Saturday, April 23, 2016

Gratitude

Gentle readers, I beg your indulgence for the brevity of this post.  By way of explanation for the brevity, I must also beg you to indulge a brief foray into the personal.  First, nothing dire has occurred!  Rather, I am the grateful recipient of one of the many Modern Miracles of Medicine:  a hip replacement (right) as of this past Monday morning.

Given all that goes on in the world from moment to moment, I feel embarrassed for even having provided this information.  I consider myself both fortunate and coddled to live during a time, and in a place, in which such miracles are available.  I have nothing to complain about.  And I do not for a second take anything for granted.

     What a strange thing,
To be thus alive
     Beneath the cherry blossoms!

Issa (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring (Hokuseido Press 1950), page 350.

Charles Ginner (1878-1952)
"Through a Cottage Window, Shipley, Sussex"

Everything is a matter of perspective.  A hip replacement amounts to absolutely nothing in this world of ours, but it does provide an occasion for perspective.

I can only feebly echo Patrick Kavanagh, who was a trillion times more entitled than I to feel gratitude after having dodged death by lung cancer in 1955.  Soon after, he wrote this:

                              The Hospital

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital:  square cubicles in a row,
Plain concrete, wash basins -- an art lover's woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.

This is what love does to things:  the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge;
For we must record love's mystery without claptrap,
Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.

Patrick Kavanagh, Come Dance with Kitty Stobling and Other Poems (Longmans 1960).  Kavanagh was a patient at the Rialto Hospital in Dublin in March and April of 1955.  The Rialto Bridge spans Dublin's Grand Canal, which Kavanagh walked along during his recovery period.

Charles Ginner, "Chrysanthemums" (1929)

As I have stated here in the past, I know nothing whatsoever about how to live.  But, as one ages, certain key themes begin to emerge, however thick-headed one might be.  This week, one word keeps returning to me: Gratitude.

                                       Night

That shining moon -- watched by that one faint star:
Sure now am I, beyond the fear of change,
The lovely in life is the familiar,
And only the lovelier for continuing strange.

Walter de la Mare, Memory and Other Poems (Constable 1938).

Charles Ginner, "Plymouth Pier from the Hoe" (1923)

36 comments:

anj said...

dear steve,

i wish you a speedy recovery...hope the replacement means you'll be able to enjoy longer walks. wanted to let you know that i've been reading your posts here quite regularly, and savouring them, as always. thank you for sharing patrick kavanagh's poem...i find his voice very authentic. there was a beautiful full moon out the last couple of days, and walter de la mare's little verse is just what i was looking for to express the sense of loveliness i felt in gazing at it from atop python hill with jahnavi, my daughter. '...only the lovelier for continuing strange'...so much said in so few words.

take care. :)

a friend,
anjali

John Ashton said...

Mr Pentz,the brevity of your post does not in any way subtract from it being wonderful to read as always.
May I be the first in this place to wish you a speedy and trouble free recovery.
The De La Mare is beautiful, and I think true.
Thank you

Celine Baliguian said...

I've discovered you by chance through Google Images three months ago. I am a painter, and one of the painting you've posted for illustrating a poem has been appealing. Since then I have subscribed to your blog, for seeing new pictures, reading poetry, very nice thing you are doing to gather those beauties.
So, I wish you well, Bon rétablissement à vous.
Celine.

Esther said...

Odaijini!

Clarissa Aykroyd said...

The Patrick Kavanagh poem is brilliant. I used to live in Dublin but I'm not sure I ever crossed the Rialto bridge - from looking at a map, that seems to be away from my usual areas.

I hope your recovery goes well and thanks as always for your extremely thoughtful posts.

Bex said...

For a brief entry, it was lovely, and not too brief... I applaud you for going ahead with the hip replacement. I should do that but I am too wary of physicians to put myself into their hands... good for YOU! And I feel gratitude, as well, that you even attempted and posted this lovely blog entry. Thank you!

Sam Vega said...

Very best wishes for your continuing recovery. Gratitude is, I think, one of the most wholesome emotions of which we are capable, and a person who is self-conscious about their own gratitude is very lucky. I particularly like the change of mind experienced by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment, when he reflected on the kindness shown to him by Frank Harris during what was to him a very difficult time:

"I told you I was grateful to you for your kindness to me. Words, now, to me signify things, actualities, real emotions, realised thoughts. I learnt in prison to be grateful. I used to think gratitude a burden. Now I know that it is something that makes life lighter as well as lovelier for one...."

Stephen Pentz said...

anjali: I'm delighted to hear from you again. It is thoughtful of you to write at this time. Thank you very much.

I'm pleased that de la Mare's "Night" arrived at a good moment: it does seem apt for the lovely scene you describe. As you say, he is able to say a great deal in a few words, which is so hard to achieve.

