Sunday, September 30, 2012

Last Fruits

Fruit of the Vine Patio Night Light

Autumn Day
Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to ripen on the vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
bring them to ripeness, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine. . .

from the poem
by Rainer Marie Rilke

my favorite lines from various translations:
inward / outward

You can read more Rilke
on my book list blog & on my fortnightly literary blog

Friday, September 28, 2012

Penelope, Who Really Cried

Penelope Unravelling Her Work At Night, 1886
by fabric artist Dora Wheeler, 1856 - 1940
(daughter of Candace Wheeler)
for Associated Artists (New York City, 1883–1907)

To accompany the numerous paintings of Penelope, there are also many poems. My favorite, as so often happens to be the case, is by Edna St. Vincent Millay. In this almost - sonnet, she describes the "ancient gesture" of wiping the corner of your eye with the corner of your apron; it could just as likely be a handkerchief perhaps or a Kleenex, but the apron places Penelope in the heart of the home, the oikos. Not that she does a lot of cooking -- mostly, it's weaving. Subtly, Millay implies a constellation of gestures: hands busy at the loom; arms stretched for relief above one's head; rubbing a stiff neck with one hand while clinching a tired back with the other; bursting all at once into tears; and finally the silent weeping, discreetly wiping the tears away.

"An Ancient Gesture"
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,— a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope...
Penelope, who really cried.
(ellipses in original)

For more poems and paintings concerning Penelope,
see my new blog post
"Penelope, Who Really Cried"
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Taking Heed of Change

Postcard Photography by
Indiana Photographer Darryl Jones

"One lesson you learn from living a long time in a place is how to see things changing. True seeing is not just scanning what's before your eyes at the present moment. True seeing is cumulative. It is adding today's sights onto what you saw yesterday and what you saw in the preceding season, and in this same season a year ago, and the years before, and taking heed of the changes."
~ James Alexander Thom

quotation found in The Spirit of the Place: Indiana Hill Country
text by James Alexander Thom
photography by Darryl L. Jones

See also Indiana, by Jared Carter & Darryl Jones

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Poem for the Autumnal Equinox


As imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away,—
Too imperceptible, at last,
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled,
As twilight long begun,
Or Nature, spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone,—
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing,
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.

by Emily Dickinson
from Complete Poems, Part Two: Nature (1924)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One Last Caress

Late Summer Photography here & below by Jay Beets

A song for the Eve of the Autumnal Equinox

The Summer Knows

performed by Barbra Streisand

The summer smiles
The summer knows
And unashamed
She sheds her clothes
The summer smoothes
The restless sky
And lovingly
She warms the sand
On which you lie
The summer knows
The summer’s wise
She sees the doubts
Within your eyes
And so she takes
Her summertime
Tells the moon to wait
And the sun to linger
Twist the world
Round her summer finger
Lets you see
The wonder of it all
And if you’ve learned
Your lesson well
There’s little more
For her to tell
One last caress
It’s time to dress
For fall
And if you’ve learned
Your lesson well
There’s little more
For her to tell
One last caress
It’s time to dress
For fall

lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman
music by Michel LeGrand
Oscar Winner for Original Dramatic Score
from the movie Summer of '42, 1971

Thousand Hills State Park, Kirksville, Missouri

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thank You Fall!

Autumnal Diorama
American Museum of Natural History
~ New York City ~

Thank you wikipedia
for giving me the name of someone else (like me)
who photographed this mural,
but not the name of the actual artist.
[I took the above photo on 2 June 2011 ~ my son Ben's 21st birthday]

Comedian Jimmy Fallon is the funniest when he writes his ridiculous yet heartfelt "thank you notes" on Friday nights, always to the tune of sappy background music.

Today is perfect for a couple of my seasonal favorites:

"Thank you Fall,
for arriving this week.
I was really getting tired of Summer's bull---t." *

from Thank You Notes 1


"Thank you Fall,
for occasionally going by the name 'Autumn' --
just like my cousin Megan who became a stripper."

from Thank You Notes 2

A few more favorites:

Thank you . . . F12 button on my on my keyboard. What is it you do again? Oh, that's right --nothing.

