Sunday, 23 April 2017

William Shakespeare

Happy (traditional) birthday to the Bard, William Shakespeare! He would have turned 453 today. (Well, maybe—he was baptized on April 26, 1564, that much we know. His definitive date of birth, likely a few days earlier, is still a mystery.)
But soft! "From hour to hour, we rot and rot." Today is also the 401st anniversary of Shakespeare's death. He left behind a legacy that may never be surpassed by any English author.


Common Swift Apus apus Norfolk david tipling / Alamy

Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts
Materialize at the tip of a long scream
Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone
On a steep

Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening

For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing
Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they
Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance,
Then a lashing down disappearance

Behind elms.
They’ve made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s
Still waking refreshed, our summer’s
Still all to come --
And here they are, here they are again
Erupting across yard stones
Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers,
Speedway goggles, international mobsters --

A bolas of three or four wire screams
Jockeying across each other
On their switchback wheel of death.
They swat past, hard-fletched

Veer on the hard air, toss up over the roof,
And are gone again. Their mole-dark labouring,
Their lunatic limber scramming frenzy
And their whirling blades

Sparkle out into blue --
Not ours any more.
Rats ransacked their nests so now they shun us.
Round luckier houses now
They crowd their evening dirt-track meetings,

Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned,
Head-height, clipping the doorway
With their leaden velocity and their butterfly lightness,
Their too much power, their arrow-thwack into the eaves.

Every year a first-fling, nearly flying
Misfit flopped in our yard,
Groggily somersaulting to get airborne.
He bat-crawled on his tiny useless feet, tangling his flails

Like a broken toy, and shrieking thinly
Till I tossed him up — then suddenly he flowed away under
His bowed shoulders of enormous swimming power,
Slid away along levels wobbling

On the fine wire they have reduced life to,
And crashed among the raspberries.
Then followed fiery hospital hours
In a kitchen. The moustached goblin savage

Nested in a scarf. The bright blank
Blind, like an angel, to my meat-crumbs and flies.
Then eyelids resting. Wasted clingers curled.
The inevitable balsa death.
Finally burial
For the husk
Of my little Apollo --

The charred scream
Folded in its huge power.

– From Swifts by Ted Hughes.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The “Fairy tale castle of Württemberg”, the Lichtenstein Castle is considered to be the smallest castle in Germany

Lichtenstein Castle is an 1840s Biedermeier-style Gothic Revival Castle, also known as the “Fairy tale castle of Württemberg”.
It is situated on a large rock in the Swabian Jura, overlooking the Echaz Valley in the Tüblingen region of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
The Lichtenstein Castle. Photo Credit
The Lichtenstein Castle. Photo Credit

It was built on a large rock situated in the Swabian Jura. Photo Credit
It was built on a large rock situated in the Swabian Jura. Photo Credit
The current edifice of the castle was built between 1840 and 1842. Since around 1100, a castle has been located in this part of the Albtrauf above the source of the river Echaz. It belonged to a family of Ministerial of the Counts of Alchalm, and later Counts of Württemberg.
The Lords of Lichtenstein were under frequent attack because they were not friends of the Free Imperial City of Reutlingen. Since then, the castle was destroyed twice, once during the Reichskrieg of 1311 and again by the citizens of Reutlingen sometime between 1377 and 1381.
Armors in the castle. Photo Credit
Armors in the castle. Photo Credit
In 1390, a new castle was built some 500 meters from the ruins on the site of the current structure. This new castle was one of the most impressive fortifications of the Late Middle Ages. Between 1618 and 1648, during the Thirty Years War, the castle was taken over by the Tyrolean line of the Hapsburgs following the death of the last Lichtensteiner in 1687.
In 1826, German poet and patriot Wilhelm Hauff published his book Lichtenstein, in which the castle, the book's namesake, played a major role. Photo Credit
In 1826, German poet and patriot Wilhelm Hauff published his book Lichtenstein, in which the castle, the book’s namesake, played a major role. Photo Credit