I think Kavanagh wrote his best poetry during his "Canal Bank period," when he was in a state of exaltation after escaping from death. "The Hospital" certainly reflects this. Such exalted states are rare, and hard to maintain. The trick is to live that way from day-to-day (perhaps short of exaltation), with all the ups and downs of life. More along the lines of de la Mare, as a matter of fact. Perhaps this is where gratitude comes in. For all the small things. Which are not so small.

As always, thank you very much for visiting, and for sharing your thoughts. I greatly appreciate your long-term presence here. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Ashton: Thank you very much for your kind thoughts, which I greatly appreciate. Things are getting better day by day. What I am looking forward to the most are longer, pain-free walks! I fear that my posts over the past year have increasingly suffered from a lack of the world's detail -- detail that I have been missing due to a lack of mobility. These sorts of absences remind us of what is important.

I'm pleased you liked the de la Mare poem -- I'm sure it is already well-known to you. At times like this it is good to return to basic truths, and, as I needn't remind you, de la Mare's poetry is a treasure in that regard. This past week, I've been focussing on his 4-line poems, which, as you know, he wrote a number of. (I actually once counted how many 4-line poems are contained in his final Collected Poems: there are 39.) There is a great deal of quiet wisdom to be found in those short poems.

I cannot thank you enough for your long-time presence here as a reader, a visitor, and a sharer of thoughts and insights. Thank you again.

mary f.ahearn said...

I will join in to send you all good wishes for a good recovery and rehab. Longer walks ahead sound good.
And the sense of joy - and gratitude - in the Issa haiku says so much. It seems to me that as we grow older, our pleasures are grounded in simple things, but simple in the way of the profound. Being here with the cherry blossoms.
Thanks you for reaching out with these lovely poems and your thoughts about them,

Mary

Unknown said...

I hope you make a speedy recovery from the operation and that the world opens up for you consequently. Age and infirmity have narrowed my dealings with the world as I knew it BUT your postings enrich my life and I still have loads of blessings. Thanks for your lovely posts...........may we both live long.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Baliguian: Thank you very much for your kind thoughts. I'm happy that you found your way here, and I hope that you will keep returning. I am always gratified when these poems and paintings that I am fond of resonate with others as well.

Merci beaucoup!

Stephen Pentz said...

Esther: There's a lovely phrase I haven't heard in a while! Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.

It's very nice to hear from you again. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind thoughts. I hope that all is well with you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Aykroyd: Thank you very much. I'm happy to hear from you again.

I'm pleased you liked "The Hospital." As you know, there are a number of fine poems in a similar vein from that period. I've seen photos of the Canal Bank area, which has at least one statue of Kavanagh, as well as a park bench or two dedicated to his memory. I've never been able to track down an image of the Rialto Hospital. But the poem suffices.

As always, thank you for stopping by.

Stephen Pentz said...

Bex: Thank you very much for your kind thoughts. Yes, I understand your feelings about medical procedures -- I put this off for quite some time. But I reached the point where I was missing way too much. I consider myself lucky that this was something I could choose to do in order to improve my life, rather than something of the other sort.

It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I greatly appreciate your visiting at this time. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr Pentz for providing more succour at a time when you probably require it more yourself. I love your blog and thank you for it. It is the only e-mail I look forward, unqualifiedly, to receiving.

Graham Guest said...

Walking again soon
Among flowers of every hue
Rose hip comes to mind

Stephanie Westerhout said...

May I add my good wishes for quick and complete healing? The brevity of your post in no way subtracted from its elegance or my appreciation of it.

Stephen Pentz said...

Sam Vega: Thank you very much for your thoughts. Mind you, I don't have any claims to sainthood when it comes to gratitude! It is something that one has to bring to mind, and work to achieve, on a daily basis. A never-ending task. The Wilde quote is wonderful -- thank you for sharing it: it is new to me. I was able to find on the internet the letter in which the passage occurs. I note that Wilde also writes: "Two years ago I did not know the feeling the word denotes." I understand the feeling.

As ever, thank you for visiting.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary: Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you about the role that growing older plays in all of this. Hip replacements (and much worse) are part of aging, yes, but with them comes a better sense, as you suggest, of what is really important in life. For instance, I always appreciated my walks, but I now have an even greater appreciation for them. Of course, Issa and the other haiku poets know all of this!

Thank you for all of your visits here, and for your kind words.

Bernadette Wilkins said...

Hello Stephen,
Sincerely hope you are making a good recovery. I appreciate you telling us, and know you deserve to be free of pain now, as a a reward for all your work on this blog, which is appreciated.

Good wishes to you,
Kind regards
Bernadette

Stephen Pentz said...