Thank you . . . the name Lloyd, for starting with two Ls. I'm glad both those Ls were there, because otherwise I would have called you "Loyd."

Thank you . . . lasers, for being spelled with an "s" even though you'd be totally more badass if you were spelled with a "z." Just sayin'.

Thank you . . . people with sesquipedalophobia, which is the fear of long words. Your picked the wrong thing to call your fear.

Thank you nickels, for being the redheaded stepchild of the coin community. You're so thick, yet you're worth so little. You're like the quarter's fatter, less successful brother.

Thank you . . . fun - size candy, for calling yourself "fun" to distract me from the fact that you're smaller than regular candy. Nice try. They should call you "disappointment - size candy."

Thank you . . . horseradish, for being neither a radish nor a horse. What you are is a liar food. (I'm looking at you, too, Grape Nuts.) [I think he should have also included "Pineapple"!]

* I'm reminded here of Anne Lamott's characterization of Summer as "the teenage season -- too much energy, too much growth and beauty and heat and late nights, none of them what they are cracked up to be" (see my previous post "Buckle Up!").

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Freshman Composition

Freshman Composition in the 1350s?
Henricus de Alemannia Lecturing his Students
from Laurentius de Voltolina, 1350s

Thanks to my husband Gerry McCartney for this slide,
which he uses in his presentations to illustrate the challenges
of classroom instruction -- chatters, sleepers, daydreamers!
It was ever thus!

My freshmen
settle in. Achilles
sulks; Pascal consults
his watch; and true
Cordelia -- with her just - washed hair,

Stern - hearted princess, ready to defend
the meticulous garden of truths in her highschool notebook--
uncaps her ball point pen.
And the corridors drum:
give us a flourish,
flourescence of light, for the teachers come,

green and seasoned, bearers
of the Word, who differ
like its letters; there are some
so wise their eyes
are birdbites; one

a mad grinning gent with a golden tooth, God knows
he might be Pan, or the sub-
custodian; another
is a walking podium, dense
with his mystery -- high

priests and attaches
of the ministry; kindly
old women, like unfashionable watering places;
and the assuming young, rolled tight as a City

thought-salesmen with samples cases,
and saints upon whom
merely to gaze is like Sunday --
their rapt, bright,
cat-licked faces!

And the freshmen wait;
wait bristling, acned, glowing like a brand,
or easy, chatting, munching, muscles lax,
each in his chosen corner, and in each
a chosen corner.

Full of certainties and reasons,
or uncertainties and reasons,
full of reasons as a conch contains the sea,
they wait; for the term's first bell;
for another mismatched wrestle through the year;

for a teacher who's religious in his art,
a wizard of a sort, to call the role
and from mere names
cause people
to appear.

The best look like the swinging door
to the Opera just before
the Marx Brothers break through.
The worst -- debased,
on the back row,

as far as one can go
from speech --
are walls where childish scribbling's been erased;
are stones
to teach.

And I am paid to ask them questions:
Dare man proceed by need alone?
Did Esau like
his pottage?
Is any heart in order after Belsen?

And when one stops to think, I'll catch his heel,
put scissors to him, excavate his chest!
Watch, freshmen, for my words about the past
can make you turn your back. I wait to throw,
most foul, most foul, the future in your face.

by American Poet Barry Spacks (b. 1931)

For this poem & more on Freshman Composition
see my new blog post
"Back to School: A Scent of Knowledge"
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Clematis: Mental Beauty

Clematis at the Backdoor ~ Similar to Passion Flower*

According to Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers,
 this flower symbolizes Mental Beauty
[other sources say, Artifice, Ingenuity]

Wreath by Kate Greenaway

*E - card from
~ click on picture below to enlarge
for reading more about the Passion Flower ~

