A comment on my post of April 27, from a kindred soul: “…I love the idea of sitting in the sun reading , and often go out with my book—but the pages remain unread as I sit and muse and look and dream—but the book is there should the ability to read outside suddenly appear” —Pauline King


Should the ability appear, to read outdoors
A book rests open on my lap awaiting here
To take me far from fragrant pine and sycamore
Should the ability appear.

But I am hooked, distracted into now, I fear,
Under the influence of lilac, dreaming on a hellebore,
Holding my breath to hear a bobolink draw near.

I’ve brought a book out in the sun only to ignore
Its poor inked pages while I drink the atmosphere.
I’ll still read other worlds—it’s what the book is for.
Should the ability appear.

52 responses »

  1. I had to look up bobolink!
    I got goosebumps reading the poem. It captured (thanks to you and Pauline) a universal experience that I’ve never given thought to! It’s something we all do, and have always done. It reminded me (a little) of the Hopkins’ line: “All things counter, original, spare, strange…”
    Thanks for this, Cynthia. If only we could always be distracted into now.

    • Funny, I had never given it any thought, either, and I got a big kick out of the fact that Pauline said she shared this kind of happening with me, even as I confessed to it as an idiosyncrasy: I can never seem to read outdoors.
      I used to marvel at the best-seller lists of “summer reading” for people who read at the beach…
      Thanks for your lovely comment….I will reply–as I know you would reply—happy to have caused goosebumps.

    • And then I would be having to decide whether each cloud looked more or less like an illustration for “Ode to the West Wind” or “Hope is the the thing with feathers….”

      • The possibilities (luckily) are endless. Then there are those lovely streaks made by jets, strange eclipses, colorful hot air balloons–heck there’s no time for books!

  2. Shall I tell you how I grinned like an idiot when the title of this post sank in – you had warned me. And then how, as I read, tears sprang, for you have captured entirely and absolutely the experience my poor words strove to convey …………. What a marvel you are!! xoxo

  3. What a wonderful roundel. The idea of “distracted into now” is magic. The poem reads outloud nicely too, as is part of the purpose of a roundel. You are a poet.

    • The roundel is a nice little form, isn’t it, Thomas? Not quite the same as the rondeau which is inspired by the French, the roundel is for us English versifiers. I haven’t used it much; it probably is not spacious enough for the likes of you, but it is a charmer, I think, given the right topic. Thank you, as always for your comment.

  4. Ah, Wednesday. My favourite day because your poem comes in my reader. Pauline does write the most sincere and kind comments and I’m glad to see her honoured in your poem. What a treat! When I was laid up with the bum knee last September, we had the most glorious fall weather and every afternoon I lounged on the front deck with a book in my lap doing exactly what you describe.

    • As I mentioned to Bruce I didn’t realize this kind of “distraction” was so universal, but I’m glad it is. Always good to restore one’s faith in basic human nature. The title phrase came from Pauline….and isn’t it strange how a phrase overheard or read can set off a poem? It does, sometimes, and that’s a marvel to me. But there are so many ways a poem may begin….as you well know, my friend.

  5. Pauline, you lucky lady, to have your words immortalised in Cynthia’s poem. Both of you are so talented as one’s words inspired a poem. And yes, I have experienced it too!! Thanks to both of you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Shubha! You too! What is the world coming to, when we of all good intentions cannot read a book outdoors?! I am just kidding, of course, but there is always something to learn from Pauline, especially about being honest to our own human nature, trusting and delighting in it.
      I really enjoyed reading your comment today, thank you.

  6. Isn’t it nice to discover an experience in common with others? I’ve done this so many times and the way you tell it, of course, brings it home. I would like to be distracted into the present far more often!

    • I guess reading is much more of an indoor sport than we think, if we think about it at all. Kindle does advertise its dedicated e-readers as being non-glare, usually with someone sitting outdoors, by a pool or some other body of water….I’m pretty sure, the e-reader wouldn’t fare any better than the codex, in competition with the great outdoors.

  7. A great poem, Cynthia ! It embodies the spirit of what I wish poetry to be, nothing beats the moment we are in (and I can smell spring). Thank you

    • Oh good! I’m glad you can smell spring….and spring is definitely a sniff in the air, isn’t it…more than any other season. I think we agree, Sylvie, on what we wish poetry to be.

    • Of course you also know how to “read” while walking among the treasures of a famous and grand old city, Yvonne, which is another kind of non-book reading we can be grateful for!

