Category Archives: happiness

“My Heart is Like a Singing Bird”

[Note: Not an in-depth post, but a happy, joyful one in gratitude for all the love I received on my birthday, and for being alive in this good, sweet life.  Never perfect, always blessed.]  

A Birthday 

My heart is like a singing bird 
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot; 
My heart is like an apple-tree 
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit; 
My heart is like a rainbow shell 
That paddles in a halcyon sea; 
My heart is gladder than all these, 
Because my love is come to me.  

Raise me a daïs of silk and down; 
Hang it with vair and purple dyes; 
Carve it in doves and pomegranates, 
And peacocks with a hundred eyes; 
Work it in gold and silver grapes, 
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; 
Because the birthday of my life 
Is come, my love is come to me. 

Christina Rossetti 

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A year or so ago, I decided to teach myself to memorize poems so that I could recite instead of read them when I do workshops, because it’s much more powerful, and it makes the poems more accessible.  The first time I did this I was scared to death, because it was awkward and slightly weird, and I was afraid that I was going to look ridiculous.  I may have indeed looked ridiculous, but it was also very exciting, like speaking a new language, which in fact it was.  Now I love it.  

I recited Yeats’ “The Song of Wandering Angus,” when a colleague asked me to come talk to his class about writing, and it was a lot of fun because that poem rhymes.  Today’s poem by Christina Rossetti is one of the first ones that I learned, also because it rhymes, which makes it much easier to remember.  And it is exquisitely sweet and joyful.  I feel happy every single time I say this poem, which I once did while walking with a friend on hard, crunchy winter ground (now that I’ve started I can’t stop myself). 

But today it is spring, full-on and bounteous.  I promise that if you say this poem out loud a few times, your heart will lift up.  I promise.  [note: “vair” is a kind of fur that was used to trim cloaks; don’t feel weird saying it.]  Give it a try!  And let me know how it makes you feel!  It doesn’t have to be your birthday in order to celebrate your one sweet and precious life.  As always, my heart is glad to know that you are here! 

Here’s some of what my birthday looked like: 

a beautiful orchid that I hope I don't kill

balloons--immediately co-opted by Gabe

it might be my birthday but the balloons belong to the little dude

lemon raspberry cake on my new cakestand!

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A New Season, a New Project and Some Updates on Familiar Things

Well and here we are!  The first post-Lent post!  I’m super excited and if you’re here, I hope you are too!  There’s a new soon-to-be announced project coming up here at From the Heart, so stay tuned for that!  For today, you’ll find updates on some familiar topics, AND a new family-related post over at: http://srajek.wordpress.com.  It’s about raising social deviants going to Wal-Mart with my boys.

So, updates!  A few weeks ago, I wrote about my attempts at being a “secret messenger for good” at work (thanks to Summer Pierre and her wonderful book, The Artist in the Office).  As you may recall, things got off to a disappointing start (the inspirational quote that I taped up on the paper towel holder in the women’s bathroom stayed up, the one in the men’s bathroom didn’t last the day).  However, I am happy to report that there have been some exciting developments.

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“It Was Like This: You Were Happy”*

If I had thought last week that I would be writing about rainbows and butterflies, I would have felt immediately compelled to dress in black, light up a smoke, and drink JD straight out of the bottle.  That’s my delusional edgy writer persona talking and it says things like, “What is this, the Hello Kitty Blog?  The Snow White Blog?  Are you going to be posting pictures of yourself with tiny birds perched on your finger and furry woodland animals gathered around your feet next?”  And then my you-can-be-a-normal-person-and-a-writer-at-the-same-time-voice says, “HEY!  If rainbows are good enough for Maya Angelou, they are MORE THAN good enough for you!  So GET ON with it!”

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Today We Have an Unknown Guest Blogger!

Absolutely the only thing I can think of to say about St. Patrick’s Day is: avoid unnaturally green food.  But I’m excited about today’s post because I’ve been waiting for 3 weeks for the opportunity to share this poem by Jack Prelutsky: “I Found a Four-Leaf Clover.”  

