Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris

I like the that way my friend Victoria is just casually strolling through Paris on a summer day, past one of the world's most legendary bookstores.
(photography by Steven La Vigne)

To accompany the ambiance of Steven's photograph is an autumnal poem about the same bookstore, written by my friend Jim Barnes who lived in Paris for awhile:

Shakespeare & Co.

St. Julien le Pauvre stoops in shadows that lean
toward Notre Dame. The park grays in the rainy
twilight. Next door George Whitman's crumbling store

is the color of ashes and carded tomes thumbed
into oblivion. Two pigeons come
to the door, their bookish eyes red and sore

in the November rain. Humble they move aside,
as if we were masters here to provide
their daily bread. George stamps "ground zero"

inside the Gertrude Stein we pay too dearly for
and offers us a room for the night or
the week if we wish it. We do not go

upstairs. The recent fire has left a thin smell of
smoke everywhere. We hear the rattle of
teaspoons and cups. Small talk of poetry

tumbles down the steep stairs and hides under the lower
shelves, duller than ash. Outside the rain pours.
The pigeons trundle dead weight under trees.

It is not the best of times, yet we hold old books
with a joy beyond belief: we will look
through volumes to find what we hold no more.

from Paris ~ Poems by Jim Barnes

You can find more poems of Paris on my recent post:
"Paris: Ferlinghetti, Fenton & Forche"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

And more poems by Jim Barnes on these previous posts:
Quinton Duval, Tomatoes & Gravy,
Missouri Poets, Parallax, No One With a Nose, and Penelope

P.S. July 2014: At Pere Lachaise


These pictures are from my visit to one of the little
Shakespeare & Co. Bookstores in York City
(not affiliated with the Paris store):

137 E. 23rd Street

Storefront renovations in 2007

Bookstore Cat

Check out my Book Blog ~ Kitti's List!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Grief that Saps the Mind

"Ring out the grief that saps the mind
for those that here we see no more."

~ Tennyson ~

Sign by Robert Montgomery, Post-Situationist Public Artist
Painted wood & solar-powered LED lights
De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill, East Sussex

When it comes to "the grief that saps the mind," no one has described it better than my literary friend Lee Perron, in the following section of his poem, "From Desire, A Sequence" (fondly referred to in my family as "The Nose Poem"):

your mate dies, or parents
or one of your other friends
there is nothing fearful in the death
the deadman is not the problem
his letters perhaps
some phrase he spoke that rings every after
the way he died, what the surgeons did to his brain, or kidneys,
or heart
what you & he would have been doing now
next week, all summer long as you always did
the deadman did not die
your plans died
and this is what is so upsetting
this makes us so sick we cannot even think

~ Lee Perron

"Seasons of blankness" is Thomas Hardy's way to describe this upsetting, sickening sense of loss. Gerry's Auntie Margaret fondly refers to Hardy as "such as misery," which is true. Yet, his irony appeals to me: the things we want to stay are going; the things we want to go are staying. But just at the point where we might easily turn to cynicism, Hardy offers neutrality: yes, we lose the good things, the best things, the "prime"; but some of the mind - sapping grief dissipates as well.

The May Moon ~ We Wish It Would Stay!

Going and Staying


The moving sun-shapes on the spray,
The sparkles where the brook was flowing,
Pink faces, plightings, moonlit May,
These were the things we wished would stay;
But they were going.


Seasons of blankness as of snow,
The silent bleed of a world decaying,
The moan of multitudes in woe,
These were the things we wished would go;
But they were staying.


Then we looked closelier at Time,
And saw his ghostly arms revolving
To sweep off woeful things with prime,
Things sinister with things sublime
Alike dissolving.

~ Thomas Hardy ~

A Closlier Look at the Full Moon
~ Cosmic Photography by Jay Beets ~

[P.S. Closelier is Hardy's own special made - up word, so much better than just plain old closer.]

A closing thought
from The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green:

" . . . then I realized there was no one else to call,
which was the saddest thing.
The only person I really wanted to talk to about Augustus Waters's death was Augustus Waters. . . .
In the last weeks, we'd been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing:
The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me,
because there was no longer anyone to remember with.
It felt like losing your co - rememberer
meant losing the memory itself,
as if the things we'd done were less real and important
than they had been hours before.

Now, that's the grief that saps the mind . . .
the grief that makes us so sick we cannot even think . . .

