07 March 2017

Paula's House of Toast

Almost straight after I started blogging, I found Paula's House of Toast, a treasure trove of poetry and the most exquisite photography and by-the-way observations. 
Her posts made my heart leap and open my eyes to the intricate beauty of nature again and again.

In April 2015, she wrote
There's nothing like a sudden calamity to bring things into perspective.
The calamity was a brain hemorrhage and she died some weeks later.

Her blog is still online and I hope it will remain there for ever as a celebration of Paula's gifts and insights. You can get lost there, reading and thinking for hours.
The blog is here. 

Today, her partner posted a link to a review of Paula's poetry and oh my, she was an amazing poet.

…We, who boast of souls, can't countenance
the gray and small, the commonplace and humble.
Yet watch the squirrel flow along the fence,
feet grazing the pickets, impossibly nimble—
he does not amplify his self-display
in social media, or leverage
his brand, consultant-honed; does not employ
a life coach, guru, shopper, trainer, mage.
Undisturbed by thoughts of betterment,
he gazes back at me through window glass
with such a pure and cold indifference
that it could swell and fill the universe,
replacing profit, noise, ambition, greed
with something truer than the love of God.


Colette said...

I wish I had the eyes and sensibility of a poet so I could relax into a moment like that. I have told this story before an a comment on another's blog, but this poem moves me to retell it here. I once shared a "squirrely" moment with A.R. Ammons. He was a professor in the English Department on the 3rd floor at Cornell, and I was a staff member managing the Classics Department on the 2nd floor of Goldwin Smith Hall. On my way into the building one morning I stopped to watch a squirrel who was up to some hijinks by the stairwell. I heard someone else walk up behind me who also stopped to watch. We did not speak. When I turned to see who it was, it was Archie Ammons. I often wondered how his experience of that moment might have differed from mine. This poem gives me some insight into the mind of a poet.

molly said...

I have an on-going battle with the squirrels around here. They want what's in the bird feeder and I don't want them to have it. It's for the birds, I tell them, go find some nuts, but they are so cheeky and so clever they always outsmart whatever obstacles I put in their way. Like Colette, I wish I had the eyes of a poet and the ability to see connections between tiny events ("a squirrel flowing along a fence...") and global ones....

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me of Paula's House of Toast. I remember reading her years ago, and then later going back and finding that she had died. Her poem is so beautiful. Finding the evocative moment in the presence of a squirrel.

Colette said...

And, of course, when I said the 3rd floor of Cornell, I REALLY meant the 3rd floor of Goldwin Smith Hall.

37paddington said...

How strange and wonderful that I read that poem while sitting at my desk, which is in front of a window, which looks out onto a tree, where a squirrel has been constructing a nest all morning, stopping occasionally to gaze at me in exactly the way Paula describes.

I am sorry I missed this soul while she was on earth. Perhaps I will yet meet her one day. Thank you for letting me know she was here.

Sabine said...

He is the one who wrote the poem on anxiety? I'd swap working in the medical research section for a week on a Classics Dept.

Sabine said...

Same here but I have given up and it seems the squirrels do share after all.

am said...

Thank you for this. Not sure when I found Paula's blog. Heartening to read about her today and revisit her photos and writing.

molly said...

Today seems to be squirrel day! Spoke to my son tonight as he was driving home from work with a hat full of baby squirrels in his lap! They'd fallen out of a tree that was being pruned, onto the roof of a house and from there toppled to the ground. He will try to keep them alive 'til they can fend for themselves again. Crazy big guy but I love his soft heart!

Colette said...



Does inspiration originate in nature, in external reality, or in the self?


I think it comes from anxiety. That is to say, either the mind or the body is already rather highly charged and in need of some kind of expression, some way to crystallize and relieve the pressure. And it seems to me that if you’re in that condition and an idea, an insight, an association occurs to you, then that energy is released through the expression of that insight or idea, and after the poem is written, you feel a certain resolution and calmness. Well, I won’t say a “momentary stay against confusion” (Robert Frost’s phrase) but that’s what I mean. I think it comes from that. You know, Bloom says somewhere that poetry is anxiety.

Sabine said...

Thanks! Look here also: https://vimeo.com/54415757