Jack Prelutsky poems should definitely be read aloud to children (and adults).  He was the Poetry Foundation’s Children’s Poet Laureate from 2006-2008, and his work is a heap of fun (one of my favorites is “Be Glad Your Nose is On Your Face.”  Kids love that poem).

But what I’m even more excited about today is that when I was Googling background on Jack Prelutsky, an entry from a grade school in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin caught my eye.  It’s an essay that a boy named Joey wrote on the poem, “I Found a Four Leaf Clover” on March 16, 2007, and it’s called “A Four Leaf Clover.”   It’s a must read, especially the last sentence, in which Joey tells us the reasons why it’s important to know the message of this poem.  I’ve posted the link below, so read the poem first, then read the essay.  And Joey, whoever you are, thanks for the insights. 

I Found a Four-Leaf Clover

I found a four-leaf clover
and was happy with my find,
but with time to think it over,
I’ve entirely changed my mind.
I concealed it in my pocket,
safe inside a paper pad,
soon, much swifter than a rocket,
my good fortune turned to bad. 

      I smashed my fingers in a door,
      I dropped a dozen eggs,      
      I slipped and tumbled to the floor,
      a dog nipped both my legs,
      my ring slid down the bathtub drain,
      my pen leaked on my shirt,
      I barked my shin, I missed my train,
      I sat on my dessert.

I broke my brand-new glasses,
and I couldn’t find my keys,
I stepped in spilled molasses,
and was stung by angry bees.
When the kitten ripped the curtain,
and the toast burst into flame,
I was absolutely certain
that the clover was to blame. 

       I buried it discreetly      
       in the middle of a field,
       now my luck has changed completely,
       and my wounds have almost healed.
       If I ever find another,
       I will simply let it be,
       or I’ll give it to my brother—
       he deserves it more than me.

Jack Prelutsky

“A Four Leaf Clover,” by Joey, Sheboygan Falls, WI   (an excerpt–“The message in this poem is important for others to know because if they think that they will always get they way they will never know that life does not always work the way you want it to. So I think that the message should be told to others”).

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Project ‘Spread Cheer @ Work:’ A Disappointing Start

One of the books that has been, to steal a phrase from Jennifer’s comment on yesterday’s post, an oxygen mask for me lately is The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week (or AITO for those in the know) by Summer Pierre.  AITO started out as a handmade ‘zine, motivated, as I understand it, partly by boredom and frustration, and partly by the desire to speak to everyone who feels like they are living two lives: their “wage slave” life and their creative life: “Day after day, this is how it goes: You get up, go to work–and save your ‘real’ self for the cracks and corners of your off time.  Your 9-5 work might pay the bills, but if it’s not giving you an outlet for your pent-up creativity, it’s time to make a change” (from the back cover).  The ‘zine was a hit, and is now a real live book, available on Amazon and other real live book selling places.   

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The (Real) Secret to Being Happy

Sometimes complete strangers say things that can change your whole life.  That is not what this post is about, though.  This post is about something that happened to me several years ago on a flight from Newark to Chicago, where I was sitting next to an older Asian man who, out of nowhere, turned to me and asked, “Do you want to know the secret to being happy?”  As I happened to be wondering exactly that thing at exactly that moment, I said yes, I would indeed like to know the secret to being happy.  I can still see him, silhouetted by that white above-the-clouds light that comes through the windows on planes.  I turned my body towards him, he raised his index finger and said, “There are three things.”  And that, my friends, is all she wrote.  I don’t remember what he told me.  I FORGOT whatever it was he said. 

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We Are Not Alone

My father-in-law, who is wise and insightful, recently posted a comment on my post, “Sit. Feast on your life,” which included a poem by Derek Walcott.  He (my father-in-law, that is) wrote:  “The personal pronoun ‘we’ says: You are not alone, we belong together.  And that’s what I wanted to add to your consideration: Don’t only look into the mirror to see yourself but look around you to recognize all the people who love you or hate you. You are connected to them in good and in bad hours. That’s what gives life to your life.”

He posted this for me to consider so I have been considering it.  And it put me in mind of a David Whyte poem called “Everything is Waiting for You,” which I would like to share with you today.

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