Have you had a pumpkin latte yet? Roasted vegetables? Pork stew? Apple Dumplings? As the temperature starts to sink, and our body yearns for some sort of consolation, we often warm our souls through comfort food (or music). In "Buckwheat Cakes," the poem below, Guest insists that "Every  season has its joys/Every day its touch of mirth", gifts to help us celebrate our lives. In this instance, a stack of buckwheat pancakes provides a comforting constant no matter the changes that encroach upon our lives.

The Youtube clip is of Nat King Cole singing "Autumn Leaves." The mellow tones, apt for the sense of loss that fall often brings (and the song specifically addresses), seep into the bones; like a steamy tub at the end of a difficult day, they soothe and relax. And if you're missing the "color," you can feast your eyes as well. So grab yourself a cuppa your favorite, and enjoy.

Buckwheat Cakes
Edgar A. Guest

"Now the frost is in the air.
Blue the haze at  early dawn.
There is color everywhere.
Old and ragged looks the  lawn.
Autumn's resting on the hills.
Harvested are fruit and grain,
And  the home with gladness thrills.
Buckwheat cakes are back again!

Every  season has its joys,
Every day its touch of mirth.
For us all - both girls  and boys -
God has well supplied the earth.
What if care must fall between
Peace and pleasure now and then?
Autumn holds this happy scene:
Buckwheat cakes are back again!

Time and trouble change us all,
Youth gives way to middle age,
One by one our fancies fall
Till we reach life's final stage,
But in spite of aches and panes
And the difference old age makes,
Man devoted still remains
To a stack of buckwheat cakes."

I've been preoccupied with wedding plans of late. So many details and decisions have put my mind on overload, like an electrical grid struggling to support a plethora of air conditioning units in their battle against the summer heat. Thankfully, it hasn't been so humid here, since that also slows my brain down, and our air conditioning is quite adequate to the task of keeping our house comfortable.

My mom happened to mention during her last visit that she rarely uses her air conditioning; opening the windows at night, closing them in the morning and a judicious use of her curtains keeps her quite comfortable during the Indiana summers. While applauding her frugality, my husband mentioned that she might still want to use the air conditioning upon occasion as it would help to keep the moving parts lubricated.

It occurs to me that it's easy to let my own juices congeal. Even as I think and write about choosing joy, I can get so preoccupied with solving problems and living in my head that I don't allow the beauty of the moment to refresh my soul (not to mention my body). One of my favorite bloggers, Robin Bates, posted this poem over at Better Living Through Beowulf. I love the play on words; you wouldn't, for instance, expect that indulging your senses is the "sensible" thing to do. And "succumb" should describe someone who's been overcome by their senses, not one who has successfully resisted their allure. No, in this case, it is the rational argument that needs to be defeated - the pressures of delight that need to be endured and embraced. Imagine someone who has lived in black and white all their life entering suddenly into a world of color. The assault upon the rods and cones of the eye tempt a retreat into the familiar sepia, but oh, the loss! The solution may be to start small, one plum at a time.

I also like the marriage of mind and body that flows from this poem, the suggestion that happiness works its way to your mind through your body. "Joy is a taste before it is anything else" says Mary Oliver. While I don't know if I totally agree with that sentiment, I do believe we need to become integrated selves. Someone who lives totally in the physical realm misses the relational or intellectual joys that are also available. But those of us who live in our heads or become unnecessarily preoccupied with the busyness of life run the risk of dehydrated souls, while rivers of delight pass us by every day.

This poem encourages me to take the time to lounge - to devour (!) the beauty that comes to me through my sense (those five rivers that flow inward). And to recognize that these are, indeed, important moments.

The Plum Trees

by Mary Oliver

Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don’t

succumb, there’s nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy

is a taste before
it’s anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small
wild plums.

Artwork by Christian Berentz found at the Web Gallery of Art
Good Friday Gamble

“If nothing is greater than love,”
My friend replies,
“Then it’s worth risking all for it.”

Of course he’s right -
For what is life bereft of love
But an eternity of emptiness?
And love, that priceless pearl,
Demands you sell it all.

Still what long odds!
As when rough hands take up the dice,
Await the spit, then shake and splay them out
on rocky ground.
For who can know what numbers
Will turn up
Or if the robe will pass on by?

Observe his shaken followers:
Those burly men, now cowed and stricken,
Slink into the night.
And women, pale and spent,
(whose tears and hair, with blood and dust
Their own anointing make) have
Stumbled from the hill.

What happens now as darkness falls,
As tremors cease,
And silence jars their broken hearts?

Unanswered in the night
The question hangs

Sue Schmidt, 2011

My friend, Robin Bates, blogs at "Better Living Through Beowulf".
Our conversation on one of the posts led to the comment above.
A fresh year beckons, offering unending possibilites. Not much is sure, but there is a peaceful calm as I wait for what's next.

Over the past few years, the phrase "and what we will become has not yet been revealed" has been slipping in and out of my consciousness. Yesterday while I was sitting at the breakfast table, I leaned into this idea of waiting. This poem starts with the experience of pregnancy and then moves to the universal experience of living in the season of expectancy.


