Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our first married Christmas, 1955

We got this little tree for one dollar. For a tree stand, we stuck the trunk in a hole in a brick we found on the way home.

My mother had put the tinsel and ornaments into my trunk when I went to join my husband after his basic training. (He was drafted right after we were married.) I think the giraffe was also from Mom, a gift for the baby we were expecting. That baby slept with her arm around the neck of this giraffe for years.

And here, in all it's tinseled glory. Tinsel was very important to my mom. And now I remember investing $1 in a can of spray snow for the tree. Isn't it cute?

I think my mother was worried about me, her oldest and pregnant child, and about the poverty of a drafted Private. I think the giraffe was also from Mom, a gift for the baby we were expecting. That baby slept with her arm around the neck of this giraffe for years. Mom put the wrapped gifts below in my trunk also. Remember trunks? Remember railroad travel? We went down to the railroad station in Schenectady; it wasn't very crowded. I got on the train and S met me at the other end. What I cannot remember is why we had a chicken wire cage in our rented living room here. Probably a safety protection for a small heater.

The small chenille gift-ornament Santa was on our Christmas tree for 50 years.

For this Christmas dinner, I roasted a chicken. It looked beautiful! But we couldn't even cut it, or eat it. We ate the rest of the food. though. We had bought a stewing hen intended for the soup pot! A really tough old bird.

All these pictures were scanned by Scancafe.com (I recommend them!) from slides taken with the Zeiss Contessa, an small and beautifully designed rangefinder camera that my folks brought back from Europe in 1953. It still works, but you cannot get Kodachrome any more. Rolls used to be available in every drug store! Surely you remember.

Tonight is New Year's Eve and we are back in California! Our Internet got turned on today! And our furnace will be fixed on Thursday. I am working with a heated throw over my knees (the dogs like it, too!) and Scott has a space heater blowing on his legs. Unpacking continues, but is not quite finished.
I have been shocked at the stacks of things I've been saving, papers, books, art supplies, and am resolved to do some serious discarding. We have lived here for 50 years and the house is pretty well filled to the brim. . .


Projects for next year are under consideration, but I have liked this too much to quit altogether. I am committed to Donnalynn's challenge for the first fifteen days of the year: Make a piece of art (no matter how small) every day for fifteen days. Then some of us will get together to share the results.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Failure to plan ahead

When we got home the furnace wasn't working. Lovely repairman came fast and after thorough testing determined that the motherboard, or whatever you call the expensive part that directs all those automatic functions (like turning on and turning off) needs replacing. And of course it is a part they don't stock (hopefully the supplier does and they don't have to get it from China) and it will take at least two days (holiday coming right up!) and then we will be fine. Maybe.
So we went out and got a space heater from Home Depot which now is aimed at us and blowing on our lower legs. Pretty great! 

Picture above was taken earlier today when I was warming myself in the sun. This is my beloved back yard that I had been away from for a whole year. The littlest dachshund is visible at right. I just took it because I was happy to be back home; I never intended to use it tonight. If  I had uploaded some in advance, I could have avoided this rupture and closed out the year with some self-satisfaction. But next year's a- coming!

You can see a cluster of potted succulents at the bottom of the pillar. They came through the recent unusually hard frosts pretty well. I've lost about half the bulk of my epiphyllums, but only a few seem completely dead. 

Behind the pillar in the corner of the lot is Lemon Tree No. 3. In the almost 50 years we've been here, we've lost two to hard frosts. This time, it seems like there are still good parts on the tree, but quite a lot of damage. 

I have been surprised at how unpleasant an indoor temperature of 48-52 degrees can be. No ice on your water glass, no life-threatening chill. Just discomfort.  That's why I spent a good part of the day in the 63 degree bright sun outdoors. And took this. 

Still no Internet. Should be tomorrow. 
And "What are you doing New Year's , New Year's Eve?"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Freeway as night falls

We just got home to the Land of No Internet in San Jose--so this has to be a phone post. Here's a glimpse of traffic over Hwy 680 moving south. I think the white rectangle is the reflection of the phone. It was a long drive and one dog kept complaining from her kennel in the back seat. 
Now we are trying to turn on the furnace without success. Alas, at least we have a furnace and a nice warm bed. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hopper Children with Christmas Extravaganza


This is the same late 1950's Christmas as last night. Our beloved younger brother, Robert who died in 1997 after a valiant.struggle with cancer is at the right in the red shirt. It is wonderful to see his slender arms again! Marjory with her doll you saw last night. And that is David at the left with movie camera. We have recently had some movies digitized but have yet to view and edit them. There should be movies of this event there. But I wonder about David's cinema photography skills. . .

I am pretty tired tonight from another splendid day with grandchildren. I read three of them to sleep with my favorite, The Tomten. It took three readings, one for each child. I read it again for insurance. I love the sound of it, and wish there were more stories with a language flow like this. Thankfully the paperback of this picture book has come back into print!