For more . . .
see my post "Mental Beauty"
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Country's Heart

from the musical Chess
music by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus (formerly of ABBA)
lyrics by Tim Rice

performed by David Carrol
on the Original Broadway Cast Recording

No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations' lines were drawn
When no flags flew and no armies stood
My land was born

And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant, we who don't care
And you wonder will I leave her - but how?
I cross over borders but I'm still there now

How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart

(emphasis added)

Photographs above and below by Jay Beets
Last year on September 11th, Jay wrote:
"My twin see them in my westward view...
concrete things made to store wheat and grain and corn...
ten years ago...towers of ideas were brought down...
by men who fear ideas...
I like these towers...don't mind if they get in my pictures...
from time to time...



Amber Waves of Grain

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gently Keen

Of his pre - autumnal photos,
Missouri Photographer Jay Beets writes:

"Everything is busy and changing in September
~ an amazing month!"

Gladys Taber writes:

"As summer wanes, we cherish every mild dreamy day.
I love the soft blue haze,
I know summer still walks the lanes,
but the frosty slipper of autumn is just behind.
We now get up early -- or what the books call betimes . . . " (132).

from Stillmeadow Daybook

Ruth Sawyer writes:

”Fall weather was the best
weather for making friends.
You met everybody coming or going;
met them alive and eager and made friendly
by the gently keen September air. . . .
There was a flooding of sunshine,
but the air had a knife's edge to it;
you could feel winter on its way" (32, 71).

from Roller Skates (emphasis added)

More Queen Anne's Lace

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rebel Son . . . In a Good Way


My Son
A boy with great pride
Sometimes hard to keep up with
Stop and talk to Mom

Student Haiku ~~ by Jeanneen Wheeler
Community College of Philadelphia, Spring 1998

Rebel Son
performed by Survivor

You're still young, still so sure
So determined you can find a cure
You've always been the driven one
Speak your mind, rebel son

In your eyes, wildfires rage
You read between the lines of every page
Take your chances while you're young
Seek the truth, rebel son

Shatter the silence
Fill the night with your righteous defiance
While you've still got the will to run
Take your message to the streets tonight, rebel son

There's a restless voice that's callin' you
Through the darkest night, fight the fight, rebel son
To yourself alone you must be true, rebel son

Stand your ground, against the tide
The proof of history is on your side
Fight the cause for everyone
Dare to dream, rebel son

Shatter the silence
Fill the night with your righteous defiance
While you've still got the will to run
Take your message to the streets tonight, rebel son

There's a restless voice that's callin' you
Through the darkest night, fight the fight, rebel son
To yourself alone you must be true, Rebel son

In the dark, thunder in your heart
Can't you hear the sound and fury in the night
Feel the heat, risin' from the street
Passion runs so deep
To match the fire in your eyes
Take your message to the streets tonight - rebel son

There's a restless voice that's callin' you
Through the darkest night - fight the fight - rebel son
To yourself alone you must be true
Rebel son

by Jim Peterik, Frankie Sullivan, Jimi Jamison

Previously on Sam's birthday:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Break From Politics

Photograph by Jay Beets

‎"These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines."
Mark 7:7

A guest blog from my brother, Bruce L. Carriker:

Dear Friends,

Most of you know that I hold some very strong political opinions. With Labor Day behind us, that means this year's Presidential, campaign...will begin in earnest. Neither the prospect of electing Mitt Romney nor the prospect of re-electing President Obama excites me. I feel that neither of them is really up to the task of of leading our country at a time when the Congress is determined to obstruct everything. And don't kid yourself. If Mitt Romney is elected but the Democrats retain control (or even just 40 votes) in the Senate, nothing will change except the faces. Senator Reid will do to a President Romney the same thing Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner have done to President Obama. I see few positives about either option. But, one option is so much more dangerous that my choice is pretty simple, and made for me by default.

