Poems by Pulitzer Prize winning Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it
the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver
© Mary Oliver
The Swan
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

52 in 52 Week 3: Longevity

Longevity: How far can we go back in genealogy? FTDNA gives us this answer:

How many generations back does mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing trace?

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing covers both recent and distant generations.

  • Matching on HVR1 means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last fifty-two generations. That is about 1,300 years.
  • Matching on HVR1 and HVR2 means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last twenty-eight generations. That is about 700 years.
  • Matching on the Mitochondrial DNA Full Genomic Sequence test brings your matches into times that are more recent. It means that you have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last 5 generations. That is about 125 years.

Mitochondrial DNA testing at Family Tree DNA also includes haplogroup testing. Your haplogroup represents your ancestral origins.  (FTDNA)

The earliest migrations and expansions of archaic and modern humans across continents began 2 million years ago with the migration out of Africa of Homo erectus. This was followed by the migrations of other pre-modern humans including H. heidelbergensis, the likely ancestor of both anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals. Finally, the recent African origin paradigm suggests that Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa around 100,000 years ago, spread across Asia approximately 60,000 years ago, and subsequently populated other continents and islands.

Knowledge of early human migrations, a major topic of archeology, has been achieved by the study of human fossils, occasionally by stone-age artifacts and more recently has been assisted by archaeogenetics. Cultural and ethnic migrations are estimated by combining archaeogenetics and comparative linguistics.  (Wikipedia)

For myself, I tested in 2011 with National Geographic. It was in the beginning of DNA testing. National Geographic, like Ancestry does not keep the samples and I was not able to get the full range of possibilities that are available today. It did give the Haplogroups. The migration route out of Africa where we all began, is pictured in this gallery. LONGEVITY. Yes, recently, I have also tested with FTDNA and 23 and Me. These companies keep the samples so I can upgrade. My parent’s engagement picture is there also. They were married 60 years. LONGEVITY. My son and I were able to travel to Bulgaria to research our maternal line. It goes back 45,000 years with ancestors along the Danube River where my grandmother was born. LONGEVITY. All the pictures in the gallery here are examples of longevity. Some are in Bulgaria, the maternal line and some in Scotland which is representative of my paternal Scottish lines. The photos represent the journey of our ancestors from the beginning of time, throughout the history of Europe and eventually emigration to America. For our paternal line, our ancestor from Scotland, born in 1627 in Blair Athol, Scotland. Daniel Robertson Robins was shipped from England as a prisoner in Cromwell’s Worcester Battle, to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1651 as an indentured servant at age 24. He served his time with the Nathaniel Foote family in New Haven, Connecticut, stayed 3 more years with them and married Hope Potter, one of the cousins. They moved to New Jersey and had a total of 9 children. We are part of the descendants of this line. Our maternal line is represented by the Bulgarian photos. Our maternal grandfather emigrated to Yakima, Washington in 1914. WWI started in that year and our grandmother could not emigrate to America until 1921. It was a long hard time for her to be stuck in Bulgaria. Our grandparents survived that hardship and descendants thrive today. LONGEVITY.


Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Ancestors: Photo

Week two of the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks is to attach a photo and write about it.Where did we find the photo?  What information do we know about it.The photo is of my maternal grandmother, Jordanka,  Her real name is Alexandria but she had three brothers and the oldest was named Alexander. It is common in Bulgaria, according to our translators, Zack and Vera, that women would use Jordanka as an alternative name.  My grandparents were married in January of 1914 but my grandfather, Todor, left a month later to travel to the United States. He had a cousin who convinced him to move.  My grandmother was supposed to follow but WWI started in August of 1914 and it became too dangerous for her to travel at that time. Soldiers were marching to a destination in front of her house which was a main road.  It was terrifying. Because the Ottoman Empire had ruled for 500 years, the culture was such that the rules were, if a woman was married, and the husband was not there, the wife had to live with in-laws.  The photo of the house is where my grandmother had to live with her sister-in-law, her husband and their 7 children. There wasn’t any food during the war so many nights she would go to bed hungry. She eventually put in a garden in the back for the family and at least they all had vegetables to eat. My grandmother’s letters, written in Cyrillic and translated by Vera, were letters of  loneliness and sadness. She wanted Todor to return to Bulgaria to her but he never did. She was finally able to travel in 1921 and joined him in Yakima, Washington where other Bulgarians had been sent by the government. Many immigrants were sent to Native American Reservations. The picture shows my grandmother in her best outfit. She had the same coat 20 years later. It was well made. I was told that in Europe, the houses were painted, but in the USA, this was a typical picture of a house with bare boards and not painted. It is a typical western house.  My grandmother’s ticket on the Cunard Line was $5.00 to NYC, Ellis Island. The travel route from Bulgaria to Yakima was by train, ship, train. When my grandfather left, he and Jordanka were both 24 years. They were 31 when they were reunited. My aunt was born in 1922. Another daughter, was born in 1924 but she died within 2 months. My mother was born a year later. In 1934, my grandmother jumped into the Yakima River and perished. She was 40 years old. I think she had depression from low Thyroid. My mother had the condition. I had two friends that had it also and they both felt suicidal because of the fatigue, confusion and horrible feelings of constant exhaustion. Jordanka’s daughters were just 9 and 12. It was so sad for them to lose their mother. Todor managed to move with the girls to Ventura County, CA and they continued to live there. The girls graduated from high school, went to college, married and had families. It is a success story generations later. Jordanka and Todor would be proud of their descendants. Immigrants are so strong, to move, make a new life, overcome language difficulties and raise families. I give them a lot of credit for being so strong.

