a pale pink rose lying flat on a distressed wood table

Welcome to week two of our practice. I’m excited to continue offering these excerpts from my new book, How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Please allow this week’s poem to spark your own joy, delight, memory, and imagination in whatever ways it will. As much as you can, I encourage you to create some quiet space to sit with this offering and see what it brings up for you.

Notice what you feel drawn to and honor how you feel moved to engage with the poem.

May you find delight and inspiration in this week’s practice.

With hope and love,


Scratch, Sniff

by Katie Rubinstein

It was weeks ago now
that first September I spent here on this island,
still hot and balmy.
I wanted a scratch and sniff for you,
some clever little corner of the screen
so I could share this most perfect thing:
the smell of beach roses, all briney.

They were abundant outside of the cottage,
and each time I passed, I wondered how I’d gotten so lucky—
that they became like dandelions in my life.

Hardy, scrappy and perfectly soft all at the same time,
nestled in their rocky, sandy homes, smelling like heaven—
those round, round hips.
I wanted to eat them, be them,

and I wanted you to smell them
as if sharing them would somehow
exponentially increase the delight
or make the sense more real.

But it was mine alone
and exquisite all the same.


You can find a printable version of this poem as part of our poetry collection.

Option 1:  Stop here. Allow yourself to sit with this poem and let it live in you. Notice how and when it enters your awareness over time. What surfaces for you? If and when you’re ready, you might continue your exploration of the poem with option 2.

Option 2:  Deepen your relationship with the poem with the following suggestions: You might begin by reflecting on your sense or interpretation of the poem, reading my reflection of the poem’s meaning as it feels helpful for your own reflection. Engage in the suggested practices to cultivate an embodied experience of the poem’s words and images.

James’s Reflection

Katie Rubinstein perfectly recreates the joy of spending time alone on an island that she can’t help wanting to share with a loved one, even wishing that she could send along more than just a photo—“some clever little corner of the screen/so I could share this most perfect thing:/the smell of beach roses, all briney.” During difficult times, we all have to become more creative about how we share space with others, how we tend to our relationships, and how we keep ourselves connected to each other. 

In this poem, the speaker conveys the frustration of not being able to offer the fullness of her experience to another. Through her desire to share both the scent and sight of the beach roses she comes upon, however, she also points to the fact that, even if we can’t recreate every sensory detail for someone else, even if we can’t give them a “scratch and sniff,” sharing our joy with others can often “exponentially increase the delight” that we feel ourselves, even if the pleasure remains ours alone, “and exquisite all the same,” in the moment.

Invitation for Practice

Over the next week, keep a list of small sensory delights like the one Katie Rubinstein describes here, and write a poem or letter to someone else, doing your best to convey the fullness of that experience. You might make this a regular practice too, whether through writing, emails, texts, or Zoom calls with loved ones, to share your joy with them and see if it exponentially increases your own pleasure at the same time. 

We invite you to share your reflections in the space below the author bio.

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Enjoy the full four-session How to Love the World poetry practice.

James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of two anthologies: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. Crews teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Vermont. jamescrews.net.

James Crews

James Crews

About the author

James Crews’ work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Sun Magazine, Ploughshares, and The New Republic, as well as on Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry newspaper column. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD in Writing & Literature from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and is the author of four collections of award-winning poetry, including The Book of What Stays (Prairie Schooner Prize and Foreword Book of the Year Citation, 2011), Telling My Father(Cowles Prize, 2017), Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of several anthologies of poetry: Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection; and How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. He leads Mindfulness & Writing retreats online and throughout the country, and works as a creative coach with groups and individuals. He lives with his husband, Brad Peacock, in Shaftsbury, Vermont.