Saturday, December 09, 2017

He has been to Alaska! And back!

I have been thinking about the American Widgeons, like this one, that spend every winter here at our creek outside Boise, Idaho. In spring and summer they go north to breed. Today was the first day they were back! This photo from last year,shows the characteristic "bald pate" or the male's white forehead. In earlier America they were hunted for food and sometimes referred to as "Bald Pates!"  
Now, they come for cracked corn when I open the door!

This week's mail brought me Holiday greetings from my best friend in High School, whose first name is the same as mine: June.
Once again, she has won the Holiday Sweepstakes Award of Honor (no cash prize) for the first holiday greeting to hit my mailbox. I should mention that she also reads this blog. She has noticed that I haven't been posting. I have hardly posted at all this year and I admit that I have missed it. I can easily double the number of posts for 2017 (the two of us graduated in 1953!) before the end of the year and that is my new goal. This one will be Number 5 in 2017! It is funny how easily I was able to fall away. There have been some changes in my life, which I will be mentioning as we go along.

Both my husband any my nephew commented on June's neat, regular, and even handwriting that addressed the envelope. Her script is small, very neat and even and rounded. Although my handwriting has changed since then, hers seems to me to be very like it was when we were making those notebooks for the best Science Teacher ever, Mr. Eugene Van Vranken!

I have been enjoying Dave Bonta's Morning Porch posts on Facebook. I would like to try something similar here. Stay tuned; if I go away, I usually come back. Blogging here since 2006...

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Watching Pat Conroy

Ducks don't need to watch TV. 
Most of the time, I don't either.
This is from a recent winter near the Little Union Canal.

     We had our roof re-shingled a couple of weeks ago. When they took off the Direct TV antenna, we decided to cancel the service, which is expensive and unthrilling. While we are exploring our options I bought an antenna from Amazon for $28. We plugged it in to the TV and can now get a lot of stations. We haven't found Jeopardy yet. but we can watch sort of randomly odd things and some PBS stations. My husband fell asleep in his chair to the soothing voice of Bob Ross yesterday on a channel called CREATE, which has some nice things from the past on it, including old Sara Moulton cooking shows that we used to enjoy. Once we have learned how to use this, we might not get another paid $ervice.

     Noodling around yesterday we found something fantastic to watch. About the time Pat Conroy's book The Death of Santini., was published, he was being interviewed (in front of an appreciative audience) by another Irish-American, Maureen Corrigan of the New York Times.This was aired as part of the PBS series Great Conversations. I am writing this post to insist that you watch it if you have any interest in writing, Irish and Southern characteristics or any of the the books by Pat Conroy or the movies that have been made from them. Or even just if none of these apply to you...

Here's the link:

Pat Conroy has been very special to me ever since I read his early book The Water is Wide about his year teaching children on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Descended from slaves, these children were part of a society that had virtually no contact with the mainland or educated society. Because of his efforts to help them, he was fired after the first year and the school board participated in a conspiracy to get him drafted for service in Vietnam. I bought a copy for the Gilroy Library that I supervised in 1972, and devoured it as soon as it came in.

I had worked during Library School at the Arlington Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, I was an assistant to the children's librarian, Joyce Johnson. Our clientele there was also largely descended from slaves, but not in isolation from the rest of us. This was at the very beginning of publishing works on African American history, especially for children. To meet the demand, we bought the few items in multiple copies. We also pasted photos and articles from Ebony and other publications onto sheets of  gray cardboard, which were labeled, kept in steel filing cabinets and available for check-out in large envelopes. As a result of knowing these children (who often asked to touch MY hair, which was long and straight) I developed a lifelong interest in them and followed and supported attempts tp better the conditions in which they lived. Thus my interest in reading The Water is Wide as soon as it was published. (They made a movie of it called Conrack.)

After watching the interview, I got The Death of Santini on Kindle and read about a third of it last night. I am loving it! But it is really the interview (link above!) that I want you to watch. The level of honest communication is thrilling! Do it. Maybe tonight!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tanka: a poetic form

Blue Iris by the Little Union Canal.     jhhymas

I am just now reading a Christmas gift of the book of tanka by Mariko Kitakubo. The title is INDIGO, published by Shabda Press in Pasadena, California. No date.

This is a wonderful book, full of intelligent and deep musings in this short five-line form. It also includes the Japanese in both characters and romaji, as well as images by the author and an introduction by Donald Keene.

It is hard to pick just one, but here is one of my favorites.

who is
counting fireflies 
by the Nile?

after the dream
of civilization?

Mariko Kitakubo
page 46.

I am hoping to resume blogging now.  jhhymas

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Releasing the Vine Sphinx Moth

I've been neglecting this blog and I quite miss this way of talking to people,

 Just back now from a later-than-usual dog walk, I find a little time to start again,  

A week ago, the moth above turned up indoors perched
where the wall turns the corner into the hall. 
I took some photos, but left it alone there; next morning, it was gone. 
Two days later I found it, still inside, near the window, where it soon began 
to desperately attempt flying through the glass. 
I knew I would damage it by trying to grab it. 
So I found a small clear plastic glass (like the ones provided by a motel) 
and an index card. When the creature paused briefly, 
I placed the glass carefully over it against the pane. 
Then I slid the card beneath him over the mouth of the cup. 
I had already opened the back door 
and I went out at once and released him over the lawn. 
He flew strongly and without hesitation up and away toward the creek. 
As he flew, he dropped a bit of himself, which I think 
must have been the crooked thing at the top left of the photo,
like a malformed antenna or limb. His flight was strong and even without it,
He lifted my whole self toward freedom!

I have been looking at a book of selected poems 
by Henri Cole. The second poem is about 
Monarch butterflies, but I have decided 
instead to give you the first poem, 
a winter poem about gulls.

V-winged and Hoary

All our pink and gold and blue
birds have gone to Panama and Peru,

The willow flycatcher with its sneezy "fitzbew,"
the ruby-throated hummingbird with jewel-

like gorgets and the blue-rumped finch,
its song a warble with a guttural "chink."

Far, far across the ghostly frozen lake,
above the great drifts of snow swaying

like dunes, the frosty Iceland gulls,
pallid as beach fleas, make great loops and catfall

into the wind, They are all that is left.
Throngs of children tiptoe deftly

across the lake to watch the robust birds
plunge headlong into kamikaze dives, lured

by fledgling trout nosed against the shallow ice.
Despite the precarious ice,

the children huddle bundled at the edge:
mittened, scarved, and starry-eyed,

their teeth chattering in the frosty air.
They watch the tireless birds, over and over,

fall from the speckled sky, their downy underwings
and pink, taloned leggings

foam soaked as they grapple with their catch.
The children are in love with the miraculous

oval-lipped trout swimming upward for air.
Snowflakes fall against their

cracked lips as they wait, their mouths agape
in little Os at the spectacle of gulls.

Henri Cole, Pierce the Skin, 
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010, pages 3-4.

This is a clear and beautiful poem in fourteen two-line stanzas,
making it about twice the length of a sonnet. If you were to write 
a poem (your task!) about a natural outdoor event that you had witnessed (I might write about the Sphinx moth!) you would want 
to use specific and lovely descriptive words such as the ones 
in this poem. You could let your writing flow across the lines 
and stanza breaks the way this poet does.

I identified this moth from pictures on the Internet, but it is not a common resident here  and is more common in South and Central America. I might make that part of the poem.  jhh

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Feeding Cracked Corn

More snow overnight, of the kind that sticks to the trunks of trees.
My American Wigeons are back and this morning (feed me!)
I had three pairs! Too many mallards to count and 
this years record group of 
American Wood Duck.

I just looked up wigeons and found that 80% 
of their diet is grass leaves. 
But as grass is now covered in snow, they will
eagerly gobble my cracked corn.
The males have a white stripe on the head
that runs back from the bill. You can see part of it
on the two males in this photo,
but it would show more clearly if they were facing you.
As a result of this stripe, they used to be called
Bald Pates, and some hunters still use this term.

