Archive for the ‘Tales for the Journey’ Category

Climbing the Mountain of Life

Living in the mountains of Western Maine offered several delightful memories including breathtaking vistas all year whether verdant spring greens, a dramatic pallet of fall colors, or white cotton snow.  After living near oceans, in the subtropics, and the desert southwest, my favorite place to call home remains among mountains, now the mountains of western North Carolina.  DSCN1735.jpegOther geographical sites offer their own beauty, but the mountains… they offer a splendor, ofttimes beyond words.  We can observe the weather-worn peaks of our mountains close-up or far away, each one with its own unique beauty.     

    Observing these magnificent mountains generates a deep sense of appreciation, climbing them takes us to other peaks of gratitude, including respect, joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and maybe fear. Doesn’t traveling through life offer those same levels of recognition?  So then, climbing a mountain could equate with moving through life, not only on the cited levels but many others.  No wonder wise sages, philosophers, poets, screenwriters, and many others use the analogy of climbing a mountain when contemplating life.     

    My good friend and mentor, Ken Two Feathers, compared life to climbing a mountain. “We’re all climbing the same mountain.  There may be different paths for different people, but we’re seeking the same summit.  We all have our own path, and the path we choose is the one that feels right to us.” Not everyone has the same path.  That is an essential truth.  Someone may not be doing the same thing as you or I.  It may be entirely different from our way of thinking.  As long as no one and nothing is being hurt as they climb their mountain, who are we to criticize?

    As a path is chosen to scale a mountain, it is determined based on our own abilities and limitations.  We decide to hike a particular way because it suits us.  It fits us.  Others may follow, but they will not experience it in the same manner.  We can even show others a route to take, but they have to hike it to experience it.  We cannot walk it for them.IMG_3201.jpeg

    When obstacles block or complicate the hike, we may choose to walk around, climb over, or even temporarily seek another route to avoid the obstacle.  No one else can hike it for us.  We must place one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward.  A guide can point the way, but it is we that must make the journey to learn.  Even if we follow someone else’s lead, choices remain, to continue, rest, or quit. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski once said, “Never follow somebody else’s path; it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone… the path follows you and rolls up behind you as you walk, forcing the next person to find their own way.”     

    When you think about climbing a mountain from this perspective, living life takes on a deeper meaning. In life, it is easier to follow someone else who’s been there.  That is an excellent first choice, but at some point, we must move ahead on our own to learn our own life’s lessons.  The juvenile fledgling will never learn to fly until it leaves the safety of the nest.  Sometimes the parent pushes it out because she really does love her offspring.    

    So how do we create our own pathway as we scale the mountain?  The answer is simple.  The action may not be.  As we walk our path one step at a time, gather and evaluate information from our friends and mentors.  How does their guidance relate to us and our own needs and circumstances?  Some advice may fit well while another may not.  We must choose.  When we falter, don’t give up.  Stop.  Evaluate. Choose an alternative, and move on, one step at a time, then another, and so on.  We may still seek wise counsel on how to proceed from the same people or new ones we meet along the way, but they do not walk the path for us; we must walk the trail on our own.  We may even strike out and blaze a brand new trail.  Move forward.  Keep moving.  Seek rest when needed.  Make sure to take what you need along the way and above all, enjoy the journey! That’s the way we climb life’s mountain path.

    Our reward, like climbing any mountain, is the elated sense of accomplishment we claim, for our own, when we view the world from the summit of life’s lessons.

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What Are Chakras Anyway?

Here are the basics.  Several books and articles are available on the subject of Chakras.  In its purest form, the word Chakra originated from the ancient language known as Sanskrit and means “wheel of light.”  Chakras are wheels or spirals of energy interacting with layers of energy fields that interact with our physical body.  For exampchakras-310119_1280le, each Chakra resonates with a specific musical note.  When the musical note is created, the associated Chakra responds.  This may explain why certain sounds or music cause reactions to some listeners.

There are several Chakras throughout, above, and below our energetic bodies, but I would like to look at seven primary Chakras.

