Friday, April 29, 2016

Roots of Kindness

~ Thanks to Burnetta for this poster & more ~

Previous Arbor Day Posts

A Tree Can Be Your Chair!
Lincoln Park ~ San Francisco

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Some of Sam's Favorites at the Guggenheim,
plus the staircase, of course!

The Palazzo Ducale, Seen from San Giorgio Maggiore
Claude Monet

Woman Ironing
Pablo Picasso

Pitcher and Bowl of Fruit
Pablo Picasso


Museum Guard

My condolences to the man dressed
for a funeral, sitting bored
on a gray folding chair, the zero

of his mouth widening in a yawn.
No doubt he’s pictured himself inside
a painting or two around his station,

stealing a plump green grape
from the cluster hanging above
the corkscrew locks of Dionysus,

or shooting arrows at rosy-cheeked cherubs
hiding behind a woolly cloud.
With time limping along

like a Bruegel beggar, no doubt
he’s even seen himself taking the place
of the one crucified: the black spike

of the minute hand piercing his left palm,
the hour hand penetrating the right,
nailed forever to one spot.

David Hernandez, b. 1971
American poet and novelist

After reading so many poems describing the experience of museum visiting, I chose "Museum Guard" because it reminded me of one Ben and Sam's favorite childhood movies, Don't Eat the Pictures:

featuring Paul Dooley as the Museum Security Guard

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Plot By Any Other Name

On Shakespeare's 452nd Birthday
and the 400th Anniversary of his Death
Okay, so how about a new, improved ending?
Courtesy of JibJab ~ Thanks Gerry!

I had to smile when my brother Bruce posted the above synopsis of Romeo and Juliet and asked me how our beloved highschool English teacher would have responded had we used it as an answer in her Shakespeare class?

I can only guess that she would have acknowledged the truth of it and then tell us to focus instead on the beauty of the Elizabethan language, the poetry, the imagery employed by Shakespeare as the story unfolds:
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
.” (II, ii)

"It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die."
(III, v)

"A greater power than we can contradict
Hath thwarted our intents."
(V, iii)

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
As post - Shakespearean dramatist John Dryden (1631 - 1700) points out in "An Essay of Dramatick Poesy," it is often something other than plot that captivates the audience:
" . . . it was already known to all the audience: and the people so soon as ever they heard the name of Oedipus, knew as well as the poet, that he had kill'd his father by a mistake, and committed incest with his mother, before the play; that they were now to hear of a great plague, an oracle, and the ghost of Laius: so that they sat with a yawning kind of expectation, till he was to come with his eyes pulled out, and speak a hundred or two of verses in a tragic tone, in complaint of his misfortunes."
You've got to love that phrase "a yawning kind of expectation," don't you?!

Similar questions have been asked about the plot of Back to the Future and answered hilariously by John Mulaney. For example, how did "Marty McFly, an offbeat but otherwise popular teenager, and Doc, a 60-something failed scientist with a sketchy reputation around town" become best friends? Sure, just like Romeo and Juliet, this movie has plenty of inconsistencies to go around -- but we like it anyway!

Previously on Shakespeare's Birthday,
or thereabouts:
23 April 2010
18 May 2011
23 April 2012
23 April 2013
25 April 2014
29 April 2015

I Changed My Mind
A Rose Can Only Smell So Sweet
Wise Fool
Scary Hair

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Forget - Me - Nots of Earth

“Silently, one by one,
in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars,
the forget - me - nots of the angels.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~
from "Evangeline"

This is the Garden

this is the garden: colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night's outer wing
strong silent greens serenely lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap
and on Death's blade lie many a flower curled,
in other lands where other songs be sung;
yet stand They here enraptured, as among
the slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.

~ E. E. Cummings

Previous Earth Day Posts

PS. ~ RIP PRINCE ~We'll forget you not!
"When Doves Cry"

Monday, April 18, 2016

Threescore and Ten Again*

Magnolia Blossoms & Panama Bag in Washington, DC,
Spring Break 2004

Thanks to my friend Elizabeth who shared with me her file of musical settings for a variety of poems, primarily 19th and 20th Century, and primarily about trees (e.g., "The Three Trees") -- a musical and literary theme so perfect for April, with all the flowering trees bursting forth, and Earth Day and Arbor Day soon approaching.

I particularly enjoyed selections by Emily Dickinson / Aaron Copeland, Robert Frost / Randall Thompson, and "Loveliest of Trees" by A. E. Houseman / John Duke.

More good news about this poem -- you can find these blossoms not only on the "woodland ride" but also along the city streets; not only when twenty years won't come again and you're left with a mere fifty or so springs, but also when the numbers are reversed. So, don't despair! The above photo, for example, was taken twelve springs ago! So many blooms we've seen since then!

Even if "of your threescore years and ten, fifty (or sixty!) will not come again," that still leaves you with ten or twenty springs (if you're lucky -- even more if you're luckier!) to go about the woodlands or the urban gardens and "see the cherry hung with snow."

In our case, that "snow" could be a metaphor for cherry blossoms, or it could be the real thing -- yes, even in April (right, Cate?!). Either way, get out and enjoy that walk . . . time's a - wastin'!

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Houseman (1859 - 1936)

Climbing the "Snowy" Hills of Seattle

* See also last week's post:
Threescore and Ten
"The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."
~ Psalm 90:10 (KJV) ~

Reality Check: "ALL of us will still die."

Friday, April 15, 2016


"And the Sabeans fell upon them,
and took them away; yea, they have slain
the servants with the edge of the sword;
and I only am escaped alone to tell thee."

~ Job 1:15 (KJV) ~

Heroic shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, as portrayed by Victor Garber in the epic film, attributes the disaster -- somewhat differently than the poets do -- to "mathematical certainty." Some crew and passengers may incredulously insist that the ship can never sink; but Andrews responds with honesty and humility. Named by many viewers as "Best Scene in Titanic," his moment of truth stands out amidst all the sweeping drama and special effects:

"She's made of Iron . . . I assure you she can [sink]!
And she will. It is a mathematical certainty."

Titanic Poetry and More
on my current post

~ Titanic ~

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

Throwback Thread ~ Titanic Day 2015
Sara: I think this every time I watch that movie, it's so annoying when they hit the iceberg

Kitti: "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"

Gerry: Maybe they hit a different iceberg each time (by avoiding the ones they hit before). Same outcome.

Andrea: I am listening to Dead Wake by Eric Larson, and I kept hoping the torpedo would miss the boat!

Eric: My problem is every time I watch it, I spend half the movie looking for what I could use to build a raft.

Pam: lol....did it work, did they hit that damn icebrerg again?!!
Such an interesting range of do - over sentiments represented in our various replies to my niece Sara's post from last year: impatience, despair, eternal return, hope against hope, crisis averted, optimism and resignation, all rolled into one! If only, if only, if only . . .

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Threescore and Ten

"The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labour and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

~ Psalm 90:10 (KJV) ~

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger
you dressed yourself and went where you wanted;
but when you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

~ John 21:18 (NIV) ~

The Three Ages of Woman, 1905
by Austrian Painter Gustav Klimt, 1862 - 1918
"I am doing all I can now to be aware of my anxieties and bad habits. I am promising myself to continue to read and draw and write and keep my brain active. I am promising myself to always be with those younger than me (students, nieces, nephews)--to surround myself with a variety of age groups--to keep up with technology--to keep my heart and brain ready for risks and newness and change. . . . I do not want to age into some strange caricature of all my worst traits."

~ Jan Donley, writer, artist, teacher, friend

Why can't dying be more like being born -- a kind of gradual, comprehensible winding down over 9 months -- instead of never knowing how ugly it's all going to get and how long it's going to take and how much of a burden you'll have to be on your loved ones before you're allowed to go in peace? An intelligent designer would have made dying joyful in some way, the way birth is joyful; not make - believe joyful (as in we'll gain our reward in heaven and meet again on the other shore and understand it better by and by) but somehow biochemically naturally innately joyful. But it's not; it's just bad news for everybody.

If there's anything that totally shatters my faith, it's human aging, which is surely much more distressing than dying. What kind of a mean-hearted higher power could possibly dream up such a cruel and un-intelligent design? And by aging, I don't mean a bald spot or a double chin or the loss of youthful looks -- I mean losing your mind, losing your self, becoming less and less of who you ever were. What could be worse than that? It's bad enough to have your kids thinking you're just a little crazy, merely for the fact of being over thirty, let alone waiting for the real thing as the decades pass, threescore, fourscore.

Cafe (1949) ~ by Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1962)

Sometimes I feel like Biff Brannon at the end of
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter:
"The left eye delved narrowly into the past while the right gazed wide and affrighted into a future of blackness, error, and ruin. And he was suspended between radiance and darkness. Between bitter irony and faith. Sharply he turned away."

American novelist Carson McCullers, 1917 - 1967

Or like Bix Constantine and Julie Katz from
Only Begotten Daughter:
"You're an agnostic . . . ?"

"Used to be . . Then one day . . . I picked up my cousin's new baby and realized how at any moment this pathetic, innocent creature might die in a car crash or get leukemia, and in that moment of revelation, my Road to Damascus, I went the whole way to atheism."


" . . . Randy's illness was part of God's loving plan for us . . . the darkest tragedy becomes a gift, doesn't it . . . ?"

"It's wonderful you've conquered your grief . . . but I can't help suggesting that a God who communicates with us through leukemia is at best deranged.

"In my view, it's time we stopped having lower standards for God than we do for the postal service. Suppose the doctor had cured your son. Then that would have proved [God's] infinite goodness too, wouldn't it? Follow my reasoning? Heads, God wins. Tails, God wins."

American novelist James Morrow, b 1947


Not to mention the many flaws of
medical intervention: help or hindrance?

"Modern medicine is helping people live longer with complex conditions - often involving round - the - clock care, complicated equipment and high - frequency medication management. . . . Many of us will have our last days extended by hospitals, devices, and drugs, but ALL of us will still die."

Very unclear whether or not these devices and drugs and even surgeries -- so glibly offered, administered, and performed by health care professionals -- add any quality of life at all or merely prolong highly compromised health and inevitable death. Extremely stressful and unhelpful for both the dying patient and the survivors.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Unplayed Piano

Where's Reggie When You Need Him?"
If All the Unplayed Pianos
If all the unplayed pianos in America—
The antimacassared uprights in old ladies’ parlors
In the storehourses the ones that were rented for vaudeville
The ones where ill fame worsened and finally died
The ones too old for Sunday School helplessly dusty
The ones too damp at the beach and too dry in the mountains
The ones mothers used to play on winter evenings
The ones silenced because of the children growing away—
Resounded suddenly all together from coast to coast:
Untuned joy like a fountain jetted everywhere for a moment:
The whole nation burst to untapped, untrammeled song:
It would make—in short—a most satisfactory occasion,
A phenomenon which the scientists could never explain.

Winfield Townley Scott (1910 - 68)


I had not really grasped what a privilege it was to live a life where art and music are part of the daily soundtrack until I participated in a college production of In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon. Written years before the "WWJD" bracelet, this is the novel in which the "tramp" inspires the citizens of Raymond to ask themselves "What would Jesus do?"

When the homeless man walked onto the stage and implored the audience to realize that many people grow up and "never have a piano or a picture in the house," I had to stop and think. We had not only a nice piano upstairs for practicing our lessons, but another one downstairs as well where we could bang out "Heart and Soul" to our heart's content and stage homemade musicals or re-enactments of our favorites; and both sets of grandparents had pianos that we were allowed to play almost any time we wanted.

After hearing the tramp's plea, I realized that music and painting and cultural literacy did not appear out of nowhere and were not as readily available for everyone as they had always been for me. Like writers Laurie Colwin and Joan Didion, Sheldon reminds us that these civilizing elements ought not to be taken for granted, considering the value they add to our existence.

Even an unplayed piano is better than no piano at all.


Ben the Anarchist ~ Chicago, Summer 2011
Wandering into public buildings and playing
any unplayed piano until discovered by a security guard.
Ben writes, upon this particular occasion:
"We got to play for 20 minutes before they kicked us off (found us)!"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Intertwining Thread of Civility

Visit to the Magical Garden, 1675 - 76
by Muhammad Zaman [More]

How beautifully Persian court historian Abu'l Fazl (1551 - 1602) refers to his craft as a writer:

" . . . stringing the royal pearls
on the intertwining thread of description . . . "
~ Abu'l Fazl ~

from Pearls on a String Exhibition
as seen at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

His metaphor reminded me of the thoughtful imperative that Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) gives for journal - keeping:

"How are the civilities and compliments
of every day to be related as they ought to be,
unless noted down every evening in a journal?
~ Jane Austen ~

“Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she might venture to laugh. “I see what you think of me,” said he gravely — “I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow.”

“My journal!”

“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings — plain black shoes — appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half–witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.”

“Indeed I shall say no such thing.”

“Shall I tell you what you ought to say?”

“If you please.”

“I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him — seems a most extraordinary genius — hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say.”

“But, perhaps, I keep no journal.”

“Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting by you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenour of your life in Bath without one? How are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal? How are your various dresses to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion, and curl of your hair to be described in all their diversities, without having constant recourse to a journal? My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies’ ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journaling which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.

Northanger Abbey (1798 - 99), emphasis added

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lina Kostenko

Poet Hero: Lina Kostenko
by Yaroslava from Kiev

Last month, on the birthday of Ukrainian poet Lina Kostenko, my friend Nataliya shared several beautiful lyric poems and translations. Nataliya explains: "Of course, the translation deviates from the original and loses in rhythm, expressive brevity, and some imagery. Nevertheless, I am going to share it here for my English speaking friends."

Restrain me, please, control yourself,
and help me do the same.

Such love can only happen once - in nevertime and nowhere.
It sweeps like raging storms - above the ruined days
And skylines follow it around from here to there.
Such love breaks peace and calm - up to the final string
It burns the daring words with fevered lips . . .
Bring me back to my senses and restraints
When I’m still reasoning at least
But not for long, I lost a clue
It’s now time for my belated evening glow
I either freeze my heart with you
Or burn in flames with you - blow high, blow low

Let’s put aside all matters that are pressing
Until I’ve seen enough of sun and green,
Have had long talks with all good folks.
It’s not the time that passes, we are passing . . .

Where’s love, there’s only light
Where sun is rising - darkness loses power
My lucid love, please glow till my last hour
Don’t let the winter ever in my heart

Three poems by Lina Kostenko, b. 19 March 1930
Translations by Nataliya Semchynska


Marusia Churai
See Comment Below. . .

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fools Who Have Wit

"There are no fools so troublesome as those who have wit."
~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680) ~

. . . and certainly LOST some things!

I know this card has appeared on my blog before, but guess what? I've forgotten where! Appropriately enough for April Fools Day, I have spent the entire day fooling myself, hour after hour searching, searching searching (unsuccessfully . . . grrrr) for an Anna Quindlen article, a John Masefield poem, a batch of family vacation photographs, some long forgotten Easter poems (something about a steeple against an April sky "and I grew small again"; and another one about hearing church bells and the voice of God). Will I ever remember where I have filed them?

And one more thing -- a great quotation about what a strange world this would be if there were no coincidences! Something to the effect that a day without coincidences is way more rare than a day with coincidences. Now, where did I read that or see it? And why can't I relocate it? I need that quote!

from CreakyJoints
Somehow this one reminds me of several
Bibliography & Research classes that I took in Graduate School.


P.S. Found it! "Another Monday"

And I found the Easter quotations!