Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jack pines, the poetry of Horace & three lessons learned

Jack pines are a common occurrence in landscapes that come into focus and then fade away. 

And their raggedy, weird solemnity was made famous in the  iconic painting "The Jack Pine" by Canadian painter Tom Thomson

On spring mornings, Jack pine shapes align well with Horace's verses Diffugere nives  (Ode VII, book IV).

Here is the beginning of this poem, a poem which for centuries has run havoc in the classical departments of universities around the globe:

"The snow has fled, grass is coming back to the fields 
and leaves to trees,
the earth is making its change. Rivers are going down
and flowing between the banks."

from Diffugere nevis by Horace  - in the translation of  David West.

Diffugere nevis is a poem of serenity and change.

It's also a poem that can be hugely motivating.

Here are three lessons that we can take away from it:

1. Everything changes either at a moment's  notice or in a more predictive pattern. 
Serenity and reflection help us understand change and deal with it. 
Reading poetry (of any ilk) enhances our ability to meditate. Through its intrinsic rhythm, poetry contributes to balance and creativity.
We are able to pace ourselves, gain inner elegance and lightheartedness.

2.  Everyone has limits
Understanding and accepting our limits frees us up from the pressure of everyday day life.
It makes us resilient. 
Be stubborn in the face of adversity, your detractors and your own limits - they make you stronger.

3. Mental toughness should be with us every second
Mental toughness is about clarity of purpose and the will to push forward. 
Reading poetry helps disconnect us from the extraneous and focus on the essential. 

- And yes, let's fit the jack pines somewhere in between.


Saturday, May 06, 2017

A Morning with Squirrels

A relaxing weekend morning.

Two close acquaintances drop by for coffee and share the following story, which I thought to translate.

The Parrot and the Squirrel - a fable by Mr. Jean de La Fontaine

A young parrot was talking more than a woman
and sometimes he was even more eloquent.
"The renegade," they whispered, "is sure to have a soul,
No doubt he can speak with his eyes."

Although his cackle was much admired
the parrot did not have the gift - so rare -
to be liked.
Everyone hated the parrot of the house.

An agile squirrel,
hopping and tumbling about
- almost a clever monkey -
made himself much loved by all,
including the marmot in the yard.

The parrot said:
"Dear fellow,
How do you go about being liked?"
"I beg you - tell me your secret."

The squirrel, who thought the parrot pathetic,
said wisely:

"My chatty friend,

I'm never feared,
I'm playful

- and always mute."

Credit: Wikipedia

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