Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon, Blue Heart

The Second Full Moon of August

I like the way this month began with the Lughnasa Moon and will end tonight with a blue moon. The last month to have two full moons was December 2009 (click links for previous related blog posts); the next will be July 2015. Today, no doubt, a lot of people will be humming their favorite version of that old romantic ballad "Blue Moon":

"Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue Moon . . . "

Some friends have expressed a preference for the upbeat version sung by Sha - Na - Na in the musical Grease, while others prefer the mellow rendition performed by Cowboy Junkies.

But there's a different song running through my mind today.
For me, it's . . .

Blue Kentucky Girl
words & lyrics by Johnny Mullins
sung by Emmylou Harris

You left me for the bright lights of the town
A country boy set out to see the world
Remember when those neon lights shine down
That big old moon shines on your Kentucky girl

I swear I love you
By the moon above you
How bright is it shining in your world
Some morning when you wake up all alone
Just come on home to your blue Kentucky girl

Don't wait to bring great riches home to me
I need no diamond rings or fancy pearls
Just bring yourself, you're all I'll ever need
That's good enough for this blue Kentucky girl

I swear I love you
By the moon above you
How bright is it shining in your world
Some morning when you wake up all alone
Just come on home to your blue Kentucky girl


One thing I have always loved about "Blue Kentucky Girl" is its similarity in sentiment to "The World as Meditation," a poem in which Wallace Stevens describes Penelope, musing dreamily as she awaits the return of Ulysses, her wandering husband:

"She wanted nothing he could not bring her by coming alone.
She wanted no fetchings. His arms would be her necklace
And her belt, the final fortune of their desire."

Noble Penelope is just like the loyal Blue Kentucky Girl who sings

"Don't wait to bring great riches home to me
I need no diamond rings or fancy pearls
Just bring yourself, you're all I'll ever need . . . "

Neither woman craves jewels, treasure, fortune or riches, only the return of her beloved. Wallace's words are particularly beautiful: "She wanted nothing he could not bring her by coming alone." Penelope needs neither necklace nor belt, no "fetchings," just as the Kentucky girl needs "no diamond rings or fancy pearls." The two woman give the same instruction to their heroes, both of whom have "set out to see the world" -- not a world of meditation, but a world of adventure: Come back. Don't wait. Just bring yourself. Just come on home.

It would not be right to conclude this post without observing what a fitting cosmic alignment it is that the night sky has joined in honoring the memory of beloved American astronaut and Purdue Boilermaker Neil Armstrong.
May flights of angels -- and a blue moon -- sing thee to thy rest.

1930 - 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Live the Questions

Girl at Writing Table
by Kate Greenaway (1846 - 1901)
English children's book illustrator

"If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. . . .

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. *Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
from Letter Four: 16 July 1903
in Letters to a Young Poet (to read online)
by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)

I also like this alternate translation from Stephen Mitchell:

"Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer."

As I wrote a few years back, my inclination to blog is fueled by "those moments when Life offers its own theme to a strand of apparently accidental events, and everything hangs together for a moment in such an uncanny way that you'd swear it was all planned out somehow!" The latest thrilling trail of irresistible coincidence that I just had to follow concerns the above quotation by Rilke.

For more on this ingenious web of connection and coincidence,
see my new post "Mental Beauty"
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Monday, August 27, 2012

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?

Basketful of Peaches from a Neighborhood Tree

"And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” . . .
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. . . .
Do I dare to eat a peach? . . . "

from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
by T. S. Eliot

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that a neglected but nevertheless very healthy peach tree just up the street was dropping dozens of golden peaches. Those on the bough were absolutely perfect, and even the slightly damaged windfall fruit was too beautiful to pass by! As a public service, to prevent squashing and slipping, I picked up whatever had fallen on the sidewalk and in the street. Growing bolder each time I biked by, I started clearing the ground under the tree in addition to the street & sidewalk. However, I did not dare to touch any still on the tree! That might be robbing! But was this fruit really forbidden? I had to know! So, on my next trek up the street, I knocked on the door to ask if the householders were planning to harvest. A nice young man (student? renter?) answered and said, with some surprise, as though he had not yet noticed the bounty right outside the door, "No we are not! Please, take all you want, even from the tree." There you go: permission granted!

In fact, I couldn't really pick from the tree since all the fruit - bearing branches were just too high to reach without a ladder; however, for the next week, I went up once a day to harvest whatever had fallen and share with friends. At first there were dozens per day, ripening by the minute! A few times, even as I was bending over to retrieve peaches from the ground, a flutter of ripe ones would fall from the sky, landing right beside me! The harvest has gradually dwindled down to just one or two every other day or so, but during the exciting thick of the season, in addition to eating as many as possible whole and fresh, we baked two large peach crumbles for immediate consumption and froze four make - ahead pies for future feasts and holidays.

