Carol’s Musings about nature and silence


I write because I love the world. I am now learning to love a new world.
Instead of Minnesota’s sky-reflecting lakes, golden prairie, and the Mississippi’s locks and dams, I am living in the Blue Ridge mountains of Asheville, North Carolina,near the French Broad River’s shoal-shallow banks. I was born in Richmond, Virginia. My poems sound the way I talk, with words like “veranda, magnolia,” that made me listen to myself when I said them in St. Paul, coming out as naturally here as shrimp and grits for dinner.
My spiritual world began on a creek bank where my father fished in a tributary off the James River. He sat still as a monk, his fishing rod at attention. The line pierced the surface of the water. The worm lurked in the cool shallows. This is where the big bass fed. I learned to be quiet here. I was happy to sit near him, playing with the tin can of worms. Fifty years after his death, I consider the silence, sanctuary, and stillness of those woods and know these conditions are essential in my writing life.
In silence, solitude and stillness, I sat beside Lake Kabekona in the North Woods of Minnesota, notebook on my knee, pen in hand. Stillness invites intimacy with nature. I glanced at my pen, and there perched a red-winged dragonfly observing me. We stared each other down – my great bulk and his/her fragile being in communion.
I call this a “Mary Oliver moment.” Mary knows how to be still, knows how to invite communication with grasshoppers and fawns, knows how to: Pay Attention/ Be astonished/ Tell about it, as she writes in a section of her poem, SOMETIMES, ”Instructions for living a life.”
Kentucky poet, Wendell Berry, loves the world also. His love is tempered with angst for the future. Like Mary Oliver, he is full of instructions. This is the second verse of “How To Be A Poet,” from Given New Poems.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no un-sacred places;
There are only sacred places
And desecrated places.

In his masterful Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front, from, The Country of Marriage, he reminds us of our greed and lays out a plan of protection for ourselves, and our planet:

So, friends, every day do something/that won’t compute.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag.
Ask questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium.
Plant sequoias.
Practice resurrection.

From my long-looking, silence, stillness and sanctuary in nature, I harvest my love of the world on white pages scattered with words in purple, green, or blue ink, sometimes a good dark pencil. The muse lights on my pen, and I am astonished, and tell about it again, and again. As Samuel Beckett wrote, “Words are all we have.”


Poemscapes at Hendersonville Library April 11, 2014

Many thanks to all of you who attended Poemscapes at the Hendersonville Library on April 11, 2014. And a big thank you for Sarah Hudson, library liaison, who helped us set up the exhibit. It was our very first opportunity to project photos onto a large screen for the audience. There were also some photographs matted and framed for viewing, but I think the projection onto the screen really made this event special. Well, that and Carol’s offerings on the cello: Summertime, Ashokan Farewell, Eccles’ Sonata and, of course, a Bach cello suite!

Ruthie (on left) and Carol (with cello) at Hendersonville Library April 2014.

Ruthie (on left) and Carol (with cello) at Hendersonville Library April 2014.

Gifts from the Muse

By Carol Pearce Bjorlie
Ruthie Rosauer and I have been in cahoots with one another since October, 2013.
Ruthie’s photos are poems without words. My muse kicked in when I saw them, and I began to write. Ruthie found poems of mine, some ten years old, which spoke to the scenes she had frozen in time.
I can’t not write.
Ruthie can’t not click.
Poemscapes, the framed collages, cards, and videos are the result of a synergy between two members of a creative team.
What Ruthie and I have in common: We stop. We look. We listen. (We have husbands from Minnesota.)
In Annie Dillard’s essay on Seeing, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she writes,
“It is all a matter of keeping my eyes open. The appearances of nature are free gifts.”
For the poet in me, the one with pen in hand at art galleries, gardens, and concerts, this statement makes complete sense, “Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it.”
Consider a photographer’s stillness. Ann Lamott calls this, “Present and in awe.” She adds, “There is ecstacy in paying attention.”
The word “attentive” comes from a French verb which means to stretch. Stretching is hard work. It requires time, stillness, silence, and solitude.
In Bill Moyer’s anthology, The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets, W. S. Merwin says it all. “Any work of art makes one simple demand, and that is to stop. You’ve got to stop what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and what you’re expecting, and just be there for the poem (or landscape) for however long it takes.”
Ruthie waits for light. Carol watches clouds, both reverent in the presence of the world.