A pair of angel wings on a blue background and the coat of arms of their family are still displayed in the Rittersaal of the castle. In 1802, the castle was replaced with a somewhat ungainly hunting lodge, or Forsthaus, by King Frederik I of Württemberg.
The construction of the modern revival Neues Schloss Lichenstein began in 1840 and was managed by Johann Georg Rupp. The design of this version of the castle was heavily influenced by Count Wilhelm, who reused the ancient foundations of the castle of 1390, and stood up to three stories tall, with a curtain wall and courtyard to complete the castle complex.
The entrance of the castle. Photo Credit
The entrance of the castle. Photo Credit
It was decorated by the Nuremberg painter and architect Georg Eberlein, and two altar panels were decorated by an Austrian known as the “Master of Schloss Lichtenstein.” When the castle was completed it became the official residence of the Dukes of Urach in 1869.
After the Revolution of 1848, the defenses of the castle were built in the style of the imperial Fortress of Ulm and later, cannons were placed in the bastions on the walls. In 1911, a motion to build a cableway up to the castle was rejected because it was believed it would ruin the beauty of the castle.
Still owned by the Dukes of Urach, the castle is open to the public via guided tour. Photo Credit
Still owned by the Dukes of Urach, the castle is open to the public via guided tour. Photo Credit
The castle was damaged during the World War II and thanks to the Wüstenrot Foundation and Community Fund for the Preservation of Lichtenstein Castle it was restored in 2002.
The castle is open to the public and is still owned by the Dukes of Urach.

Best-ever tiramisu


  • 568ml pot double cream
  • 250g tub mascarpone
  • 75ml marsala
  • 5 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 300ml strong coffee, made with 2 tbsp coffee granules and 300ml boiling water
  • 175g pack sponge finger
  • 25g chunk dark chocolate
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder


  1. Put the cream, mascarpone, Marsala and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the cream and mascarpone have completely combined and have the consistency of thickly whipped cream.
  2. Get your serving dish ready. Put the coffee into a shallow dish and dip in a few sponge fingers at a time, turning for a few secs until they are nicely soaked, but not soggy. Layer these into your dish until you have used half the biscuits, then spread over half of the creamy mixture. Using the coarse side of the grater, grate over most of the chocolate. Then repeat the layers (you should use up all the coffee), finishing with the creamy layer.
  3. Cover and chill for a few hrs or overnight. This can now be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. To serve, dust with cocoa powder and grate over the remainder of the chocolate.

18 Tips & 10 Quotes to Celebrate the Ocean Like a Mermaid on Earth Day. Via Chrissy Tustison

get elephant's newsletter

“People protect what they love.” ~ Jacques Yves Cousteau

We come from the sea. We exist in bodies made mostly of water. We have salt in our blood. No wonder we are drawn to the ocean’s glittering depths. There is an instinct, a primeval memory, telling us we belong there.

There is a little bit of mermaid or salty ship captain—a shimmer of fish scales and a roving sea bird—in all of us.

Yet, as often happens, some of the truest things in life are the most quickly forgotten in the rush of daily living.

Earth Day is a reminder and an opportunity to give our attention back to the ocean, to celebrate its mystery and beauty. Protecting it is critical, but it is also important, even necessary, to enjoy that which we are protecting. To revel in our passion for it.

“It’s far easier to be angry, but the only way we are truly able to protect a place—the ocean, for example—is if we love it, truly love it.” ~ Carl Safina
Here are some thoughts on ways to return to the ocean, with love, on Earth Day or any day:

If we are near the ocean:

1. Watch the sun rise or set over the horizon of the sea. Soak up the colors and the beauty.

2. Meditate or practice yoga by the sea. Create an intention of love and respect for the ocean and everything in it.

3. Get in the water. Get salty and sandy. Swim in the sea. Ride a wave in any way that presents itself—on a surfboard, a bodyboard or with your own arms and legs. Scuba dive, or learn to scuba dive. Grab a snorkel and mask, and retreat into the world below the surface. Kayak or canoe, glide like a pelican over the swells.

4. Walk to the sea, by the sea, near the sea. Give attention to the smells and the sounds. Go barefoot, and feel the connection between feet and earth and sea foam. The ocean is a feast for the senses. Take it all in.

