Reading Poetry: “When You are Old” by Yeats

When You Are Old


When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Poetry is like loving a woman.

Each woman is different, and each has come from a different area with different backgrounds. While literature has the same facets, different genres and different authors, in literature she tells you the story. In poetry, you have to ask her the story. So that is how you approach poetry: over a glass of wine.

The best first step is to say “what do I think this poem means,” and then turn to your neighbor and say “what do you think this poem means.” Both of you are putting together who you think this woman is. So reading academic papers on poetry can be very helpful.

The Rose was a book of poetry in celebration of Ireland, so the rose was the symbol of Ireland’s neverending beauty in various forms. But, in knowing this, if you want to understand what Yeats was really talking about here, you need to do a little research on Ireland in 1890. Where were they as a people then? What were they dealing with? The famine was in 1845-7, so they are recovering as a nation from that…but millions of Irish have left their land. How does Ireland feel when its children must flee because it cannot provide for them? Members of the Young Ireland movement had an armed rebellion and were convicted of treason in 1848. In 1866 a radical group called the Fenians made several attempts to overthrow British rule. Farmers were also renting their land from the British, which led to decades of unrest. In the 1870s-90s, Charles Parnell had a political reign where he fought for Irish autonomy in Parliment, and was considered the “uncrowned king of Ireland.” But radicals who assasinated British officials in Ireland claimed to do so for Parnell, which although was unfounded, continued to split the nation. But then it was discovered that he was living with a married woman, and he never recovered. And that brings us up to the time when Yeats wrote The Rose. So, that gives you an idea of where the soul of Ireland was when he wrote his ode to Ireland.

On the other hand, he was also desperately in love with a woman in Ireland named Maud Gonne, who has been known to be his muse during The Rose and also constantly rejected him as a lover.

So, between the rejection of his love, and the passion he feels for Ireland, you have a very good standing to read “When Your Are Old.

There is a longing for legacy in this poem. Like an old parent whose children have gone, they might remember the days when their children were young and playful. They’ll take down the book of pictures and remember when life was full of the energy of the future. The dream of aspirations for his country fade with the fire. The longing of a relationship with the woman he loves is unrequited. There are shadows, which only remember what once there, but is there no more.

There is my poetry reading for today 🙂

What I Learned From The Man in the Tree


I am teaching myself how to play the ukulele…because, why not? It makes me happy, and it makes the kids happy to play with me. And that is kind of the point of life, to be happy together, isn’t it?

Sometimes, though, you wonder if the big idea of happiness is just a pipe dream of sunshine and rainbows.

If you are in the Seattle area, you have heard about the Man in Tree. (link)

Not only have you heard about him, but you watched him sitting in the tree for a full 24 hours…with the rest of us.

It was a crazy story.

First, a (most likely) homeless man climbs 7 stories up into a sequoia redwood which California had shipped from its lovely forest to the evergreen forest of Washington; and plunked it right in front of Macy’s in downtown Seattle.

After he very quietly climbed to an amazing perch at the very top, he looked down upon the police officers who were asking him to come down.

And he threw all of his apples at them.

After he ran out of apple ammunition, he gathered the small pinecones around him and threw the pinecones at them.

When he ran out of pinecones, he snapped off the branches within his reach above him and threw the branches at the ground.

The local newsstation was on the scene and had a livefeed of the apple/pinecone/tree branch volleying. We all really thought he would have fallen, or slipped, or realized he had just climbed to the top of a ridiculously tall tree…and come down. At some point.

A few hours passed, and he wasn’t budging. I was certain he would come down by some measure when I left to pick up the kids from school, or when I went to take a shower, or when I left to fetch more coffee: but no, he stayed up there quite content with his spot in the sun.

Firefighters pulled their huge ladder up next to the tree and tried talking to him for quite a few hours. They had to pull the truck away once night began, but the police opened an office window nearby to hang out in.

5 hours passed. 8 hours passed. 11 hours passed…and the police, medics and firefighters were waiting very patiently for him to come down.

It was bewildering to see the monumental composure they had with this man, who had taken to yelling at the people beneath his tree. I don’t know what the standard procedures are for police, so it seemed like a typical response to this occasion would be to get him out of the tree, perhaps by a variety of means.

At one point, the news crew interviewed a man walking by who happened to be a 27 year police and military veteran. His opinion of the situation, given his background, was that the police were accruing too much overtime, and they were wasting the city budget by their patient actions. “They should use a hose or bean bags, and they should have gotten him out after 3 or 4 hours.

