Celebrating Poetry | Linda Pastan

The Obligation to Be Happy
by Linda Pastan 

It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.

And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.

Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
would understand.

I have desperately missed celebrating poetry, as I did this past April in honor of National Poetry Month.
I think I am going to start incorporating more poets and poetry into my blogging schedule.

*Featured image: Ruby Beach, Washington, July 2010.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

She is unlimited curiosity, viewing her world with unrestrained wonder and amazement.
She is endless energy, unwilling to close her eyes, lest she miss a thing.
She is unbridled joy.

My granddaughter— she is all of this, and so much more—wrapped up tightly and packed into a tiny 3-foot container.

Posted in response to this week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post.

Callie 7-2014

 

A Brief History of Humankind

Are you curious to learn more about the history of humankind? For free?! Then you’re in luck!

Beginning August 10th 2014 – December 31st 2014, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, who lectures at the Department of History, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is offering a free course:

A Brief History of Humankind.

Here is a brief description from the course website:

The course surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of various human species in the Stone Age up to the political and technological revolutions of the twenty-first century.

This course will explain how we humans have conquered planet Earth, and how we have changed our environment, our societies, and our own bodies and minds. The aim of the course is to give students a brief but complete overview of history.

There are no entry requirements. The course is intended to both people who have never studied history seriously, and wish to gain an overview of the human past, and to people who have studied history before, but who would like to get a fresh and challenging perspective on it.

This free college level course is offered via Coursera, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) portal; “an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.”

Did I mention that this course is free? How cool is that?!

However, if history isn’t your thing, there are literally hundreds of other courses that might spark your intellectual curiosity. For FREE!

Again, how cool is that?!

Have a wonderful day, everyone! :)

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) Image courtesy of Gandhi Quotes

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) Image courtesy of Gandhi Quotes

*Featured image courtesy of Coursera.org

The Beautiful Black-Eyed Susan

I came across some Black-Eyed Susan during my adventures in the desert wilds this past week.

I love finding wildflowers in the middle of nowhere!

These seemed especially beautiful. :)

Here is a wonderful website — Wild American Beauty: The Black-Eyed Susan
It has a substantial history of this particular wildflower, as well as a delightful poem, “Black-Eyed Susan,” written by the English poet, John Gay (1685-1732). Enjoy!

Black-Eyed Susan

 

Black-Eyed Susan 2

Chapter Four of the tentatively titled, Machinations of War

Here is my chapter four to the ongoing collaborative story project I am working on with my son, Alexander, who blogs over at Riding into the Sunrise.

Our tentative title for this project is Machinations of War. We’ll see how the story grows, and at the end, revisit whether or not this title still seems appropriate. :)

If you’ve missed the introduction to this project, or Chapters 1-3, and wish to read the story in its entirety please visit here.

Hope everyone enjoys this week’s installment.

Chapter 4
by Kimberley Thomas

Villarreal Kingdom, Southlands of Terra, 535 AC

The raucous clamor of the revelers spilled outward from the tavern and into the streets. As the men guzzled ever-increasing amounts of ale, squeals of both delight and disdain issued forth from the young bar maidens, which were answered at once with rounds of hearty, boisterous laughter. The King and his men were celebrating. Celebrating the young Lord of Villarreal’s decision to leave the farmlands of the South, to march northward on the Capitol City. Moreover, the men were commemorating their Lord’s decision to lead them out from beneath the iron fist of tyranny. Lord Villarreal willingly agreed to his people’s desire for him to accept his rightful title of King, and as King, his first major pronouncement was to expose the deceptions of the Creator. He then planned to unseat his father as King of the Twelve Kingdoms.

While his men drank and sang bawdy songs, King Alexander Suhn sat engaged in solemn talks with his most trusted advisor and closest ally, Sir Rafe Skerrett. Rafe had served Alexander honorably, as had Rafe’s father before him served Alexander’s grandfather, Lord Diogo Villarreal. As had generations of Skerretts preceding them, each faithfully serving in the name of House Villarreal.

“… and when you reach the Capital City, you must be convincing in your account of the story. Tomas assures me that if the High Priesthood believes you to be a spy, you will be executed within hours as a traitor. I’m quite sure that you would prefer to keep your head attached to your neck, am I right?”

“Yes, milord. Rafe’s face immediately reddened as he floundered with Alexander’s newest title, “Um, forgive me! I mean, Your Grace.”

With a roguish grin, King Suhn quipped, “Don’t call me that, I’m anything but graceful.”

Smiling embarrassedly, Rafe responded jokingly, “I deeply apologize, Your Majesty.”

