Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

Harry's Birthday Cake from Hagrid" . . . the day that he had turned eleven,
the most wonderful birthday of his life . . . "

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 529 - 30)

Just over ten years ago, I received the following Harry Potter - themed Christmas letter from my wise wonderful friend The Reverend Nancy C. Tiederman. It has to be my all - time favorite Christmas letter ever. Over the last decade, I have read it silently to myself and aloud to my family numerous times, as well as sending photocopies to several very appreciative friends. Now, with Nancy's blessing I am posting it on my blog in honor of Harry's birthday.

Here we are that Christmas Eve:
Sam as a little shepherd boy . . . and Ben as Harry Potter!

Even though you may not know Nancy's friends and relatives, I think you'll find that her letter is so beautifully, so magically written that it all makes perfect sense. No matter what time of year I read it, it never fails to inspire me, especially when I read her closing words: "Even if you haven't read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone you surely know Harry's life was saved by love."

December 20, 2000
Dear Friends and Relations,

A long time ago,when I was very young, my desire [see erised, Chapter 12, 207 - 14] was to live to the unimaginable age of sixty (a round and meaningful number) in order to witness the change to the next century. 2000 seemed impossibly far away.

2000! I made it! I had not known it would be titled "The Millennium," but I intuitively knew the change from 1900's to 2000's would be a Big Event. Something magical would surely happen.

It turned out it wasn't really The Year of Millennium: it was the Year of Harry Potter. Our (adult) children gave me the complete set of books -- hardbound -- for my birthday, and reading rapidly for plot, I began to understand the year 2000.

Bill and I were rescued from becoming compete Muggles -- soft, overweight people who have no vision of the good, the beautiful, the delightful -- by dear friends who persisted until we found a date to join them for late spring hiking in the Smokey Mountains. In my slightly Muggle state, I begged for a heart / lung transplant in order to get back "up" the rocky trail we hiked down. With the help of loving friends, we struggled back into a better view of life.

The Harry Potter stories teach us "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve - foot mountain troll is one of them" (179). My own mountain troll was several years of health problems and a mind resigned to grow old, inactive and sad. Bill and I are very grateful to have friends who persisted until we joined them in slaying personal trolls and having fun with children our own age.

Hogwarts, where Harry goes to boarding school, looks like a "vast castle with many turrets and towers . . . windows sparkling in the starry sky" (111). Bill and our children rented a house on the Atlantic coast of Florida that had those same qualities -- though on a slightly smaller scale -- for a three - day celebration for the Birthday Girl. Family and friends came from Gainesville, St. Louis, Indiana and California (others wanted to come from Washington and Maine) just to celebrate Life! More giant trolls were slain -- the ones that say: "be embarrassed to tell your age and be ashamed to grow old." It is a lot more fun to sprinkle on some fairy dust, eat four different kinds of birthday cake, fresh Florida fruits and berries, and enough shrimp to sink a shrimp boat. After naps, we bobbed in the warm salty surf off Ponte Verde Beach. Like Harry, it was time for me to realize "Books! And cleverness! There are more important things -- friendship and bravery" (287).

Bravery. That was the quality Bill drew upon when the anxiety producing ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) interviewers / examiners came to U of F: M.E. As Harry said, anticipating facing the evil wizard, there is a "prickle of fear every time 'you-know-who' is mentioned. I suppose it's all part of entering the [magical] world." The wizard examiners came, looked around, talked with faculty, staff and students and left with no alternative but to admit UF's Mechanical Engineering program is "okay!"

One day Harry Potter received the gift of the latest model flying broomstick: a number 2000, "Sleek and shiny, with a mahogany handle" (166). We drove our old sporty midlife crisis Eclipse into broom straw and so one June day we gave ourselves a new traveling machine: A Honda Accord with leather seats, cruise control and power everything. No longer do we receive invitations for highway racing; now we ride safe, cruising down the road to our adventures.

Like Harry's friend Hermione Granger, "I'm particularly interested in Transfiguration you know, turning something into something else" (125). With my friend Mary and my daughter Ruth, I went on pilgrimage in October to Belfast, No. Ireland, to learn about transforming "the troubles" or violence into reconciliation through contemplative prayer. His Holiness the Dali Lama and Benedictine monk Fr. Lawrence Freeman led us. The Dali Lama said, "stop studying meditation: do it." He also challenged the Protestants and Catholics to become Christians. Returning home I felt as if I had climbed "staircases . . . that led somewhere different on a Friday" (131). Unlike working with wands, when working with prayer, one is never quite sure what will happen. As is so often the case with people who enter wholeheartedly into a pilgrimage experience, the three of us were the ones transformed.

