Friday, October 31, 2014

Godspeed October

Wabash Landing: Ginkgoes, Green to Gold

Way back -- or was that just the other day? -- on the first day of October, my facebook friend Robert Kurtz posted: "Considering how quickly September came and went, I think I'll just wish everyone a happy November." Now, here it is -- the last day already. Can we hold on to October for a few more days? No, we cannot. In a few short hours November begins. Robert was right!

I've been repeating his words all month long to various people, for I knew exactly how he felt (see Out of Reach & Fast Away & Time Flies). Godspeed October! Hail November!

Out at the Little Cemetery by Menards on 52

No matter how lovely each September is, it's nearly always a sure thing that October will be even moreso! Although the transition might happen upon us more quickly than we expect, we never feel too sorry to see September give way to October. However, it seems that everyone would like to live in October just a bit longer if we could. I guess that's why I'm so enchanted by the way that the following two writers have both captured the sense that October is not so much a month as it is a place. I couldn't agree more!

I had seen the photos . . .
always with autumn colors in the background,
as if the school were based not in a town
but in a month, October

from Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn


October Country . . . that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.

from the introduction to The October Country
by Ray Bradbury*

Alongside Our Driveway
*Thanks to my literary friend Katie Field
for the Bradbury quotation!

See also my Fortnightly post: "Let Them All In"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Place of a Curse

“Abandon all Hope, Ye Who Enter Here”
curse inscribed above
the Gate to Hell in Dante’s Inferno ~ 14th C
translated by John Ciardi in 1954
Dante Illuminating Florence with His Poem
by Domenico di Michelino (1417–1491)

After years of working with Dante's Divine Comedy, twentieth - century poet John Ciardi was inspired, in this poem, to offer an alternative fate:

In Place of a Curse
by John Ciardi (1916 - 86)

At the next vacancy for God, if I am elected,
I shall forgive last the delicately wounded
who, having been slugged no harder than anyone else,
never got up again, neither to fight back,
nor to finger their jaws in painful admiration.

They who are wholly broken, and they in whom
mercy is understanding, I shall embrace at once
and lead to pillows in heaven. But they who are
the meek by trade, baiting the best of their betters
with extortions of a mock-helplessness,

I shall take last to love, and never wholly.
Let them all in Heaven—I abolish Hell—
but let it be read over them as they enter:
“Beware the calculations of the meek, who gambled nothing,
gave nothing, and could never receive enough.”

For more on this theme see my current post
~ "Let Them All In" ~
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

P.S. ~ February 4, 2023

Thanks to my friend ~ Beata for the following poem,
in which Wilcox's "people who lean"
are comparable to Ciardi's
"delicately wounded . . .
the meek, who gambled nothing,
gave nothing, and could never receive enough

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people on earth to-day;
Just two kinds of people, no more I say.

Not the sinner and saint, for it's well understood
The good are half bad and the bad are half good.

Not the rich and the poor, for to rate a man's wealth,
You must first know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life's little span,
Who puts on vain airs, is not counted a man.

Not the happy and sad, for the swift flying years
Bring each man his laughter end each man his tears.

No; the two kinds of people on earth I mean
Are the people who lift and the people who lean.

Wherever you go you will find the earth's masses
Are always divided in just these two classes.

And oddly enough, you will find, too, I ween,
There's only one lifter to twenty who lean.

In which class are you? Are you easing the load
Of overtaxed lifters who toil down the road?

Or are you a leaner who lets others bear
Your portion of labor and worry and care?

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 - 1919)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What Makes Life So Sweet

That it will never come again . . .

That it will never come again
is what makes life so sweet.

Emily Dickinson

Loving one another . . .

"From now on, Eliza, I don't figure there's a thing
asked of me but to love my fellow men . . as far as I can see,
there's not another thing asked of me, from this day forward
" (214).

from The Friendly Persuasion
by Jessamyn West

Including Scarecrows . . . Friend? Stranger? Today?