Flower Girl

For those who are waiting for Spring. For those who have seen the first brave
signs of Spring — robins, daffodils, forsythia — even a tulip or two . . .
but yearn for the full-blown flowers of summer. You can enjoy a plethora
of roses in this YouTube of Carol Pearce Bjorlie’s poem, “Flower Girl.”


Sweet Harmony — hot off the press!

I am very excited to announce that Carol Pearce Bjorlie has a trilogy series
under contract with a publisher. SECOND WIND, a publisher based in
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will publish book one, SWEET HARMONY,
in September 2014. 
The second in the trilogy, “Continued Harmony”
is due out in February 2015. We will keep you posted when book three can be expected.

This Young Adult series, set in the 1930s, takes place in the rural Minnesota
town of New Harmony — and thus the titles. The series follows the lives
of three girls — Iris, Merry Columbine and Martha Rose.

Congratulations to Carol!!!!

A Poet’s Lullabye

Carol wrote a lovely poem entitled, “A Poet’s Lullabye.” When I set to work culling through
my hundreds of photographs to find ones that would illustrate or enhance this poem I was faced with the question — do I try to literally illustrate — or post an image that will hopefully be universal enough to ‘evoke’ a response from a viewer.

In some instances the answer was simple — she writes about a carillon, I choose a picture of a bell. She writes about a cello — I post a picture of a cello. But take a phrase such as ‘all is well’ or its opposite — ‘we know that all is not well.’ What choice then?

For those of you who have spent a lifetime as visual artists I can imagine you have already spent endless hours pondering this question. But I have spent more of my life as a wordsmith and musician than as a visual artist and I have only begun to puzzle over this. For ‘all is not well’ I chose to use a globe, with snow on it.

Part of a conference on Global Warming in Copenhagen.

Part of a conference on Global Warming in Copenhagen.

This globe was part of a series of globes displayed around the city of Copenhagen during a Global Warming conference in 2009 (0r 2010?) illustrating various issues affecting the climate such as overpopulation and use of fossil fuels. When I took this picture it had just recently snowed and I liked the juxtaposition of the snow with the globe showing global warming. Even then we were all starting to realize ‘global warming’ would better be described as ‘climate change.’ This is certainly an undeniable fact of life now and proof positive that ‘all is not well.’ But in choosing it I wonder, does the presence of the snow undermine the ‘all is not well’ feeling I meant to evoke? Does it make it feel playful instead?

I also chose an image of a scar on a tree that looked to me like a raw wound. I would never invade the suffering of a human being to photograph a weeping physical wound. I chose the tree “wound” instead in hopes of it standing in for ‘all is not well.’

I was lucky to have in my portfolio this lovely cherub blissfully asleep to illustrate the desired
result of the poet’s lullabye — a sleeping child. I took it in front of a store on a charming street
in Salzburg, Austria.

Cherub sleeping in Salzburg, Austria

Here is the link to see the entire YouTube of “A Poet’s Lullabye.”

Winter poem, pictures and musings

This has been a hard winter for most of the country. Even here in moderate North Carolina
we got over 8 inches of snow. (I used to live in Wisconsin, so I am NOT whining about it!)

I like to think of winter as a place and time worthy of its own significance — not just a
waystation to a better place and time. Winter is a time for me of dreaming and planning
(maybe this year we’ll get started on that Japanese style garden) and also a time when I
find myself temperamentally suited to hunker down and get some ‘real’ work done, such
as a project I’ve been putting off.

But even with this positive spin on the winter season it does help sometimes to be reminded
that it is not eternal. And like modern-day Persephones we will return again to the world
of flowers and fruit.

Carol has written a little poem about winter to remind us of Spring:


Even as winter approaches,
image the shimmer of soft spring,
that mad metaphor for grace,
sleeping in the raw. (by Carol Pearce Bjorlie)


Tiny icicles at Craggy Gardens. October 2013

Tiny icicles at Craggy Gardens. October 2013