A year or so ago, Bill and I thought we might try to move back "home" to the Western States (NOT Western Florida this time) but our ideas, assumptions and day dreams turned out to be "solid walls just pretending" to be doors" (132). We are still not well - rooted in this land of below - sea - level - sand. We cannot explain the chess came called Election of a President played on a chess board shaped like Florida using Live Human chess pieces: Bishop Electors, Queen Secretary of State, Knights of the Election Board and Voter-Pawns. You have to play the game: winner becomes King President. It's a test to get to the next challenge in the battle against evil.

The great Wizard Dumbledore said truth "is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution" (298). The Truth of Ultimate Reality is what all our Christmas activity is about. When we do it properly we are sharing our faith that

"Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; stars and angels give the sign.

Worship we the Godhead, love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and neighbor, love for plea and gift and sign."

~~ Christian Rossetti ~~

Even if you haven't read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone you surely know Harry's life was saved by love. "To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved is gone, will give us some protection forever" (299).

When you enter the "forbidden forest" where wild beasts and unknowns lurk, may you draw bravery, strength and life to battle goblins and all that is evil from your friends and family who love you and from the True Source of all Love.

God bless you and grant you a very Merry Christmas,
Nancy and Bill

[page numbers refer to
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J. K. Rowling


Thanks to my guest blogger:
~~ The Rev. Nancy C. Tiederman ~~
Merry Christmas in July!
Happy Birthday Nancy!
Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

Harry's Golden Snitch Birthday Cake"'Out of the way, out of the way!' sang Mrs. Weasley,
coming through the gate with what appeared to be a giant,
beach-ball-sized Snitch floating in front of her.
Seconds later Harry realized that it was his birthday cake . . .
'That looks amazing, Mrs. Weasley.'"

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 119)

Gerry, Kitti, Nancy, Bill

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Desolation of Abode and Boy

"It felt most strange to stand here in the silence and know
that he was about to leave the house for the last time. . . .
It gave him an odd, empty feeling to remember those times;
it was like remembering a younger brother whom he had lost."
~ J. K. Rowling ~
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 44

My sister Peg (scroll down for her comment on previous post) was wondering why I've been writing so much about moving lately: "Is this a coincidence or are you anticipating a move? Maybe it's just the empty nest feeling of the last of your boys moving out. Whatever it is, thanks so much for these posts and especially the pictures of your homes in Philly."

Well, I'm not going anywhere myself, but it is true that a few friends and neighbors have moved away recently, and also true that I often feel nostalgic for our historic homes in Philadelphia. And though I hadn't made this connection myself until Peg pointed it out, it's true that Sam is leaving the nest exactly one week from today to move into his campus dorm. Reading Peg's comment, I was reminded of the following passage from Meg Wolitzer's novel The Ten Year Nap, which perhaps contains the answer to Peg's query:

Children had a lot to do with it; they were the most fascinating part of it all, but mostly only to their own parents or, depending on the particular aspect, sometimes only to their mothers or only to their fathers. You stayed around your children as long as you could, inhaling the ambient gold shavings of their childhood, and at the last minute you tried to see them off into life and hoped that the little piece of time you'd given them was enough to prevent them from one day feeling lonely and afraid and hopeless. You wouldn't know the outcome for a long time (328).

Not to mention enough to prevent you from feeling those same things -- lonely, afraid, hopeless, old -- when they depart. The ambient gold shavings. In the corners, under the beds, atop the bookshelves, scattered throughout the old toy boxes . . . sweeping them up . . . feels almost like moving.

Thanks to Peg for making that connection! And in true sisterly fashion, she also read my mind, for even as she was submitting her comment, I was already putting together yet another blog post about moving day, this time featuring a poem that Sam wrote about his brother Ben and our transition, seven years ago, from Philadelphia to Indiana:


The barren house deserted and devoid,
The home depleted of its frills and friends.
The desolation of abode and boy,
Packed up and sent off to another place.

The home depleted of its frills and friends,
Who will replace the boy that loved her so?
The lonely house cries out; it wants to shout,
“Come Back, Come Back! I can’t be left like this!”

Who will replace the boy that loves her so?
The boy that laughed and cried within her walls,
Humming and thrumming through welcoming rooms,
Now stripped down to bare bones and skeleton.

