A wise passage

Praise be for blessings great and small, present and remembered. Jeff enjoys the beauty of Pigeon Point, Tobago, March 2010.

Praise be for blessings great and small, such as the memory of this day,
when we watched dogs frolic in the ocean at Pigeon Point, Tobago, March 2010.

“Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted, than when we read it in the original author?” — Philip Gilbert Hamerton

I never thought about it, but perhaps Hamerton is right. For one thing, it’s easier to notice a quote when it is set apart from the paragraphs that precede and follow it. Quotes are often used in new contexts to enhance a point that may vary significantly from the one the original author was making. And sometimes, an author’s words take on added meaning because they borrow from the appeal or authority of those who choose to quote them.

Obviously, I believe quotations are worthwhile, or I would not have featured over 900 of them thus far in this blog. I’d like to believe they are as effective when quoted as they were when originally spoken or written; perhaps, in some cases, they can even take on new life or expanded meaning for us as individuals. Context can add to the power of a quotation. In that spirit, I will feature a poem Jeff introduced to me last month.

Since his retirement, Jeff and Matt have continued their longstanding habit of reading together. They have added some additional daily routines, among which is listening to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, which has been a favorite of Matt’s for many years. Jeff rarely talks about what they have heard, but this poem was one that he specifically chose to play for me first thing one morning. It was a wonderful way to open the day, and I decided right then and there that I would share it with you in an upcoming blog.

So here it is. Perhaps for you, as for me, the words will be more meaningful knowing Jeff chose to share them. The imagery evokes many happy memories, but beyond that, I am filled with admiration for a person who affirms the spirit of this poem after all he has been through, and all that lies ahead.

Gratitude List

by Laura Foley

Praise be this morning for sleeping late,
the sandy sheets, the ocean air,
the midnight storm that blew its waters in.
Praise be the morning swim, mid-tide,
the clear sands underneath our feet,
the dogs who leap into the waves,
their fur, sticky with salt,
the ball we throw again and again.
Praise be the green tea with honey,
the bread we dip in finest olive oil,
the eggs we fry. Praise be the reeds,
gold and pink in the summer light,
the sand between our toes,
our swimsuits, flapping in the breeze.

38 Comments

  1. LB

    Julia, the poet absolutely catches the essence of time at the ocean, and is even more poignant knowing that Jeff shared it with you. It is one to be read again and again.
    What a lovely bond Matt and Jeff have developed through reading.
    Your thoughts about quotations is interesting, and so true!
    Every time I read one of your posts, I am taken aback by your writing style. You have a gift.
    XO

    • Aww, thanks Laurie. That means a lot to me. I’m very thankful that Jeff and Matt are in the habit of reading together. I love hearing their voices in the background as I go about other tasks.

  2. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia, Jeff, and Matt. Little did I know that I wasn’t the only one that loved this poem, when I read it recently in my daily email, Writer’s Almanac! It just became much more special. Thank you, Jeff. You are an inspiration, a strength of character, and an example that we should all strieve to be more like. I’m so glad that the Denton’s are a part of my life, close in thought and in my heart! 🙏

    • Thank you, Sheila. We are glad you are part of our lives, too! Isn’t Writer’s Almanac wonderful? We’ll turn up the speakers so we can listen to it on the Verandah sometime. 🙂 BTW I did tell Al to be sure and give Mama your greetings the other day. We got some sad news from her today; her metastatic cancer is NOT from the breast cancer for which she had successful surgery years ago; it’s lung cancer, a large growth in her right lung which has spread to lymph nodes and spine too. They plan to do a bone scan to see where else it may have spread, and to determine what can be done for her at this point. Of course she has no intention of chemotherapy at her age, according to my sister, and knowing Mama, that’s not surprising. Today Al arranged for some transportation to take her to visit her home for awhile, and she got to be there and visit with the cat and dog and just be home, however briefly. I was able to talk to her on the phone while she was there and it was special to know she was in her home while we talked. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

  3. thank-you

    • You’re welcome!

