Thursday, January 31, 2013

"We take the fast and slow of it as it comes."

The picture is called PATIENCE.
Sometimes I think my blog should be called “The Story of my Life through Used Books.” Looking for something else tonight, I found the copy of the Dorothy Wordsworth's The Grasmere Journals that I bought two years ago. I was very happy to find it, since I have just started the new biography of Wordsworth, and the first part of the older one by Mary Moorman, which was recommended by the first one as having more information on his early life. Which made me think of Dorothy, as all good feminists do, now and then. I sat right down with it, having hours to go before I would miss the last day of blogging daily for a whole month! I was confronted immediately with the problem of an almost 20 year-old English paperback, which had never been read, turning yellow on a shelf somewhere without attention. It seemed as if the spine would crack when I opened it. But gently, I did so. The journal begins 14 May, 1800; but, first, there is the introduction.

This is the first paragraph of the Introduction, by the editor of the Journals, Pamela Woof. Just Woof. It made me think about blogging. See what I mean?

“There is simply nothing like it anywhere else. The Journal calls out to us directly across almost 200 years, and the writer and her world come alive. It sometimes moves in little rushes when days can be noted with a staccato speed; it sometimes slows down to linger on a single figure: a beggar woman, a leech-gatherer, a child catching hailstones at a cottage door, a bow-bent postman with his little wooden box at his back, an old seaman with a beard like gray plush; it sometimes slows to linger on a whole scene: a funeral, or children with their mother by a fire, or a lakeshore on a windy day with daffodils, or a man with carts going up a hill and a little girl putting stones behind the wheels. It sometimes almost stops as the ear catches a ticking watch, a page being turned over, and the breathing of the silent reader by the fire; and then it starts off again at a great pace with the planting and mending and baking and washing and reading and writing and walking and talking, all the weather and the work crammed into a little space of words. Dorothy Wordsworth had her times for noticing, remembering, and writing, and her times for doing. There are no rules and structures for diary writers, as there are not for living: we take the fast and slow of it as it comes.”
 page ix
I think this is a lot like the sort of blog I am interested in. I also think that the above paragraph by Pamela Woof is a masterful example of the uses of English punctuation to write about things in a varied series. There are lots of useful commas, with a sprinkling of colons and semi-colons in just the right places. Read it again, looking at each punctuation mark consciously.

This is the place where I pat my own back for blogging every day this month!! Scarcely hoping to believe--because the last three years have been poor blog ones, I began. I guess for me it has to be every day or be put aside. But it is feeding my interest now and I hope to manage this whole year.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The blue of the sky, the white of the snow

This creek is called the Little Union Canal. It was dug with horse drawn equipment 100 years ago, to carry water to the Boise River. Monday night, we were blessed with a fall of that soft snow that sticks to things and makes them impossibly beautiful until it melts. It's a nice backyard, but this is one of the finer moments. When the irises bloom in springtime, that's another.

I haven't read much today, because I was cleaning the house for visitors; actually, for myself, so I wouldn't have to be embarassed when they came. I've almost decided now that it would be better to have more company and rejoice in the order and beauty I can create. Maybe not.

Tonight, here is a poem from Bei Dao, whom I heard read with other "Misty Poets"
from China, many years ago at San Jose State. They were introduced by Carolyn Kizer,
I think. I fell in love with Gu Cheng that night, but recognized the power and strength of
Bei Dao, who continues to write impressive poetry, and now is recognized worldwide as
a very important poet. I should write about Gu Cheng and will do so.

from The Rose of Time; new and selected poems, page 157.


people hurry on, arrive
return in another life, fade into bird dreams
the sun flees wheat fields
then comes back trailing after beggars

who's rivaled sky for height
that singer who died young
soars in the weather map
flies into snowstorms holding a lamp

I bought a newspaper
got change back from the day
and at the entrance to night
eased into a new identity

celebrated fish
move through everyone's tears
hey, you folks upstream achievers so hale and hearty
how far is it to tomorrow

No capital letters at the beginning of lines, only two commas as punctuation--
ends with a question, but no question mark. And super, super, super!

I am very tired, and so to bed.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thornton Wilder's Alcestiad redux

You might be struggling with disbelief, but Thornton has actually gone back to the Alcestiad!!
I had a little trouble believing it myself; but at least there has been no more talk of Icelandic Sagas.
"Reviews of The Alcestiad were mixed, with some of them highly critical." About reviews of the London production. (page 628 of Thornton Wilder; a life.) And then they made a German opera of it, which premiered in Frankfurt, Germany in 1962!!!

