Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Word to the Wise

Storytellers and masqueraders, humor and romance.
A word to the wise is sufficient!

"Raoul & Marguerite"

The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] literary blog
of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Harmony in Flesh Colour and Red, 1869
by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1834 - 1903
[embellished by Yours Truly]

*"It is not often that
someone comes along
who is a true friend
and a good writer.
Charlotte was both."

from Charlotte's Web
by E. B. White

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sick Day

~ Bright Spot on a Dismal Day ~

Discarded Mums and Poinsettias
[See the sleet coming down?]

Getting over the flu, Sam said, let's listen to sad songs today.
He picked this one, and we added one more line:

"When you get your flu shot but you still get the flu . . . "

Fix You

(click here for live version)

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I...

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I...

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

by Coldplay

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Note to Self

So the point of my keeping a notebook has never been,
nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record
of what I have been doing or thinking.
That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct
for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess.
At no point have I ever been able successfully to keep a diary;
my approach to daily life ranges from the grossly negligent
to the merely absent, and on those few occasions
when I have tried dutifully to record a day's events,
boredom has so overcome me that the results are mysterious at best.
What is this business about
"shopping, typing piece, dinner with E, depressed"?
Shopping for what? Typing what piece? Who is E?
Was this "E" depressed, or was I depressed? Who cares?

In fact I have abandoned altogether that kind of pointless entry . . .

~ Joan Didion ~
from her essay "On Keeping a Notebook"

This essay has been a long - time favorite of mine, ever since I worked my way through The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Expository Prose in Intermediate Composition, as an undergraduate. Many time's I've quoted Didion's excellent advice to others, but I myself am still a lazy journal - keeper: "Dry - cleaning, cloudy, leftovers for dinner, did some reading." That sort of thing

A couple of years ago , I sent my sister Peg a journal for her sixtieth year, similar to the Country Diary pictured above. Writing back to thank me, she said, "Since I've retired I've been trying to keep a diary and even though I miss some days I'm getting better. I remember you once telling me that you keep a daily diary even if it contains nothing more exciting than, Today Sam got a haircut."

It's true, I'd feel lost if I didn't make at least a minimal effort. However, every now and then, I have to admit that it is not enough. Just the other day I saw a note to myself: "30 - 31." What did I mean by that? And I wasn't even trying to recall from a lifetime ago, merely a few days. A friend of mine shared some of her more intriguing "notes to self."

1. First there was "wood people" [attempting to "disambiguate the wood people," she wonders: who are they, how do I find them, and what did I want them to do, are they people who would do something, or I hoped they would?].

2. And second, she said, "Your story reminds me of something I wrote once on my calendar for Tuesday, December 4: TUES DEC 4."

That completely closed circuit has to be my favorite!

I know that Didion is right in urging her readers to include more details in their journals; otherwise, the information takes you nowhere. For example, not long ago, I was looking through the pages of little notebook full of introspective scribbling from my second year in college. One of my entries: "Think of what Etta has told me."

I had totally forgotten that this notebook even existed until I came across it that day in a folder of old college stuff that has obviously been through at least seven moves around the country over the past thirty - five years. I was startled to think of myself becoming one of those troubled pack rats, moving boxes from house to house without even being aware of what they contain! Still, I was excited to tell my friend Etta about finding the reference to her name from that long - ago emotional time. Excited, that is, until she asked me, "Well, what was it that I told you?"

Uh . . . undoubtedly you've already guessed the punch line of this long-winded narrative. I can't remember! Oh so frustrating! Now why didn't I actually write down those words of wisdom? Darn it! Who was depressed, me or E?

Additional favorite passages from "On Keeping a Notebook":

"I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. . . .

"It is a good idea to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves . . . " ~ Joan Didion

February Moon

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snow Deprived!

I know I should dismantle this Christmas centerpiece,
but I can't because it's frozen to the tabletop on our deck!
No matter how cold, see how sparse the snow is?
We've had so little this season!
I am officially envious of all my friends
who have been receiving massive amounts!

