Friday, December 30, 2011

If Only In My Dreams

Outside Looking In

I still love to hear Karen Carpenter sing "I'll Be Home For Christmas, If Only In My Dreams," but I feel differently about this song than I used to. I used to think it was about people who weren't able to travel "home for the holidays" to be with everyone else. Now I'm more inclined to think it's about people who have to travel or have traveled, when all they really want is the privacy of their own home. There they are surrounded by all their loved ones, but what they crave is to be home alone -- if only in their dreams.

Not to be all bah - humbug about it, but now whenever I hear lyrics like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" or "There's No Christmas Like Home Christmas," my response is Precisely! Home. H - O - M - E. Not someone else's home. Not someplace that used to be home. Your own home. Where your heart is. As John Denver sings:

"Home is where the heart is,
and Christmas lives there too."

This excerpt is from my latest fortnightly post
"Divine Homesickness: If Only In My Dreams"

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


Photos ~ 12 December 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

The Triumph of the Innocents
by William Holman Hunt, 1827-1910
Walker Art Gallery

Innocent's Song
Who's that knocking on the window,
Who's that standing at the door,
What are all those presents
Laying on the kitchen floor?

Who is the smiling stranger
With hair as white as gin,
What is he doing with the children
And who could have let him in?

Why has he rubies on his fingers,
A cold, cold crown on his head,
Why, when he caws his carol,
Does the salty snow run red?

Why does he ferry my fireside
As a spider on a thread,
His fingers made of fuses
And his tongue of gingerbread?

Why does the world before him
Melt in a million suns,
Why do his yellow, yearning eyes
Burn like saffron buns?

Watch where he comes walking
Out of the Christmas flame,
Dancing, double-talking:

Herod is his name.


by Charles Causley, 1917 - 2003

Monday, December 26, 2011

Nativity

The little tiny Santa was my mom's -- from the 1930s.
We always put him (& the lamp post)
in with our small white Nativity,
along with some canopic jars, that Sam created from Sculpey
for his 5th grade Egyptian project!

One Christmas vacation memory that I will always cherish is the year (1976, I think) when I had stopped by to visit my friend Marilyn and ended up spending the night with her family because it suddenly started snowing so hard that I couldn't drive home. We pulled on our boots and took a walk outside to see the lighted Nativity in her neighborhood. As we circled back around the block, Marilyn pointed to the fresh footsteps in the snow and said, "Look, someone has been to see the Baby."

Of course, they were our own footprints, for the snowy sidewalks were utterly quiet and untouched by any prints save our own. Yet, there was something so mystical about the way Marilyn said, "Look!" -- almost as if someone unknown to us was also out and about. Good King Wenceslas, perhaps? The Old Lamplighter? Or maybe the Little Drummer Boy.

I often wish that I had asked Marilyn at the time to tell me more about what she was thinking, but now I'll never know. Instead, it lingers as one of those poetic "ponder in your heart" Christmas moments, and that's good too. In fact, maybe that's why I will never forget.

Another favorite,
featuring Shepherd Girl (pink skirt) & Wise Woman (gold scarf)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve on the Train

"I knowed that Santa would find me out!"

As I have a mentioned before on my Fortnightly Blog (No One With A Nose / Wise Fool / Ode to Josef), when Ben and Sam attended St. Peter's School in Philadelphia, they were required to memorize and recite a poem every month. They both jumped right in, declaiming one long narrative after another right from the start. "Christmas Eve on the Train" was one of Sam's earliest choices, and one for which he was awarded the monthly declamation prize.

It was my idea that Sam give this particular poem a try because, as a child, I myself had loved to hear my Grandma Lindsey recite it. She must have learned it from the above clipping that my mother found among Grandma's papers, many years after her death. We pieced it together as best we could, though a few segments were missing.

I never knew my grandmother to actually read the poem from the clipping or from any other source -- only to recite it word for word from memory. Her spoken version always closed with the penultimate stanza, " . . . And so he came to the little maid / In an emigrant's disguise." As you can see, this is also where the above clipping (which includes neither author nor title) concludes, so perhaps that's all she ever knew.

