What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath —
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love —
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Poem ©2020, Lynn Ungar. Lynn’s first book of poetry, Blessing the Bread, earned her fans around the world. In her professional life she serves as a minister for the Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online congregation for Unitarian Universalists and other religious liberals. In her free time she trains dogs for competition in obedience, agility and canine musical freestyle (dancing with dogs). She is also an avid singer and contra dancer. Lynn lives on the east side of the San Francisco Bay with two Australian Shepherds. For more, visit IMAGE: Creation of the World III, Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis.

Which came first…

An ekphrastic poem inspired by The Egg by Susan Doolittle

Which came first…

Who better to guard
the mountains than
Ursa Major?

Great She Bear
mothers over
oak and pine
where Noctua / Owl
keeps watchful eyes on
swayed grasses
grown by Eridanus.
Sister river flows
clean and pure,
sings bubbling songs to
Grus and Vulpecula
crane and little fox —
running nearby

We can almost imagine Aquarius,
great water carrier
divine this lush, verdant sphere,
pour life from a star-crystal pitcher.

But man gives and man takes
hardly in equal measure —

The ghost of Lepus, rabbit,
runs quick from Orion
hunter and destroyer
wondering: is this your Eden before
or our Eden finally after?

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. Poem presented at the Guilford Poets Guild Fantastic Ekphrastic event at Guilford Art Center, March 1, 2020 in response to its 2020 Student Art Show. IMAGE: The Egg by Susan Doolittle. Susan’s stoneware egg is carved, painted, and glazed with animals, trees, plants, rivers, and oceans. It’s crowning glory is the cobalt blue sky with stars. Throughout the years, there have been hundreds of constellations named in the sky, some with familiar names, some with Latin counterparts, like Ursa Major/great bear, Noctua/owl (noke-tua), Eridanus/river (eri-dah-noose), Grus/crane (g-roose), Vulpecula/Little Fox (ool-peck-oola), Aquarius/water bearer, and Lepus/rabbit (lay-poose) who is said to be chased in the sky by Orion/hunter.

Her Last Hurrah

No one knew for sure, but she did. This would be her last hurrah. Bold and bright and full of expectations she didn’t mean to hold onto. But how could she not? This was her purpose: to grow, to blossom, to bloom…big. If not that, then what?

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne. For similar reflections, please purchase a copy of my new book WAITING OUT THE STORM. Click here for details.

The People

There was a certain simple order to The People. They had a system and a routine, and all of their expectations were so neatly contained within the walls of The House, The School, and The City that I never once wondered what happened behind the scenes or why The Lady never let her hair down. Seeing them all together again — The Lady, The Dog, The Grandma, the Boy with the Pot on His Head — evoked an odd combination of nostalgia and utter despair.

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne. People collection from Mound Museum, Mind of the Mound exhibit by Trenton Doyle Hancock, MASS MoCA, July 2019.

Do You See What I see?

Check out Mark Dion’s New England Cabinet of Marine Debris currently on view at the Florence Griswold Museum.

“Equal parts performance, documentation, and environmental clean-up, Dion and his assistants traversed the New England coast to gather rubbish washed up on the shores. The refuse was cleaned and categorize like cherished relics. The display references the 16th- and 17th-century European Wunderkammer, or cabinets of wonder, which house exotic objects. Dion explains that many of these castoffs are attractive because they were originally designed to appeal to consumers. The bleached and mangled condition of these pollutants generates endless questions about their origins: Where did they come from? How long were they lost? Who did this debris belong to, or, could it have been mine? While these once-new plastics can symbolize a capitalist domination over nature by their artificiality, their patina now suggests nature’s response. What does our treatment of the environment reveal about what our culture values?”

Dion’s work is part of the Florence Griswold Museum’s fascinating exhibit Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art. On view through September 8, Fragile Earth features the work of four contemporary artists — Dion, James Prosek, Jennifer Angus, and Courtney Mattison — that reflects the vulnerability of our natural world.

As exhibition curator Jennifer Stettler Parsons, Ph.D. explains: “These artists were selected for the profound message their works convey about environmental conservation. They transform natural and non-traditional materials, like insects and found debris, into art in order to make visible the human role in global climate change, and to reveal how our daily choices may endanger our planet’s future.”

NOW…DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? Fifth shelf down, in the tall glass cylinders, second from the right? Flossers!


After the exhibit, be sure to pick up copies of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind and FLOSSING. Both are now on sale at the Florence Griswold Museum Shop!

IMAGE: Mark Dion, New England Cabinet of Marine Debris (Lyme Art Colony), 2019, cabinet; wood, glass, metal, assorted marine debris; plastic, rope, ceramics, 103 1/2 x 50 5/8 x 25 3/8 in. Gift shop photo from the Florence Griswold Museum website.

Just Sit for a While

She’ll sit in this sweet green chair for a while, safe in the knowing that she’s constructed good, strong boundaries. That doors sometimes shut for a reason, and windows stay closed on purpose. There’s plenty of space for more chairs, of course, a sturdy table on which to set the glass of wine, and room to dance, dance, dance, so don’t be too sad. It’s not an empty room, more like a blank slate ready for whatever comes next.

Photo + Musings ©2019, Jen Payne. Photo from MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.

Here Among the Ruins

An ekphrastic poem based on the painting After the Storm by Silvia Drewery, on view at the Madison Art Society’s Annual Art Exhibit, August 2019.

Oh, sure, I could tell you
what I used to see when
I looked out the window
each morning —

……….that wide expanse of marsh
……….fertile green against blue sky
……….with its apt companion of clouds

……….the ebb and flow
……….and ebb and flow
……….of predictable tides

or what I admired then,
collected on shelves for posterity,
cultivated in my springtime

……….remember the flowers
……….remember the flowers
……….remember the flowers

But that’s all faded now,
the sure and bright palette
of what we thought we knew —

because seasons topple
and crash into each other,
bring storms of change

storms that demand more
than a cursory reach for familiar
than a hope and prayer for perfect

Oh, sure, I could tell you…
I could tell you all of that
or stride straight out of frame.

Let there be cakes!

Cakes, Wayne Thiebaud, 1963, oil on canvas.

Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter widely known for his colorful works depicting commonplace objects—pies, lipsticks, paint cans, ice cream cones, pastries, and hot dogs — as well as for his landscapes and figure paintings. See more of his work here.

Time Flies

In her article 8 Things Most People Take A Lifetime To Learn, Melissa Ricker writes “When doctors tell patients that their time here on earth is nearing an end, a whole string of regrets immediately start flooding into their minds. The life that they had taken for granted is coming to a close, and most people immediately wish they had learned a few key lessons earlier on.”

What are those lessons?

1 – Failures Are Lessons in Disguise
2 – Live in the moment
3 – Live for yourself
4 – Work Hard, But Don’t Work Too Hard
5 – Procrastination Turns You into a Slave
6 – Actions Speak Louder than Words
7 – Kindness Is So Important
8 – Show Gratitude

For more, please read the full article, 8 Things Most People Take A Lifetime To Learn, from A Conscious Rethink, which works to identify the lessons that life tries to teach us about self-growth, self-discovery, and the pursuit of inner tranquillity.

IMAGE: Self Portrait – Time Flies, Frida Kahlo