Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tell Me a Story!

New Post for the 14th on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
"Everyone Loves Stories -- Even Jesus, Even God"

Tell me a story! Tell me about the day I was born. Tell me about that time. Once upon a time. In the beginning. Long ago and faraway. Long ago, in someone else's story. Be the hero of your own story. The Never-ending Story. Just So Stories. So many stories, so little time, so much time -- sprawling and interminable . . . The narratives may sprawl across time and space, but only say the word, write the letter, make the call, turn on the searchlights, sit in the chair, and tell the story!

For more on the importance of story in our lives,
see today's Fortnightly Post
"Everyone Loves Stories -- Even Jesus, Even God"

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Green Beans, Grandmas, and Air Conditioning

Gerry McCartney ~ Head Gardener
July 2009

Last night we finished up the last of last year's bean crop, cultivated and harvested by Gerry; photographed and frozen by me. For reconstituting, I followed my brother Dave's delicious, old - fashioned recipe for our Grandma Carriker's green beans and onions:

Around this same time last year we had a similar end of / beginning of (you pick!) season bean feast, after which I added the above picture of Gerry to my facebook photo album. The ensuing comments yielded an instant, nearly fully formed blog post about the joy of garden beans and tomatoes, the sheroism of grandmothers, and the blessing / curse (you pick!) of air - conditioning.

My friend Paula: Sounds yummy! Garden beans are the best. Mmmm.

My cousin Maggie: Grandma's cooking yummmmmmm!

My friend Herman: Amazing what my mother did . . . no grandmothers to help; one died when I was a youngster; the other was paralyzed in a sitting position . . . she was a sweetheart but depended on others for total care . . . she died when I was 14 . . . I have strong memories of her; less strong memories of the other grandmother.

My cousin Dodie: I remember August as tomato month---Grandma and Mom would spend days in the heat processing tomatoes -- whole and juice. Blanching, peeling, sterilizing jars, hot water baths, etc. All without running water, let alone a dishwasher!!! Missouri is miserable in August -- so humid. All of us kids were outside in the fresh air, while they slaved away in the kitchen with big pots boiling on the stove.

My cousin Alicia: We have gotten spoiled by air conditioning. I personally hate it and don't think it does us good but, alas, I have others in the house to contend with. Haven't had ours on yet -- hope to hold off as long as possible! Give me a good fan and I'm set . . . Sometimes I feel I'm the only one!

My sister Peg: I've decided I don't hate a/c, but instead hate that we need it. I wish I could go all summer without a/c but I know I would be miserable without it.

My friend Katy recalled waking up early on a summer morning to the aroma of new green beans simmering in bacon grease and the anticipation of knowing what would be for supper that night! We were reminiscing about the special jars, or bowls, or coffee cans full of saved bacon grease that all the moms and grandmoms kept on the stove top for making recipes such as these.

My friend Mitzi added: Summer mornings at my grandma's were spent sitting under her big walnut tree while we "snapped" green beans. She kept her bacon grease in an old coffee can near the stove. To this day, one of my favorite meals is homegrown snap beans simmered with bacon and new potatoes.

My Grandma Lindsey kept her bacon grease in a
Jewel Tea ~ Sugar Bowl

In a midwestern twist on Proust's madeleine, those savory green beans or warm fresh tomatoes carry the essence of the past, evoking the summers of childhood, the hot kitchen, the pressure cookers, the grandmothers, the screen doors, the whirring fans, the cool front porch, the rocking chairs:

"No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. . . . And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine . . . my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it.
And all from my cup of tea."
~ Marcel Proust ~
In Search of Lost Time or The Remembrance of Things Past

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cows Absorbing Moisture

Cows in the Autumn Catskills, 1865
by Scottish - American Artist ~ William M. Hart, 1823 - 1894

Current Post On
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
"To Live Even One Day"

There are so many things to say about Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf's elegant interior novel of one day -- plus flashbacks -- in the life of Clarissa Parry Dalloway. I decided to start with one of my sister Peg's favorite passages:

" 'Dear Sir Harry!' she [Clarissa] said, going up to the fine fellow who had produced more bad pictures than any other two Academicians in the whole of St. John's Wood (they were always of cattle, standing in sunset pools absorbing moisture, or signifying, for he had a certain range of gesture, by the raising of one foreleg and the toss of the antlers, 'the Approach of the Stranger' --all his activities, dining out, racing, were founded on cattle standing absorbing moisture in sunset pools)" (266).

