To Grieve? To Celebrate?

The holiday season is here in full force. Even though I love it, sometimes, I struggle to get into the “holiday spirit.” However, this year I wanted to begin the Christmas season months ago.

I need the tree, the blinking lights, the decorations, the cheer. There has been so much loss and chaos that it’s a relief to focus on something celebratory.

Conversely, there has been so much loss this year that it is difficult to be present for all the magic and beauty of the season. There are no words to lessen the burden of grief for those who have lost spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, especially when the entire world seems to be grieving.

I wish I could reach out and hug the world with my words, but nothing I write would suffice.

But there is healing in words. Especially those we speak. I know everyone grieves differently, but I wonder what would happen for us if instead of suffering in silence, we’d wail in agony and expose the gnawing ache and gaping emptiness.

How liberating it would be to not “handle it well,” but give into it en masse!

My favorite bard places words of wisdom in the mouth of his character, Ross, who, after relating the slaughter of Macduff’s wife and children at the hands of Macbeth, urges him [Macduff] to express his grief because unexpressed grief burdens and breaks the heart:

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’erfraught heart and bids it break.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 3, Lines 245-246

Maybe in speaking, those all-consuming emotions will begin to feel more manageable and we’ll eventually find our way to celebration. Maybe, we’ll breathe and feel alive again and welcome the sadness of loss as only one part of life’s story.

What If We Called a Rose a Pear?

Today’s poetic offering is not technically a poem, but the lines [below] from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are written in verse form–specifically in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). You remember that from high school English, right? The words, spoken by Juliet to Romeo, contain arguably the most famous “rose lines” ever written–though Gertrude Stein’s “a rose is a rose is a rose” offers stiff competition.

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.


‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

About the image: The roses above are from my mother’s garden. No matter what time of year we visit, the roses greet us. This photo was shot in mid-February on my iPhone, a couple of weeks before the CV madness. I’m grateful we made the trip when we did.

Microblog Mondays: Postcards and Shakespeare

I had other plans for today’s microblog, but I’m thinking about the Shakespeare course I teach every spring and the postcards on my desk are waiting to be shared.

[Click image for a closer look and details]

“As You Like It” is from the Postcards from Penguin collection of Penguin classic covers; I received it for a “Book Lover’s Postcard” swap.  The other two are from the Shakespeare’s Plays collection of postcards featuring images from the Library of Congress.  They will be on their way soon to a couple of Shakespeare-loving friends to celebrate the beginning of the semester.

As part of our conversation about Shakespeare’s world, we will discuss Queen Elizabeth I whose portrait was among the postcards on my desk.

Queen Elizabeth in Queenly Glory

The “Ditchley Portrait” of Queen Elizabeth I by Marcus Geeraerts.

I’m looking forward to hearing what students have to say about portraiture and Queen Elizabeth I, particularly after they study a more “truthful” painting: “A Picture of Misery,” Portrait of Queen Elizabeth.  I have a feeling they won’t be fazed by the “enhancing” of portraits.  They live in an age in which they can modify any image with an iPhone and an app.


Something Old and Blue and Something New

This was a pretty pathetic mail week.  In fact, one friend–who usually writes long, informative letters–responded to my lengthy letter through a lengthy email! Oh, pooh!  I understand “busy” and since her email was loaded with great news, I forgave her.

Since nothing new arrived and I still have a lot of catch-up blogging to do, I’m sharing “something old and something blue.”  In honor of the first week of classes at my university, here’s a book-themed postcard “Onyx” of swap-bot sent earlier this year:

Some of my all-time favorites

“All-time Favorites,” By Onyx

“Onyx” read my profile and made this postcard especially for me. The painted postcard measures approximately 10 x 6 inches.  She featured three of my favorite texts: The Holy Bible;  Homer’s Ulysses [The Odyssey]; and (we’ll assume) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

The Bible is a favorite not simply because it is the sacred text of my faith; I’ve loved it since my undergraduate days when I enrolled in the course “The Bible as Literature” with the inimitable Dr. Bernard Benn.  It was under his tutelage that I fell in love with scripture as poetry, history, narrative, and so much more.  It was also in his class that I realized that studying sacred texts as I would study literature–uncovering multiple layers of meaning–led to deeper, more meaningful Bible study.