Despite my many Christmas books and poetry anthologies, I have yet to encounter this poem anywhere, other than my grandmother's recitations; her crumbling clipping, and -- more recently -- on the internet, where I learned of the last stanza and the author's name with the aid of Google. It was extremely gratifying to realize from my search results that I am not the only one with fond childhood memories of "Christmas Eve on the Train." I can close my eyes and hear once again my grandmother's soothing voice as if it were yesterday:

Santa Claus On the Train
On a Christmas Eve an emigrant train
Sped on through the blackness of night,
And cleft the pitchy dark in twain
With the gleam of its fierce headlight.

In a crowded car, a noisome place,
Sat a mother and her child;
The woman's face bore want's wan trace,
But the little one only smiled,

And tugged and pulled at her mother's dress,
And her voice had a merry ring,
As she lisped, "Now, mamma, come and guess
What Santa Claus'll bring."

But sadly the mother shook her head,
As she thought of a happier past;
"He never can catch us here," she said.
"The train is going too fast."

"O, mamma, yes, he'll come, I say,
So swift are his little deer,
They run all over the world today; -
I'll hang my stocking up here."

She pinned her stocking to the seat,
And closed her tired eyes;
And soon she saw each longed-for sweet
In dreamland's paradise.

On a seat behind the little maid
A rough man sat apart,
But a soft light o'er his features played,
And stole into his heart.

As the cars drew up at a busy town
The rough man left the train,
But scarce had from the steps jumped down
Ere he was back again.

And a great big bundle of Christmas joys
Bulged out from his pocket wide;
He filled the stocking with sweets and toys
He laid by the dreamer's side.

At dawn the little one woke with a shout,
'Twas sweet to hear her glee;
"I knowed that Santa Claus would find me out;
He caught the train you see."

Though some from smiling may scarce refrain,
The child was surely right,
The good St. Nicholas caught the train,
And came aboard that night.

For the saint is fond of masquerade
And may fool the old and wise,
And so he came to the little maid
In an emigrant's disguise.

****************

And he dresses in many ways because
He wishes no one to know him,
For he never says, "I am Santa Claus,"
But his good deeds always show him.


by Henry C. Walsh, 1863 - 1927

My Personal Christmas Library

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Contents: Sleigh Bells!

"Late at night on Christmas Eve, she carried us each to our high bedroom, and darkened the room, and opened the window, and held us awed in the freezing stillness, saying -- and we could hear the edge of tears in her voice -- 'Do you hear them? Do you hear the bells, the little bells, on Santa's sleigh?' We marveled and drowsed, smelling the piercingly cold night and the sweetness of Mother's warm neck, hearing in her voice so much pent emotion, feeling the familiar strength in the crook of her arms,and looking out over the silent streetlights and the chilled stars over the rooftops of the town. 'Very faint and far away -- can you hear them coming?' And we could hear them coming, very faint and far away,the bells on the flying sleigh."

from An American Childhood (37 - 38)
by Annie Dillard (b. 1945)

When we moved from Philadelphia back to Indiana in 2004, I made one bad packing mistake: I left behind my red leather sleigh bell strap. See it hanging there on the door knob? The last thing I intended to pack, but I forgot.
Our house in Indiana just didn't feel right without that jingle each time we opened and shut the door. So I wrote to my dear friend and realtor, Melani. She and her son Scott paid a visit to the new owners of our Philly house, retrieved the bells, packaged them up and sent them through the mail in the box that you see above.

I've hung on to this special box for seven years now and take it out each December along with my Christmas decorations. It's a seasonal reminder of Melani and Scott's kindness and a symbol of the joy that comes with recovering such a treasured item that you fear is gone forever. That which was lost is found! Thanks Melani & Scott!

