Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Prayers for Custom and Ceremony

Autumn Leaves
by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1863 - 1935
American illustrator of magazines and children's books



As you may have heard me say before, the inspiration for designing my Fortnightly blog came from two writers: Goethe, who hopes that each day might include a song, a poem, some fine art, a few wise words; and Yeats who describes "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." This poem, particularly the closing, has been a favorite of mine for many years, decades:

Prayer For My Daughter
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

[emphasis added above]

William Butler Yeats, 1865 - 1939
Irish poet and dramatist
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1923


Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

First Week of Advent: The Hope of Prophecy

For the last fifteen years or so, I have had a little tradition of making a set of cards for my mother, one for each of the four Sundays in Advent. Each year the design is different, with a new theme of some kind.

As my transitional ritual from Thanksgiving into Christmas, I always devote a few hours of the long weekend to getting the Advent cards ready and (hopefully) getting the first one in the mail in time for Sunday. Some years I fall a bit behind on that optimistic deadline; but as long as the first one arrives somewhere within the first week of the season, it's not hard to keep mailing the others out in a timely, weekly fashion.

This year, I had the idea to design them as Valentines, using red lace doilies, ribbons, and a handful of fancy little gift tags that I found on amazon, featuring sentiments that lend themselves nicely to the symbolism behind each candle on the Advent Wreath.

Week One, the Candle of Hope
Dispelling the Darkness:

We must never be afraid to go too far, for truth lies beyond."

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

~ both passages by Marcel Proust ~

This is the first year I ever thought of scanning the finished results of my little Advent Card Project into the computer -- perfect for saving and sharing. I hope you like!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post - Thanksgiving

Our Family: Paper Placemat, ca.1972
Embellished by "us four little kids": Aaron, Bruce, Di, Kit
(after Dave & Peg had graduated and gotten married)

Family is just accident. . . .
They don't mean to get on your nerves.
They don't even mean to be your family, they just are.

Marsha Norman
(b. 1947)
American playwright, screenwriter, novelist
Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1983

"Our lives are filled with people who provoke us,
especially people we love.
They help us figure out our own shit
and why we are here.
And why are we here again? . . .
We don't know. . . .
We only sort of know. . . .
To live, love, help -- to decorate.
To sweep our huts and find some food."

from Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith, 135
by Anne Lamott (b. 1954)
American writer and progressive political activist

And, of course, there's always Brian Andreas to capture the essence of the occasion. He is clearly in agreement with Lamott about the food:

"There are things you do because they feel right
& they may make no sense
& they may make no money
& it may be the real reason we are here:
to love each other
& to eat each other's cooking
& say it was good."

And full of humorous advice for the long weekend:

"We stood out on the porch before we went inside
& she told me her secret.
Pretend you're just visiting, she said.
That way you'll forget that they're family."

Rules for a successful holiday:
1. Get together with the family
2. Relive old times
3. Get out before it blows

Brian Andreas (b. 1956)
American writer, painter, sculptor
Designer of StoryPeople

P.S. Just for the record, I actually wish I saw more of my family, not less! By the way, Aaron and I were wondering about his lips & Di's teeth in the family portrait above! How did we come up with those features? All I can think of is that maybe it was around Halloween & they were wearing those wax lips & fangs that we used to buy! Ha!

P.P.S. It's true that some of the above passages appeared on this blog last year (June 2009 and November 2009), but I think they are solid enough for a repeat -- and just so appropriate for Thanksgiving that I couldn't resist posting them again this weekend.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pilgrims in the Snow, 1867
by George Henry Boughton, 1833 - 1905
Anglo-American Painter

Minnesota Thanksgiving

For that free Grace bringing us past great risks
& thro' great griefs surviving to this feast
sober & still, with the children unborn and born,
among brave friends, Lord, we stand again in debt
and find ourselves in the glad position: Gratitude.

We praise our ancestors who delivered us here
within warm walls all safe, aware of music,
likely toward ample & attractive meat
with whatever accompaniment
Kate in her kind ingenuity has seen fit to devise,

and we hope - across the most strange year to come -
continually to do them and You not sufficient honour
but such as we become able to devise
out of decent or joyful conscience & thanksgiving.
Bless then, as Thou wilt, this wilderness board.

by John Berryman, 1914 - 1972
American Poet

Wilderness Table
by Frontier Ironworks

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saying Grace

Some of my favorites, gentle but with a touch of cynicism:

May we cherish the bread before there is none,
discover each other before we leave,
and enjoy each other for what we are
while we have time.

~Richard Wong~

The Feast at Dave and Marion's

You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
and grace before the play and pantomime,

and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting, swimming,
fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing
and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

~G. K. Chesterton~


"Heavenly Father," I say, when it is my turn,
"deliver us all from evil, the living, the dead,
and everyone in between."

~Julia Scheeres~
(from her memoir, Jesus Land, 219)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Full Frost Moon

Night, the beloved.
Night, when words fade and things come alive.
When the destructive analysis of day is done,
and all that is truly important
becomes whole and sound again.
When you reassemble your fragmentary self
and grow with the calm of a tree.

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery~
Flight to Arras

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Fall Break Photograph by Karen Jordan:
"Taken on a covered bridge the length of a football field!
Not that far from West Lafayette."

They dance before they learn
there is anything that isn't music.

short poem by American poet
William Stafford
, 1914 - 1993

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
W. B. Yeats, 1864 - 1939
from his poem "Among School Children"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shadowy, Feathery

"Brush my forehead with a feather,
not with an eagle's feather, nor with a sparrow's,
but with the shadowy feather of an owl."
~~Tennessee Williams~~
from his poem "The Summer Belvedere"



by American Artist Charley Harper

See the little mouse in the above painting by popular bird artist, Charley Harper? At first, it looks like another leaf, but the title provides a hint. Likewise, the owl in this poem by John Haines preys upon mice but is a friend and silent companion to the narrator. The eerie, prophetic tone here is similar to that of "Listening in October" (mentioned recently).

If the Owl Calls Again
at dusk
from the island in the river,
and it's not too cold,

I'll wait for the moon
to rise,
then take wing and glide
to meet him.

We will not speak,
but hooded against the frost
soar above
the alder flats, searching
with tawny eyes.

And then we'll sit
in the shadowy spruce
and pick the bones
of careless mice,

while the long moon drifts
toward Asia
and the river mutters
in its icy bed.

And when the morning climbs
the limbs
we'll part without a sound,

fulfilled, floating
homeward as
the cold world awakens.

poem by John Haines (b. 1924)
American poet and professor
Poet Laureate of Alaska, 1969 - 1973

"If the Owl Calls Again" and "Listening in October" can both be found in The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Coyote!

My Sister Peg's Profile Picture

My Friend Jan's Roy Rogers Picture
Very cute, very confident, and very brave!

Both Peg and Jan shared these photos with accompanying comments about remembering this attitude more often.

Peg: "I wish I had more of that young attitude in my adult life!"

Jan: There's something to be said about girls and their young confidence. It helps me to look at these photos and to pull the energy from them. My adult self is not near so self-assured and could use a lesson from these young things."

"I had forgotten this chant that was once mine . . .
the song of the warrior woman."

~ Maxine Hong Kingston ~
from The Woman Warrior:
Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
, 20

"You were once wild here.
Don't let them tame you."

~ Isadora Duncan ~
from Isadora Speaks:
Uncollected Writings and Speeches of Isadora Duncan
, 138

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child

In observation of Veterans Day . . .
# 1.
A hopeful thought from the past, hasten the day:

"Though I have been trained as a soldier,
and participated in many battles,
there never was a time when, in my opinion,
some way could not be found
to prevent the drawing of the sword.
I look forward to an epoch when a court,
recognized by all nations,
will settle international differences."

Ulysses S. Grant, 1822 - 1885
Commanding General of the United States Army, 1864 to 1865
18th President of the United States, 1869 - 1877

# 2.
I first came across the following poem just a few days after the 9 / 11 disaster, and it seemed almost uncannily appropriate in a backward - looking kind of way. It is the third section of a longer sequence entitled "Wartime Child" by Liverpool poet Adrian Henri, one of the more-quoted authors on this blog.

It doesn't seem the same place after dark.
In the Park they've taken away the railings*
to make guns. As soon as the sun's gone down
the whole town seems changed: it's strange,
you can't tell where the pavement is.
Auntie Margaret fell over someone's bike
the other night. Only a pale blue light
from cars. Of course, you can see the stars.
We saw one once Dad said was Mars.
When there's a moon the barrage balloons
shine like silver. So that the Germans
won't know where they are, there's no names
on the stations. We can't tell, either.
It smells of steam and soldiers sleep
on kitbags. Sometimes the Yanks give us
chewing-gum. Mum says all the shops
used to be lit up, just like you see them
in America on the cinema.
It must be nice with all the lights.

