Life is what you bake it

“‎All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”

-Henry Havelock Ellis

Today I share my golden shovel poem inspired by the Ellis quote, posted this week on Two Writing Teachers‘ Slice of Life Story Challenge along with these questions: What are the moments you’re holding onto? What are you letting go of today?

Here’s to the art of living, to holding on while letting go, to savoring moments spent with children, making every one count.

I hold to all
moments spent with children in the
holy art
of seeing the world with fresh eyes, of
spontaneous embracing, of living
each day in newness. I hold to freedom that lies
in forgiving, that paradoxical self-rising power in
letting go. I hold to a
continuous, necessary cobbling of fine
crystal moments, their pure sanguinity mingling
with, dulcifying, the blood-tart of
a sliced heart. Letting
go of despair, of my shortcomings, letting go
of yesterday, yet believing in tomorrow, letting go and
savoring today in a bluesy canton of confidence, holding
onto the children, always the children, just holding on.

My granddaughter loves to bake. I love symbolism. Here’s our flag cobbler. “Canton” in the poem is the term for the flag’s blue square. Strawberries, heart-shaped, represent love; blueberries, youthfulness and confidence in the future. Bake it well.

The future is calling. I’m listening.

*******

Thanks also to Margaret Simon for hosting Poetry Friday. Visit her blog, Reflections on the Teche, for more poems and magnificent quotes in response to “What is poetry?”

31 thoughts on “Life is what you bake it

  1. You have beautiful internal rhymes all throughout this golden shovel. And, what a beautiful line to turn into a striking line. I’ve been grumpy this past week. But, this poem reminds me that those moments I should let go of…and hold onto the moments that I laughed or were special in some way. Thanks!

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    • Thank you for noting the internal rhymes, Linda – I struggled the longest time with changing “tart” to “tartness” for better flow but I wanted it, needed it, to rhyme with “heart,” so, it stayed. Delighted to think the poem stirred your moments of laughter and specialness – vital ingredients to life. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Mary Lee! I wasn’t altogether sure that the quote, what my heart was trying to say, and the photo would all come together (“bake”) into anything reasonably ingestible .. so I am savoring your words!

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  2. The poem resonates now. Our whole country has to let go of so much of the past and hold on to what is right and good. I love the look on your daughter’s face as she displays with pride her cobbler. Wonderful poem and photo!

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    • Thank you, Janice, for picking up on the layers of meaning in the poem, particularly regarding our country. Part of the inspiration was how children start every day new, with inherent resilience and ready forgiveness. She WAS so proud of her flag cobbler, which she did by herself with my guidance (except for slicing the strawberries). Again, thank you 🙂

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  3. In the Poetry Foundation Institute last week, I watched a presentation on the Golden Shovel. It was given by Peter Kahn. He talked about how the form works for kids because it can take a direction into something new and highly creative. You have done that here. Deep dive into a kid’s world and there is no time to worry about the outside world. Let’s just make a mess with all the measuring spoons and cups and make something delicious together!

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    • I would have loved that presentation on the golden shovel, Margaret. I love Kahn’s explication (beautiful and true) and I so appreciate your words about my poem. It was a terribly challenging golden shovel to write – numerous revisions. I thought maybe it was trying to tie (“cobble”) too many things together … but yes, “deep dive into a kid’s world”! Children walk in wonder, awe, and love. They are so resilient and forgive so readily; I tried to convey a taste of that. We need to dive into their world more often… our future in the baking…

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  4. This one is stunning, Fran! I like the repetition of “I hold to,” which makes me think of “We hold these truths…” and which gives this poem the feeling integral, of saying something so inherent about your life philosophy.