Render Unto Caesar
What do you have that belongs to another?
Tribute? Custom? Honor? Fear?

Whose image and name is on that thing?
Friend? Stranger? Leader? Brother?

Where is the due that you should bring?
Near? Afar? Hoarded? Covered?

When will you owe only love for another?
Today? Tomorrow? There? or Here?

Leon Stacey

Thanks to my sweet friends Beata and Katie
for a Sunday afternoon visit to Prophetstown, Indiana
to walk the Trail of Scarecrows!

And thanks to
Chapel of the Good Shepherd / Purdue Episcopal Campus Ministry
for the Leon Stacey reference

Along the Wabash Bike Trail

As George Herbert says,
"Take the gentle path."

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Detail of photo by my friend Joni Menard:
"My house has all natural spookiness going on. I am so grateful.
All that fake cobweb stuff is for spook pretenders."

When we read Emily Dickinson back in college, the teacher had us look up gossamer as it appears in the fourth stanza of "Because I could not stop for Death." Of all the things that I've forgotten over the years, those lovely descriptors have stayed in my mind forever:
goose summer
summer thread
spider threads
summer - like weather in late autumn
light or flimsy or filmy.
Each fall, when the lawn and leaves are strewn with "spider threads," I think of Dickinson's delicately clad heroine, dressed for summer even as inevitable winter approaches. Headed toward Eternity, she shivers in her fine array:

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –
[emphasis added]

~ Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 86

Note from Joni:
"Not just one plant but two; pic is fuzzy."

Click to see Summer Gossamer!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Red Dress

Seated Woman in a Red Dress, 1920s
By Irish Painter ~ Roderic O'Conor, 1860 - 1940

“What Do Women Want?”
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

by American poet ~ Kim Addonizio, b. 1954

For more on this theme see my current post
~ "What Women [Don't] Want" ~
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony


And take a minute to enjoy
this old favorite: "Lady in Red"

Friday, October 17, 2014

What Women [Don't] Want

Awhile back I heard a very good sermon about the "middle way being the hard way." The old proverb (certainly what I was taught in Sunday School) is that the middle way is for lazy opportunists who can't commit and want it both ways and haven't given their hearts to God. But this speaker was saying the opposite -- that the extremes are easier because they require less introspection, less observation, less compassion. The middle way is hard because it demands all of these things, and that's why the church should walk the middle path.

Around the same time, I also heard a very troubling sermon about abortion. What would Jesus do? Maybe he'd choose a different topic. All I could think was "Here we go again." It's bad enough on the television and in the House and in the Senate and every where else you turn your head, but even from the pulpit? When will it ever be considered unacceptable to violate the sanctuary of women? When will male ministers and lawmakers ever stop singling women out and talking about their bodies -- the very essence of objectification. Did Jesus do that? I don't think so. Being pitied and talked about like case studies -- this turns women into objects. The assumption that someone else can know which women need abortions and for what reasons -- this turns women into objects. What about self - determination? What about getting to be the subject of your own sentence?

I wince at the harsh pronouncements against all abortion, but I'm also suspicious of the so - called more generous stance that we have to consider the special cases of rape and incest. The unctuous reliance on this cliche fills me with dismay. What it says to me is that the church doesn't really want to help women but it will if it has to in the extreme case. The incest / rape exception makes me feel uneasy, not because it isn't valid or necessary, but because it's someone else's arbitrary decision, and a very harsh one at that, despite being presented in the name of compassion. Instead, how about acknowledging that the issue is too complicated for the existing exceptions and rules (the very thing that Jesus says NOT to rely on).

For those who claim the right to decide not only for themselves but for others, I want to hear their plans for helping expectant mothers who are carrying their children in fear, worried about money, health, nutrition, insurance, education, emotional support, rent, mortgage, heat, abuse, neglect -- and myriad other issues that we cannot possibly know in full, different in every case. How do these right - to - lifers plan to help care for each and every child who is born to a distraught mother? I want to see their directives and budget allotments for welcoming every newborn and nurturing every mother and every child. And I don't mean a cute hat and some diapers -- I mean non-stop tending until that child is safely through college.

There was one spark of hope in the sermon: the observation that, yes, you might meet a woman thirty years on who regretted her decision to terminate a pregnancy but on the other hand --

Okay, at this point I thought I was going to hear that you might also meet a woman who was relieved that she had the option to choose. But NO!

-- on the other hand -- there has to be help for college girls who get drunk and end up pregnant.

Some abortions end in regret; some begin in drunkenness. Thus did the sermon, which I did not find to be particularly helpful to women, come to a close. No acknowledgement that not all abortions begin in drunkenness or end in regret, no other examples, no mention of a considered choice, no middle path. Did it help anyone to make women sound so pathetic, to second guess their decisions, to sensationalize their distress with descriptions of crying and bleeding, to omit the possibility that women might know their own bodies and their own minds? No, it did not. It was offensive. Women don't need pity; they need a level playing field. Women resent the weary sexist conclusion that abortion is fair game for sermonizing -- because it's such an attention grabber. In fact, it's just one more way of putting women on that old familiar pedestal and looking up their dresses. How long, O Lord?

If human anatomy and physiology is sermon material, then lets move away from the insulting cliches about female reproduction and pick some topics that affect both sexes equally. Take colonoscopy, for instance. There's something that both men and women have to go through. Everyone has to have a first one sometime and no one wants to. You don't see much of a spiritual context to the colonoscopy? Well, then, give it one! I have lots of ideas: How about the low success rate of trying to make other people do the right thing? How about leading a horse to water but not being able to make it drink? How about not even being able to lead it to water? How about responsibility? How about worry? How about fear? How about violation and taboo? How about people dying unnecessarily of colon cancer? As you can see, it wouldn't take me long to write a sermon on the topic! In fact, I think there's a veritable mission field out there of people who need to hear the message and be brought into the fold.

Or what about whole body screenings for cancer of the skin -- our body's largest organ! That affects everybody. God made the sun. Right?

How about the need for free STD testing at all college and university health centers? I don't know the cost, but some students find any fee at all prohibitive and / or embarrassing if they have to file an insurance claim. Maybe free STD testing is not an ENTITLEMENT in this country; however, if we take a look at the big picture instead of the small, we might see that free testing helps EVERYONE on campus, not just those who come in for a lab test or an exam. Who knows, a more generous policy might result in safer sex and fewer abortions.

I'm not necessarily suggesting these as ideal topics for Sunday morning, but then I wouldn't pick abortion either. Or if I did, I'd ask why the discussion of unplanned pregnancy is so one - sided. Little is ever said about the man who participated in the conception. I rarely hear any presumptuous suggestions or patronizing restrictions concerning what he should do next, now that he has fertilized a human egg. Where is the analysis of male anatomy and the massively hurtful potential of testosterone? I'd point out that a great many of the "birth control failures" that girls and women take responsibility for (sometimes by terminating a pregnancy) actually boil down to having been relentlessly pressured into having unprotected sex. Could women insist on birth control every time unless they want a child? Yes, of course they could and should. But that still doesn't explain why the men who love (?) them are pressuring them in the first place. Men and boys -- Stop. Doing. This. Make yourself part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Of course we have compassion for victims of rape, incest, and drunken mistakes -- those are the extremes; those are crimes! The difficult thing -- apparently! -- is compassion for normal women leading normal lives that become complicated because the biological odds are stacked against them in such a way that women bear the biological risk for both recreational and procreational sex. What saddens me -- besides having to hear a discussion better left to me and my doctor or me and my girlfriends or me and my husband -- is to hear a public speaker take the predictable political path, in the name of "socio - cultural relevance" or "ethics" instead of a soul - searching, sermon - worthy middle path.