Peg wrote: "I just love the thought of such a banal subject as cows standing around in ponds at sunset 'absorbing moisture.' Still makes me smile."

Cows Watering
Seems that Woolf may have had artist William M. Hart in mind
when she created the character of Sir Harry.

I told Peg at the time that her observation about the cow painting was perfect for my Quotidian blog because she expresses so well the thought that the cows are quotidian! Sir Harry keeps us grounded -- maybe in a boring way, but also in a good way!

A week or so after my Fortnightly post about Mrs. Dalloway, Sir Harry, and the cow paintings, Peg had one of those "connection and coincidence" moments that my blogs are all about! Synchronicity!

She wrote to say: "I opened The Frederick [MD] News-Post this morning [Friday, 22 June] and on the front page they had Sir Harry's cows (see below). I couldn't believe the pictures when I first saw it after the discussions I've had this week with you about Mrs. Dalloway. Don't the cows in this picture perfectly exemplify cattle standing in sunset pools absorbing moisture?"


For more on William M. Hart and Virginia Woolf
see my essay "To Live Even One Day"
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Action = Eloquence, Freedom

"Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf"

from T. S. Eliot's The Four Quartets
Part I, "Burnt Norton"

A couple of days ago, Gerry told me that he had come across a really good quotation about action.

I got all excited and jumped the gun: "Oh is it the one about "right action is freedom"?

No, that wasn't it. Gerry's new quote was new for me also:

"Action is eloquence."

from Shakespeare's Coriolanus

I read Coriolanus once years ago but can't recall ever learning this passage. Thus, I'm counting it as a new -- and intriguing concept -- to think about. Or, even better, to act upon!

Still, though I couldn't quite put my finger on it, that other line kept echoing through my head: "Right action . . . right action . . . right action."

Then yesterday, in a completely unrelated search (or maybe not so unrelated after all!), I was browsing through my posts to find an Eliot passage that I wanted to share with a friend: we "are only undefeated / because we have gone on trying." As I got ready to cut and paste, can you guess what words came into my line of sight?

Let's hear it for connection and coincidence! Suddenly it all fell into place:
"And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying . . . "

from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets:
Part III, The Dry Salvages
Central Park in June

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fetching the Cat

Fetching the Cat ~ Batik by Terri Haugen

Back in the Fall of 1986, I saw this print on the cover of Reader's Digest and was immediately drawn to the white house and the latticed porch that reminded me of a house I had once lived in. Even more, I loved the endearing posture of the child holding the big patient cat in her arms. To this day, that old magazine cover resides safely, if a bit faded, between the pages of one of my poetry notebooks.

As the artist explains, this summery painting features her daughter "fetching the cat." Sam's pose is incredibly similar in a couple of wintry photographs that I have of him clutching our big, sweet, patient Josef in exactly the same classic manner:

Christmas 2000
Sam and Ben
Taking Josef Outside to See the Snow

Christmas 2001
Sam & Jo - Pie


Detail: "Fetching"

Detail: Christmas 2000

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice Elves

Daybreak, 1922
by Maxfield Parrish, 1870 - 1966

A Summer Solstice Long Before Now

It cost you only the expense
of a single puckish summer night
to discover that elves, pixies,
or even old - fashioned angels
can't lead your life for you.

They are too inexperienced.

The most they can do is exclaim
in amazement at your follies,
then gasp in wonder at how
you manage to escape, your life intact.

~~from the Collected Poems
of Ernest Sandeen (1908 - 1997)
Notre Dame Professor and Poet

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celtic Blessing

by Jay Beets

Celtic Prayer and Blessing
from my friend The Rev. Nancy C. Tiederman

Nancy writes: "The origin and location of this prayer have escaped my memory. Perhaps I found it at the shrine for Saint David and St. David’s Cathedral. Or maybe I found it at the little church named for Saint Iltud in Wales. I do remember it came from a place on the Welsh Coast on the Irish Sea."

From the flowing of the tide to its ebbing
From the waxing of life to its waning
Of your peace provide us
Of your life lead us
Of your goodness give us
Of your grace grant us
Of your power protect us
Of your love lift us
And in your arms accept us
From the ebbing of the tide to its flowing
From the waning of life to its waxing

And this ~ kind of related ~
from "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk"
by Franz Kafka:

"Our life is very uneasy, every day brings surprises, apprehensions, hopes, and terrors, so that it would be impossible for a single individual to bear it all did we not always have by day and night the support of our fellows; but even so it often becomes very difficult; frequently as many as a thousand shoulders are trembling under a burden that was really meant only for one pair."

Rows of windows -- a good way to signify
the many burdens and the many shoulders . . .
The Travelers Hotel ~ Kirksville, Missouri
Where My Grandmother Used to Work
~ Thanks for the photos Jay! ~

Vintage Postcard ~ The Travelers Hotel ~ Kirksville, Missouri

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Bloomsday to All!

in honor of James Joyce, Ulysses,
Leopold Bloom, and Bloomsday

Thanks to my son Ben for allowing me to share some of his recent Dublin photos and captions . . .

"We started south towards the river Liffey
passing the General Post Office on the way."

"Across the river we find Trinity College Dublin.
One of Gerry McCartney's alma maters."

"We continued South, down Grafton street,
and to the entrance of St. Stephen's Green."

"Chris stopped to take some pictures of ducks."

"We found a hat and sweater shop in Dublin and
couldn't help but try them on. Unfortunately I
look ridiculous, Richard's looking pretty good though."

"We saw a lot of beer being delivered around
the city. It was a clear reminder that Dublin
was the place to be for the freshest Guinness."

"Speaking of Guinness. We got some for lunch
and it was far and away better than the
canned American version. Chris was thirsty."

Happy Bloomsday to All
And to All a Good Night!

It's always Bloomsday somewhere! Right?

See also

1. my post from Bloomsday 2011:"Parallax"

2. what Stephan Dedalus has to say about "Never Fear"

View across St. Stephen's Green, looking south.
~ Dublin, Ireland ~ ca. 1900 ~
"Crossing Stephen's, that is, my green . . . " (186)

from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Even One Day

New Post for the 14th on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
"To Live Even One Day"

Vanessa Redgrave as Clarissa Dalloway
In the movie Mrs. Dalloway,
based on the novel by Virginia Woolf

"It was Clarissa!"

Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan
In the movie of The Hours,
based on the novel by Michael Cunningham

"She was for the party!"

For more on these novels and movies,
see today's Fortnightly Post
"To Live Even One Day"
and from last month
"Life -- A Little Strip of Time"

P.S. I want to do this: Mrs. Dalloway Walking Tour

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Phoenix Builds Her Spicy Nest

mythical bird of great beauty,
the only one of its kind, fabled
to live 500 or 600 years in the
Arabian wilderness, to burn itself
on a funeral pyre and to rise in its
own ashes in the freshness of youth . . ."

Years ago I accompanied my mother to a local used book fair to see what we could find. As I picked up a well worn poetry anthology, the first page, featuring a simply drawn Phoenix, broke loose from the binding and fluttered out onto the dusty table. My mom proceeded to purchase the book for me because I was so drawn to this mystical frontispiece, which I stuck back inside the front cover for safekeeping.

When I got home, I placed it in the little frame that you can see below and kept it propped on my desk all through college and grad school. Since then, I've read many more elaborate descriptions and seen many more intricate paintings of the famed and noble Phoenix, but this is still the one -- always propped somewhere amongst my papers and notebooks -- that inspires me with the hope of eternal creativity. I can no longer say for sure what became of the poetry book or even what it looked like, but it was really the Phoenix -- still with me! -- that I was after.

Thanks Mom!

Ask Me No More

Ask me no more where Jove bestows,
When June is past, the fading rose;
For in your beauty’s orient deep
These flowers, as in their causes, sleep.

Ask me no more whither do stray
The golden atoms of the day;
For in pure love heaven did prepare
Those powders to enrich your hair.

Ask me no more whither doth haste
The nightingale, when May is past;
For in your sweet dividing throat
She winters, and keeps warm her note.

Ask me no more where those stars ’light,
That downwards fall in dead of night;
For in your eyes they sit, and there
Fixed become, as in their sphere.