Christmas Doll 1956

This is my baby sister again with her Christmas doll. I think the year might be 1955 or 1956. I am posting from my Christmas present, an iPad mini. Last nights post from my phone didn't go, but hey, it was Christmas. There are so many good slides from this particular Christmas that there will be more tomorrow. 
What are you planning to do next year? Let's think of something useful and encouraging!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas Eve

This is where I am right now in the land of slow Internet with a borrowed computer. It is Christmas Eve, and four of my grandchildren have just gone to bed, but not before I took this picture of the five-year-old. And the Christmas Tree. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Marjory with Christmas Stockings

This is my baby sister, Marjory Ann (named after my father's mother) with the Christmas mantel at the house and Lee road in Shaker Heights where we lived after my father was transferred to General Electric in Cleveland. See how we brought our ruffled curtains from house to house with us?? This is in the living room with the fireplace that we almost never used, but it made a perfect place for the tree and to open our Christmas presents.
Right now I am sitting on the sofa with three granddaughters and we are watching the old Christmas Carol from 1938 and so I will say goodnight until tomorrow. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I place an ornament on the Christmas tree.

I think this was at the house in Scotia, although I cannot be sure because we took our curtains and our lamp with us to The Farm. When I do an important task involving concentration, I find that the tongue helps. Susan is barely visible behind the tree. Instead of tinsel, we are now using a twisted metal strip.
The white thing across the lower left corner is the flash (letting one now that this is the Brownie Refles Synchro model, with a flash. When I was helping my mother arrange a huge box of family photos, I scissored off the nonessential edges of the photo tp get rid of as much of this blot as I could. Now I wish I had left them alone with their cute deckle edges.
And, looking for something else, I find I have used this photo on this blog before, in 2009. Maybe you already forgot that, as I had. Anyway, May your holidays be nerry and bright! We pent the day driving from Boise to Winnemucca, through some of the most beautiful western country. The roads were dry, but the recent snow had blown off th ridges of the mountains, making them a beautiful study in contrasts. It was another place to pass through, without much chance to get good photos. And I am about as tired as I have been for a long time and would nit be here except that in less than two weeks, I will have met my challenge about posting everyday for a year. I had several other self-challenges that petered out during the first week in January, so i am happy to have done this, and learned the things that I learned doing it. Sleep well; I shall.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Skating on the frozen Lake at Collins Park in Scotia

Well, it looks like Robert isn't really skating; Dad is holding him. The others, wearing ice skates, are (left to right) John, David and Richard. David says this is at Collins Park, and I think that is right. Collins Park was also the home of the Scotia Public Library, where I frequently went. After I had finished all the Nancy Drew books and pretty much everything in the kid section, I tried to check out Drums Along the Mohawk, a historical novel that dealt with nearby history. Scotia is on the Mohawk River, a short distance upstream from the juncture with the Hudson. The librarian wouldn't let me have it. My mother soon visited the library and had a note put on file that I could check out anything I wanted. This was my first experience of library policies toward children, and one of the things (besides my GREAT love of reading) that steered me toward my work as a librarian.

This is a picture of ALL my brothers with our father. You can see how close in age they are. It really looks cold, too. The snow isn't melting.  But I do remember being outside in the snow a lot. My parents both grew up in Arizona, so their childhoods hadn't included snow play. See the snowpants the boys are wearing? One pulled them on over one's other pants; it was hard to do without adult help. Since I was, at this time, a sub-adult, I did a lot of this winterwear clothing and unclothing for the boys. In the back entrance of the house on First Street, was a sort of small room where we hung wet wooly stuff to dry. It was before the time of synthetics, so most of this stuff was heavy wool, which had a tendency to get soggy. After a good day of play there was stuff hanging everywhere. If you were lucky, the wool socks, mittens, hats, pants and scarves were dry enough to use when you next needed them. I remember drying mittens, especially, on the radiators inside the house. The galoshes had a sort of felted lining that often stayed wet for days, and chafed a red ring around your calves in the coldest weather. Cold weather clothing has been much improved since the 1940s. The most useful items were the socks (especially for skating) and mittens that Mom knitted. Mine were bright blue, a pair of each. She did a few hats, too.

Robert was born in 1945, so this looks like it could be the winter of 1947. Although that would make John (the oldest boy here) seven and a half, and he really doesn't look that old. What do you think??

This was an example of a memory thread. Try this: take an old family picture and write down everything it suggests to your memory. Memories will unravel! Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 20, 2013

NEW YEAR FUN! Hopper kids on the roof terrace.

This is probably a New Year's Fest, circa 1955 or 1956. Why the folks have placed a mattress frame on end up there, I have no idea, but I'll bet one of the boys can remember. The deck was a flat-roofed addition to the farmhouse. I seem to remember that it was 18 feet x 30 feet. The metal roof is visible behind the celebrants. I know that roof well, the summer after we moved in I painted the whole thing with a four inch brush. Dad put a ladder flat in one of the segments and I painted adjacent segments by moving down the ladder. I don't know the age of the roof; the original house was built between 1840 and 1860. The floors were wide pine boards fastened down with square-headed nails. I think these nails were hand-forged. I do know that Thomas Jefferson, earlier, had a slave whose job was to make nails. Jefferson sold surplus nails to others for a profit, but despite this Monticello was not a huge financial success, I seem to remember. But that thing about hand-forged nails has stuck with me, for some reason.

Snow Play in the 1950s

Here are David and Robert playing in the snow at The Farm.