Unknown: Thank you for your thoughts, which I greatly appreciate. If the poems and paintings that I post here "enrich" your life in some way, I am deeply gratified and humbled. I agree with you that, whatever our circumstances, we always need to be mindful of the many blessings in our lives, however things may change. The poems and paintings always remind me of that truth. Thank you again, and please return soon.

Stephen Pentz said...

Anonymous: Thank you very much for your kind words. The pleasure is mine. And it is nice to hear that, when notice of a post arrives by email, you are pleased! I know what you mean about emails.

Thank you again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Graham: Wonderful! Yes, "walking again soon." And with "[my new] rose hip"! A nice haiku. Thank you for those thoughts, which I greatly appreciate.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Westerhout: I greatly appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Wilkins: That's very nice of you to say. Each day is an improvement, and thoughts such as yours are much appreciated. Thank you very much.

Bovey Belle said...

Wishing you a speedy recovery and time to enjoy summer walks in a landscape rich in history and beauty. Meanwhile, Thomas Hardy is far more eloquent than me:

The Walk, by Thomas Hardy

You did not walk with me
Of late to the hill-top tree
As in earlier days,
By the gated ways:
You were weak and lame,
So you never came,
And I went alone, and I did not mind,
Not thinking of you as left behind.


I walked up there to-day
Just in the former way:
Surveyed around
The familiar ground
By myself again:
What difference, then?
Only that underlying sense
Of the look of a room on returning thence.

I think this must have been written after Emma's death.

Jeff said...

Surgery like that can all too easily dim one's spirits; I'm glad to see your recovery is an occasion for happiness, perspective, and poetry.

Anonymous said...


Dear Stephen -- I am belatedly echoing the earlier comments to hope that you will soon be restored to making your customary walks. I know you must miss them badly.
I'd also like to remark on the poem "Rowan Berry", by Norman MacCaig, in your previous post. In the part of New Hampshire where my family has a property, there are many of what we call "Mountain Ash" trees -- I believe they are the same trees as Rowans. The voice of the Rowan Berry in this poem is a delight -- so casual & so sure of himself (sorry, I have to say "himself" about this self-satisfied berry!) I think the two lines: "My cluster's the main one and I/am the important berry in it" are lodged in my imagination for good. I'm happy that I can visualize the bright-red clusters, & hope to be seeing them in New Hampshire in the early fall.
Very best wishes, Susan












R.T. said...

I wish you well in your recovery. Isn't it interesting the ways in which modern medicine offers us opportunities for gratitude. Earlier generations could not even dream of our options for health care. On a personal note, my encounters with health care options allow me to be ever more grateful about the ability to continue living one day at a time. May you soon be walking here, there, and everywhere without even a whisper of discomfort. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Bovey Belle: Thank you very much for your thoughts. And thank you as well for "The Walk," which is apt. It is one of my favorites by Hardy. The final two lines are, I think, among his best. You are absolutely right about the poem's origins: it appears as the third poem in "Poems of 1912-13."

As always, I greatly appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for visiting at this time.

Stephen Pentz said...

Jeff: It is very nice to hear from you. Thank you very much. I'm fortunate that this is a "quality of life," voluntary procedure, rather than something else. The relief from pain will be welcome. Mind you, I have had my moments of post-surgery grumpiness -- particularly having to do with finding a comfortable position in which to sleep. But that is a minor inconvenience.

Thank you again. I hope that all is well with you, and that you are enjoying your new location in the country. I'm pleased to see you have been continuing "The Beallsville Calendar" sequence. I look forward to your poems in the coming months.

Stephen Pentz said...

Susan: Thank you very much for your kind words. Please accept my apologies for my delay in responding to your thoughts: I'm catching up on things these days. This includes extending my daily walks little-by-little each day.

Yes, MacCaig's poem is lovely, isn't it? And exactly for the reason you state: the personality of the rowan berry. You and I are on the same wavelength: "My cluster's the main one and I/am the important berry in it" are my favorite lines in the poem -- and, like you, the lines "are lodged in my imagination for good." You are fortunate to be able to enjoy the mountain ashes/rowans up in New Hampshire.

As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for visiting.

Stephen Pentz said...

R.T.: Thank you very much for your thoughts. As I mentioned in a few of my responses above, I am fortunate that this procedure was one of choice, not necessity. I admire your attitude, as expressed in your comment: our response should indeed be gratitude that we have these options available to us, and, as you say, "the ability to continue living one day at a time" is what it comes down to. We need to remember the latter even when we are not facing immediate health challenges.

As ever, I greatly appreciate hearing from you. Thanks for stopping by again.

zmkc said...

I wish you a speedy recovery & would like to register again my gratitude for your beautiful blog.

Stephen Pentz said...

zmkc: That's very thoughtful of you. Thank you. The recovery is going well -- my walks are getting longer every day.

Thank you as well for your kind words about the blog. I greatly appreciate your long-time presence here, and it is always a pleasure to hear from you.