  4. Jack

    So I’m not sure this falls into the precise theme of your reflection, but the warmth I experienced yesterday afternoon was so profound I thought it worth sharing. On my regular walk yesterday afternoon in Dallas (105ish on the thermometer), a couple of miles from my home away from home, weighed down with my normal unhealthy burden of anxiety and healthy fatigue from the heat, I round a bend in Turtle Creek Blvd and come upon a duck standing in the middle of the very busy road. As I approach, I see she has a little one with her. No traffic is oncoming at the time, so I try to shoo them both across the road and back into their familiar Turtle Creek surroundings. Momma doesn’t want to go, keeps herding her little one back into the very small median. Along comes the Highland Park police, he actually turns his blue lights on and both of us try to herd them back to safety. Before long we’ve got company, the rich and powerful of Highland Park, getting out, stopping cars, directing duck traffic, but momma isn’t going anywhere. As it turns out, her nest is in the median and the baby is the only hatched of five or six eggs.

    Within a few moments, there are two other police cars, orange cones, many ideas about how to keep them safe until babies hatch and they can waddle across an extremely busy road. I don’t know how the story ended, but when I left, momma was sitting on her nest, baby by her side, six or eight Highland Park businessmen and women, several police and various onlookers discussing the matter.

    Goodness, if we can be so kind to a duck, imagine how we can help each other if only we could see through the pride to the great vulnerability that exists in all of us. The potential is limitless!

    • Jack, what a wonderful story! Thanks so much for allowing us to be there with you at that fascinating and encouraging event. I could almost see the duck and the fuzzy baby. I hope they are able to come up with a good solution, ideally to leave them right where they are with some added protection. The way you described feeling at the end of the story reminded me of how I felt the day I watched the baby seal being rescued, which I wrote about in this post. It somehow seemed appropriate that this seal was being lovingly tended just a short distance from where the Olympic surfers and first responders were giving caring time and attention to a group of young people who need and appreciate it. There really is a lot of good in this world, though it’s easy to forget that when the cruelty and sadness seem to dominate. I think you are right in suggesting that pride is what often gets in the way where people are concerned, as well as fear of doing the wrong thing. I also agree with you that the potential is truly inspiring. Let’s all keep applauding the heroes and not let the villains dominate our world, especially not in our hearts and minds.

    • What a beautiful story. I’m so glad you shared.

  5. Cherie

    What a lovely poem! Thank you, Julia for sharing it with us. I am praying each day for Jeff, Matt and you, dear sister! Have a beautiful love filled day! Love and Light. Cherie

    • Thank you Cherie! We are so honored to have you here and especially to have your thoughts and prayers. Please add my Mama to the list. Like Jeff, she is very brave. Hope you have a wonderful, restful weekend! ❤

  6. Carolyn

    Love the poem. Hope things are going well for all. Not much news today. Always have you all in my heart and prayers. Sending lots of hugs and love.

    • Hi Carolyn, I’m glad you liked the poem. Sometimes no news is good news! 🙂 We are having Memphis-style heat this week. Stay cool and thanks for being here. We are doing OK but we can always use the hugs and love! Sending ours right back to you and Terry. ❤

  7. Janet

    Beautiful word pictures.

    • Thank you Janet. Hope you and your family are doing well. Please tell CW we say hello. Love to both of you.

  8. When Matt stayed with me for a couple of days he introduced me to “The Writer’s Almanac” and I have been listening every day that I can since then. I love Garrison Keillor’s voice but I have also gained a love of poetry. Here is one of my favorites in the time I have listened.
    (by Ronald Wallace)

    Blessings

    occur.
    Some days I find myself
    putting my foot in
    the same stream twice;
    leading a horse to water
    and making him drink.
    I have a clue.
    I can see the forest
    for the trees.