Everyone loves to talk about the great blizzard of 1978! Though I was not at Notre Dame (du Lac) at the time, I remember well, from my winters in Northeast Missouri, the sensations described in this poem, not to mention a couple of South Bend snowfalls almost like this in the 80s:

Walking in Winter: Du Lac

First, from the stadium roof,
a spigotful of blackbirds
spurts out across the autumn sky,
their blackness circling, circling,
like puzzle pieces seeking to connect,
to fit wing into tab, tab into tail or beak,
to form the solid black felt
of the coming winter night.

In darkness and wind,
the path from the bookstore
is another landscape — a prairie ravine
with a single clump of trees. The dorms
in the distance are a village of light.
I pull my coat closer, watch
another lone walker bend into the night.
I want to tell her we are walking
a liminal route. Even the wind
has a shadow here.

After the great blizzard of ’78,
when streetlights made a winding sheet
of whiteness above and whiteness below,
we climbed down, down
to enter the doors of O’Shaughnessy,
the path four feet above us, the quad
a high plateau. Marooned five days,
we saw everything anew. The TV
spoke of hardship, but we reveled
in another truth: we had never walked
so far above the earth
. [emphasis added]

Someone has been walking
on the surface of the lake.
Someone has dared (or should
I say “believed”?) that ice will hold.
In early light, the trail of boot-prints
becomes a text, a pattern of dots
and shuffling dashes, a witness
of sorts, as I carry my doubts
round the trail near the power plant,
as I come to the place
where water glows like a trinity:
the liquid pool, greenish in the light,
the steam, rising like a languid ghost,
the solid, solid ice.

by Sonia Gernes
Professor Emerita of English at the the University of Notre Dame

P.S. Just looked out the window
for the first time in an hour: SNOW!

Maybe not enough for walking like giants or making snow angels,
but my husband Gerry McCartney did inadvertently make some
~ Snow Hearts ~ on our driveway!

Or, to quote a true romantic:
"Are you sure it was inadvertent?"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Read Before Thinking

"Access to knowledge is the supreme act
of truly great civilizations.
Of all the institutions that purport to do this,
free libraries stand virtually alone
in accomplishing this mission."
~ Toni Morrison ~

If you're looking for something to read, here's
what I've posted lately on Kitti's Book List:

Fresh Insights & Bursts of Clueness

Holiday Thoughts from Powell, Rilke and Maso

Another Year Over

And a New One Just Begun

Book Haven

Thanks to my sister Peg for sending me
one of these cool readerly shirts from Wonder Book!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine Wallet & Poem

Excerpt from my new post:
"Dark Within Dark Within Dark"
To read more, see
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Romantic Sheepskin ~♥~ Wallet

"Keep the Faith" might not be an obvious love poem, but I think it's a good one for today, with its theme of darkness and depression to match our collective SADness, winter blues, and sunlight deprivation. And, sweetly, after all the darkness, there's a happy ending that revolves around the image of a folded heart -- a Valentine!

I've had an fading, mimeographed copy of this poem by Jack Butler in one of my old notebooks since college days, though in all honesty I cannot recall how or where I first came across it, back in 1983 or so. Was it a class assignment? Did Butler visit campus and give a reading that I attended? Despite my hazy memory of how the poem made its way into my collection of favorites, I could never forget the narrator's despairing descent into that "darkness somewhere in which you do not love me":

Keep the Faith
I think perhaps there is some darkness somewhere
in which you do not love me. Falling to sleep,
I cross that simple zone in which I keep
my solitary vigil. I am there.
And the blue truth of my being is also there,
that I am worth nothing, a heatless flame.

I am that territory and its name.
It is no place for strangers: Beware, Beware
floats over its dark coast in letters of blue fire
that are not reflected in the dark water lapping rock.

