All posts by joanmyles

About joanmyles

Poet. Writer. Check out my blog at

Book Review: Ladies of Liberty

Ladies of Liberty

Women Who Shaped Our Nation

By: Cokie Roberts

Copyright: 2008

BR 17787

5 Volumes

Renowned news reporter Cokie Roberts breathes new life into

Early American history as she relates the lives of dozens of women, both notable and obscure. These are the wives of America’s first Presidents and statesmen, the founders of America’s first social service agencies and religious orders, women actively involved in the lives of their families, polite society, and the workings of government. They accompanied their husbands to Embassy postings in Paris, London, and St. Petersburg. They faced the same dangers imposed by disease and trans-Atlantic travel, and endured additional threats specific to their gender such as intimidation and childbirth. And like women in every age, these women voiced their opinions.

Roberts uses letters and journal entries to detail these vivid examples of intelligence, grace and unspeakable courage. We wait nervously with beautiful, well-educated Theodosia as her beloved father Aaron Burr gathers troops to create his own American empire. We share Louisa‘s carriage as she deals with the perils of mud and snow–not to mention an encounter with Napoleon’s troops–during her 40 day journey to rejoin husband John Quincy Adams.

And just in case you imagine these women didn’t also tend to hearth and table, below is a recipe found among several included at the end of the text. As I learned from reading, not only did she manage to res cue George Washington’s portrait as the British attacked Washington DC in 1815, Dolley Madison was also famous for her social gatherings. Designed to introduce newcomers to the capitol city and to one another, these popular “Squeezes” challenged the sturdiness of the dining table, they were so weighted down with tasty delights.

Dolley Madison’s Layer Cake

8 egg whites




Corn starch


Beat the whites of 8 eggs until stiff, and in peaks. Set aside. Cream 1 cup butter with 2 ½ cups sugar. Add 1 cup milk slowly, mix well. Add ¾ cup corn starch and 3 cups sifted flour to the butter-egg mixture. Mix well and add 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla. Fold in the egg whites carefully. Bake in 4 layer pans, well greased. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the ake springs back when touched lightly. Cool on racks and frost with Dolley’s Caramel.

*Unfortunately, Dolley’s Caramel is not included In the text

Like a Pool

Like a pool to my soul are Your blessings, Holy One,

In this parched, arid desert of dreams.

Day by day they elude me as natural or chance,

For the eye knows not what is and what seems.

But with each single droplet fresh visions appear,

And like Adam, we’re called to respond–

To wake to Your presence and a lessening of fear,

Or to idly stand by in the pond.

Either way, Spiris essence will anoint as with oil.

Either way, You will call us by name

To account for the seeds we have sown in Your soil,

To our part in kindling Love’s flame.

*From my journal*

It Is Enough

Dear Friends,

I claim membership to the community of creative folk, those who seek goodness and sweetness in all things of nature and fellow humans.

And as a means of giving back for all that I receive, I write, poetry mostly.

For words have their subtle way of coaxing and influencing, and I would use mine for goodness only, to bless and inspire any who read.

If my words bring the slightest comfort or a twinge of delight, if my images expands someone’s sense of wonder and appreciation of the natural world, if what I write draws the reader closer to Love Divine,

It is enough.

Wishing you blessings and sweetness,


Find A Tree

If you can’t see the forest

Find a tree.

Lean up against its sturdy trunk

With a book to read or the sky to watch.

Gaze into its branches and leaves

To bear witness to life and grace and joy.

Fondle the ancient skin

Rutted by time and wisdom,

The face of Gramma

When I climbed into her lovely shade

At the end of a too-long day

And felt herarms reach for me.

*In honor of Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish celebration of trees and all they mean to us*

And all Her Peers

*A poem I wrote to honor Anna khmatova who witness unspeakable events in Russia during her lifetime. Strangely appropriate these days in America.*

And All Her Peers

A notebook burns–your verses in the flames

Kaleidoscopically ignite, to sing.

Half-truths and lies require no censuring,

Mutations of the muse. Oh, better mute,

Assuredly–the people’s voice, their soul,

Transported off to camps, imprisoned and

Obliterated both by guns and fear,

Veraciously consumed, like everything.

And Witness waits for words to reappear.


During Ari’s darkest moments in early January, I phoned one of the vets at Guide Dogs for the Blind

(GDB) for advice.

“No one will judge you,” she assured me as I wept into the phone, “if you think Ari has reached the end of his life.”

“I know, I know. He’s really trying, and so far we are handling things…”


“…how will I know when it’s time?” I asked at last.

“You’ll know,” she said gently, “by his quality of life.“

“His quality of life?”

“Yes. A dog’s life is about more than eating and relieving. You can’t even go by his appetite, or whether he wags his tail.”


“What then?”

“It’s all about whether he is still happy, you know, if he plays, things like that.”

So I started paying closer attention. Was Ari happy? Or was he only eating and relieving? For a very long time, we were focused only on getting him to move through the house, to go outside, to eat his usual amount of kibble.

But was he happy, actually happy?

His favorite toys, Haver the squeaky lizard, Buddy the bulbous fox, Princess Duck, and even Opie the opossum Still lay huddled in a pile in the bedroom, sadly abandoned, perhaps forgotten forever.

J and I tried to include them in our routines. We pointed at Haver, and nudged hopefully, “Hey, want to play, Ari?”

But Ari was not interested. Maybe he was still too unsteady on his feet, or too weak. Maybe…

Then one evening our daughter CC and her husband came over for dinner.

Ari was pleasant enough. He greeted them at the door, and joined CC and me in our yoga session, taking his usual place on a nearby cushion.

But once we were busily involved in eating, the house abuzz with chatter and fun, something came over Ari. He suddenly remembered CC was his long-time competitor for my attention.

You see, from the day I brought Ari home from GDB, he had tried to nudge CC out of the way. If we were sitting on the sofa together chatting, he would squeeze up as close as physically possible to me and ever-so-subtly push her away. Her moving out and getting married didn’t change anything for Ari. He was my teammate, and CC better know it.

So it should not have surprised me when I suddenly became aware of Ari pushing Haver against my knee under the dinner table. CC was talking to me too much, and Ari was reasserting his position .

I tossed the toy a few times, and yes, Ari brought it back to me just as often. His old spunk wasn’t the same, and obviously pouncing was out of the question, but I had my answer. For now anyway.

Ari is happy. Play is still with us, somewhat daintier, but with us. And so is Ari! .


Even Now

Deep in the night you know.

Small and alone you crave it.

The rain rushes down,

And the winds multiply.

The house creaks with questions,

Like unnamed phantoms moaning.

The heart strains to gallop,

But the path is sure.

Deep in the night you know

The dawn is on its way.


It’s amazing how days of sad and serious struggle so easily overtake every positive thought and sap the very life energy from a person.

And it is just as amazing how such days blur and fade into mistas positive energy and goodness returns to one’s thoughts and one’s world.

Such are the mysteries and miracles I continue to contemplate day by day on this Journey.


Meanwhile, Ari happily gallops up and down the carpeted hall, follows J and me into the tiled kitchen and laundry room, eats heartily from a ceramic bowl *still objecting to his dogbowl*, and even brings an occasional friend to join the fun.

*dancing feet*

And every moment I delight in where we are , right now, together and functioning, tucked miraculously inside Life and Love Divine.

With you on the Journey!