With sudden candor, the King replied, “Soon, Rafe. Very soon. We will expose the Creator for the cruel oppressor he is, and then, winning the hearts and minds of the people, we will easily unseat my duplicitous father and take his crown. For now though, Your Highness will do.”

Respectfully, Rafe bowed before his King, “It is my greatest honor to do your will, Your Highness.”

“Good! I suppose this is goodbye then, Sir Skerrett.” Grabbing Rafe’s hand in farewell, Alexander drew his second-in-command in close to him, “Be safe in your journey, my friend. Be smart, and above all else,” the King’s voice suddenly dropped to a near whisper, “Please, save my sister. Convince Aislyn that I am not a monster seeking revenge on our father. Persuade her to join our cause, Rafe. If anyone is able to plead our cause to her, it will be you.”

“I will, Your Highness,” and with that, Rafe took his leave.

Rafe was grateful to finally have a mission. Before heading north, he decided to return to the small adobe dwelling he had once shared with his wife, the charismatic Lady Gabriella. He had loved Gabby more than life itself and losing her, and his newborn son, during childbirth, had served a devastating blow to him. Even with the best of care, maternal deaths were a common tragedy for women of childbearing age in the lower Kingdoms. It seemed the further a Kingdom was located from the Capitol City, the least likely it was to receive the Creator’s blessings. Routinely, inhabitants of the southern Kingdoms suffered and died from far less than the populace of the Northern reaches. He felt compelled to have one last look, before setting out on what he assumed would be a one-way journey.

Rafe hastily surveyed the dusty quarters. It had been many months since he had last returned to their cottage, choosing instead to reside in the barracks located on the grounds of his Lord’s hacienda. He had returned for a single item, the silver necklace that hung sorrowfully over a pinch pot of dried flowers, remnants of his wife and son’s joint funeral march. He had buried them together, with their son cradled safely in his wife’s arms. He hadn’t been able to make himself part with her necklace. He knew it had been a selfish act; he should have placed Gabby’s most treasured earthly possession around her thin delicate neck, burying her with it. A treasured heirloom of her family, it had not been his to keep. Nonetheless, it was all he had to remember her by in the lonely days that he knew would follow. He couldn’t bring himself to let it go then, and here he was once again, mesmerized by the shining, silver trinket. He hurriedly grabbed the necklace, carelessly causing a cascade of dead petals to descend to the floor. It didn’t matter, he was sure he would never again set eyes on his land of birth. Meticulously he wound the chain around its small medallion, tucking it into a ragged square of cloth and stowing it into a small leather pouch. Nothing else remained for him here and he found himself relieved to finally have the excuse he needed to leave it all behind.

Checking his gear and bags once more and satisfied that everything was in good order, Rafe mounted his horse and headed out. Not once did he glance backward. He made sure of that. His was one of the most crucial roles in the looming war. He had to be convincing in his role as a disillusioned turncoat of King Alexander’s inner council. Throughout the long journey northward, in his mind, Rafe rehearsed his character over and again. Everything hinged on his ability to persuade the Northern leaders of his enmity for Tomas, and his disloyalty to the Heretic King.

The journey to the Capitol City had lasted nearly two months. Once he arrived, Rafe recited the fabricated narrative, which had been meticulous crafted for him by Tomas and his King; first to the Keeper of the Scepter, Lord Preston; then to King Abraham Suhn himself. He executed his performance flawlessly. Both, the aged High Priest and the elder King Suhn deemed his story truthful and granted him asylum in the Capitol City.

Rafe was quite pleased with himself for having been able to deceive both Lord Preston and King Suhn so easily. However, truth be told, above all else, he was thankful to still be in possession of his head. Now the real work would begin. He had to find a way to convince the Northern King, and his council of High Priests, that he was indeed an invaluable asset, one who was worthy of their complete trust. Moreover, after residing in the Capitol City for less than a month, Rafe learned that the only way he would ever be able to approach Princess Aislyn, would be to secure a position within the inner council of her father’s regime. The Princess, it seemed, was held a virtual prisoner in her father’s citadel. Aislyn was never allowed out of the stronghold’s confines, for fear of her abduction. Tomas and King Alexander had made it clear that gaining the traveling seer’s confidence, and winning her to their cause, was critical to their success.

Over time, Rafe fashioned himself as a crucial source of insider information against the Heretic and his followers. Through various agents of the South, who had been posted about the Capitol City; a baker here; a fish monger there; the blacksmith who tended to Rafe’s horse; all passed on to him useful battle information, courtesy of Tomas, which he himself then passed on to the those seated on the King’s council. Within a relatively short period, he had received his fist invitation into the King’s council chambers.

The morning of his first meeting with the council, he pulled out Gabriella’s silver necklace. His wife had believed her pendent was a talisman imbued with magical powers capable of protecting those who wore it. “It hadn’t done much good for her or our son,” he thought dejectedly. Nevertheless, Rafe removed the pendent from its delicate silver chain and threaded it on to a rough string of leather. Tying the two ends of the cord together, he placed the now crude looking adornment around his own neck. “Gabby, I’m going to need all the protection your amulet can muster,” he thought.

As Rafe walked into the chambers, he laid eyes on the Princess for the first time. He felt his breath catch in his throat. Her frail beauty had taken him completely by surprise. Aislyn possessed an aura of kindness; her pale skin giving off an ethereal glow; and the profound sadness he observed in her eyes, immediately made him want to rescue her. As he bowed deeply in formal greeting, Aislyn and Rafe’s eyes locked in a long and inappropriate gaze. Fortunately, for Rafe, it went unnoticed by the King and the assembled High Priests. He became acutely aware that this woman would be his undoing. He confidently walked to his seat at the table, yet all the while contradicting his bold manner, by absently fingering the pendent hanging around his neck.

Silently he implored, “If this charm ever indeed worked, let it aid me now, in my most desperate hour of need!”

Azeroth: My Favorite Procrastination Destination!

Today’s Daily Post Daily Prompt – Now? Later!

We all procrastinate. Website, magazine, knitting project, TV show, something else — what’s your favorite procrastination destination?

I have a little-known secret—I’m a gamer.

It all began so many years ago, when I was a mere 14-years-old, and first played the pinball machines at our local teen center called, “The Hub” (which was the real inspiration for “The Hub” made famous by the television series, That 70s Show). I was addicted to pinball, wasting too many hours flipping small steel balls around, when I should have been studying.

Then, lo and behold, on Christmas morning of 1977, I received an Atari Pong system, and so began my first foray into home video game consoles. Sure, it was primitive, but it occupied many hours of my time. My mother probably still rues the day she decided to buy this for me!

In the 1980s, I moved on to arcade games. First, there was Pac-Man, then Space Invaders, and Centipede, and far too many other games to list. I wasted too many quarters on those machines.

Then in 1989, my husband and I purchased our first real gaming console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was for the kids, of course! At least that’s what we told everyone. We stayed up until three in the morning that first night playing Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. I had finally succeeded in dragging my dear husband into the gaming abyss. Thus began our journey into camping out in front of various Target stores, Circuit City’s, and Best Buys to secure the newest console systems. We bonded as a family during the ritual midnight releases of new games.

Console gaming segued into PC gaming, and my all-time favorite procrastination destination: I play massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG’s).

The first MMORPG I played was Final Fantasy XI . My alter ego was a Hume named Kym who hailed from the City of Bastok. I was a healer (otherwise known as a White Mage) with a very dark side (secondary job was Black Mage). I had a tendency to become rather bored with healing and would at times waste too much MP casting spells of dark magic. It didn’t win me any favor with my other party mates! :P

Then nearly a decade ago, another MMORPG came on the scene, called World of Warcraft (or better known as WoW). Shortly after the release of WoW, it was with a heavy heart, that I abandoned Kym, leaving her and the lands of Vana’diel behind forever.

The wilds of Azeroth became my new home! I became a beautiful, black-haired troll Shaman (For the Horde!) named Shiianii. While I have always considered Shiianii as my main character, I ended up playing my secondary character, Nahnii much more. Nahnii is a level 90 Undead Arcane/Fire Mage. Shiianii is level 89 (and for those in the know, I am only two bars away from lvl 90 with her, but for some reason, I keep putting off getting her to 90. The finality of it all saddens me!)

While I don’t play World of Warcraft as often as I used to, when I do have a few spare moments, I still travel to exotic, otherworldly lands to become a fierce adventurer; completing quests for coveted gold coins; battling ferocious monsters; and every once in a while, ganking hapless Alliance players.

I think my mother would rather I knit, or quilt, or garden, or sew. You know, something more respectable than admitting, at my age, to playing video games. On the other hand, my granddaughter thinks it’s pretty awesome that grandma is a gamer!

My alter egos: 

Shiianii

Nahnii

 

Sun Peeking Through the Clouds

Look Up, Look Down Challenge, Week 47

Every Thursday, Debbie at Travel with Intent publishes a post containing photo(s) taken from above or below, and invites us all to join in the fun by posting our own photos with an up or down perspective.

This particular photo, of the sun peeking through the clouds, was taken in Glendale, Arizona, USA.

Don’t forget to drop by Travel with Intent for more fantastic up/down photos! :D

Sun Through Clouds - Glendale, Arizona, USA

Sun Through Clouds – Glendale, Arizona, USA

Random Thoughts About Immigration

Several years ago, I took a researching family history course. Much to my surprise, I learned a great deal about the origins of my ancestry.

