Friday, April 28, 2017

Big Tree in the Middle of the Yard

Thanks to our friend Thomas Sheridan Walsh
for spotting Gerry's profile pic,
turning us into an album cover,
and upgrading us to "Raging"!

Our son Ben (age 11 at the time) took the original photo of us
back in 2001 with our extremely ordinary camera,
no special tricks, he just got everything right!
Haverford College Duck Pond ~ Pennsylvania

And we really do have a
big tree in the middle of our yard!

Speaking of which:

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make Man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night -
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

[emphasis added]

Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637)
(With additional credit to literary botanist Burnetta Hinterthuer)

Good Bones

Previous Arbor Day Posts

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Magical Typing

A few days ago, one of my brothers posted an article whose title asks, "Should you feel sad about the demise of the handwritten letter?" In response, Dave comments:
Dave: I have lamented this trend for many years now. Its especially tough because I used to be both prolific and skilled in this lost art.

Bruce: I set out on a mission a couple of years ago to write at least one handwritten letter a week. I think I made it about two months. Maybe it's time to try again.

Kit: I'll take a birthday card!
It's true -- a simple card with handwritten signature would be great! One or two lines are just as welcome to me as one or two pages. In fact, I gladly receive, read, and respond to letters of any length -- hand - written, type - written, or conveyed electronically. Of course we value calligraphy, chirography, and longhand; however, technology not only facilitates communication but has its own artistry and even magic.

As a coincidental complement to this discussion, just a day after my brother's facebook post, I started a new book and encountered this tribute to typing. I like the connection he makes between typewriter and piano:
" . . . teaching me slowly and patiently how each letter represented a sound . . . On [my father's] typewriter I learned the whole alphabet, the numbers and all the punctuation marks, which may explain why a keyboard -- much more than a pencil or pen -- is for me the truest representation of the act of writing. That way of going along pressing sounds as on a piano, to convert ideas into letters and words, seemed to me from the start -- and still seems to me -- one of the most extraordinary acts of magic in the world."

from Oblivion: A Memoir, p 13
by Hector Abad (see also "Judging Time Aright")

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cordelia's Portion

Cordelia's Portion
by Ford Madox Brown (1821 - 1893)
"Wait until someone finally tells Trump
that he cannot divide the country into three parts
to be ruled by his children after he leaves office."
~ Leonard Orr

Something to think about on Shakespeare's 453rd birthday:
Ivanka Trump as Goneril / Regan
(the malevolent sisters, staring each other down, above left)
not as fair Cordelia (standing to the right, in the green dress)

"When it comes to President Trump, one must either begin from the proposition that he is a mentally ill huckster, unfit to serve . . . The argument amounts to the proposition that having elected a nutball, anyone who performs a braking function on the nutball is by definition a national hero. . . . the whole argument rests on the idea that Trump is more or less mentally and cognitively unfit to serve in office, but oh well, let’s let him do it anyway. It goes on to assert that only the Kushners can help make the best of this bad situation. This goes beyond ordinary lipstick on a pig. This analysis quite literally turns on the proposition that but for their intercession a madman would make even more insane decisions. . . . This is how one manages severely troubled people. It is not how one governs a nation. The underlying working assumption, once again, is that the president is so profoundly dangerous that these small Jared–Ivanka efforts are sufficient to be laudatory. It would be best to drug the commander in chief, but barring that possibility, let’s give him a King Lear–style daughter to ping off. . . . Ivanka isn’t Cordelia, she is Regan or maybe Goneril. And not only are she and her husband complicit in Trump’s actions, they also work for him. They are aiding and abetting."

from the article "Jared and Ivanka Are Not Good People."
by Dahlia Lithwick
My thoughts: With Ivanka on the scene as caretaker and enabler to monitor and offset her father's dementia, repeatedly accompanying him to meetings where she has no business being, shouldn't she be dressed as nurse's aide or hospital orderly, rather than fashion icon (is she even really a handbag designer)? If Trump can't function in anything resembling a normal way without a handler, then all the more reason he should not be president. This is so wrong. Ivanka has no place in our government; even less so than her stupid father. And neither does her husband. And if Kushner is so keen to "run the government like a great American company," why doesn't he run for office instead of flapping in on someone else's tuxedo tales? Deplorable.
Related Political Articles

"Ivanka Trump's White House Gig Is an Insult to Working Women"
And she's writing a book called "Women Who Work" -- as if! Please! I am beyond impatient with some of my friends & relatives telling me that it is "okay" to wear an Ivanka blouse or stay at a Trump resort. It is NOT okay!