Now we have entered the era of our family's use of the Brownie reflex. This six-dollar camera ("millions were sold") is responsible for the mediocrity of our family photos from the mid-forties through mid-fifties ---when my mother's excellent bellows Kodak camera that took a large rectangular negative (which was very sharp) developed a light leak in the bellows and was replaced by this cheap piece of junk. (Look for them on eBay, where many have come to rest.) It was supposed to have infinite focus after 4 feet and be sharp to infinity. A main characteristic of these cameras (must probably give some blame to cheap film and cheap developing, too) was a sort of grayness, without real blacks or bright whites. In tonight's examples I increased the contrast some, but cannot get them any sharper. I am fond, though, of the deckle edges, which I try to include in the scans when I can,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My family in the snow, Scotia,New York

My family! Jack holding John, Olga holding David, myself (June) at right, Richard and Susan in front.
I think this is the winter of 1944, since David is the baby and he was born in August of that year. We are sitting in the snow in front of 310 First Street, two houses down from our house. Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Essmann rented the downstairs flat; their grown daughter, Natalie, often babysat for us. She loved children, and naturally. a family of this size appealed to her. Upstairs from the Essmanns, lived my very-blond friend, Johanna Rohrmeir, with her parents. This is the only picture I have of Johanna. It was taken on the porch of the house in between, when we were renting the downstairs flat there, before we bought the house on the other side. My brother, David, (the baby above) who does a lot of genealogical research, confirmed these names on the 1940 census, which has just been released. There is other interesting information in Census Reports of that era, like the birthplace of the householders and the breadwinner's annual earnings. For instance, my brother found that Johanna's father, who was a machinist for General Electric, made about half the salary that my father, who was an engineer there, did. Mr. Essmann was a bookkeeper for a local business
and made somewhere in between.
My mother and I are wearing headscarves, as we often did. It does keep your ears warmer. I think. Mine was black with a multicolored design on it; I kept it for many years. I began to wear glasses about this time, but I might not have them yet, or I've left them inside because they fog up in cold weather. The feet in front are mostly wearing the dread unisex galoshes, rubber boots that buckled up the front over a gusset to keep out the snow. Awkward, chafed your shins, and the felted lining stayed wet overnight,.

I hope you get to go out in the snow this winter, wherever you are??

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Make a Joyful noise!!

This is from the latter half of the 1940s. The location is our house on First Street in Scotia, New York. I looked up this house on Google Views and it is still there and looking well-maintained.

Robert is riding David and holding one of those animal toys put together with elastic that collapses when you push up the bottom of the base--and then springs up again when you let it go. David seems to have a noisemaker. Looks like they are wearing pajamas. Behind the Christmas tree can be seen our ruffled white sheer curtains, Once in a while, Mom took them down and shook them in a bag with something (salt?) that took the dust out of them. Then they could be hung up again, looking much better. We had other flat lace-patterned curtains that were washed and stretched on a frame with pins around the edge to hold them while they dried.

This is a Brownie Reflex Synchro Model photo--and sharper than most--because of the flash, I think. At the lower left corner can be seen a small part of the white arc made by the flash-connector cable when the light from the flash hit it. These arcs are on most of the flash pictures taken with this camera.

The framed photo in an oval mat in the upper right corner is a baby portrait of my father, which was always on display for as long as I can remember. It is one of my most treasured family images. And here it is!


I think tomorrow is his birthday; he was born in 1905. And he was an excellent father!

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Annual Christmas Eve Party at Kaestle's

A single click will make the picture larger.

Every year for as long as I can remember, we went to a party on Christmas Eve at the Kastle's house. I think Mr. Kaestle worked at General Electric with Dad. And often, someone lined us up there for a family group shot. I think Mr. and Mrs. Kaestle were named Paul and Gene. They had two sons, Paul and Carl. Paul was slightly older than I was, while Carl was younger. Paul remains in my memory because he was known for having said, after he got his first pair of glasses, "There are trees on the other side of the lake!!"

Unlike most of our social events, there was some booze, since the Kaestle's were not Mormon, like we were. But the drinking was quite moderate, and it was always a nice family party, with food and games and different activities for adults and children. We always had a Santa (they owned a costume) who appears in this picture with Richard on his lap. John (featured in last night's post) is in front, Dad is holding baby Robert, Susan wears braids and plaid, and I am in front of Santa, holding onto David. I seem to be sporting another of Mother's terrible home permanents, dark nail polish I never remember wearing, and dark red lipstick. My dress is also taffeta, in dark rich jewel tones and I made it for myself. I'm surprised to see that the boys are in short pants in December in upstate New York. This probably had something to do with dressier clothing.

I think the Kaestle's also lived in Scotia. At any rate, my parents would sneak out of the party and run home to put out our Christmas, so that when we got home, Santa had already been there! and there were some unwrapped toys, and freshly painted sleds for us to see. I did't find out until much later how this happened.

Robert was born on November 2, 1945. So this might be Christmas Eve of 1947. Where were you (if you were here yet) at Christmastide in 1947? This is where I was, with freshly painted nails, holding onto a brother.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My oldest brother, winter to winter

 Winter in Scotia, New York, about 1944.

[Date postscript: after consultation with David, we have changed the date of this photo to Winter, 1944.
See this picture taken near the same time.]