See also my earlier post "Indifferent Universe"

Friday, May 24, 2013



Siamese Twin Cookie Cutter
from the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities, Philadelphia

Gerry's Auntie Jan recently visited the first Benedictine Monastery at Monte Cassino, as part of a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Benedict, the patron saint of students, protector of Europe, and twin brother of Scholastica, the patron saint of nuns and convulsive children. From her travels in Rome, Norcia, and Subiaco, Jan sent us this postcard, with the message:

"Amazing what a pair of non - identical twins can achieve!"

Benedict & Scholastica

The Holy Twins

(but true!)

. . . You taught me that!
My birthday card from Bruce last year . . .
one of my all - time favorites!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ring Without End

"We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels,
we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds."

~ Anton Chekhov ~

wallpaper by stuffpoint

" . . . rings pass from hand to hand, from age to age;
begged, borrowed, stolen, belonging to no one,
rolling through time into eternity, taking our lives with them."

~ Erica Jong ~

Go the sidebar at right ~> ~>
and scroll down for more
"Magical Thoughts from Erica Jong"

I haven't lost any memorable rings so far in my lifetime, but I have managed to lose a couple of diamonds -- both times in airports -- what's the odds? As far as I know, they are still there somewhere waiting to be found:

1. The first was a small stud, embedded in the carpet at O'Hare, where my little Ben (age 1 1/2 at the time, now almost 23) clutched my earlobe in a moment of excitement. When he let go, the diamond was not in my ear, nor in his hand, nor anywhere on the chair or floor as far as we could see. We shook out my hair and clothing to no avail. I treasured these earrings because they had been my first ever Christmas present from Gerry (another good story!) but suddenly it was time for boarding, and I had to walk away -- like Lot's wife, I looked over my shoulder! I don't think Ben really understood what had transpired, but he knew that it was something we had not expected. For months afterward, he would reach out to pat my ear and say, "More Mummy earring?" Ah, what's a lost diamond compared to that kind of sweetness? Besides, Gerry soon surprised me with a new set -- not yet lost! -- so I still have a pair and a spare.

2. The second loss occurred eight years ago, in a ladies room at the Nashville airport where I inadvertently banged my hand against the metal paper towel dispenser and dislodged a tiny diamond from my wedding ring. Aarrgghh! I tried my best, searching a mile a minute and muttering to myself. Although this was well after 9/11, I can tell you that no one seemed to find it odd to see a crazy woman tearing through all the used paper towels and down on all fours, combing every inch of floor space. I figured I might be asked to explain myself when an airport custodian came in to tidy up; but, no, she just went calmly about her business, while I went frantically about mine. One kind stranger did say, "Have you lost something? I will help you find it!" and joined in the search until we heard my flight number being called. Upon both occasions -- in person at O'Hare and via cell phone in Nashville -- my dear husband pointed out to me that if I missed my flight, a new airline ticket was going to cost more than replacing the diamonds (luckily, the replacements were not too costly, the individual stones not too large).

Last Halloween ~ showing off my orange tips
. . . and also my ring!

Jong's lovely prediction for the lost ring "rolling through time into eternity" makes me think of the ancient riddle song that we all know and love:

I Gave My Love A Cherry

(click to hear lovely rendition by Jade Maris)

I gave my love a cherry without a stone
I gave my love a chicken without a bone
I gave my love a ring that had no end
I gave my love a baby with no crying

How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
How can there be a ring that has no end?
How can there be a baby with no crying?

A cherry when it's blooming it has no stone
A chicken when it's pipping, it has no bone
A ring when it's rolling, it has no end
A baby when it's sleeping, has no crying

Yes it's true that "a ring when it's rolling . . . has no end." But, think about it: a ring -- even when it's not rolling -- has no end!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Tree of Forgiveness


Tree of Forgiveness
by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Last week, Gerry and I were lucky enough to view this painting
at The Lady Lever Art Gallery
in Port Sunlight, Merseyside, England

Burne - Jones' treatment of forgiveness made me think of a series of passages I have saved over the years, all with the common theme that forgiveness requires searching your own soul and using your thinking cap:

"In short, I began to think, and to think indeed is one real advance from hell to heaven. All that hardened state and temper of soul, which I said so much of before, is but a deprivation of thought; he that is restored to his thinking, is restored to himself."
Daniel Defoe, from his novel Moll Flanders

Read more on my recent post:
"To Forgive: Reprove, Restore, Reclaim"
on the
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker
A fortnightly [every 14th & 28th]
literary blog of connection & coincidence; custom & ceremony

Additional thoughts on the topic of forgiveness can be found
<~ <~ <~ by scrolling down in the column to your left

She was Goddess of the Faeryland
Until she lost the God's new toy --
A red ball of clay --
Lost it accidentally one day
Playing in the orchard.
The God would never forgive her.
He forbade her walking in the garden with him.
He called her serpent
And, divine though she was,
She crawled on her belly
For thousands of years
Unable to forgive herself.


