Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Days Were Long

The Trees That Watched Us Grow

Just Over the Brooklyn Bridge
A world of its own,
The streets where we played,
The friends on every corner were the best we ever made.
The backyards, and the school yards
And the trees that watched us grow,
The days of love when dinner time was all you had to know.
Whenever I think of yesterday,
I close my eyes and see,
That place Just Over The Brooklyn Bridge
That will always be home to me.
It'll always be home to me.

--performed by Art Garfunkel
--music by Marvin Hamlisch
--lyrics by Marilyn & Alan Bergman

Sometimes, I'm not so sure that there really is a hometown for everybody, but I guess when I close my eyes and think of yesterday, I see Neosho, Missouri (photo above). That's where I lived between the ages of 5 and 10, attending Kindergarten thru 4th grade at Eugene Field Elementary.

As a matter of fact, my parents helped us kids plant a tiny little evergreen in the yard there, back in 1965; and when I drove past the house 25 years later, I missed it, crying out in dismay, "Where is the little tree?"

Towering high above the house, that's where it was! But I hadn't even thought to glance up; I was searching at eye-level. I suppose if we had continued on in that house, that would have been the tree "that watched us grow."

Here's the funny thing about Art Garfunkel's song, which was the theme tune for the sweet little Emmy Award winning television series Brooklyn Bridge (1991 - 93): the funny thing is that until just a couple of days ago when I checked the lyrics on google before posting them on my Fortnightly Blog, I always thought that Art was singing, "the days were long when dinner time was all we had to know." Doesn't that make more sense? Kids don't thing about "days of love." They think about days being long -- not long and tiring, but long in a good way, the fun going on and on, not having to stop, not having to come in yet or come up from the basement where the video games are played.

Days of love? No. My way is much better. Usually we come to find out that really there is a rational meaning for the senseless phrases and nonsense syllables we have been singing right out loud or murmuring under our breath, as in

"We kings from Orientar" = Orient are. *

"Oh say can you see by the dawns or-le-li" (long a mystery to me!)
= dawn's early light.

"Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is butter beans"
= life is but a dream.*

Every now and then, I've noticed that the mistaken version improves upon the original. And "Just Over the Brooklyn Bridge" is one of those times. My way is far superior (sorry Bergmans). "Days were long" beats "days of love" . . . any day.

I feel the same way about Hall & Oates song, "Kiss On My List." Remember:

(Because your kiss) your kiss is on my list
(Because your kiss) your kiss is on my list
Because your kiss is on my list of the best things in life.

Well, shut me up, but I spent years singing:

"Your kiss is on my lips when I turn out the light."

Isn't that about a million times better? Please! Kisses don't belong on lists, do they? What, like a "To Do" List? No, of course not! Kisses belong on your lips . . . when you turn out the light. Way more romantic!

What are some of your best mix - ups? Post them below, and I promise to change over and start singing the songs YOUR WAY!

* For more on "Orientar," see previous posts on this blog:
January 6, 2010: Feast of the Three Kings
January 18, 2010: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

~ 3 April 2014 ~
The "butter beans" mix - up is courtesy of dear Charlotte Stewart (b 25 November 1938 - d 29 March 2014), with whom I worked for a brief time at the James Joyce Quarterly. I've never forgotten her telling me that when she was little, she thought that the last line of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" was "life is butter beans" (rather than "life is but a dream"). Sometime after that, she drew me a little card with those words & a smiling butter bean. A happy memory.
On the back, it says "From Charlotte ~ October 11, 1982"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Morning, One Evening

Illustration from One Morning

January: rainy one day, snowy the next; sometimes both on the same day. For a delightful depiction of the changeable wintry weather, take a look at this trio of simply beautiful picture books, filled with succinct, sensory, haiku - like text by Canna Funakoshi, and vivid, magical collage - like illustrations by Yohji Izawa:

One Morning (1985)
Winner: First Prize for Graphics
at the Bologna International Children's Book Fair
Selected by New York Times:
Ten Best Children's Books of 1987

One Evening (1988)

One Christmas (1989).

[All three titles from Picture Book Studios]

The books feature a nameless, faceless man and his saucy, loyal little cat. One Day moves gently through an early morning routine, concluding with a charming sequence of the man leaving for work, then returning a few seconds later to pick up his umbrella. In One Evening (later that same day? maybe another day) it has just begun to snow as the man is catching the 5 p.m. trolley home from the office, knowing that his little friend is waiting there to welcome him and help at the typewriter: "Play? Letter."

One Christmas includes among its illustrations two collages in black, white, and gray, representing old memories of Christmas stockings and plum puddings. Later in the book, similar scenes are portrayed, but now in color, in the present day: the same bed post where the stocking was hung, the same table by the dining room window, the same candle stick. My favorite line occurs, when the man is at the railway station purchasing his train ticket and "Saying the old town's name."



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Haiku For The Family


"Snakes-and-Families and Happy Ladders.
And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers,
complete with instructions.
Oh, easy for Leonardo!"

from A Child's Christmas in Wales
by Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953
Welsh poet, writer, and reader

My Haiku for the Family

I'll try to write a
Haiku for the Family
Once upon a time

The mother, the dad
Two big kids, three little kids,
Then a new baby

Sunflowers in Kansas
Then Idaho, home of spuds
Show us Missouri

Few Acres, our farm
We could walk safely to school
Ah, the American Dream

"A little sparrow
Could not fall unnoticed Lord
By thee." Our first prayer

On to St. Louis
For a subdivision life
We passed through the Arch

(not the golden ones)
Gateway to the west Across
the Wide Missouri

Our oldest brother
A hero in Viet Nam
Plus, he wrote haiku . . .

That made sense to me
About our favorite sandwich
Titled "The Salmon":

"Bravely leaping falls
For love. They'll never call you
Chicken of the Sea" . . .

In a white notebook
Left behind when he grew up
But I cherished it

Big sister could sing
Took us everywhere with her
She loved the Beatles

When she was younger
She called us "grills and kids"
Her words for girls and boys

If I was sick, she
Held my head when I threw up
Always there for me

Us four little kids
Little sister and brother
Twin brother and me

Born a Gemini
With a real twin, my brother
What's the connection?

"Love ya like a sis"
She wrote that to make me laugh
Well, we are sisters

The Little Baby
Jesus of our family
We adored him so

Childhood Games: Happy
Families, Snakes and Ladders
Monopoly Life

Why me, Oh Goddess?
Naturally curly, frizzy
What big hair you have

Ready to grow up
We each pick a way to go
What would we find there?

Boyfriend in high school
Touching but not forever
Time to walk away

Boyfriend in college
Oops, that was a big mistake
How to extricate?

Finished school at last
B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
The Ideal Husband

Realistic, said the quiz, yet
A true romantic

Remember that dream
A gentleman and scholar
From far far away?

Santa once brought me
Boy Doll with a big blond head
Then my two real boys

Looked just like that doll
But animated, not ours
They have their own plans

Another passage
Now it all makes sense

What keeps you going?
Obligation, holidays
Every day a new surprise!


"My parents, my husband, my brother, my sister . . .
I delight in being here on earth
For one more moment, with them, here on earth,
To celebrate our tiny, tiny my-ness."

by Czeslaw Milosz, 1911 - 2004
Polish poet, translator, Nobel Prize Winner

Peace: Like a Cat Asleep On a Chair

My Brother David's Cat, Saitong


All that matters is to be at one with the living God
To be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world,
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of a master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.

by D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Soul Healing and Meditation Workshop

My friend Tony Crossman will be teaching the following workshop in the Boston area this coming Saturday:

To Enlarge Text, Please Click Anywhere On Document Above

Come and learn:
* How the ancient masters boosted their
stamina, vitality, and immunity through the
use of body position, meditation and mantra.

* The importance of spiritual awareness
and its connection to healing.

Saturday, January 23rd, 2009
3:30 PM to 6:00 PM

Green Tea Yoga
7 Colonial Road (off Jefferson Avenue)
Salem, MA 01970

Tony Crossman, Ph.D.
As a certified Soul Healing Teacher and Healer,trained by New York Timesbest-selling author Dr. Zhi Gang Sha, Tony has spent almost two decades studying Chinese healing practices that include Tai Chi and Chi Gong. He spent time in China studying with Master Zhi Chen Guo to understand the everyday application of the ancient healing arts in a clinical environment.

The ancient masters understood how to heal themselves and others. For thousands of years these healing techniques, never exposed to the public at large, were passed on from each master to only one or two chosen disciples. The masters were often reclusive, hiding in the mountains to dedicate themselves to spiritual growth. They understood the connection to the Tao, or Universe, and its importance to health and positive transformation.

It is now possible to learn these ancient practices to promote your health without spending a lifetime of isolation in the mountains. Tony Crossman teaches these practices with simplicity; the most basic techniques are always the most powerful. Come and learn practices that promote health, stamina and vitality. Embrace the connection between soul, mind and body.

Registration Information:
Workshop fee $25

Pay at the door or guarantee your spot and register by

For more information:
please call Tony Crossman
781 476 5490

“I have worked with Tony Crossman for nearly 20 years and it has been my great pleasure to observe his brilliant consciousness transformation. He was clearly born to bless us all with his unconditional love and mastery of healing energy."
Mark Mincolla, Ph.D. Holistic Nutritional Therapist

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

The Four Kings of Orientar

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. . . .

Let no one pull you low enough to hate. . . . ."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Feasts and Seasons

"What is it that distinguishes the attitude of the feaster from that of the ordinary eater?"

Sensory expectation, social pleasure, and intellectual reward.

"Instinctively we know the importance of feasting,"
but only rarely do we practice the art of eating reflectively:
"Once a year our dismal diet disappears, and . . .
we are given a glimpse of what food can mean."

--Paul Levy

One of my ritual activities for January is to peruse all my holiday cookbooks, marking ideas for next year, and making ambitious plans for future feasts. Paul Levy's book, The Feast of Christmas: Origins, Traditions, and Recipes, is one of my favorites. Also:

Home Cooking
More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen
both by Laurie Colwin

The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas
The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast: Past, Present, and Future
both by Jeff Smith




Thursday, January 14, 2010

Taking the Tree Down

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.
from "Christmas Oratorio"
by W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
Anglo-American Poet

Small White Angel On Top Of Small White Tree


Now all that scintillation is a chore.
What they so recently assembled
Piece by piece in imitation
Of every year for twenty years ago

Each day became more everyday.
The delicate contrivances ignored,
This clutter in a corner of the eye
Now is an hour on the stepladder

And woman's work. This afternoon,
The sunlight brave and January thin
Reflecting on her, she sets down
Lightlier than they lifted them

Angel and orb and cardboard cornucopia,
The candy cane old as the eldest child.
Once she has packed away the annual farm
(Each cotton sheep plump as a thumb),

Hanging the glassy surface of the lake
Up on its hook in the back bedroom,
She sends the snowy field out to the laundry.
Arms full of a great weightlessness she arises

Toward the airless year in the black attic.
The Season's Greetings flutter in the trash
Out in the alley and the tree,
Naked, imitates mere nature.

All's done but this -- that at the last she blind
The windows of the Advent Calendar
From which next year again shall stare
The forest animals as day by day,

As the great Day approaches
Until the Manger stands revealed,
Husband and child and wife, restored
Out of the storm, once more shall be assembled.

by John N. Morris, 1931 - 1997
American author and educator [more on Morris]

New Millennium Advent Calendar

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Putting the Cards Away

New idea this year:
An extra tree by the front door, just for displaying
Christmas Cards.

Here's something to think about while putting them all away:

"I hate these days immediately following the holidays. Emptying the house of Christmas trees, decorations and children is like emptying a home of warmth. But at least there’s the pile of Christmas cards to be looked through again before you do whatever you do when done with them. They serve as a cheerful handshake during the uncheerful letdown after Christmas. Don't stop sending them. Christmas cards are worth all the bother. In fact, the bother’s a good part of the pleasure."
--Malcolm S. Forbes (1967)
Christmas Cards In My Kitchen



Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow Angels

My Snow Angels: Ben and Sam, January 2005

The first fall of snow is not only an event,
it is a magical event.
You go to bed in one kind of a world
and wake up in another quite different,
and if this is not enchantment
then where is it to be found?

J. B. Priestley, 1894 – 1984
English novelist, playwright, and broadcaster

Our Little Snowstorm

We think it is calm here,
or that the storm is the right size.

short poem by American poet
William Stafford, 1914 - 1993

Friday, January 8, 2010


January is a time of new beginnings, promising many more holidays to come, but like the slowly fading decorations on our front doors, it contains a lingering echo of the month and year just past.

It's good to remember that this month is named after the old two - headed, two - faced Roman god, Janus, who possessed knowledge of the future and wisdom of the past. Conveniently, he could see forward into the New Year and backward into the Old. It was customary to place his image, maybe a small statue or amulet, at the front entrance of every home where he could look outward at the passersby as well as inward toward the home dwellers.

So, as you take that weather-worn wreath down and put it away, indulge in a few contemplative moments, gazing forward and glancing back.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Feast of the Three Kings

Handcrafted with sponge and potato,
in 2001 ~ by Whitney (age 3)
daughter of my friends Marv & Mili

Often heard at Christmas is the joke about the children who misunderstand the words to "Silent Night" and ask about "Round John Virgin." Who is that guy?

What always mixed me up was that faraway exotic place where "We Three Kings" were from -- Orientar. Now where was that, I wonder?

How was I to know that the Wise Men were merely placing their verb at the end of the sentence? I knew I was from Kansas, but no one in my family had ever been heard to say, "We Carrikers of Kansas are." So as far as I was concerned, those three kings were from Orientar.

Orientar. Even now, I think it sounds like an enticing geographic location, mysterious, full of possibility and hidden truth and camels!

Epiphany. May wisdom and syntax be made manifest!

PS. See also: "The Days Were Long" & "The Four Kings of Orientar"

Monday, January 4, 2010

Blue Moon

"The start of a decade always seems ten times as auspicious as the beginning of a mere new year." -- Thomas Mallon

Although as children we all practically memorize "The Night Before Christmas" without even trying, this story contains some phrases that surely no child can fully understand. I was always puzzled by "The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow / Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below" and "As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, / When they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky." What could those words mean?

At last, after paying closer attention to twenty or thirty autumns, the imagery makes sense, and I am able to visualize the coursers (now that I know coursers = reindeer) rising swiftly like the dry leaves that cyclone up through a swirling fall gust.

And the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow? The luster of mid-day to objects below? That's what I've seen the past few nights, looking down the street, or out of my window at the brilliant blue-white landscape and stark silhouettes back-lit by the luminous Blue Moon that appeared on New Year's Eve to welcome in 2010, a most auspicious decade . . . as foretold by prophecy!

[Rarely does the Blue Moon appear on New Year’s Eve, but it did this year, well make that last year, the year just passed -- on 31 December 2009. The last Blue Moon on a New Year's Eve was in 1990 -- Ben's first Christmas!]

Friday, January 1, 2010