  8. “distracted into now” That is profound and funny that a friend and I were talking about “distractions”
    today and I said “distracted is being in the moment” HAHAHA. Have you noticed we are always told to “concentrate! and focus!” and also “be mindful! and in the moment!”
    you and Pauline have injected some sanity and serenity about being a person. I personally feel more like a person when I am in a garden than anywhere else. Also when the birds come to my garden (Wattlebirds) I feel like they are giving me something wonderful. ❤

    • Pauline and Bruce (above) said they had to look up “bobolink”, and now you’ve evened the score because I had to look up “wattlebird.” How multifariously interesting is our earth and its creatures! That truism about being mindful and in the moment is so easy to say and so nearly impossible to do. Better to just let the moment be the moment and not fixate on it. As a bookish person all my life, i can hardly devalue books, but a garden is indeed, a wonder to read….!

  9. Lovely poem, Cynthia. Funnily enough, I don’t read much outdoors either. Usually, like you, I’m more occupied in savouring nature – not so much bobolink-expectant, in my case, as delighting in zipping swifts and hovering raptors.

    One occasion when I did read outside will always stick in my memory though. It would have been in the late-50s, myself 11 or 12. A bright summer’s day in Lancashire. I was very proud of my Dawes Domino sports bike. But coming downhill full pelt I’d overtaken a moped then skidded into a cinder track at the bottom. Of course the wheels went from under me and I was badly grazed. Bandaged, I enjoyed sitting out in our back garden, sipping dandelion and burdock and reading a book of true-life exploits from the Second World War. All our dads were heroes then and mine had served in the RAF.

    Fond regards,


    • I guess you had the right conditions for reading outdoors…convalescence and sipping dandelion….was it wine? (I always made wine from dandelions!) Yes, our fathers’ generation certainly were heroes….many of whom did not like to talk about it, and we had to read the experiences of those who wrote the books. I have only one uncle left…in his nineties, who flew with the US airforce over France. A few years ago I attended a ceremony on a ship docked in Boston harbor, during which my uncle was awarded a medal of honor, belatedly, by a grateful French Government.

  10. Only you could embrace Pauline’s words in such a way Cynthia. You have taken me to my outside when I do sit to read and realize that slowly the pages turn, if at all – nature has a way to crawl in take over my everything. A beautiful distraction it is. Love this Cynthia, you so perfectly captured the moment.

    • Sometimes a string of words plants itself in the mind….as I’m sure an image does with you. It’s good when we get a chance to muse and dream and drink in the beauties of nature. Books can wait for indoors on a rainy day. Thanks, my friend.

  11. This applies to me too Cynthia. So cleverly written as always. Reading is my way to escape but to just ‘be’ in nature, negates my need to run.

  12. Nice poem, Cynthia .
    When I want to read a book in the sun, it quickly escapes from my hands, alas.
    Except when I try desperately to determine the name of a plant. I can spend hours at reading feverishly my flora while I observe the details of the plant, sitting directly on the ground .
    Love ❤

    • How lucky you are to be able to sit on the ground! I am afraid that if I did that, I could never get up again! Such are the trials and tribulations of advancing age. I agree that reading flora is sometimes more fun and more peaceful than reading a book, when one is outdoors. Thank you for your gracious comment, Michel; you are very kind.

  13. I spent much of my childhood reading outdoors, but under a tree in the shade. I carried my book out into the fields under a grove of trees. I brought myself back there as I was reading all the comments and I remembered, as clear as a bell, the annoying little ant or two that would crawl up my bare leg and tickle me away from the book!

    • Hello Ginene….How nice to find your comment here on a Sunday morning. I do remember reading outdoors in childhood too and getting distracted by ants. I used to be able to watch ants for long periods of time….they are so busy. I even tried to keep some for pets, once. I put them in a paper bag with some grass and dirt. When I came hours later to check on them, they were all gone. You just reminded me of that…and I haven’t thought about it in ages. Thank you!

  14. I especially love this, Cynthia, having never been able to concentrate on reading a book when the “distractions” of nature are what we truly need. Nourishment for the soul, all the activity of birds, bees, flowers bobbing in the breeze, a spider spinning a web. Thanks for this one!

    • I’m glad you see it that way, too, Betty, as we observe the real world—northeast to northwest and back again—-across the expanse of our beloved country. Books are one thing, experience is another. Thanks for stopping by .

      • What’s even harder to imagine is reading a book while at the beach! So often I’ve seen people sitting in the sun reading a book, literally turning their backs to the sea – when there’s so much to absorb out there. The breaking waves, tides moving in and out, seagulls, ships, ferries, and on and on. (And then there’s the staring at one’s cellphone – but that’s gist for another poem, perhaps.) (What would Thoreau say…. and Emerson? Ack!!)

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