Sunday, November 30, 2014

Interstellar Space

Ancient Space Travel
" . . . the vast expanse of interstellar space . . . "

A Spaceman Came Traveling
[Click to listen]

A spaceman came traveling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start,
And over a village he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star.

He followed a light and came down to a shed,
Where a mother and a child were lying there on a bed,
A bright light of silver shone round his head,
And he had the face of an angel, and they were afraid.

Then the stranger spoke, he said, "Do not fear,
I come from a planet a long way from here,
And I bring a message for mankind to hear,"
And suddenly the sweetest music filled the air --

And it went la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

This lovely music went trembling through the ground,
And many were wakened on hearing that sound,
And travelers on the road, the village they found,
By the light of that ship in the sky, which shone all round.

And just before dawn at the paling of the sky,
The stranger returned and said, "Now I must fly,
When two thousand years of your time has gone by,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry."

And it went la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la . . .
Peace and goodwill to all men, and love for the child.

Oh the whole world is waiting, waiting to hear that song again,
There are thousands standing on the edge of the world,
And a star is moving somewhere, the time is nearly here,
This song will begin once again, to a baby's cry.

~ Chris de Burgh

This mystical Christmas song always arouses my curiosity. The spaceman halts his craft, that seems to become the Star of Bethlehem; yet he himself "followed a light" -- the light from his own ship which others are following? Or a different light? He seems to become the Christmas Angel who says "Do not fear" and brings glad tidings; but what is the source for the "lovely music" filling the air and "trembling through the ground"? More angels? Or the Spaceman?

He flies away, bidding farewell to the mother and child and other assembled Earthlings, promising the song again and "a baby's cry" in two thousand years' time. Does this mean a new baby Messiah? The Spaceman doesn't promise his own return, though the song's haunting conclusion suggests it. Is the Spaceman the baby, all grown up (like Jesus or Mad Max or Dad / Joseph Cooper / Matthew McConaughey in the new movie Interstellar)?

To read more about interstellar space and
the space time continuum, see my current post
~ "An Interstellar Thanksgiving" ~
on The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Apply Your Heart to Wisdom

Psalm 90
Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say,

"Go back, O child of earth."

For a thousand years in your sight

are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered . . .

all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone. . . .

So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

To go along with the existential message
of the above Psalm is this tender yet cynical passage
from Super Sad True Love Story
by Gary Shteyngart:
But what are our children? Lovely and fresh in their youth; blind to mortality; rolling around . . . in the tall grass with their alabaster legs; fawns, sweet fawns, all of them, gleaming in their dreamy plasticity, at one with the outwardly simple nature of their world.

And then, a brief almost - century later: drooling on some poor Mexican Nursemaid in an Arizona hospice.

(p 4)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sun from a Wintry Sky

Frailty, endurance, irrevocable loss, fallen leaves, cold wind.
[That tiny white fleck is the moon!]
When the Lamp is Shattered
When the lamp is shattered
The light in the dust lies dead-
When the cloud is scattered,
The rainbow's glory is shed.
When the lute is broken,
Sweet tones are remembered not;
When the lips have spoken,
Loved accents are soon forgot.

As music and splendour
Survive not the lamp and the lute,
The heart's echoes render
No song when the spirit is mute-
No song but sad dirges,
Like the wind through a ruined cell,
Or the mournful surges
That ring the dead seaman's knell.

When hearts have once mingled,
Love first leaves the well-built nest;
The weak one is singled
To endure what it once possessed.
O Love! who bewailest
The frailty of all things here,
Why choose you the frailest
For your cradle, your home, and your bier?

