Tag: Wisconsin Veterans

Poems For My Father

love for you
became her care
until she joined you there
grief gives way to fields and wind
and now I hear your voice again

(Published in Bell’s Letters.)


rain in dark night
refreshes each leaf
today I think of you
no longer with grief


I posted my Christmas poem for my father again in December 2017:

A Poem For You (1991).


In loving memory, for Harold A. Borgh (1915 – 1983).  My father taught history at Wauwatosa East High School.


Wait on the Lord: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the Lord.

Psalm 27: 14 (KJV)


Lake Michigan
June 2018

Ellen Grace Olinger

Paul Brandt School Forest

Today I learned there is a beautiful website for the Paul Brandt School Forest.

Some of you may remember the poem I wrote for my cousin Paul.  My mother was his godmother.

For Paul F. Brandt

Another death
a sudden death
this autumn of
winter in October.

Condolences pour in
your service strengthens
and your body is laid to rest
in beloved Wisconsin land.

Now the grief begins
and how else could it be?

Surely a few people
will remain with us
in our loving sorrow
like the golden leaves
left on the tree
outside my window
that will turn green again . . .

Published first in Time Of Singing (Fall 2008).

Autumn rain

How gently sometimes one chapter ends, and another begins.  Seamless.  Sometimes too there are traumas.  My cousin, Paul Brandt, died suddenly at the age of 60, in 2006.

Paul was influenced by Aldo Leopold.  Paul is well-known in southwestern Wisconsin, for his gifts of land and savings to conservation.

My poem, “Winter In October,” was for Paul and I posted it here.  My post also includes a photo by Ruth Bauer of the Paul Brandt School Forest.

Paul was a Vietnam veteran and knew he was mortal.  He lived simply and left so much for others to enjoy.  He left everything so well-organized.

Paul Brandt also established The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Fund, with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.  He practiced what he preached.  My mother was his godmother.

how gently
this day begins
Autumn rain

Blessings, Ellen

a few thoughts on July 4

Conversations are always lively in my family, with many points of view.  My father taught American history, after he served in World War II, and here it is the Fourth of July.  It is still cool here, although I’m beginning to see July wildflowers along the roads.


loved for years
and now I know your name
blue chicory

I attended the same high school where my father taught, and where my older brother and sister had also attended.  I am the youngest in the family.  Sometimes I think it was good for me that I was in Illinois for many years, before returning to Wisconsin.  I was close enough to be home often, and far enough away to grow an independent life.  My mother said I always said, “By self,” when I was growing up, when others tried to help me.  Maybe the youngest has to be that way?!

There are people here who are members of families that have been here for generations, going back a long long time.  That must be really wonderful as well.  We bought our home in 1991, and I still feel like a new person sometimes, which I truly understand and accept.  Takes time anywhere.  Home is so many things.  We perhaps don’t realize how many things we have fine-tuned about our lives, until there is a big change.  Took me awhile to get my hair-cut the way I wished in a new place!

Many young people follow this blog, and with all I post here, my biggest hope is that something offers encouragement and hope.  I find being older much easier than being younger.  I can truly say that much good can grow from the hardest places.  As the saying goes, if one door closes, another opens.  The chronic illness I had when young caused major changes, yet it was my best teacher of all.  I don’t have the list of credits or resume I might have had, but I realize so clearly that the poems you all like the best were born during those years.  The feedback we receive is powerful.  I may be doubting myself once again, and then one of you says just the right thing – perhaps as a comment, a post on your blog, in various art forms.  And I end the day well.

We do our best work and then have to trust – we can’t know all the ways we bless!

Mercy, grace, and unconditional love.  Service.  That’s what my parents gave to me.  We shall meet again.

Thanks and blessings, Ellen

The image is from wpclipart.com.

Memorial Day – To Acknowledge and Listen


I’ve been thinking, on this cool grey morning with a hint of rose along the horizon, what I might have to say this Memorial Day.  I thought of how much it means when we listen to one another, even when we cannot understand.  Listening is a huge gift.

Then the word “acknowledge” came to mind.  I was interested to read its definition in the dictionary, so I did a Google search.  The first definition on the screen said, “Accept or admit the existence or truth of.”

That is huge.

Once a dear person I know who served in Vietnam called me, after years of silence, to share a little about his experience.  He had read my poetry about the chronic illness and grief I had experienced, and he felt I would understand.  I am still so honored.  For me, this is what poetry is mostly about: healing.  I also love the beauty of language.

I think sometimes we are afraid of saying something “wrong” when really the person who is hurting is so helped by a simple acknowledgment.  A kind word.  Otherwise, the person in pain feels even more isolated.  Also, if we have failed in the past, we can simply say, “I’m sorry.”  We are all human.  I think people know when our hearts are in the right place.

One thing I loved about my mother was (is) her sense of humor.   Now that I am 59, sometimes I have experiences with someone younger who knows so much more than me.  I love this, and this is as it should be.  One day, after an experience in a store, I thought of myself with my mother sometimes, when I was young, and I started laughing as I walked to the back door.  No one was around and I said, “Oh, Mother, I’m sorry!”  I’ve been to family funerals where there was so much laughter with the tears – everyone telling their stories.

It’s a great Mystery, but conversations continue . . . as we acknowledge and listen.

Love and blessings,



The “fruit blossoms” are courtesy of antiqueclipart.com.

Two Wisconsin Veterans

I’ve been wondering if I should write about Veterans Day this year, or observe in silence.

I always have another story to tell.  Or tell again, with a few more layers.   Trust grows.

My father, Harold A. Borgh, Ph.D, served in World War II.  I can only imagine my mom and dad, in love in their twenties, not knowing if they would be able to build a life together.  When I was caring for my mother, I sometimes found, as time progressed, that her older memories were more vivid.  If I could find a movie from the 1940s, for example, she would connect with it.  Yet, she never stopped trying.  So sad that she grew up with war and died with war.  She watched the news day and night.

They did so much and were modest.  My father was a kind man.  I think of times when he could have scolded me, but loved me unconditionally instead.  He was only 68 when he died in 1983.  By God’s grace, I went to Poland with him for over a month in the summer of 1978.  There was a tour with UW-Milwaukee; he wanted to go; my mom had a teaching commitment.  I was teaching elementary school, but not in the summer.  So I went with him.  This was Karl’s and my first summer in our little house in Illinois, and Karl was kind to understand I needed to do this.  Dad, as veteran and historian, was continuing to learn and bear witness.  He and Mom went to other places in Europe as well.  I went to Canada with my mother in 1972, to see Shakespeare plays with her.

Today I am listening to Amy Shreve PRAY Instrumentals.  I can never hear “Be Still My Soul,” “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” or “I Need Thee Every Hour” too many times.

Others in my family served in Vietnam.  I’ll close this post with a picture of The Vietnam War Memorial that I found on wpclipart.com; followed by a picture of The Paul Brandt School Forest, by Ruth Bauer.  Paul served in Vietnam.  We honor and love, we pray for peace and healing.

Last Day Of October

A few thoughts as I turn the page of the calendar to November:

Margaret Dornaus published a special collection, “Day of the Dead III,” on her blog, Haiku-doodle.  Many fine artists are featured, with links to their sites.   She kindly included the SERENE acrostic I wrote for my mother (October 19, 2012 Post on this blog).  Margaret’s link is http://www.haikudoodle.wordpress.com.

I remember attending an All Saints Day service that remembered my cousin, Paul, and several others, at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  As many of you know, his land is now the Paul Brandt School Forest in Boscobel, Wisconsin.  Paul was a Vietnam veteran, who returned and gave his life to conservation.