*My mother-in-law Rosanne Bristow McCartney, raised in a small village outside of Liverpool, once explained to me that after all the gates and railings in the Liverpool neighborhoods had been confiscated by the army, it was discovered that they were the wrong metal to use for ammunition, so piles of beautiful old iron work were just scrapped. The homeowners never got their pieces back and just had to build up wooden replacements instead. More fruitless loss. More waste.

I hate waste!

# 3.
Last year on Armistice Day, I quoted Rhett Butler's assessment of the Civil War as it appears in Gone With The Wind. Allow me to repeat once again:

"I'm angry. Waste always makes me angry,
and that's what all this is, sheer waste."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Still Small Voice of Heaven

Early November Crescent Moon, Just Before Dawn
Photographed by my contemplative cousin,
Maggie Mesneak Wick

Crescent Noon
[or is it Moon? You decide!]*
(Click title for music video)

Green September
Burned to October brown
Bare November
Led to December's frozen ground
The seasons stumbled round
Our drifting lives are bound
To a falling crescent noon

Feather clouds cry
A vale of tears to earth
Morning breaks and
No one sees the quiet mountain birth
Dressed in a brand new day
The sun is on its way
To a falling crescent noon

Somewhere in
A fairytale forest lies one
Answer that is waiting to be heard

You and I were
Born like the breaking day
All our seasons
All our green Septembers
Burn away
Slowly we'll fade into
A sea of midnight blue
And a falling crescent noon

Song by John Bettis and Richard Carpenter
Sung by Karen Carptenter (1950 - 1983)
American singer and drummer

*Though I could swear that Karen is always singing "Noon," in their printed matter, the Carpenters themselves refer to this song sometimes as "Noon" sometimes as "Moon." If anyone knows why the duplicity, please tell!

Behind Me—dips Eternity

Behind Me—dips Eternity—
Before Me—Immortality—
Myself—the Term between—
Death but the Drift of Eastern Gray,
Dissolving into Dawn away,
Before the West begin—

'Tis Kingdoms—afterward—they say—
In perfect—pauseless Monarchy—
Whose Prince—is Son of None—
Himself—His Dateless Dynasty—
Himself—Himself diversify—
In Duplicate divine—

'Tis Miracle before Me—then—
'Tis Miracle behind—between—
A Crescent in the Sea—
With Midnight to the North of Her—
And Midnight to the South of Her—
And Maelstrom—in the Sky—

Emily Dickinson (1830 - 86)
Reclusive American Poet

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Plotting the Resurrection

Garden in Fall / Garden in Spring

The esteemed essayist E. B. White (1899 - 1985) writes admiringly of his aging wife sitting in the autumanal garden:

" . . . hour after hour in the wind and weather . . . the small hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in the dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection."

from E. B. White's Introduction (xix)
to Onward and Upward in the Garden
by Katharine S. White (1892 - 1977)
long-time fiction editor for the The New Yorker magazine

Plotting the resurrection.

Or to put it another way:

"A garden is evidence of faith.
It links us with all the misty figures of the past who also
planted and were nourished by the fruits of their planting."

~~Gladys Taber~~
American naturalist and columnist (1899 - 1980)
Author of the Stillmeadow Journals



Friday, November 5, 2010

Guy Fawkes Day

A Matthew Arnold Short Course, For the Deluded
or, Suggested readings for Guy Fawkes Day:

#1. the concluding stanza of "Dover Beach":

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the word, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

#2. from "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" :

"The mass of humankind will never have any ardent zeal for seeing things as they are; very inadequate ideas will always satisfy them. On these inadequate ideas reposes, and must repose, the general practice of the world. That is as much as saying that if you set yourself to see things as they are, you will find yourself one of a very small circle; but it is only by this small circle resolutely doing its own work that adequate ideas will ever get current at all. The rush and roar of practical life will always have a dizzying and attracting effect upon the most collected spectators, and tend to draw them into its vortex . . . But it is only by remaining collected, and refusing to lend himself to the point of view of the practical man, that the critic can do the practical man any service; and it is only by the greatest sincerity in pursuing his own course, and by at last convincing even the practical man of his sincerity, that he can escape misunderstandings which perpetually threaten him."

#3. Good blog post about V for Vendetta
and other expressions of Culture and Anarchy.