Click to View

Speaking of sleigh bells, when I sent this "White Christmas" e-card by Jacquie Lawson to my sister Peg, she wrote back:

"Thank you so much for the e-card. It's beautiful and shows one of the things that's on my bucket list; sleigh ride in a horse drawn sleigh in the snow. No tires, just the sleigh runners. I had a bucket list long before there was such a term and that one is right at the top, and there's still time for Ron to help me make the sleigh ride happen."

And I replied: "Now, about that sleigh ride, I have to tell you the most amazing thing that happened one snowy December night back in 1985 when I was walking across the Notre Dame campus with some friends. We honest to god saw a one - horse open sleigh pass by right in front of our eyes! We were so stunned! Had we imagined that? Was it Santa Claus? Had we been transported to another place and time for a split second? Even now, I have to wonder!

"Come to find out, one of the campus organizations was sponsoring the rides as a fund raiser. They had found some place (an Amish farm?) where you could hire the horse, sleigh, and driver to actually come to campus and give rides to students. So, yes, it turned out there was a logical explanation, but still it remains one of my most magical memories.

"All that to say -- YES! -- go out and find that sleigh and take that ride! Tell Ron that's what you want for Christmas!"

P.S.
" 'HOLINESS TO THE LORD'
shall be engraved on the bells of the horses."
Zechariah 14:20

~ A Bible verse about sleigh bells! Who knew? ~

Check out these wonderfully nostalgic images!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reindeer Paws

Paws vs Pause
Click here to see the extent of the controversy!

Wouldn't this make a great Christmas card: my friend Catherine's darling little MacDuff (i.e., Duffy) looking absolutely princely, prancing in the snow. Surely he is all ready to pull Santa's sleigh, with his beautiful red collar and perfect posture. I can hear it now, up on the rooftop ~ the prancing and pawing of each little paw!

And the way the photographer (i.e., Cate) captured those bright red berries in the foreground -- beautiful! Thanks for sharing, Cate!

My Cats, Pine and Beaumont, Waiting for Santa

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oh! Christmas Tree!

A Regular Vestry Tree

I posted this photograph and a segment from Frost's poem just a few weeks ago ("Ten Thousand Thousand"). Now with Christmas Tree Season upon us, I can't resist posting it again, along with the poem in its entirety. It's a long one, but worth the read:

Christmas Trees
(A Christmas Circular Letter)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees* whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.


Robert Frost , 1874 - 1963
Four-time Pulitzer Prize winning well - loved American poet

*Vestry Trees: click for more info.Little House illustration
by Garth Williams

Friday, December 16, 2011

Annunciation

My second favorite* painting at the Lady Lever Art Gallery:
The Annunciation
by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones
The artist's model for the Virgin Mary was Julia Stephen,
mother of Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell,
and, appropriately, pregnant at the time with Vanessa.

[*Click here to see my first favorite:
"Cordelia's Portion," by Ford Maddox Brown
]

To go along with Burne - Jones' painting at the Lady Lever is this magnificent poem by Denis Levertov; I love the coincidental linguistic connection between the two names! Levertov's poem "is inspired by a compelling line from the 6th century Akathisthos (sung while standing reverently) Hymn of the Orthodox Liturgy in praise of the Theotokos (Mother of God): 'Hail, space for the uncontained God.' "

Annunciation
"Hail, space for the uncontained God!"
(from the Akathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc)

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, 'How can this be?'
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,
Spirit,
suspended,
waiting.
____________________________

She did not cry, "I cannot, I am not worthy,"
nor "I have not the strength."
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.


by Denise Levertov , 1923 - 97
Politically acitve British - born American poet and educator
from her book The Door in the Hive

previously posted poems by Denis Levertov
QK: "The same war continues . . . "

FN: Taste & See

QK: Taste & See

more on The Annunciation
QK: Blessed

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hap, Hap, Happiest!

"HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS"

One of our favorite holiday movies, filled with a litany of family - centered wisdom, is Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation. Yes, we know it's ridiculous, but it's a keeper! The mom, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) provides a role - model for how to live peaceably amidst a houseful of relatives: "I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery."

