When you’re a blogger, you really notice how fast time flies. I used to post here once a day, and then once a week, and then twice a month. But the time between posting kept flying by so fast, so posting once a month felt the same as posting every day. I’d have that initial feeling upon posting of, ahhh, I’ve accomplished something here, and with the blink of an eye a month had passed, and it was time to post something again. Doesn’t it seem this way for everything, though? Friday’s here, and then before you know it, it’s Monday again, then Wednesday — almost there! — and finally, Friday again. Didn’t we just go to ballet class, like, yesterday? Karate time already?

They say time goes faster as you get older, and that it’s based on a ratio — something like your age to the time period. So the length of a day is minuscule to me at my ripe old age, but long to my six-year-old:

1 day : 30+ years vs. 1 day : 6 years

Makes sense. Either that, or time is, as my daughter would say, literally speeding up.

The same thing happens between my yoga practices. (Sidenote: I’m all excited this morning because it’s Saturday, and we don’t traditionally practise on Saturdays — and after a holiday week of practising alone on my mat in the cold hall here, my body is aching and I need the break; but, Sunday fast approacheth….) Six days a week, I go to the yoga shala, sweat it out on the mat like a crazed wannabe contortionist, and it’s done, and I’m relieved and proud of myself, and before you know it, it’s 6 a.m. again, and I’m giving my friend Sergio the thumbs up before rolling out my mat again. And again. It’s sooo Groundhog Day.

For 2014, I want to slow things down a bit. As a busy, Ashtangi, working mom, it’s really tempting to just get through the week, get to Saturday — when I can rest, read novels, eat take-out, Staaaarbucks, stay in bed a bit longer. I’m not sure exactly how to slow down all the in-between, but I know it’ll involve more savouring — moments, cuddles, steps taken from the car to the schoolyard, mouthfuls, breaths.

“Betty has a yellow tooth,” R says, as he wakes poor Betty White from her slumber. Grrrr… J rubs her toes along the frame of my computer screen, watching as I type. My dad’s here. Saturday morning Power Rangers is on. “Don’t put that in your mouth, R.”

Thanks to social media, we’re all bloggers now. Many of you used to look at me like I was nuts when you learned I was a “mom blogger” back in 2006. But you’re all blogging now. It’s a bit much to sit down and craft an entire blog post; many of us old-school bloggers realize that now with the advent of microblogging, so we post way less on our blogs and blend in with the masses on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram, texting, emailing. We’re all documenting our lives now and reading others’ documentations, but is this savouring — or is it impulse?

I’m not sure. At the same time, though, weren’t our parents documenting as much as they could in their own way? Whipping out the video cam whenever the chance came? We can’t even view all those old video tapes anymore.

Me in my Olive Oyl tee and pigtails hugging Minnie Mouse, waving, “Hi, Mama!”

It’s human nature to tell stories. We’ve been doing it since the daaaawn of tiiiime. The stories, and the way they’re told, are what most define civilizations. Technology (aka Apple) has tapped into that innate human drive and exposed it, exploited it, monetized it. And it’s awesome! But, like resisting that Starbucks grande-soy-no-water-tazo-chai (see how it rolls off the tongue?), we/I/Josh-O have to exercise conscious control around it.

That’s also why I don’t blog here so much. I practically live on the Internet, Twitter, Facebook all day as Writer/Editor/”Social Media Queen” at Today’s Parent. It’s my job. Storytelling, editing stories, tweeting, Facebooking stories. I need to unplug at the end of the day.

Still, as postmodern literature so expertly shows us, it’s always about the storytelling. But, we need story, too. Life can’t all just be about the telling.

There are two blue jays outside. We’re wondering how they’re surviving in the 20-below weather… “Mama! This snow looks like ice cream.”

Six days a week (not including Saturday’s, New Moon and Full Moon days — according to the tradition), I practise Ashtanga yoga. That’s 1.5 hours of being, barefoot on a mat: no stories; no storytelling. I do this every morning like clockwork. Among other things, it preps me to be more present and aware throughout the day, to be here now, seeing through my own eyes, not those of prospective readers.