To begin, the Root Chakra, near the base of the spine, usually associates with the color red.  It focuses on natural, primal instincts, grounding, survival, and the will to live. It’s primal in nature.  An imbalance of this Chakra may cause frustration, insecurity, lack of grounding, or anger.  Areas of the body that may be affected include kidneys, nerve or blood disorders, lower spine, feet, or legs.  The Root Chakra resonates with the earth element, the astrological signs of Aries and Taurus, and the planet Saturn.

Next, the Sacral Chakra, usually identified with an orange color, is near the lower abdomen below the navel.  Its purpose centers on desire, pleasure, creativity, the will to feel, reproduction, and to express emotions.  An imbalance of this Chakra may real symptoms of repression, inhibitions, control issues, holding on to old relationships, worry, and lethargy.  Areas of the body affected may include the bladder, appendix, lumbar region, reproductive organs, and intestinal or digestive track.  The Sacral Chakra resonates with the water element, the signs of Gemini and Cancer, and the planet Jupiter. 

The third or Solar Plexus Chakra, near the upper abdomen where the ribs come together, is yellow. It’s considered the seat of one’s personal power, self-interest, the will to think for oneself, and clearing lower regions.  When out of balance, there can be signs of nervous dysfunctions, inner rage, depression, abusive behavior to others, dominance, or states of being obsessive.  Physical imbalances may show up in the liver, pancreas, stomach, gall bladder, upper abdominal disorders, or signs of poor circulation.  The Solar Plexus Chakra associates with the element of fire, the astrological sign Leo, and the planet Mars.  The commonly referred to a sense of “fight or flight” feeling originates in this same location.  You can tell when it activates because you may feel a tightness well up at the solar plexuschakra-3131632__480

The fourth is green, known as the Heart Chakra, and is at the center of the chest next to the heart.  The heart focuses on love, joy, compassion, and radiance to transform, to bridge, and to connect with others and the immediate environment.  An imbalanced Heart Chakra may lead to covetousness, coldness, dissatisfaction, resentment, greed, hostility, or bitterness.  Physical disharmony of this Chakra may affect the heart, blood, circulation, blood pressure, palpitations, ulcers, arms, chest, thymus, and hands.   The Heart Chakra resonates with the air element, the signs of Virgo and Libra, and the planet Venus.

The Throat or fifth Chakra is at the center and base of the throat. It’s blue and focuses on the will to express oneself and communication.  An imbalance of the Throat Chakra may manifest as being withdrawn, throat infections, laryngitis, hysteria, over self-concern, selfishness, possessiveness, or hyperventilation.  The areas of the body most likely affected include respiratory issues, bronchial, lungs, thyroid, parathyroid, vocal problems, ears, and mouth.  This Chakra works with the element of air, the signs of Scorpio and Sagittarius, and the planet Mercury. 

The Brow Chakra is indigo blue, sometimes referenced as the third eye,  and in the middle of the forehead.  As the seat of the mind, it focuses on intuition, clairvoyance, visioning, wisdom, and imagination.  When the Brow Chakra becomes unbalanced, there may be signs of egotistical behavior, short-sightedness, loftiness, or being overly authoritative.  Physical symptoms may relate to the pituitary gland, brain, sinuses, insomnia, nervous system, eyes, nose, ears, and headaches.  The Brow Chakra identifies with the light element, the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, our sun, and the moon.

The seventh and final is violet (and sometimes white) and called the Crown Chakra, at the top of the skull. It’s about the higher will, searching for the truth of life and being, spirituality, and it is the seat of the soul.  Imbalanced conditions may include weakened psychic ability, a lack of understanding, creative, physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion, being overwrought, migraines, or nervous tension.  The natural areas usually affected by this Chakra are the upper brain and the pineal gland. The Crown Chakra resonates with the element of higher thought, the sign of Pisces, and the Universe.

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This is just a basic overview of a profound subject and, as mentioned earlier, there are several books available on the subject.   This has hopefully helped broaden your understanding of this ancient and magical subject, The Chakras.