As for myself have resolved, again to order no more books for a while, because I am seriously behind in reading the ones I already have. I have made this resolution fewer times than TW resumed work on the Alcestiad, but hope to stick to it better than he did. I just looked on Librarything, where I keep track, and they can create a page of statistical calculations about the books one has listed. I don't delete books that I give or throw away, though, I just note it in the entry, so I have a few less than that. (Although I have some books in California that are still not entered. . .)
 My favorite statistics are that if stacked up, my library would be almost as tall as the St. Louis Arch! And quite a bit higher than the Washington Monument! Oh, well, I could be addicted to alcohol, but it seems so impermanent. . . almost vaporous. . .
This was a beautiful snowy morning; the ducks are out in force above. Good night.
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Moon over Jamaica, farewell to Louis Simpson

Took this last night trying out an iPhone app. You can barely see the clouds. . .
but without the app, they wouldn't show at all.

Today I finally finished The King My Father's Wreck by Louis Simpson.
And I am putting all the Simpson books away for now, while I finish
Thornton Wilder and two on Wordsworth (I think I'll have the strength!)

Here is the last part of the poem that ends the book,
a memoir of a late-in-life trip to Jamaica, where
he was born and grew up, and learned to loathe colonialism.

From 'Working Late' pages 188-189

All the arguing in the world
will not stay the moon.
She has come all the way from Russia
to gaze for a while in a mango tree
and light the wall of a veranda,

before resuming her interrupted journey
beyond the harbor and the lighthouse
at Port Royal, turning away
from land to the open sea.

Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this,
she is still the mother of us all.
I can see the drifting offshore lights,
black posts where the pelicans brood.

And the lights that used to shine
at night in my father's study
now shines as late in mine.

Louis Simpson  1923-2012

The universality of the moon is joined here by other common tropes: 
I have seen pelicans brooding on back posts and 
the offshore lights on the Monterey Bay! 

And I love thinking about the moon over Russia and over
Jamaica--while Simpson was there he visited his old home, now
a derelict house in a dangerous slum. Each room in the house is
occupied by a different family. The room he and his brother slept
in was locked up and he could not see it. He describes his despair
about Jamaica, so little space for so many people!

Good night, moon, and people and pelicans! Tomorrow is coming.
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Photo Apps on the iPhone

Is where I have spent much of today, after Jennifer reminded me about ProHDR, which I had, but had forgotten how to learn how to use. So, now I have a gull on a mesa, various other treats, some black and white conversions from another program and etc. And still am not any farther with my complete life plans. The above was made by a program called addLib, which uses your photo as a base for something like a magazine cover, or a classy advertisement. It happens fast, and you have no control over the result. Sometimes it puts the date on it, sometimes not. This is from a photo of my granddaughter. Go thou and do likewise, if you have an iPhone.
(Doesn't everyone. . . . .???)
But you will be relieved to learn that Thornton Wilder hasn't given up on his Alcestiad yet--he has returned to it for another serious try. Also, Ruth Gordon finally talked him into revising his Broadway flop play into a new one (with her as star) to be renamed The Matchmaker and opened in London. So he did it, and soon (maybe even by tomorrow, or the next day) it will transmogrify into the hit musical Hello, Dolly and insure that he can leave support to his sisters, especially the one who was lobotomized for schizophrenia. And so it goes--I'm about 62 percent through with the book; Kindle gives a running tally along the bottom of the screen.
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Too Much of a Good Thing?

There really are too MANY ducks--and I am starting to feel responsible for unbalancing nature. I guess that's my role as a human being, but hey! They are looking so pretty down by the stream, though. I finished WINTER JOURNAL by Paul Auster last night. It's a great book, if you like a little of this, a little of that, (which I do!) and lots of event from a life and much meditation on the past. He mentions he is writing this in a book with a ball-point pen, and I am just a little suspicious, because he has been writing on a 1974 Olympia Portable for DECADES! He said so himself. Whatever. .. I really enjoyed it and immediately re-Kindled somemore Auster before I fell asleep.
And now it is time to go again. Before I do, I should mention that Thornton Wilder is back as a Major from Army Service in World War II. Unscratched, but somewhat discombulated for a time. He did lots of good work in Europe, and used all his languages, as well as his organizational skills, good sense and stern moral compass. Too bad his father didn't live to see it!
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Down by the willow

This clearly shows the damage to the willow when the water district ran the heavy equipment down their easement in 2011. Blessedly, the withes filled in the space with lovely willow leaves and by the end of the summer it was looking good.  Underneath is a fine, sheltered place for ducks to lurk, paddling gently in the moving water. Can't wait for summer and a picnic.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Circular Prose: the difficulty of writing about music, and everything else, too

Tonight I am thinking about adjectives, and adjectives in clusters of two or three, the way this Percolated Picture makes me think about circles. And this, the second paragraph in the new Boise Weekly's article on the group Pinback, is what made me do that! This link is one of those that might not last, so check it out soon.