Who knows, maybe that does sound reasonable. It sounded pretty reasonable, to get the guy out of the tree before he hurt himself or anyone else. That seemed to be the entire purpose of the police/medic/firefighters’ presence there in the first place.

But that never happened.

15 hours pass. 20 hours pass. The 24 hour point is looming on the clock…

cannot believe this guy is still up there. He hasn’t tottered or tripped or slipped or fallen. He is still going strong, and just hanging out in a nest he wove between the branches. The news crew was there the whole time, just chatting with each other about their equipment or about the things happening around them:

“We can see it all…that’s what $80,000 of zoom lens will buy ‘ya.”

“As per usual, a small dog is trying to intimidate a much larger dog….let’s watch”

“I wonder what those birds think as they fly by”

“Oh, he just moved his leg a little”

‘Oh, despite your giant energy drink you have here, would you like me to get you a coffee,” said reporter to camera man. “I mean, I’ll get you a coffee.”

“Nature called and it didn’t go to voicemail….we know that happened.”

“I’m very tired, but it keeps going on and on.”

“She seems confused and stunned that she’s not allowed to jog into a police investigation” – on a woman who was trying to jog by the tree.

concluding with…

“If you were under the influence of something and sobered up up there; it would be terrifying.”


There was even a man and his goat who showed up, in order to encourage the Man in the Tree to come down peacefully:


Shane Coburn and Dear, his goat

In the end, the Man in the Tree climbed down on his own. He sat down and ate an apple he threw the previous day. The police were nearby, but not crowding him. They let him stand up, and walk over to the gurney by himself. The man with the red beanie laid down on the gurney and let the EMTs strap him in, gently, all the while the police were talking to him calmly.

They wheeled the gurney to the ambulance, loaded it inside, and drove rather unceremoniously to the hospital, where our fellow man would find help from people who could help him.

It was the most peaceful resolution to an already non-violent situation. Even though it took one whole day to get the man down, the officers determined that his life was worth more than their time.

So, it took a lot longer than everyone expected…but in the end, the man left with people who treated him with dignity and respect. He was in a safe environment surrounded by people he could trust.

Which is the most incredible and uplifting result we could have hoped for.

What I learned from The Man in the Tree, was that the world isn’t falling to pieces. Even when things go awry in our lives, the first response from authorities around us is not to determine that we are expendable. What I saw, while watching the live feed on my laptop in the safety of my home, was people coming around this man who was lost and helping him find a safe place.

Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes we find ourselves in small, or big, situations where we suddenly realize, this is not where I want to be in life. This isn’t what I had intended in the beginning. I thought I was making choices in my life that were the right choices.  I didn’t see the red flags, and all of a sudden I’m stuck up on a 70 foot tree in the middle of raining Seattle…

What is comforting about this story is that there are lots of people around who still believe that life can be sunshine and rainbows. I was certain there were more of us than the news’ reports, and here was a shining example that my notion was spot on.

We don’t need to crucify each other for mistakes we have made, and we can work together to make the situation better for everyone.

I still believe in sunshine and rainbows, even if you are stuck in the most unfortunate of circumstances. This isn’t a pipe dream for reality.

And I have the Man in the Tree, and the wonderful people around him, to prove it.





“Show me how to put my pain…into perspective.”

Be with me, God. I feel so lost. I can’t seem to escape the dark cloud
that is hanging over me today. Help me, God. Give me strength
to combat despair and fear. Show me how to put my pain
into perspective. Teach me to have faith in the new day
that is coming. Thank you, God, for today’s blessings,
for tomorrow’s hope, and for Your abiding love.

I found this prayer when I was searching for scripture to take my pain away.

Because that is the step you take when you have had a blinding headache for 3 days, and the Motrin, tea, water and healthy foods aren’t working. You start begging for relief.

To say my body is a little “intense” is pretty spot on. It isn’t extreme. It isn’t anything deadly or fatal…but, the things I do have are a little much.

Take, for instance, my headaches.

They are very run-of-the-mill headaches. They aren’t fatal, they aren’t deadly. I’ve had them checked out, and the official doctor advice is, “Take More Motrin. Maybe With Tylenol.”

Which I haven’t done, because that’s nuts.

Nevertheless, the headaches usually coarse through my brain until it shoots out of my eyes and I am stuck with nothing other than just good, old-fashioned pain.

