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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Harvest View

My 6th Grade Chalk Drawing, Fall 1968
~ Thanks to Mrs. Mitchell for being the best art teacher ever! ~

"Many times we've watched the cornfields
turn from green to gold.
The pattern is familiar as the picture is unrolled,
but every time it happens,
it is strange and fresh and new.
Never does the eye grow weary of the harvest view."

This little poem dates back to those years when every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter my mother ordered the holiday issues of Ideals Magazine. How we kids loved pouring over the vintage drawings and nostalgic poetry, much of which we memorized not so much from trying but just from reading and re-reading so many times.

Year after year, we awaited the moment -- usually a few weeks before the actual Christmas decorations came out -- when Mom would take out the cardboard box in which the Ideals were stored. Even now, my siblings and I can describe to each other every vivid detail of the unforgettable shiny covers. The quaint outdoor scenes of villages and haywagons; the lush seasonal still - life photographs of golden candles and holly berries are forever linked to our memories of each festive season.

Here is one of my favorites -- the lantern and the bittersweet, with the verse above, unattributed, on the opening page:
Ideals Magazine, Thanksgiving Issue
November 1966, Volume 23, Number 5
Maryjane Hooper Tonn & John H. Hafemeister, eds.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Liverpool Daffodils

"Tonight at noon . . .
The first daffodils of autumn will appear
When the leaves fall upwards to the trees"

~ from "Tonight at Noon" ~

"Come close, my love, and tell me
April will never end
That daffodil like gorse-bush
Will last to the year's end"

~ from "Song in April" ~


To accompany the daffodil imagery of
Liverpool poet Adrian Henri,
these beautifully drawn daffodils
are from the Botany collection at the
World Museum, Liverpool.
To send as e-cards, click
HERE (L)
HERE (R)
















For more info: National Museums Liverpool
For more online museum activities: Multimedia
For more e-card selections: Museum E - Cards

For more poetry from Adrian Henri
see Daffodils of Autumn
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony


See also my previous Adrian Henri posts:

Brush With Greatness

Holy Connection and Coincidence Batman!

Which Season: Summer or Fall?

Tonight at Noon, Equinox, Harvest Moon

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child

Happy Batday

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Evensong


The Day Thou Gavest
(click to hear choral rendition)


The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended;
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As o'er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren 'neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord! Thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away;
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.


by John Ellerton

For more about this song
see my post from 28 October:

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


~ NEW FORTNIGHTLY POST TOMORROW ~
~ 14 NOVEMBER 2011 ~
Daffodils of Autumn

Friday, November 11, 2011

"The same war continues . . . "

As I have mentioned before, for an occasional infusion of creativity, I like to peruse the paintings of my friend Leonard Orr and challenge myself to describe each work of art in one or two words. For this one (above), I thought, "Veterans Day" because it brought to mind the Buddy Poppies that are designed and distributed by the VFW. These little red boutonnières have always been a part of my earliest Armistice / Veterans Day memories, when I would go to the cemetery and the parade with my parents and grandparents.

And for this one, I thought:
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow . . . "

Another fitting poem for the day:

Life at War

The disasters numb within us
caught in the chest, rolling
in the brain like pebbles. The feeling
resembles lumps of raw dough

weighing down a child’s stomach on baking day.
Or Rilke said it, ‘My heart. . .
Could I say of it, it overflows
with bitterness . . . but no, as though

its contents were simply balled into
formless lumps, thus
do I carry it about.’
The same war

continues.
We have breathed the grits of it in, all our lives,
our lungs are pocked with it,
the mucous membrane of our dreams
coated with it, the imagination
filmed over with the gray filth of it:

the knowledge that humankind,

delicate Man, whose flesh
responds to a caress, whose eyes
are flowers that perceive the stars,

whose music excels the music of birds,
whose laughter matches the laughter of dogs,
whose understanding manifests designs
fairer than the spider’s most intricate web

still turns without surprise, with mere regret
to the scheduled breaking open of breasts whose milk
runs out over the entrails of still-alive babies,
transformation of witnessing eyes to pulp-fragments,
implosion of skinned penises into carcass-gulleys.

