Falling for Japan

Outside, most of the leaves are dark green, heavy and wet with mist. Here on October 15, however, some of them are starting to catch fire. It hasn’t happened all at once, though. Some are bright—burnished and burned like a gold kettle left on the hob too long. Others are speckled emerald and red with brown filigree—butterflies fluttering as the last raindrops from the passing shower tap their wings. It’ll be weeks before the rest of the trees start to glow, but it’s October and fall has found me again.DSC_0008.jpg

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Why You Should Read Aloud

Some of my best memories are of books being read aloud. When my sister and I were younger, we were homeschooled, and as we chowed down on grilled cheese sandwiches at lunchtime, my teacher (mom) would read to us. I worked out pronunciation and learned to love the sound of words by reading Robinson Crusoe out loud. When I moved away for school, Tuesday nights I’d Skype with a friend, and we’d read P.G. Wodehouse to each other. Studying abroad in Oxford, three of us chipped in for Terry Prachett’s Raising Steam and camped out on a bed to read with hot chocolate or tea. All of these moments are special, tied together with two of the most important things in my life: good books and good company.

These are just some examples from my life, but I’d like to give you three reasons you should start reading aloud today.

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How I Learned to Love Shakespeare

I’ve always loved words, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I encountered the unsettling assumption that all word people love William Shakespeare. Sure, I felt that it was a good thing to read Shakespeare and I really did enjoy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but you wouldn’t find me standing on my bed in a thunderstorm reciting The Tempest or joining Team Love or Team Infatuation in heated lunchroom debates over Romeo and Juliet. I knew all the important quotations: “To be or not to be,” “Alas, poor Yorrick,” “Beware the ides of March,” “All the world’s a stage”…You know. The essentials.

Here I was, about to become an English major in college, and I could only quote Marc Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar and the entirety of Prairie Home Companion’s hilarious “Six-Minute Hamlet.” Sooner or later, they’d find out I was an imposter.

In the spring semester, however, I met the Bard. Continue reading

This Season

It’s been a while.

A most understated phrase, and it’s one that I’m sorry to say. People talk about seasons of life often, and as a novice gardener, I’m tempted to think of those seasons as bunches of months, clusters of days defined by the weather and a solar path around the sun. However, as I’m learning, these seasons sprawl outside calendar lines. They aren’t thawed by spring or go on vacation in summer. They aren’t put to bed in autumn or buried in winter.

This has been a difficult season for me, one that’s been going on for a long time, and this past month with my grandma passing away was intensely hard. It’s been a time of equally hard prayer and closeness with family— much needed rain for scorched ground. Some days when the sun sets, I feel I’m closing the door on another day of broken trowels and withered plants, torn leaves and snapped stems. Continue reading

Today, Me, and Poetry

Poetry BirdSome days, poetry finds me. It comes to my window and taps on the glass, hopping about on the branch until I let it in. Then it flits about the room, alighting on everything—a scarf of bundled thoughts hanging out of drawer, a tumbled down box of unfinished stories, maybe on a jewelry box full of bright ideas.

If I’m lucky and sit very still, it might come and perch beside me.

Today, however, I have a songbird on the loose. It’s in the kitchen now on the edge of the mixing bowl. Before that, it was poking at books, and before that, it was practicing arias in the attic.

It’s bad enough when you sit down to write, a thousand words waiting in the wings, and page fright strikes. It’s worse when they start coming out in stanzas, random line breaks cutting into your prose like an impromptu dance number. And if you face the music and try to make it poetry, the metaphor starts to break down.

It doesn’t do to try and put poetry where it doesn’t want to nest. Like today, for example. I have a thousand ideas, enough feelings to fill the British Museum, enough sensations for the Smithsonian, but I can’t seem to gather the right materials together. This dryer lint, kite string, and confetti won’t do much. Poetry is here—I hear it—but everyone knows if you chase a bird, it’ll fly away.

Most of the time, poetry shows up when I least expect it to. It doesn’t fly out of the cupboards or ring the bell. Mostly, I look up and find it there, looking at me and then my pencil. When the fresh scent of morning flowers passes me by, it’s there. When rain is throwing itself against my inner windows, it’s there, sitting on the bookshelf.

Today I left all my windows open, and now it’s here and I don’t know where I put the birdseed.