The boy meanders far from all he loved.
The desolation of the house and boy
Like Tara and Scarlett, separate and sad,
Their barren hearts deserted and devoid.

by Sam McCartney, age 14

For the story behind Sam's poem, see
"The Desolation of Abode and Boy"
yesterday's new post on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We Have Had Kindness Here

On the corner: Our Urban Mansion in West Philly

The beautiful imagery and heart - breaking clarity of Howard Nemerov's poem, Going Away," was new for me in 2004 when my good friend Cate (mentioned many times before on this blog) sent me a copy to guide me on my westward journey. For many years we had lived across the street from each other in Philadelphia; then Cate returned to Ohio, and a year later, following in her footsteps, my family and I returned to Indiana. How aptly Nemerov describes the intensity of those neighborly days and years, and how honestly he portrays the conflicted decision to move away. Nowadays, Cate and I remain "neighbors" in the Midwest -- well, Ohio is right next door to Indiana! -- living proof that some friendships manage to survive the momentous, earth - shattering, giddy, tragic, time - traveling confusion of moving day.
Across the street: Cate's Stately Queen Anne

Going Away
Now as the year turns toward its darkness
the car is packed, and time come to start
driving west. We have lived here
for many years and been more or less content;
now we are going away. That is how
things happen, and how into new places,
among other people, we shall carry
our lives with their peculiar memories
both happy and unhappy but either way
touched with a strange tonality
of what is gone but inalienable, the clear
and level light of a late afternoon
out on the terrace, looking to the mountains,
drinking with friends. Voices and laughter
lifted in still air, in a light
that seemed to paralyze time.
We have had kindness here, and some
unkindness; now we are going on.
Though we are young enough still
And militant enough to be resolved,
Keeping our faces to the front, there is
a moment, after saying all farewells,
when we taste the dry and bitter dust
of everything that we have said and done
for many years, and our mouths are dumb,
and the easy tears will not do. Soon
the north wind will shake the leaves,
the leaves will fall. It may be
never again that we shall see them,
the strangers who stand on the steps,
smiling and waving, before the screen doors
of their suddenly forbidden houses.

Howard Nemerov, American Poet
poem from
The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov
, p. 220

For more poems about packing up and leaving, see
"Moving Day"
my current post on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

New post tomorrow:
"The Desolation of Abode and Boy"
~ also about moving day ~

Our downtown Philadelphia house.
The lovely vintage door is just the same,
but I have to confess that the windows were
never so elaborate as this when we lived there.
Beautiful job by the new owners!
Lovely photograph taken by my niece Sara.
Thanks Sara!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Loos'd of Limits: The Open Road

One of Uncle Gene's
Amazing Travel Pics, October 2005

Here's the story behind it, in his words:

May 2006
Dear Friends and Relatives,

In the Sunday Wichita Eagle there is a "Travel Section." On the front page of this section there is a feature called, "Best Shot." Each Sunday a picture sent in by an amateur is printed with a short blurb concerning the shot and the person's name. The attached photo is the one used this Sunday and . . . ta da! . . . it's one I took & submitted!

At the roadside turnout above Lake Mono last October on our trip from Davis to Las Vegas, John, Marla, Elaine & I stopped for our first look at the lake down in the basin several miles and about 1,500 feet below us. It was a spectacular view with Highway 395 winding sinuously down the mountain and across the basin, miles away in the hazy distance.

After ohhing and ahhing for awhile we were ready to load up and go on. I took one last shot of the panoramic view spread out in front and below us. It was a magic moment for I truly caught lightening in a bottle and the picture I got is a really neat one, I think. I've never been the "shutter-bug" in the family so I consider this shot to fall in the "blind sow" category (taken with my Canon PowerShot A520 digital).

Strangely enough we didn't see the picture in the paper yesterday; I forgot to look. Someone told us at AARP today that it was in there. I'd submitted it months ago and had looked occasionally but gave up on its ever being used.

Technology is wonderful . . . Aim and shoot . . .

Love, Gene aka Bill


Wow! What a fabulous photograph, and what a great surprise to learn inadvertently that it had finally appeared in the paper!

And to go along with Uncle Gene's stunning panorama
what could be more fitting than . . .

. . . a few lines from Walt Whitman's visionary Song of the Open Road:

Part 5

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

I inhale great draughts of space;
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am larger, better than I thought;
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women, You have done such good to me,
I would do the same to you.

I will recruit for myself and you as I go;
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss the new gladness and roughness among them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, and shall bless me.

from Part #13
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless,
To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights,
To merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to,
Again to merge them in the start of superior journeys;
To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
To conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
To look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, however long but it stretches and waits for you . . .
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,
To know the universe itself as a road - as many roads - as roads for traveling souls.

by Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
American poet, essayist, journalist, humanist

. . . or this parable from Franzlations [the imaginary Kafka parables]
by Gary Barwin, Craig Conley, Hugh Thomas:

"If you were walking across a barren plain and had an honest intention of walking on, then it would be a desperate matter, but you are flying, gliding and diving, SOARING and swooping, high above the plain, which, seen from above, is a tiny blot on a vast and various landscape."

P.S. Rest in Peace
Uncle Gene ~ 20 October 1926 - 21 July 2011
Aunt Elaine ~ 27 July 1929 - 23 July 2015

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unforgettable Uncle Gene

Collected MemoirsRest in Peace, Uncle Gene
20 October 1926 - 21 July 2011

Here's the obit that Gene, always "Bill" to his friends, wrote himself:

Carriker, Bill, 84, entered into a new plane of existence on July 21, 2011 in Davis, CA after a long, productive, and enjoyable life. A memorial service will be held at 2 pm, Saturday, August 6, 2011 at Lakeview Funeral Home.

Bill moved to Wichita with his family in 1960 and spent 27 years as an elementary school principal in the Wichita System. With a capable staff, he was responsible for implementing the 1st Magnet School in Wichita at the Isely Creative Center as well as Amelia Earhart Environmental Complex where he spent 16 years. As principal he bonded closely with his students and was affectionately known as “Mr. C” to many hundreds of boys and girls.

Bird City, Kansas at mid-century is where it all began. After 2 years of classroom teaching, it was on to Robinson, Kansas where he taught and was the principal of the small town elementary school. After eight years, in 1960, Bill was hired as full time principal at North Riverside CSD 170, in Wichita, Kansas which was renamed Amelia Earhart Elementary upon annexation by the city.

Retirement came in June of 1987 from Earhart school. Following this, many years and thousands of miles of RVing were enjoyed and adventures experienced by Bill & Elaine traveling the U.S., and Alaska. For nine years in his later life, Bill wrote a weekly column for his birth town newspaper, the Drumright, Oklahoma Gusher. In 2004, with the help of Elaine, he published a large number of his selected columns into a book entitled, Tiger Creek Tales.

Bill is survived by Elaine, his beloved wife of 63 years, a brother Don (Anne) Carriker of Chadwick, MO, son Brent (Saundra) Carriker of Henderson, NV, daughter Chris (John) Denton of Davis, CA and daughter Kimberly (Gregg) Ree of Wichita along with 8 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Bill’s inurnment will be in the Veteran’s section of Lakeview Gardens. In lieu of flowers a contribution may be made to the American Porphyria Foundation. Continued research is being done to find relief for this affliction; one Bill lived with all his life.


Uncle Gene has also appeared here as a guest blogger
on the Third Sunday of Advent, 2010
and on My Father's Birthday, 2010
and on Amelioration: Earth Day, 2011
and on Loos'd of Limits, 2011

Gene's memoirs available on amazon:
Tiger Creek Tales: Memories of an Oil Patch Kid
by Billy Gene Carriker

Click on book cover once or twice
to enlarge for reading

Supercool Bookshelves built by Uncle Gene and friend Frank
Looks like Aunt Elaine put all the books back . . .
Always up to something . . .
Uncle Gene, my dad ~ Willard, and Uncle Robert
working on a project in the mid-80s

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Another June lake image from friend and photographer Jay Beets:I could swear that's Huckleberry Finn down there on the dock,
with his fishing pole, waiting for his raft to arrive!

What a wise child, Huckleberry Finn -- Mark Twain's quintessential boy of summer! Of Huckleberry's many memorable observations on his journey down the Mississippi, my favorite has to be the last line of Chapter 24 when his innocence and sense of honor is further tarnished by the chicanery of his elders: "It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race."

And from No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger: "Ernest Wasserman, 17, apprentice; braggert, malicious, hateful, coward, liar, cruel, underhanded, treacherous. He and Moses had a sort of half fondness for each other, which was natural, they having one or more traits in common, down among the lower grades of traits. . . . when she heard my tale she was full of pity for me and maledictions for Ernest, and promised him a piece of her mind, with foot-notes and illustrations."

Speaking of Huckleberry Finn, the following musical was recently recommended to me by my friend Burnetta Hinterthuer, a botanist and woman of letters:
Big River by Roger Miller
Burnetta is a discerning scholar who seeks merit in all and never loses her sense of humor along the way. Everything she suggests is excellent; so I ordered a copy of Big River from amazon and was listening to it in the car a couple of weeks ago while driving around town running errands. Just as the song "Free At Last" began to play, I experienced my coincidence of the day, when the traffic slowed for the passing of a funeral cortege. As I idled alongside the road waiting for the stream of cars to pass, Roger Miller's perfectly timed lyrics filled my head:

Free At Last

I wish by golly I could spread my wings and fly
And let my grounded soul be free for just a little while
To be like eagles when they ride upon the wind
And taste the sweetest taste of freedom for my soul

Then I'd be free at least, free at last
Great God Almighty, I'd be free at last

To let my feelings lie where harm cannot come by
And hurt this always hurtin' heart
That needs to rest awhile
I wish by golly I could spread my wings and fly
And taste the sweetest taste of freedom for my soul

