Sound of Silence

Could I term myself a dabbler? I approach books as if I had just dropped
in for a conversation, without regard for page 1 through to the end. This leads
to reading any material several times and thus it be comes familiar.

As an example, let’s start with part of a poem:

“In the inky forest,
In its maziest,

Murkiest scribble
Of words

And wordless cries,
I went for a glimpse

Of the blossomlike
White erasure

Over a huge,
Furiously crossed-out something.”

……..(Charles Simic)

This is from an article in Poetry magazine by Adam Kirsch
on Heidegger’s effect on contemporary poetry, the theme being that
only what cannot be said is worth saying.

“The poetry of earth succeeds only when it manages to make the earth
itself strange to us, so that we can perceive it in its aloof beauty. Poets
of our time are concerned with the question of how poetry can do justice to the earth. ”

Concluding with,” At bottom, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extraordinary.”
Hence the ‘wordless cries’ leading to ‘furiously crossed-out somethings’.

That’s familiar!

with love, Mom/MimiToni

Wordy Words

Is ‘wordy’ a word? It occurs to me this morning that even Ralph Waldo can get wordy.
Take, for instance, this poem, a note to himself:

“No art can exceed the mellow beauty
of one square road of ground
in the woods this afternoon.

The noise of the locust, the bee, and the pine …

The tints and forms of the leaves and trees —
not a flower
but its form seems a type,
not a capsule
but it is an elegant seed box —

All the pleasing forms of art
are imitations of these,
and yet,
before the beauty of a right action
all this beauty is cold
and unaffecting.”

from the book, Emphatically Emerson, compiled by Frank Crocitto
This poem/note was written by Emerson in September, 1834 when
Emerson was 31 years old.

The meaning is beautiful and elegantly expressed. I have taken the liberty to
share with you only 15 lines of its original 25 lines. It occurs to me that any
number of the parts of nature that I have expunged may be no longer with us.
Signs of our times.

However, the concluding thought of ‘the beauty of a right action’ is worth the reading.

with love, Mom/Mimi/Toni


The sun awoke me this morning, as never before recently. I love this early daylight savings time.

Generally I’ve had breakfast, made the bed before the sun shows up. Not so today. How can a Tuesday feel
like Saturday? Only through lightness of heart, I’d wager. Here are eight lines to celebrate today:

“One morning beginning to notice

which thoughts pull the spirit out of the body, which returns it.

How quietly the abandoned body keens,

like a bonsai maple surrounded by her dropped leaves.

Rain or objects call the forgotten back.

The droplets’ placid girth and weight. The table’s lack of ambition.

How strange it is that longing, too, becomes a small green bud,

thickening the vacant branch-length in early March.”

………………….JANE HIRSHFIELD, from her book, After.

I look out the window and have yet to see that first bud. Perhaps tomorrow.

Always with love…….

Fountain of Youth

I awoke this morning with some familiar phrases that I’ve known all of my life:

* the garden of Eden

* the fountain of Youth.

These places have been sought, actually explorers have tried to find these legendary places on this planet. Has that search persisted,
now that we have reached the moon, now that we have instant contact all over the world electronically?

Idle thought, I know. I think of contact all over the world, and beyond.
A number of deaths recently, personal to me, have occurred this winter.
I am struck by the sense of loss. They were here, and now they are not.

I turned to Kahil Gibran and his classic book, The Prophet, for some clarity, something to make sense of loss.
I found several lines that were not in direct order, but which did bring a sense of order for me:

“And ever it has been that love knows not
its own depth until the hour of separation.”


“Deep is your longing for the land of your
memories and the dwelling place of your
greater desires, and our love would not bind
nor our needs hold you.”


Not strange, is it, that those earlier, familiar phrases should have elicited this search for connection.
My sense of loss is indeed quieted by a larger frame of reference, the need of one’s soul to find home.
Home, a place in which I am forever young. Right now, I can go there at will.