Christmas Eve morning
in the fresh snow
ducks wait to be fed


Friday, December 23, 2016

The Fragile Edge of a Leaf

When we were building the place at the edge of the wood
near the Tip of the Mitt in Michigan, 
I was the person who did
most of the interfacing with the architect/contractor,
Dick Kappler. This picture, 
which I took of a blown leaf there, 
reminds me of him in two ways. 
When he was building the porches
(which are a very special part of living there--
the bridge to the woods.)
he made a big point of using cedar wood. 
He also pointed out to me that he used screws,
rather than nails, because of their superior holding power
over time. When I took this photo, 
it was the blown leaf--the hole, the tattered edge--
I noticed. Only later, did I think of the experience
of building that house.     jhh

Harvesting the Attic

3.     Made things

Here's the hula dancer I made.
Here's Santa Claus.
Here's May-baskets. Here's
new crepe paper, and a spool
thing that one runs it through to make
the rushes of the hula skirt.

Here are parts of linen pin-wheels
Grandma made, sitting
in the bay window in the sun,
the sun on her shoulder,
and the heating pad, to help
the sun, and the small hooded hook
darting from the fat pads of strictured
huge-jointed finger and thumb.
The hook flashes, winks sunbursts,
filigrees venomous pain.

Jean Pedrick                (1922-2006)

Wolf Moon; a book of hours by Jean Pedrick
Alice James Books, 1974, page 50.

Jean Pedrick is another gift from my poet/librarian friend, Pat Shelley (1911-1997) who I have mentioned frequently in this blog-- and whom I have thought of even more often. Another friend and I acquired Pat's poetry books, and a brown envelope with three Pedrick chapbooks was part of my share. It was only last year that I read these small books and was stunned by their power. 

Then I got others, including this one, through the used book market.
Jean Pedrick was a founding member of Alice James books, an important group that was formed to publish books by women. I knew about this group, but hadn't know her work. I'll be putting other poems by her into this Memory Thread.

This poem is a section of a longer one about the attic, including the mouse life that was part of that space. I chose this section partly because of the Santa Claus, and partly for the grandmother. My brother Robert talked to me about our father's mother--he got to know her on a long visit after I had left home--and the small braided rugs she made.

And all of this is an example of why I call this blog The Memory Thread. It was that same brother who wrote me--as he was dying from cancer--that the memories he was writing came to him easily--he got hold of a little piece of "string" and kept pulling and the memories came easily.  jhh

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas comes on a sleigh

Snow on the bank where the Great Blue Heron stood in summer, searching, 
like Ungerer's Three Robbers, for victims.
It is cold again this year, as it was during this earlier winter,
on the backs of the Little Union Canal..
Yesterday there were many more ducks in the water than this;
how do they stay warm???  jhh


In my country, there is no one 
who had never been photographed.
Being shot in the face is a way of life.
Frying is not so bad as losing
a photograph of the fried one.
If you spot an egg dying on the sidewalk
you are free to take its picture.
Some prefer to place a friend next to it
but who that might be is up to you.
No two people are alike, although they look
exactly the same. Like snowflakes.
My country is a country of snowflakes,
people just pile up to your wonderment
or disgust (whatever you think is OK).
People take a lot of pictures at Christmas.
People place tiny decorated trees on graves.
Snow country, like the novel by Kawabata.
Everyone wants to live here because we have
invisible fences so if a dog leaves the yard
he's snapped right back in.
You can buy garbage bags with the scent of lemons
or wildflowers. Everyone has a choice.
A man was hired to see if spice scented bags
sold well, if the people liked them, and they
did not, so they took them away.
Don't worry if you are thinking
you'd like something different for your children,
for your own unique little snowflakes,
because we have wonderful schooling in privacy
where a child must stare at a glass of milk
three hours, or until its surroundings grow dark,
whichever comes first.
And children are encouraged to draw, 
always to draw. Christmas comes on a sleigh.
They get their first camera in a pouch.
The wet polaroid slips into their hand,
a memory from the moment of birth.
Another face is born.
My country grows on the deep freeze door
and my country grows in the snowy night.
But no two countries are alike.

Mary Ruefle

Post Meridian, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 
Pittsburgh, PA, 2000, pages 56-57.

I find nothing in my life that I can’t find more of in books. 
With the exception of walking on the beach, in the snowy woods, and swimming underwater. That is one of the saddest journal entries I ever made when I was young. --Mary Ruefle

Someone Reading a Book 
Is a Sign of Order in the World: 
Mary Ruefle

Someone writing a poem that just moves along
and moves along, and moves along,
is a sign of the magic of language,
and of the discovery of interesting sound and meaning
in unlikely juxtapositions. 
June Hopper Hymas