We’ve been loving Jane Hirshfield’s wonderful poem I Wanted to Be Surprised from her new collection Ledger. It is the lens through which we’ve been looking to discover uplifting…surprises…  like this sublime painting by Philip Sutton of a fruit tree in his garden with its blossoms in full bloom*.

(Listen to Hirshfield read the poem here)


I Wanted to Be Surprised  

To such a request, the world is obliging.
In just the past week, a rotund porcupine,
who seemed equally startled by me.

The man who swallowed a tiny microphone
to record the sounds of his body,
not considering beforehand how he might remove it.

A cabbage and mustard sandwich on marbled bread.

How easily the large spiders were caught with a clear plastic cup
surprised even them.

I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended.
Or why each time a new fossil, Earth-like planet, or war.
Or that no one kept being there when the doorknob had clearly.

What should not have been so surprising:
my error after error, recognized when appearing on the faces of others.

What did not surprise enough:
my daily expectation that anything would continue,
and then that so much did continue, when so much did not.

Small rivulets still flowing downhill when it wasn’t raining.
A sister’s birthday.

Also, the stubborn, courteous persistence.
That even today please means please,
good morning is still understood as good morning,

and that when I wake up,
the window’s distant mountain remains a mountain,
the borrowed city around me is still a city, and standing.

Its alleys and markets, offices of dentists,
drug store, liquor store, Chevron.
Its library that charges—a happy surprise—no fine for overdue books:
Borges, Baldwin, Szymborska, Morrison, Cavafy.

this beautiful tiny instagram film of Louise Bourgeois talking about drawing, from Hauser +Wirth

Drawings are thought feathers, they are ideas that I seize in mid-flight and put down on paper.


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the fallen Pennsylvania log that local wildlife use to cross a stream.  We love seeing black bears, bobcats, deer, squirrels and beavers scurrying across as they go about their lives…

Shaun the Sheep: Adventures From Mossy Bottom on Netflix, a stop-motion series from the “Wallace and Gromit” universe.  It is wildly creative, charming, silly, fun, completely entertaining.  Each 13-minute episode provides instant relief and joy. When we’re feeling flattened by the news, we watch one.

*And here’s Philip Sutton talking about his amazing tree, at top, from the Tate Modern’s ever-illuminating instagram:

​’For me colour is all about invention, having the freedom to choose from a kaleidoscope of options rather than matching reality. I feel like a wild musician running through an orchestra, playing any instrument I wish.’ 


I Wanted to Be Surprised  

To such a request, the world is obliging




Related Posts:

Lessons In Slowing Down (Pico Iyer, Vija Celmins, W.S. Merwin…)

Sardinian Women Show How To Wash Dishes With Passion And Joy

W.S. Merwin’s Lines Of Gratitude

Learning To See Through Their Brushstrokes And Their Paint (Francis Alÿs, Matisse)

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