Then I'd be free at least, free at last
Great God Almighty, I'd be free at last

I'd be free at least, I'd be free at last
Great God Almighty, I'd be free at last

words & lyrics by American Singer and Songwriter
Roger Miller, 1936 - 1992

As the CD advanced to the final track "Muddy Water," the flow of traffic resumed, and the still small voice of John Donne whispered in my heart:
"never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Summer Belvedere

" . . . and whisper faith to the summer belvedere . . .
clear to the belvedere, yes, clear up there . . . "~ a summer belvedere ~
somewhere in Cape May, New Jersey

The Summer Belvedere
Such icy wounds the city people bear
beneath brown coats enveloping withered members!
I don't want to know of mutilations

nor witness the long-drawn evening debarkation
of warm and liquid cargoes in torn wrappings
the ships of mercy carry back from war.

We live on cliffs above such moaning waters!

Our eyeballs are starred by the vision of burning cities,
our eardrums shattered by cannon.
A blast of the dying,
a thunder of people who cannot catch their breath

is caught in the mortar and molded into the walls.

And I, obsessed with a dread of things corroded,
of rasping faucets, of channels that labor to flow
have no desire to know of morbid tissues,
of cells that begin prodigiously to flower.

There is an hour in which disease will be known
as more than occasion for some dim relative's sorrow.
But still the watcher within my soundless country
assures the pendulum duties of the heart
and asks no reason but keeps a faithful watch

as I keep mine from the height of the belvedere!

And though no eyrie is sacred to wind entirely,
a wall of twigs can build a kind of summer.

I asked my kindest friend to guard my sleep.

I said to him, Give me the motionless thicket of summer,
the velvety cul-de-sac, and quiet the drummer.

I said to him, 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.

I said to him, Come to me dressed in a cloak and a cowl,
and bearing a candle whose flame is very still.

Our belvedere looks over a bramble hill.

I said to him, Give me the cool white kernel of summer,
the windless terminal of it, and calm the drummer!

I said to him, Tell the drummer
the rebels have crossed the river and no one is here
but John with the broken drumstick and half-wit Peg
who shot spitballs at the moon from the belvedere.

Tell the feverish drummer no man is here.
But what if he doesn't believe me?
Give him proof!
For there is no lie that contains no part of truth.

And then, with the sort of courage that comes with fever,
the body becoming sticks that blossom with flame,
the flame for a while obscuring what it consumes,
I twisted and craned to peer in the loftier room--

I saw the visitor there, and him I knew
as my waiting ghost.

The belvedere was blue.

I said to my kindest friend, The time has come
to hold what is agitated and make it still.

I said to him, Fold your hands upon the drum.

Permit no kind of sudden or sharp disturbance
but move about you constantly, keeping the guard
with fingers whose touch is narcotic, brushing the walls
to quiet the shuddering in them,
drawing your sleeves across the hostile mirrors
and cupping your palms to breathe upon the glass.

After a while anxiety will pass.

The time has come, I said, for purification.

Rub out the lewd inscriptions on the walls,
remove the prisoners' names and maledictions,
for lack of faith has left impurities here,

and whisper faith to the summer belvedere.

Draw back the kites of hysteria from the sky,
those struggling fish draw back from their breathless pool,
and whisper assurances cool
to the watchful corners, and whisper sleep and sleep
along the treads of the stairs, and up the stairwell,

clear to the belvedere, yes, clear up there, where giggling John
stood up in his onionskin of adolescence
to shoot spitballs at the moon from the captain's walk.

And then, at the last, he said, What shall I do?
The sweetest of treasons, I told him. Lean toward my listening ear
and whisper the long word to me,
the longest of all words to me,
the word that divides the sky from the belvedere.

by Tennessee Williams (1911 - 1983)
American Playwright
Twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Twice awarded the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award

Related Posts:

1. "The Shadowy Feather of an Owl"

2. "Shadowy, Feathery"


Unexpected Connections:

1. In Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, when the doctor informs the family that Big Daddy is dying of cancer, Big Daddy is outside taking a walk on the "belvedere." Also Big Daddy says, "I thought the old man made out of bones laid his cold and heavy hand on my shoulder!"

2. My father was born 88 years ago today (on 18 July 1923); the day he died (Saturday, 27 June, 1987) we all watched Cat On A Hot Tin Roof that evening on TV. This was before the days of movie rentals, so it's not as if we planned or chose it; it's just what happened to be on. Although my dad's personality was nothing like the character of Big Daddy, we were all kind of mesmerized by the appropriateness of it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hearing the Light, Seeing the Sound

Photo of a Missouri sunrise on the lake ~
by my old college classmate Jay Beets

When I saw this magical photo,
the words of Michael Nesmith's
equally magical song sprang instantly to mind:

[click song title to see / hear]
I'm hearing the light from the window,
I'm seeing the sound of the sea,
My feet have come loose from their moorings,
I'm feeling quite wonderfully free.

