Evening Poetry, June 17

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by Barbara Crooker

I want to tell you something. This morning
is bright after all the steady rain, and every iris,
peony, rose, opens its mouth, rejoicing. 
I want to say, wake up, open your eyes, there’s 
a snow-covered road ahead, a field of blankness, 
a sheet of paper, an empty screen. Even 
the smallest insects are singing, vibrating 
their entire bodies, tiny violins of longing 
and desire. We were made for song.
I can’t tell you what prayer is, but I can take 
the breath of the meadow into my mouth, 
and I can release it for the leaves’ green need. 
I want to tell you your life is a blue coal, a slice
of orange in the mouth, cut hay in the nostrils. 
The cardinals’ red song dances in your blood. 
Look, every month the moon blossoms into a peony, then shrinks to a sliver of garlic.
And then it blooms again.

You can find this poem in Healing the Divide: Poems for Kindness and Connection.

This Beautiful Truth (A Book Review)

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On my wandering path of living outside the church, I find that I am eager to hear voices of imagination, clarity, and wisdom from within her walls. People who I can trust are attempting to live in an integral, albeit imperfect, way. People I admire for their creative gifts that shine just as brightly as those outside the fold. People who are not hiding their fire, their inner light, away for fear of offending the uptight and unimaginative within the fold.

Sarah Clarkson is one such example: a lovely voice of poetic, wild, imaginative, and artistic love for the world and for her Maker. Her new book, This Beautiful Truth, tells a tale that might seem surprising to followers of her blog and Instagram, to folks familiar with her exquisite portrayal of everyday life–the message of finding of beauty wherever one is.

In this book, she lays bare her soul and shares about her experience living with a rare form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since she was quite young. She shares how she has related to God through it all, the seasons of anger and railing against, of grief and despair, and the times and places where beauty shines its golden hope through the darkness.

Sarah weaves in stories from her childhood to the recent past, told in her own delightfully vivid style. She tells of how she met her now-husband Thomas in Oxford and how love grew between them. (As an Anglophile, anything in an English setting thrills my heart.)

I appreciated her honesty and the depth of suffering she was willing to share with her readers. The messaging isn’t “Become a Christian and everything in your life will get easier.” Rather, through the appreciation of beauty in art, music, drama, literature, nature, and other people, she experienced, over and over, “the goodness of God in the land of the living”. (Psalm 27:13)

She encourages us to cultivate a sense of wonder by creating, loving, discovering, and expressing beauty in our own way, in our own lives. To realize that the kingdom of heaven is here, inside of us, in our homes and in our hands, in the ordinary time and place in which we live. In each of our own stories we will receive grace and “beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning.” (Isaiah 61:3).

If this message appeals to you, if you’re a seeker, or a person of faith, I recommend Sarah’s book. I think it will be water to your soul.

Evening Poetry, April 19

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Out of the Mist

by Lahab Assef Al-Jundi

Out of the mist of a million probable worlds,

Out of the dizziness of a long dream,

Like a bee that found its nectar in a field of stones,

Or a poet who heard his heart’s music amid cries of war,

The precision was that of divine intervention,

Art born of deeper beauty,

And just like birds find home after a long winter,

And a smile finds its way to a melancholy face,

I found you.

You can find this poem in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection.

Evening Poetry, April 18

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by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird – 
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, April 17

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When Giving is All We Have

by Alberto Ríos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us. 
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it –

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give – together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

You can find this poem in A Small Story About the Sky.

Saying Goodbye to Etsy

I don’t mention my business very often on this blog, because books and reading are so much fun to write about. But because some of you have shown interest in aromatherapy, herbalism, Ayurveda, etc., I wanted to share this update.

Today I closed my Etsy shop. Although it was a good place to learn about online marketing, I’ve known for a while that I would eventually leave. The algorithm is always being changed. The fees keep going up. And the policies grow ever more restrictive.

But, I kept hanging on for the sake of my faithful customers, with hopes that perhaps things would improve. But yesterday I received an email about an update to their “Prohibited Items Policy” that would impact most of my listings. I was informed that as of March 2nd, I would no longer be able to say that my products could sanitize or disinfect, had any antibacterial, antiviral, or antimicrobial properties or could in any way prevent or protect from flu, virus, bacteria, etc.

As an aromatherapist and herbalist, I know that many essential oils and herbs do have antibacterial and antiviral qualities. They can clean the air or surfaces. They can build immune strength and are effective allies that help the body to defend itself against colds and flus. This is not just my opinion, but a growing number of scientific studies continue to show that plant medicine can be very effective.

I realize Etsy is trying to protect themselves from legal action, and that’s their choice. My choice is to stay true to myself and the products that I make. So I closed my Etsy shop and will now focus solely on my Delicata House shop, which is what I want to do anyway.

So that’s my story on this snowy winter evening. I hope you are staying warm and well, wherever you are!

Here’s a photo of my sleeping garden.

