The Bridge Builder

Every winter, my family spends a long weekend in a lodge in the Northwoods of Wisconsin with a group of old family friends. This poem hangs in the lodge, and touches me anew every year.

The Bridge Builder

by William Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

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Thanks, Robert Frost

A few thoughts for the end of another year.

Thanks, Robert Frost

by David Ray

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought…
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

For a lost friend

Protocols

by Vikram Seth

What can I say to you? How can I now retract

All that fool, my voice, has spoken –

Now that the facts are plain, the placid surface cracked,

The protocols of friendship broken?

 

I cannot walk by day as now I walk by dawn

Past the still house where you lie sleeping.

May the sun burn away these footprints on the lawn

And hold you in its warmth and keeping.

From the Book of Time, No. 6 from The Leaf and the Cloud

from The Leaf and the Cloud, by Mary Oliver.

From the Book of Time, No. 6.

Count the roses, red and fluttering.
Count the roses, wrinkled and salt.
Each with its yellow lint at the center.
Each with its honey pooled and ready.
Do you have a question that can’t be answered?
Do the stars frighten you by their heaviness
and their endless number?
Does it bother you, that mercy is so difficult to
understand?
For some souls it’s easy; they lie down on the sand
and are soon asleep.
For others, the mind shivers in its glacial palace,
and won’t come.
Yes, the mind takes a long time, is otherwise occupied
than by happiness, and deep breathing.
Now, in the distance, some bird is singing.
And now I have gathered six or seven deep red,
half-opened cups of petals between my hands,
and now I have put my face against them
and now I am moving my face back and forth, slowly,
against them.
The body is not much more than two feet and a tongue.
Come to me, says the blue sky, and say the word.
And finally even the mind comes running, like a wild thing,
and lies down in the sand.
Eternity is not later, or in any undefinable place.

Thoughts on the end of summer

Woodniche

by Aidan Carl Matthews

The dragonflies were here before us, friend:
Cupboard of branch and bramble, woodniche
Where the sun tumbles, foxgloves are gorgeous.
Children tore their knees among the thorns,

Fleshed their pullovers with raspberries.
Orange peel made ripples in the brown water,
Pebbles explored beyond our peering. I
Chewed dandelions and the sun brothered me.
Huge as policemen, sombre as soutanes,

The kind trees whispered in the long watch
And I used wonder in tremendous shadow
And be afraid of where the wonder led.

Summer was wealthy with a daze of suntraps,
Daffodil-spitting, sumptuous. Everywhere
Ours for the taking. Whoever has said
It is time to go home is an adult.

New Every Morning

A few thoughts for a morning.

New Every Morning

by Susan Coolidge

Every day is a fresh beginning,

Listen my soul to the glad refrain.

And spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin again.

Nawakwa

The view from here. The last week of August always finds me at one of my favorite places in the world – Camp Nawakwa, where my family vacations twice a year. This is always a time of peace and refreshment for me.

Mourning the End

The-Civil-WarsIt’s a sad day in my apartment; The Civil Wars have officially split. Yes, I know – an “indefinite hiatus” in which the two band members were not on speaking terms was not the most auspicious situation. But a girl could hope.

No more.

In mourning, I have been playing their music on repeat all evening. Which is almost exclusively mournful songs to begin with. Sometimes, wallowing is wonderful.

On the plus side, as a goodbye gift The Civil Wars are offering a free download of their [extremely-mournful-bordering-on-creepy] version of You Are MY Sunshine, from the Barton Hollow Vinyl B-side here. Don’t miss it! And happy wallowing, fellow mourners.

Flare, No. 12 from The Leaf and the Cloud

from The Leaf and the Cloud, by Mary Oliver

Flare, No. 12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.
Live with the beetle, and the wind.

Apricot Chicken and Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

P1040983

This chicken recipe is a favorite from Simply in Season, a fantastic recipe book with recipes organized by what produce is in season. (If you want to do even more good as you cook seasonally and sustainably, buy it from Ten Thousand Villages, and support another good cause!) The Brussels sprouts recipe is a winner from my aunt, who even got my dad to like them! A rare success!

Apricot Chicken

Ingredients:

– 2 tsp butter
– 4 ripe apricots, pitted and halved
– 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– salt and pepper
– olive oil
– 1 tsp ginger root, minced
– 1 green onion or 2 tbsp onion, chopped
– 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute with apple juice or water)
– 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp grated lime peel (or a dash of lemon juice)

Instructions:

1) Melt butter in a frying pan. Place apricots in melted butter, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until light brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook several minutes more. Remove to plate.

2) Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Add 1 tbsp olive oil (or as needed) to pan, and saute chicken on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then medium-low heat for 7 more minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove chicken to plate.

3) Add ginger and onions to frying pan and saute briefly. Return chicken and apricots to pan, and add white wine, honey, and lime peel. Simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors. Serve alone, or over brown rice or cous cous.

.          .          .

Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

– about 1 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

– 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)

– 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until evenly coated.

3) Spread on a a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper if you have it, this makes it easier to clean later!). Pour any dressing remaining in the bowl over the brussels sprouts.

4) Roast for 20-30 minutes. Toss once at about 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. When done, brussels sprouts will be browned and tender, and slightly crispy at the edges.