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    • Thank you, Laura! How beautifully you link “hold to” with the Declaration of Independence. Here is a fascinating thing about writing and especially poetry, I think: I knew I wanted to use the quote, decided I’d try a golden shovel (which turned out to be a maddening challenge), and that I wanted to celebrate moments and the contagious joy of children – like baking this flag cobbler with my granddaughter. I love the photo and it would not leave my mind, even as I considered if and how all this would be “cobbled” together. The metaphor – layers of it, really – slowly infused itself. So “hold to” has a foundational American meaning that I didn’t even realize as I wrote, both mourning and honoring. The photo of the flag cobbler ties it all, after all… how I savor your words here! ❤

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  5. Fran, first of all your granddaughter is adorable. My 3-year-old is enjoying baking which makes me hopeful that she will be the 5th generation of bakers in my family.
    I hold to a
    continuous, necessary cobbling of fine
    crystal moments,
    The above lines and others throughout the poem share your fine use of word play while hitting home with a significant message.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carol. Baking is a loving, artistic legacy – amazing to think of it passing down for five generations to your little one. A culinary continuum! My daughter-in-law makes professional-level cakes, absolutely gorgeous and delicious (she made her own wedding cake!). My cobbler is utterly simple, but my granddaughter, age four, did it all (with my guidance) except for slicing the strawberries. Her anticipation of baking it and her glee throughout are certainly some of those “fine crystal moments” that I cobble together despite the prolonged uncertainty, upheaval, and pain in our country at present. She was so proud to make the flag. Thank you for seeing the “sugar” at work in my poem. This was a challenging golden shovel!

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  6. First things first — your granddaughter is adorable and your cobbler looks beautiful. Secondly, I love “I hold to freedom that lies/in forgiving, that paradoxical self-rising power in/letting go.” The sentiment rings true.

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  7. Thank you, Tabatha – she is a complete joy. I never tire of the way she (and all children) see the world and express it. They are often little sages. Marvels. The cobbler is so simple and easy to fix – I especially love how baking intensifies the strawberry flavor. We put vanilla ice cream on top of it, right out of the oven! Hard to go wrong! So glad to know that line about forgiving and self-rising strikes a chord with you… it’s a play on “self-rising flour” but I know it to be true, in that forgiving others doesn’t change them, it changes us, empowers us to overcome … not to mention how readily forgiving children are. I so appreciate your words. 🙂

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  8. Oh Fran, I love your golden shovel poem and the levels of meaning you managed to pack into each word and line. Love what you’re letting go of and holding onto. Like you, I’ll keep holding onto a belief in tomorrow and the children. I savor every moment spent with them. The cobbler your granddaughter created is lovely, what a wonderful time you had creating together.

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  9. This is fabulous, Fran and reminds me how powerful golden shovel poems can be. You’ve shown how the magic can rise from the initial ingredients in the strike line. Your poem resonates and reminds me to think of all the things worth holding onto and the importance of letting some things go. This is masterfully crafted. You’ve baked up a poem rich with beautiful language, imagery and meaning.

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  10. Powerful, moving, and rhythmic poem Fran. I was especially taken by these lines,
    “I hold to a
    continuous, necessary cobbling of fine
    crystal moments, their pure sanguinity mingling
    with, dulcifying, the blood-tart of
    a sliced heart.”
    So much packed in here, I think it could be a poem within a poem–many of us are cobbling life together…
    Lovely pics of your granddaughter, thanks for all!

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  11. Such a beautifully written poem carrying beautiful thoughts. It’s complicated to create this poetic format with a natural flow that you have achieved. I bookmarked it as a mentor text, more than that as a reminder to let go and hold on. Thank you!

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  12. I was worried when I didn’t see your post before mine last week; I’m so glad I checked back! I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends who have children (or grandchildren) in their homes during this pandemic. I empathized with their plight in the spring, and now again this coming fall, having to balance work needs with childcare. But this summer..how I envied that sweet distraction, that reason to get up in the morning, to plan activities around their needs, to continue to feed that sense of wonder. You’ve captured that feeling in this poem for me. And my new words of the day: sanguinity and dulcifying–your writing is my grown-up SAT prep. I hope you enjoy many more of these precious moments with your granddaughter!

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    • Chris, I can’t believe you went back and found this! I am so grateful that you did, for I treasure your words and thoughts, every one of them. I almost didn’t post to TWT so late as that but felt I should as the quote so inspired me. Yes, the sense of wonder imparted by children is the very thing we need at present, I think. Balm to the aching, tired, world-weary soul. Yea – so glad you picked up on those particular words; sanguinity for hope as well as for its connection to blood, and dulcifying because I needed something more than ‘sweet’ that related to cooking, that represented a process or agent for sweetening the heart, in counteracting its bitterness. You are one of those things for me, Chris! A dulcifier. 🙂

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