Beyond that, here's what I'll be saying this political season, inspired by (and much of it quoted directly from) David Kuo's Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction (which you should all read):

Once it would have bothered me - a lot - to see a political leader I supported with my vote and my efforts and my money break his promises. But that's politics. For too long I've held this secret hope that just the right guy doing just the right thing would make America better: Obliterate poverty, obviate the need for abortions, eliminate loneliness, end despair, wipe out crime, and increase opportunity. I had that hope for Compassionate Conservatism in 2000; and for Hope and Change in 2008. But those hopes were misplaced and unreasonable, and set the bar too high. Our political leaders, after all, are just that - political...just plain old people doing a plain old job. They can't save America...And my ultimate hope is back where it should be - not with people, not with politics, but with God.

Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on [politics], let's give that money to charities and groups that are closer to Jesus' heart. And we Christians should spend less time arguing with those on the other side and more time communing with them...Let's take every ounce of energy [and every dime of our money] we currently expend on politics and divert it to other things. Instead of sending letters to Congress and engaging in political arguments with friends and listening to political talk radio and canvassing door to door for candidates and volunteering in campaigns, let's spend our time in different ways.

Let's read Matthew 25. Let's start with the things God has commanded us to do - pray, learn, listen to Him and serve a hurting world. There are so many other things we can and should be doing. We Christians need to follow Jesus' commands and flock to soup kitchens, battered women's shelters, prison cells and hospitals. We need to seek Jesus in the distress and disguise of the poor.

If we take a break from politics, will America go to pot? Of course it won't. The brilliance of our Founders is that they created a system where change is very slow and very gradual. Nearly four decades of Democratic congressional control couldn't sink us. Watergate couldn't sink us. Three decades of the "Reagan Revolution" couldn't sink us. Bill Clinton's moral failings couldn't sink us. The presidency* of George W. Bush couldn't sink us. The Great Recession hasn't sunk us yet. Christians retreating from politics this year won't sink us.

Ronald Reagan [was fond of] referring to America as the "shining city on a hill." It is a beautiful metaphor. But for us Christians, it is blasphemy. We ARE NOT the shining city on a hill. When Jesus used the words...he wasn't referring to a country, he was referring to Solomon's Temple - the dwelling place of God - in Jerusalem. The shining city on a hill contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat of God, not the seat of civil government. That was sufficient for Jesus; it should be sufficient for us, too.

So, I'm taking a break this year. If any of you wants my opinion on some political topic this fall, I'll be glad to discuss it with you privately - in person, or via private message or email. But, I won't be sharing my opinions in open, online forums where they serve only to inflame passions, jeopardize friendships, and change no minds in the process.

from The Rev. Bruce L. Carriker

* Bruce had initially typed this as "residency" and asked me to correct it to "presidency," which I did, but not before pointing out to him that "I kind of liked it that way -- you know, like the writer in residence in an English department -- not really on the full time staff, just temporarily sharing his views. I thought that's what you meant!"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Boiler Up!

Purdue Kicker Sam McCartney
Photograph taken by
my multi-talented friend Sandra Dukes, who says,
"I shot that photo of Sam's first points
for US Presswire.
Not always easy to get good shot of the kickers
but that turned out well.
Glad you like it!"

Thank you Sandy! We love it!

In the news . . .

Comments from Sam, excerpted from article:

"I made the decision to come here because I wanted to play. I'm from West Lafayette and I take a lot pride in being a Purdue Boilermaker. I wanted to do everything I could to get out on the field. . . . I'm not here to watch. . . .

"I feel very controlled and coach Gibboney has a plan for me and certain things he's earmarked for me to pay close attention to. . . . Being able to utilize my height and my leg strength and the length of my leg, I'm buying into that and paying attention to what he says.

"I feel very good about myself but we're all competing, we're all pushing each other and making each other better."

Of fellow kickers Cody Webster and Carson Wiggs, Sam says, "They showed me that being a specialist isn't all about kicking on the field. . . . It's about what you do in the weight room and the classroom . . . and having the chip on your shoulder that you need to be able to block people out and focus on what you need to do."

Webster #42, McCartney #43, Wiggs #37
Photo by Michelle Link ~ Football Mom & Photographer
Michigan, 2011