Friday, July 19, 2024

Bless Our Pets

Summer floats on heated air with temperatures rising to 100 degrees this year. I remember similar dog days of summer in Central New York when I was a child. My home was not airconditioned but just right for a cold garden hosing and a good book. 

Poetry found me early in life. Authors, like the beloved poet Lee Bennett Hopkinsbrought joy to avid readers like myself. He urged us to remember:

"There shouldn't be a day without poetry."

When learning that Eerdmans Publishing Co. would publish Bless Our Pets -Poems of Gratitude for Our Animal Friends, one of Lee's last children's books in April 2024, I was delighted to review the book. Bless Our Pets is a sweet, tender book filled with fourteen poems about different kinds of animal pets written by celebrated poets. 

At the beginning of the book the fabulous illustrator, Lita Judge, dedicates
Bless Our Pets To all the critters who share their love with us. 

Are you intrigued by the beautiful artwork and the fact that Lee Bennett Hopkins continued toward the end of his life still creating and honoring the gift of poetry? As Charles Egita said, "Lee is and always will be 'The Pied Piper of Poetry' ." The poem, Kitten, begins the anthology and ends with a two-page spread poem about Lee's pet, My Old Dog.

Bless Our Pets is noted as a celebration of creatures.
Your eyes are lantern-bright,
round as chestnuts,
We grow together
watching over every tiny part.
I pray you retain some essential wildness.
I wish you safe, curled in my arm.
Place your paws upon my thumb,
your breath warm upon my fingertips.
I'm grateful for the endless joy you bring so
I pet you until dinner.
Thank you for inviting me.
I'll always be here to take care of you
You've earned your rest. You've been the best.
Let's cherish the many wondrous times we have together.
©CVarsalona, 2024, Cento Poem
compiled from Bless Our Pets with lines from each poet
See the Credits below to note the different pets included in Bless Our Pets.
Line 1 Ann Whitford Paul, Kitten
Line 2 Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Puppy
Line 3 Linda Trott Dickman, Goldfish
Line 4 Eric Ode, A Prayer for My Gerbil
Line 5 Ralph Fletcher, Prayer for a Parakeet
Line 6 Joan Bransfield Graham, Lop-Eared Rabbit
Line 7 Sarah Grace Tuttle, Hamster Hoping
Line 8 Kristine O'Connell George, Dreaming of Savannah
Line 9 Darren Sardelli, A Letter to My Guinea Pig
Line 10 B.J. Lee, Box Turtle
Line 11 Charles Ghigna, Pet Snake?
Line 12 Lois Lowry, Mouse Dreams
Line 13 Prince Redcloud, Old Calico
Line 14 Lee Bennett Hopkins, My Old Dog

Lee Bennett Hopkins created this wonder-filled book with love as did his group of poet writers. Each poem is crafted with language suitable for 4-8 year-old children. The art work is amazing, vibrant, and realistic. Students will enjoy not only reading this book but trying to write their own poem about a pet animal. Some children may enjoy created art work to accompany their poem. Perhaps, Bless Our Pets will be an opening lesson in a Creative Writing / Literacy station this fall.

Teachers, librarians, and parents, please find  a special spot this summer to read through this gem of a poetry book. I know that Lee must be filled with joy to have this book available for little and big readers. Enjoy the rest of the summer.

I am joining the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by my friend, Margaret Simon, who will surely use this book in her classes that are starting in two weeks. I look forward to seeing some of the original poems that her gifted students will create. Perhaps, there are some artists that will share their talent also. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Good Morning World!

This year, summer floats on heated air with temperatures rising to 100 degrees. Weather is the topic of many discussions. I join in but rather reflect on finding positivity in nature's offerings.

A couple of months ago, I wished that I could enjoy earth's blooming spring days but I was filled with worry. I stood alone in a hospital room wishing to see the bright colors of my gardens. From the end of April to June, I spent recuperating at home. I feel ready now to open doors and discover new views to admire and be grateful for during this season. 

Trees sway in fairy-like movements among the stilled flowers aching for water. Gray clouds slip between houses as the breeze slows down. I open the door knowing that the peace of an early summer day is ready to greet me. I may be tired and not able to walk as far as before but each step discovers a new view to admire and have gratitude for life.
©CVarsalona, 2024

Summer's Morning Door

a simple decorative entry

opens each day with ease
what one sees deepens on these

nature's summer gifts of sky and grounds
moments for life pauses and sweet sounds
gratitude glides from my lips
©CVarsalona, 2024, cherita

Look, Listen, and Fill Your Heart with Joy
as you watch Gratitude to Nature.

 I happily joinTwo Writing Teachers,
a meeting place for a world of reflective writers,
after many months of not writing alongside friends.

Over the past months, I've used my blog to recount my journey.

Friday, July 12, 2024

What I Didn't Know! - Spiritual Journey & Poetry Friday

Interestingly enough this month's Spiritual Journey hosted by Ruth Hersey, invites our community of writers to ponder a theme, I Don't Know. As Ruth states this is not a prompt so I mulled over this for a couple of weeks. There are so many I don't knows in my life right now so where do I start?

What I Didn't Know
I thought I would find glimmery moments
when springtime entered. The time was right
 for nature to offer buds eager to burst out.
Instead, the unexpected happened.
A slowdown began after outpatient surgery.
ICU became my launching pad for
repair surgery, pneumonia, and recovery.
A transfer to the med floor added another layer of stress.
Who likes a liquid diet and a disquieted stomach?
I did not know that my room would be a room of silence,
isolated from the outside world where
May buds were flourishing.
I spent hours pondering and questioning the whys.
Then two more infections became a reality.
 Each day seemed endless,
a never ending pool of medical issues,
called a clutter effect by one of the surgeons. 
What began as an easy, out-patient surgery
turned into a rollercoaster ride of evening nightmares.
I didn't know that a door opening could bring
staff with smiling faces and support.
While there are still times of fear and distress,
there're moments of thanksgiving and appreciation.
draft©CVarsalona, 2024
In the above worry journal poem, I wrote in an attentive melancholy way as mentioned in the wabi-sabi aesthetic that finds beauty in things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. 

I also learned that a wabi-sabi lifestyle
prizes maturity, depth, and wisdom over the vitality of youth.

Now is the time to speak of gratitude. Join me as I listen to the sweet sound
of Brandon Lake's voice as he sings his

Please find more sweet thoughts and poetic goodness
at both Ruth Hersey's blog

and Robyn Hood Black who has returned from her summer hiatus
at Life on the Deckle Edge to host the Poetry Friday Roundup.
Last week, was my first attempt at creating a wabi-sabi poem
with the Poetry Sisters and #PoetryPals.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Fourth of July Weekend

"The Fourth of July should be celebrated with big hearts." - Camila Alves

family gathers
America celebrates
sparkles for freedom
©CVarsalona, 2024, haiku
 Fourth of July 2024

bursts reverberate
crowd cheers at dazzling sky show

noise scares little baby
until a family shares glow sticks
big hearts joyfully celebrate with one-year-old
©CVarsalona, 2024, cherita

Besides the fireworks, the family weekend was filled with other fun events:
  • my son's first gig as a standup comedian at a Fourth of July event
  • our little grandgirls enjoy the community pool and an indoors picnic
  • an afternoon trip to Middleburg, Virginia for lunch and ice cream with
  • both sets of grandparents

Now that the weekend is over, I send my Poetry Friday blog to my Floridian friend, Jan Godown Annino, who hosted the post 4th of July Roundup this weekend. She offers an interesting watermelon image from the Monticello, Florida watermelon parade, a link to the PBS 4th of July celebration, and poetry goodness from many Poetry Friday friends. Join me to celebrate with Jan at her blog Bookseedstudio.

SPARKLE ON with Poetry!

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Celebrate Life-Seeking Wabi-Sabi

As I transfer from a hospital-bound stage to recovery mode, I write this blog as a celebration of life. I look back at the beginning of May when I started writing short pieces that were threads of a worry journal. I thought this would help me chase away the anxieties swelling inside.

As isolated days continued, my brain was consistently on speed dial. Health worries spilled over into stressful moments. I started realizing that anxiety limited my ability to enjoy the moments of life that lay in front of me. 

After I read Tricia Stohr-Hunt's Poetry Friday blog post on wabi-sabi, I researched the topic and found a meaningful quote to inspire me. Beth Kempton, a Japanologist and author of  Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life, writes:

Be grateful for even the tiniest of miracles because they add up to this thing called life. 

Tricia Stohr-Hunt along with her Poetry Sisters invited Poetry Friends (hashtag #PoetryPals) to join their June writing challenge with the topic of wabi-sabi. I was impressed by the array of poems flowing with different formats and content. I wrote my first tritina poem, a modern poetic form with three tercets, three end-words in an ABC, CAB, BCA, and a single final line, envoi, with all three end words.

Seeking Wabi-Sabi
turquoise waters soothe restless thoughts
waves gently meet a school of fish searching for their space
uninterrupted by thick seaweed-two sides of beauty
landscapes unfold to share moments of grace and beauty
color-coded clouds shift across a sky of prepared thoughts
I pause to view nature's perspective and ponder her ideas for each space 
instantly nature shifts her weather from a calm to a temperamental space
thunder, lightning and torrential rain encourage people to find beauty
in imperfections and appreciate the transience of nature's thoughts

Will humans see the value of a celebrating each moment in nature's space of revolving thoughts and beauty?
@CVarsalona, 2024, draft
Happy Poetry Friday!

Stay tuned for a a couple more book reviews and a peek inside the
Poetry Parade Gallery of Artistic Expressions at my padlet for now..

Friday, June 14, 2024

"Bless The Earth" - Each and Everyday

Are you a concerned citizen of our planet Earth? Many people gather together each year to find ways to protect our Earth. Elementary school children also honor Earth each April on Earth Day. In reality, we should celebrate our beautiful yet fragile Earth daily.  A new children's anthology, Bless The Earth, edited by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling blends poetry with beautiful illustrations in a fabulous new collection of poetry to celebrate and care for our world. The illustrator, Keum Jin Song, also shares beautiful artwork that children and adults will appreciate. Join me as I review this amazing book of praise from the initial two-page spread on Bless The Earth to the last page about the editors.

This amazing book is written for children, who are the future stewards of our planet. It should be a treasured part of classrooms and libraries where children can read the collected praise poems and inspirational quotes and use the book as a mentor text.  As June and Nancy say in their introductory note, "This anthology knits together humanity, the environment, and spirituality in an engaging way." 

With love for our planet, June and Nancy gathered a collection of poems from different poetic voices to focus on themed sections: dreams and prayers for the world, elements of our planet, all creatures, and seasons. The last section of the book focuses on caring for our Earth. It reads as a call to action for young environmentalists. 

The poetry collection starts with a rhymed praise poem to Earth by Nancy Tupper Ling. Nancy paints a beautiful picture of the gifts nature gives to the world.

Many poets contributed to the anthology. I especially thank Matt Forrest Esenwine for sending me news of Bless The Earth. Matt and other poet friends, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Charles Ghinga, and Irene Latham, have poems published within the collection. Each poet's voice becomes a poem of wonder and gratitude. See both Matt Forrest Esenwine's and Charles Ghinga's poems below.

As an extra bonus, one child's voice is featured among the adult poets in the collection. I am impressed by Jillian Pappan, age 10, from the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. Her reflective and imaginative poem,  "If I Could See the Sky", is full of wonder and purpose in life. The title could be a writing prompt for intermediate to middle-school-age children who are dreamers, nature lovers, and artists. 

There are at least 60 poems with varied formats included in this anthology. Children will enjoy reading and writing poems using the mentor texts provided in the collection. Teachers will find the book a wealth of ideas for new lessons, especially since environmental and ecological issues are in the news these days.  This summer is an ideal time for children and teachers to dig into this anthology that praises Earth. Perhaps, thoughts on becoming future stewards of our planet will evolve after reading this book.

Below you will find a song, Love Song to the World, that pairs well with Bless The Earth. For some musically inclined children, this song may be an incentive to write lyrics that flow like poetry for the opening of school. 

As a person who enjoys nature and thinks about keeping the Earth pristine for future generations, I highly recommend this book with its ties to humanity, the environment, and spirituality. 

May summertime be filled with thoughts of gratitude for our beautiful planet Earth. Thank you, June Cotner, Nancy Tupper Ling, and Keum Jin Song for a wonder-filled anthology that my little grandgirls will read throughout the years as will many other children.

@CVarsalona, 2017, Long Island, NY

Note: This book review will be featured on my Poetry Parade Padlet here.

Now, I am off to Poetry Friday where a poet-friend on the side of the United States is hosting the Roundup. Thank you, Denise Krebs for opening your space for the Poetry Friday poets and sharing your thoughts on the sacred seven poem format and poetry ops. 

Friday, June 7, 2024


May passed by with complications. Now it is a beautifully sunny day in June. American author and theologian, Joan D. Chittister, writes "June is the time for being in the world in new ways, for throwing off the cold and dark spots of life."  I am eager to regain my strength and return to "normalcy" as my magnolia buds spread their gorgeous white florals.

Last week the Poetry Sisters, Tanita, Mary Lee, Tricia, Laura, and Lizinvited writers to write in the spirit of poet Lucille Clifton's "homage to my hips". Since my body has been under attack since May, I praise my body for its resilience to a recent challenge. I join Michelle and Linda B. who signed in as #PoetryPals last week.

Lately, everything has been in slow mode for me. For instance, Poetry Friday is already filling with many poetry friends signing on as I get ready for another doctor's visit. 

I  join the Poetry Friday Roundup at Tracy Kiff-Judson's blog, "Tangles & Tales". She is cooking up a delightful and tasty post titled, Cooking Up InspirationSee you there. I will make the rounds slowly this weekend.

    Created by Tracey

Friday, May 31, 2024

Spiritual Medicine

“I see poetry as spiritual medicine.”
– Mahmoud Darwish

Without a doubt, I believe in the power of prayer and medicine. After finding the above quote, I realized how much poetry has helped me soothe my soul during difficult times. Both reading and writing poetry have helped me find inner peace. While returning home from a two-and-a-half-week stay in the hospital after two surgeries, I was not only drained of energy but eager to find words to express my feelings. Because I was in isolation in the hospital, I longed for wisps of nature to bring me to an inner place of joy. I penned this draft poem during the week while sitting inside my house and looking outside.
I stare
out my window
watching the arrival
of an upcoming storm.
Winds s w a y
at rapid speed
as raindrops nestle in
between broad leaves.
Nature continues
drenching earth
from her gray sky
to verdant lawns
until showers
abrupty stop
and sunlight
s u r ro u n d s.
©CVarsalona, 2024

Studies show that reading and writing nature poetry increase feelings of connection, wonder, and appreciation for the outdoors (Aulkins et al, 2006). Tonight, I took my first short walk to the muddy pond down the street. Feeling the warmth of the evening sun and listening to the gurgling sounds at the pond, made me grateful for being home. Small steps lead to a new beginning.

Although I wished to join the Poetry Friday Roundup earlier, I shall add my post now to Janice Scully's blog. Janice is sharing the beauty of Carol Labuzzetta's new Picture Perfect Poetry Anthology filled with amazing ekphrastic poems and gorgeous nature photographs. Janice is proud to be one of the contributing poets. I am also one of those poets but that is for another blog post.