Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Childlike Spring

The Easter Bunny?

Spring has come again.
The Earth is like
a child who knows
poems by heart.

~ Rilke ~
from Sonnets to Orpheus
~ translated by Edward Snow ~

I love this whimsical snail planter (found in the British garden of my parents - in - law) and the above bunny rabbit statuette (belonging to my British sister - in - law). Both figurines, as well as their attendant flowers, exemplify the child - like nature of Spring that Rilke captures in his simile of Earth as a poetic youngster. The following, also by Rilke, is a more serious poem for the Easter season; but keep in mind that, despite the maturity of its intropection, "this is how children cherish You":

Prayer #12

I believe in everything that has not been said,
I want to free my most pious feelings;
what no one has ever dared to want
will suddenly become my nature.

If this is impudent, my God, forgive me.
But with this I want to tell You
that my noblest power should be an instinct,
and thus without anger and without hesitation --
this is how children cherish You.

With this flood, with this flow
into the broad arms of the open sea,
with this expansive return,
I want to bear witness to You; I want to proclaim You
like none before.

And if this is pride, the let me be proud
in my prayer,
which stands so earnest and alone
before Your shadowed brow.

from Prayers of a Young Poet
written by by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
translated by Mark S. Burrows

Many thanks to my dear friend and spiritual advisor
Nancy C. Tiederman
for sending me this latest translation of Rilke's Prayers

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pine Forest Update 2017

One of our goals this time ~
finding the path that joins the forest to the beach.

Gerry & Ben ~ Checking the Coordinates

It has been four years since our last photo session at the Pine Forest, our longest gap for some time. With a little help from "notes to self," we made our way to the usual spot, but something seemed different this year -- aside from the obvious fact that we were missing Sam (Gerry has promised to photoshop him in ASAP). It turns out that the forest is an ever- changing ecosystem, and there was our landmark tree, chopped down and lying at our feet.


Christmas 1996

Christmas 1997

Christmas 1998

Spring Break 2000

Summer 2005

Summer 2006

Spring Break 2008

Spring Break 2009

Spring Break 2010

Spring Break 2011
Spring Break 2012
May 2013

Easter 2017

Pine Forest Update 2013
Pine Forest Update 2012
Pine Forest Update 2011
Tree of Life
Watching the Boys Grow

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Downfall or Saving Grace?

My memory is my downfall
I said love of this kind is soon forgotten, but I take that back. My memory is my downfall. It is a sealed well that doesn't lose a drop, to use an old expression. Nothing can deplete it. My memory is a powerful machine that stores and constantly discharges lost years and faces. In the past I believed that travel would blunt my memory; I was wrong. Over the years, I must admit, it has only grown stronger. Were it not for my memory, my life would be different--better. I assume. My memory fills me up until I choke on a stream of daydreams. They overflow into my sleep. My memory is rooted in every one of my limbs: any injury strengthens the flow. But in recent years I have learned to overcome this. A glass of cognac, for instance, separates me from my memory for a while. I feel relief as if after a terrible toothache.

by Aharon Appelfeld
from The Iron Tracks, Chapter One
Translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M.Green
[See also "That Lost Time & Place"]

Nothing is Lost
Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.

by Noel Coward
[See also "Ladies in Our Land"]

Sunday, April 9, 2017

An April Fool for Our Time

Owl Coasters
by Charley Harper (1922 - 2007)
Legendary American wildlife artist


"The Owl Who Was God"
by James Thurber (1894 - 1961)
Legendary American humorist and cartoonist
Once upon a starless midnight there was an owl who sat on the branch of an oak tree. Two ground moles tried to slip quietly by, unnoticed. "You!" said the owl. "Who?" they quavered, in fear and astonishment, for they could not believe it was possible for anyone to see them in that thick darkness. "You two!" said the owl. The moles hurried away and told the other creatures of the field and forest that the owl was the greatest and wisest of all animals because he could see in the dark and because he could answer any question. "I’ll see about that, "said a secretary bird, and he called on the owl one night when it was again very dark. "How many claws am I holding up?" said the secretary bird. "Two," said the owl, and that was right. "Can you give me another expression for ‘that is to say’ or ‘namely’?" asked the secretary bird. "To wit," said the owl. "Why does the lover call on his love?" "To woo," said the owl.

The secretary bird hastened back to the other creatures and reported that the owl indeed was the greatest and wisest animal in the world because he could see in the dark and because he could answer any question. "Can he see in the daytime, too?" asked a red fox? "Yes," answered a dormouse and a French poodle. "Can he see in the daytime, too?" All the other creatures laughed loudly at this silly question, and they set upon the red fox and his friends and drove them out of the region. They sent a messenger to the owl and asked him to be their leader.

When the owl appeared among the animals it was high noon and the sun was shining brightly. He walked very slowly, which gave him an appearance of great dignity, and he peered about him with large, staring eyes, which gave him an air of tremendous importance. "He’s God!" screamed a Plymouth rock hen. And the others took up the cry "He’s God!" So they followed him wherever he went and when he bumped into things they began to bump into things, too. Finally he came to a concrete highway and he started up the middle of it and all the other creatures followed him. Presently a hawk, who was acting as outrider, observed a truck coming toward them at fifty miles an hour, and he reported to the secretary bird and the secretary bird reported to the owl. "There’s danger ahead," said the secretary bird. "To wit?" said the owl. The secretary bird told him. "Aren’t you afraid?" he asked. "Who?" said the owl calmly, for he could not see the truck. "He’s God!" cried all the creatures again, and they were still crying "He’s God" when the truck hit them and ran them down. Some of the animals were merely injured, but most of them, including the owl, were killed.
You can fool too many of the people
too much of the time.

from Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated


Charley Harper Sketchbook

Previous Charley Harper Posts:
Delicious Autumn
Shadowy, Feathery
The Shadowy Feather of an Owl

Yet Another Favorite Owl
Childhood Art by Addison Jordan ~ 2004

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Not yet a breach, but an expansion"

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
~ John Donne ~

A clear umblicus
goes out invisibly between,
thread we spin fluid and finer than hair
but strong enough to hang a bridge on.

~ Marge Piercy ~

A couple of excellent poems reminiscent
of Franz Kafka and Czeslaw Milosz:

Being together is knowing
even if what we know
is that we cannot really be together
caught in the teeth of the machinery
of the wrong moments of our lives.

A clear umblicus
goes out invisibly between,
thread we spin fluid and finer than hair
but strong enough to hang a bridge on.

That bridge will be there
a blacklight rainbow arching
out of your skull
whenever you need
whenever you can open your
eyes and want
to walk upon it.

Nobody can live on a bridge
or plant potatoes
but it is fine for comings and goings,
meetings, partings and long views
and a real connection to someplace else
where you may
in the crazy weathers of struggle
now and again want to be.

~ Marge Piercy

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.*

~ John Donne

This might look like sunset -- or a forest fire! --
but was actually sunrise, 21 March 2017

Also thinking of recent crime series The Bridge
and haunting theme song "Hollow Talk"

And then you cut
You cut it out
*And everything
Goes back to the beginning . . .

Songwriters: Anders Rhedin, David Hughes,
Fridolin Nordsoe, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis
Sung by Choir of Young Believers

Monday, April 3, 2017

Philly Clothespin

Clothespin (1976) ~ by Claes Oldenburg (b 1929)
Photoby Spike Brennan

When we first moved to Philadelphia, a neighbor was helping us plan our exploration of the city, including the instruction to "turn at the clothespin." We drove downtown thinking that this was the name of a traffic pattern, something along the lines of the old "cloverleaf" interstate ramps. We were looking all around for some kind of complicated driving maneuver that might somehow resemble a clothespin, when we finally realized that it was up above us -- a real, gigantic clothespin!

I was amused to read Roadside America's more recent concern that "Newer generations don't even recognize a clothespin, and might mistake it for some kind of utility tower or abstract sculpture of a former mayor." On her blog Obsolescing, my friend Ann de Forest and her children make a similar observation concerning the typewriter eraser, also captured gigantically by Claes Oldenburg. Ann concludes:
"What we do have is Oldenburg’s sculpture. Though when the typewriter eraser (and many of the other ordinary, utilitarian objects monumentalized by this Pop wag and sage) disappears, the monument’s meaning will change — from overblown mundane to inscrutable mystery."
Photo by R. Tarver

When reading Lolita last month, I couldn't help thinking of Philadelphia and the World's Largest Clothespin, when Humbert Humbert asks for directions and is immediately confused by a variety of "geometrical gestures" and "strictly local clues":
" . . . the passers - by I applied to for directions were either strangers themselves or asked with a frown 'Enchanted what?' as if I were a madman; or else they went such complicated explanations, with geometrical gestures, geographical generalities and strictly local clues ( . . . then bear south after you hit the courthouse . . . ) that I could not help losing my way in the maze of their well - meaning gibberish" (116).