My maternal grandmother’s people came to America aboard the Mayflower, descended from the indentured servant, John Howland, and his wife Elizabeth Tilley (the daughter of John Tilley, one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact, and his wife Joan Hurst).

My maternal grandfather’s people remained somewhat of a mystery. What I do know is they brought French and German blood to my personal pedigree.

My father’s history, however, proved to be a challenge to uncover. My paternal grandparents, both born shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, were first-generation Americans. My paternal grandfather’s family arrived in the United States in 1874 from Sicily. My paternal grandmother’s people, also from Sicily, arrived nearly two decades later, in 1890. According to information I gathered in several United States Census records, both of my paternal great-grandfathers were originally laborers who later became land-owning farmers; both learned to speak English; both became U.S citizens. Conversely, neither of my great-grandmothers learned to speak English, or became citizens of the United States.

My mother’s people were instrumental in the initial formation of this Great American Experiment. Yet, my father’s people—considered relative newcomers—a part of the influx of Italian immigrants to hit the shores of America just before the beginning of the twentieth century, were also significant to the growth and change of our great nation.

The greatest truth I have uncovered, with regard to my American story, is that all of my ancestors originated from various parts of the European continent. At one point or another, all my people landed on the shores of this continent as refugees seeking a better life. Except for the Native American peoples, conquered and displaced by English and American colonialism, I imagine this story to be true for the great majority of Americans. With the exception of course of those whose ancestors were shamefully kidnapped from their homeland and brought to our shores in chains and shackles.

All our people hail from somewhere else.

Perhaps we should all take a long, hard look at our own ancestry, how our forefathers—and thusly ourselves—came to be citizens of these United States of America. Instead of walling off our borders and incarcerating all those who risk life and limb to enter our great country, perhaps instead we should consider welcoming them warmly with open arms. Instead of greeting immigrants seeking asylum with angry intolerance and prejudice, we should instead revel in the diversity, the vibrancy, the growth, and change these newcomers will bring to our unique melting pot of cultural heritage.

From NPR News:

“The United States isn’t the only country being flooded by migrants from Central America. U.N. refugee spokesman Adrian Edwards says the number of people fleeing to Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and other countries in search of asylum has increased by more than 700 percent since 2008

” ‘They are fleeing an environment of transnational organized crime and other problems there, and we believe that amongst that there are people who will be in need of international protection,’ Edwards says.

“The refugee agency is particularly concerned about the large number of unaccompanied children arriving in the U.S. Washington estimates more than 90,000 unaccompanied children will arrive by the end of September.”

 

The events in Murrieta, California over the past few days should serve to remind us all once again, the actions of a few bring shame upon us all.

 

Protesters turn back three buses carrying 140 immigrants as they attempt to enter the Murrieta U.S. Border Patrol station for processing on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, in Murrieta, Calif. David Bauman, The Press-Enterprise/AP Photo

Protesters turn back three buses carrying 140 immigrants as they attempt to enter the Murrieta U.S. Border Patrol station for processing on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, in Murrieta, Calif. David Bauman, The Press-Enterprise/AP Photo Image from: abcnews

A demonstrator arrives with a sign reading "Send Them Back With Birth Control" at a protest in Murrieta, Calif. on Monday.  Image from: NBCnews

A demonstrator arrives with a sign reading “Send Them Back With Birth Control” at a protest in Murrieta, Calif. on Monday.
Image from: NBCnews

ss-140707-immigration-murrieta-protests-03.nbcnews-ux-1360-900

Pro-immigration protesters demonstrate across from anti-undocumented immigration protesters in Murrieta, Calif., on Tuesday. Image from: NBCnews

*Featured image: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor,” by William Halsall, 1882 at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Chapter Three – Untitled Fantasy Story

Kimberley Thomas:

Here is this week’s installment of the collaborative story my son and I are writing. This week’s Chapter Three is Alexander’s contribution. We’re still trying to agree on a title. ;)

Originally posted on Riding into the Sunrise:

Green River Abbey, Terra, 536 AC

Natalie lies in bed wearing a long, white night gown. Her brunette hair pushed to the side, as she looks out the small window in her room. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and it is going to be a good day. She could already tell.

It was still early in the morning, the sun had barely risen, and she knew she had a few more minutes. A few more minutes before the hustle and bustle of the day started. She could already smell breakfast cooking in the kitchen, the smell wafting in under her door. She took a deep breath, eggs and bread, such a wonderful combination.

She rolled over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling, a big smile on her face. The mantra of the church written on the ceiling as a constant reminder:

May the Creator…

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