The best lines comes along when the holiday is crumbling apart, and the long - distance relatives decide to make an early departure. Clark / Chevy bars the way:

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f-----g Kaye. . . . Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?"

When Ben and Sam were little, I had a moment of misgiving about letting them hear Clark's use of the "f" word; but, otherwise, it was so much fun to watch this movie with them, I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. As they got older, I admitted my shame to them, but they were quick to reassure me that, having never been exposed to such diction before, they didn't even know that they'd just heard a bad word: "We just thought it was Danny Kaye's middle name!" (Yes, they also knew who Danny Kaye was thanks to numerous viewings of White Christmas.")

This excerpt is from my latest fortnightly post
"The Hap, Hap, Happiest Holidays"

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Lucia

My Little Lucia Miniature ~ She is a British Lucia, bringing Christmas Pudding & Tea! ~
**************

Betsy McCall Celebrates Lucia Day

I first learned about Lucia Day in 1972, when Betsy McCall Paper Dolls were a regular feature in McCall's Magazine. Back in those days, I saved numerous pages and articles from my mother's holiday magazines, but for some reason, not this one. However, even without the magazine before me, I've never lost the image of Betsy as Lucia. I have heard many friends say that this was their favorite and most memorable Betsy Doll. (Thankfully, some devoted archivists out there have saved the original issue!)*
In Sweden, at least in days of yore, the occasion was observed by adorning the eldest sister with a crown of candles as she carried a tray of yellow saffron buns about the house, serving her family members breakfast in bed. The buns are formed in various shapes, depending on which legend you follow. My favorite, of course, are the Luciakatter ~ St. Lucy's Cats ~ and I like to make mine out of gingerbread rather than the traditional saffron yeast dough.

One of my favorite Carl Larsson paintings is this romantic depiction of the early morning ritual:

The Feast of St. Lucy on 13th December, 1916
More Larsson paintings: Carl Larsson Gallery

More Carl Larsson on my blog: Kitchen Windows & Celebrations

More seasonal festivities: School of Seasons

More background on St. Lucy's Day

More tips on contemporary Lucia observations

More on my Fortnightly blog: Day of Light (and related Quotidian Kit)

* And More on the topic of saving old magazines:
I recently sent the following to Seventeen Magazine.
Does anyone else remember this story?
Did anyone save a copy?

Dear Seventeen,

Many years ago -- I'm guessing December 1973 0r 1974 -- I read a story in your magazine called "The Girl Who Just Loved Christmas," about a romantic teen-aged girl who is upset the first time that her older sister brings her fiance home for Christmas because it is going to change some of the family customs, such as who gets to put the star on top of the tree. Unfortunately, I do not recall the author's name; and sadly, though I kept it for many years, I no longer have my copy of the magazine.

As you can see, I have never forgotten this favorite old story, and every year at Christmastime I always long to read it once again! I have tried searching on google, but without any luck. Can you tell me if there is a way for me to access your archives, or a way for you to do a search for me? I would be so grateful!

Happy Holidays & thanks to your magazine for so many happy memories from my girlhood!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Full Truce Moon

Okay, I admit, this is not Venus!
It is the Moon!
But it's still a truce between Heaven and Earth!
And it's still autumn!

Truce for a Moment

Truce for a moment between Earth and Ether
Slackens the mind's allegiance to despair:
Shyly confer earth, water, fire and air
With the fifth essence.

For the duration, if the mind require it,
Trigged is the wheel of Time against the slope;
Infinite space lies curved with the scope
Of the hand's cradle.

Thus between day and evening in the autumn,
High in the west alone and burning bright,
Venus has hung, the earliest riding-light
In the calm harbor.


by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1901)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923

P.S.
"There is a moon inside every human being." ~ Rumi ~

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More Academic Holiday Humor

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Back when I was in graduate school, some of my funny friends wrote this invitation for a party that was being held at the Graduate Student Union -- 27 years ago today! Can't remember whether or not I joined them, but I did save their clever end - of - semester poem:

Et Incarnatus Sunt

Angels of Light and Darkness:

It is in the air.
In your pride and overwork
You have decided against attending
the GSU Christmas party,
December 7, 1984.
You are in error!

