Thyme for Some Sage Advice

The holidays are a particularly meaningful time to think about the most valuable gifts that we receive. I’m talking about the words of wisdom that are passed along from one generation to the next. Around the holidays, a few years ago, a few of my friends from work got talking about our grandmothers’ old-fashioned expressions, beliefs, and bits of sage advice. You may think these expressions are quaint and old-fashioned, but they are really much more. These sayings are the collective wisdom of our ancestors, the survivors. Here are a few of the ones for which I am most grateful. Continue reading

Lucky Enough

An old friend of mine is lucky enough to live at the confluence of two small lakes. I hope I’m using that word right — what I mean to say is that if you look out the windows of his home toward the east you see one lake; and if you look toward the north you see a different one. Can you picture it? On the little spit of land that juts into the space between the two lakes, right next to where families of ducks and swans cross all the day long in a patient parade of parenting, sits a small cabin. And in the front window of that cabin rests a sign:

             “If you’re lucky enough to live on the water, you’re lucky enough.” Continue reading

A Poem for the New Year

In honor of the New Year, I share here a poem by the artist, author and educator Judy Chicago. I am inspired in particular by the last part of this poem, and by the idea that as health and wellness improve and flourish in our homes and communities, the medical-care delivery economy must, inevitably, shrink. More beans and greens means fewer dialysis centers. Fewer food deserts, fewer heart attacks. More physical activity, less depression. Continue reading

On Plums, Poetry, Public Transit, and William Carlos Williams

If you look up as you walk through the back door into my kitchen, you might be surprised to see an orange poster with a Swedish translation of a poem written in 1934 by the great poet William Carlos Williams. Dr. Williams was also a pediatrician from Rutherford, New Jersey. Since this month is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share how this poem ended up in my kitchen.  Here it is in the original:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


One morning, as I was moving around the kitchen trying to decide what we should eat for breakfast, I was reminded of a poem that I had written out and hung on my bedroom door many years earlier, as an adolescent. “This is just to say,” I began to recite aloud, and my three young children stood riveted as I spoke the poem from memory. “That’s not a poem,” they protested. “You made that up!”

I picked up my cell phone to call my brother. “Forgive me for waking you,” I said, “but I need a favor.” Their dark, round eyes grew big as plums while he completed the prompt I supplied.

The children saved their delicious new discovery to share with their father over breakfast.  Now we all knew the poem.

Some years later, their sweet father, in Sweden on a layover, took the opportunity to visit friends spending a cold and lonely winter in Stockholm. In their kitchen, a brightly colored poster leaned against the icebox, a remnant from a citywide poetry festival the previous fall. Poems had been placed in public transit throughout the city, and riders had been encouraged to take them home once the celebration had ended. “What does it say?” asked my inquisitive husband, and our friends began to translate, “This is just to say…”

I cannot say exactly why, but I have loved this poem since the first time I read it as a child. I did not know until years later that its author was a doctor from New Jersey. I did not know that someday I would place great personal and professional importance on fresh fruit, or that my grandfather’s preferred choice of the word “icebox” would stay with me all my life. Some things just are.