5. Have a picnic by the sea. Eat mindfully, remembering where food comes from and all that it goes through to reach us and sustain our bodies. Think of all the climates and ecosystems on land that are shaped by the ocean, giving life to plants and animals.

6. Volunteer for a beach clean-up with an organization like the Surfrider Foundation. Or just pick up a few pieces of trash the next time you find yourself at the beach.

If we are not near the ocean.

1. If we have just a little time, read a poem inspired by the sea, like this one:

“I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea!

We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee;

And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky,

Has awakened in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.

A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose;

Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,

Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:

For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!

I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,

Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more;

Soon far from the rose and the lily and fret of the flames we would be,

Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!”

~ W.B. Yeats

2. With a little more time, read a book inspired by the sea. Perhaps The Wave by Susan Casey, The Ocean World by Jacques Cousteau or Barbarian Days by William Finnegan (for surfers and travel lovers).

3. Listen to music that celebrates the sea, like Hawaiian Style Band’s “Rhythm of the Ocean,” Jack Johnson’s “Only the Ocean and Me,” The Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden” or “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid.

4. Journal about a handful of places in the world where you dream of one day sitting by or swimming in the sea. There is something about writing these desires down that seems to invite a pathway for them to begin unfolding.

5. Wear blue, a reminder of where we are sending our love today.

6. Enjoy whatever water is available, from a lake to a river to a shower, and revel in the remembrance that this is what we are made of.

If we are ready to take our love of the ocean a little further, we can extend our celebrating into a bit of bluer living, making changes that will protect its future.

There are many ways that we can change our daily habits to improve the health of the ocean, but let’s focus on one big one for the sake of simplicity, and the likelihood that we will actually do it.

Let’s honor the ocean on Earth Day by finding one way to remove some plastic (even a little bit) from our daily routine.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity:

“In the first decade of this century, we made more plastic than all the plastic in history up to the year 2000. And every year, billions of pounds of plastic end up in the world’s oceans.

Most ocean pollution starts out on land and is carried by wind and rain to the sea. Once in the water, there is a near-continuous accumulation of waste. Plastic is so durable that the EPA reports ‘every bit of plastic ever made still exists.'”

Most of us already have an idea of how severely plastic waste impacts the ocean. We’ve seen the photos of turtles with shells deformed by rings of plastic, sea birds swallowing plastic wrappers and the gigantic North Pacific Gyre (mostly made up of plastic). It’s clear that it’s time to begin changing the way we live.

But plastic is a massive part of our lives, and we aren’t going to suddenly eliminate all of it in a short amount of time. Rather, we can take small steps down a good path.

Here are a few reminders of simple ways to limit plastic consumption:

1. Invest in a glass water bottle. This is beneficial for the health of our bodies as well as the health of our planet. Leave those big flats of plastic water bottles at the grocery store so that, maybe someday, they’ll stop making them. Or at least make fewer.

2. On a similar note, take a re-usable travel mug to Starbucks (or your coffee shop of choice). The cups, lids, straws, stir sticks—sometimes we don’t realize how much waste goes into drinking an espresso or frappuccino.

3. Keep reusable bags in the car or hanging by the front door, wherever we need them to be so that we will actually remember to use them. It seems most of us are finally getting on board with owning reusable bags, but we often forget to bring them with us, which is the whole point. Come up with a strategy for keeping them at hand.

4. Refill containers instead of buying new ones whenever possible—water, coffee beans, spices and so on.

5. Resist accepting that plastic straw, wherever it turns up. Invest in a stainless steel straw, or even a re-usable crazy straw, which is more fun anyway.

6. When single-use plastic items do find their way into the day, try to recycle after using. Pay greater attention to where and when these renegades creep in, and consider what could be used instead.

Our days often unfurl themselves in a chaotic tumble, but taking a moment to make just one of these changes is a beautiful namaste to the ocean.
Now, a bit of word art to leave a mermaid heart glowing:

“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”~ Jacques Yves Cousteau

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it’s always our self we find in the sea.”~ E.E. Cummings

“The ocean never stops saying and asking into ears, which don’t sleep like eyes. Those who live by the sea examine the driftwood and glass balls that float from foreign ships. They let scores of invisible imps loose out of found bottles. In a scoop of salt water, they revive the dead blobs that have been beached in storms and tides: fins, whiskers, and gills unfold; mouths, eyes, and colors bloom and spread. Sometimes ocean people are given to understand the newness and oldness of the world; then all morning they try to keep that boundless joy like a little sun inside their chests. The ocean also makes its people know immensity.”