"There's a certain angularity to the group's sidewinding songs, which have sharp math rock edges blunted by languid melodic shimmer. The tracks churn a creamy froth without overflowing, drawing a listener into the lulling undulations of vocal harmonies and rich guitar texture over rubbery, insistent rhythms."
Boise Weekly January 23-29, 2013, page 21

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to write about music that you particularly like and to describe the sound of it. I suggest this might be more difficult than you imagine. Now I think I'll go and see if I can hear some of this music!  Good night.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Right after New Year's, before the snow fell

This handsome fellow posed for me on the winter grasses.

Today, I made it up to Thornton's getting into World War II. Although he was only a few days
away from the enlistment deadline of age 45, he blasted his way into the service anyway. I still don't know what role he will take, because the refrigerator repairman rang the doorbell.
Just checking my email before bed. (We have been watching several episodes of a series called The Killing.) And found this one-liner with a clickable link.
"Insant worldwide shpping and freidnly ssupport"
I didn't click it, but it made me giggle.
Good night.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wings and luck and ruthlessness

For a long time I have wished I knew how to do "street photography." Coupled with the fact that I have spent very little time on "the street" and often have not had ready access to same, and that I would feel silly photographing strangers in many cases...  Of course we have all seen the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand, and many of us spent a lot of time with the black and white images in the dearly departed LIFE magazine. And so on and so forth. . .
There is an article on Winogrand in the latest Harper's Magazine. (February, 2013) When he died in 1984, at age 56, he left behind hundreds of thousands of pictures he had never actually looked at: 2,500 rolls of exposed but undeveloped film (my italics) and 4100 rolls of film that he had processed but not bothered to contact-print, and 3000 contact sheets he had only cursorily edited." (page 56)

"Often--far more often than critics and curators would like to admit--"genius" in photography is a matter of luck and ruthless editing." (page 61)

Twenty-five years later, after much effort, selections from these images will be on exhibit in San Francisco at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A great many people have been involved in this project. It ws felt that a true "retrospective" should include selected and excellent examples of his later work. Although sometimes the people that were working on the project wondered if they were being taken for a ride by a dead photographer while they waded through the heaps of images! I hope I will get to see this exhibit, which opens next March. I might be in California then.

So, I am thinking about my own images, especially the digital ones. Many times I have read how you are supposed to delete lots of them right away. I do delete, not very many though--only a few that are not in focus.

The photo above is not "good." The porch edges seem all askew. There isn't really a center of interest. It is fairly sharp, though. The ducks, in this cold snap, come right up to the house, practically demanding food. I haven't been feeding them every day, except for the last three days, when it was down to 0 degrees overnight. They crowd up, but when I open the door to bring out the cracked corn, they all take flight. This photo will always remind me of that time.
I have also sent out a lot of family slides and photos to be scanned. Some of these are not excellent in quality, but trigger good memories of family life.

But the times I took twenty or forty pictures of a pileated woodpecker at the feeder in Michigan. The times I took a lot of undistinguished shots during a birdwalk. These should have been sorted, classified, and most of them should now be gone. Tomorrow I will give some examples of playing with these "discards" and the things I have been able to do that please me. It's an example of the hoarder's mentality, which, alas, I have.

So here's to ruthless editing, and the distractions of play. Good night.
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Monday, January 21, 2013


"Geneological unravellings are always a forbidding entrance to any biography." This is the third sentence of an (actual) book I started tonight, William Wordsworth; a life by Stephen Gill. Oxford University Press, 1990. (note the double "ll" in "unravellings")
I know! I haven't finished with Thornton Wilder yet, he is resting in his Kindle after discovering the "key" to Finnegan's Wake. (Not to be revealed here; it's in the book . . .) but picked up the Wordsworth which I just got (used) when S was interested in the portrait on the cover. Neither one of us had suspected that Wordsworth had such a magnificent nose! And it's looking to be a very interesting book!

The thought about the genealogical unravellings really chimed with my recent biographical wanderings, from Gustav Mahler to David Foster Wallace. Sometimes it is hard slogging until you get to the actual biographee.

So, guys, it's Presidential Inaugural Ball night; even now people might still be dancing in their elegant custom-made clothes. And I just got an email from my adored cousin, Randy, about our own ancestry. Here is the scoop he sent me on our ancestor-in-common with President Obama. 

"Through Solomon Chamberlain we are descended from Thomas Blossom, our common ancestor with President Obama. Thomas' daughter Frances (namesake of her uncle Francis Blossom) was born in England and emigrated to Plymouth in 1629.  They had sailed with the original Plymouth company in 1620, but the Speedwell on which they were sailing sprung a leak and had to turn back.  Thomas Blossom had been living in Leyden and was the first deacon of the Plymouth congregation.  He died in 1633 in a smallpox epidemic, his daughter married the widowed William Palmer. Their daughter Ann married Henry Rowley (they were somehow all related).
Their daughter Sarah Rowley married Jonathan Hatch in 1646.  Joseph Hatch, the son of Sarah and Jonathan Hatch married Amy Allen and their daughter Amy Allen Hatch married Jonathan Delano. Amy and Jonathan Delano are the parents of  Elizabeth Delano and she and Joseph Chamberlain were the grandparents of Solomon Chamberlain.  His parents were Joel Chamberlain and Sarah Dean.  Solomon is the grandfather of Effie Redd Jameson."

Effie was Randy's grandmother, and her sister, Susan Elizabeth Redd Butler was my grandmother. [In case you missed it, their sister, Artemesia Redd Romney, was the grandmother of Mitt Romney.] I don't know anything yet about Thomas Blossom, but hope to find out. I hadn't known we had ancestors on the Speedwell; I only knew about our Mayflower ancestors, John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. In the book I read about the Mayflower tribes, the author estimates that 10 percent of Americans have at least one Mayflower ancestor. Notice the Delano, I think we have a connection also with FDR.
What geneological unravellings have you found lately?? Good night.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gathering in the stream......."And the drifting clouds , , ,"

Another from the day of the unusual frost. This is where the ducks hang out. I have noticed them landing in the snow the same way they land in the water, breast first and slide. I suppose it saves wear and tear on your foot structures. The ugly pipe across the channel looks sort of like a bridge in a garden. I like to imagine it as sort of a frame for the action.
Many things look different in different lights and at different times. On the Thornton Wilder front, World War II has just begun and he is worried about Gertrude and Alice in France. He has given up on the his Alcestiad, Icelandic Sagas or not. He will assign his royalties in foreign countries for the relief of people who were stuck in Europe.
And, here is the last of the Louis Simpson poems, for now,
which harks clear back to the Civil War, and the Battle of the Wilderness.

The Union Barge on Staten Island

The crazy pier, a roof of splinters
Stretched over the sea,
was a cattle barge. It sailed in the Civil War,
In the time of the Wilderness battles.
The beams are charred, the deck worn soft between the knotholes.

When the barge sank offshore
They drove the cattle on land and slaughtered them here.
What tasty titbits that day
For the great squawking seagulls and pipers!
A hooded shuffling over the dark sand . . .

Under your feet the wood seems deeply alive.
It's the running sea you feel.
Those animals felt the same currents,
And the drifting clouds
Are drifting over the Wilderness, over the still farms.

From Selected Poems, Louis Simpson, page 127.

Tonight Outdoor Idaho on Idaho Public TV had a segment about a very
old Bristlecone pine a long trek up a mountain. After we watched them
huffing and puffing over the scree, they finally got to the tree,
a tripartite affair, with only one of the parts
still living. It was bearing a few cones.
It was so rotten within that they couldn't get an accurate ring sample,
but it is very, very old.A huge and gnarly weatherbeaten stump
and not terribly impressive, the way a Giant Sequoia can be,
nevertheless, I was very glad to make its TV acquaintance.
Sleep well.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

I am getting a kick out of duck's feet in motion. Plus Met Opera Broadcast . . .

Here is today's sample. I have even better ones. It is sort of reminds me of awkward, yet functional, dancing. I got out a Canon Powershot Pro that I haven't been using. It's a camera with a viewer, because in the snow/shade light, it is impossible to see the screen. Then I downloaded the manual and found out you can take bursts of photos. That's for tomorrow. I hope to catch some flight.
Tonight I am thinking about the informational text I need to write about the history of our donated nature preserve land in Emmet County. I want to find out who homesteaded the land and any information about the Haines family. I have begun to write some letters, hoping to find out any facts. We shall see.

