The idle seashore of the mind

“Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m trying that today. In the middle of catching up with long neglected mindless household chores, I can “wool gather” as my best-friend’s mother used to say. I think about writing and what it means to be a writer. I think about how often I neglect writing, giving first priority to cleaning up the messy desk (which I only start to do until I get distracted by something I find there that’s s-o-o-o-o interesting or that leads me on to some other project). My mind works in mysterious ways.

I think about writing poetry and how I’m always disappointed when I see what I’ve produced. I think about the re-writes and the multiple revisions that often are even more disappointing than the original. I think about Slice Tuesday and “what am I going to share this week?”

The “changing color of the waves” today are shades of gray. I look at my journals, and I find some snippets that might lead to a poem. Snippets only. I wish for inspiration. I wish for talent. I wish for the right words. But nothing comes to me. I leave my desk when the dryer summons me. When I return, I re-read the Longfellow quote: “Sit in reverie…” I have not been doing the “sitting.”

So I sit. Nothing. I try meditation: “Empty your mind.” My mind is already empty. Or it’s like a balloon, filled with air and at the mercy of the wind, flitting here and there as each new stimulus moves me to new thoughts. More shades of gray. I’m hopeless. It’s April—WRITE A POEM for Pete’s sake!

So, I revert to a grammar exercise:

Three participles

An abstract noun

Participial phrase

Two prepositional phrases

Gerund phrase

Gerund phrase


The Sea

Rolling, undulating, ceaseless


Crashing against the shore line

Over broken shells on the beach

Repeating its motion

Thrilling our senses


Well, that’s something anyway, though “ceaseless” isn’t a participle, and the last two lines aren’t gerunds. But…

It will still be April next week.




9 thoughts on “The idle seashore of the mind

  1. A wonderful poem, Diane! It makes me want to get in the car and drive to the seashore. Sometimes, a scaffold gets us started, and if we deviate from the form or scaffold – well – that can be a very good thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your poem is perfect, Diane! I think it is a fun way to brush up on those grammar skills too! But most of all I love where it takes me. I’m glad that inner critic didn’t talk you out of sharing & writing today!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Grammar skills do come in handy. Isn’t it something how starting one thing can lead to something else, which can lead to something else, etc. Sometimes we never get back to what we started.


  4. What a beautiful poem, Diane! And thanks for sharing the process and your thinking about writing. I truly enjoy reading your posts and continuing to learn from you.


  5. I can empathize with you, Diane, and I appreciate that beautiful reminder to “sit in reverie.” I think your poem turned out beautifully… and what a mentor text, too, for students, to show them how grammar can lead to such lovely word choices and juxtapositions!


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