2017
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Garrison Keillor, whose stories of small-town characters entertained legions of public radio listeners for 40 years on “A Prairie Home Companion,” became another celebrity felled by allegations of workplace misconduct on Wednesday when Minnesota Public Radio terminated his contracts.
The homegrown humorist told The Associated Press he was fired over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” Keillor didn’t detail the allegation to AP, but he later told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he had put his hand on a woman’s bare back when trying to console her.
“I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness, and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized,” Keillor told the newspaper in an email. “I sent her an email of apology later, and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it.
“We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”
MPR said only that it received a single allegation of “inappropriate behavior” against Keillor last month about an alleged incident during his time hosting “A Prairie Home Companion.” Keillor retired as host of the radio variety show last year, but continued to work for MPR on various projects.
MPR said it had received no other complaints but had retained an outside law firm that was continuing to investigate.
On Wednesday, Keillor didn’t say when the incident with the woman occurred. In his statement to AP, Keillor said it was “poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself.
“But I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969.”
MPR said it would rename the show now hosted by Thile (“A Prairie Home Companion”) and end distribution of “The Writer’s Almanac,” Keillor’s daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events. MPR also plans to end rebroadcasts of “The Best of A Prairie Home Companion” hosted by Keillor.
From AP story: “Garrison Keillor fired for ‘inappropriate behavior'” written by: JEFF BAENEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS, November 29, 2017. Full article published at SFChronicle.com
When I visited TheWritersAlmanac.org, the site was no longer there and redirected to a statement by MPR which included:
MPR will end its business relationships with Mr. Keillor’s media companies effective immediately. By terminating the contracts, MPR and American Public Media (APM) will:
* end distribution and broadcast of The Writer’s Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor;
* change the name of APM’s weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile; and,
* separate from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog and the PrairieHome.org website.
All personal opinions aside, this is a heart-breaking day for me and for all poetry lovers.
The last poem published at The Writer’s Almanac, which I have thanks to my email subscription, was “Bear In Mind” by John Martin:
“Bear In Mind”
By John Martin
A bear is chasing me through a meadow
and I’m running as fast as I can but
he’s gaining on me—it seems
he’s always gaining on me.
I’m running and running but also
thinking I should just
turn around and say,
“Stop it! Stop chasing me. We both
know you aren’t going to catch me.
All you can ever do is chase me. So,
think about it—why bother?”
The bear does stop,
and he sits on his haunches and thinks,
or seems to think. And then
the bear says to me,
“I have to chase you, you know
that. Or you should. And, sure,
we both know I’ll never catch you.
So, why not give us both a break and
just stop thinking about me?”
But, with that said, he gets back on four feet,
sticks his long pink tongue out, licks down
both sides of his snout. Then he sighs, looks
behind himself, then at me and says, “Okay,
ready when you are.”
A little something different for you today, friends. Usually I share one selection with you per posting, maybe one pairing if I’m feeling industrious, but today I offer you a collection of quotes and poems.
Some of you may remember that before Words for the Year, my friend Jennie and I hosted Words for the Weekend. Instead of single selections, we posted Volumes of curated material each weekend. We’ve since retired that site, but I keep it open out of love and nostalgia; it was my original “baby,” and I still return to it from time to time to read or to cull material for this site.
One of our first volumes was dedicated to gratitude and giving thanks, and we published it around this time of year in 2013. It is that volume I offer you today, and with it, my own thanks and gratitude. You may visit the original volume over at Words for the Weekend, Volume 7: We Are Saying Thank You. And feel free to browse around while you’re there or to bookmark it for later reading; I think you’ll really like it.
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart
In this time of thanks and gratitude, Jennie and I wish you and your loved ones peace, love and an endless supply of chocolate. May you carry your gratitude not just today, but every day. And on the days you forget to carry it, may it ride ever so lightly on your shoulder–a golden butterfly resting her wings–causing everyone around you to marvel and smile in your presence.
