A perspective on life and loss

Recent political developments in the United States have caused quite a stir across the globe.  Social media is flooded with comments and rantings from both sides of the political spectrum. I myself have contributed to this “animated” discussion. But when someone (be it a friend or a family member) passes away in the middle of all the histrionics, everything screeches to a halt. It’s amazing how quickly we re-align our priorities…. because, at the end of the day, it’s family and friends that really count the most.

There will be other elections. Other presidents. What is done in one term can be undone in another. So, let’s chill out and focus on what really matters.

This post is dedicated to all of our loved ones who have gone too soon. And to the families and friends who are left behind to grieve their loss.

I love the poetry and writings of Kahlil Gibran and I always take the wisdom of his words to heart.

I hope you do, too.

On Death
by Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

More summer reading


“I guess you can call me “old fashioned”. I prefer the book with the pages that you can actually turn. Sure, I may have to lick the tip of my fingers so that the pages don’t stick together when I’m enraptured in a story that I can’t wait to get to the next page. But nothing beats the sound that an actual, physical book makes when you first crack it open or the smell of new, fresh printed words on the creamy white paper of a page turner.” 

― Felicia Johnson 

Well, three weeks of poetry, fiction and non-fiction have come and gone, here at heatherfromthegrove. I hope you found the selections interesting and perhaps even added them to your own summer reading list.

Below, are just a few more for you to consider.  I’ve listed them by genre and category  (only the book title, author and thumbnail book cover). Please scroll slowly, all the way down.

Happy reading!




living-things-collected-poems-anne-porter-paperback-cover-artLiving Things: Collected Poems (2006), by Anne Porter


Phenomenal Women:  Four Poems Celebrating Women, by Maya Angelou



The English Girl, by Daniel Silva


The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman


Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card


Category – Cookbooks


Greek Revival: Cooking for Life, by Patricia Moore-Pastides


Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Category – Memoir


Bossypants, by Tina Fey


To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story, by Mary C. Neal, M.D.

Category – History > North America > Canada


Along the Shore: Rediscovering Toronto’s Waterfront Heritage, by  M. Jane Fairburn

Category – Mainstream Political and Economic Commentary  > United States


Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent, by Edward Luce

The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, by Heather Joan Marinos

Category – Mainstream Economic Commentary  > International


BreakoutNations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles, by Ruchir Sharma

Image (at the very top) via meetup.com.

heatherfromthegrove’s story spotlight for today: “The Fratricides” by Nikos Kazantzakis

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Monday, July 15 – Saturday, July 20


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Enjoy some good summer reading.

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“Their life is an unceasing battle with God, with the winds, with the snow, with death. For this reason the Castellians were not surprised when the killing began, brother against brother. They were not afraid; they did not change their way of life.  But what had been simmering slowly within them, mute and unrevealed, now burst out, insolent and free. The primeval passion of man to kill poured from within them. Each had a neighbor, or a friend, or a brother, whom he had hated for years, without reason, often without realizing it. The hatred simmered there, unable to find an outlet.  And now, suddenly, they were given rifles and hand grenades; noble flags waved above their heads. The clergy, the army, the press urged them on — to kill their neighbor, their friend, their brother. Only in this manner, they shouted to them, can faith and country be saved! Murder, that most ancient need of man, took on a high mystic meaning. And the chase began — brother hunting brother.”

Nikos Kazantzakis , The Fratricides

To the rest of the world, the brilliant Greek writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis is best known for his masterpiece, Zorba the Greek.   But to the Greeks, he remains a national treasure.  His body of writing is a clear attestation of the deep love he felt for his country and his people.  This passion, along with his devotion to his faith, and  a profound fascination with the magnetic power of charismatic leadership  ―  all come into play in his final curtain call, The Fratricides

The Fratricides (the act of a person killing his or her brother), was Kazantzakis’  last novel. The story takes place in a remote mountainside village (Castellos) in Macedonia, during the Greek Civil War (December  1944 – January 1945, and from 1946-49) when Greek communists tried (unsuccessfully) to gain control of Greece.  The novel’s central figure, the village priest (Father Yiannaros), tries to reconcile the two warring factions ― the monarchist troops who are in control of the town and the communist guerrillas who are trying to infiltrate the area.  Although sympathetic to some aspects of the communists’ vision of society, he is repelled by their acts of savagery. Their inhumanity goes against his moral and religious beliefs, yet Father Yiannaros takes steps to negotiate a settlement, with tragic results.  Enough said. 