Falling to sleep, I think there is some darkness somewhere
In which you do not love me, dark within dark within dark.
I think, Maybe my wallet, folded like a heart
in the dark of my locked briefcase, in the dark of our bedroom.

And then tomorrow, standing in the stink and fume
at the daylit gas-pump, all of us hurrying to work,
my blunt fingers will be astounded to discover
only green bills, that I love and have a lover.

by Jack Butler
American poet (b 1944)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Greeting Card Collages

I always like to begin each of my Fortnightly blog posts with a picture or painting to illustrate Yeats' concept of "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." Most recently, I picked this collage of greeting cards that we received upon moving into our first house in Philadelphia:

Around that same time, I also compiled a collection
of favorite Christmas cards:

And tea scenes:

~ Check out my current post for more information
on the Collage & the Pastiche! ~

New Post Tomorrow on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

And, if you're interested, here's a link to
Last Year's Ash Wednesday Post on "Lent & Lentils"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras: Don't Hold Back

Sam's Multi - Dimenionsional Mask Project, 3rd Grade

“You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world,
that is something you are free to do
and it accords with your nature,
but perhaps this very holding back
is the one suffering you could avoid.”

Franz Kafka

"Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding . . ."

Robert Frost

These cautionary words against withholding seem to be true in so many ways: personal communication, relationships, growth, ambition, dreams and desires. Or how about my life - long To - do list? What I withhold from it all is what makes me weak, and the biggest weakness of all is how long it takes me at every single juncture to realize that indeed it is myself I am withholding. When will I ever learn to live and let live, to "give myself outright"?

The Gift Outright
The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

Sadly Frost's poem only works at the National level if we suspend for a moment the painful knowledge that in fact the land, when we arrived, was not entirely "unstoried, artless, unenhanced." But that is another story.


And one more thought from Kafka, 1883 – 1924:
"You may not destroy someone's world
unless you are prepared to offer a better one.

"And what you are withholding from the world
is what you are also withholding from yourself
Thanks Natasha!
More Tolle ~

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ted Malone, Pre - Blogger

I learned to love the literary pastiche early, thanks in part to this this well - worn anthology of middle - brow poetry. Perfect for a middle - schooler, this collection was among my favorite books for as long as I can remember.

The American Album of Poetry
compiled by American radio personality
Ted Malone, 1908 - 1989

As the story goes, my mother brought our old maroon copy home from work years before I was ever born, or maybe borrowed it from a friend and never got around to returning it -- something like that, you know, one of those apocryphal anecdotes of how a certain book was fated to enter your life and find a home on your shelf. Anyway, I have to trust that the original owner was a forgiving soul, because my young reader's heart was opened by the presence of that book in our household. It didn't have to contain the best poetry ever written, it just had to be tender and accessible and introduced by a companionable, articulate editor who knew how to polish each little gem and show it in its best light -- not with paragraphs of analysis but in snippets.

As pointed out in the introduction by Joseph Auslander, this was not your typical anthology, this was Ted Malone's album, containing neither studio portraits nor formal photographs, but snapshots of poetry; nothing well - known, yet everything familiar. Writes Auslander, "The treatment of the Album is distinctive. There are twenty - six sections, each with a fresh and engaging title ["But, Definitely!" "First Person, Singular," "Wit or Without, Brevity is the Soul," "Sing Me A Song of Social Significance"]. And throughout the book, connecting poem with poem, is Ted Malone's friendly running comment ["It isn't so bad, a crowd of people running through your mind, but only two or three tramping through your heart," "Hold your breath while you read this one," "Close your eyes and read this one," "Six days shalt thou labor, six days shalt thou dream"]. Even before I got to the poetry I was charmed by these chapter headings and insightful little prologues to every single poem in the book. It turns out Malone was blogging! Paving the way! He was doing way back then what I like to do now on The Fortnightly and The Quotidian.

