Friday, April 7, 2017

April is Poetry Month, a time to read and/or write a few. Perhaps you can recall poems you have indiscriminately encountered over your lifetime, not because you had to memorize or study them, but just because you stumbled upon them and fell in love. As a girl I poured through the Childcraft Encyclopedia's volume on poetry where I discovered Longfellow, Wordsworth ...  and "The Highwayman."

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,   
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.   
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.   
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Oh, my, my... and what is to spoiler alerts from me! Thank you, Alfred Noyes! You hooked a kid on poetry.  

I'm doing my part for Poetry Month by emceeing the Sandwich Arts Alliance Poetry Fest this Sunday, 3-5:00, April 9, 2017 at the Sandwich Town Hall. Join us and savor poetry loved and read by Randy Hunt, Carol McManus, Dr. Pam Gould, Jeanne Prendergast, Mark Snyder, Jay Pateakos, Vicky Titcomb, Steven Withrow, June Bowser-Barrett, and a group of super-talented STEM and SHS poets headed by Debbie Morris. (A mystery poet is due to make an appearance,  very hush, hush..).

 I'll be reading two poems I wrote about my dear and beloved sons, one when the youngest was just four and we were out together for a walk in the woods. His absolute absorption in a frozen puddle left me pondering the last line which is:

"Why is Nature able to effortlessly produce what most parents cannot:
 An unbored child."  

The other was written several years ago when the oldest came to visit. As is often the way with adult children, my home's inadequacies were universally identified, from attic to cellar, from porch to yard. So I wrote a mocking poem that still makes me laugh out loud.  It begins:

"I loathe my mother's old house so,
though I grew up there long ago,
played, threw balls, and feasted long
on what she cooked, while we did wrong...

These two poems share my love and laughter , and isn't all poetry that effort to express something larger and beyond the ordinary? Mary Oliver writes about the miracle of the ordinary. With her ability to glorify anything with words, she transforms commonplace sights into something amazing, observed truly for the first time. To understand her poetry, I think you have to sit beside her on the log of her choosing and simply watch and contemplate.

I've written several dozen poems and as many songs, but refuse any title of Poet. No, that has been well-earned by the likes of my supremely talented friend Jacqueline Loring who won an international Irish poetry contest with her collection "The History of Bearing Children," and her friend, acclaimed Irish poet  Geraldine Mills who wrote "The Weight of Feathers" and other gorgeous poems that both sooth and ruffle your mind.   

Bless you, poets, everywhere.   

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Christmas was just two weeks ago, so I'll slip in a last Christmas 2016 story...

I was preparing for the family gathering at Rob and Kimberly's house in Lexington, picturing a 10-foot tree and house all wonderfully decorated, and thinking what I could bring that was special. 

Then I remembered the Charlotte Christie Bible. 

Years ago I inherited a gorgeously embossed leather-covered Bible with the name of Charlotte Catherine Christie, my grandmother's mother,  written in gold on the cover. 
A hand-embroidered cross on red silk is tucked into the Book of Psalms and two Christmas cards from my father are in the book of Genesis. But aside from the Holy Scripture, of course, the rarest content of this Bible is the family information it contains. This was what I wanted to share with my family, particularly the children.

This family Bible was published in 1861, the first year of the Civil War, by the American Tract Society. It was given to my great-grandmother Charlotte who was born on January 17, 1845, obviously a special and expensive gift, perhaps a wedding present to her in 1869.

I decided to bring the Christie Bible and ask Robby and Gwendolyn (and as it wonderfully turned out, also Kai and Jorin from Tanzania!) how they thought SUCH an old book could contain the names of their own daddies? 

We gathered together and I showed them this very heavy old book that once been read by their great-great-grandmother Charlotte. I opened it to the Family Record section. And there on the "Births" page are the names of my parents, my name, my brother and sister's names, my cousins and ...their daddies: David Witherspoon Lowrance III and Robert Justin Mitchell Lowrance.

Whether the children were impressed or just polite was a little hard to tell, but I savored sharing with them their long connection to the past.