We took the first one from the freezer yesterday afternoon and baked it for the Purdue University Glee Club Ice Cream Social, where a piece of delicious pie was had by all:

Black Cat, Blue Willow, Russian Dolls:
This lovely Irish linen dish towel, a gift from Gerry's parents,
combines several of my favorite motifs!

See also
"Kiss Pie!" & "A Pie for Your Thoughts"

P.S. September 2016

Friday, August 24, 2012

Carolyn's Teapot

Another bright and beautiful painting by
Carolyn Rathbun George*

"Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you.
Now tell me about hundreds of things."

from the short story "Tea"
by Saki

Scroll down or click: "Perfect Moments"
for more examples of Carolyn's art

Carolyn says:

"I would describe my style as a primitive, colorful and spiritual representation of a world where beauty need not be defined by complexity, but by the simple gifts that surround us every day - a breathtaking view, a beautiful bird or a radiant sunset. . . . my work reveals the memories I have of growing up in the Southwest, and it provides me with an opportunity to share and bring those memories to life - colorful landscapes and icons that have held a warm and comforting place in my soul for as long as I can remember."

Below are some theme presents that Carolyn created for me
to go along with The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] literary blog
of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Perfect Moments

Some Beautiful New Paintings
from my friend Carolyn Rathbun George*

"There is always one moment in a day when I think my heart will break. Such a moment I think all women have, and men too, when all the meaning of life seems distilled and caught up and you feel you can never, never bear to leave it. It may be when you turn and look down a blazing autumn road or it may be when you see your house under great ancient trees or it may be, in the city, when you look up at a towering apartment building and see one light and think “that is mine.” It may be any one of a number of things, according to the circumstances of your life.

“But there is the moment, and all the heartaches and sorrows of your life suddenly diminish and only the fine brave things stand out. You breathe sharp clean air, your eyes lift to the eternal wideness of the sky.

“Anybody has moments like this to store up, but some people are too busy adding up their frustrations to appreciate them. And yet all we need is an awareness of the beauty in life to make us richly content. My definition of happiness is just the ability to garner the perfect moments
(48, emphasis added).
Gladys Taber
American naturalist and columnist (1899 - 1980)
from Stillmeadow Daybook

Previous references to Taber:
"Every Day Luminous"
"Plotting the Ressurection"

Previous post on
Perfect Moments

*Carolyn says:

"My stuff is VERY affordable if any of you would like to have one. I also do custom pieces. Depending on the size, most of the smaller works are under $100.00. Lots of detail . . . done with paint pens. Looks like watercolor but so much easier and fun . . .
. . . This one is small -- 4" x 5"
on 100% handmade cotton paper."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Three Things, One Direction

Consider the squash blossoms, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet . . . even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these!

(a gentle revision from Matthew 6: 28 - 29, KJV)

Thanks to my friend Eileen for sharing the following inspirational words of practical wisdom from one of her heroes, Mark Nepo:

"Consider three things you must do today. Carefully put two down. Immerse yourself in the one thing that is left."

"Live deeply enough and there is only one direction."


A couple more related thoughts from the sixth chapter of Matthew:

I am usually loyal to the KJV in all things literary, but when it comes to Matthew 6: 27, I think I prefer hours to cubits:

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (KJV)

27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" (NRSV)

then there's the classic:

34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (KJV)

And finally, how about this cool vocabulary
word that Gerry came across last week:

overmorrow (Middle English) or ├╝bermorgen (German) which literally translates to "overmorrow" and means "the day after tomorrow."

Who knew? Looks like I'll be writing a new post overmorrow!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cursive Writing

D'Nealian Script, a cursive alphabet —
lower case and upper case.

"I've always believed that there was a certain age
after which I would be all well and I'd stop feeling
as if I'd been abandoned here on earth with no explanation.
When I was little, the magic number was 6 --
the first - graders had maturity, secret information
(like gnostics), and lunch boxes. Then 13, 18, 21 . . ."

~ Anne Lamott ~
from Grace Eventually (p 243)

When I read these words a few years ago, I identified at once with Lamott's first - grade faith that all would be well and her misconception that the bigger kids had all the answers. Her gradual deflation expresses precisely the dismay that I felt back in grade school when I learned the truth about cursive writing -- that it was a sham, a trick, a false lead.