We are the humans, men who can make;
whose language imagines mercy,
lovingkindness
we have believed one another
mirrored forms of a God we felt as good—

who do these acts, who convince ourselves
it is necessary; these acts are done
to our own flesh; burned human flesh
is smelling in Vietnam as I write.

Yes, this is the knowledge that jostles for space
in our bodies along with all we
go on knowing of joy, of love;

our nerve filaments twitch with its presence
day and night,
nothing we say has not the husky phlegm of it in the saying,
nothing we do has the quickness, the sureness,
the deep intelligence living at peace would have.


by Denise Levertov , 1923 - 97
Politically acitve British - born American poet and educator

from To Stay Alive
New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1971

A closing thought for Veterans Day:

"I hate with a murderous hatred those men who, having lived their youth,
would send into war other youth, not lived, unfulfilled,
to fight and die for them; the pride and cowardice of those old men,
making their wars that boys must die."


Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1876 - 1958
American mystery writer and war correspondent

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

See also my previous Veterans Day posts:
Armistice Day (2009)

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child (2010)

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

and my previous Leonard Orr posts:


End of Summer Sounds

Golden Paintings by Leonard Orr

Excellent Images

Happy Birthday Dylan Thomas

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Full Moon, Full Heart

Maybe this month's Mourning Moon won't seem so sad if you open your heart to the magic and share it with someone else.

Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my ♥ heart ♥ to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.


Rumi, 1207 - 1273
13th-century Persian poet
Philosopher, scholar, mystic

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962
Very popular American poet
Somewhat unconventional,
sometimes eccentric









# VIII from The Black Rider and Other Lines

I looked here;
I looked there;
Nowhere could I see my love.
And -- this time --
She was in my heart.
Truly, then, I have no complaint,
For though she be fair and fairer,
She is none so fair as she
In my heart.


Stephen Crane, 1871 - 1900
Influential, innovative American author
Journalist, novelist, poet

Free Valentine Picture of a Blue Heart Clipart Image. Click Here to Get Free Images at Valentine-Clipart.com
[click ♥ for ♥-clipart.com]

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Perfect World, Better Than Real

My Favorite Wingfield Illustration
from The Party by M. E. Gagg

[See also this nostalgic blog post from "Wartime Housewife"
about the rosy world of Wingfield]

As I mentioned a couple of years ago, I always find Bill Bryson to be at his most endearing when he describes his favorite children's books from long ago. Like Bryson, I too have always felt "strangely influenced" by the depiction of life in those old readers and storybooks. Bryson's enthusiasm indicates that it's not just a "girl thing" to want that idealized version of childhood for your kids. Father's can have a similar vision (Bryson has, I think, 2 daughters and 2 sons). As Bryson was enchanted by the Ladybird Reading Series, illustrated by J. H. (Harry) Wingfield, I, in turn, am equally enchanted by Bryson's description of this long lost imaginary world:

"Once many years ago, in anticipation of the offspring we would one day have, a relative of my wife's gave us a box of Ladybird children's books from the 1950s and 1960s. They all had titles like Out in the Sun and Sunny Days at the Seaside, and contained meticulously drafted, richly colored illustrations of a prosperous, contented, litter-free Britain in which the sun always shone, shopkeepers smiled, and children in freshly pressed clothes derived happiness and pleasure from innocent pastimes -- riding a bus to the shops, floating a model boat on a park pond, chatting to a kindly policeman.

"My favorite was a book called Adventure on the Island. There was in fact precious little adventure in the book--the high point, I recall, was finding a starfish suckered to a rock -- but I loved it because of the illustrations (by the gifted and much-missed J. H. Wingfield), which portrayed an island of rocky coves and long views that was recognizably British, but with a Mediterranean climate and a tidy absence of pay-and-display car parks, bingo parlors, and the tackier sort of amusement arcades. Here commercial activity was limited to the odd cake shop and tearoom.


"I was strangely influenced by this book, and for some years agreed to take our family vacations at the British seaside on the assumption that one day we would find this magic place where summer days were forever sunny, the water as warm as a sitz bath, and commercial blight unknown.

"When at last we began to accumulate children, it turned out that they didn't like these books at all because the characters in them never did anything more lively than visit a pet shop or watch a fisherman paint his boat. I tried to explain that this was sound preparation for life in Britain, but they wouldn't have it and instead, to my dismay, attached their affections to a pair of irksome little clots called Topsy and Tim."
from Notes From a Small Island (103 - 04)
by Bill Bryson


Topsy and Tim certainly appear eager to camp out in a tent and clamber through the woods, yet the illustrations simply do not carry the idealized charm that Bryson appreciated in the Ladybird / Wingfield adventures. For another look at the contrast between Ladybird and Topsy & Tim, scroll down to see yesterday's post on "Bonfire Night".

I've written several posts on Bill Bryson (see list below), but I can't move on without sharing one more thing: his winsome commentary on the Dick & Jane reading series. The following passage from his memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is rather lengthy but well worth reading every heartfelt and hilarious word:

"We were taught to read from Dick and Jane books, solid hardbacks bound in a heavy - duty red or blue fabric. They had . . . lots of handsome watercolor illustrations featuring a happy, prosperous, good - looking, law - abiding, but interestingly strange family. . . . Father is always called Father, never Dad or Daddy . . . Mother is always Mother. . . . The family has no last name. They live in a pretty house with picket fence on a pleasant street . . . The children . . . have only the simplest and most timeless of toys: a ball, a wagon, a kite, a wooden sailboat. . . .

"I was captivated by the Dick and Jane family . . . so wonderfully, fascinatingly different from my own family . . .

"Because our Dick and Jane books at Greenwood were ten or fifteen years old, they depicted a world that was already gone. The cars were old - fashioned; the buses, too. The shops the family frequented were of a type that no longer existed -- pet shops with puppies in the window, toy stores with wooden toys, grocers where items were fetched for you by a cheerful man in a white apron. I found everything about this enchanting. . . . It was a wonderful world, a perfect world, friendly, hygienic, safe, better than real. There was just one very odd thing...Whenever any of the characters spoke, they didn't sound like humans (145 - 47)."


Bryson goes on to mimic the stilted dialogue of the reading series:

"'Here we are at the farm,' says Father . . . then adds a touch robotically: 'Hello, Grandmother. Here we are at the farm.'

"'Oh, look! Here we are at the farm,' adds Dick . . . 'Here we are at the farm . . . Here is Grandfather, too! Here we are at the farm'

"It was like this one every page. Every character talked exactly like people whose brains had been taken away. . . .

"I loved the Dick and Jane books so much that I took them home and kept them. (There were stacks of spares in the cloakroom.) I still have them and still look at them from time to time. And I am still looking for [that] family . . . " (147 - 48).


from The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid:
A Memoir

by Bill Bryson

My essays "Tom, Betty & Susan In The Autumn" and "Dick, Jane & Bill (Bryson)"describe my own early mesmerizing experience with The Little Red, Blue, and Green Storybooks, which is remarkably similar to Bryson's nostalgic attachment to these formative old favorites.

My previous posts about Bill Bryson include

"Monday Pop" Quiz

"The Small Things That Make the Big Things Big"

"Dick, Jane & Bill (Bryson)"

"Jam Cake"

"Mind the Gap!"

"Catching Up On Bill Bryson" (on book blog)

"Siblings in Literature" (one of my Listmania! lists on amazon.com)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bonfire Night

While the Brits may not go crazy for Halloween the way we do here in the States, they have something that we don't -- Bonfire Night every year on the 5th of November, otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Night. (See my post last year on Guy Fawkes Day.)

The tradition originated back in 1605, during the reign of James I of England (VI of Scotland) when the traitor (or hero) Guy Fawkes participated in an unsuccessful rebellion against Church and State. The occasion no longer carries a revolutionary connotation -- though fans of the renegade movie V for Vendetta will recognize it as a subtext in the film.