*The Hebrew word for Eve.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pine Forest Update 2013

A Walk in the Woods

No visit to England is complete without an "easy woodland stroll" through our favorite pine woods at Formby Point. The forest seems to have been there forever, like maybe since the days of Robin Hood. But in reality, the trees were planted only over the past century or so in order to stabilize the sand dunes and protect the surrounding crops.


Christmas 1996

Christmas 1997

Christmas 1998

Spring Break 2000

Summer 2005

Summer 2006

Spring Break 2008

Spring Break 2009

Spring Break 2010

Spring Break 2011
Spring Break 2012
May 2013


Pine Forest Update 2017
Pine Forest Update 2013
Pine Forest Update 2012
Pine Forest Update 2011
Tree of Life
Watching the Boys Grow

Friday, May 10, 2013

The English Mist

Grim & Gram's Back Garden

Oh to be in England
Now that April's there . . .
And after April, when May follows . . .

~ Robert Browning ~

One of my goals over the next few years is to visit England in all the months I've never been there. Due to school / vacation / holiday schedules, most of our trips have occurred around the same times of year. I've been there many times in July, August . . . December, January, February, March. But never in April, May, June . . . September, October, or November.

We are here this week for an early celebration of my mother - in - law Rosanne's 80th birthday (29 May) and planning to come again in October. Which means, in 2013, I get to add two new months to my list! It's just a little game, something fun to keep track of, kind of like trying to visit all 50 States (37 down; 13 to go).

It's usually so warm and sunny when I go to England -- even in December and March -- that I had begun to disbelieve all of the old cliches about "rainy skies and gales." Surprise! This May visit has been one of our chilliest, rainiest times ever. But lovely, even so.

The Windswept Promenade at Blackpool

Remember this song? Back in junior high, it went along with all of the Gothic romances -- always set in England -- that I loved reading every summer.

The Last Farewell

There's a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbor
Tomorrow for old England she sails
Far away from your land of endless sunshine
To my land full of rainy skies and gales
And I shall be aboard that ship tomorrow
Though my heart is full of tears at this farewell

For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

I've heard there's a wicked war a-blazing
And the taste of war I know so very well
Even now I see the foreign flag a-raising
Their guns on fire as we sail into hell
I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow
But how bitter will be this last farewell

For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

Though death and darkness gather all about me
My ship be torn apart upon the seas
I shall smell again the fragrance of these islands
And the heaving waves that brought me once to thee
And should I return home safe again to England
I shall watch the English mist roll through the dale

For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

Words & music by Roger Whittaker & R. A. Webster, 1971

Monday, May 6, 2013

On the Street Where You Live

Our favorite house ever!

On the Street Where We Lived (1993 - 2001)

One of the features I like to incorporate into my Fortnightly blog is a painting or photograph every two weeks that somehow illustrates the concept of "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." I have a few on hand that so far haven't really matched up with any particular post, so I thought it might be fun to let them stand alone as quotidian tidbits here on my daily blog.

This picture is one of my favorites -- our beautiful Victorian twin, built in 1895, in a part of West Philadelphia called University City (near the U Penn campus). Our house stood right on the corner, so the flowers that you see here are actually in our neighbor's yard. From this perspective, though it looks as if they might have been in ours.

This photo confirms something that you might not suspect about Philadelphia:
Are there lilac trees in the heart of town?
Yes, there are!

On the Street Where You Live

I have often walked
Down the street before,
But the pavement always
Stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I
Several stories high,
Knowing I'm on the street where you live.

Are there lilac trees
In the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?
Does enchantment pour
Out of every door?
No, it's just on the street where you live.

And oh, the towering feeling
Just to know somehow you are near
The overpowering feeling
That any second you may suddenly appear.

People stop and stare
They don't bother me,
For there's no where else on earth
That I would rather be.