… and be here to greet you tomorrow.

with love, Mom/Mimi/Toni


This is a new venue for me, emerging from email to blog.  Where are the old familiar addresses, fronting for the people with whom I am starting the day?  Hello, are you there?  Yes, there you are. 

Yesterday had a feeling of Spring about it,  the landscape free of snow, robins with red breasts hopping on the lawn.  I reached for a familiar voice, someone not too serious until maybe the last few lines of a poem. Here’s what he offers us today:

“F I E L D   G U I D E”

No one I ask knows the name of the flower
we pulled the car to the side of the road to pick
and that I point to dangling purple from my lapel.

I am passing through the needle of spring
in North Carolina, as ignorant of the flowers of the south
as the woman at the barbecue stand who laughs
and the man who gives me a look as he pumps the gas

and everyone else I ask on the way to to the airport
to return to where this purple madness is not seen
blazing against the sober  pines and rioting along the

On the plane, the stewardess is afraid she cannot answer
my question, now insistent with the fear that I will leave
the province of this flower without its sound in my ear.

Then, as if he were giving me the time of day, a passenger
looks up from his magazine and says wisteria.”

……………………BILLY COLLINS,  from his book Questions About Angels

As I got to that last line, all esoteric meaning of the poem paled as I remembered the first time I registered wisteria.   It framed the doorway of a dairy farm in the White Hills of Shelton, CT, where I met Sue and Bill Brewster in whose home I was later in the year to meet a channeler of spirit and thus open doors to all that has led to how I now draw Inner Portraits for myself and others. 

The masthead of this blog is my Inner Portrait.  

Back to the poem: that compulsion to get the name,  to grasp hold of connection to a passing experience, is familiar to me.  I am hounded until I can anchor that glimpse of beauty or truth or whatever I may want to recall at will is securely in my mind.  Then, and only then, do I relax and forget it. I cannot forget how rich, abundant, so full of promise, the sight of wisteria is. 

with love,  Antoinette/Mom/Mimi/Toni   

The Undressed Art

I have borrowed that subject title from a fascinating book that asks a question: why do we draw?

Our very first communications are the line drawings of stick figures and houses with windows, barely verbal. Middle School students litter their class books with doodling, relaxed drawing. Something we do, almost instinctively.

Hear what Peter Steinhart, writer, naturalist and artist, says:

“Drawing is an undressed art, spontaneous, personal, undisguised, unaffected by the fashion of the marketplace. It can be as natural as an unconscious gesture, as honest as one’s heartbeat.

Matisse said, ‘If drawing belongs to the world of spirit and color to that of the senses, you must draw first to cultivate the spirit. Through a drawing, the feelings and the soul of the painter travel without difficulty to the spirit of he who looks on.’

Ten years ago, Eleanor Dickinson found that her mother, bedridden through a long illness, had died. The first thing she did was cry. The second thing she did was take out a sketch pad and draw her mother’s lifeless face. ‘I experience things by drawing them’, she says. Drawing is more an act of discovery —of one’s own feelings or of the world outside. A painting is likely to translate that discovery into something broader and more calculated.”

…………………………..PETER STEINHART, from his book, The Undressed Art, Why We Draw.

Treasure your doodles, they may be telling you something!


Our Generation

I wondered at that title. Was the poet in my generation? Surely not, and yet as I read the poem
it contained a conservative flavor of reticence, hope and so much respect for individual choice.

It did not feel like today’s poetry. As if I know exactly what that is! So, prepared as you can get,
here is the last half of the poem:


Whatever they say about us,
They can’t deny that we filled the concert halls,
Movie houses, malls , and late-night restaurants.
We took our bows onstage or waited on tables
Or manned the refreshment booths to earn a little extra
For the things we wanted, the very things
Pursued by the generations before us
And likely to be pursued by generations to come:

(I should have stopped there because I see quite different things occurring now,
but I was curious and continued)

Children and lawns and cars and beach towels.
And now and then we stood back to admire
The colorful spectacle, the endless variety
As others before us admired it, and returned
To fill our picnic baskets, drive to the park,
And use the baseball diamonds just as their makers
Intended they should be used. And if we too
Crowded into the square to cheer the officials
Who proclaimed our country as fine in fact
As it is in theory,

a few of us , confined to a side street,,
Carried signs declaring a truth less fanciful.