Told by a master storyteller, The Fratricides is a gripping account of a turbulent time in Greek history, when brothers were (figuratively and literally) pitted against brothers.

Other novels by Nikos Kazantzakis:

* adapted into a film (1988) by the same name; directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Willem Dafoe (as Jesus), Harvey Keitel (as Judas) and Barbara Hershey (as Mary Magdalene).

** adapted into a film (1964) by the same name; directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis and starring Anthony Quinn (as Alexis Zorba) and Alan Bates (as Basil)

In addition, he wrote a vast body of work:  plays, poetry, and a wide selection of non-fiction works (travel books, translations, anthologies, memoirs, essays and letters).

My favorite Nikos Kazantzakis quote:

“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”


heatherfromthegrove’s poetry spotlight for today: “Forgiveness” by John Greenleaf Whittier


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As we wrap up poetry week @ heatherfromthegrove, enjoy this last one.

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by John Greenleaf Whittier


John Greenleaf Whittier born on December 17, 1807, in Haverhill, Massachusetts – dubbed as one of the “Fireside Poets“, this American Quaker was an ardent and vocal advocate for the abolition of slavery.  His first poem was published in 1826, in a publication called the Newburyport Free Press.  The paper’s editor was abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and it was Garrison who encouraged Whittier to take up the abolitionist cause – which he did on a local, state and national level.  He was involved with the formation of the Republican party and was keenly engaged in politics.  Whittier edited papers in Boston and Hartford (Connecticut) and – from 1857 until his death on September 7, 1892 – he was associated with the magazine, Atlantic Monthly.

Forgiveness although famous for his lengthy poems, the most popular being Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll, this poem is one of his shortest and is often quoted because of its quiet but clear message of “forgive those who trespass against us.”  Only when we forgive, can we truly heal.  Forgiveness is freeing. And, to quote a line from the Prayer of  St. Francis, “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”  

Poem via poemhunter.com.

Image via pimminag.com.

heatherfromthegrove’s poetry spotlight for today: “The Fury of Abandonment” by Anne Sexton


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The Fury of Abandonment

by Anne Sexton


Anne Sexton born on November 9,1928, in Newton, Massachusetts – a deeply troubled and brilliant American poet known for her extremely personal, emotional and conversational verse. She battled mental illness for most of her life.  Her first manic episode occurred in 1954, followed by a complete nervous breakdown a year later. Encouraged by her therapist to write poetry, as a means of cathartic therapy, Sexton discovered what was to be her true calling in life. Her poetry covered themes that reflected her own psychological challenges: depression, manic tendencies and suicide and nothing in her personal life was off-limits. She wrote about it all – becoming one of the most honored American poets and earning herself a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Sadly, her illness (today, she would have been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder) began to escalate and, on October 4, 1974, she committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. She was forty-six years old.

The Fury of Abandonment “Raw emotion” is what best describes this disturbing poem. One of 15 poems from the “Fury” sequence, later published in a collection titled, “The Death Notebooks.”  Published just after her divorce from her husband, it was the last collection of her poetry to be published before her suicide in the autumn of 1974. The advancement of her mental decline is felt with every unapologetically tortured word. It is as riveting as it is disturbing.

Poem via poemhunters.com.

Image via lydiamagazine.gr.

heatherfromthegrove’s poetry spotlight for today: “Love One Another” by Khalil Gibran


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Love One Another

by Khalil Gibran


Khalil Gibran born on January 6, 1883 in Lebanon – renowned Lebanese-American poet, philosopher and artist who emigrated to America with his family in 1895, settling in Boston’s culturally diverse South End.  Although he became popularly known in North America for his compilation of inspirational philosophical essays (written in poetic prose) , The Prophet, he was also a very accomplished artist, schooled (in Paris) in drawing and watercolors.  Favoring symbolism and romanticism over realism, Gibran showcased his work at his first exhibition in 1905 (Boston), where he met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress.  He and Haskell formed an intimate, lifelong friendship and she played a pivotal role in his life, becoming his editor and confidante. Khalil Gibran, who never became a naturalized American citizen (in deference to his Lebanese roots), died in New York City, on April 10,1931 — at the age of forty-eight.  The cause of his death was a combination of cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis.  His request to be buried in his homeland of Lebanon was respected and fulfilled by his devoted friend, Mary Elizabeth.