 

Become the Butterfly

It’s been said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Please understand, I’m not against planning and organization, they keep us focused. Consider this though, how’s our willingness to change so we can improve, grow, and strive to become our highest and greatest self? Joseph Campbell provided some sound guidance about this. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is awaiting us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one is to come.

caterpillar-3529835_1920    Just imagine if a caterpillar decided, “All I wish to do is eat” never allowing the metamorphosis to take place. I wonder if the caterpillar even knows of its destiny to change before its urge to spin and encapsulate itself in a cocoon, shed its old skin, and expend all its energy to transform into the magnificent splendor of a butterfly? Or is it merely willing to go with the flow, relinquish its own plans, and move on to its unknown destiny?
Storytellers, authors, even history share incredible accounts of how the hero enters as an average “Joe” or “Jane.” They then face an insurmountable challenge which often demands changes in life, attitude, and environment. The changes usually cost them everything, including their life as they know, to pursue this quest. Despite hardships, our hero moves on, driven to complete the challenge. We listen, read, or watch intently as the story unfolds. The hero or heroine continues on, despite challenge after challenge.
Further hardships encumber their journey, but they are tenacious. We even may ask, as their story unfolds, why… why don’t they just quit? As we become even more engrossed in the story, we wonder, what keeps them going? Given, some know and see their goal, yet others, like the caterpillar, do not. Some of these familiar stories include tantalizing opportunities for a return to the safety and security of their ordinary past life, one far less complicated life than their present circumstances. After all… wouldn’t that be easier? Though we’re just following the story, we even get frustrated, wishing to jump right into the account screaming “Just quit!”. But they don’t quit, something urges them, drives them on as though their very existence demands they continue their quest.
The hero keeps going, keeps shedding their figurative skin of old ways and habits in pursuit of their new life. When they reach the goal, we applaud their success, shed tears of joy, and cheer for their victory.
Our own reality returns.
We wish we could be like that person. We sigh, wipe away the tears, shrug our shoulders, and return to the familiar, a life we know, a life of safety. Our events are safe, known, with no surprises waiting around shadowed corners. Some, however, recognize they have the same “stuff.” All they need to do is embrace a willingness to change. Shed their old skin, pursue their own magnificent life, and achieve the perceived impossible.
Life is full of opportunities. cocoon-39353_1920Sometimes we, like the caterpillar, incubate as the changes evolve. Similar to embryos, we grow into maturity, to become the hero of our own story. As the hero, tantalizing opportunities may emerge tempting us to stray from our quest, though they are really just tests. All we need to do is continue our journey. Don’t run from the coming challenge, embrace it! Believe and accept our true destiny. Then the inner beauty of true self will emerge. But death to our old ways must take place.
We are so much more than the shell that is our body. The process of death and resurrection is demonstrated throughout nature, only “death” isn’t dead. Death’s a transformation, a metamorphosis, that must take place to allow the beauty within to come forth. The caterpillar doesn’t hold on to its cocoon, it casts it aside because the old skin has no value, no purpose, in the new vibrant and beautiful life. So, as we enter into the transformative changed life offered to us, don’t hang on to the things that no longer contribute to our metamorphosis. Lay them aside, emerge from your cocoon, and enjoy your flight as the butterfly.
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We are as butterflies waiting to shed the old and emerge into the magnificent splendor of our true nature and destiny… a spiritual being enjoying the nectar of each flower during our human experience.

Your Still Small Voice Within

FocusThat still small voice, the spirits, inner vision, gut feeling, sixth sense, or a hunch in my gut told me to do it.  Regardless of how we refer to this phenomena, it can aid our lives in so many ways.  Nurturing this gift can be very beneficial.

Over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes these feelings or voices can take on different meanings.  Allow me to explain.  Sometimes directions can be quite clear to do this or that and circumstances, people, or nature may confirm the feelings within to be true.  These directions may affirm that we did the right thing.  Often, that feeling, usually emanating from our solar plexus, simply confirms what we did was “right”.  Then there are instances when these feelings may be just tests to see if we are listening to the inner guidance as we should.  At times, we may not even know if we averted a negative experience or mortal danger, to which I would say, does it really matter?      

