Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Sermons


A couple of unlikely readings that gave me
something to think about on Christmas Eve:

1. At St. John's Episcopal Church ~ Lafayette, Indiana

"I figure that at least as an elf I will have a place; I’ll be in Santa’s Village with all the other elves. We will reside in a fluffy wonderland surrounded by candy canes and gingerbread shacks. It won’t be quite as sad as standing on some street corner . . . I am trying to look on the bright side. I arrived in New York three weeks ago with high hopes, hopes that have been challenged. . . . But instead I am applying for a job as an elf. . . . I am afraid I won’t be able to provide the grinding enthusiasm Santa is asking for. I think I’ll be a low-key sort of an elf. . . . "

by David Sedaris
from his essay "SantaLand Diaries"
in his collection Holidays On Ice

[Click to hear Sedaris read from his work.]

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

2. At Chapel of the Good Shepherd ~
Purdue Episcopal CampusMinistry:


The Christmas Shoes

It was almost Christmas time
There I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two
Not really in the Christmas mood

Standing right in front of me was
A little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

And his clothes were worn and old
He was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she'seen sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me

He said, "Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me sir, what am I going to do
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes"

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
And I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
"Mama's gonna look so great"

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me what Christmas is all about

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It's Christmas eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful, if Mama meets Jesus tonight

I want her to look beautiful
If Mama meets Jesus tonight


by Eddie Carswell & Leonard Ahlstrom of NewSong
Book, written by by Donna VanLiere
Movie, starring Rob Lowe
Song, also performed by John McNicholl

[Click to hear a few other versions.]


This song & more on my current post

~ "Ruby Slippers & Red Shoes" ~
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fairy Tale

"Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors;
there was sherry and walnuts . . . and crackers by the dessertspoons . . .
the brandy, the . . . mince . . . and blazing pudding . . .
And then, at tea the recovered Uncles would be jolly;
and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave.
Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year."
from A Child's Christmas in Wales
by Dylan Thomas


Thanks to my facebook friend Ann for her comment:
"Foods and dishes look like they
came right out of a fairytale!
Lovely!"

Speaking of fairyland . . .

At Christmas dinner, my son Sam, asked for a preview of our New Year's Resolutions. Aside from my usual -- read more, worry less -- I was stumped . . . until this morning when I checked out my StoryPeople of the Day, only to discover that Brian Andreas had once again pinned the horn on the unicorn:
unicorn life
Today, after some reflection, I decided I’m never going to pretend I know anything about Life ever again, other than there’s a word for it. Like there’s a word for unicorn, though no one has ever seen one, except from far away & maybe it was just a trick of the light....
Up 'til now, I have always gone along with Anna Quindlen's motto that
"The meaning of life is life."
And I still concur.

However, I think my number one New Year's Resolution for 2015 will be to fall in line with Andreas and try the life - is - like - a unicorn" approach for awhile:
"I'm never going to pretend I know
anything about Life ever again."
Reminds me of that old favorite from Judy Collins:
"I really don't know life at all."
************

Before the Cake Was Cut

~ Christmas Cake, Major ~
Gerry's Handiwork!
Thanks to my sister Peggy for the
new set of village houses, perfect for cake toppers!

Christmas cakes, Minor ~
Some miniatures for sharing!
Thanks to our friend Katy Bunder for the
Gingerbread Tea Lights, perfect for mini - cake toppers!

~ The Full Fleet ~
Thanks to our friend Katie Field
for helping out with the baking this year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

This Old Nativity

The above Nativity Scene is a 21st Century reproduction of the 1930s favorite that my mother grew up with. It then served for a second generation, as my siblings and I loved assembling it every year. Nothing new would do! How happy we were when the re - issued version appeared on the market. Now we all have one; and Mom still has the original!

"Why couldn’t we have seen
this old Nativity while we were at it?
—the dark ajar, the rocks breaking with light,
an undisturbed, unbreathing flame,
colorless, sparkles, freely fed on straw,
and, lulled within, a family of pets,
—and looked and looked our infant sight away."