Maybe you get the same rewards jogging, meditating, drawing, playing hockey, reading poetry, birdwatching. It’s important, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the storytelling. Am obsessed. But compulsive storytelling is so 2008! We need to be conscious storytellers, and above all, to live the story, too — savour the little moments… and be together without story.

Though I’m happy it’s Saturday, my Sunday practice and back-to-work Monday loom on the horizon. But my daughter wants to sit with me — just be with me — and I’m going to savour it now.

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Happy, healthy, savour-y 2014!

Love!
xo Haley-O

 


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Double rainbow. Photo by my dad.

My dad took this photo today, and he’s been telling all his friends I’m putting it on my site — he’s very proud of me, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m also thankful that he shares his cottage with us, not only because it’s a gift to be away from the city and surrounded by so much nature, but also because we get to spend more time with him and my mom.

It’s a double rainbow and full of significance as I sit here, on Josh-O’s computer, gazing out at the colourful landscape — a landscape painters dream of — here on Thanksgiving weekend at my parents’ cottage.

As always, I have to preface this post with excuses as to why I haven’t been here in several months. Instead of boring you with the usual stuff — aka busy, busy, busy and busy… also busy, like, very — I’ll give my excuses in pictures. CHECKIT:

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I’ve been doing tons of TV as a celebrity parent expert (on behalf of Today’s Parent) on Etalk… Have you seen me on TV? Photo by Etalk.

Spoke at the awesome Blissdom Canada conference about writing/pitching for magazines.

Spoke at the awesome Blissdom Canada conference about writing/pitching for magazines. Photo by Louise Gleeson

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Interviewed Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan – check out the interview HERE! Photo by Emily Piccinin

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This little Monkey is also very, very demanding. She doesn’t like when I write about her, but she insisted I post this photo.

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Scooter-boy, the Rascal, is a little firecracker — 37 pounds of demands. But the cheaty little blondie LOVES his mama.

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This guy, Josh-O, is so so so busy. And I’m thankful for that. But, he’s been away a lot the last few months or working late — leaving me solo with the kids and no time to blog here! He’s photo’d here with the Rascal, of course, and Joe the llama.

This thing is a ton of work, I had to quit Candy Crush because I needed more time to take Instagram photos of her -- like this one.

This thing is a ton of work, I had to quit Candy Crush because I needed more time to take Instagram photos of her — like this one.

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This one has been waking me up all night; that tongue is a magnet, alas, for my face — all through the night. So, you see, I’m simply too tired to blog!

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I’m writing a ton at Today’s Parent — and, as you can see, it’s not all about celebrities!

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I’ve been very busy lately learning new things…

Since I don’t write about the kids as much as I’d like to — they won’t ALLOW me to, and I respect their wishes even if they’re doing it just to be MEAN to their mama — I sometimes feel self-indulgent writing about and posting pictures of ME. But this is an inevitable offshoot of the blogging genre I love (and to which I’m forever indebted), so I might as well accept it.

I am, however, thankful for my renewed obsession with Ashtanga yoga, so I’m thinking I’ll write a few posts on this amazing practice — i.e., why I spend so much of my life practising it and trying to embody its principles.

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See, I don’t really ever get a break. Heh! This was really fun, though! Check out my four-year-old nephew “meditating” in the front of the photo — NO ONE put him up to that!!

Lots of people ask me about how I lost FIFTY POUNDS, too, so I can write about that in another post, soon. Although…, a lot of that has to do with my daily yoga practice. Not only is it toning up my bod, but my mind feels so much more stable, centred and focused — and I can’t stress enough how key that all is for weight loss. Every morning, when I hit the mat, I embark on a physical, emotional and psychological quest. That’s a gift for a busy, xx-year-old mom. And I’m very thankful for that space I can give myself every day and for all the amazing people I’m on the Ashtanga journey with.

More self-indulgence for the road:

What I’m reading (when time permits, and now that I’ve deleted Candy Crush from my iPhone): 
- The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
- If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, by Kelly Cutrone
- The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, by Kino MacGregor

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#Paw #UnderBite #BettyWhite

What I’m eating:
- Lemon water with sprinkle of cayenne pepper and turmeric in the morning (curbs the cravings and starts off the day healthy, alkaline and with a spicy kick in the butt)
- Green tea
- Apple with almond butter (my favourite 4 p.m. snack)
- Friday is CHAI DAY! (Also Saturday…)
- Clean, whole foods — as Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

What I’m wearing:
- EXTRA SMALL, baby!

I’ll blog again here SOON (sooner than last time, at least), promise. In the meantime, I’m thankful for all the things above — and so much more — that have been keeping me away from this space. Also, I’m totally thankful for you, and for the blogging community I’ve seen rally around friends of mine who’ve been in need of mass love lately (#rainbow), for this life, freedom, health and all our gifts. More of that all around the world, please, for the good of all…

What are you thankful for?

Love!
xo Haley-O

 


Forgive me, Readers, for I have sinned. Gosh, it’s been almost four months since I last blogged here. There’s actually an unpublished post I wrote about a month ago sitting in the backend. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. It’s called “I lost 25 pounds” — I never got around to finessing the title. I couldn’t bring myself to publish it because, I guess, I wasn’t ready to share, I needed more of a blogging break, or I just didn’t like it (it didn’t sound like me). So it remains in the backend collecting Internet dust; and so it will stay. Especially because…I’ve now lost 33 pounds! Hehee.

Check me out opening Toronto’s Disney on Ice show a few weeks ago on behalf of Today’s Parent (I’ve lost a few more pounds since then, too) — what an honour!

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Yes, I’ve finally lost the baby weight — something I’ve been trying to do pretty much since I started writing this blog (with a 10-month reprieve while I was preggers with the Rascal).

I’m pretty sure it took so long to lose the baby weight because, as I wrote at Today’s Parent (and please forgive me for spilling my guts there rather than here — it’s a bloggy balance I have yet to strike, clearly), having school-aged kids is awesome. The kids are amazingly more independent now, so they can entertain themselves more willingly when I’m riding the stationary bike or while I cook healthy food for us or while I count Weight Watchers points.

Yes, I’m on Weight Watchers (online — no in-person meetings for this introvert!). I chose this program because my friend Lolo (remember her?) was also on the diet, as well as several of my fabulous Today’s Parent colleagues. It was helpful to text Lolo whenever I was in a bind, and to vent about plateaus, tweet and restrain from eating office treats with my colleagues. Mind you, I never had a problem with office treats, but at least I didn’t have to refuse them alone anymore!

OK, I’m getting to the point where I’m wondering if I should publish this post or not. I seem to have left my blog legs at Today’s Parent. I am sooo busy there right now. There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening, and you’ll see a lot more writing from me — not just about celebrities! I even just had an article about — gasp — pregnancy published in our Today’s Parent Pregnancy magazine. I posted a photo of it on Facebook, if you want to check it out. I didn’t realize how graphic it was at a certain point. I probably should have cut the photo off before the vagina and rectum part.

Anyway, I know a lot of you have been trying to lose weight with me all these years. So, here are the little trickies I’ve learned on my weight-loss journey.

1. Give yourself a treat day
Even Jillian Michaels recommends this — for her kids, but still, it works. My treat day is Saturday (woohoo, almost there!). So, if I have cravings during the week, I put the food away and think to myself, “You can have it Saturday!” I even recommended this strategy to a smoker friend of mine. I suggested she try to refrain from smoking all week and then smoke all she wants on Saturdays. It hasn’t worked for her, alas, but you really have to want to quit, or to lose weight, to make it happen (see #2). Make sure you don’t go overboard on treat day, though, or it does sabotage your efforts, and you will feel sick. I speak from experience.

2. Be wanting and ready to lose weight
When I was at my highest weight, back in September, I started feeling physically averse to my flab. It’s sort of like when you really need a haircut, and, like, you need it now! I needed the fat off NOW. In the five years I’ve been trying to lose weight, I never had this fierce, physical desire or drive. It’s definitely key. Maybe it involves getting to your highest weight — or, as they say, hitting rock bottom. It was a key factor for me.