Descend!
Descend!
Descend!
Descend to the Senior Bar below!

Mix and mingle with humans on earth.
They need you. Condescend for one hour temporal.
Bring joy and gladness, your essence angelic, to
those caught in clay.

Get on down!
Shake a tail feather!
Drink divine wine!

Those below need to see and to speak with you. One hour,
a mere pittance in your eternity.

Do you need a buck?
See me at the door.
I'll buy your ticket.

~The Gate Keeper

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Presents from Gerry's Auntie Jan (1997):
Red Wooden Shoes, Inscribed "Ben" & "Sam"
and an Amazingly Detailed Bread Dough St. Nick


AN EDUCATOR'S PERSPECTIVE
ON THE QUESTION OF SANTA CLAUS


Dear Editors,

I am old and weary, beyond my years. Some of my friends in the English Department say there is no humor, no heart, no faith, no optimism in the department. My colleagues say, "If you see it in the DEPARTMENT NEWSLETTER, it must be so." Please tell me the truth.

~Virginia

Virginia,

Your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of skeptical times. They do not believe except they read and hear and feel. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by the meetings, the memos, and the mumbling in the halls. All minds, Virginia, are susceptible to littleness. In this great department of ours, one is a mere insect, an ant, in intellect as compared with the boundless world about us, as measured by our many intelligences capable of grasping the whole.

Yes, Virginia, there are humor, heart, faith, and optimism in this department. They exist as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your job its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be this department if there were no humor, no heart, no faith, no optimism. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would no childlike faith then, no poetry, no prose, no romance enough to make tolerable this job. We would have no enjoyment, except in meanness, bitterness, and pessimism. The light with which our profession fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe this department has humor, heart, faith, optimism! You might as well not believe in teachers. You might get your colleagues to listen in at all the classroom and office doors on any given day to catch the spirit, but even if you did not see the spirit, what would that prove? Nobody sees humor or heart or faith or optimism, but that is no sign that there are none. The most real things in education are those that no one can see. Did you ever see teachers dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they do not. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart each other's theories and think you see what makes the thesis, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest, not even the united strength of all the strongest that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, prose, and love can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No humor, heart, faith, or optimism in the English Department. Thank our lucky stars; thank all gods and goddesses! They live and live forever. A thousand semesters from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 semesters from now, these will continue to make glad the heart of this and every college and every student, professor, and administrator in the land.


******************************

I came across the above academic rendering
back in the 90s when I worked at the
Community College of Philadelphia

Click here to read the history and text of the original

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dawn on the Wabash

A Touch of Very Early Snow

A couple of days ago it happened again: the first day of the season when we could look out of our bedroom window early in the morning and see the sun reflected on the Wabash (marred slightly by our neighbor's car and garage, but just don't look at that).

We have to wait for all the leaves to fall and for the sun to hit the surface of the river at just the right angle. This conjunction of natural phenomena usually lasts from just before the Winter Solstice until the Vernal Equinox, or thereabouts. Then the leaves start budding, and the river view, though only a few blocks away, is hidden from us for many months to come.

Several old heart-felt American songs feature the moonlight on the leafy banks of the Wabash, along with cornfields, sycamore trees, and candlelight (e.g., "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" & "Back Home Again in Indiana").

My hymn, however, is raised to the chilly winter Wabash, the rare December sunlight; the stark, bare trees; and the lone golden leaf still hanging on! (In the upper left - hand corner, see?)

P.S. Musical renditions:
"On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" &
"Back Home Again in Indiana"

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Magpie Waiting for his Beautiful Partner

December is here! Time for thoughts of snow . . .
The Magpie by Claude Monet

Monet's The Magpie


Has the magpie just landed or is it
about to fly off? Is it morning or late afternoon?
Monet doesn't say, so I have decided
it is a male bird of the most intense devotion.
He has been waiting since noon for his
beautiful partner, waiting for her
to land there beside him on the skewed fence,
attuned to the sound of her soft feathers.
Snow upon snow, he searches
for the familiar, nimble Ys of her small feet.
He found some treasures he saved to give her,
a sweet wedge of tangerine, a quarter
of a whole wheat bagel, that was hard to carry,
even though he is large for a magpie. He looks
north, the sun behind him, trying to give
the best appearance for when she flies up.
While he waited he made up a new tune
he wants to sing to her, hoping his love will be
obvious and will heat her beneath her fine plumage.

by Leonard Orr,
artist, poet, professor of post - modernism and literary criticism
from his book Why We Have Evening


Snow upon snow . . .
Click to see more paintings by Leonard Orr

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Falling Fruit, The Certain Spring

"Now it is autumn and the falling fruit
and the long journey towards oblivion."
~ D. H. Lawrence ~

On 14 November, my Fortnightly post --"Daffodils of Autumn" featured two seasonal songs by Adrian Henri, both dedicated to his predecessor A. E. Houseman. Yet another of Henri's autumnal poems is dedicated to modernist poet and novelist D. H. Lawrence. Henri offers an "Epilogue" to Lawrence's long poem "The Ship of Death," a ten - part extended analogy, in which Lawrence writes bleakly of death as a choppy voyage into the unknown, rounded out with the faint promise of rebirth.

Henri responds to Lawrence's poem by personifying and embracing the Dark. He dispels the fear of a long dark late autumn night with an open invitation of hospitality and in-gathering:

Epilogue
(for D. H. L.)

Autumn
and leaves swirl at the roadside
splatter on windscreens
summer hopes gone
fears for the dark
the long night ahead
light ebbing to the slow horizon

"Autumn,
The falling fruit,
The long journey,"

Prepare for the dark
O bring it home with you
tuck it into bed
welcome him into your hearth
into your heart
the familiar stranger at the evening fireside

Wind howls in the trees
and toads curl into beds of leaves
night moves into day
moths into velvet
hedges brown with dying willow-herb

Open your door to the dark
the evening snow drift in unheeded
light dies from the sky
gather the stranger close on the pillow

seeds lie buried
safe under hedgerows
gather him to you
O gather him to you

Take the dark stranger
Cold under blankets
Gather O Gather
Alone in the darkness


Adrian Henri ~

click here to read the entire text of "The Ship of Death"
by D. H. Lawrence
and here for further analysis of the poem

and here to read my most recent essay
"The Falling Fruit, The Certain Spring"

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Productivity

"PRODUCTIVITY" by Addison Jordan
ECONOMIC CONCEPT CALENDAR, NOVEMBER 2011
INDIANA COUNCIL FOR ECONOMIC EDUCATION
[click ICEE, scroll down to page 7 for calendar contest winners,
click winning entries link for a look at the 2012 calendar,
click illustration above to enlarge text for reading]

I couldn't let the month of November come to a close without showing you the picture that I have been admiring on my calendar all month long. If you happen to follow my Fortnightly blog, you'll know that it always begins with a picture that in some way or other captures the sentiment of "A House Where All's Accustomed, Ceremonious." For today's new Fortnightly post I chose my friend Addison's illustration of "Productivity" from the ICEE Calendar.

Throughout the year, I have learned a lot from this calendar ("Opportunity Cost," for example). Addison's drawing makes me think of one of our favorite places in Philadelphia where all was always accustomed and ceremonious -- Lorenzo's Pizza, on the corner of South and 3rd. Although it doesn't show in the photograph, they have a huge oven, similar to the one in Addison's picture. If you want to see you your pizza created and baked right before your eyes, this is the place to go:

GREAT PIZZA BY THE SLICE

PHILADELPHIA MURAL ARTS PROGRAM

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dalton Gang

Day After Thanksgiving, 2007

One of my favorite childhood activities was begging my Grandpa Lindsey to take me to The Dalton Museum in Coffeyville, Kansas. A few Thanksgivings ago, I told my sons -- who had never been there -- that they had to see this place before they grew up and went away to college, because it had been such an important and well-loved part of my childhood. So, here we are in the picture!

Remember at the beginning of a A Child's Christmas in Wales when Dylan Thomas, recalling a big snowfall from years before, says that he "can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when [he] was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when [he] was six"? Well, for a long time I had a similar situation with my family's personal Dalton legend.

I could never quite remember if one of my grandfather's brothers gave one of the Dalton brothers a haircut or if one of the Dalton brothers gave one of my grandfather's brothers a haircut. I knew it was something along those lines. My mother clarified for me: it was her father's brother Wayne who gave Emmett a few shaves after Emmett got out of prison. My mom tells me that Wayne had barber shops in Elgin, Peru, Chautauqua, and Havana (all in Kansas). She's not sure in which location Emmett and Wayne met, but it's still a good story. Maybe not as exciting as my grand-dad and his brothers being part of an actual gang, but I can still say that my great-uncle was Emmett Dalton's barber!


To refresh your memory of the notorious, ill-fated Dalton Gang, try reading Desperadoes by Ron Hansen (American novelist, essayist, and professor; b 1947). Hansen's approach is so straightforward, almost not fiction, but he does seem to get Emmett's voice right, and it's gratifying to know that no stone has been left unturned. My favorite passage has to be the comment that Hansen gives to Emmett when he gets out of prison and rides the train across the country in 1906: "Seems like everywhere you look it's the twentieth century."

You might also enjoy my blog post from last summer, "End of Summer Sounds." Though you may not envision an immediate connection between the Dalton brothers and the cicada, it's there! It just takes someone like me to show the way!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Occupy Shopping

[Updated: 28 April 2012]
Thanks to Richard Seifert for observing
that the logo on my bright red vintage gift box
derives from the golden detail on the case of the
Wanamaker Organ

********************************

Souvenir Shadow Box from Philadelphia

Top: a pencil drawing of the revered old
John Wanamaker's Department Store
(a gift to us from American Picture Framing, Inc., Philadelphia)

Bottom: a Wanamaker's Christmas Gift Box
(discovered in the attic when we moved to Philadelphia,
left behind by previous owners)

Detail of Drawing

I don't know who wrote the following call to action or where it originates; in my case, thanks go to my brother Aaron for first bringing it to my attention a few weeks ago. I've seen some longer versions floating around the internet, but here's a shorter, blog - length version that you might like (well, not all that short!):

Occupy Gift - Giving
With the holidays upon us, the giant commercial machine has kicked into high gear to provide us all with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods. How about something different this year? You don't have to go out shopping the day after Thanksgiving if you don't want to. In lieu of the over - hyped Black Friday approach, how about giving the gift of genuine concern for others to your friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens. It's time to think outside the gift - box! There is no excuse for not choosing something that has been produced locally and seasonally by someone in your community. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box or be covered in costly wrapping paper?

Remember the lesson of "It's A Wonderful Life"? The Christmas Spirit is about caring for our neighbors who make their livings in the U. S. economy and encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. Lets Occupy Christmas with this attitude! Let's create a revolution of caring about each other! Isn't that what Christmas is about?

Gift Giving Ideas:
In every community, there are numerous owner-run restaurants -- some plain, some fancy -- all offering gift certificates. An elegant dinner date would be a great surprise; or half a dozen breakfasts at the local diner. Remember, this isn't about big national chains -- this is about supporting your hometown restaurants!

How about an oil change for car, truck, or motorcycle at a nearby garage? Small, American-owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a single - use gift certificate or a book of gift certificates to be used throughout the year.

A computer tune-up from a young technologist who is struggling to get a new repair business up and running.

Lawn mowing, snow removal, and housecleaning services.

Gift certificates from your locally owned hair salon or barber.

Gym membership or games at the local golf course.