A few unheeded it’s true, but no more unheeded
Than a similar few in generations before us
Who hoped that the truth in generations to come,
Though just as homely, would find more followers.”

………………………..CARL DENNIS, from The Kenyon Review, 2006

So, Dennis was born in 1939, and was probably 67 at the time he wrote this poem.

That poem freezes in time a way of life that I remember vividly. I do not live that
anymore. Yet the last lines say that the changes since then are only details, that
the call is to see it, say it, and join in community to create a new path.

“It” being an expanded view of what’s possible, desirable and attainable.
Way beyond anything most of us could have imagined in 1939.

with love, Mom/Mimi/Toni


Wonders happen when just one line of a new poem catches my heart and imagination and
seems to change dimensions of space and time.

This is the line: “oboe music distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull of self”

I know our beginnings are ancient and connected to all on this earth, our home right now.
I forget to allow this perspective when I am in the midst of any kind of transition in my life.
The “iceberg” is not calamitous. It is dangerous in that some course of moving forward must
be re-viewed and the course altered, like a nudge to my soul.

That the nudge be sound, the music of an oboe, is the wonder I spoke of earlier. It caught my
attention and carries with it an ease of whatever transition I am contemplating.

Here is the poem:


Gravel paths on hillsides and moon-drawn vineyards,

click of pearls upon a polished nightstand

soft as rainwater, self-minded stars, oboe music

distant as the grinding of icebergs against the hull

of the self and the soul in the darkness

chanting to the ecstatic chance of existence.

Deep is the water and long is the moonlight

inscribing addresses in quicksilver ink,

building the staircase a lover forever pauses upon.

Deep is the darkness and long is the night,

solid is the water and liquid the light. How strange

that they arrive at all, nights on planet earth.”

……………………………. CAMPBELL McGRATH,
from the March ’08 issue of Poetry magazine.

with love, Mom/Mimi/Toni

Drawing by Molly Hahn at BuddhaDoodles


My daily’s with you began more than several years ago when my daughter became too busy to
leave her husband a daily inspirational as she left for work very early. She asked me to take over
that task.

I agreed, and that “inspirational” lasted for just about a month or more, as I included the rest of
my family and a few friends. Then, I ran out of the generality of what another could find inspirational
and I picked up a book of poetry.

Absolutely one of the most sublime ‘accidents’ of my life.

My home now overflows with books of poetry, about poetry and one of those books was about
the conversations of poets. I happen to believe we all are incipient poets, just as we might
call ourselves actors or painters or dancers or even singers as in ‘loudly in the shower’.

It’s the background of our being human, a way of sharing ourselves.

I was recently asked to host an evening of conversation. I’ve told you about that, and most
of you are a distance away and it’s not logical that you could get here. As the weeks go by,
I’ll keep you in touch with how it’s going.

Meanwhile, I found a book on conversations with poets, it’s called “Giving Their Word”,
edited by Steven Ratiner.

In the preface, Ratiner says,
“I intended to explore some of the enduring themes within each poet’s work and to make
the connection between a poet’s creations and the DAILY LIVES of all readers, not just the
small percentage who were brave enough to visit the poetry section.”

I list those themes as the ground of any general conversation:

* the family and the importance of relationships

* the natural world and our sense of place

* the province of memory and the recording of living history

* the imagination and the power to name.


In our very first Conversation gathering we covered summertime memories, delicious food,
engineering feats, embarrassing moments that we could all recognize, plus some personal
discovery that redefined happiness.

And we looked at each other with new eyes, sometimes all talking at once, even a few moments
of absolute silence when we looked around the room with curiosity and anticipation. We did not
leave any better, thinner, more intelligent or beautiful.

And I dare say all of that was possible because of the other communal activities of our lives where we
gather for a purpose. My gratitude for each one of those.

with love, Mom/Mimi/Toni