Over 2,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance

Thus should have been our travels:
serious, engravable.
The Seven Wonders of the World are tired
and a touch familiar, but the other scenes,
innumerable, though equally sad and still,
are foreign. Often the squatting Arab,
or group of Arabs, plotting, probably,
against our Christian Empire,
while one apart, with outstretched arm and hand
points to the Tomb, the Pit, the Sepulcher.
The branches of the date-palms look like files.
The cobbled courtyard, where the Well is dry,
is like a diagram, the brickwork conduits
are vast and obvious, the human figure
far gone in history or theology,
gone with its camel or its faithful horse.
Always the silence, the gesture, the specks of birds
suspended on invisible threads above the Site,
or the smoke rising solemnly, pulling by threads.
Granted a page alone or a page made up
of several scenes arranged in cattycornered rectangles
or circles set on stippled gray,
granted a grim lunette,
caught in the toils of an initial letter,
when dwelt upon, they all resolve themselves.
The eye drops, weighted, through the lines
the burin made, the lines that move apart
like ripples above sand,
dispersing storms, God’s spreading fingerprint,
and painfully, finally, that ignite
in watery prismatic white-and-blue.

Entering the Narrows at St. Johns
the touching bleat of goats reaching to the ship.
We glimpsed them, reddish, leaping up the cliffs
among the fog-soaked weeds and butter-and-eggs.
And at St. Peter’s the wind blew and the sun shone madly.
Rapidly, purposefully, the Collegians marched in lines,
crisscrossing the great square with black, like ants.
In Mexico the dead man lay
in a blue arcade; the dead volcanoes
glistened like Easter lilies.
The jukebox went on playing “Ay, Jalisco!”
And at Volubilis there were beautiful poppies
splitting the mosaics; the fat old guide made eyes.
In Dingle harbor a golden length of evening
the rotting hulks held up their dripping plush.
The Englishwoman poured tea, informing us
that the Duchess was going to have a baby.
And in the brothels of Marrakesh
the little pockmarked prostitutes
balanced their tea-trays on their heads
and did their belly-dances; flung themselves
naked and giggling against our knees,
asking for cigarettes. It was somewhere near there
I saw what frightened me most of all:
A holy grave, not looking particularly holy,
one of a group under a keyhole-arched stone baldaquin
open to every wind from the pink desert.
An open, gritty, marble trough, carved solid
with exhortation, yellowed
as scattered cattle-teeth;
half-filled with dust, not even the dust
of the poor prophet paynim who once lay there.
In a smart burnoose Khadour looked on amused.

Everything only connected by “and” and “and.”
Open the book. (The gilt rubs off the edges
of the pages and pollinates the fingertips.)
Open the heavy book
. Why couldn’t we have seen
this old Nativity while we were at it?
—the dark ajar, the rocks breaking with light,
an undisturbed, unbreathing flame,
colorless, sparkles, freely fed on straw,
and, lulled within, a family of pets,
—and looked and looked our infant sight away.


poem by Elizabeth Bishop (1911 – 1979)
found in her book A Cold Spring, 1955

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter's Coming

Cardinal Christmas Serenade
Charles Wysocki

“Take winter as you find him,
and he turns out to be a thoroughly honest fellow
with no nonsense in him, and tolerating none in you,
which is a great comfort in the long run.”

James Russell Lowell

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Dream of Christmas


I Believe in Father Christmas

They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the israelite
And I believed in father christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The christmas you get you deserve


by Greg Lake
This song & more on my current post

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Feast or Peace?

Winter Citrus: Therefore Let Us Keep the Feast!

Earlier this week [click or scroll down] I wrote about inadvertently replacing the word iniquity with inequity, for a surprisingly enhanced and updated reading of the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah.

Thinking futher, a few additional examples of a similar kind of unintentional but perhaps intuitive updating came to mind:

1. In the Eucharistic Prayer, I have been known to mistake the official "Therefore let us keep the feast" for the equally applicable "let us keep the peace.

2. And when reciting the Magnificat, I like to murmur "For he hath regarded the loneliness [rather than the lowliness] of his handmaiden."

These mishearings ring just as true to my ear as the originally intended phrases. Surely fear of loneliness strikes the heart of a modern maiden way more often than any concern for relative lowliness; and while feasting always has its place, the icon and repeated mantra of our formative years was peace: Think peace! Peace out! Give peace a chance!

More Peace Signs

P.S.
Peace be with you . . . and also with you!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Inequity

The Arc of Justice?
Millennium Sundial
On the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge
between Lafayette & West Lafayette, Indiana

[See also "Interstellar Thanksgiving"]

I had an interesting listening experience a couple of Sundays ago. During the Old Testament lesson, I kept hearing the word inequity, though the word on the page was clearly iniquity:
. . . we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. . . . thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. . . . we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.
Isaiah 64: 6 - 12 (King James Version)

Perhaps my brain was tweaking the message just a bit to make it more relevant for citizens of the 21st century. Whether we should or not, do we much bemoan our iniquities? No, not really. Inequity, on the other hand, fills the news and plagues us daily. We struggle with how to redress the racial inequity of American history, how to correct the economic inequity that leaves so many basic needs unfulfilled, and how to establish social equity among all persons and environmental equity upon the earth.