Ask me no more if east or west
The phoenix builds her spicy nest
For unto you at last she flies,
And in your fragrant bosom dies.
[emphasis added]

by Thomas Carew (1594 - 1640)
English Cavalier Poet

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Plum Trees and Long Dreams

Although it certainly seems as if Summer is well and truly underway, I have to remind myself every day that, calendrically speaking, it is still Spring ~ late Spring ~ for eleven more days. Just yesterday, Gerry was pointing out the robustness of our growing plum tree, and I was reminded of

1. this ancient poem about the transformation of pear blossoms into fruit . . . of Spring into Summer . . . of months into years.

At the End of Spring
To Yuan Chen
(A.D. 810)

The flower of the pear-tree gathers and turns to fruit;
The swallows' eggs have hatched into young birds.
When the Seasons' changes thus confront the mind
What comfort can the Doctrine of Tao give?
It will teach me to watch the days and months fly
Without grieving that Youth slips away;
If the Fleeting World is but a long dream,
It does not matter whether one is young or old.
But ever since the day that my friend left my side
And has lived in exile in the City of Chiang-ling,
There is one wish I cannot quite destroy:
That from time to time we may chance to meet again.

by Po Chu - i, 772 - 846
translated by Arthur Waley, 1889 - 1966


2. which, in turn, reminded me of this 18th Century Japanese concept:
~ Mono no aware ~

"Mono no aware
(物の哀れ?), literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of impermanence (無常 mujō?), or transience of things, and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing." ~

3. and this excerpt from Ezra Pound

"If you are coming . . .
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you . . .

Thursday, June 7, 2012

[From my collection:"A Poem for Every Poem"]


(To JS/07 M 378

This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

by W. H. Auden




An ant on the tablecloth
Ran into a dormant moth
Of many times his size.
He showed not the least surprise.
His business wasn't with such.
He gave it scarcely a touch,
And was off on his duty run.
Yet if he encountered one
Of the hive's enquiry squad
Whose work is to find out God
And the nature of time and space,
He would put him onto the case.
Ants are a curious race;
One crossing with hurried tread
The body of one of their dead
Isn't given a moment's arrest-
Seems not even impressed.
But he no doubt reports to any
With whom he crosses antennae,
And they no doubt report
To the higher-up at court.
Then word goes forth in Formic:
"Death's come to Jerry McCormic,
Our selfless forager Jerry.
Will the special Janizary
Whose office it is to bury
The dead of the commissary
Go bring him home to his people.
Lay him in state on a sepal.
Wrap him for shroud in a petal.
Embalm him with ichor of nettle.
This is the word of your Queen."
And presently on the scene
Appears a solemn mortician;
And taking formal position,
With feelers calmly atwiddle,
Seizes the dead by the middle,
And heaving him high in air,
Carries him out of there.
No one stands round to stare.
It is nobody else's affair
It couldn't be called ungentle
But how thoroughly departmental

by Robert Frost

*Photographs taken yesterday near S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Photographs by Ben McCartney
Poster Designs by Kitti Carriker
Printing by Vistaprint

Lightning strikes twice . . . but the sky is not falling . . . it is not the crack of doom! (Scroll below to previous post -- sometimes a popgun is just a popgun.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ben's Birthday: The World is His

Ben's 12th Birthday ~ 10 Years Ago Today

"Let him [the American Scholar] not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time, -- happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly. . . . The world is his who can see through its pretension. Success treads on every right step.

"For the instinct is sure that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds."

by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 82)
American Transcendentalist
from his essay "On the American Scholar" [See more.]

Our Birthday Song
Close your eyes, make a wish.
I hope your wish comes true.
A very happy birthday I wish for you.

When I was in primary school at Euguene Field Elementary, in Neosho, Missouri, our music teacher, Mrs. McNabb played this pretty little song on her autoharp whenever anyone had a birthday. It always made such a nice change from the usual "Happy Birthday to You."

I have never heard it sung or played anywhere else since then and have never been able to identify composer or lyricist; but, even so, the simple tune has never left my memory. When Ben & Sam came along, I sang it regularly as their bedtime song, replacing "birthday" with whatever occasion was appropriate: "a very Happy Monday," "a very Happy St. Patrick's Day," "a very happy going to the swimming pool day" -- that kind of thing. We still do it every now and then for old time's sake.