As Santa in Atlanta, 2013

John Douglas Hopper; I've known and loved him all my life! 
A Merry Holiday season to all!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snows of Yesteryear

From now until the end of the year, I will be posting images from long ago wintertimes. I think this is in 1956 as my brother, David Wendell Hopper, puts the final touches on his artistic creations. I am especially fond of the red-hatted snowchild. SnowMama is wearing, as her hat, the fox collar from the coat seen here on my mother and here on me, which most recently served as a Davy Crockett hat for David, which we no longer have. (David is the youngest boy, not the baby, in the linked pictures.) My sled is gone, too. Dad used to repaint them every Christmas and write the name of the new owner on the bottom using a little tool he had that drew a fine line of black paint.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My First Christmas

Later, we always hung the real-metal tinsel like this--one strand at a time draped over the branch, with half of the length on each side. After Christmas, we would take it off the tree and put it carefully back into a long slender box to save for next year. It was a good time to be born in America, 1935. World War II can pretty much pass over my head without me knowing much about it. I have only a few memories: Dec. 7, 1941, I remember the radio being on all day and people being much more interested in listening to it than usual. I remember Victory stamp drives during the war--I would take a quarter to school to buy a stamp and bring it home to stick on a page with the others, until I would have enough for a Victory Bond. I remember taking a can of bacon grease and some flattened tin cans (lids inside before you stomped them flat) to Trudeau's Grocery Store on the corner of State Street and First Street in Scotia, New York. And lastly, I remember bending over at the front door to pick up the Schenectady Gazette the day after Hiroshima. When I stood up with that paper in my hand, the world had changed forever.

And, tonight, just one more poem from To Hold in My Hand; selected poems by Hilda Morley.

Four Days

Ahead of me, in the hot hallway, July,
at Westbeth,
                    I see a tall woman,
walking carefully,
                           & as I pass her
I see that there's a sling around her neck
                                    & in it
a small creature, pink and folded
inwards,       eyes and mouth shut tightly
against the world
                            "How old," I ask,
"Let me think---four days!" the woman says.
                             Turned in
to itself, the baby nurses
its own body & ripens
until it is ready,
for the world,
                     that world I've heard of
today, in which they speak of nuclear warheads
                                               & fortunes
founded on drugs and gun-running:
                                                     the money
"laundered" through the I.C.F. (the International
Children's Fund)
contained in itself, the baby dozes,
deep in its own essence,
                                    from which there flows,
                     a balm,
                                 a reassurance.

*Hilda Morley
                                                            New York, 1979

I'm thinking it would be fun to put up some more vintage Christmas pictures during the season. And say hello to that nice ampersand and the fine arrangement on the page of this poem. Sleep tight! And, although we never had them, we used to always follow that with, "Don't let the bed bugs bite!" Because that, too, is poetry, you see.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Ducks at Sunset

Tonight, another pink early sunset. The sun goes down really early in December. I love sunset, but it makes me realize that another day (in which I didn't accomplish anything significant) is winding down. I went out to photograph the late light through the trees, and here came the ducks, thinking there might be a late feeding. Not, alas.

We got J a nice Christmas present today, so we are getting there, slowly. I guess I should be thankful for such a good-sized family, but this holiday thing feels like a demand from the universe that I am not ready for. S is filling the humidifier now; it gurgles. Then he will do his nightly PT exercises.

This is a lucky time to be living. I am partway into one of my books about daily life long ago. It is called A World Lit Only by Fire; the Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, portrait of an age, by William Manchester. It is a good book to read if you are thinking your life is too hard. There are used copies available and the price for the Kindle version is very reasonable, although I don't know about the illustrations. Sometimes they just don't put illustrations on the Kindle version, even if they were in the printed book; This makes me very cross! 

Tonight's poem is again by Hilda Morley, from To Hold in My Hand, page 197.
See previous posts for more information about this wonderful book!

Striking a Match

A match flaring on a rough surface
because in extremity we need them 
both: the light, the heat---& cannot
survive without them,
                                   so poetry
is written in New York
                                     in that clangor
of a million incongruities, points of'
juxtaposition,       tension of
silence,         so dense we cannot breathe in it
except at moments
                             if the wind catches us,
whirls us along the sidewalk, clutching
at walls in blasts from the river, 
if for a moment we lean back in a chair
in a restaurant looking out at
the street,       or stand with a friend, or
with friends smiling at a street-corner
watching the moon droop over us,       irresolute,
or watch from the window
                                          a moment after
we see the first bird that day
speeding westward
                              & know it has
left everything behind it

                                                NEW YORK, 1981

Still my ampersand, so elegant! And the first bird of the day in New York City! And the
perfect pausing shown by the arrangement on the page. Good night for this night.

The Happy Garage

Posted by PicasaThe other night when we were coming home from the daily walk, I saw my son's  house in the twilight with the light pouring out into the twilight. And I thought of all the fun he has had in that garage working on motorcycles. It made me think this was a Happy Garage, and in the twilight it looked like one. 
For Christmas, think about a happy place you remember. And make it into a memory thread. 
I'm with my grandchildren now -- ages 9, 7, 5, and 3. They just opened the presents from their other grandparents after opening everything else this morning. It makes for a sort of splendid excess. 
Merry Christmas !!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sky Swirls at Sunset

This is another from last night's late Daily Walk; today we went at a more sensible hour and the light was pretty boring. I am struggling with Christmas present-ing; the family tradition seems to have developed (I don't remember how) that people tell other people what they want for themselves. This seems like a pretty boring, if perhaps useful, method; I think I will try to get it changed for next year. Wish me luck!

One nice thing about Christmas is that I have gotten memory-thread emails from people I never see any more, often because they have moved. Or because S & I split our time between three places and miss birdwalk, or sketching or haiku meeting opportunities in the places we are not. Today I heard from the person I began to bird with, and we had a nice little ping-pong of emails.
(Does one add  "s"  for the plural??)

Tonight, another poem from Hilda Morley's To Hold in My Hand
(see previous posts) on pages 33 & 34.

Matisse: The Red Studio

for Claire Moore

What is delightful in The Red
Studio is that air of suspended 
space moving in unbroken
curves with the eye travelling
as Matisse wished it
and free and in a continual
flight       but at the same time with
an assurance nothing
can shatter
                  What is free here is not
the eye only
                   not space only, but our-
selves swerving & shifting,
                                        a sense of gravity
that's root and stumbling-block also
                                           There's no one in
the studio & yet each object
is known and lived
                             & every possible
displacement taken care of,
                                           each hollow
sudden in the curvature
of space accepted
                             as on this April 22nd
the blackbird's voice disturbs
the rounding of the air
and in that drop we learn the broken
          the gull's
spurt over the water,
                                his slanted
edge of wing
                     inside the light
                                                                                                   NEW YORK, 1959

Again, our well-placed ampersand; &amp such an lovely placement of words on the page. 
Today (almost gone) is 12/12/2013! And I am within sight of my goal of posting every day for one year.
I have learned a lot; it's had unexpected rewards for me.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Honking of Countless Geese

Perhaps all the geese in the Treasure Valley had taken to the air just before we started on the Daily Walk. We heard the honking long before they came into view. They passed by for several minutes; this is just a portion of them. Together with the light of the setting sun, this made me very happy.

Tonight's poem again is by Hilda Morley, from To Hold in My Hand; Selected Poems, Sheep Meadow Press, 1983, page 78.


Finding the names of birds here,
of flowers, important. I say I must
know them, name them,
                                        to be able
to call upon where their magic
resides for me: in naming them
myself---to lay hold upon whatever
quivers inside the bird-calls,
                                              the dipping
of tail or wing---
                            to know it
inside my hand where power
of that sort lives
                           & in my fingers
wakes and becomes
                                  an act of

            **Hilda Morley, THE MACDOWELL COLONY, 1969**

This ampersand also makes me happy, as does the way the lines drop neatly down with that little oomph. In 1969, I was just beginning my library career (Santa Clara County Library, one of the great ones!) and we had adopted our third child. I, too, learned to love and name the birds, but that came later, after about 1985.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Houses come and houses go . . .

NOTE: My apologies for last night's truncated post; I got in a struggle with Blogger after some way getting started writing ABOVE the photo and not being able to move it down. Then I gave up and went merrily to bed. 

My Great-Grandfather used to live here in a sort of duplex with separate quarters for his first wife, Keziah Jane Butler Redd and my grandmother, Sariah Louisa Chamberlain Redd, daughter of Samuel Chamberlain.
(Have you put any of your ancestors up on Findagrave.com?) I think this is a hayfield now and I seem to remember that that is a remnant of an orchard on the far side. When I looked at the early records of the settlement, some books, some microfilm, I found that the best near-the-creek land was taken up by John D. Lee (Remember John D. Lee? He was scapegoated into being the only one punished for the Mountain Meadows Massacre) and my grandfather had to get some land that was not quite as desirable. This was at a time when Brigham Young wanted Southern Utah settled; these people were participants in that effort.

I took this picture at the 2011 Redd Reunion in Harmony, Utah. Lots of my cousins were there---about 500 of Lemuel Redd's descendants. Since I was raised hearing about this early Mormon polygamous setup, it has always seemed pretty "normal" to me, and more like a historical curiosity I didn't have to take a moral position on. Plenty of other stuff to fuss about--you might have noticed that. The house isn't there any more, and Mormons generally stick to one wife at a time now.

Tonight's poem, December, is from Hilda Morley's book, To Hold in My Hand; selected poems 1955-1983, Sheep Meadow Press, 1983, page 149.


                   If there were a blessing
outside us
               it would be the falling
of the snow
of movement        quiet
of decision
                               a clearness
            a movement
of lightness
                         Inside us it grows deeper;

                                       Hilda Morley,   New York, 1959

This quiet poem is quite like snowfall, I think, I love the way it flows across the page. I want to work like this. I love the music of the poem, the gentleness of the sounds. Perhaps it is snowing now, where you are in the month of December.

Monday, December 09, 2013

This Pink Streak of Cloud, This Evening

This is one of those photos blended from several different shots taken while you are standing in the same place. You are supposed to trim off the corners, but they often remind me of a kimono, and I like the shapes.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Christmas in a stable

I took this picture the day we took Anil and Surinder, who were visiting from India, to see the Peralta Adobe, an early adobe structure which has been preserved in downtown San Jose. Later I added the texture to it with an iPhone app. Some one commented later on Flickr that it reminded them of the stable where Christ was born. I think I must have had a seen-this-before feeling about it, too, when I stopped to take a picture of the structure which was intended to shelter animals. All through my growing up years, there were pictures of an idea of this Bethlehem stable, or even creches filled with little figurines. I love creches!