Its passions will rock thee,
As the storms rock the ravens on high;
Bright reason will mock thee,
Like the sun from a wintry sky.
From thy nest every rafter
Will rot, and thine eagle home
Leave thee naked to laughter,
When leaves fall and cold winds come.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822)
[see also "Ozymandias" & "Ode to the West Wind"]
This poem and others
by Richard Wilbur & Elinor Wylie
on my current post
~ "First Snow in Indiana" ~
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaf Pressed, Moon Tipped

"So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours—your own wild mind." ~Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

Into this World
Let us die gracefully into this world
like a leaf pressed in stone
let us go quietly breathing our last breath
let the sun continue to revolve in its great golden dance
let us leave it be as it is
and not hold on
not even to the moon
as it will be tonight
and beckoning wildly in the sea [emphasis added]

Natalie Goldberg


Just the other day I was writing about Elinor Wylie's often anthologized poem, "Velvet Shoes" (see Fortnightly and Quotidian posts; and also Nets to Catch the Winds, 1921). It seems that I have known Wylie's elegant, seasonal poem forever, though I can't remember when or where I first encountered it. Most likely my long familiarity comes from its inclusion in one of my many Christmas anthologies. You can find it here, for example:

I'm also lucky enough to own a vintage copy of Wylie's fourth and last collection of poems, Angels and Earthly Creatures, published in 1929.

Front page inscription seen below:
Marie Hobson
Park Chambers


One of my favorites from Angels and Earthly Creatures is this brief lyric, tucked in amidst the sonnets and longer elegies:
Fair Annet's Song
One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows
And drives away the snows.

It is sad to remember and sorrowful to pray:
Let us laugh and be merry, who have seen today
The last of the cherry and the first of the may;
And neither one will stay.
Wylie's bittersweet comparison of November to May has been set to music a number of times, notably by composer Paul Carey in his four movement tribute to the seasons of the year, Into This World. [click to read his explanation].

Carey choses Wylie's poem, "Annet's Song" to symbolize spring (though equally appropriate for late autumn); Robert Louis Stevenson's "Tropic Rain" to capture summer's intensity; an adaptation of Rilke's "The Leaves are Falling" to evoke a gentle autumn; and to remind us of winter's finality -- as well as for the title of his choral arrangement -- the haunting lines of Natalie Goldberg's "Into this World" (above).

I seem to recall my son Ben taking a picture
of me photographing the sidewalk leaf in the rain:

New Year's Eve 2012 ~ Dallas

For more wintry snow poems
see my current FORTNIGHTLY post
~ "First Snow in Indiana"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Soundless Space & Windless Peace

Snow in November
Velvet Shoes
Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

Elinor Morton Wylie (1885 - 1928)

This and other early snow poems
by Richard Wilbur & Percy Bysshe Shelley
on my current post
~ "First Snow in Indiana" ~
The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Wintry Mix

Friday, November 14, 2014


"It is almost impossible
to watch a sunset and not dream."

Bern Williams

Photograph by Marguerite Chapman:
Sunset over Tulsa Mosque
November 7, 2014

"All that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream."

Edgar Allan Poe

These dreamy sunset thoughts bring to mind an essay that I taught years ago, entitled "Language and Thought," by Susanne K. Langer. Langer distinguishes between symbol and sign, and identifies dreaming as "a basic function of human brains," drawing the conclusion that what sets humans apart as a species is our inexhaustible, involuntary dreamscape. An intriguing concept!

As highly intelligent animals, we can scan the sky for signs. For example, the color of the sunset may foretell the coming weather or a turning point in the year. As a signifier of "presence . . . being, condition," a vividly colored or pastel sky can be useful, even beautiful. But we want the sunset to mean something more "glorious" than that! We want not merely the object at hand but the "kaleidoscope of ideas" and the "stream of thought" that the symbol brings to mind:
"We want to go places and do things, own all sorts of gadgets that we do not absolutely need, and when we sit down to take it easy we want to talk. Rights and property, social position, special talents and virtues, and above all our ideas, are what we live for. We have gone off on a tangent that takes us far away from the mere biological cycle that animal generations accomplish; and that is because we can use not only signs but symbols. . . . The difference between a sign and a symbol is, in brief, that a sign causes us to think or act in the face of the thing signified, whereas a symbol causes us to think about the thing symbolized. Therein lies the great importance of symbolism for human life, its power to make this life so different . . .

"The process of transforming all direct experience into imagery . . . has so completely taken possession of the human mind that it is not only a special talent but a dominant, organic need. All our sense impressions leave their traces in our memory not only as signs . . . but also as symbols, images representing our ideas of things . . . It seems to be what our brain most naturally and spontaneously does. Therefore our primitive mental function is not judging reality, but dreaming our desires."
[from paragraphs 5, 7, 8]
Dreaming our desires!
Isn't that what these sunsets symbolize?

Photograph by Nancy Allen:
"I just never get tired of these sunsets -- feeling thankful!"
October 23, 2014

Also by Nancy: Late Summer Sunset & Groundhog Fog
Thanks to Sara Carriker & Victoria Amador for the dreamy quotations!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Instead of Poppies

Instead of flags flying at the cemetery, how about autumn branches?
Instead of red poppies for Veterans Day, how about red leaves?

It was my friend Beata's Mom (back in Poland) who advised Beata when she came to live in the States, if you can't go visit your own ancestors on All Saints Day -- or All Souls Day or Veterans Day or Easter or Memorial Day -- then go visit someone else's. That's how we started our tradition of visiting a couple of small local cemeteries. Here's one of my favorites:

Burton Cemetery
Also called Old Bilderback or Klondike Cemetery
Corner of US Highway 52 & Klondike Road
Wabash Township ~ Tippecanoe County, Indiana

I have upon occasion, seen the
little Burton Cemetery decorated patriotically:

but when I stopped by today
there was only one flag flying:
Oct 2 1759
August 6 1834

In the past, I have felt somewhat guilty for posting anti - war sentiment on Veterans Day, as I have done in previous years.* However, reading Harry Leslie Smith's honest, admirable essay --

This Year I Will Wear the Poppy for the Last Time

-- reassures me that it is not wrong to do so. Smith, a Veteran of World War II and author of Harry's Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It [available soon] and 1923: A Memoir Lies and Testaments [same year my dad was born] knows whereof he speak. He objects to the fact that:

"The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. . . . I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.

"Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector.

"Next year, I won't wear the poppy but I will . . . remember . . . ."

Red Leaves for Remembrance

*Previous & Additional
Veterans Day posts:

Armistice Day

Wartime Soldier, Wartime Child

"The same war continues . . . "

94 Years Ago Today

Flanders Fields ~ What Have We Learned?

War Horse

Point of Balance


Instead of Poppies

Veterans Eve


Pale Battalions

A Form of Madness

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Goodnight Moon!
The Frosty November Moon, 1 Day Past Full
~ aka The Beaver Moon or The Mourning Moon ~

Stories to tell by the full moonlight . . .

The Appointment in Samarra
As retold by W. Somerset Maugham

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.

The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.

Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw the pale - robed woman standing in the crowd and he went to her and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

That was not a threatening gesture, she said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

Another Summary

And Another Translation

See also John O'Hara's 20th C novel & Contemporary Lego Version

Also, can't help thinking of
The Tale of the Three Brothers
[click to watch animation]

from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
~ J. K. Rowling ~

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Like a Bubble

"Only the dream that we knew it was . . . "
by Missouri Photographer Jay Beets

What would it take to make us think
differently of the world surrounding us?
What change of perspective
would lead to a fuller appreciation of its splendor?
What if the Sun were as tiny and transparent as a bubble?
What if we held our thumbs up to the moon? It's no bigger!
What if there were but one sunrise in every century?
What if the Earth were only a few feet in diameter?

If The Earth Were Only a Few Feet in Diameter
[click to hear a recitation]

More Beautiful Bubble Pictures by Jay Beets
I couldn't pick a favorite! I love them all!

John Denver ~ in love with the world.
[Click for song and slideshow!]

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mortal Flesh

A song for All Souls' Day:
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, alleluia,
alleluia, Lord most high!”

Lyrics: French Folk Song
Tune: Picardy
[Click to hear sung]

Late Autumn Windowscapes, Inside & Out
Chapel of the Good Shepherd / Purdue Episcopal Campus Ministry