Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ode to the Wondrous Pencil

I am very fond of pencils. I still think they are cool - along with the fascinating crayon (but that's another post). The following was today's offering from "The Writer's Almanac".

On this day in 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the first pencil to have an attached eraser. The eraser-tipped pencil is still something of an American phenomenon; most European pencils are still eraserless. The humble pencil has a long and storied history, going back to the Roman stylus, which was sometimes made of lead, and why we still call the business end of the pencil the "lead," even though it's been made of nontoxic graphite since 1564.

Pencils were first mass-produced in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1662, and the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century really allowed the manufacture to flourish. Before he became known for Walden and "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau and his father were famous for manufacturing the hardest, blackest pencils in the United States. Edison was fond of short pencils that fit neatly into a vest pocket, readily accessible for the jotting down of ideas. John Steinbeck loved the pencil and started every day with 24 freshly sharpened ones; it's said that he went through 300 pencils in writing East of Eden (1952), and used 60 a day on The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Cannery Row (1945).

Our common pencils are hexagonal to keep them from rolling off the table, and they're yellow because the best graphite came from China, and yellow is traditionally associated with Chinese royalty. A single pencil can draw a line 35 miles long, or write around 45,000 words. And if you make a mistake, thanks to Hymen Lipman, you've probably got an eraser handy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aquainted With the Night

by Robert Frost

I have been acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in the rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not call me back or say good-bye;
And further still an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been acquainted with the night.

(I like this one because it's very much like something I would write, I think.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do You Pray? - Revisited

My last post stated that I had nothing to say - but surprise - I do! I scrolled down on my own blog and saw that I had written about prayer. Little did I know when I wrote that post that I would experience the subject in a whole new way a mere two weeks later when my life turned upside down.

My stepson unexpectedly died and everyone I ever knew sent their "love and PRAYERS" through calls, cards, emails,visits and Facebook messages. In my previous post I asked whether people were really praying or was that just a way of saying "I'm sending you good thoughts." So God answered my question in a most amazing way.

I FELT, with every cell of my body, the prayers that were being prayed for my husband and me. Can I explain what that means? Not really. No one's prayer took our pain away. No one's prayer stopped the flow of our tears. No one's prayer changed the shock and sadness. But this is what I experienced: A true sense of being lifted up, somehow held up, an undergirding of faith and hope. I cannot describe it better than that. There was hope and the promise of peace.

Going through the agony of a funeral home visitation and funeral is emotionally exhausting and confusing. In a moment your life has changed forever. But we made it. We were held up by all the beautiful things people said, by the stories of their own beliefs about heaven, by every hug and shared tear. This, to me, is the tangible expression of those prayers - and how it comforted us.

I also learned that during the weeks and months following a loss, prayers are needed as much as ever. Keep calling the grieving family, keep visiting, keep telling them beautiful things about their loved one - and especially keep praying for them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Random Photos

I have nothing to say so here are some random photos:

Today is sunny and the snow is almost gone here in northeast Ohio, but just 9 days ago I had my fifth snow day this year! This is Stella taking it all in. Barbeque anyone?

A few weeks ago the area was suspended in crystallized beauty as the ice clung to each tiny twig. The sunlight caused a surreal beauty we'd never seen before. It lasted for two days. Click on this one to enlarge and you'll see what I mean.

This is my sweet Stella on a lazy summer afternoon. Well, everyday is lazy for spoiled dogs.

More ice beauty.

Sunday, March 13, 2011



This is just a time between losses
and now we've lost the future,
but there is rest, eternal rest ahead.
Doves are in the trees mourning,
an angel rides her winged horse
escorting us to the peace.
In the perpetual light of morning
there is no end,
no end, no end
to the shining on them, on us,
requiem aeternam, dona eis, domine

In Paradisum

Would you walk the same path again?
When the angels poured out their bowls
would you open your mouth wider?
Would you sing heavenly songs louder?
Gently lay your burdens down now,
don't wonder how it happens,
don't speak - just look up.
We have all been under the same sky,
the same loving eye, now we will be
in eternity, in paradise together.
In paradisum deductant te Angeli

Pie Jesu

Oh sweet Lord
untwist the harsh days of this world
and usher us to pure joy.
We are on our way to sleep,
wrapped in your infinite
blanket of love.
Now let the sky close
on all pain, and gift us
with our unearned requiem.
Grant us everlasting rest.
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Grief Observed

I may not be able to write of anything but the grief process for awhile. I hope you don't mind and will bear with me. I hope you may be enlightened in some way. It turns out that grief is an all-consuming experience. One may return to work and smile, go to the grocery store and turn on the television again - but nothing much seems to matter. Life has been put in a stark and revealing perspective.

It has been a profound learning experience. I now know that when a friend loses a parent or sibling they are not all right just because they seem all right. After the funeral home visitation, the cards, the hugs, the funeral itself - there is a whole new life to consider. Something that may have been a singular part of you for all your life or for decades is a void now. You still need to talk, to relive the experience in order to accept it. You still need hugs.

I will now pay more attention to friends in the midst of this experience. I will not stop calling or visiting or bringing food when the funeral is over. I will continue to lift them up in sincere prayer because I have experienced the incomprehensible and indescribable sensation of being prayed for. It does not dry the tears. It does not take away the pain. But it gives an undergirding of hope and strength when you thought you were weak.

Those are my thoughts today. The only other thing on my mind seems to be all the people I would like to thank for their kindness. I will get to that soon. Otherwise, as I said, nothing else seems to matter much right now except loving my husband, who has lost more than anyone ever should.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Grief Observed

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet, I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

From A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis