Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Better Than Our Word

The Three Conspirators Swear an Oath
on the Ruthli Meadow
, 1779
Henry Fuseli (aka Johann Heinrich F├╝ssli) 1741 - 1825


"Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves
Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths"

from Love's Labour's Lost
by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)


“They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other - since there are no kings - messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but they dare not because of their oaths of service.”
from On Parables
by Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

We've heard it all our lives: you must be as good as your word. Perhaps the real challenge is to be better than our word. To read more about oaths of service and keeping your word and changing your mind ~ apparently easier done than said ~ see my current post:

~ "I Changed My Mind" ~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

More Kafka on Previous Blog Posts:
Little Door
Take Up Your Cross
Sancho Panza
Celtic Blessing
Imperial Messenger
Go Over

Monday, April 27, 2015

Repetition: Perfection or Sorrow

"Liturgical ritual is meant to be repeated. We are not supposed to do it right the first time, and then be done with it. We are not supposed to do it better each year until we get it perfect. This year's Easter does not have to be new and improved, more dramatic and moving than last year's.
The perfection is in the repetition,
the sheer ordinariness,
the intimate familiarity of a place known because we have visited it again and again, in so many different moments.
from the essay "The Book of Hours"
by Wayne Muller ~ in his book Sabbath
[p 89, emphasis added]

". . . And how we loved 'til the years were days
How we laughed all our tears away
And now the time begins to fade
Lover, am I coming home again?

There's a wisdom in the teachings of the old familiar songs
And a sorrow in repeating
all the old familiar wrongs
And a lesson to be learned though I've known all day long
Lover, am I coming home again?"

Light a light, light a light for me
Bring me back home again . . .
from the song "Light a Light"
by Janis Ian ~ American musician
[emphasis added]

Street / Park lamps
Duke University Campus ~ Durham, North Carolina
Astrid Park ~ Bruges, Belgium
Stadtpark ~ Vienna, Austria

Williams Residence Courtyard
New Orleans, Louisiana
[postcard by Jan White Brantley]

Friday, April 24, 2015

Funnies For Arbor Day

Thanks to Rachel Eliza Kaufman, who writes from Thailand:
"I die laughing every time I pass the board
with haikus that the 6th graders wrote.
This one is my favorite":

More laughs from your e-cards:

Previous Arbor Day Posts

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Something Small, An Animal

Happy Earth Day to All, but especially to Marguerite!

Young Hare, 1502
by Albrect Durer, 1471 - 1528

watercolor at Albertina Museum, Vienna

How to Own Land

Find a spot and sit there
until the grass begins
to nose between your thighs.

Climb to the top
of a pine and drink
the wind’s green breath.

Track the stream through alder and scrub,
trade speech
for that cold sweet babble.

Gather sticks and spin them into fire.
Watch the smoke spiral into darkness.
Dream that animals find you.

They weave your hair into warm cloth,
string your teeth on necklaces,
wrap your skin soft around their feet.

Wake to the silence
of your own scattered bones.
Watch them whiten in the sun.

When they have fallen to powder
and blown away,
the land will be yours.

Morgan Farley
~ here is an interesting blog & connection to Tolstoy
~ and another excerpt


I am clearing a space
here, where the trees stand back.
I am making a circle so open
the moon will fall in love
and stroke these grasses with her silver.

I am setting stones in the four directions,
stones that have called my name
from mountaintops and riverbeds, canyons and mesas.
Here I will stand with my hands empty,
mind gaping under the moon.

I know there is another way to live.
When I find it, the angels
will cry out in rapture,
each cell of my body
will be a rose, a star.

If something seized my life tonight,
if a sudden wind swept through me,
changing everything,
I would not resist.
I am ready for whatever comes.

But I think it will be
something small, an animal
padding out from the shadows,
or a word spoken so softly
I hear it inside.

It is dark out here, and cold.
The moon is stone.
I am alone with my longing.
Nothing is happening
but the next breath.
[emphasis added]

Morgan Farley
~ found on

The Great Piece of Turf, 1503 ~ Durer

Previous Earth Day Posts

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Drawbridge

Drawbridge from the Liebig Collection

E. M. Forster's brief "story" of the dead King and the grief - striken Queen always makes me think of that classic exercise in cause - effect analysis: the Drawbridge Problem:
As he left for a visit to his outlying district, the jealous Baron warned his pretty wife: "Do not leave the castle while I am gone, or I will punish you severely when I return!"

But as the hours passed, the young Baroness grew lonely, and despite her husband's warning, decided to visit her lover who lived in the countryside nearby. The castle was located on an island in a wide fast flowing river with a drawbridge linking the island and the land at the narrowest point in the river. "Surely my husband will not return before dawn," she thought, and ordered her servants to lower the drawbridge and leave it down until she returned.

After spending several pleasant hours with her lover, the Baroness returned to the drawbridge, only to be blocked by a gateman wildly waving a long, cruel knife. "Do not attempt to cross this bridge, Baroness, or I will kill you," he raved. Fearing for her life, the Baroness returned to her lover and asked him to help. "Our relationship is only a romantic one," he said, "I will not help."

The Baroness then sought out a boatman on the river, explained her plight to him, and asked him to take her across the river in his boat. "I will do it, but only if you pay me my fee of five Marks." "But I have no money with me!" the Baroness protested. "That is too bad. No money, no ride," the boatman said flatly.

Her fear growing, the Baroness ran crying to the home of a friend, and after again explaining the situation, begged for enough money to pay the boatman his free. If you had not disobeyed your husband, this would not have happened," the friend said. "I will give you no money."

With dawn approaching and her last resource exhausted, the Baroness returned to the bridge in desperation, attempted to cross to the castle, and was slain by the gateman.
A variety of discussion guides are available for studying the motivation behind each character's behavior. Years ago, when teaching "The Drawbridge" as part of a unit on the short story, I asked the class to consider why the Baroness would have risked a visit to this unfeeling lover. One of my students, who was having a tough semester and dealing with a death in the family, shook his head in resignation and answered, "Maybe she thought he loved her." I continue to value his conclusion as one of the best commentaries of all on these conflicted characters. Looking for love in all the wrong places -- sigh -- as is so often the case.


You can read more about the Drawbridge Exercise,
including a cause - effect analysis from my son Ben
on my current post

~ "Causality: King Then Queen" ~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Friday, April 17, 2015

Vienna Waits

"Whoever wants to know something about me
- as an artist which alone is significant -
they should look attentively at my pictures
and there seek to recognise
what I am and what I want."

Gustav Klimt

This past week, I was lucky enough to spend 2 1/2 days in Vienna, arriving on Tuesday afternoon and staying 'til dawn on Friday. Gerry was busy working, except for dinner one night, so I tried to see as much as I could, keeping in mind that I had "so much to do and and only / So many hours in a day"!
Click here for my tourist photos in the facebook album:

~ A Couple of Days in Vienna ~

Thanks to my brother Bruce for posting the link to this old favorite -- now with new meaning:

Vienna Waits For You
[Click for slideshow
& following]

Slow down you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart tell me,
Why are you still so afraid? (mmmmm)

Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day (ay)

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (oooh)
When will you realize... Vienna waits for you?

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight)

Too bad, but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right (you're right)

You got your passion, you got your pride
But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true (oooh)
When will you realize... Vienna waits for you?

Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It's alright, you can afford to lose a day or two (oooh)
When will you realize... Vienna waits for you?

And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (oooh)
Why don't you realize... Vienna waits for you?

When will you realize... Vienna waits for you?

Music and lyrics by Billy Joel

Bearing witness at the art museums . . .
so much to choose from . . .
but I couldn't miss these classic treasures:

The Kiss
Gustav Klimt, 1862 - 1918

The Art of Painting
Jan Vermeer, 1632 - 1675

Sleeping Woman With Flowers
Marc Chagall, 1887 - 1985


Of the three museums I visited ~ Albertina, Belvedere, Kunsthistorisches ~ I enjoyed the Belvedere most and wish I had spent more time there. It consists of two Palaces, both filled with art, and I only took time to do one -- the Upper Belvedere, where the Klimts are. If it's a nice day, you can spend an hour walking around outside, taking photos, and enjoying the walk down to the Lower Belvedere (or vice versa, depending on which end you enter).

My problem was that after doing the Upper, I walked briskly through the garden and didn't stay to visit the Lower. I also noticed a really cute local color restaurant / pub near the Lower entrance / exit, called the Salm Brau, that I wish I could have gone back to later with Gerry, but we didn't have time.

All three museums are within walking distance of each other if you don't mind a long walk (though for the hardy, this may even seem like a short walk)!

Kunsthistorisches = #20
Albertina = #23
Belvedere = lower right corner

The Lower Belvedere and the Albertina are both open late on Wednesdays, so if you are in Vienna on a Wednesday and your day is full, you could save one of these locations until evening. A user friendly tip about the Albertina is that you can ride up the outdoor escalator to the foyer and have access to the very safe and tidy public restrooms in the basement before going thru the official entrance and purchasing your ticket. Needless to say, after discovering this, I availed myself of the facilities several times, whenever I found myself in the vicinity! The posters (see photos) of all the previous Albertina exhibits are displayed on the stairwell walls leading down to the restrooms (I think they might actually be there for students, but no one questioned).

Gerry and I did the Albertina on Wednesday evening -- it's a smaller museum, so I don't think we missed much. We peeked in at the restaurant, but it looked very modern, New York - style, which is nice, but seemed like something we could more easily find in the USA, so we wandered out onto the street and picked a touristy outdoor cafe instead.

This is also the best area for walking / wandering around randomly, if you like doing that -- starting at the Albertina / Opera House area and heading inward toward St. Stephen's Church & St. Peter's Church. The streets seem to have everything -- from tiny quaint shops to large world department stores, and buidlings from every decade / century, so you can get a real sense of the city. And even if you feel lost, you eventually end up back on the main ring road.

All the large public buildings are a bit further away, but the first ones you come to are the Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches) and Natural History Museum. So I walked that far, but no farther. I spent a couple of hours doing one floor of the Kunsthistorisches -- where the Vermeer was, and some Brueghels. There was so much more -- ancient artifacts and coins (kind of British - museum style) in the basement, but I just ran out of steam.

The Kunsthistorisches is open late on Thursday, so if your stay includes a Thursday night, you can visit this museum in the late afternoon and then stay on for dinner. The restaurant was very ornate and fabulous - looking, right in the center rotunda! This would have been my and Gerry's choice, except that the conference dinner was on Thursday night, so we weren't free. I also noticed that the Kunsthistorisches had nice big couches all around, in sunny spots, so if you allowed yourself to visit at a more leisurely pace, you could do one floor then sit and relax, then do another exhibit, then sit in a different spot, and so forth. That's what I would have done if I had not been rushing myself.

Our hotel was right near the Stadtpark, also a very pretty place just to walk around and take pictures. We weren't in Vienna long enough to look into musical events, but there seems to be one every night at the Stadtpark in the Kursalon (see photos). The Thursday night conference dinner was held in the Stadtpark at the Restaurant Steirereck. From the outside, where the back of the restaurant faces the park (in my photos) it looks very quaint. From the front & inside & on the menu it is very contemporary. Elegant and highly rated, but wouldn't have been my first choice for local color.

Still, no complaints! You can only do so much in 2 or 3 days, so have fun picking and choosing! Whatever you do will be great, and you'll surely return home thinking of all the things you'll do next time, if you ever make it back again!

Previous Travels
Berlin vs Philly

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Queen Died of Grief

"The king died and then the queen died" is a story.
"The king died and then the queen died of grief" is a plot.
~ E. M. Forster ~

What always strikes me about the "grief" in Forster's second sentence is not only that it introduces causality but that it reveals the queen's emotional state. Narrative requires conflict, and the queen is a conflicted character. She is grieving; and we know what that means: denial, anger, bargaining, depression. She is in conflict with herself, and with forces larger than herself, such as Nature, God and Death. Now we have a plot.

Forster's brief analysis of royal death and grief always makes me think of that classic exercise in cause - effect analysis: the Drawbridge Problem.

You can read the Drawbridge Exercise
and further cause - effect analysis from my son Ben
on my current post

~ "Causality: King Then Queen" ~

@ The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker:
A Fortnightly [every 14th & 28th] Literary Blog of
Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spikenard, Very Dear

Mary Magdalene ~ Rijksmuseum
by influential Dutch painter Jan van Scorel (1495 – 1562)

When I was in grade school, back in the early days before Jesus Christ Superstar, 1973 (and way before this great 2000 version!), we were memorizing poems for Easter one year, and I think I chose this one because I just loved the sound of the word spikenard:

She Hath Done What She Could

". . . there came a woman having an alabaster box of
ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake
the box, and poured it on his head." ~Mark 14:3 (KJV)

A woman once to Jesus came
As He of meat partook,
And worshipping before His feet,
The world and all forsook.
She broke an alabaster box
Of spikenard, very dear,
And pouring it upon His head,
She trembled there in fear.

The hypocrites began to scoff
And blame her for this waste,
"So many poor" was their excuse,
For gold they had a taste.
But Jesus, looking on the heart,
Her motive understood;
Rebuking them, He testified,
"She hath done what she could."

I look around and wonder oft
At those who critcize
Some lowly saint who's done her best,
Her act, perhaps, unwise.
I'm glad that Jesus knows the heart;
I in her place have stood.
While others scoff, He testifies,
"She hath done what she could."

by Rena B. Knight, 1969
in her collection Fruit in Season (p 43)

Thanks to Steven for sending this card from
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Penitent Magdalen ~ Georges de La Tour (1593 - 1652)
(another version)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Taste the Rainbow!

These tri - color veggie ideas from Martha Stewart
look so beautiful and delicious!

Swiss Chard & Carrots ~ Spring 2015

Tomatoes ~ Summer 2013

Gourds ~ Fall 2008

Martha's exhortation to "Taste the rainbow" reminds me of a magical children's poetry book that I used to love reading to Ben and Sam:

Hailstones and Halibut Bones
poems by Mary O'Neill
illustrations by John Wallner (see also Alexandra Wallner)

Click to see inside
"Like acrobats on a high trapeze
The Colors pose and bend their knees
Twist and turn and leap and blend
Into shapes and feelings without end . . .

Time is purple
Just before night
When most people
Turn on the light . . .
the purple sound
Is the loveliest thing
It's a violet opening
In the spring. . . .

Gold is the sunshine
Light and thin
Warm as a muffin
On your skin. . . .

Black is charcoal
And patio grill . . .
And patent leather shoes . . .

Brown is the color of a country road . . .
Brown is cinnamon
And morning toast . . .

if you listen
You can hear blue
In wind over water
And wherever flax blooms . . .

Gray is the color of . . .
a falling - apart house . . .
The bubbling of oatmeal mush.
Tiredness and oysters . . .

White is marshmallow
And vanilla ice cream
And the part you can't remember
In a dream. . . .

Orange is a happy day
Saying good - by
In a sunset that
Shocks the sky. . . .
It's bittersweet
And marigold . . . an orange
Also a mango . . .

Red is a brick and
A rubber band. . . .

Pink is a cooked shrimp
And a canterbury bell. . . .
Pink is the beautiful
Little sister of red . . .

Green is lettuce
And sometimes the sea. . . .
Under a grape arbor
Air is green
With sprinkles of sunlight
In between. . . .

Yellow is the color of the sun
The feeling of fun
The yolk of an egg . . .
And a daffodil.
Yellow's sweet corn
Ripe oats . . .
Summer squash and
Chinese silk . . .

And you and you and I
Know well
Each has a taste
And each has a smell
And each has a wonderful story to tell . . ."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Fields of Our Hearts

Single blossoms in glass milk bottles,
photographed late last summer (August 2014)
at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

On this Easter Day, the trees remain bare, and the daffodils have yet to appear, but the seedlings are outgrowing their starter pods. The cylce begins again . . .
Now the Green Blade Riseth
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green. . . .

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Lyrics byJohn M. C. Crum
in the Ox­ford Book of Car­ols, 1928.

Gerry's Handiwork

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Good Day to Be a Cat

Little Brother ~ Spring Cleaning
"It's a good day to be a cat and just sleep . . . "
~ or take a sunbath!


Fuqua ~ Helping with the Family Genealogy
"What I thought was infinite will turn out to be just a couple
of odds and ends, a tiny miscellany, miniature stuff, fragments
. . . But it will also be enough,
maybe even more than enough . . ."

Happy As The Day Is Long

I take the long walk up the staircase to my secret room.
Today's big news: they found Amelia Earhart's shoe, size 9.
1992: Charlie Christian is bebopping at Minton's in 1941.
Today, the Presidential primaries have failed us once again.
We'll look for our excitement elsewhere, in the last snow
that is falling, in tomorrow's Gospel Concert in Springfield.
It's a good day to be a cat and just sleep.
Or to read the Confessions of Saint Augustine.
Jesus called the sons of Zebedee the Sons of Thunder.
In my secret room, plans are hatched: we'll explore the Smoky Mountains.
Then we'll walk along a beach: Hallelujah!
(A letter was just delivered by Overnight Express-
it contained nothing of importance, I slept through it.)
(I guess I'm trying to be "above the fray.")
The Russians, I know, have developed a language called "Lincos"
designed for communicating with the inhabitants of other worlds.
That's been a waste of time, not even a postcard.
But then again, there are tree-climbing fish, called anabases.
They climb the trees out of stupidity, or so it is said.
Who am I to judge? I want to break out of here.
A bee is not strong in geometry: it cannot tell
a square from a triangle or a circle.
The locker room of my skull is full of panting egrets.
I'm saying that strictly for effect.
In time I will heal, I know this, or I believe this.
The contents and furnishings of my secret room will be labeled
and organized so thoroughly it will be a little frightening.
What I thought was infinite will turn out to be just a couple
of odds and ends, a tiny miscellany, miniature stuff, fragments
of novelties, of no great moment. But it will also be enough,
maybe even more than enough,
to suggest an immense ritual and tradition.
And this makes me very happy.

~ James Tate
American Poet, b 1943

Here's another one ~ Thanks Katie Field:
"The Cat" ~ by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

[See also "The Dog" ~ also by Ferlinghetti]