Although I learned to seriously love and appreciate Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate and The Odyssey as a graduate student, my teaching them to my own students solidified their place among my favorites.  Shakespeare became a favorite because of his incredible insight, his masterful wordplay, and his revelations of the political and social climate in which he lived. The Odyssey because of Odysseus’s journeys to self-knowledge and home, quests that are a part of the “universal human experience.”

This is probably the first time in a long time that I won’t be teaching all three of these texts in some form, but it won’t be difficult to find a way to work them into my courses–British Literature Survey and Contemporary British Literature.

The first week with my mostly new students made up for the empty mailbox. I’m always happy for the start of a new semester–fresh faces, fresh ideas, and new opportunities to make a difference.



A Month of Letters and January Goodness

LetterMo2013square-300x300Author Mary Robinette Kowal offers a fabulous postal challenge for the Month of February: Mail an item through the post every day it runs.  This year, that’s 23 days.  A minimum of 23 items.  Not so hard.   I am going for it and am looking forward to posting something every day–maybe, even on Sundays just for kicks.  I’ll try my best to post daily in February to update you on my progress–this will be quite a feat and almost a miracle.  If you want to find out more about “A Month of Letters,” check it out at

January was a pretty busy mail in/mail out month for me.  I’m pretty sure I met February’s “Month of Letters” challenge in January!  I  sent and received a number of ATCs, postcards, photos, photo note cards, letters, collages, packages and much more.  It was a great mail month.  I can’t remember exactly when items were sent and received, but I’ll highlight several.

Imagine my excitement when I received the Shakespeare Book of Postcards (Pomegranate) which features art from the “vast collections” of  the Library of Congress.  I ordered them (“used”) through Amazon (seller: cheapdozen) and was delighted to receive them in pristine condition.  The postcard book offers “oversized” art reproductions based on Shakespeare’s plays and a few artistic renderings of the Bard himself.  There are also representative lines from the play highlighted on the back each of the postcard.

Front cover of Shakespeare Plays:  A Book of Postcards

Front cover of Shakespeare Plays: A Book of Postcards

Here are a few of the postcards included:

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That wasn’t the only bit of Shakespeare I received this month.  “Txstitcher,” my partner in a floral mail art swap included a couple of Shakespeare-inspired embellishments in the super-stuffed envelope of floral goodness she sent.   I’m a little more Shakespeare-obsessed than usual at the moment because I’m teaching Shakespeare this semester and it’s great to have all of this visual inspiration.

Shakespeare Quote Embellishments

Shakespeare Quote Embellishments

I also received a number of ATCs this month on various themes:  Photo ATC, Valentine Owl, Pink Valentine and Dr. Seuss.  Some of the ATCs that came in:

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And some that went out:

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One of my favorite swaps this month was “Take a Photo:  Look Up.”  My partner sent a lovely photo note card that was taken on a dreary day in Pennsylvania.

"Look Up," by swap-bot CDheartsdragonfies

“Look Up” by Chari, swap-bot CDheartsdragonfies

Chari reports the weather’s been dreary and it’s difficult to get great photos.  This particular photo was taken on a nice warm day at about 11 in the morning.  So yes, that’s the sun, not the moon. And, though the photo looks black and white, it’s actually a color photo.  I like it! The feel and the color. Sometimes, dreary, rainy, and/or foggy days “make” the best photos!  (This scan does little justice to the actual photo and note card).

And here are my own “Look Up” Photos.  I chose two cloud photos taken from a plane en route to New Orleans from New York City.  I captured at least a dozen great cloud photos that day and I get a kick out of how clear the photos turned out.  They were taken through dirty airplane windows, after all!

"It's Wonderful to Look Up"

“No Boundaries” by Me!

"Liquid Mountains" by Me!

“Liquid Mountains” by Me!

This is just a little of the January goodness.   I’ll have to highlight the many postcards I received in January in another post.  Until then…Toodles!