Happy holidays, with gratitude. Thank you for being a friend, Christy and Jennie
“Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant
I’m not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won’t you stand up and take a bow
And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see, the biggest gift would be from me
and the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend”
“Flamin’ eyes of people fear
Burnin’ into you
Many men are missin’ much
Hatin’ what they do
Youth and truth are makin’ love
Dig it for a starter, now
Dyin’ young is hard to take
Sellin’ out is harder
Thank you falettinme
Be mice elf agin
I want to thank you falettinme
Be mice elf agin”
~ “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (video) covered by Dave Matthews Band; originally performed by Sly and the Family Stone, on Greatest Hits
(If you want an instant mood booster, watch this. Dave dancing around the stage = Pure joy, especially at 6:01.)
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” ~ e e cummings
Waking up this morning, I see the blue sky.
I join my hands in thanks for the many wonders of life;
For having twenty-four brand new hours before me.
The sun is rising.
The forest becomes my awareness bathed in sunshine.
“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
“I made cranberry sauce, and when it was done put it into a dark blue bowl for the beautiful contrast. I was thinking, doing this, about the old ways of gratitude: Indians thanking the deer they’d slain, grace before supper, kneeling before bed. I was thinking that gratitude is too much absent in our lives now, and we need it back, even if it only takes the form of acknowledging the blue of a bowl against the red of cranberries.” ~ Elizabeth Berg, Open House
“Day and night gifts keep pelting down on us. If we were aware of this, gratefulness would overwhelm us. But we go through life in a daze. A power failure makes us aware of what a gift electricity is; a sprained ankle lets us appreciate walking as a gift, a sleepless night, sleep. How much we are missing in life by noticing gifts only when we are suddenly deprived of them.” ~ David Steindl-Rast
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~ Gautama Buddha
“I give thanks on this day and every day for the ability you gave me to gather the beauty of the land as if it were water that one takes with the lips, and also for the wealth of pain that I can carry in the depths of my soul without dying.” ~ Gabriela Mistral
What it is
I know not,
But with gratitude
My tears fall.
~ Saigyō Hōshi
“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” ~ Thornton Wilder
“If we were always conscious of the fact that people precious to us are frighteningly mortal, hanging not even by a thread, but by a wisp of gossamer, perhaps we would be kinder to them and more grateful for the love and friendship they give to us.” ~ Dean Koontz, Seize the Night
by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now. And the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well. . . .
Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light. You turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water. And drinkable water! It’s a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.
So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts to which we can open your heart. So I wish you that you would open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you, that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you, just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch. Just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then it will really be a good day.
“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me
but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world.
Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much,
my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst…
and then I remember to relax,
and stop trying to hold on to it,
and then it flows through me like rain
and I can’t feel anything but gratitude
for every single moment
of my stupid little life…
You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure.
But don’t worry.
… But everything that may someday be possible for many people, the solitary man can now, already, prepare and build with his own hands, which make fewer mistakes.Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away, you write, and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast. And if what is near you is far away, then your vastness is already among the stars and is very great; be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind;be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust. Avoid providing material for the drama, that is always stretched tight between parent and children; it uses up much of the children’s strength and wastes the love of the elders, which acts and warms even if it doesn’t comprehend Don’t ask for any advice from them and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
I found Rilke’s letters published on-line here. Again, this selection is from Letter 4. As deeply as many of you were touched by Frida’s piece, I wanted to encourage you to keep faith in love, as jaded and as solitary as some of us may feel. To believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance…
I may not be able to bring you each Frida’s proverbial cup of coffee, but I can bring you poetry, and, from time to time, maybe even a little hope. Thanks for continuing to read and for being patient with the intermittent posts. The new year should bring more frequent scheduled postings. Much love, Christy
The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks dont see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
– Jack Kerouac, Untitled poem from a letter to his first wife, Edie Kerouac Parker, in late January of 1957.
From that same letter:
“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.”
^This video is truly beautiful. I found it via BrainPickings. From Maria Popova’s description:
Sergi Castella and filmmaker Hector Ferreño transformed the writer’s words into a magnificent cinematic adaptation for Dosnoventa Bikes, with a haunting, Johnny-Cashlike voiceover by James Phillips and beautifully curated music by Pink Floyd and Cash himself. As an intense lover of both bikes and literature, it makes my heart sing in multiple octaves.