Celebrating Love with Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (née Moulton-Barrett) was born in Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England, on March 6, 1806, the eldest of 12 children.  Poetry was her life from the age of 11. She was to become a renowned English poet of the Romantic Movement.

I invite you to visit Poetry.org for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s bio and collection of her poetry.

Writer Joan Didion Shares Some Life Advice

Snow came to Vancouver for Christmas!

On December 30, 2021, the sun came out and pathways in the snow welcomed us to embrace the winter chill. As I walked towards the Vancouver Seawall, I heard my cellphone notification, alerting me to an incoming e-mail from my sister, Sarah. Her message was short and confined to the subject line. “Loved this quote.”

Below I read, “Writer Joan Didion shares some life advice.” The source was her 1975 Commencement Address at the University of California, Riverside.

As I read Joan Didion’s words, I felt that marvelous sense that life was to be embraced – no, seized with enthusiasm.

Joan Didion’s recent passing on December 23, 2021, and my subsequent decision to place her book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” on top of my 2022 books to be read was fresh in my mind. Sarah’s e-mail was a serendipitous confirmation that I had chosen wisely.

I encourage you to read Joan Didion’s full commencement speech which is found on The UC Riverside News website: “Joan Didion’s ‘lost’ commence address revealed.

Writer Joan Didion shares some life advice:

"I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."

Source: 1975 Commencement Address at the University of California, Riverside

Shimmer Time by Aliya Orr

“I hope the work inspires people to take a minute off their screens and to take in the world around them. The small details: subtle shifts of light, subtle shifts of colour. These small things that transform the world around us.” Artist Aliya Orr

“Shimmer Time” by Montreal-based artist Aliya Orr

Shimmer Time,’ a 90-metre sculptural light artwork was unveiled at the Lonsdale Quay Bus Exchange in the City of North Vancouver on June 30, 2021.

The shifting lights that move along the undulating paneled sculpture welcomes SeaBus riders to North Vancouver. Hidden lights above the panels are on a 12 minute looped sequence, reflecting the average crossing between Vancouver and North Vancouver.

The sculpture has been treated with a light-reactive holographic pigment that mirrors and symbolizes sunshine reflecting over the water.

“Shimmer Time” by Montreal-based artist Aliya Orr

It was late morning when I first viewed “Shimmer Time.” Between bus movements, I captured the lights scattering across the panels. I felt a meditative quality amidst the energy of a world in transit. The ebb and flow of movement, the dynamics of change, the state of impermanence.

“Shimmer Time” by Montreal-based artist Aliya Orr

Celebrating Robert Burns

On January 25, 2022, the world will commemorate Robert Burns, affectionately known as Rabbie Burns, with a Burns Supper on the day of his birth.

Burns Cottage, Birthplace of Robert Burns

The great Scottish poet and lyricist has been honoured with titles of National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire and the Ploughman Poet. He penned in the language of the Scots, even though much of his writing is in light Scots dialect and in English.

Burns Monument and Memorial Gardens

Every Burns Supper is celebrated with bagpipes and a serving of the traditional Haggis. A rousing recitation of Robert Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” is the highlight of the evening festivities.

For those of you who have not tried Haggis, please do – you may be surprised by how much you enjoy the “Trenching your gushing entrails bright.”  Never fear, there is vegetarian Haggis so all can join in the merriment.

Now, what is haggis you may ask? That is a very good question. The answer may be found in the Glasgow Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Yes, a wild haggis specimen, Haggis scotticus, is displayed in a hushed and darkened area of Kelvingrove Gallery.

Haggis Scoticus at the Glasgow Kelvingrove Art Gallery

According to Scottish folklore, Haggis scotticus, or wild haggis is said to be native to the Scottish Highlands. They are extremely rare, I am told.  They can be identified by the different lengths of their left and right legs, which give them the capability to run with great speed around the steep mountains and hillsides of the misty Scottish Highlands. 