Tonight we watched the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast with Anna Netrebko and a tenor I didn't know, Matthew Polenzani, singing that silly melodic Donizetti delight, L'Elisir d'amore. I've been a little tired of the ever-present Anna, but she did a great job, I have to say. And the tenor, Oh, my goodness! Such a ringing, rich tone, with a kind of beautiful metallic edge--I don't know how to describe the sound, but I wish I could.  The broadcast was of a performance that was shown on screens in an open square in New York. At the end, they showed some video taken of people's faces as they watched. And then, I was surprised, but the cast came out on a sort of balcony above the crowd and was cheered. I can't explain why, but this made me cry. Maybe it was so many people enjoying something that is out of the geographical, financial and interest reach of so many people. Sometimes I am surprised by a sudden teariness; I am reminded of my father who always cried over a part in a TV show or movie where a parent was reconciled with a child. Unless you had a father who quietly cried about this, you might not realize how many parent-child reconciliation scenes there are in shows. Check it out!  Good night.
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Friday, January 18, 2013

Just hangin' out

Whatever weather thing gave us yesterday morning's glittering frost, was a one-day wonder. I had naturally thought of other photo strategies should it recur. But it is still very cold and I fed ducks again today. We went to the hearing aid office today and ordered some. Because it was Friday, I guess, the huge parking lot was only about 1/3 full. And there were about 20 Canada Geese wandering about. There wasn't anything to eat, that I could see, but there they were--moving from the street toward the buildings. When we came out, we had to manouver among many fresh green fat-worm-like droppings. This made me wonder, again, if feeding ducks was SUCH a good idea! Today was Mail Day, when a whole weeks worth of magazines, junque mail and everything, is forwarded in a box. There is a new New Yorker, and a FANTASTIC article ( I had to tear myself away to get this in before midnight) by John McPhee. It's about how he writes and thinks up the structures for his non-fiction. And it describes an arcane piece of old software that someone customized for him. But, even without the software, one could make those little maps--each one varies with the subject--even for a poem. This New Yorker is the January 14, 2013 issue. Read it soon!
I still haven't found out much more about Icelandic sagas, except they seem to be heavy on genealogy. I won't find out until I get back to it what use Thornton was able to make of the tone for his Alcestiad.
I do know that I have more respect for his creative process than I did in High School, when I thought of him as someone who had written a very short book about people who died when a bridge collapsed in Peru. And a slight play about life in a small town which wasn't that interesting to read, and I've never had a chance to see it performed.

Here's another poem from Louis Simpson, also from his Selected Poems, p108.


The storm broke, and it rained,
And water rose in the pool,
And frogs hopped into the gutter,

With their skins of yellow and green,
And just their eyes shining above the surface,
Of the warm solution of slime.

At night, when fireflies trace
Light-lines between the trees and flowers
Exhaling perfume,

The frogs speak to each other
In rhythm. The sound is monstrous,
But their voices are filled with satisfaction.

In the city I pine for the country;
In the country I long for conversation--
Our happy croaking.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

This morning frost was falling like snow

"Mr.{Desmond} McCarthy was very quick to see my difficulty in establishing a style for an Alcestiad.{a play Wilder was planning on a classical plot}
He suggested I look at [Sir George] Dasent's translation of the Icelandic epics."
{from the first page of the text of  The Journals of Thornton Wilder}

So, in case we/you need something to do tomorrow afternoon, there will be Icelandic Sagas!
Note: I just went away to Kindle and have downloaded the free copy of Popular Tales from the Norse by the same Sir George. And I found, while there, a story I dearly loved as I child and have often wondered where it was "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." I had to pay for that because of the illustrations.
One shudders to think how much more steeped in the ancient texts Thornton could have been had he only had a Kindle! I have really been enjoying the biography, and just bought the Journals and some Letters in used copies. Before I started this biography--and I am only halfway through, having decided to bop around while reading, instead of finishing one book at a time. It's very freeing, enlightening,and slightly nutty.
After I learned to read,my goal was one book every day, finished before other obligations. Mom left the dinner dishes for me in the sink--I'd wash them, do homework, and go to bed in the midnight hour. Only War and Peace took me about a week. I was shocked my first year in college to discover that I only had time for about 3 books a week. That was my Maxwell Anderson and Thomas Wolfe period.

I never took up eye makeup, as being a waste of time if  one's lashes and brows
were dark enough to show.

I'm continuing with Louis Simpson; here is a short poem from his Selected Poems, p.99.

The Morning Light

In the morning light a line
Stretches forever. There my unlived life
Rises, and I resist,
Clinging to the steps of the throne.

Day lifts the darkness from the hills,
A bright blade cuts the reeds,
And my life, pitilessly demanding,
Rises forever in the morning light.

I don't think he needs the commas at the end of lines, or the Capital Letters
that begin each line, but I am sure he thought he did.  Good Night.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shadow and Substance; how to tell the difference?

In this picture of a backyard epiphyllum, the difference is clear. I can tell the shadow from the flower.

When I was in high school, I had a treasured copy of a book called Have you read 100 great books? It was paperback and largish, about the dimentsions of Time magazine. It had lists of 100 great books by many well-known people and a master list of the 100 books most mentioned in these lists ordered by the most mentions to those books with a lesser amount of votes, but still in some lists. I made it my goad to read all 100 books on the master list while I was in high school. I looked for another copy of the book for many years, and gave up. But just tonight, I think I found a used copy on Amazon. I have ordered it, and will report.
I did read all the books, and became an especial fan of novels translated from Russian. I didn't really like Of Human Bondage, being irritated with the protagonist, but I read it. And David Copperfield irritated me too, because of Davy's foolishness--I preferred other Dickens, especially the Pickwick Papers (don't ask!) but I stuck with it clear to the end. But I must admit, I really read only 99 of the books all the way through. I failed at The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. I just couldn't stand it!
This has haunted me ever since. So I began my plan of redress.
The Meditations have been gracing my Kindle for some time now. When I promised a report yesterday, I was reading the introduction! Which went right along. Not thrilling, but interesting.
Now I am a very short way into the book. I could whine that
the Camera Club of Eagle meeting tonight cut into my reading time. . .
But the truth is that it is slow going.
I have found a great quote, though. Here it is:

"But it is now high time that you realized what kind of a universe
this is of which you form a part, and from wht governor of that universe
you exist as an emanation; and that your time here is strictly limited, and,
unless you make use of it to clear the fog from your mind,
the moment will be gone, as you are gone, and never be yours again."
(from the Oxford University Press version by Robin Hard and Christopher Gill.)

And it that doesn't get your thinkmeister going, I cannot think what will!
Grasp onto your plans for your emanation, think, and act! Or at least, be careful!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Covers like they used to make

Olive Schreiner's palm-sized book earned a cover embossed with silver.

I just put a lovely little unused gilt-edge datebook from last year on the table by my chair. It is slightly larger than the dark-blue covered GE pocket datebooks my father used to use. I'm imagining each already-past day has just about the space for me to stick in a haiku.

Tonight I am wondering what kind of a book, or paper Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations on. And what was the substrate for Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book? I'm supposing she wrote with ink and a brush and ground her own ink on an inkstone. And wrote on the paper that the story says was a gift from the emperor to the Empress Shonagon served. Were the sheets bound? I'll need to do some investigation.
 Louis Simpson--I am pretty sure, but will check--wrote on a typewriter. The book I am looking at tonight is called Ships Going into the Blue; essays and notes on poetry. These essays are short and very personal. Here's an example: 

"There was no method to teaching in those days, no "theory"--you just pitched into the text and tried to uderstand it, and explained it as best you could. I am not making any claims for our understanding, nor do I mean to attack the currently fashionable theoretical approaches to literature anad lament the disappearance of the author and the decline of Western civilization. Civilazation is always in decline, that's what makes it so interesting. Give me a losing cause every time. Now that communism is failing I think I may be able to get through Das Kapital." 
(page 12, University of Michigan Press paperback edition)

What the three books have in common is an episodic quality which reminds me of thinking--
first this, and then that. . .

Here is Sei Shonagon, from her section describing the best part of each season, on winter:
"In winter the early mornings. It is beautiful indeed when snow has fallen during the night, but splendid too when the ground is white with frost; or even when there is no snow or frost, but it is simply very cold and the attendants hurry from room to room stirring up the fires and bringing charcoal, how well this fits the season's mood! But as noon approaches and the cold wears off, no one bothers to keep the braziers alight, and soon nothing remains but piles of white ashes."
(page 21, Ivan Morris translation from Columbia University Press edition)
And tomorrow, I promise to continue with Marcus Aurelius. I've owed it to him since about 1952--and he must wait one more day. This shouldn't be too tough for a follower of the Stoics.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Twilight Blues

There is a time just before dark comes down over the parking lot, when the intense blue of the darkening sky, the sparkle of streetlights and a touch of snow can make a fairyland of a shopping center. We had just been to Carl's Jr. for a Turkeyburger (tasty, cheap, no kitchen mess, and accompanied by the most astonishing old music--My Sharona, The Beatles, even The Monkees!) and there was this magic. I like the way also that a lens makes the parallel lines converge, makes walls and buildings lean. In this case, an already-crooked stop sign adds to the magic. And the red awning gave the necessary fillip to the whole.
Well, I am two weeks in and still cranking! Tomorrow, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Honest!!

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Well, yes, we have been married for quite a while now!

And we came to rest here on this porch rail for a little while we see
if she is coming back with some more cracked corn.

Today my brother, Dave, called and reminded me that I said I would come to Salt Lake in January. (It seemed so far-distant at the time .) We are still dealing, ten years later, with our mother's archives. Not that these are not INTERESTING archives; they are. I looked at all the rest of the slides with a small lighted viewer the last time I was there and threw away about 80 percent of them. I brought a backpack of the rest back to Idaho on the plane. Now he tells me that he still has the rejects--loose in a box. He'd like me to look at them again. I doubt it. Meanwhile he is hatching the recently digitized 8mm movies, which he thinks we should cut, before we make the DVD. Soon all the people who might watch it will be dead. . . He is probably right, but I trust only myself to so that. More to come--a gripping saga.
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

American wigeon: Anas Americana

A sunny day, but cold. This handsome fellow posed for me (15x lens). I love the blue snow-shadow. The way feathers are colored and arranged on different birds is a constant delight when you have a chance to see them clearly. Now I know why Roz Stendal likes to sketch them. I keep planning to sketch them, too, but I am afraid of a very steep learning curve. Tonight in the news some 3 millionaires are going to jail for cheating people out of "invested" money, and some billionaires are dumping THEIR investments in American companies, to avoid the coming 90% (that's what they said) decline or CRASH in the stock market. I looked on eBay for a zigzag sewing machine which I feel a nostalgic need for here. Prices seem a little high, since I haven't met anyone who sews for 15 years. . .
But I'll keep looking.
Last night I filled S in on the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, who was really an Emperor's court SNOB. But I defy anyone to read her short take on each of the four seasons near the beginning of the book and not be transfigured. I am working with three versions, just for the hell of it: The classic Arthur Waley on Kindle, the scholarly Ivan Morris (Columbia University Press) and the one I paid the most for: the Kindled Meredith McKinney (Penguin Classics) which was supposed to be more lively and readable, but so far, I have not found it so. I'm really liking the Ivan Morris, but the print is very small and I cannot read it in the dark, so I plan to continue to toy with all three.
Sleep tight.
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Sun through overcast and cottonwood spurs

It almost looks as if they are preparing leaf buds at the end of each twig for the faraway (Will it ever come?) springtime! The mist-shrouded sun shone a mysterious light on everything, but meant that there was no catchlight in the eyes of the wood ducks that I was photographing. Catchlights are great, but sometimes you have to do without them. But the delicate  tracery of these branches almost made up for that.
I have been thinking a lot about childhoods--this was caused by reading several biographies or autobiographical works at the same time, some on Kindle, some on paper. (I used to read one book at a time, but lately, I am tempted by the ease of Amazon.) Of course I am interested in this topic, because I have been a parent to children, some of them adopted, and because my childhood as the oldest of seven children looms so large in my legend. (I am full of these phrases and need to start writing on my blog earlier in the day to allow myself more time for revision. Alas.)
The books I am currently in, or have just finished are on
Richard Brautigan (horrible childhood!)
Thornton Wilder (rich but overcontrolled upbringing)
William Wordsworth (parents both dead when he reached age 11)
Robert Schumann (too early to say, only reading sample of book)
Brigham Young (tough, but pretty typical of the era, I guess)
Louis Simpson (bad after his parents divorced, worse after his father died)
Paul Gruchow (very depressive, depressed relatives, too, suicide)
Many of my relatives have large families, and in this time of Facebook, I am learning more about their lives than would have ordinarily been the case. I spent a long time tonight decoding the snapshot of my sister's family taken this summer. It came with a holiday message and the people were so small, because several photos were printed on the same 5x8 sheet. Fortunately, they all stood in family groups, so I was actually able to figure it out. She has eight children (two adopted from Russia) and all except the youngest adoptee and one son (who has a stepson, all have) as it were multiplied. And now she has a new great-grandchild, too!
What was your childhood like? I am pretty proud of doing a post every day for 1/3 of the month now. Next step, make more thoughtful sense, and improve the quality. . . Good night. . .
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Thursday, January 10, 2013


I know, exclamation points are unnecessary . . .
But you should remember that I spent 45plus
years in California. Icicles were thrilling when I was a kid in Scotia, New York,
across the Mohawk River from the General Electric complex.

We used to suck on icicles, if we could get them.
So real icicles strung from the patio roof. . . .

Here's my signature poem with the icicles in it. It has appeared in print,
most recently in the San Jose Poetry Center's Caesura.

Skating Backwards

Of course it is not all there in the poem, on the page,
     not all there. My blue snow suit with the zipper; black coal
          for the snowman's buttons. My father leans his shovel

on the house and lifts me up to break off an icicle.
     His boots are black and called galoshes. Their metal
          buckles jingle—like bits on horses in the movies.

Saturday we went to Collins Park and stood in line
     with Burns and Evelynn to slide down the long
          hill. My father pulls his knitted cap over his ears.