P.S. The absolute highlight of Christmas 2016 was the sight of four people who were supposedly "unable to come home for Christmas"  -- Dave, Roopal, Kai and Jorin -- all leaping out from behind a giant Christmas tree shouting Merry Christmas Nana!!! Merry Christmas, Mum!" This glorious surprise, known only to a select few, was revealed to unsuspecting individuals as they arrived at the Ullman house in Newton, and I suspect we all have yet to recover.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


When I was teaching English Composition at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, I adapted "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and on the last day of classes cajoled my 18- and 19-year-old freshmen students into singing it. (As I recall, final grades might have entered into the discussion.) Despite some jagged interpretation of rhythm, we were unanimously impressive on the "NO MISSPELLED WORDS" line! ...and, yes, this is what we covered during the semester!

Tune: “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
(Adapted in the full spirit of a semester’s end by C. Lowrance)

Start of EACH verse:
INSTRUCTOR: On the last day of classes, my students gave to me…(On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…)

End of EACH verse
ALL: A perfectly written essay! (a partridge in a pear tree)

STUDENTS: sing all verses, as follows:  

BRILLIANT Revision! (2 turtle doves) …in a perfectly written essay!!!  

CLARITY and Concision!! (3 French hens)  

GOOD Use of Example!!! (4 calling birds)  

NO MISSPELLED WORDS!! (5 gold rings)  

MARVELOUS Tone and Style!! (6 geese a-laying)  

FINE Process Analysis!! (7 swans a-swimming)  

GREAT Comp and Contrast!! (8 maids a-milking)  

STRONG Cause/Effect!! (9 ladies dancing)  

EFFECTIVE Organization!! (10 lords a-leaping) 

POWERFUL Style!! (11 pipers piping)

MEANINGFUL Content!! (12 drumers drumming)


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Guest post by artist Kathryn Kleekamp: A Fragile Cape Cod

I am delighted to provide readers an opportunity to savor the reflections and significant talent of Kathryn Kleekamp, a friend and artist whose work I greatly admire and whose values I respect. It is one thing to theoretically deplore the effect of coastal erosion, it is quite another to stand in its presence as a witness, as Kathy has done. I thank her for sharing.    

A Fragile Cape Cod
This time of year most of us enjoy fond thoughts of friendship and family. We treasure those   all-too-brief moments when we get together to celebrate with  loved ones, especially those who live far away.  We’re particularly thoughtful of  precious family members who may no longer be with us.
A recent early winter trip to the outer Cape’s Province Lands with a group of friends led to similar feelings. Instead of lamenting the loss of an individual however, I contemplated the loss of our beautiful coastline.
C:\Users\Kleecamp\Desktop\P-town Dune Shack.jpg
Ray Wells Dune Shack  ~ Province Lands, Truro, MA

I rather imagine others who’ve witnessed this area’s erosion from storm winds and strong currents have similar thoughts. For a significant number of people, their simple shingled cottage which provided  a favorite family gathering place with barbeques on the porch and a beach where countless sunsets were admired, are now only memories.

When the nor’easter Juno, with 70 mile-an-hour winds, hit Cape Cod in January of 2015, the storm surge swallowed beaches and dunes from Sandwich to Truro. At Ballston Beach in Truro, the storm washed away dunes that had been rebuilt just the year before.  High tides and strong winds created an overwash causing water and sand to flow into the Upper Pamet River Valley covering the marsh and beach parking lot. The resulting breach in the dune was approximately two hundred feet wide.

C:\Users\Kleecamp\Desktop\KMK Desktop\KMK Docs\Book.2\Images\12-005 DDD Ballston Beach, Truro showing breach in dunes after Juno..jpg

Dune erosion at Ballston Beach showing cut in the dunes.
Photo courtesy of Greg Berman, Woods Hole Sea Grant Program.

In the town of Sandwich where I live, Sandy Neck Beach is considered one of the “hotspots’ of erosion on the Cape. Damage from Juno resulted in more than a dozen beachfront homes being condemned. Wind-driven water dumped tons of sand that blocked Mill Creek, an important shellfish area and herring run connecting to Cape Cod Bay. Water intrusion also flooded sections of inland historic Route 6A, the Old King’s Highway.

Painting “Sandy Neck Beach" 2008 Photo of same house 2015

Perhaps one of the most iconic Cape Cod  cottages claimed by the sea was Henry Beston’s Fo’c’sle, Initially built on the top of a 20-foot dune overlooking the Great Beach in Nauset it succumbed to a winter storm in 1978 after having been moved inland twice. Even the marker where the house last stood is now underwater.


Painting “Outermost House”                    Outermost House being
(As it might have looked on original site) washed out to sea 1978

These are just a few dramatic examples of Cape Cod’s diminishing shoreline. Cape Cod towns make every reasonable attempt to rebuild beaches after major storms, but  it’s only a matter of time before natural influences again challenge our best efforts. Like the holiday gathering that is cherished for its brief moments of family togetherness, we should be mindful of the temporary nature of a shoreline constantly influenced by the dynamics of Nature’s forces. Cherish it and protect it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016




Do not dismiss November as a throw-away month, 

a collection of weeks that precedes and follows holidays

or you may miss the revelation that November is, in fact,

nature’s scrapbook filled with remembrance and recollection 

of this year nearly past.

Sunny summer days can come in November, days so warm  

we turn our faces, eyes shut, to the sky and bare our arms,

We cluck with surprise at lavender crocuses blooming again

amid thick blankets of russet leaves, we cock our heads to listen

to the beat of wings overhead as birds seek home (and often

think “but didn’t we just hear them arriving this spring?”)

We notice wintery black branches outlined against white clouds

hurrying across the sky with the urgency of a mother late for pickup.

Even the air is stunning, how can something invisible

be defined by qualities like strong or crisp or crystalline.

Frosty November mornings become balmy days,

then clear, cold, cobalt nights crowded with stars

and a restless moon that glides among them

with the solitary grace of a lone swan searching for its mate.

At day’s end black and coral skies sprawl unrestrained and joyous

as the work of a child left alone in an art room.

November dares us to name its rich, complex colors

and duplicate its elegant patterns effortlessly made

by weeds, vines, corners, shadows, and spiders.

The only adequate response to November’s

unrelenting beauty and art is this: shout praise

praise for streams and puddles and marshes

praise for maples and oaks and pines and cedars

praise for crunchy brown leaf piles

praise for shiny red wild rose hips

shout praise for gold everywhere.

Praise to you, little leaf spiraling confidently through the air,

lingering long moments between tree and ground,

obviously searching for the perfect landing place, well done!! 

And praise to you, November,

for your promises made

and honored each year:

Change is coming soon.

This glory will return.

And the world will be different

by then.


Note:   "November Too" is an elaboration on an earlier poem titled “This November” which was based on an earlier poem titled “November.” Apparently November resonates with me.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016



The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve's Fourth Annual Coastal Conference will be held Dec. 6 - 7 at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center.  Writers and artists have been invited to submit work to be displayed, and the following is a short piece I contributed. I post it this particular week as a gentle contrast to the turmoil and vitriol of these days, as a reminder to stay focused on what is good and real in our lives.


 It’s a short walk from my house to a saltwater beach, and I consider daily access to the sight, sound, smell, and feel of the sea a privilege and a luxury. About a month ago I was out for a walk with a friend at Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. We stopped and stood looking out across the cold, glittering, blue-green December waters of Cape Cod Bay. A powder-blue sky sprawled above me and a few gulls hovered hopefully overhead.

A winter beach is the right time and place to watch the sea here, for you have no distracting thoughts of swimming or snorkeling or sailing or sunbathing when the air and water temperatures are both fairly near freezing. When you stand on a winter beach, the ocean’s majesty and immensity, its pure beauty, are unmarred. Without nearby parents fussing over towels and coolers or jet skis roaring past just offshore, you sense its innate power whether the waters are wind-whipped or placid.

I spotted something on the horizon, a dot that grew larger by the minute. We could see it was a container ship, probably out of Boston, heading for the Cape Cod Canal to our left. By the time we were able to see a red tugboat pulling the mammoth vessel, they both passed into the canal and out of sight.

Standing on this coastal shore on a winter day in the 21st century, imagination provides what progress has destroyed. In my mind’s eye the bay becomes crowded, as it once was, with wooden-hulled vessels and white sails, not metal, computer-run ships. This is the same historic bay that Pilgrims entered nearly five centuries ago, rejoicing with songs of praise to God for the very sight of land after their harrowing voyage across the Atlantic.

I rejoice in my nearness to the sea they braved, and count myself supremely wealthy for it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016