    All around me people
    are making silk purses
    out of sows’ ears,
    getting blood from turnips,
    building Rome in a day.
    There’s a business
    like show business.
    There’s something new
    under the sun.

    Some days misery
    no longer loves company;
    it puts itself out of its.
    There’s rest for the weary.
    There’s turning back.

    There are guarantees.
    I can be serious.
    I can mean that.
    You can quite
    put your finger on it.

    Some days I know
    I am long for this world.
    I can go home again.
    And when I go
    I can
    take it with me.

    Blessings to you , Jeff and Matt. I love you.

    • Amy, I love that! I had never seen or heard it before. It reminds me of the flying pig balloon Gloria gave Matt at his last open heart surgery. It hung in his room at the CCU and the cardiac unit, and everyone including the surgeons loved it. Sometimes pigs do fly after all.

      I’m glad Matt introduced you to Writer’s Almanac. I used to start my day with it each morning, years ago when it came on at 6:00 am in York County. Now I can play it anytime I want with Alexa, but I never take the time to do it, though I often overhear Jeff and Matt listening to it. I love everything about it including the intro music, which I hope they never change. I love you too! “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” 🙂

    • Amy, what a wonderful poem. Thanks for sharing it here.

  9. Good morning, Julia!
    What a blessing this post is to me right now!
    I am visiting my friend, Kate, on Cape Ann, and I’m the only one up yet … for me, this was “sleeping in late.” The monochrome grey sky that shifted from near-black to slate at “sunrise” is now showing mottled shades of grey, and a hint of a hope that the forecast of 80% chance of rain leaves a 20% chance of sun? Laura Foley’s poem is inspiring me to slip out of the air conditioning and into our present heat-wave to wade in the sea this morning as the rest of the household sleeps (I would not swim alone along this rocky coast), and I’m willing to bet that Kate has some lovely green tea that we can share a little later.
    Shh … I’m off to indulge in today’s early blessings!

    • Susan, I’m so happy the post was helpful. Jeff and I had the pleasure of visiting Cape Ann a few years back, so your description brought back memories, though it was much cooler when we were there; can you believe this HEAT? It seems to be hitting most of the country right now. I finally gave up and started doing some mall-walking, though I don’t like it nearly as well as walking outdoors in lovely weather. Hope you were able to return from your seaside stroll to a nice cup of green tea. May this week bring you more blessings! Thanks for being here.

  10. I’ve been retired since 2010. I really didn’t know what to expect with regards to occupying all that free time. For sure it’s a drastic change to habits formed over a lifetime of work. Fortunately my personality is really laid back so doing nothing appealed to me. LOL

    Now 6 years into retirement I can honestly say I’m seldom bored, filling my time with the hobbies I developed all my life. I would actually have to include sleep as one of them. I no longer own a regulation alarm clock. I sleep and awaken on a different schedule daily. Only on a few days where I have someplace to go do I even care what time it is. I’m comfortable!

    • Bob, your description of retirement sounds wonderful to me. I read an article several years ago that counseled those of us “of such an age” to use the same diligence in preparing psychologically for retirement as we do financially and medically. By which they meant, in short, get some hobbies and interests! I remember thinking, “no problem for me there” though I did worry a bit about Jeff, who seems restless when not working. I can easily think of sleep as a hobby. Today I indulged in a nap for the first time in a long time, and I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed anything more. It is fabulous that you are able to live free from the tyranny of the clock. Retirement was a drastic change for Jeff too, but I think he’s getting adjusted to it. The chemo keeps him so tired that he’s grateful for the chance to rest.

      • Beware, retirement will tend to make you forget what day of the week it is! 🙂

        • That’s already happening to me!! 😀 Hope you are having a great weekend! 😀 😀 😀

          • What’s a weekend? When working I used to dream of every weekend, planning how I would use the precious time off. Now that I have every minute of every day off life changes. I’m more relaxed, never in a hurry. I utilize my free time to take advantage of the best times to shop, travel and make appointments. That’s the real advantage of being retired. Naps are good too!

            • Bob, I think your words will be a great encouragement to folks who are not yet at the enviable age we have reached. I remember when I was fluctuating between the work-outside-the-home Mom and the stay-at-home Mom stages of my life, one thing that was a big disadvantage of the former was having to shop at the worst times. It’s so much nicer to shop when one doesn’t have to wait in long lines.

              Note to younger generations: don’t let the Social Security Prophets of Doom shake you up. The REAL rewards of retirement are not monetary, beyond a basic level necessary to live. And that basic level is less than many will lead you to believe. Despite the admitted disadvantages of getting older, we are here to tell you: IT GETS BETTER!

              • Never forget that God is in charge. God opens doors and takes care of the needs of His people, despite their feeble efforts.

                • Thank you, Bob. That’s the sort of thing we know in our minds, but don’t always feel in our hearts. It helps to be reminded!

  11. Mike Bertoglio

    Nice poems. Yesterday, for the first time in 35 years we bought some diapers at Costco in anticipation for Michael’s Seattle visit next month. His first in 15 years- A.C.- after children. Who knew buying diapers could make you feel a little younger.
    The pict reminds me of our once in a lifetime trip to Heron Island.

    • Hi Michael, it’s good to hear from you. I had been wondering how you and your family are doing. Ah, the joys of buying diapers for grandchildren and thinking “WOW, I’m glad we are past THAT stage!” We always buy diapers for Drew and Megan when they come, so they don’t have to pack up more than is already necessary with two young kids.

      Is the Heron Island you are referring to in New Brunswick, Canada? I don’t remember ever hearing of it before. We were in New Brunswick on a cruise, but only spent time in St. John, where we saw the famous “reversing falls.” I’d love to spend more time in that part of the world. I would like to go see Prince Edward Island, where Anne of Green Gables was from. I used to babysit for a boy whose sister moved with her husband to PEI to avoid the Vietnam draft. It sounded so romantic to me – not the draft dodging, but the idea of a remote Canadian island far from the craziness of late-1960’s America.

  12. Megan

    I love that poem! I’m glad Jeff shared it with you so you could share it with us!

    • Thanks, Megan. Hopefully we will all be able to enjoy the seashore again together sometime.

  13. Mike Bertoglio

    Great summer poem and today believe it or not another heat warning in Seattle for plus 90’s temps.
    The Heron Island is off E.Coast of Australia. we flew from Syndey up to the Gold Coast and Gladstone and then took a catamaran out to the Island, on the barrier reef.

    • Wow. Anytime it’s 90+ in Seattle, you know something is off. I wonder if the coffee shops are losing business? Or just selling lots of frozen and iced coffee?

      I hope to see Australia someday. If I do get to go, I’d like to see as much of it as possible, not just New South Wales, but I’d jump at the chance to visit any part of it. Did you go to Tasmania?

  14. Mike

    Never made it to Tasmania. Had lots of time to travel as I got 6 weeks vacation! like everyone else in Australia. They know how to vacate and were always telling me, “you Americans work way too much.” They just don’t seem to have our American work till you drop values, but then I heard that in Japan you are kind of forced to retire as your salary drops to a pittance. So I don’t get it. But apparently things may be changing in Japan.

    • WOW, 6 weeks in Australia! Sounds like a dream. I read a story lately that said American work hours are up, but productivity is down. I think that’s totally logical because I think plenty of people net-surf on their phones, check texts, etc. all through the work day. Hours might be up, but I bet absences are up too (totally legitimate in many cases because of family leave and working parents) so probably people have to put in more hours just to keep up with the workload, amid all the demands and distractions of modern life. All in all I think our parents’ generation worked much harder, in terms of physical labor. But I can’t talk since I haven’t been “gainfully employed” for over a decade now, and have no wish to change that anytime soon.

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