Some believe that there are two varieties, one with longer right legs and the other with longer left legs. It is easy to recognize the difference when they are in motion. The left legs longer run clockwise, and the right legs longer run anticlockwise around the mountains.

How did a man of humble birth who was home-schooled, become a household word and an inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism? Perhaps it was Robert Burns’ understanding of and compassion for the human spirit. His poetry is direct, spontaneous, sincere; his themes as haunting as they are radical. He spoke of class inequities, patriotism, poverty, cultural identity – issues that we struggle with over 250 years after his birth.

Whenever I join in the chorus of Auld Lang Syne, I feel a debt of gratitude to Robert Burns, who penned the words in 1788. In a letter to the Scots Musical Museum, Robert Burns indicated Auld Lang Syne was an ancient song that had never been put to paper. Auld Lang Syne, or days gone by is a reminder to celebrate and remember times past, even as we look forward to a new day.

Robert Burns’ desk, and one of eight chairs said to have been used by Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne has greeted many New Years through the centuries. Friendship, camaraderie, compassion and hope come together. “And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!” We are not alone but share our time with others. Whatever life has in store, friendship will see us through even the most difficult time.

Life does bring about an ending, but words cannot be contained. They live on and stoke fires in the hearts and minds of those that follow. When we read William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, we are reading words that hold the influence of Robert Burns. When we listen to Bob Dylan, it is good to know that he was motivated by Robert Burns’ “A Red Red Rose.”

A Rose in the Burns Cottage Garden
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Celebrating National Hat Day 2022

National Hat Day was celebrated on January 15, 2022.

There was a time when no one left their homes without a hat.

Over the decades hats have made a slow descent from their peak in the late 1920’s. The usual explanation for the decline is associated with the introduction of public transit and cars. These vehicles offered protection against inclement weather patterns. Hats were no longer required to keep people warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I love hats! Why not Celebrate them everyday!

But wait! It seems that hats are making a comeback. Yes! Hats have been rediscovered. Fashion is bringing us new hat ideas to consider for 2022!

Hats hold stories.

Consider Winston Churchill’s Homburg, a felt hat with a curved brim and a dent that runs from front to back with a grosgrain ribbon that forms a band.

Who can forget the Stovepipe hat worn by Abraham Lincoln or the Bonnet that sat on top of St. Thomas More’s head.

I loved the Pillbox that Jackie Kennedy wore. Do you remember the watermelon pink pillbox? Sophistication and glamour combined. My mother, Frances, wore a pillbox that I would try on from time to time.

And then there was Teddy Roosevelt with his Panama Hat. I treasure my Panama Hat!

Fedora, Cowboy, Beanie, Baseball Cap, Bowler, Beret and the list goes on and on. There is a hat of every occasion.

Perhaps it is our gracious Queen Elisabeth II that best exemplifies the way in which to wear a hat. She is the epitome of elegance in her vibrant hats.

Happy National Hat Day!

Sarah’s Gift

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmadi

My sister, Sarah, and I receive the same “Poem-A-Day e-mail, which is a great way to start to a new day. On New Year’s Eve, I received a text from Sarah alerting me to a poem that had come to her inbox.

The poem had arrived a few days before Sarah’s text. With our recent snowfall, I had marked it as a poem that I would recite on a nature walk. What I did not anticipate, and was beyond thrilled to receive, was Sarah’s recitation of Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie.

Sarah lives in North Vancouver, close to the pristine forest trails of Grouse Grind and Mount Seymour Trail. I know you will enjoy her video which features the tall trees with a fresh covering of snow on their branches.

For Rebecca, May we have many oppoturnities to wear velvet shoes.

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmadi

Elinor Wylie was born into a well-connected family. She was trained to take her place as a society wife, but she chose a more complex and difficult path. Velvet Shoes is Elinor Wylie’s most widely anthologized poem. Her biography is available on The Poetry Foundation.

Sarah and I invite you to walk along a winter path and join in the recitation of Velvet Shoes.

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmadi
Velvet Shoes

Elinor Wylie

Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.
Photo Credit Sarah Ahmadi