#4."Bonfire Night"

#5. "It is not only the leader of men, statesman, philosopher, or poet, that owes this duty to mankind. Every rustic who delivers in the village ale-house his slow, infrequent sentences, may help to kill or keep alive the fatal superstitions which clog his race. Every hard-worked wife of an artisan may transmit to her children beliefs which shall knit society together, or rend it in pieces. No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe. ~ William Clifford

Thanks to my son Sam McCartney
for this enlightening reference.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Grandfather's Birthday

Paul Jones Lindsey
4 November 1895 - 11 June 1983

I took this photograph of my grandfather in September 1982

In the twenty-six years that I knew him, I learned so many things from my mother's father. What a treat it was to hear him recite the poems of Robert Service, especially "The Cremation of Sam McGee," and to listen to his real - life stories of the Dalton Gang (see my post from the Dalton Museum) and Buffalo Bill (see last summer's post, "Hominy, Horseradish, and Buffalo Bill," on my Fortnightly Blog).

The Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe, June 1966
Here I am with my Grandpa Lindsey, ready to ride the train
to Kansas City to visit his sister, my Great Aunt Mabel

Shortly before he died, my grandfather taught me a very important lesson about trusting and sharing when it comes to family heirlooms. It was Christmastime 1982 when he offered me the 1913 photograph of his brother Sam, who was killed in WWI. Knowing this to be one of his most treasured possessions, I said, "I don't want to take it if you're not ready to part with it."

My grandfather responded with words that I shall never forget: "Well, Honey Girl, if I give it to you, I'm not parting with it." As I left his house that December night to return to college, he wished me a Happy New Year and said, "You're a quarter of a century old now, Kitti Girl. You must make your own decisions." That was the last time I saw him. I should have got on a Greyhound Bus and gone to visit him over Spring Break; I regret to say that I did not.

I used to think that one day, if I had a son, I would name him after this favorite grandfather. As it turned out, however, I married a man with the last name of "McCartney" and decided that it would not be fair to name a child "Paul McCartney," thus saddling him with the task of repeatedly denying that his parents had named him after one of the Beatles. Also, as it turns out, my husband Gerry, hails from Liverpool, though he claims no relation to the famous Paul, other than to say that they are related "by talent"!

Still, despite this quandary of surname, I was reluctant to relinquish my plan to honor my grandfather with a namesake. Our first son already carried the family name of "William," so Gerry and I settled on naming our second son after Great Uncle Sam, whose memory my grandfather had cherished all his life. I feel sure that having a great-grandson named Sam would suit him every bit as much as having one named Paul. Here is the picture that my grandfather passed on to me, and that I in turn will pass on to my son, Samuel Jerome McCartney:

Samuel Gordon Lindsey,
my grandfather's brother,
in 1913, age 20
Died in France, 31 July 1918
at the Battle of the Aisne-Marne

A letter from my grandfather ~ October 19, 1980:
"About the picture of your Uncle Sam: it was taken close to Barnsdall, Oklahoma, about this time of year 1913. He lacked a little over two months of his 21st birthday. We were both working on a booster station there and I had my 18th birthday while there. He lived five years after that. He was killed July 31, 1918 in what is known as the Aisne - Marne Battle. Aisne - Marne are two rivers running parallel to each other, and the battle was about 30 miles northeast of Paris. There is a National Cemetery of the same name, and Sam was originally buried there but was brought home two years later and buried at Niotaze. He looks like a little boy in that picture, but he was much of a little man. Never weighed as much as 150 until he went to the Army."

Click below to hear
the inimitable Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003)
Robert Service himself (1874 - 1958)
recite "The Cremation of Sam McGee"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls: Never Alone

"And when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. You will never be alone."
Speech attributed to Chief Seattle, 1854


Day of the Dead
In the Cemetery, Contemplating My Mortality

Click here to learn more about
the Mexican Holiday
and lots of other celebrations

ManKind Project
Thanks Burnetta!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Sainted Friend

I came across this touching verse a few years ago but have been unable to confirm its title or source. If anyone has further information, please advise. In the meantime, I think it's the perfect poem for All Saints Day:

In every heart is kept a shrine
To the beloved dead
To whom we raise the summer wine
And break our daily bread.
Live each day fully, o'er and o'er,
As if each were the end,
Until death knocks upon the door,
Our quiet and faithful friend.

Garrison Keillor

I hope you have a moment on this All Saints Day to watch my friend Diane's beautiful video in honor of her friend Dave. Click here to view A Tribute to Dave Cady, set to the music of Warreb Zevon's tender ballad, "Keep Me In Your Heart":

Keep Me In Your Heart
Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile

If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for awhile

There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sometimes when you're doing simple things
around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile

You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on
your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine driver's headed north to Pleasant Stream
Keep me in your heart for awhile

These wheels keep turning but they're running out
of steam
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

by Warren Zevon
and Jorge Calderon

Kitti and Diane, Summer 2008