I remember once I was asked to make a big drawing of Bethehem on a sheet to be hung behind a church Christmas pageant. I used colored chalks. I was proud of being asked, and a little worried about my ability, but it looked great! If I close my eyes, I can still see it! At this time of year Christmas symbolism is back, but in a much glossier and more varied form. And I have seen some TERRIBLE Christmas-themed advertisements. Even though I don't really believe in Christmas folklore, still I have an attachment to the icons that I have known all my life.

There is a window in the back, because a horse likes to look out, someone told me once. Is this true? Myself, I do like to look out. And I want to show my grandchildren things that I have always loved, and I want to sing the old songs, but they can't be very interested. And this is the way things are. I seem to be falling down a rathole here, and better quit. I need to get my Christmas things out tomorrow!!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Better safe . . .

I dumped the corn today instead of spreading it out to fall into the snow. I am standing just behind the porch rail at the left side of the picture, so I can take this image. Only the one female mallard resisted coming closer until I went back inside. The wood ducks usually wait even farther back, down by the creek. As soon as I came out--I was planning to take some pictures of the snowy creek--the lookout duck gave his harsh "She's feeding!" cry and here they came, so I had to pass out some corn. Doesn't it look pretty against the snow??

Of course, I always want my pictures to be more stunning than they are, just as I suppose artists and poets want their work to have surpassed the dream. Yesterday I got another book about how to mess with photos on one's iPhone. It is a neat book, but many of the photos are TOO messed with. It is quite amazing what one can do.

                                        Like this, a sketch treatment of ducks in the snow.

Or this, a selfie as an oil painting, complete with craquelure. And a too large highlight on the varnish.

Or the little orange engine that could, with the same too-large reflection.

But I must admit that this is where my head is right now. Surely, a sensible woman like Lorine Niedecker would not approve of such nonsense. Here's one of her short poems from New Goose, page 65 as a necessary corrective. The poem is untitled.

Seven years a charming woman wore
her coat, removed the collar where it tore,
little warmth but honor in her loose
thin coat, without knowing why
she's so. Charming? Well, she's destitute.

I don't know that there is anything else to say, so I'll say no more tonight. We just had popcorn made in a special plastic gizmo to pop it in the microwave and now I have a husk between my teeth. The dogs are doing better, but the one with the tooth cleaning is still quite sad.

Friday, December 06, 2013

No time to watch the sun set over the Boise River

Just time at the stoplight to try to catch it. I think I am blessing the iPhone camera, but I almost don't use anything else now. I ordered a bookcase and it came yesterday, but I  am afraid to try to put it together. Some reviewers on Amazon said it was easy, less than an hour. Another person said it took her three hours. Not tonight. Today we went shopping for Christmas and finished the easy part, gifts for each other, Think technology.

My best friend from high school won the Christmas Card Sweepstakes again this year. Her card arrived today, DECEMBER SIXTH! Awesome. She always writes a nice note, too! I am working on the cards two of us send to Japan (to all the haiku people who were so wonderful to us there) now. Then I'll choose a photo for the few family cards we still send.

A couple of years ago I added another lighted miniature building to my Christmas stash. It is a Home Depot! I'll bet you don't have one! Honestly, it is very cute! Tomorrow I will put a couple of little lighted buildings in the front window, and string white lights around the door. We probably won't do a tree--we're going to Grandchildland for Christmas.

Dog report: both dogs are much better, but still a little clingy. Wish to sit in laps and get extra petting.

Remember Sei Shonagon?    It's been almost a year, since I was quoting her from my Kindle version. Today, she turned up again in Kimiko Hahn's book: Mosquito and Ant, W.W. Norton, 1999.

Hahn's long poem in prose sections (pages 44-49) is called The Downpour; a zuihitsu after Sei Shonagon. I have copied you the definition from Wikipedia: This is a link to the whole article.

"Zuihitsu (随筆?) is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author's surroundings. The name is derived from two Kanji meaning "to follow" and "brush." The provenance of the term zuihitsu is ultimately Chinese, however, being a transcription of suibi rendered into Japanese as fude ni shitagau (“follow the brush”).[1]Thus works of the genre should be considered not as traditionally planned literary pieces but rather as casual or randomly recorded thoughts by the authors."

Reminds me of this blog . . . . here are two sections from Hahn's long poem.

We do not know her name. We call her Sei Shonagon. Shonagon for her own palace title, "Minor Counsellor"; Sei, a character from her father's clan name, Kiyowara. We do not know her name. But she is not anonymous. Recent research suggests her name may have been Nagiko. But we do not know her name just as we do not know the name of her contemporary and literary rival, Murasaki Shikibu. We do not know her name although it seems she was married to Tachibana no Norimitsu and may have had a son. On the other hand, neither may be true.


The aristocracy during the Heian Period cut themselves off from foreigh influence as well as real provincial government. They basked in high forms of indulgence. They created an art out of marrying one's cousin. They did not know the rough, hairy, unpowdered, unperfumed warrior class outside the capital would cut them down.


We do not know her name.