Even some of my favorite writers seem at times to get it weirdly wrong. In Margaret Atwood's novel Surfacing (1972), for instance, the narrator becomes obsessed with the feral conception of a child in reparation for a previous pregnancy that her art professor pressured her into terminating. The new child, conceived in the wild, will be a living apology to the unrealized child. In Ruth Ozeki's novel All Over Creation (2003), a similar irrational, formulaic approach is expressed by the high school history teacher, twenty - five years after his affair with a fourteen - year - old student: "We took a life, Yumi. From the universe. And the way I figure it, we owe one back. Life is sacred. I want to make amends. . . . I want us to have a child (386). Yumi, who has returned to town for a visit, along with her three children, says oddly and crassly of them: "Three wonderful grandchildren ought to more than make up for one lousy abortion" (240).

What's going on here? Must these women be forever making amends? Are they never allowed to leave mistakes in the past, to grow and learn, to pay the price of experience and move on, sadder perhaps but wiser? How about the creation of heroines who gain dignity and emotional maturity, confident in their choices and the points to which they've come? Instead, first Atwood and then Ozeki (writing three decades later!) use their characters to express the view that abortion goes hand in hand with shame, guilt, bitterness and perpetual indebtedness to the universe. In each case I remain mystified by the author's placement of her heroine on such a regressive life path.

A more supportive and realistic view appears in Curtis Sittenfeld's novel American Wife (2008). Unlike Atwood's extreme reversion to nature or Ozeki's tone of self - deprecation, Sittenfeld allows her narrator, Alice to think rationally and walk the middle path: " . . . my entire political outlook could have been summarized by the statement that I felt bad for poor people and was glad abortion had become legal. . . . I live a life that contains contradictions. Don't you?" (204, 473).

Yes, I do.


Additional Reading:
Reality Check
Thriftshop Barbie
Comments on Facebook
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker

Seated Woman in a Red Dress, 1920s
By Irish Painter ~ Roderic O'Conor, 1860 - 1940

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Days of Optimism

Another great autumnal photograph by Jay Beets!
Thanks Jay for sharing so many & for allowing me to re - post!


Everyone loves a day filled with optimism! Back in mid - August, Jay and I were reminiscing about a mutual acquaintance of ours from undergrad days who liked to refer to himself as a closet optimist. He said that his pessimism was just for show but in his heart he was an optimist!

Within an hour after my facebook chat with Jay, this post appeared, announcing good news from my friend Len:
"I am happy to have been notified that my poem "Optimist," from the Spring, 2014, issue of Rattle will be featured in their online edition this Fall. The editor has asked me to make an mp3 recording to accompany the posted poem. [He sent clear instructions so I am not requesting help at this time. I had a momentary vision of standing in front of a giant microphone as in O Brother, Where Art Thou? instead of my cell phone.] I am impressed by the support and generosity of Rattle and its editor, Tim Green. It stands apart from many others who publish the poems, send one or two contributor copies, and then there is no further contact or relationship. I will, of course, post a link here when the poem is up in October."
I knew then that when Len's poem appeared, I would have to write a blog post about this optimistic literary coincidence! Today's the day! And here's the poem:


Each time I vote, I pretend that this time
everything I hope for will take place, that
not only will everyone I vote for win,
but they will turn out more liberal than anyone
expected, that the evil half of the Supreme Court
will take a powder, wars will end, oil will die.
Every night, I visit your side of the bed
to pretend that you are just away for a moment,
it is warm from you and you will rush back to
place your head back on the pillow beside mine,
my nose nuzzling into your hair, to breathe you in,
my arms around you while you push sleepily
back into me, surrounded by my heat,
not fully waking by your brief absence,
and for some minutes I am whole again.