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #1

January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

Reminder to self: write the correct year 2018 on checks!

I spent the day watching the Rose Parade and writing a genealogy paper. The Rose parade is a tradition since I grew up in Southern California, went to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and worked on one float during college 1965-1970. Graduating with a BS degree, MA in Education and a Lifetime, California Standard teaching credential. Eventually getting 7 credentials by 1989, each one was a lifetime credential because of that first one. It was a unique year to receive it. There were many before, then they quit doing them, renewing it in 1970 and then went back to conditional where teachers had to renew. It meant more money for the state to NOT have a lifetime credential. Anything for the treasury!

The paper I am trying to write is a hand-out for my talk on Forced Emigration to be given January 10th and the 13th. One for Wedgens class and one for the Silicon Valley Computer Genealogy Group. The past 4 days I have spent working with my computer, trying to edit my power point slides on Keynote.  I can see them in one part of my computer but it won’t come up again so I can edit. It worked one day and then it won’t work anymore. I have taken the YouTube classes, tried all the suggestions from Apple, taken their tutorials, followed the directions, started and re-started my computer 20 times and nothing works. So frustrating that I can see it but not edit it and finish! I decided to work on the hand-out today, continuing my research. It was an interesting day and I enjoyed the creativity of it. I drank so many cups of tea and it kept me going all day. My son will help with the Keynote program on Wednesday. He will probably tell me I have too much on my desktop and that is interfering with my programs. Because I am a visual person, I feel more comfortable working if I can see things. It is gets filed in a “folder” It is like it isn’t there.  I try but I just don’t think the same way as those who are completely organized. Genealogy is a challenge for me. DNA is a challenge. At least I am in DAR thanks to the genius of our registrar. I gave her a skeleton of evidence I had and she guided me. She and Jim Riley at Santa Clara Library were able to find what else was needed. Genius. One of my goals is to make a book about the “patriot” for the rest of the family. As I go along, more hints are appearing that are ‘putting flesh on bones.” There are so many surprises and interesting stories. I will write about them as we go along for the 52 weeks.  Good start! Welcome 2018! Update: Yes my son fixed my computer. I had two Keynote programs on my desktop and the first was interfering with the newer one. Yes, my son took all my stuff on the desk top and put it in a folder that says “Clean This Up.” He and I both worked on that. He can delete stuff faster than I can.He taught me now to do screen shots. Yes, I completed my power point on Forced Emigration. I gave the first talk on Wednesday January 10th. I then spent two days perfecting it and gave the second one on Saturday January 13th. It went well and I felt more relaxed for that one. I give the third one January 15th.  I am also taking a class at Santa Clara University about Colonial America and the information from the professor has added detail to my talk. The talk is so timely for the events in the news. I am glad I found the theme of Forced Emigration. Always learning history. I am off to read Fire and Fury. I tend to read several books at a time to mix it up. Reading: a great thing to do on cold days like this..or any day for that matter.


May 14, Sunny, Science, Art,History

Today it was predicted overcast and light rain and it was sunny instead.What a great last day! We took the red on-off bus and got off at the Science Center (Amardillo Building). We walked over the bridge and went to the Glasgow Science Center located right on the Clyde River. Great views from there. We were able to take in a planetarium show and talk to the astronomers and planetarium staff there. We grabbed a quick lunch and boarded the bus for the Kelvingrove Art Gallery where we viewed a number of galleries including the Burrell Collection. Tea and cake afterward as we sat and enjoyed the daily organ concert for 45 minutes. What a great gift to be there! If you look at the images, the coffee shop is to the lower right and the pipes of the organ are on the third floor. It is awesome to be in that space with that sound. My favorite was Flower Duet from Lakme by Leo Delibes. If you heard it you would recognize it.



I was tired of stairs so opted to return to the hotel to rest and write the blog but Donna continued on to the Tenement Museum up the hill. I had been to the one in NYC which is great.  Donna said she put 3 miles on her fit bit today and the last was going up a hill and over and up another hill and up stairs at the Tenement. She said it was only 4 rooms but she was impressed with the bath, old sink and bathtub bigger than a bed. She got a tour from one of the docents. http://www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Tenement-House/



All done touring now. We’re tired! We should sleep well tonight for the trip tomorrow.

See you at home!

May 14 Happy Mother’s Day!

“Mothering Sunday” in the United Kingdom is March 26th. Here is an article about what happened for 2017 here. It is an American tradition but sometimes it translates “across the pond.” France has a similar recognition day. Here are some traditions and history of Mother’s Day.


What is the difference between United Kingdom and Britain and the British Isles/ Our travel guide,Ian Walker, made sure we knew: Great Britain or Britain is a landmass. It is all of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Rarely do people say “England”here. They just say Britain.  Here is a map to explain:



This morning, Donna and I will take the on/off bus around Glasgow and see last minute sites we have not seen yet. We are ready to travel home and get back to our routines. It has been a great adventure. We are grateful to the wonderful people we met on the trip, to our guides in Edinburgh and in the Borders and all the people who were so kind along the way. We enjoyed the music, culture, history, scenery and  we were lucky to have the great weather we had on our tours. See you at home!