              ----Kimiko Hahn

This is a very interesting poem, and one that could serve as a model for many different types of thinking. I plan to Kindle up Sei Shonagon again just before sleeping. And I hope to start a linking of passages like this on a topic that will turn up, I am sure/

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Taillights near sundown

On the way to pick up our surgically enhanced dogs (see previous post) I got to look at the beautiful winter skies and iPhoneCam this through the windshield. I love that time of day when the light has not quite gone and the sky seems enormous and valuable. Living now in the prosperous Boise area of Idaho I am very far away from the Ireland of the mid-Fifties as visited through the translated prose of Heinrich Boll. I hope readers of this blog will understand that I haven't figured out how to get the diacriticals from other languages here. A pair of dots is suppoed to be above the o in his name.

It has been almost 60 years since the visit to Ireland memorialized in his Irish Journal, translated by Leila Veenwitz. I wanted to pick a passage to share with you (I had marked quite a few!) but finally chose this one from pages 84 and 85.

     "The old man is eighty-eight; a contemporary of Sun Yat-Sen and Busoni, he was born before Rumania became what it has for years no longer been: a kingdom; he was four years old when Dickens died--and he is a year older than dynamite; all this merely to catch him in the frail net of time. The ruin he was sitting in front of had been a barn built in the beginning of our century, but fifty feet farther on there was a ruin from the sixth century; fourteen hundred years ago St. Ciaran of Clonmacnois built a church here. Without the discerning eye of the archeologist, the walls from the twentieth century are indistinguishable from those of the sixth century; there is a shade of green over them all, scattered with golden patches of sunlight.
     It was here that George wanted to try out a new color film, and the old man--one year older than dynamite--had been chosen to supply the "human interest": puffing away at his pipe, he was to be filmed on the bank of the Shannon against the setting sun, a few days later he would appear on American screens, and all the Irish in America would have tears of home-sickness in their eyes and begin to sing; multiplied a million times over, shrouded in veils of green light, in the rosy glow of the setting sun, and the smoke from his pipe blue, intensely blue--that was how he was to appear.
     But first tea had to be drunk, lots of tea, and the visitors had to pay tribute by telling all the news; for in spite of radio and newspapers, news from the lips of the man you shook hands with, the man you had tea with, that's the kind that counts. We had tea in the lounge of a vacant manor house; the permanent dark-green shadow of the trees seemed to have dyed the walls green, to have drawn a green patina over the Dickensian furniture. The retired English colonel who had brought us over in his boat---with his long red hair, his pointed red beard, he looked like a mixture between Robinson Crusoe and Mephistopheles---led the conversation, and unfortunately I found it hard to understand his English---although he was kind enough to try and speak "slowly, very slowly."
     At first I understood only three words in the conversation; Rommel, war and fair, and I knew that Rommel's "fairness" during the "war" was one of the colonel's favorite topics; moreover, my attention was distracted by the old man's children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, who looked into the room, or brought tea, hot water, bread, and cakes (a little five-year-old girl came with half a cookie and placed it on the table as a token of her hospitality), and all of them, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren had the pointed, triangular, heart-shaped face that so often looks down on the busy world in the form of a waterspout from the towers of French cathedrals . . . .
     George sat holding the camera, ready to shoot and waiting for the sunset, but that evening the sun was slow in setting, particularly slow it seemed to me, and the colonel switched from his favorite topic to another: he talked about someone called Henry who had evidently been a hero in the war in Russia; from time to time the old man looked at me in wondering surprise with his round pale-blue eyes, and I would nod; who was I to deny this Henry, whom I did not know, the heroism with which Crusoe-Mephistopheles credited him?
     At last the sun seemed ready to set; as required by the director, it was approaching the horizon, approaching the television devotees in America, and we walked slowly back to the bank of the Shannon. The sun was dropping fast now, and the old man quickly filled his pipe, then drew on it too hastily so that it was no longer puffing by the time the lower edge of the sun was just touching the horizon. But the old man's tobacco pouch was empty, and the sun was slipping away rapidly. How dead a smokeless pipe looks in the mouth of a peasant standing in front of the setting sun: folkloric silhouette, silver hair in the green light, rosy-hued brow. George hurriedly tore up a few cigarettes and stuffed them into the pipe bowl, pale-blue smoke came puffing out, and at this very moment the sun was half-submerged behind the gray horizon: a eucharist in dwindling glory---the pipe puffed, the camera whirred, and the silver hair shone: greetings from the beloved homeland for moist Irish eyes in America, a new type of picture postcard. "We'll dub in a nice bagpipe tune," said George.
    Folklore is something like innocence: when you know you have it, you no longer have it, and the old man stood there rather sadly when the sun had gone down; a blue-gray twilight absorbed the green veils. We went over to him, tore up some more cigarettes and stuffed them in his pipe; suddenly it was cool, dampness flowed in from all sides, and this island, this tiny kingdom where the old man's family had lived for three hundred years, the island seemed to me like a great green sponge lying half in, half out of the water and soaking up dampness from below."

The beauties of this prose, the progress and human richness of the thought are worth re-reading with careful attention. I have been particularly struck by the use of colons and semi-colons in sequence. I love the way the green threads its was through this passage. I hadn't meant to quote so much! But am now glad I did!
Sleep well!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Before and After

Now you know what they mean by a hound's tooth. Even the little dachshund has them. But this is the first time we ever got before and after color photographs! Look at those clean and shining pearly whites in the lower photo.