A July 2014 article in the Stanford Report referenced research conducted by a Stanford anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann, citing some interesting results of a study.  This report explained that “voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful.”  The study addressed people who suffer from schizophrenia in the United States, India, and Africa.  The article elaborates that most Americans associate hearing voices as a negative experience or even considered as a symptom of some form of psychosis. Conversely, those from Africa and India experience hearing the voices of their relatives or others actually stimulate positive compassionate enlightenment.

I have experienced similar positive events over the years.  I’ve also noticed when I am most focused on the day to day events, the “voices” are virtually silent.  Monkey MindSome Asian views would suggest that focusing on truly less important day to day events would be listening to the Monkey Mind. When Monkey Mind is silenced, the inner voices, wisdom, even intuition, flow. I would add here that, in my own experience, the voices I hear, never suggest or imply anything that would potentially harm myself or others. I believe the same to be true for others as well.  In fact, they usually encourage, teach, and uplift me. They also keep my inner child in line! 

Speaking of my inner child, I recall an experience that illustrates listening to the still small voice within.  I had simply planned to go see a movie.  No big deal, I don’t go to the theatre as much as I used to, but one had come out that caught my interest.  I was all set to head out when I couldn’t find my keys.  After several minutes of searching, I gave myself a goal. If didn’t find them in a certain amount of time, I would just give up on the plan.  Five minutes before that set time, there they were!  I found them! But then, the gut feeling, the solar plexus squeeze came into play indicating I shouldn’t go.  That’s when the internal dialogue commenced, “Well, I don’t need to go.” Almost immediately came the childlike side’s reply, “But you found them with five minutes left to spare!”  I thought for a second.  “Well, that is true.  I did find them within the prescribed time frame.”  So, off I went to the movies!  “Yay!”  Then the opposing voiced its opposition, a voice I established a relationship with years ago, very specifically stated, “You don’t need to and should not go.”  “Oh boy, I haven’t heard that voice with the associated sense of guidance in a while.”  The dialogue continued for the next several minutes as I continued on toward the theatre.  The uneasy turmoil also continued to roll in my solar plexus during the debate.

Finally, the guiding voice won.  My solar plexus relaxed immediately.  I ran an errand instead while I was out.  On the way back, curiosity kicked in and I wondered if I had done the right thing. 

Red Tailed Hawk in flightA red-tailed hawk flew in front of my car which, for me, was a clear indicator that I had made the right choice.  What’s a red-tailed hawk got to do with this story you ask?  I developed a close spiritual relationship with red-tailed hawks many years before.  I learned through this relationship when circumstances demanded my attention, hawks would come across my path.  When they did, their presence either indicated I needed to pay attention or I had made a proper choice in a given set of choices.  How would I know?  Timing was the indicator for me.  When I made the proper decision, they would present themselves within moments of my query, such was the case this day.  Was a personal disaster avoided?  Did I avoid an accident by listening to the still small voice?  Or, was it just a test of spirit?  For that matter, does it really matter?  No, if I need to know, I’ll find out and that’s okay.

It’s important to listen to the facts, weigh the evidence, and make decisions based sound reasoning and logic. But, sometimes you just need to listen to the voice within.  Go with your “gut” feeling.  The gut decision may or may not involve hearing voices, seeing hawks fly in front of your car, or having someone say just the right thing at just the right time.  Being mindful, is just that, to be filled with awareness, not allowing everyday physical events (The monkey mind) to overshadow the unseen or “unheard” voices of the soul that can prompt and guide our spirits on toward a life in balance.  

Silent Walking

 

 

It all comes down to this, walk aware.  Walk in such a way that you are aware of not only the elements present in your physical surroundings, but also the non-physical world around you.  So, walk aware, feel your gut, reconnect with your inner self, and listen, listen to your still small voice within.

