Book Review for YOU; Devotions by Mary Oliver

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary OliverDevotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Oliver
Bestselling Poet, Winner of the National Book Award & The Pulitzer Prize

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”

The main theme the late Oliver shares is her abiding love and deep regard for the natural world. It is the fabric she prefers to lay her words on and wrap them up in and where she always found not only peace, but understanding of the importance of taking time to truly smell, touch and honor the earth. Though she has penned hundreds of poems, here are a few that I found especially notable. She also wrote many nature-themed essays but gave very few interviews feeling that her work could speak for itself.
She was a New York Times bestselling poet with a wise and generous wisdom and an intimate respect for the world not of our making. Here are a few examples of her work;

Mornings At Blackwater
For years, every morning, I drank
From Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
The feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Three Things To Remember
As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules.

Sometimes there are no rules.

For many, poetry has to rhyme, for others it has to adhere to a particular structure or have a certain word count and the variety of forms have accumulated over time. For Mary Oliver it had to express her observations of the natural world and perhaps she said it best, “When you write a poem, you write it for anybody and everybody.”

• Poetry tells a story
• What’s your poem?

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Review: Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another's MisfortuneSchadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune by Tiffany Watt Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Joy Of Another’s Misfortune
By Tiffany Watt Smith

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

Who isn’t fascinated by human emotion? Pair that with a person you admire in that complex envious-nearly-coveting-way while they are showing you their brand-new pricy pickup, then it suddenly rolls down the driveway, smashing into a parked car. No one is hurt. And you laugh and laugh, tears roll down your cheeks.
Sound like something you might do? That is what the German word schadenfreude means.
“The Japanese have a saying: The misfortunes of others taste like honey. The French speak of joie maligne, a diabolical delight in other people’s suffering. In Hebrew enjoying other people’s catastrophes is simcha-la-ed.”
Cultural historian and author Tiffany Watt Smith in her awesome TED talk clearly demonstrates exactly how all over the globe, when it comes to really cranking up the happy, we humans find nothing more hilarious than the fails of our ex-wives/office mate/movie star/hunting buddy/mother-in-law. You know you do and that kind of laughter is not only the kind where you double over and the tears start to flow, it’s the one situation you never forget.
The cool dude at your place of work, swings back on his chair, and it tips over. You bust a gut. And now, today, think of all those video clips on your phone; cats and dogs and babies, the one that sticks in your mind is the one that doesn’t end so well. Admit it. You watch it over and over and maybe you don’t tell anyone how much you enjoyed it. You found it that funny.
Think maybe you’re a bad person after all? Nah, just a human person. The reasons we react as we do is what compelled Smith to delve further and me to share this with you. That and to make you squirm a little.
“We might worry that a taste for other people’s misery will corrupt our souls, yet this emotion is far from simply ‘bad.’ It touches on things that have mattered most to human societies for millennia: our instincts for fairness and hatred of hypocrisy; our love of seeing our rival suffer in the hope that we might win ourselves; our itch to measure ourselves against others and make sense of our choices when we fall short; how we bond with each other; what makes us laugh. If we peer more closely at this hidden and much-maligned emotion, liberate ourselves from its shame and secrecy, we will discover a great deal about who we really are.”
Though this book is small, it reveals a truth. The awkward reality that we all enjoy a little schadenfreude now and again. That sneaky laughter as someone takes a wrong step and life deals them a blow. Which does several things, one of which makes you shake with delight, the other, more complicated, makes you look around and see if anyone witnessed that seemingly callous response. Then you watch the video again. You know you do.

• Favorite schadenfreude?
• Book club fodder
• Humans are something

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Do YOU Know What A Sandbakkel Is?

At every meal my dad says the Norwegian Table Prayer. Then he always follows it by saying, “Grab a root and growl.” I have always simply assumed that is pretty much part of the prayer too. At least if you want to eat at his table, it is.




Another one that has been going on since I can remember is the creation of Sandbakkels every Christmas season. Using the same recipe (my mom has tweaked) my dad’s mom’s mom used and with my dad mentioning before we sit down at the card table to ‘pinch’ the dough into tins,


“No pinchy, no eaty!”


Really. Every. Single. Year.


Once the little gems are in the oven and we’re working on pan two or three, I wonder why in the world I do this. It’s a lot of work and you have to sit still and then, once my dad is all warmed up and we’re there, his audience, I realize the why part.


Being together.


So, this coming year I will once again gather at my folks, my mom will have made the dough, adding the secret ingredient at the last moment and then off we’ll pinch and my dad will begin sharing the same stories I’ve heard a hundred times and I’ll look up and smile…


By the way, a Sandbakkel is a Norwegian cookie and no, we don’t fill them with anything. These are the tins we pinch them into.


(walnut-size blob of dough and pinch and pinch and pinch)

November and NO Snow—Nice…



This is our front door and those awesome sunflowers we grew from seed. Even at my age I still feel there’s a touch of magic in growing things. It just never ceases to amaze me that you can grow something so darn beautiful from a little seed that fits in your palm.


Love the mystery of it.


Could be why I enjoy the art and freedom and yes, mystery of writing. When the words are flying into my head and zipping through my fingers and onto the laptop-page, well trust me, I feel something. Not a believer in having a muse or wearing a lucky hat or all that other stuff so many authors seem to lean on. I simply read a poem to warm up, or gaze at a bouquet of wild flowers or sneak a look out my window, and if things are unfolding with my story in all the right ways (or wrong) off I zoom!


If the words are not lined up and ready to move onto the page, I get up and do something else. If I force the work—that’s exactly how it will read.


So, if inspiration doesn’t come into your current project—


Know that in the spring the seeds will grow again and somewhere—the sun is always shining.

Get Hoppy—It’s National Frog Month!


Welcome to spring and maybe to your first time over here in/on/with my personal website. It’s hard to know precisely how much effort to load into this baby since I am a trusty Facebook dude and post over there constantly. But don’t ask my mom, she is rarely on. Too busy.


Yet here I can expand more and not feel as though the entire world (wishful thinking, I would imagine) is going to pop in and place judgement. Being National Frog Month I will hop around a tad, taking advantage of this silly premise because as everyone knows, every day is Frog day—or rather Toad Time!


I am partial to toads.


Frogs, in my book, can take a leap.




They tend to be on the slimy side and have only croaks and ribbits to share where’s toads tend toward handing out warts and hop more than swim and certainly are more into hanging in the garden than splashing around in the pond—pad-to-pad—as it were.


And since we’re on the subject, (you started this after all, hopping over here) I really find it rather odd why on earth folks munch frog legs and then, on top of it all, say the most ridiculous things such as:


“…Tastes like chicken!” Usually with a miniature Kermit-like foot hanging from their surly lips. Is that what a lion murmurs finishing off a human?


These and other priceless gems are what you get to devour when you hop on over to this webpage. And don’t forget to add your very own comments and thoughts and ideas of things you’d like to know more about and skip the frog recipes please and that would go double time for toad.


Now hop outside and don’t forget to take a book!