~ Maxine Hong Kingston

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea—whether it is to sail or to watch it—we are going back from whence we came.”

~ John F. Kennedy

“I have seafoam in my veins, I understand the language of waves.”

~ Le Testament d’Orphee

“It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.

“It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.”

~ Anthony Doerr

“Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.”

~ Hermann Broch

“I felt myself floating between two worlds. There was the ocean, effectively infinite, falling away forever to the horizon. This morning it was placid, its grip on me loose and languorous. But I was lashed to its moods now. The attachment felt limitless, irresistible. I no longer thought of waves being carved in celestial workshops. I was getting more hardheaded. Now I knew they originated in distant storms, which moved, as it were, upon the face of the deep. But my utter absorption in surfing had no rational content. It simply compelled me; there was a deep mine of beauty and wonder in it. Beyond that, I could not have explained why I did it. I knew vaguely that it filled a psychic cavity of some kind… and that it had replaced many things that came before it. I was a sunburnt pagan now. I felt privy to mysteries.”

~ William Finnegan

“May the calm be widespread, may the ocean glisten as greenstone, may the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway.”

~ Maori Proverb


Relephant Read:
4 Things I Learned from a Tree. {Earth Day Offering}


Author: Chrissy Tustison

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Ryan McCullah/Flickr

Friday, 21 April 2017

7 overlooked women writers you should be reading now

ca. 1900 --- Woman Reclining at Desk Next to Typewriter --- Image by © CORBIS
Woman reclining at a desk next to a typewriter, circa 1900. Photo by William H. Rau/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images.
When author Paula Fox died in March, we wondered why we hadn’t heard more about her. Fox wrote dark, brilliant novels for adults, and Newbery Medal and National Book Award-winning books for children, but her work was largely forgotten for many years — in part because it had gone out of print. Eventually, Fox’s books experienced a resurgence, thanks in part to other novelists’ praise of her work.
It made us wonder: What other terrific female writers were we failing to notice? Writers whose work was dazzling or influential, but had been mostly forgotten or overlooked, either because of their gender, the language in which they wrote, or other reasons we had not imagined.
To find an answer, we reached out to several of the top female authors and editors working today. Here are the writers they told us we are missing out on:
Agota Kristof in Neuchatel, Switzerland in 1993. (Photo by Philippe PACHE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Agota Kristof. Photo by Philippe PACHE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Agota Kristof
“American readers unfortunately have an allergy to reading work in translation, so a good many excellent writers get overlooked or forgotten or never recognized here simply for not writing in English. Agota Kristof, who was born in Hungary and wrote in French, was one. I just read her first novel, ‘The Notebook,’ a brutal and terrifying and gorgeous story that re-introduced me to narrative possibilities that I’d somehow forgotten. Only three of her nine novels have been translated.”
— Catherine Lacey, author of the novel “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” which won the 2016 Whiting Award, and the upcoming novel, “The Answers,” which is out in June
Octavia Butler. Credit: Nikolas Coukouma/Creative Commons
Octavia Butler. Credit: Nikolas Coukouma/Creative Commons
Octavia Butler
“It’s hard not to read ‘Parable of the Sower‘ today and get a chill. Like Orwell’s ‘1984,’ ‘Parable’ feels like it could have been titled ‘2017’ even though it was published in 1993. I think Butler didn’t get the widespread attention she deserved because she was considered a genre writer or a science fiction author, but she was actually a social scientist. Her books deal with American history from the point of view of women of color — and, as is the case in ‘Parable,’ young women. She has tackled everything in her literature from men giving birth to this moment in time we’re living in. Her work is eloquent and thoughtful and I have no idea why people aren’t running for her books to understand this moment in time.”
— Jacqueline Woodson, author of books for children and adolescents, including “Miracle Boys” and the Newbery Honor-winning “Brown Girl Dreaming”
