Improvised Life » poems If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Thu, 13 Nov 2014 09:20:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Maira Kalman’s Favorite Things (What are Yours?) Tue, 04 Nov 2014 09:31:24 +0000

Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman’s latest book My Favorite Things is already proving to be an enduring beauty on our morning reading pile. It features more than fifty objects from both the Cooper-Hewitt and Kalman’s personal collections — an Ingo Maurer lamp, Rietveld’s Z chair, a pair of Toscanini’s pants, photographs Kalman has taken of people walking towards and away from her, to name a few —with Kalman’s handwritten reflections on their meaning.

The strange little book is a meditation really, on the ways rooms, hats, shoes, things of all sorts, resonate in our lives, inside and out. We find opening it anywhere gives us an excellent shift of view with which to start our day. (more…)

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So Many Pathways At Any Given Moment Thu, 16 Oct 2014 07:59:48 +0000

Ellie Davies

This morning we ready this haiku by Buson:

       Coming back—
so many pathways
       through the spring grass.

Only nine words, it has been resonating all day (more…)

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Song for Monday: ‘Throw it Away’ (Abbey Lincoln) Mon, 06 Oct 2014 07:28:31 +0000

Chris Eldredge recently sent this crazy-beautiful song by Abbey Lincoln (below). "These magic words in a magic book" seem perfect for re-entry to Improvised Life after the challenges of the past few weeks. Lincoln's lyrics could be Improvised Life's anthem and are a fine way to enter a Monday morning.]]> 5
Poem for Monday: Ode to the Happy Day Mon, 22 Sep 2014 08:11:02 +0000

Holton Rower sent us this image, and Neruda’s Ode to the Happy Day jumped into our lap right after it.

Although we’ve had some difficult things to deal with lately — everyone we know has had difficult things to deal with — we love imagining “nothing has happened to anyone“, and then being happy “just because I breathe”, if only for a moment…and then another…and then another… (more…)

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Extra Long Ribbon Book Mark to Mark Many Pages Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:00:51 +0000

Sally Schneider

Last weekend we bought a big fat book of Pablo Neruda’s odes for a dear friend’s birthday gift. Loving to improvise the presentation of our gifts, we went to our collection of found ribbons and wrappings wondering what would strike us.

A very long, thin green ribbon gave us the answer: it would become a 3-foot+ bookmark that could wind in and out of the book to mark the odes we wanted our friend to read first, so that they too would become a kind of gift. (more…)

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Wake Up: Weave Wonder Out of Failure Mon, 15 Sep 2014 08:57:22 +0000

Recently, it feels like no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to erase the ominous “f” word, spelled out across my interior blackboard in capital letters: F A I L U R E.

My insomniac “fail”  rumination was interrupted at dawn when a photograph flew over my e-transom, jolting me out of my gloom, making me laugh out loud. (more…)

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Re-entry…What We Learned On Our Summer Stay-cation Tue, 02 Sep 2014 08:01:28 +0000


Monday evening of Labor Day, we could positively FEEL the shift of air and energy as the entire country grabbed every last BIT before the official end of summer. In the park we look out on, there was SERIOUS barbecue action, music, dancing, LIFE going on. We spent the day hanging on the terrace reflecting on our three-week stay-cation that turned out way different than we had imagined. (more…)

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Life Lesson from a Simple Kid’s Lanyard Mon, 11 Aug 2014 08:58:12 +0000

Susan Dworski

Recently, I discovered a forgotten neon pink plastic lanyard at the bottom of a basket of cat toys. Made at summer camp two years ago, it was a gift from a small person, presented with a shy smile "I made it, just for you." When I read this poem by poet Billy Collins, I suddenly felt saddened that I had been so cavalier in discounting its importance. Finding it again felt huge––like a redemption.]]> 5
How to Think in Haiku (and a Haiku about Grasses) Mon, 21 Jul 2014 08:41:12 +0000

Sally Schneider

At the very end of May, we planted grasses in the planter on the Laboratory’s patio. Since then, they’ve grown like wild fire, along with the Morning Glory vine we plunked into their soil to further screen us from our neighbors. We love watching the grasses move in the breeze; they seem to constantly change and catch the light in new ways.  The other day, we read a haiku by Issa that revealed a quality that we hadn’t been conscious of:  (more…)

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‘To Come Home to Yourself’, John O’Donohue’s Blessing Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:17:40 +0000

We learned of Irish poet John O’Donohue when reader Mary Kelly sent us his powerful words in response to our post about Human Error Messages. She wrote:

John O’Donohue, who wrote Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom and who celebrated our wildness and crazy strength, often has words that dissolve hardness inside me – I read this yesterday and it made me feel soft and new . . .

The blessing/poem/prayer is called To Come Home to Yourself.  A reminder we can use daily.



Thank you Mary Kelly and for your own very descriptive word: “celebrate our wildness and crazy strength” (more...)]]> 1 Where do you find “clear profit?” Tue, 17 Jun 2014 08:47:19 +0000

Clear profit. We DO have that in the sky, friends and our daily interactions with our readers, who always surprise.Can that profit pay the bills and all that goes into making Improvised Life? The jury's out. It makes us wonder: What IS this stuff called money, really? Our friend Holton Rower makes art out of it!]]> 0
How Poetry Comes to Me (Gary Snyder) Mon, 09 Jun 2014 23:00:01 +0000

Gary Snyder

When inspiration comes: you have to go to meet it…


From one of our favorite, endlessly-yielding books: The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry, and Translations. Open it anywhere to find a nugget.




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Maya Angelou’s Wise Words about Life and Table Thu, 29 May 2014 23:00:31 +0000

Maria Robledo

On Wednesday, Maria Robledo sent us this image of a quote by writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou:

Sitting down to a table is one of the few times we can be intimate with one another.

We were stunned by Angelou’s words. We believe them deeply, but had not consciously realized that what happens when people sit together at table is truly “intimacy”, until we read her perfect quote.  We planned to write about that idea — about making a space and time to sit at table, and just how valuable and potent an act it is —when the following day, yesterday, we learned that Angelou had passed away.

The women had a WAY with words and with living. So we’ve selected a few here as tribute. (more…)

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The Last of the Cherry Blossoms with Haiku Thu, 15 May 2014 08:09:02 +0000

Sally Schneider

Last week’s wild weather knocked most of the glorious cherry blossoms off the trees. We found ourselves walking through a wondrous pink “snow”, and noticed the tulips filled with it.

We sent a photo of this surprising landscape to a few friends. One sent back a haiku by the Japanese poet Dosho: (more…)

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