And I think I will travel to Rio
Using the music for flight,
There's nothing I know of in Rio,
But it's something to do with the night.
It's only a whimsical notion
To fly down to Rio tonight,
And I probably won't fly down to Rio,
But then again, I just might.

There's wings to the thought behind fancy,
There's wings to the thought behind play
And dancing to rhythms of laughter
Makes laughter the rhythm of rain.

So I think I will travel to Rio
Using the music for flight,
There's nothing I know of in Rio,
But it's something to do with the night.
It's only a whimsical notion
To fly down to Rio tonight,
And I probably won't fly down to Rio,
But then again, I just might.

I feel such a sense of well-being,
The problems have come to be solved,
And what I thought was proper for battle
I see now is proper for love.

So I think I will travel to Rio . . .

Reno? Why Reno?
Not Reno, dummy.
Rio, Rio de Janeiro.

Music & lyrics by Michael Nesmith
from the album: From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing
and also featured in Elephant Parts

If you're not familiar with Elephant Parts, Nesmith's wacky collection of comedic sketches and early - day music videos, check it out on netflix and / or amazon. I first watched it in the summer of 1984, when I was visiting my sister Peg and her family in Germany. We couldn't stop laughing then; and, even today, we are still quoting all of our favorite lines . . . just to prove a point!


Another June sunrise photographed by Jay ~
same horizon, different lighting.

Thanks Jay ~
for the use of your synaesthetic photography!
Northeast Missouri has never looked so good!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Poems for Moving Day

"Goodbye, beautiful empty house . . .
Walls we painted, shelves we built, floors we polished . . . "
[By "we" I mean Gerry!]

Starting Out
Suddenly your life is packed away
in boxes and the present
is no longer home
again. You think
I must never leave
any of this.
You feel
like a great historical epic,
capturing every moment around
you: the turning of keys, the entering
into rooms, your hand resting comfortably
on the light switch.

And then you are going,
the faces of your friends growing small
as they wave in the rearview mirror,
the sign at the city limits saying


Then you are past stopping.
You would like to think you know
where you're going --
the map marked, the road clear.
But how will you know
when you get there?
the signs all blank
on this side, the roads narrowed
to a fine black line
behind you.

It may be you will never see any of this
again, coming suddenly bright
on the dark edges
of sleep. or perhaps in the early
morning hours of some future room you will sit down
to write all this and find
it is the letter from home you've been waiting for.

Joyce Barlow, American Poet
poem from The Chariton Review,
Fall 1977 (vol 3 no 2)

Since first reading Joyce Barlow's poem in 1977, I have never failed to feel like "a great historical epic" whenever the occasion calls for such; and I was delighted, more recently, by the similarity of Barbara Kingsolver's sentiment:

Away went our little family,
like rats leaping off the burning ship.
It hurt to think about everything at once:
our friends, our desert, old home, new home.
We felt giddy and tragic
as we pulled up at a little gas-and-go market
on the outside edge of Tuscon.
Before we set off to seek our fortunes we had to gas up,
of course, and buy snacks for the road.

Barbara Kingsolver
from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
p. 2 (emphasis added)

For more poems about packing up and leaving, see
"Moving Day"
yesterday's new post on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Happy Bastille Day!

The Statue of Liberty
~ or ~
Liberty Enlightening the World
Statue designed by Frédéric Bartholdi, 1834 - 1904
A gift to the United States
From the people of France, 1886

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

written in 1883
by Emma Lazarus, 1849 - 87

Ben's Class Trip ~ Spring 1999 (3rd Grade)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Opportunity Cost: Economics & Poetics

" . . . the deciduous idea!
trees die for half the year and take all else in the universe . . . "
~ Lee Perron ~
Central Park, June 2011

If you haven't seen my latest Fortnightly blog post, No One With A Nose, take a look now and you can read one of my all - time favorite poems along with some economic theory that elucidates the main character's bargain with the gods:

sometimes he wonders if he really had to go out & cut off his
nose just to learn how to get things
maybe he could have just gone out and gotten them
but no, he looks around & sees that no one with a nose has
anywhere near the things he does, not a tenth so much,
not a hundredth
from Desire, a Sequence by Lee Perron
click to see entire poem posted earlier

I think perhaps rather than sacrifice, this poem may really be more about an idea that came to attention ~ coincidentally! ~ as I was turning the calendars ahead to July: opportunity cost, i.e., "the cost of any activity measured in terms of the best alternative forgone . . . the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices . . . the basic relationship between scarcity and choice. The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in ensuring that scarce resources [ ~ such as true love ~ ] are used efficiently. Thus, opportunity costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs: the real cost of output forgone, lost time, pleasure or any other benefit that provides utility should also be considered opportunity costs" (see Wikipedia for further explanation and footnotes).

An even better explanation is provided by the young entrepreneurs who designed the Indiana Council for Economic Education 2011 Economic Concept Calendar. The featured concept for July is "Opportunity Cost," illustrated by fifth grader, Abbie S.: "When you make a decision, the most valuable alternative you give up is your Opportunity Cost. (Opportunity Cost is NOT what you pay to buy something.) There is always an alternative to any decision, so every decision has an opportunity cost" (click ICEE, scroll down to page 7 for calendar contest winners; clicking on the winning pictures link will give you a preview of next year's 2012 calendar).

Another way to think of it is the passage from George Bernard Shaw's play Major Barbara (but also ascribed to novelist H. G. Wells; a discrepancy that I have not yet resolved to my satisfaction):

"You have learned something.
That always feels at first
as if you have lost something
See also column at right ~>
"The Price of Experience" ~>

If there is a decision, an alternative, something to learn . . . then there will be a cost, something forgone, something to lose.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Shepherd

My Favorite Beach Towel!
If anyone knows, please tell me ~ where can I get another one?

Last fall, Sam had the honor
of writing the following stewardship
letter for our church, The Episcopal
Campus Ministry at Purdue University;
I thought he did a great job:

Dear Friend of the Chapel of The Good Shepherd,

My name is Sam McCartney and I am senior at West Lafayette High School. I have attended The Chapel of The Good Shepherd with my family since I moved to West Lafayette in sixth grade. I plan on attending Purdue for the next four years and plan to continue to attend the Chapel of The Good Shepherd.

I started going to the Chapel of the Good Shepherd in sixth grade, and there were always activities to make sure that I, as a young and often restless child, could stay involved in the service. As a sixth grader, during the sermon, my best friend, Brendan Knapp, and I would work, together through exercises in a book, with the help of Brendan’s mom. These exercises helped us learn more about each other and ourselves; they made us think about what we had, why we had it, and why we should appreciate it every day. The Chapel of The Good Shepherd offered me a great way to become more aware of myself and my surroundings.

Through the years of junior high and senior high school, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd has also been a great gathering place for me and my friends. Every Friday, from 7th through 12th grade, my friends and I have gone to the Chapel of The Good Shepherd to eat lunch. It has been a wonderful experience for me. In 7th, 8th, and 9th grade, Brendan and I would go and read through the Bible with Mr. Bunder. We would talk about the Bible, not in an overwhelmingly religious way, but in a way that would help us understand ourselves more and help us mature and grow in the right way.

2009 Confirmation Class: Brendan, Sam, Ben

As a 10th grader, Brendan and I, along with another very close friend of ours, Ben Capano, spent the year working our way through a confirmation curriculum that helped us understand not only religion and Christianity better, but also the steps that we needed to take toward becoming adults. Through our junior year and now as seniors, Brendan, Ben, five other close friends, and I have greatly enjoyed the company of Mr. Bunder every Friday at lunchtime watching documentaries and movies together, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Hobbit, and Supersize Me to name a few. The movies are fun; however, they have always, with the assistance of Mr. Bunder, offered us great insights into life, as well.

Also, throughout the years The Chapel of The Good Shepherd has been a great place for me to be on Sundays. I have enjoyed helping run the nursery with Brendan, as well as planning the annual Easter Egg Hunt and playing the trumpet every Easter for the Church.

I hope that you can see how important the Chapel of The Good Shepherd and, most importantly, Mr. Bunder have been throughout my junior high and high school years in West Lafayette. I have been able to develop my beliefs about my religion, form great friendships, and learn about myself in ways I could only have done through the Chapel of The Good Shepherd and with Mr. Bunder. I do hope that you can give, or continue to give to the Chapel of The Good Shepherd, so that students like me can continue to enjoy the terrific atmosphere that Mr. Bunder and this wonderful church have always offered me.


Sam McCartney

2011 High School Graduates: Ben, Sam, Brendan

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"What is the grass?"

A child said, What is the grass?
fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?
I do not know what it is any more than she.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition,
out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child,
the produced babe of the vegetation. . . .

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life,
and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

by Walt Whitman, 1819 - 1892
American poet, essayist, journalist, humanist
from Song of Myself ~ Part 6

Click to see Autumn Gossamer

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Signer

Certain rare moments change the
course of history. Yet within a mere
eleven years two such moments, the
signing of the Declaration of Inde-
pendence and the signing of the
Constitution of the United States,
occurred in Independence Hall, just
a few steps from where you are
standing. The sculpture you see
before you commemorates the courage
of those who altered their lives, and
ours, by affixing their names to these

The Signer
by sculptor, Evangelos Frudakis, 1980
Southeast corner of 5th & Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia Of all the impressive statuary to be found around the city,
my favorite is "The Signer."
Even though he still has the pen in his hand,
he has already rolled up the document for use as a telescope ~
thus he is a "signer" not only because of his "signature"
but also because of his "vision."