3. Control your cravings and log your food intake
I’ve plateaued a couple of times during my weight-loss journey. To get through plateaus I had to really take a look at what I was eating, and what I was craving — that’s easy to do if you’re using a weight loss app, like Weight Watchers’, which has a food log component (SO KEY). For the most part, I noticed, I started plateauing when I was eating too much bread or baked stuff: a homemade muffin for breakfast, crackers and hummus for lunch, bagel and peanut butter for dinner. It was all well within my daily points allowance, but not nutritious, and I was craving these foods. The more bread you eat, the more you want it. So, to lose the last 10 pounds or so, I’ve been limiting the bread and baked goods, and replacing some of those missing carbs with healthy whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. And, lo and behold, the weight peels off and I don’t need spelt ShaSha cookies for dessert anymore.

4. Exercise
Biking, sweaty Ashtanga yoga, walking, kickboxing DVDs, snowshoeing, skating….

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It’s all about convenience. This means I crack open the yoga mat more often at home than at the studio (alas), and I bike in front of the TV while dinner’s cooking, etc. The most I exercise (formally) is around 45 minutes, six days a week; I take a break on treat day. I also try to be as active as I can throughout the day, i.e., by taking the long route to the office washroom, parking a little farther from my destinations, walking instead of driving to the bank machine, tackling the dog, chasing the kids, etc.

4. Have a bite
Sometimes treats happen beyond “treat day.” My kids know that Mama’s treat day is Saturday. But I don’t want them to see me being rigid. If we’re presented with a cake, I’ll have a bite, even a sliver. They just know that having a treat day helps me eat healthy most of the time — which is what their goal should be, too.

I’m sure I’ll think of more tips after/if I press the “Publish” button here. But, let’s talk about it in the comments…or Facebook or Twitter. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about Weight Watchers, weight loss, Betty White — who recently got groomed (in case you were wondering based on the photo above…).

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She was still mad about getting groomed when I snapped this picture.

Alright, this was fun! We should do this more often. Truth is, I am SWAMPED at work, so it’s hard to find the time. And this whole post is a symptom of a little procrastination problem I’m having this morning. But, I guess now I’m warmed up to write!

See you soon.

Love!
xo Haley-O


I learned my first major writing lesson when I was in graduate school studying English literature. I was a straight A+ student (nerd!) across the board, and the pressure was mounting with every assignment my professors gave me. One day, it came to a head.

I was taking a course called “American Minority Literature,” and the professor asked me to prepare a seminar on a new Asian American novel (the name of which I can’t remember now). As usual, I waited until the night before to pull the seminar together, and I had nothing. Nothing. The annoying A+ student was about to sit in front of a room of expectant eyes and FAIL.

I was stuck. Sitting at my little desk by the wall, all I could think about was the classroom full of eyes I was about to face, the disappointed professor at the head of the large table, shaking his head. I sat there staring at the novel and then back at my blank screen, blinking cursor, ticking minutes. I had nothing.

Finally, I decided that I couldn’t show up to my seminar with nothing, and that I’d better just write something. So I choked back my tears and wrote. I skimmed through the book for the fifteenth time, and I started simply writing crap. This is pretty much what it looked like:

The protagonist has black hair. She wears a yellow shirt. She is in a race. There is some wax. Corn in the fields…. Why is there all that wax?

WAIT!

Wax, corn, ears of corn. Ears. Labyrinth. Ears look like a labyrinth. Search. Identity. Asian American girl. Search for identity. YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

Just from writing what I like to call “CRAP,” I completely solved the intricate symbolic puzzle that was this novel. I got an A+ on my presentation and its accompanying essay, and the professor suggested I submit the work for publication.

Fundamentally, though, in order to write crap in the first place, something very difficult and humbling had to shift for my perfectionist, high-achieving self: I had to dash all my high expectations, and I had to accept and be OK with the possibility of failure.

So here’s what I advised in my session, “Get into the Habit: Developing a Writing Practice,” at this year’s Blissdom Canada Conference:

WRITE CRAP: Just write. It doesn’t matter what you write; just do it. Preferably every day.

