William Butler Yeats (on perceiving beauty)

“The world is full of magic things,
patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Guilty, guilty, guilty: I am a fan of W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, and need this reminder, the all-I-need-to-know-I-learned-in-kindergarten reminder, to LOOK. Or the Yogi Berra  “dumb jock”-as-zen-philosopher koan: “It’s amazing what you can observe just by looking.” It’s amazing how much we don’t see, and discouraging how much natural, wholesome and otherworldly goodness we fail to notice because we’re fixated on the trashy, the tinsel, the temporary, the trite and the televisual. (That’s right, just call me “Mr. T”.)

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W.B. Yeats (on magic)

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), that wonderful Irish poet and patriot and mystic, reminding us that there is more to life than meets the eye (ear, nose, fingers, tastebuds…).

Fighting Off the “Irish”

I’m on a heckuva roll: it was another St. Patrick’s Day without green beer for this might’ve been an Irishman. Most Howdens appear to come from the north of England – not far from York, there is a village called Howden, which has a miniature, half-ruined, poor Gothic cousin to the magnificent York Minster Cathedral. My Howden forebear, though, came to Canada from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.

Fermanagh: my home and (pre) native land?

My preferred fantasy is that this Howden man was a poor, dashing poet like the central character in Thomas Flanagan’s novel The Year of the French, an adventurous soul who set out for Canada spurred not only by famine but by his lusty curiosity and spirit of adventure. In my dim family memory bank, he was also a James, and I’m reluctant to puncture this thought with actual research. I rather suspect, too, that he was a comfortable man who saw a chance for cheap land in Upper Canada, now the narrow wedge of Americanized soil called Southern Ontario. Still, for reasons mainly mysterious, I have a special affection for things Irish, though I’ve never been there. Two of my sons have it, too, even more strongly than me: one of them is a real scholar of Irish history, and couch-surfed there for several months.

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