So, I turned to scriptures to find something to pray. Some combination of words to ask God to help me with my pain, because I can’t function after three days of this.

What I found was a prayer…which was what I needed to pray.

I thought I wanted relief from the pain. I thought I needed the pain to go away completely, which would be the most obvious request.

“Please take this pain from me so that I can be happy again.”

What I read, instead, was a prayer to show me how to put my pain into perspective.

Does this pain make me slow down? Does it help me to hear the voices around me? Does this pain make me vulnerable, and ask for help from those around me? Can this pain be a way for me to lean on my husband for comfort? Through this pain, do I look to Father God for solace and answers?

Pain is most certainly part of life, to our great dismay.

Yet, it does have this transformative power to change our perspectives in life.

Maybe that is why I have spent three days stubbornly trying to fight it on my own, only to ask for help from those who love me…and finally find real comfort.

Life in the Country Chose Me.

No, there is no time.

Lemme a sum things up.

Two days of no power.

The well finally turned on last night.

The dishwasher is backing water up and isn’t draining.

The vacuum isn’t sucking correctly, and sounds like a scram jet.

The well is being decommissioned as of tomorrow, and we will be using a tanker truck of water until it is back up. Maybe this weekend. “But we just don’t know.”

Comcast is down, again.

I don’t even know anymore.

Anyone have a water wheel and hydroelectric generator on hand, for those of us who are apparently way more in the sticks than the rest of civilization?

Country Life: Power Outs…the truth will SHOCK YOU!


Well, actually it won’t shock you…

because we have no power. So…no shocky.

I was really looking forward to posting pictures of my edison lightbulb experiment this weekend! It’s difficult to post pictures of my new lightbulb revolution that I am spreading all across my house..when I don’t have power to light the lightbulbs.

So, even though we have no electricity to power our coffee pot, or our community well, or the heater, or the fridge…or anything…we still have hope! Dirty, grimy, powerless, cold hope.

By now, the butter and cheese in our fridge is soft, so most of the perishables will have to be tossed out. Fortunately, we are well stocked in plumbers’ candles and bottled water, so we are prepared for lighting and hydration (**cough coffee cough**). We have one flush left in each toilet, so I have a feeling we are going to spend a wee bit of time after this with some Clorox tablets in a few of those.

I’m a little tired, and trying not to let my frustration get to me. We can survive just fine without power. Last night I cooked up some soup on our propane stove, and we ate bread and soup by candlelight in the dining room. We have a kettle and a pour-over for our coffee, so that is taken care of.

I’m just going to have to catch up on laundry and baths once this is over.

Fortunately, we have local coffeeshops that give us coffee and free wifi so I can send out meeting agendas that I was supposed to send out yesterday afternoon but I really thought we would get power back eventually. So, that didn’t happen. We also didn’t get power back during the night. Or in the morning. And even now, the power lines are all over the place and our neighborhood is “under investigation” by the utility company, and at this rate I’m kinda thinking we aren’t getting power back until Wednesday.

So…that is the story of forest life. A little gravel, a little fire, and we’re good to go.


Saturday Hiking, and Graffiti Exploring

Today was far too beautiful to stay indoors.

It was time to go hiking.

We found a crazy steep/long trail through the forests to the beach…

Here, have some pictures!


and then we went through an old logging mill, where we found the …most interesting graffiti I have ever seen…

Rugby forever?

The Dude Abides?

This is crazy rebellion, and we shall not stand for it!

(have these kids even watched “The Heathers”???)


The Scream.

It began with the men entering our forest.

You could barely see them, but I could see them.

There were three men in hoodies and cargo shorts unloading gear from a white van and a hatchback.

Then they started carting things up our long, dirt road driveway in the forest, which didn’t make any sense. Who were these guys? How did they even find our house? I can’t even give clear directions to our house in the woods to people we know. They weren’t salesmen. They weren’t missionaries.

They had tents and were setting up camp, though.

I flung myself out of bed with uncontrollable shaking and angrily whispered to Ben, “They are in our front yard! They are in the forest! We have to do something!”

Yet, Ben slept on. Through the invasion of middle-aged white men invading our solitary home hidden in the cedars.

The middle-aged white men started walking towards our house, as if they just noticed it was there.

My shaking hands clutched my phone. I unlocked the screen and prayed that this wasn’t like one of those dreams when you punch someone and nothing happens. Very steadily I called 911. A middle-aged, female and rather country voice picked up on the other end asking “What’s the situation, honey?”