PICK THE GEMS OUT OF THE CRAP: Isn’t this gorgeous? It usually takes up to two paragraphs, but sometimes as little as two sentences, of writing crap for the gems to emerge. When you feel stuck writing a blog post (about any subject), just start writing crap around it, and the gems will come.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS WRITER’S BLOCK: If you feel blocked, just write — even if you’re writing “I suck I suck I hate myself I can’t write this is crap.” If you feel extra blocked, check and see what you’re actually physically looking at. Are you looking at the floor? A blank screen? Your thumbs? Not good if you’re feeling stuck. GO OUTSIDE. Look at the sky, the moon. There’s a universe of ideas out there.

BE OK WITH FAILING: You seriously can’t be perfect all the time. Even I am not that amazing. (HA! Bygones.) Sometimes you’re going to have to put out what you think is crap, especially if you blog a lot, like I do. And that’s OK. It’ll humble you. And that humbling is part of your writing process: it opens you up so that the good stuff is free to blossom — beyond the bounds of your typically critical, confidence-blocking ego. If what you write actually is total crap, then wait a while, get some distance, and revisit it before you publish. Sometimes all your crap needs is a good edit.

DASH YOUR EXPECTATIONS: If you approach your keyboard thinking, “I’m going to write the next great Canadian novel,” you will most likely freeze. Or you’ll wait, and you’ll read everything you can on writing the next great Canadian novel. And then you’ll never do it. So dash that expectation, dash the how-to books, and just write.

Developing Your Writing Practice

This blog, Cheaty Monkey, is a record of my writing practice. My mother often says I should turn it into a book. “I just know some publisher is going to snatch it up and make a book out of it,” she often tells me. But I don’t really think of it that way. This blog isn’t a finished product by any means; it’s very much a process.

I specifically started this blog to cultivate my writing practice. I had read enough Julia Cameron to know that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write every day. So I adopted her practice of “morning pages”: I hand wrote three stream-of-consciousness pages every day. I later evolved that practice into publishing a blog post every weekday. Through that rigorous writing practice, I was able to find and develop my own voice, and to observe the crap-to-gem process (the same process I learned in that epiphanic graduate seminar) over and over again.

Based on these experiences, this is what I suggest all aspiring writers do:

WRITE EVERY DAY: Write at least three pages about anything and everything that comes to your mind. And don’t underestimate the handwritten word! When I faced the task of writing about our family emergency last May, I knew I couldn’t face a blank computer screen; my expectations for myself (to do justice to the event) were too great. So I sat in my car one day during my daughter’s dance class, rolled the windows down, looked at the sky, took a deep breath, and I hand wrote the whole blog post on some blank pages at the back of a novel I had with me. Later, I was able to type it into my blog with some much-needed distance from it, and productively edit out the parts I felt were too personal, etc.

BLOG YOUR PRACTICE: If you put your practice online, you not only get all the benefits from your writing practice, but you also develop your online presence, and most importantly, you build a public portfolio. So, when you come face-to-face with, say…, the General Manager of a national parenting magazine, she knows your work, and your name. And she may just hire you!

In 2006, I started blogging my writing practice. I wrote every day, even if it meant writing at 3 a.m. between baby feedings. One day, in April 2010, I happened to meet the General Manager of Today’s Parent Magazine‘s website at a Marks Work Warehouse blogger/media event. A few weeks later, I was hired as Writer/Editor. Look for me on the magazine masthead (yes, that still excites me)!

It’s funny, around the time the book The Secret came out, I started writing down my career aspirations as part of my practice. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I hadn’t really articulated what I wanted to write. Until one day, and I believe I actually posted this somewhere in this blog, I wrote: “I want to write for a magazine like Chatelaine or Flare.” And, what do you know? Down one hall from my desk at the Today’s Parent office is Flare. And down the other hall is Chatelaine.

As the great yoga guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (and my inspiring yoga teacher after him) famously said, Do your practice, and all is coming.” Do your writing practice, and all is coming.

Suggested resources:

1. Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.