Over the years the historical commemoration has been modified into a night of fireworks and bonfires, though in England as in America, the tradition of an autumn bonfire right in your own backyard, or even a larger communal bonfire, is becoming more and more prohibited in the name of safety and environmental friendliness.

Bonfire illustrations by J. H. Wingfield
from the Ladybird Book
Helping At Home by M. E. Gagg













My brother Dave writes from Kansas: "I am fortunate to live in Kansas and in the County because we are still so 'backward' as to allow burning of leaves. Soon, I will be heaping up my own funeral pyre to autumn and invoking the solemn vespers of the season."

Autumn Vespers
You can't burn just - fallen leaves anymore,
something about the frail environment.
Oh yes, you can rake them into neat piles
(Just so many to each pile),
shake them down into plastic, shroud-black bags
(Just so many to each bag),
and line the bags in front of your house
(Just so many bags to each leaf - gatherer)
for execution in the morning.

But you can't lean on an old, wooden rake
at dusk, as companion to the evening star,
to watch flames, like small orange flowers,
burn through long lines of dead, rebellious leaves
and reverently contemplate blue smoke
spreading like incense from a swung censer
and rising, like prayer, to an autumnal god
who had contrived the red apple, purple plum
bursting joy of tree, bush, vine, and kitchen bowl,
and you can't, like a ministering priest,
bend to the faint pulse of the failing day
convinced that you alone are confidant
to the last sigh of the dying earth.


poem by Frank Ryan
found in the Fall 2007 edition of my
favorite poetry magazine, Plainsongs,
published out of Hastings College, Nebraska

A Recent Bonfire in Missouri
photographed by Jay Beets

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls: From Dust Thou Art

"Life is a constant battle
between the heart and the brain.
But guess who wins.
The skeleton."

a deep thought by Jack Handey
from The Lost Deep Thoughts




















Sam's Goblin
acrylic, 1997

The Likelihood
At some time or other the dust will change its mind.
It will cease to be dust.
It will start over again.
It will reconstitute itself,
become skin,
become a fingernail or perhaps
a heart beating slowly.
Whatever, let's keep our eyes open
in case we miss the moment
of the the dust's rebellion,
and our ears open
for the small whisper of
"I'm fed up being dust," or
"I long to be an apple polished
against the sleeve
of a child I'd forgotten!"
It might be the dust buried beneath frost speaking,
or the dust of old machinery,
or the the melancholic dust of friends
who believed in dying.
It might even be the dust of moths
God left uninvented.

Against a pile of such dust I have weighed
the likelihood of you returning.


by British poet Brian Patten (b. 1946)
best known as one of the Liverpool Poets

see previous Quotidian posts:
"Believe In Your Own Full Moonlight"
"Brush With Greatness"

and "Happy Batday" on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

P.S. November 2017 ~ -Related Article for
Día de los Muertos:
"A Brief History of the ‘Danse Macabre’"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saints: A Visit to the Graveyard

Mailboxes at the Cemetery
I like the looks of these . . .
maybe it's not too late to send that letter . . .

"No one gets a thousand years; but if you're lucky you get twenty thousand days and the chance to put down a 'million' things. . . . and one thing I've learned is that the private fingerings of ordinary experience can fill up notebooks as interestingly as musings on great events . . . Time is the strongest thing of all, and the diarist is always fleeing it. He knows he will eventually be run to earth, but his hope is that his book will let each day live beyond its midnight, let it continue somewhere outside its place in a finite row of falling dominoes."

American novelist & critic, Thomas Mallon (b. 1951)
from the introduction to his book
A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries


Appearing as the epilogue in Mallon's book
is this fitting thought for All Saints Day:

"Why do we wish to be remembered, even when none remain who looked upon our face? Surely, though it must retain an element of self- consideration, it is a last acknowledgment that we need to be loved; and, having gone from all touch, we trust that memory may, as it were, keep our unseen presence within the borders of day."

Scottish poet & diarist, William Soutar (1898 - 1943)

"It was suddenly a warm afternoon,
a lost summer day in late autumn."

from The Saffron Kitchen
by Yasmin Crowther1 November 2011