~ June 15, 2004 ~
On our last day in Philadelphia
while the movers packed up the big van,
Sam and I toured the neighborhood one more time.
We stopped by all of our favorite spots,
me with my camera, he on his bike.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

May God Bless and Keep the Upstart Americans

. . . far away from us!

"Prayer Issued By Special Command of His Majesty George III

Imploring Divine Assistance against the King's
unhappy deluded Subjects in America, now in
open rebellion against the Crown, 1776:

O Blessed Lord, who hast commanded us by the beloved Son to love our Enemies, and to extend our charity in praying even for those who despitefully use us, give grace, we beseech thee, to our unhappy fellow subjects in America, that seeing and confessing the error of their ways, and having a due sense of their ingratitude for the many blessings of thy Providence, preserved to them by the indulgent care and protection of these kingdoms, they may again return to their duty, and make themselves worthy of thy pardon and forgiveness."


Don't you kind of like the way we're still over here, deluded, unhappy & ungrateful, having never yet confessed the error of our ways? I do!

from sea to shining sea
photograph by Jay Beets, Kirksville, Missouri
Sunrise, 4th of July 2011

I don't know why this great stanza
from "America the Beautiful"
is often omitted:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

Katharine Lee Bates (1859- 1929)

This song we love was originally written as a poem entitled "Pikes Peak" and first published in the 1895 Fourth of July edition The Congregationalist.

Bates describes stopping to jot down her thoughts as she neared the conclusion of a long excursion toward the top of Pikes Peak: "I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

For additional verses, see

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Who Needs Fireworks?!

I always wanted to invent something
that would move around & make funny noises &
would change the world as we know it &
I forgot all about that until we had kids &
now I see I came pretty close.
Brian Andreas


Hey, who needs fireworks?Our Little Firecrackers, 4th of July 1996

All American!
Ben's "USA" tee-shirt (and baseball hat from the Gap)
was his costume for the end - of - year celebration
at his Montessori Kindergarten.
His role in the international program was to portray
the "All - American" boy (even though he's half British).
You can see why!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lizone's: Jewelry With An Attitude

Oh, who shall lightly say that fame
Is nothing but an empty name,
When but for those, our mighty dead,
All ages past a blank would be.

Joanna Baillie
Scottish Poem & Dramatist (1762-1851)*

If you're looking for some jewelry like no other, say a brooch that everyone will compliment and comment upon every time you wear it, try Lizone's Jewelry With An Attitude. Designer Lila McRainey's vintage brooches, featuring saved and found watch parts, first came to my attention at an annual arts and crafts fair in Ohio. Now, however, I can simply go to Etsy and view her charming selection anytime I want. I can always find the perfect gift (for myself or others) and never cease to be mesmerized by the amazing detail and incredibly fair price of each piece.

Lila was kind enough, when I implored her, to create some custom designs for me, assembled from various items of sentimental value that I had treasured and hoarded over the years.

1. I sent Lila a holiday puppy dog, given to me by my little brother when he was only five (Christmas 1966), a jingle bell friendship ring, from my friend Joni, when we were Freshman in high school (1971), some pewter hair barrettes that I used to love a lot, plus a few red and green buttons and broken bits.

Here's what she came up with:

Don't you love it? Christmas in July!


2. Can you see all the fun stuff in the collection below? Three gold watches from three different grandmothers (right), a Campbell's Soup Kid from the handle of an old spoon, a daisy chain ring from my elderly cousins, a tiny guardian angel charm, and an even tinier locket that my mother gave me on my 6th birthday (center).

Here is the beautiful result:

I had already consulted a jeweler who confirmed
that the watches would likely never run again;
and, besides, how could I wear all three of them?
Well, now I can -- all at the same time!


3. And finally, the product of a couple of contemporary watches: my trusty Seiko that died a natural death after 25 years of use, and a lame replacement -- also a Seiko but just not as trustworthy -- that sprang apart before my very eyes after only a month of wear. Still, I managed to get my money's worth by commemorating it along with its long - lived predecessor, a few stray earrings that I just couldn't part with, and plenty of little hearts from Lila's treasure box.

Thanks Lila!

Click to shop at Lizone's

Click to see additional examples of Lila's unique craft

*And something else I love about the Lizone's Etsy Store --
her exquisite handiwork is accompanied by
lots of memorable quotations like this.