The Three Degrees

These last two writing prompts have given my muse a workout. Yesterday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt was PURIST. The question came to me: So when are you a PURIST and when are you NITPICKING?

In some respects I’m a purist. Incorrect word usage makes me grit my teeth. I hear someone say, “He contributed his success to luck and hard work,” and I think, NO! You contribute–donate–to a worth cause. You attribute–ascribe–some (usually good) result or quality to what you’ve done or received.

People usually attribute their success to hard work, a good education, helpful parents, or just plain luck. On the other side, someone may attribute (credit or blame) their life of crime to their miserable childhood, but their behaviour contributes (add) to the rising crimes stats.

If I verbalize my dissatisfaction some people will say, “Why nitpick? You know what they meant.”

Today’s prompt word is FLATTER. Again, when are we FLATTERING and when are we simply ENCOURAGING? Am I flattering or encouraging if I say, “You have a beautiful voice”?

When praising children – which we definitely should do – I feel it’s better to encourage them when they’ve done their best, rather than flatter them with, “You’re the greatest!” or “You’re a STAR!” Life has some sharp reality checks for teens and adults who think of themselves as the greatest.

As the old school song says, “I’d rather be a little thing climbing up than a big thing tumbling down.”

Every coin has a flip side, likewise most virtues. Thrift can become parsimony. Determined can become pig-headed or pushy. Honesty can become offensive, even brutal, if not infused with kindness and tact.

Years ago the Toronto Globe & Mail had a little humor section that made use of this fact. Readers could send in their responses to these three viewpoints:
I am…
My friend is…
Someone I don’t like is…

For example:
“I am decisive; my friend is steadfast; that other guy is obdurate.”
“I am circumspect; my friend is astute; the one I don’t like is cagey.”

This is a great exercise for writers, or anyone who likes adjectives. Want to try it and leave your response in the comment box below?

Holiday Plans

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LITTORAL

Actually, I was thinking of the sea this morning, as I just read a poem about the sea, written by someone who loved it dearly. The verse is long-winded but delightful, written in the early 1800s. I’ll post it later for those of you who enjoy such poetry. But now for my response to the prompt…

Holiday Plans

Ellen, studying the inviting seaside scene on their calendar, turns to her spouse. “Fancy a LITTORAL holiday this summer, dear?”

Ed frowns. “Littoral? Nah. I don’t want to hang out in libraries, or spend a week wandering through bookshops, either. Or were you thinking of Stratford, taking in Shakespearean plays and such? I find them rather boring, to be honest.” He looks up at the calendar. “I’d rather go fishing.”

Ellen laughed. “Actually Littoral and Literary are different genres altogether. Mind you, I’d love to spend a few days visiting bookshops. Especially used bookshops…finding some old classics I haven’t read yet.” She pondered the thought. “There are some huge ones in Toronto.”

“Blah! Coping with all that traffic and the crowded streets, carting around a ton of books? Not a holiday for me!” He points to the calendar. “Why don’t we rather go to the coast this year? Some place like that.”“Walk along the sand, hear the sea roar, maybe watch the whales.”

“An excellent idea, Ed. I’ll see what I can find.”

“That we can afford,” he adds.

Image: dimitris vetskias 1969 — Pixabay

Summer Stillness

We’ve been having some very warm days lately, which brings to mind a few heat-related poems. This verse is my latest exercise in “finding” a new poem; I’ve derived it from Archibald Lampman’s HEAT and included his verse below mine. I’m still learning, so if you have any insights on writing found poetry, please feel free to share them in a comment below.


from plains southward
the road beyond,
upward melts into the glare
nearer the summit
a hay-cart moving,
the wagoner slouching
half-hidden in the blur
of white dust

from sky to sky
the heat-held land
beyond me in the fields
the grass, the marguerites,
the buttercups are still,
on the brook not a breath
disturbs spider or midge

where far elm shadows
patch the burning grass
the cows, with peaceful cud,
lie waiting in the depth
from the slope nearby
a thrush’s thin tune
cricket, grasshoppers
spin small sounds in my ear 

the burning sky-line
blinds my eyes,
the woods far off blue,
hills drenched in light
in the shadow of my hat
I lean at rest -- I think
some blessed power
has brought me
wandering here
in the furnace of this hour

by Archibald Lampman

From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.

By his cart’s side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease,
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffing to his knees.
This wagon on the height above,
From sky to sky on either hand,
Is the sole thing that seems to move
In all the heat-held land.

Beyond me in the fields the sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.
On the brook yonder not a breath
Disturbs the spider or the midge.
The water-bugs draw close beneath
The cool gloom of the bridge.

Where the far elm-tree shadows flood
Dark patches in the burning grass,
The cows, each with her peaceful cud,
Lie waiting for the heat to pass.
From somewhere on the slope near by
Into the pale depth of the noon
A wandering thrush slides leisurely
His thin revolving tune.

In intervals of dream, I hear
The cricket from the droughty ground;
The grasshoppers spin into mine ear
A small innumerable sound.
I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze;
The burning sky-line blinds my sight;
The woods far off are blue with haze;
The hills are drenched in light.

And yet to me not this or that
Is always sharp or always sweet:
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some blessed power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.

The Uninvited Guest

Here’s Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt

And here’s my little story in response:


“There he is, just like clockwork. I’ve no idea how he knows when I’ve made roast and mashed spuds for Sunday, but soon as I’m dishing out the meal, he’s knocking at our door.”

“We can pretend deafness,” her son Lance suggested. “He’s bound to leave if no one answers.”

“Dream on,” Sue retorted.

“She’s right. He won’t leave.” Dad chuckled. “I wouldn’t put it past him to climb in a window.”

“Mavis says he shows up every time they have barbecue,” Mom said.

Lance grinned. “Must be great to have a nose that keen.”

Sue rolled her eyes.

Feathery Neighbours

Image: marliesplatvoet — Pixabay
I clean out the mess
of sticks and misc debris
the tenants left behind.
Antisocial creatures these
wrens, making their point
clear: they tolerate no
nosy nearby neighbours.

If you know about wrens, you’ll know they have a bad habit of stuffing every potential dwelling in the vicinity full of twigs so no other birds can nest near them. I try to get my wren houses all cleaned out before they return in spring so they’ll have a choice of housing. Some boxes are made to open, but if they don’t it can be quite a job to pull a bunch of debris from the small holes.

Our yard seems to be full of wrens now – probably half a dozen pairs – singing their little hearts out while their eggs incubate. Trouble is, we hear them loud and clear but we rarely see them. Once the chicks burst out of their shells, the parent birds will be run ragged trying to keep up with little appetites.

I hear constant starving wail now because some birds have discovered our bathroom fan vent. Some years back the cover on the outside of this vent pipe fell off. Half a dozen years back a tree swallow pair discovered the 2″ pipe and cavity inside. They liked the spot with its handy “entry” and raised two batches of chicks. It was interesting hearing them raise their families, but in fall we got up on a ladder and plugged the hole.

After some years of peace and no swallows coming anymore, I took the tinfoil out. Big mistake. Blackbirds (or starlings?) found the opening this spring and cheeped, “Hey! Wouldn’t this make a good nest?”

I tried to discourage them when I heard scrabbling in the vent area coming from the wall beside the built-in vanity. I got up and stuffed a tinfoil ball – shaped like a 2 x 4-inch “potato”– into the pipe. To be double sure they’d stay out, I stuffed a tinfoil sheet inside the wall, on top of this ball.

Well, they weren’t giving up. The next afternoon I saw the tinfoil sheet, relatively intact, lying on the ground not far from the vent opening. Looking around more, I found that the birds had somehow worked that ball of tinfoil out of the pipe and carried it clear across the yard to the barb-wire fence. Was one of the birds still inside when I stuffed in the tinfoil, or however did they manage to pull it out?

Anyway, rather than risk a dead bird or a nest of rotting eggs perfuming our bathroom, we’ve left them. Now we have this chorus of cheeps whenever mom or dad returns with some lunch. But come fall…

Haiku in Dialogue

Good morning everyone.

I shall leave complex issues, such as I wrote about yesterday, and rather write about some quick glimpses of life. I’m happy to see one of my haiku was chosen for inclusion amongst the many others at Haiku Dialogue this week — and also last week. This week’s topic was : a simple dwelling place. Last week’s topic was a simple daily task. If haiku interests you, you should check out these posts. It’s amazing how clever some folks are at putting these concepts into haiku verses.

My last week’s verse was:
another pill
the old clock

This week’s verse, a monoku:
fixing up the old house laughs again

The latest issue of Heron’s Nest just came out. I stand in awe of poets who can come up with modern haiku that twists, or entwines, two ideas together so ingeniously. To give you an idea, I’m restating the concept from one verse. The original was much better but I dare not violate copyrights. 🙂
my multicultural
dinner plate

Sometimes my mind has to work to make the leap and get the connection. 🙂 Here’s one of mine that stems from reading the news a few months back:

purging fires
burning banned books
warms a nation