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A Heathan Muse

Our road 9-29-2011

On a Tree Fallen Across the Road by Robert Frost

(To hear us talk) 

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not bar
Our passage to our journey’s end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

Muse Day doesn’t exist anymore, but I could not resist this poem after all the wild weather we have had recently.

Muse Day May 2010

Thom Chiofalo's Garden

“What, if anything, do the infinity of different traditional and individual ideas of a garden have in common? They vary so much in purpose, in size, in style and content that not even flowers, or even plants at all, can be said to be essential. In the last analysis there is only one common factor between all gardens, and that is the control of nature by man. Control, that is, for aesthetic reasons.” Hugh Johnson

Hugh Johnson created a notable garden at his home in Essex, England, then wrote a notable book, The Principles of Gardening:  a guide to the art, history, science and practice of gardening. this is an encyclopedic book that is great fun to dip into.

I liked this quote which I found in a newer book on my shelf, Why We Garden by Jim Nollman. I was particularly taken by it because I remember so well my confusion when we went to China and found the concept of garden so different. Shan shui translated literally  means mountain water but it is the way the Chinese refer to gardens.  We went to one famous  garden in Suzhou, the garden city of China, and it contained nothing but stone. But by that time I had adjusted somewhat to the many differences between the Chinese garden and the “English” garden that I was familiar with.

Despite the differences in cultures I think Hugh Johnson got it right when he said, on the very first page of his book, “The first purpose of a book is to give happiness and repose of mind.”

Visit Carolyn gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago to see how the muses inspire in other gardens.

Pam Oakes' perennial border

Muse Day April 2010

April 5, 1974

The air was soft, the ground still cold.

In the dull pasture where I strolled

Was something I could not believe.

Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,

Though still too frozen flat to stir,

And rocks to twitch, and all to blur.

What was this rippling of the land?

Was matter getting out of hand

And making free with natural law?

I stopped and blinked, and then I saw

A fact as eerie as a dream.

There was a subtle flood of steam

Moving upon the face of things.

It came from standing pools and springs

And what of snow was still around;

It came of winter’s giving ground

So that the freeze was coming out,

As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,

Relaxes into mother-wit.

Flowers, I said, will come of it.

Richard Wilbur

When I first read this poem (Collected Poems 1943-2004, Harcourt Publishers) I was immediately transported to a day last spring when I walked across our fields and had a similar experience.  I procrastinated but finally wrote to Mr. Wilbur who lives in a nearby hilltown, and asked his permission to use the poem.  He graciously gave that permission – and mentioned that he plans to get a few leeks planted in the garden this spring —  when the snow disappears and the rain is no longer puddling.  I hope that at 89 I will also still be planting and writing.

The collection includes show lyrics like Oh, Happy We and Glitter and Be Gay from Candide, a collaboration with Lillian Hellman, and Leonard Berstein.  There is also a section of wonderful Poems for Children and Others named Opposites. The collection is a complete joy. We are fortunate to live in an area with so many creative artists.

Carolyn gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago gives us the opportunity to let the muses inspire us in a multitude of ways. Visit her blog and see how others are inspired.

Muse Day March 2010

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

by Robert Frost

We took our walk in late afternoon, on shank’s mare, as one of Frost’s farmers might have said. Most of these woods down the road from our hosue belong to a family who no longer live near, and rarely visit, but we have permission to admire and enjoy.

The snow is deep, so we stayed on the dirt road that has been beautifully plowed by our devoted town road crew.

The woods are lovely and deep, but the days are  getting longer, the cold is less bitter and the wind is quiet. For the moment. Time to turn home.

The cats, Frank and Holly, left us to our adventure, waiting for us to join them again next to the woodstove.

Thank you Carolyn gail for inviting us to share visits from the muses.

Muse Day February 2010

The pair of quilts

we pieced together, laughing

at the future’s far design

my handiwork now covers a husband, babies –

hers, a corpse.

Carol Purington

Thank you Carolyn gail for giving me the chance to be twice inspired on this Muse Day. My friend Carol Purington wrote the poem, published in her book A Pattern For This Place, and my friend Lois Holm made this quilt for me when I retired from the Buckland Library.

I knew of Carol, before I met her, as the “poet who has been in an iron lung since childhood” but over the past few months I have come to know her as a working poet with a quick intelligence, a critical eye, and a loving heart. She has been generous to me with her attention and advice as we have worked together on my new writing project. And I have been able to watch the progress on her new project, a poetry anthology for parents.

Lois was my devoted library volunteer, trustee and dependable prop when I worked at the Library. She came to the library as a volunteer after a full professional life as nurse, working in the schools, and deep involvement in her community. I was incredibly lucky about the timing of that retirement which brought her to the library not only as a reader and patron, but as my major support and exemplar.

In this quilt she drew not only nf my love of gardens, but of my time in China. It is a work of art with the careful combining of color and pattern, flowers and ripples. Chinese art often includes an element of time, as do haiku, Carol’s chosen poetic form. The band of fabric with golden ‘ripples’ suggest to me the time that is always flowing past us. The quilt itself, and the poem reach back into memory, and into the present with continuing affection.

New Year’s Day 2010

New Snow, New Year

Red Brocade by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends you don’t care.

Lets to back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

I first read Naomi Shihab Nye when I was a librarian and bought her young adult novel Habibi for the collection. This story of a modern teen who moves from St. Louis to Jerusalem with her Palastinian family and her struggle with the clash of cultures could very well reflect her own multi-cultural background. She has also written many books of poetry. I don’t know which book Red Brocade is from; it came in the Crhistmas card sent by a young friend. It reflects their life, and the life I would like to lead.

It is also a perfect companion to the poem I had originally planned for this Muse Day. When I heard the 88 year old poet Marie Ponsot read from her new book, Easy, on the PBS Newshour I had to order it immediately. Simples is the poem that first inspired me.

Simples by Marie Ponsot

what do I want

well I want to
get better”

Thank you Carolyn gail for hosting Muse Day. For more muses logon to Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.

November Muse Day 2009

The Lawn Bed November 1

The Lawn Bed November 1


        “Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, and are then prepared to ignore them until the spring.  I am quite sure that a garden doesn’t like to be ignored like this.  It doesn’t like to be covered in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter.  Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the very frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance.”

                                                     Beverley Nichols

     I have been reading Rhapsody in Green,  an anthology of Beverely Nichols’ delightful writing about his life in the garden. Plums have been plucked from his various books including Down the Garden Path, Merry Hall, Laughter on the Stairs, Sunlight on the Lawn, and Garden Open Today. If you are equally as fond of cats as gardens he has also written about his beloved cats in Beverley Nichols’ Cats’ A.B.C. All of these have been reprinted by Timber Press and are available to all of us who mourn the fact that we were not born British with a country house in the 30’s and 40’s where we gardenened and wrote and entertained with great wit and style.


Nichols’ opinions could be sharp and brusque, but like all gardeners, he has a great appreciation of the natural world, acknowledges the pains that we gardeners are heir to, digging and weeding and picking and arranging.   I came across his delightful book Garden Open Today first, and that became the inspiration for our Annual Rose Viewing when we open the garden to our friends – and anyone wandering in the Heathan hills on the last Sunday of June.

     Even in November it is easy to attend to our garden because we look out at our Lawn Beds from our table where we have our meals and our tea times. I look down on it from my bedroom window when I first wake in the morning, and take a last moonlit glance when I draw the curtains in the evening.

     I will close with a final quote. “It is only to the gardener that Time is a friend, giving each year more than he steals.” A fine sentiment as the year begins to draw to a close.

Now visit Carolyn gail, who began Muse Day, over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago where she is celebrating a very special Muse Day.

Brilliant, and yet again brilliant


                   Foliage-viewing –

               Annual failure to slake

          Winter’s color thirst.          


In her haiku Carol Purington captures a season and the necessity of trying to prepare for the monochromatic winter landscape.  She captures the colors, creatures and songs of every season at Woodslawn Farm here in western Massachusetts.  This haiku is from her book Woodslawn Farm.

To see what other muses are abroad and inspiring us, visit Carolyn gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago, the host of Muse Day, and Blotanical nominee.  Don’t forget to vote.

Muse Day – September


He who bends to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

                         Eternity by William Blake


The golden days of summer are flying. Soon the hills will be a tapestry of rich color. I’ve already had to put a quilt on the bed.


Many thanks to Carolyn gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago for hosting Muse Day and giving us all a chance to share our observations and inspirations.




Malabar Farm on Muse Day

Malabar Farm
Malabar Farm


Book Review (of Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield 1948)

by E. B. White

“Malabar Farm is the farm for me,

A place of unbridled activity.

A farm is always in some kind of tizzy,

But Bromfield’s place is really busy:

Strangers arriving by every train,

Bromfield terracing against the rain,

Catamounts crying, mowers mowing,

Guest rooms full to overflowering,

Boxers in every room of the house,

Cows being milked to Brahms and Strauss,

Kids arriving by van or pung,

Bromfield up to his eyes in dung,

Sailors, trumpeters, mystics, actors,

All of them wanting to drive the tractors,

All of them eager to husk the corn,

Some of them sipping their drinks till morn;

Bulls in the bull pen, bulls on the loose,

Everyone bottling vegetable juice,

Play producers jousting with bards,

Boxers fighting with St. Bernards,

Boxers fooling with auto breakes,

Runaway cars at the bottom of lakes,

Bromfield diving to save the Boxers,

Moving vans full of bobby soxers,

People coming and people going,

Everything fertile, everything growing,

Fish in the ponds other fish seducing,

Thrashing around and reproducing,

Whole place teeming with men and pets,

Field mice nesting in radio sets,

Cats in the manger, rats in the nooks,

Publishers scanning the sky for books,

Harvested royalties, harvested grain,

Bromfield scanning the sky for rain,

Bromfield’s system proving reliable,

Soil getting rich and deep and friable,

Bromfield phoning, Bromfiled haying,

Bromfield watching mulch decaying,

Womenfolks busy shelling peas,

Guinea fowl up in catalpa trees,.

Oh, Bromfield’s valley is plenty pleasant –

Quail and rabbit, Boxers, pheasant.

Almost every Malabar day

Sees birth and growth, sees death, decay;

Summer ending, leaves a-falling,

Lecture dates, long distance calling.

. . .

And though his husbandry’s far from quiet,

Bromfield had the guts to try it.

A book like his is a very great boon,

And what he’s done, I’d like to be doon.”

I’d like to be doon it too.  E.B. White and Louis Bromfield were two of our inspirations when my husband and I started dreaming about living on a ‘farm’.  What we have resembles nothing either of them would recognize as a farm, but we’ve enjoyed the dream all these years.

We all know E.B. White and his book Charlotte’s Web which is a hymn to farm life and the cycles of life and death. We are no longer so familiar with Louis Bromfield (1896 – 1956) and his experimental Malabar Farm near Lucas, Ohio. My Muse Day Post is a portion of White’s review which appeared in The New Yorker Magazine of Bromfield’s book explaining his organic methods  and life on the farm.

Bromfield lived on Malabar Farm from 1938 until his death in 1956. The 32 room house sheltered the great and famous including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall who were married there.

Bromfield  studied agriculture before he studied journalism and took to writing best selling books including Early Autumn which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926. Today the Malabar Farm State Park continues Bromfield’s work for sustainable agriculture including powering the place with geothermal, solar and wind power. Logon to their website for more information about tours, facilities and events.

Thank you Carolyn gail for hosting Muse Day. Visit her blog and see what other muses are abroad today.