I've featured a couple of my old favorites from Malone's Album on earlier Fortnightly posts: "Thoughts of a Modern Maiden" in Time to Write a Letter and "Blue Willow" in That Old Blue Willow. About ten years ago, when more and more vintage books started appearing on amazon and ebay, I was lucky enough to track down a couple of copies of The American Album of Poetry, so that my mom and I could each have our own, and she could at last feel free to return our original copy to its original owner. The results of my search were rather thrilling! For my mom, an autographed copy:

and for me, a copy with the following note inscribed inside:

Reminder: Save! Do Not Discard This Book

I quoted last two lines on p. 38
in my second mystery story he
published for me in 1948 and
for which I used pen name of
Julie Masterson instead of
J. F. as he would have
~ J. F. ~

I have yet to determine who "J. F." might be or why her nearest and dearest allowed this book out of their hands (I purchased it from a bookseller, not an individual or family). Will I ever solve the mystery of these mystery stories by "Julie Masterson"? Was it Ted Malone who published them? In the meantime, I turned straight to page 38 and found -- to my surprise! (or maybe not!) -- another of my old favorites, one that I often used when teaching simile and metaphor:


Our words are flame and ashes, fleet as breath,
Plumes for adventure, pageantry of death.

Our words are color -- yellow, blue, and red,
Drumbeat for marching, prayer for bed.

Words are our armor, they are our intent,
The coin we used along the way we went.

Grace Mansfield

Thanks Ted Malone for sharing your snapshots, blossoms, and tea cakes -- and for being a pre - blogger!

For more on Ted Malone & The American Album of Poetry
see my current post: Pastiche
on the The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor

"In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere
must and shall choose a path of social justice...
The path of faith, the path of hope,
and the path of love toward our fellow man. . . .
I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people
and that I have been given their trust."
~~ FDR ~~

Photograph: Purdue University, 11 September 2012

A guest blog from my brother,
Bruce L. Carriker, political scientist:

Last week I was in Philadelphia. I stood in the room where a collection of radicals voted to declare independence from England. Though I've been there many times, it is always a moving experience to stand in that place.

Today, I visited the National Archives. I saw the finished product of their efforts, worn and faded, nearly illegible. Fortunately, there are multiple, fully legible reproductions nearby.

Thinking about those giants and what they did -- reading the words they chose to express the will of a new nation -- I was ashamed and embarrassed for what passes as a Congress today. Certainly there were disagreements -- strong disagreements -- over the issue of independence, and the form a new nation would take. They disagreed over a strong federal government, or sovereign states with little more than a figurehead national government. They disagreed over slavery. Some of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence disagreed on independence. But, when it was all said and done, they pledged to one another their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Can anyone, for one second, imagine Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor pledging to one another their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor?

Embarrassed and ashamed. That pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Possible ~ Plausible ~ Improbable

Favorite mug from my friend Diane ~ and magnet from my brother Dave

A few years ago, my brother Dave (scroll down to see birthday post) was complaining to me about "those touchy - feely things floating around called Bucket Lists. Actually, they are not Bucket Lists at all. Just the usual drivel. So, I am challenging you to a real Bucket List. Name five items in the following categories: "Possible," "Plausible," and "Improbable." You can and should take into account your age and physical condition but ignore silly things like money. Good Luck."

I was keen to take the challenge! I arranged my items thematically so that I could work on accomplishing my goals in increments of possibility. I'm not sure if Dave would approve, or if perhaps I veered off into touchy - feely; but I can say that I've been making pretty good progress on all of my "possibles," so time to move on to my "plausibles."

1. So many books . . . so little time . . .
Possible: Read 3 books per month: one fiction, one non-fiction, one misc.
Plausible: Read all the books beside my bed.*
Improbable: Read every book on my "To Read" list.

*The last time I sorted out the ever-increasing stacks in this famous spot where so many books have gone to die (i.e., "beside my bed") I created a whole new category: "To Read In My Next Lifetime." That took care of a few titles, Moby Dick, for instance, and The Education of Henry Adams (just don't tell my American Lit professors).

2. Around the house . . .
Possible: Eliminate clutter and feel more organized and quit acquiring earthly goods.
Plausible: See my entire house clean at the same time (in manner of above mug by Anne Taintor)
Improbable: Learn to really like gardening.

3. Creative endeavor . . .
Possible: Revisit my original goal when I graduated from high school: collage design.
Plausible: Organize all the writing I've saved over the years into some kind of readable, presentable, publishable collection of essays or epistolary novel.
Improbable: Become really good at piano, singing, swimming, diving, ice-skating, ballet & have better spatial, mathematical, left - brain skills; in short, be smarter & more talented.

4. Mental clarity . . .
Possible: Get better at saying, "Oh well," "That's okay," and "He don't' mean nothing by it, Honey," etc.
Plausible: Stop feeling guilty for all the things in my life that haven't exactly gone according to plan.
Improbable: Receive a personal epiphany* from The Goddess that will reveal to me a meaningful plan for the remainder of my life.

*In lieu of seeing a sign soon or hearing a calling, then I guess I'll just have to think something up for myself! Like that Kafka story about the Imperial Message that never comes, so finally "you sit at your window when evening falls and dream it to yourself"; or what Sleeping Beauty has to do if the Prince never comes to wake her up: "you kiss yourself and wake yourself up!"
[Go to column at right and scroll down for
"Magical Thoughts from Erica Jong" -> -> ]

5. Grow old along with me . . .
Possible: Visit all my old friends that I keep in touch with by writing & phone, but only see in person every 10 or 20 years.
Plausible: Live the rest of my life without medical intervention (of course, that could mean a short life).
Improbable: I'll answer this one with a sentence that I'm still puzzling over, from a book that Gerry gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi: "Every person's deepest lifelong desire is to be significant and to be recognized . . . [to feel appreciated] for what their mission is" (163).

Perhaps more likely to qualify as possible is the wish expressed on the tombstone of American poet Raymond Carver:

Late Fragment
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
~ Raymond Carver ~


Speaking of improbability,
see the latest post on my book blog:
"And a New One Just Begun"

And for more questionnaires and quizzes, see

Quarantine Quiz Shows

Class of '75

Challenges: Special K & Ten Favs

[Possible~ Plausible ~ Improbable]

"Christmas Quiz"

"You're Out Walking"

"Take This Quiz!"

"Monday: Pop Quiz"

"Talk to Me"

Even Proust liked quizzes! Who knew?
Click to learn more and see Proust's questions & answers!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dave ~ Such a Boer!

Happy Birthday to my brother Dave (b 1947)!

Also . . .
James Joyce (1882)
Ayn Rand (1905)
James Dickey (1923)
Judith Viorst (1931)
Tommy Smothers (1937)
Graham Nash (1942)
Farrah Fawcett (1946)
Christie Brinkley (1954)
Ina Garten ~ aka, The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

A couple of summers ago, my brother sent me this photograph of himself, which I thought I'd post today, along with his explanation, in honor of his birthday:
David J. Carriker, June 2008Marion Always Said I Was A Boer

This week I went out and bought some new summer togs all on my own.
Instead of my usual cut off jeans and sleeveless T-shirts, I made a real
effort to change my style. Marion had mentioned more than once that she
really liked the look of cargo shorts, so I decided, what the heck.
Better than old man plaid with black socks. While shopping for shorts I
found some marked down shirts that were reduced because they were long
sleeved. However, they are designed to be worn with the sleeves rolled
up so I think I got over.

Anyhoo, I put on a style show for Marion and she immediately said, all
you need is a hat. So I went and dug around in my closet and came back
with the hat. Then she said where's your rifle and pistol. So I went
to the gun cabinet, outfitted myself and represented myself for
inspection. At that point she pronounced me a true Boer (note the
spelling and look it up if you have to).

Just an evening of silliness for two old retirees. Gotta admit it was

Dave the Brummbaer, now ready for the next
stray elephant he sees in Independence (Kansas)