“There…there are people outside. There are people outside my house and they aren’t supposed to be here. My address is…” please don’t let this be like one of those dreams when you can’t remember your address. Because there are hundreds of invading people outside trying to get in, circling my house like Goths and Vandals. Trying every door and agitating every window, looking for a weakness.

“Okay honey, we’ll get a car over there to check things out.”

“No, you don’t understand! They are here! They are climbing up my walls and opening the windows! They will get inside, and I have 5 children in here. You need to send them now!”

“They’re on their way, so just hold tight, k?”

I looked around my bedroom floor that had piles of clean laundry and found a pair of my husband’s jeans to slip into.

The window next to me had two men hanging off and looking inside, although not at me. They had a gaze that stared straight into the heart of my home, and they never blinked. Their dusty blond hair stood at a floppy attention on their cratered pockmarked faces. I watched their glassy eyes look through the windows with a lust for the riches inside. Their moves were methodical and calculated. A smooth slip of the fingers underneath the window’s edge, and very slowly, up it went.

“No.” I barely whispered.

I had no strength in my arms to hit him in the face, so I took my fingers and slowly gouged his eyes out.

The soulless man never said a word, and simply blinked away and I closed the window, firmly setting the lock.

Ben!” I hissed, “Ben they are coming in we have to do something!” I hit him, I pushed him, I yelled; and he still slumbered through this all.

I couldn’t breathe.

They were coming in. They had discovered the house we were going to raise our children in, and they were invading.

I could hear sirens closer, and the slow crunch of gravel, which means the firetruck was trying to make it up our steep , hazelnut lined driveway. Reinforcements were here, but they never made it up the hill.

Suddenly, there was a sound in the house.

I flung open my bedroom door, praying they hadn’t made it inside. Why did we not lock the front door before we went to bed?? Normally, why should we? We lived in a safe house in the middle of nowhere. No one would ever find us…

Middle-aged white men in cargo shorts started flooding into the downstairs entryway.

They found the way in, and it was right through the front door.

My face was frozen in panic. There was nothing I can do to fight them all. They were all bigger than I was, so I said very firmly, “Get out of my house.”

Three men started the plodding ascent upstairs, where my children safely slept.

I gasped in horror at my worst fears walking towards me, on the stairs I envisioned my daughter walking down in her wedding dress. The bottom stairs on which my sons would set up their Lego projects. The curve of the railing that led directly to their bedrooms.

My head turned to look at their closed doors, and my eyes widened.

The middle-aged white men in hoodies and cargo pants were already there, standing in front of the doors, their hands reaching out to the doorknobs…and the doors began to open.

Everything in me would stop them from reaching my children.

It began with my mouth which opened as wide as it could, and I screamed in bed.

The Night We Finally Got To Watch “Wrinkle in Time,” And I Get To Rest.

It is 5:43pm, and it is Friday.

I am drinking a Blue Moon while the kids are finally watching the movie “Wrinkle in Time.”

And I am pooped.

My goal every morning is to be more productive than the day before.

It isn’t Protestant guilt, it isn’t a feeling of worthlessness…I just take great joy in going to bed at night knowing that I did my best that day, and having pride in what we have accomplished.

I’m also so tired by the end of the day, I sleep pretty well. And that’s nice.

This morning I finished seasoning the little cast iron skillets, after seasoning the larger two the other day. I did 2 loads of dishes, 5 loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, did school with the younger kids, and school with the older kids.

We had baths, lunch which was cornbread and hotdogs baked together in the little cast iron pans (this is a fantastic lunch, btw), I put a turkey in the oven this afternoon and I cleaned the kitchen.

I also have been organizing a timeline for 3 projects for a Project Fair next month, printing out sheets, drafting outlines and making sure it is a realistic goal (this is a problem, sometimes).

On top of this, I started creating a new webpage for my homeschool group because the last one is so ugly it offends me (and I made it, which makes it worse). I have a really good start, after a million years of formatting and figuring out pages vs. menus on WordPress. I am also drafting a new project idea for the community…and I really hope they like it, because it is a great idea!

But the best part of today was when the older two kids finished “Wrinkle in Time,” and the last packet of worksheets for the book! W007!

This means we get to watch the movie!!

Well, they get to watch the movie. I am sitting on the couch in the Fire Room, exhausted.

In the end, I am grateful that I have the legs to carry me from room to room, the mind that keeps me busy with good ideas, and a family with whom to accomplish all this.

That’s my Friday night summary.

Cheers 🙂