2. Stephen King, On Writing.

3. Sarah Selecky’s writing prompts on Twitter, @SarahSelecky.

4. Natalie Rosenberg, Writing Down the Bones.

5. Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

6. Twitter: Build blog posts out of (or around) your tweets. They’re yours, so use them!

7. Instagram: Build blog posts out of your pretty, filtered pictures! It’s a great visual record of your ideas.

8. Novels, short stories, poems, plays, blogs, articles. Read what you want to write!

Next week I’ll share what my own writing practice is like now that I write all day at Today’s Parent!

 


When I’m not writing at Today’s Parent, I’m taking much-needed time off all writing, and living life — playing with the kids, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, driving the kids around, helping them with homework, drinking tea, watching karate, watching soccer, watching dancing, reading, tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming.

I’m telling you this because something was brought to my attention the other day. Well, it was really a few weeks ago, but it seems to take a few weeks for this piper to actually sit thee down and write* here these days, in case you haven’t noticed.

I bumped into my old friend Ryan, who’s also a Cheaty Monkey reader, and she said something like, “I miss you now that you’re not online anymore.”

Not online? ME? You miss me? Not online?

Eager to know if other friends “missed” me online, I went up to some more old Cheaty Monkey readers in the schoolyard, and asked them if they thought I’d totally deserted them too.

“You know, Angela,” I said to one of the lovely moms, “I may not write at Cheaty Monkey that much anymore, but I’m all over Todaysparent.com all the time.”

Like Ryan, she had no idea.

“I write a bunch of blogs every day there,” I explained, “Mostly about celebrity families, but also on tough parenting topics like bullying and dealing with tragedy. If you’d like, please check it out!” (I am shameless.)

I said this to Ryan and Ang, and I’m going to say it to you now too: If you miss me (and I miss you too, believe me!), please friend me on Facebook. I keep it pretty well updated with some of my celebrity posts, ALL of my weekly celebrity galleries (UPPAbaby stroller contest in this one, hollaaa!), ALL of my more personal writing both at Cheaty Monkey and at Today’s Parent, and of course, with lots of photos.

Speaking of which….

Yes, another great reason you need to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter NOW. Betty White was sleeping beside me when I took that picture (that’s what they call need-to-know information).

Please don’t “miss” me! Let’s stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and a little more often here (I’ll definitely try).

In other news:

- I have successfully lost seven pounds.

- People who write comments without reading articles properly are, as the Rascal used to say, “vewy fustifating” (trans.: very frustrating).

- I’m giving a talk (well three talks…three sessions) on developing a daily writing practice at this month’s Blissdom Conference.

- I’m going to talk about why a daily writing practice is important, what to write about, why to use a blog as your platform, and a bit about my own writing practice.

- I’m also going to talk about how sometimes a writing practice may actually involve not writing. But that’s only really if you do NOTHING but write and edit all day long. *cough*

- Otherwise, write.

- Every day.

- After the session, I’ll share all my secrets here.

- Or…, maybe three weeks after the session.

- But NO! I will write here more often.

- I officially suck at going to yoga.

- Instead of going to yoga, I’ve been riding my stationary bike while watching The Voice, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or Pokemon.

- Yeah, it doesn’t get much worse than that.

- I’m just still too self-conscious in the yoga room.

- I was going to title this post “An Open Letter to My Yoga Teacher.”

- Hmm, maybe I will anyway.

- But next week, I’ll be closer than I’ve been in the last five years to my goal weight, so I may just show up at the shala.

- Oh, wait, but Josh is away.

- So maybe sooner.

- In my microsession, I will also talk about using Instagram and Twitter/Facebook photos to build your blog posts.

- You won’t want to miss that.

- I could also do a whole other session on how to blog with a massive cat on your lap…

- …who wants nothing more out of life than to stick his tongue down your throat.

- OH! I know.

- Maybe next year.

I miss you and will try to write here more often. I may have a full writing practice at Today’s Parent, but I can’t really post photos of my pets there, now can I?

LOVE!

xo Haley-O

* From William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience — one of my fave literary works of all time. Tiger, Tiger burning bright / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?