Local crafts, wool, scarves, jewelry, soap, pottery, beautiful wooden boxes, and holiday decorations.

Tickets to a play or ballet at your hometown theater; or a night out at the local jazz club or comedy club.

Holiday outings at local, owner-operated clubs and restaurants (including a nice tip for your servers).

Think of it this way: when you buy a five dollar string of lights, only about fifty cents stays in the community. Instead, how about spending the entire $5 locally in the form of a nice big tip for your mail carriers, trash removers, or baby sitters?"

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentle Folk!Detail of Logo

"Let those who
follow me continue
to build with the plumb of honor
the level of truth and
the square of
integrity education
courtesy & mutuality."

~ John Wanamaker, 1838 - 1922 ~
[click to see in-store photo]

Wanamaker was an innovative, enlightened retailer,
showing his fellow department store owners how to
"Occupy Shopping" in the late 18th Century.
For more on Wanamaker's Creed
see Marketing Methods and Salesmanship
by Ralph Starr Butler


On the wall behind us:
Wanamaker Shadowbox DisplayGer & Kit

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Hollodays

A Little Boilermaker in Philadelphia

Things I Am Thankful For

My family,
My house,
My food and drinks,
My school,
My computer,
My books,
My toys,
My Hollodays,
My life.


By Sam McCartney, age 7
Class assignment, 2nd grade
University City New School, West Philadelphia
Thanksgiving 2000

P.S. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Little Jack Horner:
Sam loved using the kitchen step stool as his own little table!
Beaumont likes it too, as her chosen snacking spot!
Pine standing on tiptoe, stealing Beaumont's leftovers!

Monday, November 21, 2011

We Who Eat the Food


Ancient Hindu Blessing

The ritual is One
The food is One
We who offer the food are One
The fire of hunger is also One
All action is One
We who understand this are One.

The above blessing is a new one for me this year; how timely that I should come across it in my reading just in time for Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving stories was new last year. It comes from my Aunt Sue, known in her family as NeeNah, who was writing to share some recipes and tell me about how Thanksgiving Day had turned out for her, her husband Joe, and some of their kids, grand kids, friends, and neighbors. I love her description of packing the carry - all! I can nearly taste each bite, can't you? Here's what she wrote:

"I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving day. We have so much to be thankful for.

I cooked as usual and had Austin, the oldest Grandson and his Dad, Steve over. They always look forward to NeeNah's cooking on the holidays. Then one of Joe's trooper buddies stopped over and though he couldn't stay or come back for dinner, since he was working the plaza on the turnpike very close to here, he said he could come back and pick up a plate if that was o.k. We said sure, so that's what he did. I have one of those nice covered carry - alls that has several sections in it and I filled each of those, then put his pie, orange fruit salad, cranberry sauce and rolls in other containers in a bag. Joe called him and told him it was ready for pick-up. He took it back to work and said he shared with someone else.

When he finished work and brought the containers back, he said, 'You must be from the South to cook like that.'

I said, 'I am from Missouri.'

And he said, 'Well, that's the South!'

I told him that my Momma was a wonderful cook and she could cook anything and everything. I guess I learned from her!"

Love, Aunt Sue


I was also recently reminded of a long - ago Thanksgiving when my lovely friend Elaine and I decided -- in the spirit of over the river and through the wood -- that we could make it all the way from Northwest Arkansas to Northeast Missouri in her unheated vintage BMW. The fire was hot within us, but the temperatures outside were frightful (yes, even in the South) and the car was freezing. After twenty - five miles or so of trying unsuccessfully / unsafely to see through the perma - frosted windshield, we faced reality and turned around. Of course, planning to be elsewhere, we had prepared no Thanksgiving food of any kind, aside from an experimental fruitcake baked the week before in a tin can in a crock - pot. We were feastless! So we gave thanks that night for one of America's finest traditions:


You might also enjoy
these previous posts about Southern Cooking
and the women in my family:

G.R.I.T.S.

Tomatoes and Gravy