Love One Another is an extract from his magnum opus, The Prophet. Beginning with the simple commandment of “Love One Another”, he writes philosophically about the sanctity of marital love while also acknowledging the importance of maintaining one’s individual spirit.  He writes poetically about the necessity to let love grow and evolve, just as we do.  If love is rigid and unchanging, the bonds of love will break down. In very eloquent and poetic language, he drives home the point that two people should complement each other, yet maintain and respect their separate identities.

Poem via poemhunter.com.

Image via write-brained.com

heatherfromthegrove’s poetry spotlight for today: “Desertion” by Rupert Brooke


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by Rupert Brooke


Rupert Brooke  born on August 3, 1887 in England –  extremely handsome English poet famous for his neo-Romantic poems, most notably his war sonnets (the most famous one was “The Soldier”) written during World War One.  The idealistic nature of his poetry was likely a function of his youth. The well-traveled Cambridge graduate, commissioned into the Royal Naval Division, set sail for the Dardanelles in February 1915 – where he contracted septicaemia from a mosquito bite and died a month later (April 23), aboard a hospital ship off the Greek Island of Skyros. He lays buried beneath an olive grove on the Aegean island. He was only twenty-seven when he died.

Desertion I could not find any learned analysis of this poem.  The graceful lyricism of this poem, along with the theme of desertion, betrayal and fractured friendship/relationship, drew me in. The treachery of a friend or loved one who succumbs to gossip, rather than staying faithful to the friendship/relationship – written in such a beautifully, melodic manner  – resonated deeply with me, so much so that I chose to share this poem with you.

Poem via poemhunter.com.

Image via stylelemon.com, Photo credit: Julie de Waroquier.

heatherfromthegrove’s poetry spotlight for today: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost



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The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost


Robert Frost born on March 26, 1874 in San Francisco, California – was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed American poets of the twentieth century. During his lifetime, he received a plethora of honors, most notably four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, numerous honorary degrees, and, in 1960, a Congressional Gold Medal. Robert Frost’s poetry was most often written with early twentieth century, rural New England as a backdrop, from which he explored intricate philosophical and social questions of human existence. His grasp and usage of down-to-earth, American  colloquial language (mirroring ordinary, everyday speech) resonated with his readership and he became an American literary icon.  His wife and inspiration for much of his poetry, Elinor Miriam White, married him in 1895.  She died from breast cancer in 1938. On January 29, 1963, at the age of eight-eight, Robert Frost died in Boston Massachusetts, of complications from pancreatic surgery.

The Road Not Taken one of Robert Frost’s most popular and yet most misunderstood poems. When he writes about the two roads, he says “Though as for that the passing there/Had worn them really about the same/And that morning equally lay/in leaves no step had trodden back”  – meaning that neither of the two roads are less traveled and therefore one is faced with the dilemma of choice: which of the two identical forks in the road do I take? Our route is determined by the fusion of both choice and chance (or fate). There is no right path, just the chosen path and the other one that was not chosen. The poem is about the moment of decision, not the actual decision itself. By making a choice, the traveler is aware that only sometime in the future, will he realize whether or not he took the road less traveled by. The poem encapsulates the agony of decision, stemming from  the very human (and common) fear of remorse/regret.

Poem via poemhhunter.com.

Image via spiritualdrift.com.

heatherfromthegrove’s poetry spotlight for today: “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe






by Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe – born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts – was an American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor.  Renowned for his tales of mystery and horror, he was dubbed  as “Father of the Detective Story.”  He married his cousin, Virginia, in 1836. She became his literary muse.  Her death in 1847 caused the grief-stricken Poe to begin a downward spiral into financial ruin and poor health. He died on October 7, 1849, in a Baltimore (Maryland) hospital. The exact cause of his death remains a mystery. Although a very troubled and haunted man, Poe’s brilliant imagination has left a compelling legacy in the literary world.  His poems and tales still have the power to shock and to move his readers.   

Alone originally written in 1829, when the author was only 20 years old, the 22-line poem was only published and titled posthumously.  Written at the time of his foster mother’s (Frances Allan) death, the poem reflects the haunting sense of isolation that he felt throughout his childhood.  

Poem via poemhunter.com

Image via faithfulhomeschool.com.