And what we will become has not yet been revealed.
I John 3:2

Three times before, three times the nine,
The ancient rite enveloped me.
I grew into discomfort while
I nursed the joy. I hummed with hope-
Embraced anticipation’s end-
And fixed my sights on flesh-shared life,
The labor’s culminating love.

But this gestation is unknown;
When did conception’s seed take root?
I’m discomfited by the silence,
Feel the lack of outward change.
I don’t know what I’m looking for.
Have the thrusting pains begun?
And what is waiting to emerge,
To gasp and breathe the unrestricted air?

The revelation is withheld,
I have no clarity of thought.
Only the whispered oracles
In languages that spirit comprehends.
My mind is in the dark-the eye
Has closed in rest, has learned to trust,
Is cradled now in deep, familiar,
Mystery of sacred womb.
It's still fun to be me! Especially now that I've made peace with my poet wannabe self.

The Dilemma of a 51 year-old Former Lit Major
Or “A Tribute to Ogden Nash”

I’d like to pen a poem whose words
Dazzle lexophilic nerds.
The problem is, my mem’ry won’t
Cooperate, and so I don’t.
I settle for vernacular
(and hope it’s still spectacular.)
Some crows swooped into my neighborhood this morning. I couldn't help but wonder...

Loving Crows

Do you know how to love a crow?

I'm not quite sure I truly know.
Would it be
 good enough to see
And name him, resting in my tree? 

 Let fall the way I’ve used his name,
“Oh, crows!”( They’re always first to blame
When corn is snatched from furrowed fields
Diminishing the harvest’s yields.)

And let the name be just the word
That helps me place this jet black bird?
Is this the way to love a crow?
To offer space? Let birdness show?

To notice how he swoops and swirls,
Is pestered by those silly squirrels?
Is this the way to love a crow?
Is this enough? I'd like to know.
Part of our traditional Thanksgiving gathering is a time of speaking thanks. If we give ourselves a few minutes, the list can become rather long. But it occurred to me that taking some extra time to be aware of what we're thankful for can be another way of enjoying those people, things, events, and insights that make our lives full. Sort of letting those things we're thankful for seep into our hearts and nourish us. The poem below explores that theme.

Thanksgiving poem

Let the thanks seep deep, deep down,
Like melted butter, steeped with thyme and lemon zest,
Now basted, gently soaks my turkey’s breast.

And let the thanks slow simmer up and out,
To work its way throughout your heart and mind
As rosemary, sea salt, onion, garlic rise, 
The stuffing in my roasting bird.

And when it flavors all you are,
Then serve your thanks around the table,
Nourishment, the joyful strength.

Share it with both friend and family,
In the flesh or only held in mind
(who also join from heaven’s realm)
United in the feast that’s set by grace
And seasoned with the love of God.
I think God enjoys Godself. That thought came to me while pondering what it will be like to be in the presence of God. Often I think about this as being caught up in love, peace, rest. But this morning I imagined the playful energy that comes from freedom and delight. Kind of like God saying, "Hey come on up here, we're having a great time!" So I guess it shouldn't surprise me that when I went outside later in the day, God ambushed me.

Playtime in Fall

The tree outside my window grins.
Come, play with me!, she says.
I see the golden leaves that spin and swirl like honey in the wind.
And smile.  That would be fun, I think.
But not right now,
I’m making soup and sorting files.

Files done, soup is made.
I should go for a walk.
I need to get some exercise,
It’s good for you, you know.

The tree ambushes me.

I’m more intent on raking leaves
That snuck inside my clean garage.
But then I look and SEE those leaves.
The treasure chest of gold and ruby,
Strewn beneath her boughs.
Ah ha! she says, then flirts.
Enjoy me! Scuff those leaves.
Drink the yellow, feel the breezes swaying through my hair.
See, I’ll pose against the blue November sky.

I smile, snap her photograph. Smell the yellow,

Drink in warmth. Mmmmm.

Well, time to move along.
I need to take my walk.
Good for me, my exercise
Good for me, I know.

Hey, what about the stream (our entry point for kayaking)
I’ve forgotten that it’s there,
Just beyond the grassy lawn.
I wander over to the bank, to gaze a while and muse.

The cheery sun would like to plant a kiss upon my face,
And so I lift my chin and pause for love.

I love the stream, I love the sound
Of eager waters, filling up the banks and in a rush
To who knows where-
Its music makes me happy.

And then it’s home for lunch, and so
I turn my steps toward the spacious green,
Kept tailored by a neighbor whom I do not know.

Ambushed again!

A wave of leaves, caught by the wind,
Is rolling in. My hands spring up to guard my face.
I gasp and laugh! Who knew the force,
The breakercrash of leaves?
I stand and watch the next gust draw them back into their sea,
The eddies settle, calm- until they pounce again.

I chuckle as I’m heading home.
My face a ruddy glow.
I’d rather play than exercise.
It’s good for you, you know.