This Meme from Sizzle made me think of the time my brother - in - law Tom pointed out to my sister Di and me (backseat drivers) that "left" and "right" were not directions. What? He wanted us to specify north, south, east, west. Easier said than done! How about, "Just turn that way at the clothespin?!"

Friday, March 31, 2017

Out Like a Peach Blossom

So March insists on going out
(as it came in) like a lion;
yet we have peach blossoms!
Beata said that in honor of "Dawn or Doom,"
she is naming this photo "Gloom or Bloom!"

Out for a walk through Happy Hollow . . .

See, our park has it's own tiny waterfall!
Photographs by Beata Ribeiro

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Always Have the Blues a Little

Haiku by Basho
Gravestone at Cedar Grove Cemetery
University of Notre Dame

It seems that no matter the century or decade, whether you're young or old, whether it's a "Melancholy Moon" or a "Melancholy Baby," from cradle to grave, in order to be a properly tormented human being . . .

"You've got to win a little, lose a little,
always have the blues a little. . . . "


A Chain of MELANCHOLY Connections
the following quotations & more on my current post

~~ Melancholy and / or Properly Tormented ~~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony


What, after all, is a writer's life without a dose of despair?
from Dear Committee Members (p 68)
by Julie Schumacher

“The world is a hellish place, and bad writing
is destroying the quality of our suffering.”

Tom Waits

“I drank to drown my sorrows,
but the damned things learned how to swim.”

Frida Kahlo

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues
David Bowie

Holly Golightly: You know those days
when you get the mean reds?
Paul: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?
Holly: No. The blues are because you're getting fat, and maybe it's been raining too long. You're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid, and you don't know what you're afraid of.
Do you ever get that feeling?

from the screenplay ~ Breakfast at Tiffany's
based on the novel by Truman Capote

After thirty, a man wakes up sad every morning,
excepting perhaps five or six, until the day of his death

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I never wake without finding life a more
insignificant thing than it was the day before.

Jonathan Swift

"Life is only on Earth. And not for long."
from the psycho - science - fiction movie Melancholia

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I'm With Her

Happy British Mother's Day!
Or, as they say across the pond,
Happy Mothering Sunday!

In honor of the occasion, I want to thank my sons
for some recent kind gestures that touched my heart:

1. On the Day of the Worldwide Women's March
~ Saturday, January 21 ~

Sam took these amazing pictures from his NYC office window
and tagged them # I'm With Her.
Thanks Sam.

2. On International Women's Day
~ Wednesday, March 8 ~

Ben shared a few of my consciousness - raising posts,
including "I Always Did Hate That Crap,"
with the caption "More by my inspiring mother here."
Thanks Ben.

Thinking back to January 21st and March 8th, I'm grateful to my grown sons for acknowledging my involvement in these world events and for participating in their own ways on behalf of their mother. Thanks guys!

Postcards from Sarah Tiederman

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stubborn Sheri Reda

Stubborn by Sheri Reda
~ writer, performer, story celebrant ~
Beautiful cover by Chicago artist Nancy VanKanegan!
Produced by locofo chaps / moriapoetry

If you're feeling gloomy about the current political climate; if all the political commentary is giving you a heavy heart, clogging your brain space, and weighing down your spirit, try reading this inspiring collection from my friend Sheri Reda. Her voice will lift you up, and you will feel better. Indeed the poems are disruptive, yet they offer a sense of balance, confirming bleakly that it's "not so bad," that "It’ll never be better than this," even though it's entirely possible that "there will be no nightingales."