Evening Poetry, January 21


by Mary Oliver

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Sinus Health (Winter Wellness)

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Today on Instagram Live (watch video below), I shared some herbal, Ayurvedic, and aromatherapy remedies for keeping your sinuses healthy through the winter. If you live in place that experiences cold winters, you probably have indoor heating. This can dry out your sinuses quite a bit, which can lead to sinus congestion, sinus pain, nosebleeds, and even ear pressure/congestion/pain.

Allergies can also irritate your sinuses. Mold, dust mites, or animal dander could exacerbate this problem. I invested in a good air purifier a few years back, a suggestion of the allergy doctor I go to. As long as I keep the filters clean and change them when needed, it helps to lessen allergy symptoms. I also diffuser essential oil blends that are beneficial for sinus and immune health…you can read through the list of some of my favorites below.

In Robin Rose Bennett’s book The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life she mentions Elder Flower as an immune strengthener and a help for draining congestion from the sinuses and even the ears. She has recipes for an Elder Flower infusion (tea) and an Elder Flower steam to help clear sinuses. You can watch the video below for specifics.

Ayurveda recommends using oil in the nose (and ears) during the cold, dry months. You can purchase a Nasya oil from an Ayurvedic brand like Banyan Botanicals, (US only), but you can also use any plain vegetable oil you have on hand: olive, sunflower, coconut, avocado…All you do is take a little oil on your pinky finger and gently massage it into the inside of your nose several times per day.

There are also many essential oils that will support sinus health and keep your breathing open and clear.

My list of favorites includes:

  • Rosemary
  • Spike Lavender
  • Niaouli
  • Scotch Pine (or any pine)
  • Black Spruce, White Spruce
  • Siberian Fir, Silver Fir (any fir)
  • Eucalyptus radiata
  • Cardamom
  • Bay Laurel
  • Helichrysum gymnocephalum

How do I use essential oils this time of year? Mostly, I diffuse them. I have diffusers in my bedroom, on my desk, and in the kitchen. I highly recommend the cool-mist water diffusers, especially during the winter months, because they add some much needed moisture to the air.

But another great way to use essential oils for sinus health is with an inhaler. It looks a bit like a lipstick tube and has a cotton wick inside which you can apply drops of essential oils onto and then breathe it in as often as you’d like. You can also get a cotton ball or cotton pad, apply drops to that, and hold it up to your nose.

In my shop, I offer three diffuser blends that are excellent for sinuses: Forest SongWinter Wellness, and Breathe Clear. You can purchase them separately or at a discount together in a Winter Sinus Health Bundle.

I will be sharing a video on how to make Elder Flower infusion in Week 2 of  Winter Vitality & Renewal Program. You can sign up and get access to that and so much more! 

If you have questions about the program or content in this blog post, please email me: delicatahouse@gmail.com.

Books I’m Starting with in 2021

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If you’re a book lover like me, you probably feel the thrill of gazing starry-eyed at your TBR pile and choosing a few books to begin with. And you might pick an overly-optimistic number of books to read for your 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge as I often do as well.

OK, on to the good stuff: I have a list of eight books that I might be reading until April, at least the non-fiction part.

My first few choices for fiction are: The Night Country by Melissa Albert and Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz. The first one is the sequel to The Hazel Wood that my daughter and I read last year. A dark, fantasy YA novel that we both enjoyed. The second is a sequel to The Magpie Murders that was so like Agatha Christie mysteries that I rejoiced and read it several times through.

For nonfiction, I’m going to read Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I bought the book many months ago and it’s been flashing its many-colored cover at me from the shelf ever since. I heard Glennon interviewed on Unlocking Us, Brené Brown’s podcast and immediately ordered the book, intending to read and then share it with friends. Ah, the confidence I always have when it comes to reading.

And Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me was one of the many book gifts from my husband this Christmas. It’s been in my wishlist for a while, so now that I have it, I will be able to read it and join in the conversation.

Two books that I purchased before the holidays were One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer and Designing Your life: How to Build a Well-lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. After listening to several Yogahealer podcast episodes where Cate Stillman referenced Kaizen, I decided I needed to learn more and purchased the first book. The second one came from my desire to delve deeper into joy.

Ever since finishing Braiding Sweetgrass, I’ve wanted to return to nature writing. I discovered Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald and thought it might satisfy this craving. The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World by Lewis Hyde has been another book waiting patiently on my bookshelf for a few years. I need a book on creativity, although Big Magic is king in this genre.

Lastly, my son keeps giving me Wendell Berry books for Mother’s Day and Christmas gifts because he knows how much I love reading Berry’s words. No complaints here! Thanks, Judah!!! Anyway, this Christmas, he gave me A Timbered Choir, a collection of poetry.

And I better not write down any other possible titles I’ll be reading because then I’ll be writing a blog post of purely fiction. I would love to hear about what you’re reading this January!

Evening Poetry, January 3

Starlings in Winter

by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

You can find this in Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays.