you guide me
from the shores of night
across the vastness
beyond my sight
over the deep
i tremble with fright
you protect me from
many a precarious plight
beyond what must be
and what just might
you ride night’s wind
like a celestial kite
we pass islands unknown
to our left and our right
forward we journey
ahead beyond the night
at last, up ahead
at the fringe of my sight
a glimmer, then a shimmer
the world begins to light
out of the darkness
you and i ignite
the daily fire of hope
that brings delight

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Wordsworth on poetry

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
— William Wordsworth

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Grottos and Literature

Literary Grottos

Somewhere between Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Dante’s Inferno, I developed a love for grottos, for garden grottos, and though even more rare, grotto gardens. Though the reference may seem obscure, while reading Inferno in high school, a discussion of the brief reference to a grotto between the dark wood and the underworld instilled in me the mystique of a grotto as a secret portal from the ordinary world to the mystical. Add to this my interpretation of the “Wood Between the Worlds” in C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew as also being a grotto, and you may understand a bit of my sense of a grotto being magical. From these references—Inferno and The Magician’s Nephew—one may think I have solely a woodsy feel for grottos, and the role of a garden may not be clear.Gustave_Dore_Inferno1

Figure 1. Gustave Doré — Inferno Illustration


There is a certain garden that is part of an Italian Renaissance style estate built around 1914-1923 in Coconut Grove, Florida. The estate is called Vizcaya. Imagine yourself in an urban subtropical paradise. You escape the metropolis into over forty acres of Italian Renaissance gardens. These gardens are filled with hedges, statues, and stately palm trees. Besides the immense breadth of the gardens, one of the architectural marvels of these gardens is the creation of outdoor rooms—areas that cannot be fully seen from one another as if they were distinct rooms. Terraces and walls of stone and foliage help construct this effect. Within the gardens of Vizcaya are several small grottos. There are also a few larger ones. A short distance from the small bay off of the Atlantic Ocean are stone steps leading up to a Renaissance style architected outdoor stage. The stage is hidden from other parts of the gardens.


Figure 2. Vizcaya Gardens

Connecting the Portals

How is this grotto of Vizcaya’s garden stage tied to literature? For me the connection is from an experience. In 1983 I saw The Tempest performed there. Such productions ran there until 1985. Experiencing a play such as that in an open theater amidst the gardens deepened my sense of wonder at the interplay of literature, theatre, gardens, and architecture. As with other botanical gardens, wandering the grounds of Vizcaya instilled in me an appreciation for the magical, mystical, and musical qualities of a good garden grotto and a good grotto garden.

Where is your sacred space?

What do you associate with grottos? Are there any notable grottos that you would like to share?

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pebbles of the past

i drove by
that place
we used to go
where people
used to flow

i walked past
the empty lot
remembering you and i
at that spot

i went back
to see it again
stood at the edge
stood, and looked in

i stepped foot
upon the stones
entered the lot
that time forgot

the people, the buildings
all are long gone
vacated and bulldozed
where once there was song

gone are the vegetables
flowers and herbs
no shadow of tree or weed
where once grew a throng

the ghosts of gardens
whisper no tales
not a single plant stands
now pebbles prevail

cautiously the soles
of my woeful feet
bring me to the place
we used to meet

alack i have come back
visiting the past, alas
everything is gone
oh what has come to pass

has it been so long
i remember it like yesterday
beneath my feet nothing
what time has swept away

within my eye a tear
within my heart i fear
in my mind so clear
all that we held dear

vivid memories
of festive reveries
the joyous sounds of songs
for which my true heart longs

i ponder upon the pebbles
my mind wanders all the way
echoes of what fell silent
gone five thousand days

i feel the rumble of the soul
and slip onto the past
i hear the call of shadows
that come upon me fast

and there we are together
basking in long-gone weather
your voice, your face, your smile
is with me all the while

therein i dwell
my heart does swell
what seemed so sure
so swiftly fell

and i come back
into the now
it fades so fast
why can’t it last

i feast upon reminiscent repast
relive moments from time i steal
upon the pebbles of the past
my soles every memory feel

i remember it like yesterday
as these respects i often pay
in the past my heart plays
of what’s been gone
five thousand days

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my darling little octaped
dangling from your glistening thread
into your lair i have been led
to your web i’ll soon be wed
please don’t land upon my head
or you or i might soon be dead

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The Five Senses

How well do you know the five senses? How do they shape your reality?

Does cilantro taste like one of the most delightful herbs ever, or does it taste like soap to you? For about twenty percent of humans, cilantro tastes like soap. For the other eighty percent, it may taste delicious. Cilantro that is, not soap.

“Fully-sighted” people sense about one ten-trillionth of the electromagnetic spectrum with their eyes. Do you think what you see is reality? Do you see the world as it is?

When you eat at home or when you eat out at a restaurant, do you go for the buffet of many items, or do you eat just one dish per meal? What about when you try a new cuisine for the first time? Perhaps you try the sampler platter so that you can try small amounts of different dishes or maybe everyone at your table gets a different dish to share. I would like to offer you a sampler platter of something that you have probably known all your life—information about the five senses.

The TED Radio Hour program The Five Senses provides a sampler of interviews and snippets of TED Talks about hearing, taste, vision, smell, and the sense of touch. TED Radio Hour (The FIve Senses). If you don’t see The Five Senses at the top of the list, scroll or search for that episode (dated January 20, 2017). I hope you enjoy it.

For more information, you could watch a video of each of the separate parts. Here are some links (click on the names):

Did you learn anything? What were the most interesting aspects of the overall program, or of each of the presentations?

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some people seem
like sandpipers
chasing the waves
out to sea
with their flock
flowing like the trailing edge
of the waves themselves
skittering back to shore
chased by the waves
living their lives
with the ebb and tide
pecking at the sand
searching for prizes
in the brief time
of those swooshing moments
between the waves
which wash away
their footprints
like writing in the sand

sandpipers lives confined
attached to the edge of the sea
to flow like the tide
needing the waves
to remind
when to chase
when to run away
hopeful for what they’ll find
secrets in the sand

we toil to build elaborate walls
in which we become invested
these walls we think we need
until we cannot see beyond
cannot bear to build outside the box

we imagine we are smarter
than the average fox
everything pigeonholed in binders
while we hide behind our blinders
shackles for the mind
cannot see beyond the stocks

we devise the greatest gadgets
of polished sand and magnets
myopic doggerheaded traps
compartmentalized ‘til it snaps
unwilling to look outside
or learn to live beyond the locks

we herd together in our flocks
huddle in our leaky boats
tie them tighter to the cleats
afraid to brave the tempest’s seas
neither do we go to shore
nor dare to dream beyond the docks

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