I shared my cursive writing story recently with epigrammatist, writer, and artist Michael Lipsey when he posted a similar sentiment on facebook:

"The biggest misconceptions of youth are that
somehow things will fall into place as you get older,
that there will be answers to the larger questions,
that you will attain maturity, and certainties,
and self-confidence. Perhaps this is true
if you have a talent for self-deception.
But eventually you figure out
that there won’t be any of these things --
that you will just have to muddle through
as best you can until the end."

For more on Cursive Writing and the Meaning of Life
see my new post "Cursive"
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Monday, August 13, 2012

Drying the Summer Herbs

What was paradise? But a garden,
an orchard of trees and herbs. Full of pleasure,
and nothing there but delights.

~ William Lawson ~
17th Century English Horticulturist

Italian Fruit Bowl from Amalfi ~ Present from Ben


Exotic Scarf from Sharjah ~ Present from Victoria

See also
"Those Who Know"
current post on
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Swimming Pool, Swimming Pool

Our Cool Pool!

Dear Councilman Bunder & West Lafayette City Council,

As a long - time resident of West Lafayette (1989 - 93; 2004 - 12), I am writing to express my appreciation for the excellent swimming facilities that are offered at the Happy Hollow Municipal Pool. I like to think of our pool as a perfect microcosm of the entire community: little kids, big kids, young adults, old adults, experts, amateurs, and many beginners -- of all ages; some who swim fast, others who take it slow; some treading, some diving; some taking lessons, some working out with serious purpose and some just having a good time!

In the summers of 1989, '90, '91 and '92, I had the good fortune to be enrolled in adult swimming classes with Dee Dilling and Gerry Wachs. Since those years, I have made it my goal to attend at least one lap swim every day that the pool is open, sometimes two. I know that many people in our community value their daily pool outings as much as I do, and we are all filled with dismay when our pool season comes to such an early close every year in mid - August.

I would like to express my enthusiasm for any discussion that might be underway to consider an extension of the pool season, perhaps until Labor Day each year, or shortly thereafter, as seems to be the case at many other public pools. Please number me among the citizens who are willing to help the City explore creative solutions to making this possible.

Thanks again for providing an excellent neighborhood facility and for taking the time to consider the proposition of a longer swimming season.


Kitti Carriker, Ph.D.

We Even Have Church at the Pool!

Previous Swimming Pool Blog Posts

August 9, 2012: Feed Your Brain

August 28, 2011: "Back to School"

August 18, 2010: "Write Swim Play"

June 22, 2010: "Summer Rerun"

September 15, 2009: "Buoyant"

August 13, 2009: "Moisturizer? Yes, Please!"

July 28, 2009: "Summer Afternoon, Summer Afternoon"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feed Your Brain

We used to sing this this silly song when the boys were small,
and we've been saying
"Feed Your Brain"
ever since!*

Two ways to feed your brain, no matter what your age:

Music: "Blowing That Horn Makes You Smarter, Longer"
article by Glenn Ruffenach


Swimming: "Teaching Adults to Swim"
article by Sanette Tanaka

The swimming article mentions embarrassment several times as one of the greatest stumbling block for many adult beginners. I can say from personal experience that if I were to let that stop me, I'd never get anywhere. Please click to read my testimonials of learning to swim and resuming piano lessons. True stories! Don't be embarrassed, just do it! It will add value to your life, I promise! And joy!

‎"When you are very honest with yourself,
and brave enough,
you can express yourself fully.
Whatever people may think,
it is all right. Just be yourself.
That is actual practice, your actual life."
~ Suzuki Roshi ~

P.S.Thanks to my husband Gerry for sending the first article
and to my swimming buddy Joe for the second reference
and to my friend Jack for reminding me to apply Roshi's wisdom.
{also, at right -> -> ->}

*Another favorite nonsense tune from the same era:

"I Got a Boo Boo On My Finger.
Did it cutting birthday cake. . . .
There's no need to be so drastic!
And don't be so bombastic!
Life alone is so fantastic!
Just relax and watch the show!"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Organ Recital

Ben McCartney & Michael Bennett
The Edward Augustus Ross Memorial Organ
at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette, Indiana

I must applaud my son Ben for his prowess at the keyboard; piano or organ -- either one -- I could listen to him play for hours. A splendid opportunity occurred earlier this summer when he concluded seven years of lessons under Michael's tutelage with an astounding, resounding Senior Organ Recital.

Click to Hear Program
(click once on photo to enlarge for reading)

One of Gerry's and my proudest moments had to be hearing Ben play Widor's Toccata, in the same church, on the same organ, as played by organist Jarrett Follette for our wedding recessional twenty - three years ago. We were also proud to hear Michael say that although Ben's degree was in math not music, he had still prepared a concert at same level of difficulty as an organ major.

Ben has now moved on to graduate school at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Luckily for him, Duke is famous for, among other things, the three magnificent organs in its University Chapel. Who knows, even as a finance student, maybe the opportunity for him to try out one of these impressive instruments will present itself somewhere along the way.

Left to right: the Brombaugh, the Flentrop,the Aeolian.
Gerry & Ben admiring the Flentrop

Over the summer, several friends visited Philadelphia and sent back news of the Wanamaker Organ:

Jarrett wrote: "Watching Peter Conte demonstrate, with Michael J. Bennett at
Macy's - Center City Philadelphia"

Michael wrote: "Hearing the world's largest playing pipe organ at the
Wanamaker Building, Philadelphia"

and "Hanging out with an incredibly cool dude on a miserably hot night in Philadelphia" -- that would be Tom Whittemore, organist and choir director from Ben & Sam's choral scholar days at St. Peter's, Philadelphia.

Lee wrote: "Walking from the convention center back to my hotel in down town Philadelphia I decided to stop in Macy's. As I was browsing, organ music filled the place. I walked around the corner and saw this. Apparently we are not up to date in Kansas City. We do not have pipe organs in any of our Macy's stores. I did not buy anything but had a great shopping experience. Can't wait for this trend to hit the Midwest. I would certainly go to Macy's more often."

Thanks to Richard L. Seifert for keeping me up to date!
See previous Wanamaker Organ post

Friday, August 3, 2012


Thanks to Purdue for Permission to Re-print

I have to admire my son Sam (#43; far right) who spends the summer getting up most mornings at 5:45 for a couple hours of weight training and then returns in the afternoon for a couple more hours of kicking practice. He shared with me a little mantra that he learned from one of his coaches on how to stay focused when all the world around seems out of whack: "DYFJ" (just do your f---ing job)!

With that in mind, I have assembled the following collection, all related to the theme of work and, more importantly, DYFJ!

"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do.
Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

Mark Twain
from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


“The Master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”

Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

I Want A Lot

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that so work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

[Alt. translation:
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

[Alt. translation:
You are not dead yet, it’s not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life that reveals itself quietly there.

Rainer Maria Rilke / translated by Robert Bly

To Be Of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy

Click to See More Football Photos

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Lughnasa Moon

A man saw a ball of gold in the sky;
He climbed for it,
And eventually he achieved it --
It was clay.

Now this is the strange part:
When the man went to the earth
And looked again,
Lo, there was the ball of gold.
Now this is the strange part:
It was a ball of gold.
Aye, by the heavens, it was a ball of gold.

~ Stephen Crane ~

The Full Thunder Moon ~ now if only it would rain!
"Thou art indeed just, Lord . . . what we plead is just. . . . send our roots rain."
from Gerard Manley Hopkins

August 1st is the cross-quarter holiday halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox, called Lughnasa (from the ancient Irish god Lugh) or Lammas Day (from the Anglo-Saxon term hlaf [meaning loaf] - mas. It is the first harvest festival of the year -- the cutting of the first corn, the first wheat, the "first fruits," a rather bittersweet celebration during this particular summer of relentless drought. One ancient custom was to celebrate Lughnasa not necessarily on the 1st of August, but on the evening of the nearest full moon. This year we are in luck, with the two nicely coinciding.

Even more good luck is on the way in 28 / 29 days when the moon will once again be full. August 2012 is one of those unique months that both opens and closes with a full moon. The second full moon in a given month is often called a Blue Moon . Thus, "once in a blue moon" refers to the timeliness of that rare second full moon, every two and a half years or so -- I guess not really all that rare! A better expression of rarity might be the one I often hear from my British mother - in - law: "once every Preston Guild," an historic meeting that takes place in Preston, England, once every twenty years. And if the Preston Guild occurs while the moon is full . . . well, that's bound to signify something!

I'm usually not so wild about power lines, but in this picture, I think they serve as a great punctum, the punctum being French critic Roland Barthes' intriguing term for that touching or disconcerting detail which pierces through the still life, the object, or the studium. Rather than the usual sequence of subject first, object second, for Barthes, the "second element which will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole – and also a cast of the dice. A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)" (Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, 27). My conclusion is that the utilitarianism of the power lines (as punctum / subject) enhances the poignancy of the moon (as studium / object).

P.S. See also
"Pilobolus, Punctum, Yellow Squash"
"The Handwriting on the Wall"
"This Little World, This England"
"Pear as Punctum"