The English writer Stella Benson (1892-1933). (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Imag
Stella Benson. Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Stella Benson 
“Benson was an English suffragette, poet, novelist, and travel writer. I discovered her in a Rebecca West letter, who was baffled that when a new novel by Benson came out, it didn’t get the attention it deserved. When I asked around nobody seemed to have heard of her name.
The day after the election, I was reading Benson’s work, and sent this passage to a friend: ‘Poor man measures all things by the size of his own foot. He looks complacently at the print of his boot in the mud, and notices that the ant which he crushed was not nearly as big as his foot, therefore the ant does not matter to him. He also notices that those same feet of his would not be able to walk to the moon within a reasonable time, therefore the moon does not matter for him.’ Fortunately, the moon and the ant both matter to Benson. It was not a wonder that when Benson died (at age 41), Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary: ‘A curious feeling: when a writer like Stella Benson dies, that one’s response is diminished; Here and Now won’t be lit up by her: it’s life lessened.’
— From Yiyun Li, author of short stories and the new memoir, “Dear Friend, From My Life I Write To You in Your Life,” and also the editor of the New York-based literary magazine “A Public Space.”
Louise Meriwether. Via Domain
Louise Meriwether. Via Domain
Louise Meriweather
“I often say Meriweather’s ‘Daddy Was A Number Runner‘ is the African American ‘A Tree Grows In Brooklyn’ — set in Harlem during the depression, the character, Francie, takes us right into the world of Harlem during that period of time. It’s a stunning work of fiction that I return to often.”
— From Jacqueline Woodson
Marianne Moore. Credit: George Platt Lynes
Marianne Moore. Credit: George Platt Lynes
Marianne Moore
“John Ashbery famously called Elizabeth Bishop a ‘poet’s poet’s poet.” That makes Marianne Moore (1887-1972), Bishop’s mentor and lifelong friend, the poet’s poet’s poet’s poet … In her day and in ours, poets who agree on little else agree on her. Moore was an original. She invented stanzas patterned on syllable counts rather than traditional meters and forms; she wrote about steam rollers and pangolins and Yul Brynner and faith; she stitched together poems out of quotations from newspapers and field guides and advertisements and circus programs and conversations. She frequently altered her poems, revising, cutting, and rearranging them, sometimes over the course of decades.
It is for all these qualities, of technical precision, wide ranging curiosity, and thoroughly modern iconoclasm, that poets love her. But such fierce individualism also makes it taxing to keep up with her. Had she been a man (who knows?) general readers might more easily call the challenges she presents the hallmarks of genius and be readier to, as Gertrude Stein recommended we do in her own case, ‘learn to read the way she writes.’ Her poet peers have always done so, and modern poetry is richer for it. As Jorie Graham notes, Moore still ‘feel[s] like our future.’ We who care about poetry should go back to her work to find our way forward.”
— From Heather Cass White, a professor of English at the University of Alabama who’s spent the last decade editing the poetry of Marianne Moore.
Joyce Hansen. Credit: Austin Hansen, Jr.
Joyce Hansen. Credit: Austin Hansen, Jr.
Joyce Hansen
“In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Joyce Hansen’s books for young people centered on the everyday lives of children of color and were some of the first books I read to do so. She tackled issues of race, class and even learning differences through the gaze of middle graders. Later on, her historical fiction paved the way for many of us writing in this genre now. She is revered in the community of young people’s literature but still, her books are often hard to find or long out of print.”
— Jacqueline Woodson
Credit: Csigó László
Magda Szabo. Credit: Csigó László/Creative Commons
Magda Szabo
“Szabo was also born in Hungary and has gotten more attention here in recent years but I suggest it’s not enough. I read ‘The Door‘ and ‘Iza’s Ballad‘ last year and both were stunners.”
— Catherine Lacey

Words of Wisdom: Be

Words of Wisdom: Be
Be like the sun for grace and mercy.
Be like the night to cover others' faults.
Be like running water for generosity.
Be like death for rage and anger.
Be like the Earth for modesty.
Appear as you are. Be as you appear.
- Rumi
[Image: The art of Cathy McClelland. Visit this magical artist at:]