Tales for the Journey – The Calling Crows

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Photo 1 By Roger Bunting

The American Crow, found throughout North America frequents most of Canada in the summer, also caw their hearts out from California to the Carolinas and Maine to Florida year round. These brilliant birds are commonly perched in both bare and foliage-filled treetops, gathered in fields, and wandering America’s roadsides. They can outwit most birds, animals, and even many of us humans. It adapts to its environment. They aren’t particular at all about their habitats ranging from empty beach-sides and open woods to the center of towns and local neighborhoods. They’ll consume most anything as ground feeders especially earthworms, small animals, insects, seeds, fruit, plus garbage, carrion, and even some chicks of nesting birds.

In the winter months of Maine, there aren’t many species of birds that tough out the winters, but crows do. Walking nature trails along the east coast, crows I’ve seen and heard them making their daily rounds whether perched, wandering, or on the wing in their methodical flapping with very little gliding. The precocious crows always seem to be up to something. Their activities don’t appear haphazard, but rather meticulous and even creative.

Though the typical “caw” identifies that bird like a crow, I’ve noticed slight differences between the cawing voices of northern versus southern crows.  One seems quite magical, while the other seems static.  One is multidimensional… the other myopic, but it’s still the familiar “caw” that catches your ear. They actually do have a language that sounds… enchanting.

It’s a privilege to hear all our winged friends talking to each other as the day begins. The deep blackness of the crow ushers in the brightness of the new day its caws declare the dawn. Native American elders have shared that the conversations of birds are very complex. Crows (along with many other birds) greet the new day and tell the other “winged ones” and forest inhabitants the news throughout the day. To the animal kingdom, they’re the original morning news team without the necessity of television, radio, or print.  Their watchfulness tells every creature about their discoveries, current events, their territorial boundaries, where some of the other inhabitants, including predators. Birds, in general, announce locations for the best food for the day, or simply to declare to everyone, “Wake up. Wake up, it’s time to greet the beauty of the new day”.

Watching crows reveals their organizational skills. They post sentinels to keeping a watchful eye over the area. They nest high in the treetops to keep a watchful eye over the terrain where they feed and live. They communicate as they work together. Like many animals, crows have been known to predict tornadoes, rain, and other weather patterns by the way they fly.

Cultures throughout the world teach that we should look at living things around us because they can help guide us along our individual paths. The longer we listen and the more time we devote to them, the more often truths are recognized, and their language can be understood by us, who are also part of that same creation.

What can be learned about the spiritual medicine of crow? Crows have been associated with creation and solitude in various cultures of the world. Typically they not only symbolize nature but spiritual strength as well. Illustrating these numerous qualities, they encourage us, “caw” to us to maintain that same creative awareness and spirit that embraces our being, never losing sight of the magic that surrounds our life while maintaining our spiritual strength gained through our solitude. Though a great deal more may be learned from the stories and legends of crow’s wonder, uniqueness, and even magic, a primary lesson says that crow teaches us to speak our truth, be true to ourselves, and honor our own unique qualities. Think about these qualities the next time you see or hear a crow cawing to you.

Tales for the Journey – Live Your Dream

Girl DreamingThe French romantic, poet, novelist, and dramatist, Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future”. Humphrey Bogart, as Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon, made the statement, “the stuff that dreams are made of” referring to the Maltese Falcon like a tangible “dream”.  Finally, to round out purely arbitrary sources of references to dreams, Carly Simon wrote a song “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of”.  The focus of this dream reference points to maintaining a relationship.  The refrain reads,

 

“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s the slow and steady fire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s your heart and soul’s desire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of”

Dreams may create the future.  They sometimes unveil one’s hopes and desires.  Dreams may also be the fuel to keep one in pursuit of a task after others have quit.  The most important question: “What is your dream?”

There are several definitions of the dream.  One describes the dream as a series images, sensations, and thoughts that usually take place during sleep.  Another speaks of a dream as a cherished ambition, ideal, or aspiration.  Then there’s the one shadowed in disbelief as a self-deceiving and unrealistic fantasy which, given the proper circumstances, quenches the fire of nearly any dream.  How strong is your dream?  Is it strong enough to stand against its arch enemies, fear, ridicule, and doubt?