The dogs are home now and both are a little the worse for wear. The dog with the tooth cleaning is wearing a soft head-dress and the one with the tumor has a hard plastic one, so she can't tear at the wound. Both are kind of depressed, but the tooth thing seems much worse. They each have two full sheets of instruction for care. They are obviously slowed down, but S. who is very empathetic, seems to be suffering the most.

Looking about, the vet also found a segment of tapeworm, which will require poisoning after they recover from these surgeries. And so it goes.

I feel very fortunate to have such a good veterinarian and to be able to put this on my charge card without having to give up food, or even Christmas. And, of course, it reminds me of the children, animals and grownups all over the world who don't have any hope of essential care, good food or adequate shelter, to say nothing of education. These inequities seem almost insuperable.

Tonight I managed to get 3/4 of the way through Irish Journal, the book by Henirich Boll, I quoted from last night. It's a wonderful book and very different from the book I had imagined. I had thought it would be a walking tour, like the ones Coleridge took, alone or with the Wordsworths, or the walks of Patrick Leigh Fermor. Instead it is a family journey with his wife and children. They came from the continent by boat and travel around Ireland by train in the 1950s. In such a short book, he has managed to touch on all sorts of minor and major issues and paint word-portraits of people, landscapes and events that are wonderful! At the time, most of the young people in Ireland emigrated to other places. Ireland also exported vast numbers of Catholic priests and nuns to parishes all over the world.

Let me see if I can suggest how interesting and well-done this book is. Firstly, it is a long time ago, yet in a time that I remember in a part of the world that I never knew. Secondly, the author has a sensible, empathetic charm. He is not afraid to wander into a sort of word-fugue about the condition of the country, the land, Germany, or people in general. He seems very much like the kind of person you would like to have known and to have had long discussions with. Tomorrow I hope to be able to choose a favorite passage to share with you, dear reader!

And poetry news about Sappho! I don't how long this link will work, and plan to print it for myself. In recently discovered fragments is a new poem by Sappho, and here are translated versions by several poets.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

So recently past, autumnal color

There was not good light today for taking photographs. But not to fuss, there are plenty in the backfiles. Today was a day of exciting news, one dachshund has an anal gland (sorry) tumor, most probably adenocarcinoma, and is going in for surgery tomorrow. On the way home from the vet's office, we stopped for a meal and left one of our cell phones in the Carl's Jr. Some one had been using it, but now it is deactivated. But we left the table nice and clean, taking the trash to the bin, while leaving the phone on the table. Somehow, I don't feel too poetic right now, but there is still plenty of time until midnight.

Perhaps this is the moment to confess that I have secretly wanted (at least since I bought a new red small Toyota truck in December of 1986) to take a road trip in a car that I could sleep in. Once Diane and I did sleep in the back of the truck on the way to San Diego near the end of that decade. We stayed at the campground in Leo Carillo State Park. Until that day, I hadn't heard of Leo, but of course he is in Wikipedia now. A descendant of an old California Family, he made a good living playing stereotypical Mexican sidekicks. He also was a cartoonist and a conservationist, and was married to the same woman instead of changing wives in the classic Hollywood manner.

I love books like Travels with Charley and Blue Highways and many others of that ilk. For the purposes of daydreaming, I am conveniently forgetting that I don't really like driving and get someone else to drive whenever I can. My mother took a summer-long road trip in her AMX after she retired. She visited relatives and friends and all the places she had lived that were important to her. She liked driving, and only reluctantly gave it up after hitting a gray car on gray pavement at twilight on two successive Tuesdays. She had macular degeneration; I always wonder if growing up in the sunlight that always falls on Southern Arizona in the desert sun may have been at least a partial cause.

I also like books about walking trips, which I am even less likely to be willing (or able) to make than driving ones. Many of these books are by British authors, walking in the British Isles or in Continental Europe. The one I am reading now is a translation of the one by Heinrich Boll (who later won a Nobel Prize) a German veteran of World War I whose trip recorded in Irish Journal took place in the mid-fifties, when Ireland was quite unchanged (unlike most of Europe) by the recently ended World War II. It is now considered a classic of the genre.

Here is a sample from the beginning:

 ".... but here on the steamer there was no more England: here there was already a smell of peat, the sound of throaty Celtic from between decks and the bar, here Europe's social order was already assuming new forms: poverty was no longer "no disgrace" it was neither honor nor disgrace: it was--as an element of social awareness--as irrelevant as wealth; trouser creases had lost their sharp edge, and the safety pin, that ancient Celtic clasp, had come into its own again. Where the button had looked like a full stop, put there by the tailor, the safety pin had been hung on like a comma; a sign of improvisation, it draped the material in folds, where the button had prevented this. I also saw it used to attach price tickets. lengthen suspenders, replace cuff-links, finally used by a small boy to pierce a man's trouser seat: the boy was surprised, frightened, because the man did not react in any way; the boy carefully tapped the man with his forefinger to see if he was still alive: he was still alive and patted the boy laughingly on the shoulder."  

From Henrich Boll, Irish Journal, translated by Leila Vennewitz, Melville house, 2011, pages 3-4.

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