A Legacy of Words


Just last week, I took my 3-year old nephew Max for a walk on the Trolley Trail. The “marshh on the udder side of town,” he calls it. Since he was a baby, I’ve been teaching him all of the important words. Words like marsh and woods, osprey and phragmite. We’re still working on glacial erratic.

These are some of the words my friend Peter Borgemeister taught me when we first met 20 years ago — and words are how he and I connected from then on.

After coffee at the local coffee shop and a “windshield tour” to show me local open space properties and marshes in 1994, Peter charmed me into volunteering for the Branford Land Trust — and together we worked on its publicity and newsletter for many, many years.

We were really big fans of each other. He always had good things to say about my writing, and I just adored his. So, I thought I would share some of his writing with you today. This is one of my favorites, from a 1996 issue of the Land Trust newsletter.

A Winter Walk in the Van Wie Woods
by Peter Borgemeister

Even in the dead of winter, the land tells us why it is worth preserving. To learn what the winter woods tell us, Bill, Alice Van Wie and I trudged into the Van Wie Woods through deep, newly fallen snow.

The abundance and variety of mammal and bird tracks in the snow amaze us. There is equal diversity of tree species, clearly shown by the colors and texture of the barks of trees and shrubs. Deer tracks occasionally lead to snow tubs, deep depressions in the snow made by deer bedding down for the night, and open water in streams. Fingers of ice reach out into midstream during the still cold night, but they recede toward the banks when warmed by the day’s winter sun. That sun, so low in the sky, reflects off the rippling water making it sparkle.

Snow doesn’t cling to the smooth, vertical faces of granite outcrops that seem to have burst out of the ground. Some face east; some face west, and at the base of each buried by the snow is a distinct micro-environment caused by the difference between exposure to the morning and the afternoon sun. Living in each, but dormant now, are plants and animals that have adapted themselves to this particular environment.

Small ponds of water have punctured the snow covering an inland wetland. A close look into these ponds reveals the green hue of live algae and indicates that this area will be teaming with life come spring.

Stone walls tell us that this area had once been cleared for pasture of farmland, possibly hundreds of years ago. An immense tulip tree, one of the monarchs of this forest, grows out of a corner in the wall; perhaps this tree marked the corner of the lot before the wall was built.

This winter landscape is not all black and white. The beech tree’s tan leaves seem to be creating their own light; they are bright enough. The mountain laurel’s dark green leaves contrasting with the snow speak of the life that persists in this winter woodland. Finally, the lowering sun contributes color to the late afternoon scene by tinting the snow pink and adding a bluish caste to the shadows of the trees.

I think every one who knew him would agree that Peter — his words, his actions, his love and enthusiasm — inspired all of us.

Thank you for letting me share some of that with you here. And thank you Peter, for giving me the legacy of important words to pass on to my nephew.

Le Voyage Dans La Lune

A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès, and was featured in the Martin Scorsese film Hugo (2011). This color version took 10 years of restoration work, and was re-released 109 years after its original release, with a new soundtrack by the French band Air. For more on the incredible work of Méliès, including the story of this amazing restoration project, visit this Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Trip_to_the_Moon

OK, Who Took My Balance?


How does one find balance on days like this? When the list of Things (one has) to Do is as long as the list of Things (one wants) to Do? (aches) to Do?

Woman Holding a Balance, Johannes Vermeer, 1665. Johannes, Jan or Johan Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime.

April is National Poetry Month!


Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month
from Poets.org and the Academy of American Poets

So, what will you to do celebrate National Poetry Month?

Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with co-workers, family, and friends.

Read a book of poetry. Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.

Memorize a poem. Getting a poem or prose passage truly ‘by heart’ implies getting it by mind and memory and understanding and delight.

Put poetry in an unexpected place. Books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities.

Attend a poetry reading. Readings have been occurring for decades around the world in universities, bookstores, cafes, corner pubs, and coffeehouses.

Read a poem at an open mic. It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local writing community.

Listen on your commute. Often, hearing an author read their own work can clarify questions surrounding their work’s tone.

Subscribe to a literary magazine. Full of surprising and challenging poetry, short fiction, interviews, and reviews, literary journals are at the forefront of contemporary poetry.

Put a poem in a letter. It’s always a treat to get a letter, but finding a poem in the envelope makes the experience extra special.

Put a poem on the pavement. Go one step beyond hopscotch squares and write a poem in chalk on your sidewalk.

Recite a poem to family and friends. You can use holidays or birthdays as an opportunity to celebrate with a poem that is dear to you, or one that reminds you of the season.

Start a poetry reading group. Select books that would engage discussion and not intimidate the reader new to poetry.

Buy a book of poems for your library. Many libraries have undergone or are facing severe cuts in funding. These cuts are often made manifest on library shelves.

Start a commonplace book. Since the Renaissance, devoted readers have been copying their favorite poems and quotations into notebooks to form their own personal anthologies called commonplace books.

Integrate poetry with technology. Many email programs allow you to create personalized signatures that are automatically added to the end of every email you send.

Sign up for a poetry class or workshop. Colleges and arts centers often make individual courses in literature and writing available to the general public.

Visit a poetry landmark. Visiting physical spaces associated with a favorite writer is a memorable way to pay homage to their life and work.