~ Leonard Orr

Thanks Len for multiple appearances on my blog:

End of Summer Sounds
Golden Paintings by Leonard Orr
Excellent Images
Happy Birthday Dylan Thomas
"The same war continues . . .
The Magpie Waiting for his Beautiful Partner
Like An Ant
Bursting Into Light
Sun ~ Flower ~ Moon
Lovely As A Tree
What To Do
Star - Spanlged But Unsingable
Evening ~ Timing ~ Floating Poetry by Leonard Orr
The Ides of Whatever
That Lost Time & Place
Truth & Falsehood Have No Fear

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fly Away

Farewell Beaumont (ca 2005 - 11 October 2014)

Longing for a Departed Child

I wonder how far
My small dragonfly hunter
Has wandered today!

~ Chiyo ~

Beaumont was only ever an indoor cat, but still I like to think
of her as both the dragonfly hunter and the dragonfly.
Floor Mosaics at the Wynn / Encore, Las Vegas
see also: Dreaming & Am I Dreaming?

Even before seeing this post, my friend Cate picked out
this dragonfly card by artist Kathy Davis
to send in honor of Beaumont -- coincidence?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Red Flash, Green Flash

Missouri photographer Jay Beets says,
"The crazy color of Fall!
. . . I saw a tree face this morning."
Could it be Abraham Lincoln? Or the Man in the Moon?"

I posted this painting early last autumn . . .

First sign of fall: the rogue / rouge tree!
In the Bois du Boulogne, 1933
by Camille Bombois, 1883 - 1970

and just knew that I was going to have to repost
when I saw these photographs that my friend Jay took
at the end of last season ~ 2 November 2013:
Life Imitates Art!

Jay's photos are also a perfect match for this poem by Derek Walcott:

The Green Flash

le rayon vert

And the sea’s skin heaves, saurian,
and the spikes of the agave bristle
like a tusked beast bowing to charge
tonight the full moon will soar floating
without any moral or simile
the wind will bend the longbows of the arching casuarinas
the lizard will still scuttle
and the sun will sink silently with a stake in its eye
bleeding behind the shrouding sail
of a skeletal schooner.
You can feel the earth cooling,
you can feel its myth cooling
and watch your own heart go out like the red throbbing dot
of a hospital machine, with a green flash
next to Pigeon Island.

by Derek Walcott, b. 1930
Saint Lucian poet and playwright; professor at the University of Essex
1992 Nobel Prize Recipient
author, most recently, of White Egrets
[see also "Love After Love"]

Thanks again to Jay
for these amazing flashes of red and green!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Life Imitating Art

ART: The Beatles
Abbey Road Album Cover

LIFE: My brother's students,
crossing the street on a field trip

"Paradoxically though it may seem, it is none the less true
that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

~ Oscar Wilde ~


Yet another example of
Life imitating art
James B. Fuqua is skeptical of the new Halloween decoration!

"Is this new kid for real? Hey, can you feel this?"

Silhouettes: If only I'd caught the moment
when Fuqua was holding his tail aloft!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In - Between Time

No green beans left, but plenty of green leaves!

A few last okra blossoms.

Two late roses, dry leaves on the ground.

When fall came a haze lay across the cornfields, across the stands of goldenrod and farewell summer, until heaven and earth seemed bound together . . .

It was an in - between time: afternoon bygone, night not yet come, neither summer, nor fall. Leaves had had a six months' term, but still they hung, dusty and frayed, to the trees. Blooming was past, though. A rose that very morning, round and firm to the eye as an apple, dropped its petals at Mattie's feet as suddenly as if winter had exploded in its heart. Days began brisk, were finger-cold in the mornings . . . but by noon there was June heat and coats were a nuisance . . .

There was a a flutter of yellow across the driveway in the orchard, a butterfly . . . but no, it was a leaf falling from the Rambo tree. Good, she thought, summer is ending. (pp 4, 92)

from The Friendly Persuasion
by Jessamyn West


My mother set off to see Comrade Wang one morning on a mild autumn day, the best time of year in Jinzhou. The summer heat had gone and the air had begun to grow cooler, but it was still warm enough to wear summer clothes. The wind and dust which plague the town for much of the year were deliciously absent. (p 115)

from Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
by Jung Chang


Goodbye Summer . . .

. . . Hello Fall!