Learning To Wait

[Sub-titled: Maybe My Middle School English Teacher Did Teach Me Something After All]

Thursday afternoon I was at home, waiting for a few things to happen.  I couldn’t go any farther on the projects at hand until I got some more info from other sources, so I was feeling a bit stuck.  And grumbly.  I wasn’t in the mood to watch TV or to read, so to keep myself from turning into a crabius maximus I decided to goof around with my camera.

First I took a photo of the gorgeous blue sky.  I like to photograph the autumn sky so that when the winter days get gray and gloomy I can look at my photos and remember that once upon a time we had sunshine and clarity.  You understand.


Then I decided to try to take a photo of the sun.  At first, all I could manage was this impressionistic blur which was more Claude Monet than Ansel Adams.


However, after a few more attempts I got this photo of the sun.  Granted, it’s not the most spectacular photo ever, but I did achieve my goal and entertain myself in the process so we’re going to call this a win.  Huzzah!


But here’s the thing, as I was goofing around with my camera I got thinking about a few stanzas of a poem that I was forced inspired to learn along the way.  A poem, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, that seemed to perfectly encapsulate my stuck-at-home-in-the-suburbs afternoon.  A poem that Miss Gillan, my 7th grade English teacher who was about a hundred years old when I had her, would be happy to know I still remember… more or less.

A Psalm Of Life 

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real !   Life is earnest !
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

[a bunch of stanzas that I don’t recall]

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

12 thoughts on “Learning To Wait

  1. I’m so impressed with your memory!! I don’t even remember who I had for English in 7th grade, let alone a specific poem. This one does seem very appropriate for your situation. And beautiful blue sky to remember:)


    • Beth, Miss Gillan made a BIG impression on me. Not especially in a good way either. She was so rigid + perfectionistic that she scared the knee socks off of me. I may have forgotten most of what she taught me, but I’ll never forget her.


  2. We did used to have to memorize a lot; it’s a lost art. I can still recite several French poems. I love your photos, especially the tree/sun one. We haven’t seen much blue sky around here lately. *grumble* But at least we’re not having horrible storms.


    • Margaret, I was made to memorize poems or stanzas of poems in middle school, high school and even college. Because of the latter I can recite, in olde English, the first line of Canterbury Tales. 🙂

      Glad you liked my photo challenge. I was very taken with the blueness of things on Thursday.


  3. I don’t remember ever being made to memorize poems – though I do have one Shakespearean sonnet in my repertoire. Our schools really skipped a lot as far as the classics and poetry are concerned.

    Really love your second sun photo. It’s a very wintery feel, however, and I’m not really ready for winter.


    • Zazzy, no memorization? You got off easy! Our teachers were VERY into making us memorize things– and then stand up in front of the class and recite whatever it was. As you can imagine it was stressful for a quiet, introverted, perfectionistic girl like me. Pure hell.


  4. Memorization is good for you. I still try to memorize things every now and again. Longfellow was never a favourite poet, but I think it’s wonderful that you found something that related to that poem, and so many years later. It shows the longevity of literature. And it shows that you internalized the poem much more than simply learning the words. That’s terrific.


    • nance, thank you. I agree that I must have internalized the poem much more than I realized. It just popped into my foggy old head as I was trying to distract myself with the camera.

      I no longer attempt to memorize anything long, but I do try to remember refrains from new-to-me songs… pretty much just to see if I can. Miss Gillan’s influence yet again, I guess.


  5. 7th grade – is that about 12 years old? When I was about that age, I learned a passage from Twelfth Night in record time because I fancied the teacher and he was offering chocolate to the first person who could do it. I still remember it now. Formative experiences, and all that. Pretty poem, very inspiring.


    • Polly, 7th grade is 12-13 y.o.– not quite kid, not quite grown-up. A miserable time as I recall. So, I can see how candy + infatuation would have worked as a motivator for you. Wonderful memory, that one. 🙂


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