My mother can knit in the dark during home movies!
     I want to marry Burns. My sled has silver runners;
          every year my father paints all the sleds, adding one,

inscribing on each in block letters, the new owner's name.
     I am the oldest; my blue sled the biggest one. This year,
          Robert is old enough for a sled ride. I hold him

between my knees and give him a good safe ride—the kind
     that scares you not too much and still
          you've held your breath for the whole sled ride down the long hill.

Closer to the lake, the skaters have built a bonfire.
     If Daddy had his skates today, everyone could see
          him skate backwards! Bright blue mittens match my skating socks.

Burns is my good friend. My feet and hands are warm. I squeeze
     my small brother's mittened hand and fix the scarf around
          his nose for him to breathe through. Who can go home again?

Yet surely you can understand how real for me that frozen
     time, hard ice, soft snow, my father young again.

June Hopper Hymas

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Last night's sunset

I couldn't get this off my camera last night, but this afternoon I succeeded! So here we are. I've been reading Louis Simpson again, The king my father's wreck. This is billed as a memoir, while North from Jamaica is called an autobiography. I think that, in this case, the autobiography is a better book--but I have enjoyed them both very much. His Collected Poems came today. Even though I have another copy, I need one in Idaho. The ease of getting used books from Amazon may prove my undoing, storage-wise. What use is it to take pictures of sunsets? One is much like another, only some frames are better.
It has been interesting to read at about the same time, the works of Paul Gruchow. I forget what put me onto this. He was a beloved nature writer ("the Thoreau of Minnesota) and a person who suffered much of his life from severe clinical depression. Eventually he killed himself at quite a young age.
Both of these writers are distinguished by a thoughtful, questioning habit of mind. It has been a remarkable experience to read them together in the last few days. I think that nature essays are just about my favorite kind of reading, holed up in a comfortable chair in my centrally heated house.
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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

First Easter outfit

She's our first child. A little more than one year old. I made her Easter outfit--except for the hat, gloves, shoes and little purse. That's my husband--he is doing typing, and some KP, in the Army at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. That's her birthplace, but we will be leaving when school starts in the fall. He'll be going to Western Reserve for a Master's degree in English. This is part of the Scancafe slide scanning project. I recommend them. It's been a lucky life.
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Monday, January 07, 2013

Tonight I'll talk about my mother

On one of my visits to her place after she moved to Grandview Farms Condominiums outside of Provo, I took this bee-portrait. She bought the condo before it was finished and had them omit the cement wall around the outside area designed, perhaps as aback entrance and to store the garbage cans. She made it into a garden, planting a small apricot tree, grapevines, herbs, edibles and many different flowers over the 12 years she lived there. The cement pad served as a little covered porch and she set cute wrought iron chairs there. Neighbors and visitors alike enjoyed this garden, which was quite neatly kept with the help of her family.
Alas, it was destroyed the day after her funeral, before the nice descendent of Mormon pioneers who bought it could move in. He had thought he'd grow tomatoes. A wall was put up; now all the condos look exactly alike--but I remember, and I have lots of photos. I know there are sadder stories out there, but this one still makes me mad.
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Sunday, January 06, 2013

My Father rides into the Twentieth Century on his tricycle

It's about 1910. His sisters, one older, one younger, flank the walkway to their house in Portales, New Mexico. He told me it was five acres, with a garden and orchard in the front and fields in the back for growing feed and for pasture. Later, they moved to a farm in Yuma, Arizona. He graduated from High School there and won a scholarship to the University of Arizona. He sold his rifle to go to college and never owned another gun. He captained the polo team at U of A.. I always knew I would go there, too, and did attend school there my freshman year. He came to visit me on Homecoming Weekend and won an A blanket at the game for having come from the greatest distance. I still have this very heavy blue wool stadium blanket with the centered red A -- it's in the cedar chest we inherited from my husband's mother. Just like new.

When I was a girl, Dad wrote a letter to his mother almost every Sunday.

These are the sorts of things I know about my father; he was quiet, though; now I really wish I had known him better. His life from 1905-1987 covered times of great change. What did he really think about? Once he said with pride that he had never read a whole book since he was in college. Books have pretty much been my life, first as a child, then a librarian and now in my Kindled retirement. There has been ever-accelerating change since he died. In three more years, I will be as old as he was when he died. After his retirement, Parkinson's Syndrome (he often said it wasn't a "disease") gave him a lot of trouble. I often wondered if the vast amounts of DDT he used on our "Victory Garden" might have been at least partially responsible. He was very proud of being an engineer and had a great trust in the works of SCIENCE, which, at that time, imcluded more effective pesticides.
There are a great many things to think about in this new year. Hopefully, we'll get to work on them.
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