Let the time go by,
I won't care if i
Can be here on the street where you live.

Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe

This is not a song about stalking!
Merely some light - hearted love lyrics from the musical My Fair Lady!

Here in Indiana, we love our grafted lilac
that blooms both purple and white on the same bush!

(A present from my father - in - law ~ Thanks Grandpa Ron!)

My friend Cate writes from Ohio:
"Everything here is soooo beautiful. It makes my heart ache.
It looks like heaven it's so beautiful."

In the 1990s, Cate was my across - the - street neighbor in Philadelphia.
Now we are neighbors in the Midwest!

Friday, May 3, 2013

As If You Were Dying

"Write as if you were dying.*
At the same time, assume you write for an audience
consisting solely of terminal patients.
That is, after all, the case."

Annie Dillard
American essayist, b. 1945

Marvin Charles Hamilton III, 1955 - 2011

When I knew Marv at Notre Dame, he insisted on wearing shorts
for every occasion, even on the coldest day . . .
even mountain climbing in Alaska, he found a way!
He did, however, make an exception for his Santa Claus Costume;
he also wrote excellent letters at Christmas
and knew how to follow the advice of Annie Dillard,
to write as if you were dying:

from Marv's Christmas Letters:


"There's a number of people that I wish lived just around the corner, and you are on that list.

You have been a constant friend, for many years, and I appreciate that. A lot of 'old acquaintances' have been 'forgot' (mostly my fault, I'm sure), but you have remained steadfast. Thank you.

I hope we meet again someday. There are a number of 'lost boys' in Chicago, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio who need looking up. Maybe I can make a run through the heartland and catch up with everyone."



"5. Deaths Cheated: My son was medivaced to Anchorage in March; a potentially lethal viral infection; prompt action, by competent doctors, kicked the virus 'right where it hurts.'

6. Friends Taken: None, thank God, and I pray my friend Gary in Afghanistan and my brother in law in Korea both keep their large heads down."


Thanks Marv for these annual missives and for your boundlessly energetic way of being in the world. As my friend Eve (also at Notre Dame during the Marv Years) said, "You expect the lively ones to last the longest and just go on and on!"

But somehow, sadly and ironically, Marv was not able to Cheat Death when it came for him a mere four months after he creatively composed his heartfelt Christmas letter of 2010. For many years now, my people - scape of life on earth has included Marv, up North somewhere meting out justice on the Alaska Supreme Court or maybe keeping his delightful little family afloat on a faraway Pacific Island. How difficult it is to imagine the world any other way.

Friends Taken: One Great Guy.

*Reading Dillard's essay,
I couldn't help thinking of this old favorite:

Two Friends
I have something to tell you.
I'm listening.
I'm dying.
I'm sorry to hear.
I'm growing old.
It's terrible.
It is. I thought you should know.
Of course and I'm sorry. Keep in touch.
I will and you too.
And let me know what's new.
Certainly, though it can't be much.
And stay well.
And you too.
And go slow.
And you too.

David Ignatow
American poet, 1914 - 97

Kitti & Marv / Kitti & Celine ~ 1987
Sister Celine Carrigan, O.S.B., was our mutual friend and fellow student at ND. Among their many other good deeds, she and Marv both served as advocates for inmates on death row. In 1997, when Celine died young of ovarian cancer (like Marv, she was only 55), Marv wrote to me: "So sorry to hear about Celine. She was such a gentle soul, and good person. There is clearly no relation between life span and beauty, tenderness, kindness, bravery, intelligence or wit." Uncanny how these kind words written sixteen years ago on Celine's behalf have now become true of Marv himself.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Come First of May

Who says Christmas Trees are only for December?
Here's a Valentine Tree from February . . .
a Christmas Tree Song for May Day:

Cover Art
for the single
"First of May"

First of May
When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall,
We used to love while others used to play.
Don't ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in from far away.

Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small,
And you don't ask the time of day.
But you and I, our love will never die,
But guess well cry come First of May.

The apple tree that grew for you and me,
I watched the apples falling one by one.
And I recall the moment of them all,
The day I kissed your cheek and you were mine.

Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small,
And you don't ask the time of day.
But you and I, our love will never die,
But guess well cry come First of May.

When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall,
Do do do do do do do do do . . .
Don't ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in . . .

by the Bee Gees
(Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb)
on the album Best of Bee Gees

Maypole ~ St. Peter's ~ Philadelphia
A few more
lovely renditions