As the reading came to a close and the next hymn was announced, I was still pondering the contemporary relevance of my inadvertent rewording. Imagine my surprise, not to mention the ultimate satisfaction of connection and coincidence, when we reached the last word of the first stanza:
Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression and rule in equity.
There you have it -- equity! Thus confirming my intuition that somehow inequity was a more appropriate watchword for the day than iniquity. This hymn's emphasis on equality reminded me of two more references:

1. The message of social justice embedded in the beautiful Christmas carol "Oh Holy Night":
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth . . .

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease . . .
2. This brief but powerful reminder that if ever there is to be peace on earth, we must address inequity and close the gap between poverty and prosperity:

Who is weak, and I am not weak?
who is offended, and I burn not?


2 Corinthians 11:29 (King James Version)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Waiting for the Full Moon

An Advent Moon

And a poem for Advent:

Wait

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.


~ by Galway Kinnell (1927 - 2014)

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

Thanks to my literary friend Katie Field
for sending me this poem from the Writer's Almanac

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

Click here to read some
previously posted poems
with a similar message.

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

Seems like we've been waiting all year,
but in no time it will feel late instead of early!
"How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Littlest Angel, Brightest Star

Click to hear Johnny Whitaker sing: @ 57:15

So we learn from Chris de Burgh (see previous post) that the Star of Bethlehem might be some kind of complicated spaceship from the past or the future; but equally appealing is the possibility described in The Littlest Angel. The star could be a treasure box containing the smallest items -- two white stones, three blue eggs, a butterfly orange and a black, a feather -- insignificant in every way aside from the fact that they are dear to our hearts. The little time traveler leaves Eternity for a short visit Earth, where only mere seconds have elapsed since his departure. But days have passed in the afterlife, and he misses his wooden treasure chest:

"All these things I love best
I have kept in this old chest.
Sorted and counted hundreds of nights,
they all have have given me a thousand delights.
Who can say how much they are worth?
They are the miracles of the Earth."


Story by Charles Tazewell, Illustrated by Sergio Leone

The Littlest Angel,
"A Spaceman Came Traveling"

& more on my current post
~ "An Interstellar Thanksgiving" ~
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Interstellar Space

Ancient Space Travel
" . . . the vast expanse of interstellar space . . . "

A Spaceman Came Traveling
[Click to listen]

A spaceman came traveling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start,
And over a village he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star.

He followed a light and came down to a shed,
Where a mother and a child were lying there on a bed,
A bright light of silver shone round his head,
And he had the face of an angel, and they were afraid.

Then the stranger spoke, he said, "Do not fear,
I come from a planet a long way from here,
And I bring a message for mankind to hear,"
And suddenly the sweetest music filled the air --

And it went la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

This lovely music went trembling through the ground,
And many were wakened on hearing that sound,
And travelers on the road, the village they found,
By the light of that ship in the sky, which shone all round.

And just before dawn at the paling of the sky,
The stranger returned and said, "Now I must fly,
When two thousand years of your time has gone by,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry."

And it went la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

Oh the whole world is waiting, waiting to hear that song again,
There are thousands standing on the edge of the world,
And a star is moving somewhere, the time is nearly here,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry.


~ Chris de Burgh

This mystical Christmas song always arouses my curiosity. The spaceman halts his craft, that seems to become the Star of Bethlehem; yet he himself "followed a light" -- the light from his own ship which others are following? Or a different light? He seems to become the Christmas Angel who says "Do not fear" and brings glad tidings; but what is the source for the "lovely music" filling the air and "trembling through the ground"? More angels? Or the Spaceman?

He flies away, bidding farewell to the mother and child and other assembled Earthlings, promising the song again and "a baby's cry" in two thousand years' time. Does this mean a new baby Messiah? The Spaceman doesn't promise his own return, though the song's haunting conclusion suggests it. Is the Spaceman the baby, all grown up (like Jesus or Mad Max or Dad / Joseph Cooper / Matthew McConaughey in the new movie Interstellar)?

To read more about interstellar space and
the space time continuum, see my current post
~ "An Interstellar Thanksgiving" ~
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Apply Your Heart to Wisdom


Psalm 90
Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say,

"Go back, O child of earth."

For a thousand years in your sight

are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered . . .

all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone. . . .

So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.


To go along with the existential message
of the above Psalm is this tender yet cynical passage
from Super Sad True Love Story
by Gary Shteyngart:
But what are our children? Lovely and fresh in their youth; blind to mortality; rolling around . . . in the tall grass with their alabaster legs; fawns, sweet fawns, all of them, gleaming in their dreamy plasticity, at one with the outwardly simple nature of their world.

And then, a brief almost - century later: drooling on some poor Mexican Nursemaid in an Arizona hospice.

Nullified.
(p 4)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sun from a Wintry Sky

Frailty, endurance, irrevocable loss, fallen leaves, cold wind.
[That tiny white fleck is the moon!]
When the Lamp is Shattered
When the lamp is shattered
The light in the dust lies dead-
When the cloud is scattered,
The rainbow's glory is shed.
When the lute is broken,
Sweet tones are remembered not;
When the lips have spoken,
Loved accents are soon forgot.

As music and splendour
Survive not the lamp and the lute,
The heart's echoes render
No song when the spirit is mute-
No song but sad dirges,
Like the wind through a ruined cell,
Or the mournful surges
That ring the dead seaman's knell.

When hearts have once mingled,
Love first leaves the well-built nest;
The weak one is singled
To endure what it once possessed.
O Love! who bewailest
The frailty of all things here,
Why choose you the frailest
For your cradle, your home, and your bier?

Its passions will rock thee,
As the storms rock the ravens on high;
Bright reason will mock thee,
Like the sun from a wintry sky.
From thy nest every rafter
Will rot, and thine eagle home
Leave thee naked to laughter,
When leaves fall and cold winds come.


Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822)
[see also "Ozymandias" & "Ode to the West Wind"]
This poem and others
by Richard Wilbur & Elinor Wylie
on my current post
~ "First Snow in Indiana" ~
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaf Pressed, Moon Tipped

"So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours—your own wild mind." ~Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind


Into this World
Let us die gracefully into this world
like a leaf pressed in stone
let us go quietly breathing our last breath
let the sun continue to revolve in its great golden dance
let us leave it be as it is
and not hold on
not even to the moon
tipped
as it will be tonight
and beckoning wildly in the sea [emphasis added]

Natalie Goldberg


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

Just the other day I was writing about Elinor Wylie's often anthologized poem, "Velvet Shoes" (see Fortnightly and Quotidian posts; and also Nets to Catch the Winds, 1921). It seems that I have known Wylie's elegant, seasonal poem forever, though I can't remember when or where I first encountered it. Most likely my long familiarity comes from its inclusion in one of my many Christmas anthologies. You can find it here, for example:


I'm also lucky enough to own a vintage copy of Wylie's fourth and last collection of poems, Angels and Earthly Creatures, published in 1929.


Front page inscription seen below:
Marie Hobson
Park Chambers

N.Y.C.

One of my favorites from Angels and Earthly Creatures is this brief lyric, tucked in amidst the sonnets and longer elegies:
Fair Annet's Song
One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows
And drives away the snows.

It is sad to remember and sorrowful to pray:
Let us laugh and be merry, who have seen today
The last of the cherry and the first of the may;
And neither one will stay.
Wylie's bittersweet comparison of November to May has been set to music a number of times, notably by composer Paul Carey in his four movement tribute to the seasons of the year, Into This World. [click to read his explanation].

Carey choses Wylie's poem, "Annet's Song" to symbolize spring (though equally appropriate for late autumn); Robert Louis Stevenson's "Tropic Rain" to capture summer's intensity; an adaptation of Rilke's "The Leaves are Falling" to evoke a gentle autumn; and to remind us of winter's finality -- as well as for the title of his choral arrangement -- the haunting lines of Natalie Goldberg's "Into this World" (above).

*************************
P.S.
I seem to recall my son Ben taking a picture
of me photographing the sidewalk leaf in the rain:

New Year's Eve 2012 ~ Dallas

P.S.S.
For more wintry snow poems
see my current FORTNIGHTLY post
~ "First Snow in Indiana"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Soundless Space & Windless Peace

Snow in November
Velvet Shoes
Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.


Elinor Morton Wylie (1885 - 1928)

This and other early snow poems
by Richard Wilbur & Percy Bysshe Shelley
on my current post
~ "First Snow in Indiana" ~
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony


Wintry Mix

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dreamscape

"It is almost impossible
to watch a sunset and not dream."

Bern Williams


Photograph by Marguerite Chapman:
Sunset over Tulsa Mosque
November 7, 2014


"All that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream."

Edgar Allan Poe

These dreamy sunset thoughts bring to mind an essay that I taught years ago, entitled "Language and Thought," by Susanne K. Langer. Langer distinguishes between symbol and sign, and identifies dreaming as "a basic function of human brains," drawing the conclusion that what sets humans apart as a species is our inexhaustible, involuntary dreamscape. An intriguing concept!

As highly intelligent animals, we can scan the sky for signs. For example, the color of the sunset may foretell the coming weather or a turning point in the year. As a signifier of "presence . . . being, condition," a vividly colored or pastel sky can be useful, even beautiful. But we want the sunset to mean something more "glorious" than that! We want not merely the object at hand but the "kaleidoscope of ideas" and the "stream of thought" that the symbol brings to mind:
"We want to go places and do things, own all sorts of gadgets that we do not absolutely need, and when we sit down to take it easy we want to talk. Rights and property, social position, special talents and virtues, and above all our ideas, are what we live for. We have gone off on a tangent that takes us far away from the mere biological cycle that animal generations accomplish; and that is because we can use not only signs but symbols. . . . The difference between a sign and a symbol is, in brief, that a sign causes us to think or act in the face of the thing signified, whereas a symbol causes us to think about the thing symbolized. Therein lies the great importance of symbolism for human life, its power to make this life so different . . .

"The process of transforming all direct experience into imagery . . . has so completely taken possession of the human mind that it is not only a special talent but a dominant, organic need. All our sense impressions leave their traces in our memory not only as signs . . . but also as symbols, images representing our ideas of things . . . It seems to be what our brain most naturally and spontaneously does. Therefore our primitive mental function is not judging reality, but dreaming our desires."
[from paragraphs 5, 7, 8]
Dreaming our desires!
Isn't that what these sunsets symbolize?

Photograph by Nancy Allen:
"I just never get tired of these sunsets -- feeling thankful!"
October 23, 2014

Also by Nancy: Late Summer Sunset & Groundhog Fog
Thanks to Sara Carriker & Victoria Amador for the dreamy quotations!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Instead of Poppies


Instead of flags flying at the cemetery, how about autumn branches?
Instead of red poppies for Veterans Day, how about red leaves?

It was my friend Beata's Mom (back in Poland) who advised Beata when she came to live in the States, if you can't go visit your own ancestors on All Saints Day -- or All Souls Day or Veterans Day or Easter or Memorial Day -- then go visit someone else's. That's how we started our tradition of visiting a couple of small local cemeteries. Here's one of my favorites:

Burton Cemetery
Also called Old Bilderback or Klondike Cemetery
Corner of US Highway 52 & Klondike Road
Wabash Township ~ Tippecanoe County, Indiana


I have upon occasion, seen the
little Burton Cemetery decorated patriotically:

but when I stopped by today
there was only one flag flying:
CORNELIUS
MORRIS
PVT
BEATTYS CO
1 MD REG
REV WAR
Oct 2 1759
August 6 1834

In the past, I have felt somewhat guilty for posting anti - war sentiment on Veterans Day, as I have done in previous years.* However, reading Harry Leslie Smith's honest, admirable essay --

This Year I Will Wear the Poppy for the Last Time

-- reassures me that it is not wrong to do so. Smith, a Veteran of World War II and author of Harry's Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It [available soon] and 1923: A Memoir Lies and Testaments [same year my dad was born] knows whereof he speak. He objects to the fact that:

"The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. . . . I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.

"Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector.

"Next year, I won't wear the poppy but I will . . . remember . . . ."


Red Leaves for Remembrance


*Previous Veterans Day posts:

Armistice Day

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child

"The same war continues . . . "

94 Years Ago Today

Flanders Fields ~ What Have We Learned?

War Horse

Point of Balance

Veterans Eve


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Samarra

Goodnight Moon!
The Frosty November Moon, 1 Day Past Full
~ aka The Beaver Moon or The Mourning Moon ~

Stories to tell by the full moonlight . . .

The Appointment in Samarra
As retold by W. Somerset Maugham

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.

The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.

Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw the pale - robed woman standing in the crowd and he went to her and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

That was not a threatening gesture, she said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.


Another Summary

And Another Translation

See also John O'Hara's 20th C novel & Contemporary Lego Version

Also, can't help thinking of
The Tale of the Three Brothers
[click to watch animation]

from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows