Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

day 17 of a month of Thanksgiving: libraries ~

I’m exceedingly thankful for libraries. AND for librarians, who rank up there w/ superheroes (& heroines) to me. From my first foray into the bookmobile (travelling books?? what magic!), to the Việtnamese American Association Library around the street from us in Saigon, to the dusty musty stacks in grad school, I have been faithful to libraries.

I have checked out the maximum number of books allowed and begged for more. I have cruised and pilfered the shelves reserved for ‘the big kids.’ In 4th grade, I checked outGone With the Wind. And even though the whole war to defend slavery seemed pretty dumb to me (still does, just FYI), I loved the history and the dresses… Scarlett seemed a bit whiney, even to a 4th grader, but oh well.


In graduate school, research librarians taught me how to research. Taught me how to cruise shelves — a skill dying w/ digitisation. And as an undergraduate, I even worked in a library. In the reserve room, in the stacks reshelving, for Mr. Miracle at the front desk. It was heaven: books everywhere and time to touch and read them.

So today I sing the praises of libraries and the librarians who are the gentlest of tyrants. If you haven’t been in years, get thee to a bibliotèque. They have computers now (for those who insist on Google), and movies, and music, and old TV shows on  DVD, and the old reliable: books. The first portable entertainment device ~



day 16 of a month of Thanksgiving: medical technology (& insurance) ~

Despite what it may look like, this is NOT a torture device. And it’s not really a toe screw (which IS  an official instrument of torture).  Nope, this is what I’m grateful for today: my newest in a long line of weird foot gear…

It’s subbing for another painful, disorienting, and EXPENSIVE surgical procedure. So I’m verrry glad to have it. Even if it doesn’t work — and it seems to be, albeit verrry sloooowly — it doesn’t HURT.


But here’s the deal: without insurance? I’d just have to gimp along. Painfully, as that’s the way one gimps w/out joint replacement, when they (the joints) wear out. Luckily, I have insurance, and the joint replacement to prove it. And yet another addition to my collection of ‘boots’ (sigh… sooo not the cowboy boots I once wore!)  Still,  today I’m very grateful for the wonders of medical technology and the insurance that allows me to avail myself of them. Even if this is NOT a fashion statement.

My toe screw (I know — I said it wasn’t a real one, but that’s what we call it :)) is a mixed blessing, as are many of the things I find myself contemplating these days. Aging — great to know more stuff. Not so cool to be gimpy. Retirement: great to have more time, but where is it?? Autumn: wonderful fall colours and weather, but that means winter is right around the corner…! Thanksgiving with wonderful family… etc. You get the drift.

So this 16th day of this month of Thanksgiving, what do you find to be grateful for? Even if it’s a two-edged sword,…?



day 15 of Thanksgiving: everyday moments ~

the curve of a tree limb against blue sky

a patch of yellow asters spangled with blue & black butterflies

how fresh-ground coffee tastes on a cold damp morning

the smell of November roses

This is the kind of thing I’m thankful for today. Nothing spectacular, for most folks. But every now & then, my very ordinary life flickers into a kind of transcendent focus, and the smallest details seem almost redemptive.


Today? A fat mourning dove fluttering up from the feeding platform as I walked out to add sunflower seed. The reliable ray of warm sun that seems perfectly aimed at the rocker by the back door. The anticipation of a very ordinary meatloaf for dinner. Not to mention the scamper of a happy dog, the satisfaction of one line of poetry well-written. Or two perfectly ripe pears in a ruby glass bowl…

Look around your ordinary life… What’s crept up on you? What’s just waiting for you to notice…?



day 14 of Thanksgiving ~

Today’s a bittersweet thank-you. A poet I love dearly — Jack Gilbert — died yesterday. Gilbert was one of the (many) poets who helped me shape my own craft. But even had I not also been a writer, I don’t see how I could have not loved his work. Loved the quiet accommodation to his singularly lonely life, and the peace he found in the trees & rocks & doors around him…


So today I give thanks for the many poets who have saved my life. Sometimes quite literally: sent me a ‘message in a bottle,’ as the Indigo Girls said of Virginia Woolf (who while not a poet, certainly also helped me make sense of my crazy life). May Sarton, Dnise Levertov, Mark Doty, Seamus Heaney, Robert Hayden, Robert Hass. Auden, great heart…

Others lifted me out of inchoate grief or loneliness or anger: Yusuf Komunyakaa & Linda Pastan & Mary Oliver & Pattiann Rogers. While still others gave me laughter as I marvelled at their craft: Billy Collins & Merwin & Neruda & Kunitz. So many poets, so little time…:)


Of all the things I give thanks for this month, closest to who I am are these poets. They have been, far more often than I have shared, the mechanisms driving the wounded heart, the lost mind, the broken body. Gilbert was an important one.

Each is far greater in scope than an ordinary writer. Still… Like chatoyant stones in light, so often their words have shifted into some kind of meaning for my life. And that’s more than enough to be very grateful for…

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