"Ivanka Trump’s Terrible Book Helps Explain the Trump-Family Ethos"
In addition to NEPOTISM, "This is the definition of CORRUPTION, but as laundered through Ivanka—who’s been tweeting about banana bread and posting photos of her children—it won’t look so bad."
"Jared Kushner Calls Kim Jong - Un 'Totally Unqualified Person'
Who Got Job Only Through Nepotism
A challenge to write satire these days
when it could just as well be true!

"The tale of the dictator’s daughter and her prince"
"Ivanka Trump did not choose to be Donald Trump’s daughter, but she chose to participate in this administration, as did her husband. They are accountable. They are complicit. And they should be out."
Related Literary Posts
Wise Fool ~ King Lear ~ Lady Lever

A Little Fun on Shakespeare's Birthday
To Be Or Not To Be ~ Prince Charles

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
23 April 2016

A Rose Can Only Smell So Sweet
Crispin Crispian

Wise Fool
Scary Hair
Those Who Know
Sighs A Plenty
Commonplace Book
I Changed My Mind

And Later
This Little World, This England
Golden Anniversary
Willow Willow Willow
Gaudy Night
Earth ~ Bard ~ Sun

Who's Afraid? Fear Not!
Advancing & Receding
Lammas ~ Lughnasa
The Painting's The Thing Wherein

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Oh, to be in England
Now that Earth Day's Here

I am slowly but surely closing in on my goal to visit England in every month of the year. Back in 2013, I checked off May and October; in 2015, November; and most recently April, when we were there just in time to see the Easter flowers (above and below) blooming in Ron and Rosanne's front garden (here's the back yard).

That just leaves June and September . . .

Home Thoughts, from Abroad

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

I love the story -- as described in Victoria Magazine --
behind the tea set and travel case
donated to Baylor University
by American art critic Jean Sherwood:

"While traveling through Italy by train in 1889, she made tea from the set for an elderly stranger. When the man asked her who was considered the greatest American woman poet, she replied, 'I don't know, but we consider Elizabeth Barrett Browning the greatest woman poet.' Quietly the man went to the window, leaving Sherwood to wonder what had upset him. After regaining his composure he turned and said, 'She was my wife.'"

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach . . .
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints
. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life . . ."

Previous Earth Day Posts

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Childlike Spring

The Easter Bunny?

Spring has come again.
The Earth is like
a child who knows
poems by heart.

~ Rilke ~
from Sonnets to Orpheus
~ translated by Edward Snow ~

I love this whimsical snail planter (found in the British garden of my parents - in - law) and the above bunny rabbit statuette (belonging to my British sister - in - law). Both figurines, as well as their attendant flowers, exemplify the child - like nature of Spring that Rilke captures in his simile of Earth as a poetic youngster. The following, also by Rilke, is a more serious poem for the Easter season; but keep in mind that, despite the maturity of its intropection, "this is how children cherish You":

Prayer #12

I believe in everything that has not been said,
I want to free my most pious feelings;
what no one has ever dared to want
will suddenly become my nature.

If this is impudent, my God, forgive me.
But with this I want to tell You
that my noblest power should be an instinct,
and thus without anger and without hesitation --
this is how children cherish You.

With this flood, with this flow
into the broad arms of the open sea,
with this expansive return,
I want to bear witness to You; I want to proclaim You
like none before.

And if this is pride, the let me be proud
in my prayer,
which stands so earnest and alone
before Your shadowed brow.

from Prayers of a Young Poet
written by by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
translated by Mark S. Burrows

Many thanks to my dear friend and spiritual advisor
Nancy C. Tiederman
for sending me this latest translation of Rilke's Prayers

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pine Forest Update 2017

One of our goals this time ~
finding the path that joins the forest to the beach.

Gerry & Ben ~ Checking the Coordinates

It has been four years since our last photo session at the Pine Forest, our longest gap for some time. With a little help from "notes to self," we made our way to the usual spot, but something seemed different this year -- aside from the obvious fact that we were missing Sam (Gerry has promised to photoshop him in ASAP). It turns out that the forest is an ever- changing ecosystem, and there was our landmark tree, chopped down and lying at our feet.


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

Easter 2017

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Downfall or Saving Grace?

My memory is my downfall
I said love of this kind is soon forgotten, but I take that back. My memory is my downfall. It is a sealed well that doesn't lose a drop, to use an old expression. Nothing can deplete it. My memory is a powerful machine that stores and constantly discharges lost years and faces. In the past I believed that travel would blunt my memory; I was wrong. Over the years, I must admit, it has only grown stronger. Were it not for my memory, my life would be different--better. I assume. My memory fills me up until I choke on a stream of daydreams. They overflow into my sleep. My memory is rooted in every one of my limbs: any injury strengthens the flow. But in recent years I have learned to overcome this. A glass of cognac, for instance, separates me from my memory for a while. I feel relief as if after a terrible toothache.

by Aharon Appelfeld
from The Iron Tracks, Chapter One
Translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M.Green
[See also "That Lost Time & Place"]

Nothing is Lost
Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.

by Noel Coward
[See also "Ladies in Our Land"]

Sunday, April 9, 2017

An April Fool for Our Time

Owl Coasters
by Charley Harper (1922 - 2007)
Legendary American wildlife artist


"The Owl Who Was God"
by James Thurber (1894 - 1961)
Legendary American humorist and cartoonist
Once upon a starless midnight there was an owl who sat on the branch of an oak tree. Two ground moles tried to slip quietly by, unnoticed. "You!" said the owl. "Who?" they quavered, in fear and astonishment, for they could not believe it was possible for anyone to see them in that thick darkness. "You two!" said the owl. The moles hurried away and told the other creatures of the field and forest that the owl was the greatest and wisest of all animals because he could see in the dark and because he could answer any question. "I’ll see about that, "said a secretary bird, and he called on the owl one night when it was again very dark. "How many claws am I holding up?" said the secretary bird. "Two," said the owl, and that was right. "Can you give me another expression for ‘that is to say’ or ‘namely’?" asked the secretary bird. "To wit," said the owl. "Why does the lover call on his love?" "To woo," said the owl.

The secretary bird hastened back to the other creatures and reported that the owl indeed was the greatest and wisest animal in the world because he could see in the dark and because he could answer any question. "Can he see in the daytime, too?" asked a red fox? "Yes," answered a dormouse and a French poodle. "Can he see in the daytime, too?" All the other creatures laughed loudly at this silly question, and they set upon the red fox and his friends and drove them out of the region. They sent a messenger to the owl and asked him to be their leader.

When the owl appeared among the animals it was high noon and the sun was shining brightly. He walked very slowly, which gave him an appearance of great dignity, and he peered about him with large, staring eyes, which gave him an air of tremendous importance. "He’s God!" screamed a Plymouth rock hen. And the others took up the cry "He’s God!" So they followed him wherever he went and when he bumped into things they began to bump into things, too. Finally he came to a concrete highway and he started up the middle of it and all the other creatures followed him. Presently a hawk, who was acting as outrider, observed a truck coming toward them at fifty miles an hour, and he reported to the secretary bird and the secretary bird reported to the owl. "There’s danger ahead," said the secretary bird. "To wit?" said the owl. The secretary bird told him. "Aren’t you afraid?" he asked. "Who?" said the owl calmly, for he could not see the truck. "He’s God!" cried all the creatures again, and they were still crying "He’s God" when the truck hit them and ran them down. Some of the animals were merely injured, but most of them, including the owl, were killed.
You can fool too many of the people
too much of the time.

from Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated


Charley Harper Sketchbook

Previous Charley Harper Posts:
Delicious Autumn
Shadowy, Feathery
The Shadowy Feather of an Owl

Yet Another Favorite Owl
Childhood Art by Addison Jordan ~ 2004

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Not yet a breach, but an expansion"

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
~ John Donne ~

A clear umblicus
goes out invisibly between,
thread we spin fluid and finer than hair
but strong enough to hang a bridge on.
~ Marge Piercy ~

A couple of excellent poems reminiscent
of Franz Kafka and Czeslaw Milosz:

Being together is knowing
even if what we know
is that we cannot really be together
caught in the teeth of the machinery
of the wrong moments of our lives.

A clear umblicus
goes out invisibly between,
thread we spin fluid and finer than hair
but strong enough to hang a bridge on.

That bridge will be there
a blacklight rainbow arching
out of your skull
whenever you need
whenever you can open your
eyes and want
to walk upon it.

Nobody can live on a bridge
or plant potatoes
but it is fine for comings and goings,
meetings, partings and long views
and a real connection to someplace else
where you may
in the crazy weathers of struggle
now and again want to be.

~ Marge Piercy

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.*

~ John Donne

This might look like sunset -- or a forest fire! --
but was actually sunrise, 21 March 2017

Also thinking of recent crime series The Bridge
and haunting theme song "Hollow Talk"

And then you cut
You cut it out
*And everything
Goes back to the beginning . . .

Songwriters: Anders Rhedin, David Hughes,
Fridolin Nordsoe, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis
Sung by Choir of Young Believers

And featured in Nobody's Darling
"Troubled Man" from Quiet Lights [lyrics below]

Theme from Home Fires
"Siren" by Samuel Sim

Monday, April 3, 2017

Philly Clothespin

Clothespin (1976) ~ by Claes Oldenburg (b 1929)
Photoby Spike Brennan

When we first moved to Philadelphia, a neighbor was helping us plan our exploration of the city, including the instruction to "turn at the clothespin." We drove downtown thinking that this was the name of a traffic pattern, something along the lines of the old "cloverleaf" interstate ramps. We were looking all around for some kind of complicated driving maneuver that might somehow resemble a clothespin, when we finally realized that it was up above us -- a real, gigantic clothespin!

I was amused to read Roadside America's more recent concern that "Newer generations don't even recognize a clothespin, and might mistake it for some kind of utility tower or abstract sculpture of a former mayor." On her blog Obsolescing, my friend Ann de Forest and her children make a similar observation concerning the typewriter eraser, also captured gigantically by Claes Oldenburg. Ann concludes:
"What we do have is Oldenburg’s sculpture. Though when the typewriter eraser (and many of the other ordinary, utilitarian objects monumentalized by this Pop wag and sage) disappears, the monument’s meaning will change — from overblown mundane to inscrutable mystery."
Photo by R. Tarver

When reading Lolita last month, I couldn't help thinking of Philadelphia and the World's Largest Clothespin, when Humbert Humbert asks for directions and is immediately confused by a variety of "geometrical gestures" and "strictly local clues":
" . . . the passers - by I applied to for directions were either strangers themselves or asked with a frown 'Enchanted what?' as if I were a madman; or else they went such complicated explanations, with geometrical gestures, geographical generalities and strictly local clues ( . . . then bear south after you hit the courthouse . . . ) that I could not help losing my way in the maze of their well - meaning gibberish" (116).

This Meme from Sizzle made me think of the time my brother - in - law Tom pointed out to my sister Di and me (backseat drivers) that "left" and "right" were not directions. What? He wanted us to specify north, south, east, west. Easier said than done! How about, "Just turn that way at the clothespin?!"