To deal with the bleakness of this rancid landscape, Reda offers a "pre–apocalyptic shopping" list to feed our "hungry century,"* leaving the reader with a stubborn, contaminated hope for the future:
"The outward sign of something much, much worse...
Cut—burn—away the fact of him. You will
nurse the wound, protect the scab, oil the scar, and never
again be smooth and clean. Never once free of the fact of him
while you wait, phone in hand, ringer on high,
for the call that says what’s next."
*Other poems quoted above:
"Not so Bad in Lincoln Square"
"11pm we"
"Fat and Somewhat Happy with Vilsak and Perdue"
"Go Ahead"

Equinox Poster by Spiritualitea

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Own Little Stonehenge

Vernal Equinox Sunrise ~ A Day Late
"Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun."
~ Czeslaw Milosz ~


On the official day there was rain,
thunder & lightning all morning;
no sun to be seen until around noon
​​"What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky."
~Tony Hoagland ~

Monday, March 20, 2017

Light Spectrum

Stained Glass Representation of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
KEY (left to right):
Green: Radio waves; Yellow teardrops: Meteors;
Orange teardrops: Aurora;
Red: Infrared light; Rainbow colors: Visible light; Violet: Ultraviolet light;
Dark violet triangles: X-rays; Light violet triangles: Gamma rays;
Pink: Cosmic rays.

Happy Vernal Equinox
Some haiku for the
Day and Night of Equal Light:

Trying but failing
to be the voice of reason.
The spirit prevails.

Here's to equanimity
and all shall be well!


The season of increasing light seems a befitting time for a coincidence concerning the Lumineers. Not long ago, my friend Cate sent me the link to their hit "Cleopatra."

The night before receiving Cate's email, Gerry and I had been to the movie theater where one of the previews was a larger - than - life trailer of a "LUMINEERS TOUR." Now, to back-track a little bit, before going to the movie, Gerry and I had been talking about cruises, like the European Viking Tours, and trying to decide if we would ever try something like that someday.

So when I saw the words "LUMINEERS TOUR," I immediately thought, "Oh that sounds like a great cruise! What kind of cruise is that?" Gerry tried to set me straight, "I think that's a concert tour -- not a cruise tour." Oh, okay.

Then, I got home, and there was Cate's email and the beautiful song by none other than the Lumineers! Suddenly it all made sense! Isn't it strange how that happens?

Anyway, it is a lovely, meaningful, and timely song. And I can always count on my Quotable Cate for timely words of wisdom!

The Banquet, 1958 ~ Rene Magritte, 1898 - 1967

Saturday, March 18, 2017

That Lost Time & Place

" . . . but it still seemed that some other time,
from some other place,
had invaded the town and was
silently establishing itself"
~ from Badenheim 1939 ~

Out My Window (1930)
by Hanns Kralik (1900 - 1971)
I know the sky looks dark and the city a bit lifeless,
but still the bright yellow trolley and the sense of order
(sometimes a good thing) brought to mind:
Yiddish for Travellers

I bought the book optimistically,
thinking to go there one day, to that lost land
where the border guards only know Yiddish . . .

In the capitol of the Yiddish country, there are
shiny green, blue, and yellow trolleys, broad plazas
with delis and patisseries where the small tables
are filled with people reading and arguing and joking
over their strudel and rugelach, sipping tea in glasses.
They place sugar cubes in their mouths; they lovr herring.
They squeeze plump cheeks of nephews ad grandchildren.
The people there are all oddly reminiscent of my relatives,
my aunts and uncles and great - aunts and great uncles,
and all of their relatives who I never met, who never
somehow crossed over, who were isolated perhaps
int this landlocked Yiddish land, where the police
speak Yiddish, where everyone is in terrific health,
vigorous and sometimes portly from all the pastries,
from the lack of stress, from having escaped
everything so thoroughly.
[emphasis added]
~ Leonard Orr ~
from his poem "Yiddish for Travellers"
in Why We Have Evening


Recalling a recent passport renewal, Orr writes:
"This process reminded me of my older relatives and their worries. Some of them always carried their passports ("just in case," they said). Some of them had gotten into the habit of having many savings accounts so that cash and documents would be available if needed (the winners in this category, as far as I know, were my ancient aunts Gertie and Rose, who lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn and had over one hundred savings accounts spread across all of the boroughs). My parents were baffled by anyone choosing to travel to Europe. When I returned from my first summer in Europe (two months in Paris and London) my father said he it was incredibly brave of me to travel by myself there. He associated Europe with the notion of fleeing."