List upon list can be produced identifying those who never gave up on their dream, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Mary Anderson are some.  Who’s Mary Anderson you say?  She may be little known, you can thank her for your windshield wipers the next time it rains… or snows, when you’re in your car.  That’s right while some were leery of her bogus idea of the windshield wiper in 1903, she followed her dream and saw it through to a reality.

Our dreams, while we sleep, can often open doorways to a new future, a better life, a key to overcoming an addiction, a new concept for a book or song, or even an invention.  Some dreams remind us of events from our past that need to be addressed, so we can move forward with our life.  Some also sense or see something or an event yet to take place.  Then the daydreams we muse over like that new career, the new home, our soul mate, or furthering our education.  How do these come into reality?  This subject has also been addressed from authors, to psychologists, teachers, and seers.  The consensus among many of these would say that we create our reality (our dreams) through manifestation and putting the laws of attraction into practice, which is entirely another subject.

The focus of this writing is to instill within the desire to follow your dreams.  Don’t lose sight of them for a moment.  Pursue them until you see the dream become the future you seek or until they lead you to the real dream that will change your life.  Dreams are not objects to pursue until the journey becomes to difficult to follow, and then we give up.  Dreams give us purpose.  Dreams create destinies.  Dreams offer us a zeal and zest for life’s pursuits.dreaming

So, what is your dream?  How strong is your dream?  Will your dream continue despite opposition and doubt?  Our dreams should be sown with high ideals, watered with ambition, and fertilized with aspiration until we harvest the fruit of our labors… when our dream comes true.  That’s the mark of a true human being, one who believes enough in themselves and their dreams, so much so, that nothing and no one can stand in the way of their future, their life, and the desire to help one another.

Live your dream!  

Be A Tree

DSCN0310Joyce Kilmer penned the inspirational words, “I think I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” Trees have captivated me as long as I remember.

As a boy of five or six, I remember climbing a tree at my auntʼs and uncleʼs home in southwest Michigan. I loved the smell. Too young to know tree families like conifers or deciduous at the time, I only knew the aroma was intoxicating as it is to this day. I suspect now it was a spruce of some sort. The moment I reached the peak, I was on top of the world! I was taller than anyone or nearly anything within sight, except the house.  I made myself comfortable standing on its limbs.  The tree and I were one!  I was the tree, as I felt myself move in unison swaying on top of the world with the breeze. I also recall my mother’s displeasure with the sap on me and my clothes when I came back down to join others on the ground.

To this day, though in my 60’s, I still love climbing trees; not so much for the sense of being on top of the world, but rather feeling closer to the tree that I choose to scale.  The understanding of being conjoined with a tree embraces my being whether I climb or merely embrace a tree as it calls to my soul. 

Trees captivate and renew my soul, no matter how weary it may be from the inundation of the world around me.  It’s not just the striking beauty of fall colors, spring budding, or full flourishing greens of summer that claim my being.  It’s more the ethereal quality of a tree’s spirit emerging from its very essence that transforms the fatigued soul to a state of utter bliss.

Physicists explain that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed in state. That being said, my spirit, at death, will fly free. But my ashes, molecules, my soul, in the end, will recombine with the earth to nourish a tree. At least I hope so.

Native Americans say the turkey epitomizes the truth of giving proclaiming the spirit of the “give-away.” That may be so, but trees personify a giving spirit too; giving its leaves to nourish and rebuild the earth, holding precious water so it may be sipped as nectar by nearby plants, offering fruit to sustain the squirrels, sequesters carbon dioxide to detoxify the atmosphere, and emits oxygen so humans may breathe. And, what does the tree ask in return? The solitary ancient one never asks for anything in return.

DSCN0068.jpegI wish to embrace the soul of the tree. May I energetically nourish the earth as I walk upon her and may the cells and molecules of my body do the same when this body is finished. May I support those around me as I can. May I do my part to help sustain the life around me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Trees are the magnets of the natural world that draw me in. The smell of pine, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet in the fall, the squeak of snow in the forests of winter, the smell of earth and new tree buds in the spring, and the burst of leaves in the summer, all declare their abundant joy and thankfulness for life itself. Trees embrace my very essence of being.

With a tribute to Joyce Kilmer, “Prose is written by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”