Similar to Kralik's painting is this cover art:
the sky, while not dark, remains high and distant;
the windows, detailed but impassive, retain their secrets.
All of the Badenheim covers are hauntingly quaint,
but I think this artwork by Nancy Lawton is my favorite.

Badenheim 1939 ~ Aharon Appelfeld

It may be true, as a few linguists have observed, that something has been lost in the translation of Badenheim 1939 from the original Hebrew, but enough has been retained to make it one of the saddest most beautiful books that you might ever care to read. This novel is on my special list of books that I recommend to everyone.

The lyrical gaiety of the charming resort town is gradually displaced by fear and anxiety. The delicious afternoons of pink ice cream and strawberry tarts are disrupted by the extended "jurisdiction of the Sanitation Department . . . it had been authorized to conduct independent investigations. . . . In the middle of May a modest announcement appeared on the notice board saying that all citizens who were Jews had to register with the Sanitation Department" (11, 20).

Despite this sobering turn of events, the merry - makers strain for a positive outlook:
"The inspectors . . . took measurements, put up fences, and planted flags. Porters unloaded rolls of barabed wire, cement pillars, and all kinds of appliances suggestive of preparations for a pubic celebration.

'There'll be fun and games this year.'

"How do you know?'

'The Festival's probably going to be a big affair this year; otherwise why would the Sanitation Department be going to all this trouble?'

'You're right, I didn't realize.' " (15)
Even as the summer season draws to a melancholy close and the beautiful vacationers are required to board the ominous freight cars, their delusional innocence allows them to voice a false hope, heartbreaking to the reader who knows the horrible reality: " 'If the coaches are so dirty, it must mean that we have not far to go' "(148).

Looking ahead to the "transition" the residents of enchanted Badenheim reassure each other: "'By the way, what language will he sing in?' 'What a question! In Yiddish, of course, in Yiddish!' . . . There was no country as beautiful as Poland, no air as pure as Polish air. 'And Yiddish? . . . There's nothing easier than learning Yiddish. It's a simple, beautiful language, and Polish too is a beautiful language.' . . . The headwaiter was learning Yiddish. Samitzky wrote long lists of words down in his notebook and sat and studied them. . . . in Poland it would be easy to learn. Everyone spoke Yiddish there. . . . 'This is only a transition. Soon we'll arrive in Poland. . . . It's only a transition, only a transition' " (36, 95, 106 - 07, 143).

Their optimism mirrors that of the bookstore patron in Orr's poem above, who "optimistically" picks up a copy of Yiddish for Travellers, recalling to himself "that lost land," that lost time and place.

Not to trivialize, but reading Badenheim
always brings to mind the song "Desert Moon"
-- yet another lost place.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Beata ~ Katie ~ Kitti

Precisely a year ago, as Daylight Saving Time began, I took the opportunity to thank my friend Beata for her consistent inspiration and contributions to my blogs. So it seems only fitting that this year, I pay tribute to our mutual friend Katie who never fails to send me just the right poem, cartoon, or article at just the right time, and to keep us all abreast of local literary and cultural events that we might otherwise overlook.

September Birthday Girls: Beata & Katie

Thanks to Katie
for this inspiring collection of connections:

Evening ~ Timing ~ Floating: Poetry by Leonard Orr

"Sometimes a girl just needs to read a good book!"


Dark Days

A Good Day to Be a Cat

Mere PhD

Fairy Tale

Waiting for the Full Moon

Godspeed October

What Makes Life So Sweet

Alas, Poor Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern! We Knew Them!

Macabre Matryoshka

January 2017 ~ Surviving the Midwinter Blues
". . . If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. . . . "

~ from "A Brief for the Defense" by Jack Gilbert

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Romantics & Street Mimes

Acutely accurate cartoon given to me by friends
at my first real job in the real world.

early 1980s ~ by Richard Stine

Birthday card to me from Gerry; we had entered
the world but still felt fairly confident!

early 1990s ~ by Kim Warp

Next thing you know, we moved to Philadelphia
and learned right away what it was like to be
fooled by street mimes on a daily basis.

We were just innocent little blacksmiths after all!

from Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey