Friday, May 31, 2013

This morning's delight in my meadow

I had to take this through window glass and crop it, but it made me very happy! I cannot offer a crane poem tonight, but hope to write one if I get many more experiences of this. So here is a penguin instead. You will note that he is very intellectual. And so good night.

To a Penguin in the New York Aquarium

It generally begins with tricks. An animal show

with the serried ranks, eyes and medals front:

A trio of seals, juggling balls on their noses, slim

Flexi-statues, synchronized by their trainers

Like Broadway chorines, or men mooching on street corners,

Lissomly draped around fire escapes. And then he came,

This young penguin with the name of a German philosopher,

Who just stood there, didn't do anything, couldn't do anything,

A hero of early vaudeville, of flickering black-and-white

Comedies, imperiled by flights of steps. By a windy world,

Secret favorite pf a minority of the childish electorate,

He was the butler in tails, teetering on the brink of the pool,

Shivering on his flippers, swishing his wings. His performance

Faultlessly abject, down to the exit, sloping off without a bow.

Durs Grunbein, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann in

Ashes for Breakfast, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, Page 177.
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

What we put on the landscape 2

Tonight's poem is about a garden, not this one. This is the view from the handsome rest stop near Duluth,
I got a huge dose on this trip of the things my America has built. Here is a pretty amazing sample, including smokestacks and some fine bridges.

Out of Hiding

Someone said my name in the garden,

while I grew smaller
in the spreading shade of the peonies,

grew larger by my absence to another,
grew older among the ants, ancient

under the opening heads of the flowers,
new to myself and stranger.

When I heard my name again, it sounded far,
like the name of the child next door,
or a favorite cousin visiting for the summer,

while the quiet seemed my true name,
a near and inaudible singing
born of hidden ground.

Quiet to quiet, I called back.
And the birds declared my whereabouts all morning.

Li-Young Lee from Book of my Nights, BOA Editions, Ltd. page 65.

My garden in Michigan is coming along nicely, except that my lupines didn't reseed last year. And this morning--while the birds didn't declare my whereabouts--there was a pair of wild turkeys out front this morning and the sandhill crane was there again, trolling for something to eat in the meadow, and calling his wonderful call over and over. Sleep well, and dream of flight!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What we put on the landscape

Still having difficulties with the DSL and/or the modem. The support guy ordered a tech visit and a new modem today, but it may be several days yet. Tonight, I have already lost another picture, a couple of paragraphs and the poem. Here goes another try. I got this shot from the car on the trip, and only this version, there was no time to recompose. What I like is the way the colors of the sky reflect in the polished metal. I guess these are for grain storage. And I am sure you love these wide-open skies the way I do; why not?
And (not really) because there are no people in this picture,
here is a poem with some people:

“Watching People Walk Along”

Watching people walk along, put on a suit,
a hat, an expression and a smile,
watching them bent over their plates eating patiently,
work hard, run, suffer, cringe in pain,
all just for a little peace and happiness,
watching people, I say it's hardly fair
to punish their bones and their hopes
or distort their songs or darken their day,
yes, watching
people weep in the most hidden corners
of the soul and still be able
to laugh and walk with dignity,
watching people, well, watching them
have children and hope and always
believe things will get better
and seeing them fight to stay alive,
I tell them,
it's beautiful to walk along with you
to discover the source of new things,
to get at the root of happiness,
to bring the future in on our backs, to address
time on familiar terms and know
we'll end up finding lasting happiness,
I tell them, it's beautiful, what a great mystery
to live treated like dirt
yet sing and laugh
how strange!

Juan Gelman from Dark Times Filled With Light; the selected work of Juan Gelman,
translated from the Spanish by Hardie St. Martin, University of Rochester, 2012, reprinted in
Brochure Open Letter, page 14.
Hopefully, later posts will make more sense! Sleep tight!

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The sad story of the missing Internet

The tech just told me that they have until midnight to restore service on the promised day! I will supply a poem tomorrow. It is early evening now and my husband is sharing bits of his food with his dogs. Good night!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Waldron Fen Vesper Birdwalk in Afternoon Light

This is what I wanted to post yeaterday. Still operating on Mobile Hot Spot, the new miracle. It was an excellent Sunday walk, and the mosquitoes were world class! We all fled, even as Nancy was setting out the refreshments. There was a special assembly of mosquitoes under the picnic-spot roof. Thick! I'll add the bird list here after Sally posts it.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Early light in the late spring woods

     Last night, I could only post by the phone. With the app I tried for that, I could use only pictures I had on iPhone pictures (this is of the early morning light) and I was unable to figure out how to add text. Now I can add it (Mobile Hot Spot, but only above the picture.) So I will tell about yesterday's vesper bird walk on the next post. Such are the joys of technology glitches. . .       UPDATE ON MEMORIAL DAY: We are getting settled in here. Our daughter and her friend deep-cleaned the house for us before we got here, for which we are very thankful. They cleared all surfaces, moved all furniture, washed all linens and coverings, But then they didn't remember where everything went. So there are neat stacks of folded linens and papers and small equipments like pencil sharpeners and calculators. It is really pretty funny and VERY, very clean. I didn't keep things on windowsills, but on nearly every other surface here. 
Just before I left, thinking again about Vern Rutsala, I found some of his books available and had then sent here ahead of me. Picking up one to stack it, I opened to this poem. So you have one after all--it's just ABOVE the photo, not below:

The Windowsill Over the Sink

You're back from a long trip
and promise yourself
that it will never be cluttered
again. Yet you see it grow
its inhabitants almost by stealth:
A horse chestnut, votive candles,
paper clips and safety pins,
the accumulation gathering around
the aspirin bottle. Then the cup
with the broken handle, the bird's nest
found on a walk, pinecones,
matchbooks, coupons offering
ten cents off on a Mercedes.
The old life is reentered this way
and begins to crowd around you
with its clutter showing again that
you can keep everything but promises.

Vern Rutsala, from The Moment's Equation, Ashland Poetry Press, 2004. Page 12.
And this time, it's good morning for the augmented post.                                                                                                                                                         

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Buffalo Calves just outside Yellowstone

Just a quick post to keep my commitment, Our Internet service here will not start until the 28th, So tonight my daughter brought her phone over and connected me with something called Mobile Hot Spot. I am posting through her phone, but find it hard to believe.
But here I am. I had ordered some Rutsala books sent here and tonight here is one short poem. I think I was right in remembering him as living on the down side of happiness, but still a very good one,.

Here he is:


The scene: “Meeting a former friend.” The two cen-
tral characters wear uneasiness like a glove as their
hands meet, shake, then fly away to the safety of pock-
ets and secret fists. From a distance---across the room,
say---and observer might think Friends, but nearer he
would think Shell without quite knowing why, There
would be the mustiness of empty houses in the talk---
all furniture removed, bare floors echoing footsteps,
corners heavy with memories of dead parties, The
handshake as they part locks the door.

Vern Rutsala in A Handbook for Writers; new and selected
Prose Poems, White Pine Press, 2004. Page 65.
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Moon over Michigan

Finally got here! Moon from the front porch. I am looking at the man in the moon right now but I can also see that rabbit the Japanese talk about. Internet here not active yet. Have to post from phone. Poems later. On final day's drive both the south shore of Lake Superior and the north end of Lake Michigan were truly sunlit and spectacular! More tomorrow! And so to bed.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Traveling East at the end of Minnesota, is a beautiful public information area, rest area, picnic ground (PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE SEAGULLS!) and view point overlooking the west end of Lake Superior. This sculpture THE GATE by David Schegell has recently been installed there and gleams in the afternoon sun. The facilities are VERY clean and well planned, the staff was cheery and helpful! We found it by mistake when we misread a turn and went uphill. So we decided to stop there. The view was spectacular, a sort of diorama of 19th Century industrial infrastructure: smoking stacks, iron bridge, port facilities, brick and masonry buildings. The GATE symbolizes the entrance to commerce of possible water transport via the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond, When I was in grade school (I lived in Scotia, New York by the Mohawk River and thus the Erie Canal) this was still being taught as a BIG IDEA, with the implication that it would always be as important as it was then. Big Ideas seem to come and go, looking at them from this vantage.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

American Redstart on the shore of Leech Lake, Minnesota

Hello, adorable bird; I posted this poem too soon. Tonight, after conquering North Dakota, we are staying in the Country Inn at the edge of Leech Lake in Minnesota. It is a  beautiful setting! If there are about 15,000 lakes in Minnesota, this one claims to be one of the largest. We parked facing a pine that stands between the lake and the Inn. And  the pine was full of these birds flying out to catch invisible insects. After a while, I saw a Yellow Warbler, maybe two, then a black and white warbler and finally a Black-capped Chickadee. It was my birding event of this year so far. I didn't think my camera could catch them, they are so fast, but I just aimed in that direction, and caught this one. They continued this behavior in the pine and the nearby trees above some sumac for a couple of hours. Pretty much a highlight of my trip!

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013


The pictures from today are all about overcast and rain, So here is one from yesterday. I can't really explain why, but this quite pleases me. Maybe it is the red truck cab.

Your poem to tonight was translated from the German. This poet was recommended to me recently. Driving through America is giving me a chance to think about different kinds of American lives. And then there are the lives of wild creatures. Are you watching any peregrine cams, bear den cams, eagle cams, rookery cams? These things are more and more available and give us a chance to think about the lives of other creatures. I often find zoos depressing, but I am glad to have seen the tiger face to face.

To an Okapi in the Munich Zoo

The clank of a steel door, and the ignominious entrance
Of the heraldic beast, trembling, because it's feeding time,
And the keeper wants to knock off, and the beastly onlookers are laughing . . .
These are things not written in any unicorn legend. Okapi---
The word is from jungle languages, now themselves extinct.
Insufficiently tall for the savannah, this patient, rust-colored
Throat merits its pellets of straw, and its locked stall at night.
Because the free range will be strange to him,
As strange as to the bemused visitor
This combination of giraffe and zebra,
Equally remote from the familiar childhood cutout of either.
One more ruminant from the olden days, a sentry
Planted on the astrological roadside, as though to warn
Against the pathos of the exotic throwback.

Durs Grunbein, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann
Ashes for Breakfast, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, Page 177.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Tonight we made it as far as Billings and are comfortably ensconced in a Kelly Inn there. All day through gorgeous country, Gallatin River, Yellowstone River, cloud, sun, rain--seasoned with a few buffalo with calves. I took several hundred fromthecar pictures. I decided to think of raindrops on the windshield as a feature, not a bug!

Storm in the Mountains

Even God can't take the lightning back,

once the old forest wakes in the night and all

the arch of the sky stares aghast at that fall

saved in quiet so long we forgot its attack

that says nothing, nothing till it comes and is over: black

sky again, but cuddled in a snag silent and tall

a fire seed begins a new life, so huddles, so small

that no one looks there till another crack

and its eyelids gleam. Oh, the long tumble! The whole

world on its way home somewhere with us helplessly

clinging to keep our place!--clutching our selfish

bodies that finally crash and ignite the soul

to spark, or maybe to spark, maybe to smoulder

while God reconsiders light and dark over and over

and over.

William Stafford in My Name Is William Tell, Confluence Press, page 55.

Rest well and dream of buffalo grazing a a spring meadow with yellow flowers. Good Night!
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

All day traveling east and north through Idaho

I was marveling at these open western skies all the way, including those produced by fierce rainstorms after Pocatello. Because we were in the car, I didn't hear any birds, but I saw some. And I should be in Emmet County, Michigan in time for the last three burdwalks of the spring season. Thus tonight's bird-in-a-poem which I've been saving for as I get closer.

How You Know

Everyone first hears the news as a child,
surrounded by money-changers and pharisees;
amid all the twittering, one flash of sound
escapes along a creek---some fanatic among
the warblers broken loose like a missionary
sent out to the hinterland, and though the doors
that open along the creek stay closed for the cold,
and the gray people in their habitats don't look out,
you---a homeless walker stabbed by that bird cry---
stop mid-stride because out of a thicket
that little tongue turns history loose again, and holy
days asleep in the calendar wake up and chime.
William Stafford, from Even in Quiet Places, Confluence Press, page 57.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

An Elegant Form Makes Elegant Shadows

This is a vase by William Morris, who shares a name with an elegant craftsman from the British Isles. whose beautiful textile and book designs I love. I think this form is completely lovely. It also isn't really much use as a pot or even a vase. But I love looking at it. Its tranquil beauty quiets something deep inside.

Sharon Olds' poetry has been much admired for many years. It is beautifully crafted and seems to attempt to be deeply honest, in a way that people often avoid. We/me try to smooth the rough edges. Her poems often dealt with subjects that seem utterly private to me. While I know that there shouldn't be off-topic items in art, some topics make me nervous. So I admired her poems, but she was not one of my favorite poets.
However, I read so many nice things about her new book, written since (and concerning) her divorce that I decided to stop being such a subject wimp and get it. It just came, but because I was packing, I didn't get time to read it right away. Last night I was putting it away (to read in a few months when I come back) and tried a few poems, then a few more. Then I went and put it in my suitcase, after copying out this poem.


When they say, If there are any doctors aboard,
would they make themselves known, I remember when my then
husband would rise, and I would get to be
the one he rose from beside. They say now
that it does not work, unless you are equal.
After those first thirty years,
I was not the one he wanted to rise from
or return to – not I but she who would also
rise, when such were needed. Now I see them,
lifting, side by side, on wide,
medical, wading-bird wings – like storks with the
doctor bags of like-loves-like
dangling from their beaks. Oh, well. It was the way
it was, he did not feel happy when words
were called for, and I stood.

Sharon Olds from Stag's Leap, Cape Poetry (Jonathan Cape) 2012, page 33.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Heading back

Gonna put out my suet and sunflower seeds and see what I can stir up out of the Michigan Woods. Leaving Sunday and hope to stay long enough to see the spectacular fall color. This fellow was very fond of suet a year ago. He's quite shy, so I had to take the photos through the kitchen window. See what a woodpecker can do to a tree? I must admit that the tree wasn't in great shape, but now it has given up. A woodpecker has some kind of mechanism that protects its brain from damage as a result of the repeated impacts. Several years ago, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds nested in a woodpecker-made hole in a tree behind the house. But by the next year the tree had blown down in a windstorm. Not everything turns out the way we think it should, as in this prose poem. (My grandson says poems must be rhyming and metrical, but Vern Rutsala wouldn't agree.)


It advertised the only trained hippopotamus in the
world. We had to see that. It was Iowa and it was sum-
mer with all that oppressive heat. The tent was small
and there was only one ring, the grass inside it scarcely
trampled down---not a good sign. Early on we noticed
there weren't many performers but they put on differ-
ent costumes and took different names, too, for each of
the acts, Part of the fun was to spot them in their new
personas. The buxom bareback rider switched to tights
and labored up the trapeze. We decided they were all
one family, Finally, the hippo entered looking smaller
than we expected—maybe it was one of those Iowa
hogs in disguise. An older man, the catcher in the tra-
peze act, walked the hippo slowly around the one
ring. It shuffled along looking none too happy and
then disappeared through the tent flap. You asked,
What's the act? What does it do? I said, I'm afraid
we've just seen it.

Vern Rutsala in A Handbook for Writers; new and selected
Prose Poems, White Pine Press, 2004. Page 57.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013


Here Mr. Mallard guards the entrance to the stream. (He waited for them and went down just before they did, as if leading them.) They had all just been up to my house for a lawn snack.
And here is tonight's poem:

The Bridge

The stars report a vast consequence
our human moment joins.

Or is it all the dark
around them speaking?

And if someone who listened for years
one night hears Home,

what is he to do with the story
his bones hum to him
about the dust?

Let him go in search of the hiding place
of the dew, where the hours are born.

Let him uncover whose heart
beats behind the falling leaves

And as for the one who hears Remember,

well, I began to sing
the words my father sang
when he knelt to teach me
how to tie my shoes:

Crossing over, crossing under, little bird,
build your bridge by nightfall.

Li-Young Lee from Book of my Nights, BOA Editions, LTD, page 35.

Memory Thread: My best friend from high school,also named June, visited us when my oldest child was a little girl and my first son was a baby. When I put the little girl's shoes on in the morning, I tied them and tied the bow over again, so the tying would last all day. During her visit, June decided to teach the child how to tie her own shoelaces. It hadn't even occurred to me! June patiently spent a lot of time on this task, which my daughter was eager to master. And did! It was one of the early times when I realized that the child is an actual person who needs to master tasks, not just have things done to/for them. (I was very young. . .) That was a good lesson, and a good indication of the kind of wonderful person my friend is. We graduated from high school in 1953, and we are still in touch. Teach a child something useful in the coming week. My mother-in-law showed me how to make homemade noodles--you don't even have to measure anything!-- that I still make. Sleep well!
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flower made of watered silk

This delicate flower--the rhododendron bush too delicate to survive in our yard when we were away and the watering system failed-- has almost certainly nothing to do with the much more stark and manly poem I found for tonight. It is in American Poet, Spring 2013, on page 40. Gary Snyder's presence there celebrates the Wallace Stevens Award (recognizing outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry!) from the Academy of American Poets given to him this year. There's a nice chunk of change with that. This poem has been one of my favorites for years and years and years and years. It has a kinship with the ancient Chinese poetry that Snyder loves, too.

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

I'm quite tired tonight. I finally did paint the peeling board on the patio railing. The painting was easy, but the scraping and preparation were harder. And the cleanup was rough, because I used outdoor oil paint, and had to clean the brush. I still have a few white spots on my hand, like the remnants of virtue. Now I have two more days to pack for summer and autumn in Northern Michigan. I also hope to leave this place in a decent shape.
Went to my last-of-the-season Camera Club of Eagle tonight. It was a great critique of lots of submitted photos by a woman whose whole name is, if I have it right:  Beatriz Fabiana Loverde de Huffaker. She goes by Fabiana, and has the most excellent eye. She is ever striving to improve her photography and wants you to ramp it up, too! I enjoyed every bit of this and will miss my CCoE when I am not here.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How many crows can dance on a limb?

How beautiful is each translucent floret of the sweet, sweet pea? Tonight I have been going through stacks of paper I've been saving to look at later, I think someone once said, "You can't take it with you!" I wasn't listening, and act as if I thought I could. And I am leaving the William Stafford books here, so other crows will have to dance, while I'm in Michigan. But not tonight.

Why the Sun Comes Up

To be ready again if they find an owl, crows
choose any old tree before dawn and hold a conversation
where they practice their outrage routine. "Let's elect
someone. "No, no! Forget it." They
see how many crows can dance on a limb.
"Hey, listen to this one." One old crow
flaps away off and looks toward the east. In that
lonely blackness God begins to speak
in a silence beyond all that moves. Delighted
wings move close and almost touch each other.
Everything stops for a minute, and the sun rises.

William Stafford, reprinted in Crossing Unmarked Snow; further views on the writer's vocation. University of Michigan Press, 1998. Page 97. (A short essay on how he came to write this poem precedes it in this book.)

I found the ending of this a total surprise when I first read it! I love the way the moment before sunrise is like a held breath! Sleep well, I might miss the actual dawn tomorrow, though, being a night owl, rather than a crow.
PS: I'm a little overwhelmed at the increase in readership of this blog. It makes me blush, but that's a happy blush.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

She brought them up to visit in my yard in the late afternoon

About two weeks ago, I saw them swim up the creek in single file and too far away to photograph. She was following them. I got the camera ready, but thought I might not see them again, and I did not. Today, at last, she brought them (up a few stairs,and back down on foot) three separate times to nibble at the lawn. Wowza! Made me very happy! Here is the link to the slide show. As you can see, one is dark, one is a little blondie and there are three middling pale yellow ones. Even the light ones are darker on the tail end. I thought the drakes might be dark, but it is not so, according to that marvel, the Internet.

Tonight's poem is by that master of the delightful paragraph, or prose poem, Vern Rutsala. He came to San Jose to read in what was my Golden Age of poetry readings there, the 1980s. All that I remember about him is his big overcoat [Mstislav Rostropovich had a bigger overcoat--the biggest I ever saw, virtually swept the ground and contained prodigious sweeps of fabric--at the concert he gave in the BYU Fieldhouse in the 1950s, but that's another story] and that he gave off a faint affect of Depressed Person, but many poets do . . .


     By hook or crook, by shoestring and bootstrap, by
running and hiding, by mortice and tenon, by moving
under cover of darkness, by wit and dumb luck, by
spit and polish, by weights and measures, by love or
money, by hurrying up and waiting, by word of
mouth, by bread and board, by slice and dice, by not
letting the left hand know, by bed and breakfast, by
nuts and bolts, by nodding and smiling, by mortar
and pestle, by hammer and tongs, by never crying
over what we spill, by backing and filling, by surf
and turf, by health and safety, by soup and sandwich, by
bourbon and water, by offense and defense, by being
as dumb as an ox is strong, by mind and body, by day
for night, by sturm and drang, by fire and ice, by hit
or miss--oh, yes, by hit or miss.

from A Handbook for Writers; new and selected Prose Poems
by Vern Rutsala, White Pine Press, 2004, page 21.

So, lots of commas, no linebreaks (in the book the poem is presented as an almost-rectangle in full justification, except fot the indent of the first line,) phrases of similar construction from sayings, objects that are paired, proverbs, advertising combinations and whatever else from common usage. It moves right along and makes surprising alterations in some of the places we think we already know the next word. I love this stuff! Good Night, all!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lovely summer sky in Wolverine, many a year ago

I had this set of software filters that let me do things like this to photographs. I took this photo the day I went to the Pack Goat Seminar (Yes, I did! You should have come, too!) in  Wolverine. I'm not totally happy about that wire, but that would be fixable, I think. This filter was called  buZZ Simplify. It came from Britain and the company quit upgrading it. It no longer works with the current software and operating systems. Sometime I think my heart will break but Jane of the Camera Club says there is a similar filter in the Topaz set. I'll be looking into that.

Just another bit from William Stafford tonight:
"Yesterday in a discussion . . . students asked whether an artist had to be a rebel. My impulse was to say that it is the society which the artist feels to be rebelling. I feel that I am like a Greek chorus--speaking deliberately and measuredly the central truth of things. While all around me people--bankers, generals, kings, my children, everyone--all speak the wildest kind of impulsive, mistaken things."
From his daily writing, 12 February, 1959. Quoted in Early Morning; remembering my father by Kim Stafford. Page 154.
It's been a long hot day, but a good one. My children called me for Mother's Day.
Good Night!
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Four Girls from near the end of the Nineteenth Century.

I should have put this up a long time ago! I have loved this picture for years. This is a later deckle-edge copy of the original, which is mounted on a sort of board, which has been broken in two. My father's mother, Marjory Ann Carr (1874-1962 )is second from the left with the white bow at her throat. She was born in 1874. This was taken in Arkansas where she grew up. Her father died when she was nine months old, and her mother died when Marjory was nine years old. She managed to become a teacher and then earn a scholarship to a three -year Normal School and graduate prepared for a better teaching job, After she married, she moved to New Mexico and then to Arizona.

The girl at the left is her sister Lillian, who lived with my father's family as he was growing up. I think she had a bad leg and never married. My mother told me that Lillian had a bad attitude toward men, as a result of some kind of jilting. When this picture was taken, Marjory was, or was about to become, that young schoolteacher. I was told that the other two girls were their cousins, but I don't really know anything about them.
It was a different world, entirely, entirely, entirely! I am fascinated by the way all their throats are ornamentally wrapped, and the hair is done up so prettily. There are only two items of jewelry visible, a delicate lacy pin, and some tiny earrings.

It interests me that the two central girls look straight out at us, while the outer girls look down, Was this the idea of the photographer, or a pose they just assumed? There are many professional portrait photographers in the Camera Club of Eagle (Idaho) to which I now belong. Their conversation has made me aware of the way in which portrait photographers manipulate the posing of the picture, as well as alter and "improve" the results of the session. Most contemporary portrait photographs make me nervous. But I like this one. For some reason, as yet unclear to me, I wanted to put up an ancestor picture tonight, I thought at first of a great great grandmother Caroline Farozine Skeen Butler, Mormon pioneer and wife of John Lowe Butler.

b. 15 Apr 1812, d. 04 Aug 1875

Here she is, anyway! I think you may agree that I made the  right choice!

News Flash of the Day! Yesterday I finished the long and fiercely intelligent book George Eliot, Voice of a Century; a biography, by Frederick R. Karl. I was already writing the author a fan letter in my head, but now have discovered he died several years ago, alas. I find I now have a much better and more balanced view of the intellectual climate of a large part of the Victorian Age, not only its literature. George Eliot was so involved in the deep thinking that went on in that period (Darwin, Spencer, Henry James, Karl Marx, etc.) that it has provided the author with a great many opportunities to relate the parts to the whole, while he discusses Eliot's thoughts on important matters. Here is just one example, from a discussion of her correspondence with Harriet Beecher Stowe, who had written to Eliot and was often plugging for religion in her letters:
"Her [Eliot's] mockery of Casaubon's effort to create a key to all mythologies was not only ridicule of this limited man writing that capacious book; it was also a scornful view of any kind of overall design which tried to explain human behavior. It is not that Eliot disbelieved that myths has once served a useful function; it was now her belief that a synthesis of knowledge--even Spencer's monumental effort in this regard--was a betrayal of human experience. She voiced a typical Victorian dilemma: the recognition that proliferating subcultures undermined an organic society and yet the accompanying fear that any effort at synthesis was a denial of actual experience." Author's italics, page 493.

George Eliot lived from 1819-1880, which corresponds 
closely to Caroline Butler's life span.
And I guess now I get it! It was all about The Nineteenth Century!! Between the two great-grandmothers they almost covered the Nineteenth Century. In America! From here at the beginning of the Twenty-First, I salute you all, hardworking women, writers and grandmothers! Good Night, all.

Friday, May 10, 2013

One August Morning

I looked out my window and saw this buck in the early light. There have been five hunting seasons since then, and I am sure such a beauty wouldn't have survived them. When Dick Kappler was building our Northern Michigan house, we happened to be on the phone when he saw a buck with a rack more than twice this size (in the far meadow--not this close to the house) and Dick was so excited he could hardly talk on the phone. He said he had never seen a buck like that except in the Upper Peninsula! And the following hunting season the big buck that was taken just south of there made the newspaper. Now, through the Little Traverse Conservancy, we have set this property aside to be preserved for the benefit of wildlife. Which makes me happy tonight and every time I think about it. Listen, you might hear the Barred Owl calling, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-ooo-ooo?"

Hayden Carruth lived in a house in a natural setting in central New York State for most of his later life. His interest in the natural world shows in many of his poems.

Naming for Love

These are the proper names:
Limestone, tufa, coral rag,
Clint, beer stone, braystone,
Porphyry, gneiss, rhyolite.
Ironstone, cairngorm, circle stone,
Blue stone, chalk, box stone,
Sarsen, magnesia, brownstone
flint adventurnine,
Soapstone, alabaster, basalt,
Slate, quartzite, ashlar,
Clinch, cob, gault, grit,
Buhrstone, dolomite,
Flagstone, freestone, sandstone,
Marble, shale gabbro, clay,
Adamant. gravel, traprock,
and of course, brimstone.

Some of the names are shapes:
Crag, scarp, moraine, esker,
Alp, hogback, ledge, tor,
Cliff, boulder, crater,
Gorge and bedrock.

Some denote uses:
Keystone, capstone,
Hearthstone. whetstone.
And gravestone.

For women a painful stone called
Wombstone, which doctors say is
"A calculus formed in the uterus."
Gallstone and kidneystone hurt everyone.
Millstone is our blessing.

I will not say the names
Of the misnamed precious stones.

But a lovely name is gold,
A product of stone.

Underwards is magma;
May all who read this live long.

from Toward the Distant Islands; new and selected poems by Hayden Carruth,
Copper Canyon Press, 2006.  Pages 13-14.

Once again, this poem has interesting things about its structure. After an introductory colon for each series, we have lots of commas separating the stones, and also the proper end-of-paragraph period at the end of each stanza. Direct quote set off by quotation marks, but no exclamation or question marks. Stanzas of irregular lengths, which isn't really a problem, except that so many of them come at the end, where I often feel that a a poem should get thicker, not thinner. It seems to me the poem ends more than once. One ending is at "gravestone" which makes sense. Then we go into the body stones and the odd thing about wombstone. Millstone blesses us, might be another ending. The last three short stanzas go slightly off the track. This is not all bad, but it did draw my attention. Of all the poems I've typed this year, this is the one that I kept wanting to revise. . . Oh, well, I still like it. Good Night!
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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Remembering California at the watercolor class

And thinking: poppies, poppies,poppies! Poppies on the dunes around Monterey Bay, poppies on the hillsides of the Grapevine, poppies by the road with the lupines in the Feather River Canyon.  Poppies, poppies! Poppies in the parks and in the waste places. California poppies. . .

Waiting by the Sea

This tidepool day you inhabit contains more than
you need. It stirs now and then to bring
faint news of old storms deeper than the earth.
From caves around you feelers and claws wave
their greeting, then slowly withdraw
      and wait for tomorrow.

Sunlight is alive when it swims down where you are
and you stand still, alert to take in the sun.
You become a stone, then the ghost of a stone
then the gone water's brilliant memory
      of where a stone was.

Making the day expand in your heart and return
you play a limited part in what life is,
practicing for that great gift when enlightenment
comes, that long instant when the tide
       calls your name.

From My Name Is William Tell; poems by William Stafford, Confluence Press, 1992 Page 38.

Wave back at the feelers and claws for a bit and then think about this poem. It uses regular-type sentences that begin with a capital and end with a period. It is in even stanzas, but the first stanza has one extra line. The last line of each stanza is indented. The linebreaks are not ostentatious, but break at the ends of normal chunks of syntax, except for the first line and the break between "enlightenment" and "comes" near the end of the poem.  The thought is only slightly mysterious, and not difficult to follow, if you just ride along. And it is clearly a poem, and poetic! And it makes me feel like writing a poem might not be impossible for me, also. Sleep well and dream of the slight and wavery motions of the tidepool!
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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Verdure along the Little Union Canal

Another funny slight rain-with-windstorm this afternoon. Just beforehand, a redwing sat on the porch rail nearby, and raised his head and opened his beak to make that shrill cry. Again and again. I hadn't been so close to that before. Then I watched three mallard drakes chase one duck all over the sky. They never even got close.

Here is a prose poem by a master of the form, William Heyen. It is the first thing in his book, Pig Notes and Dumb Music. (1998) I like it partly because it is so goofy, like dreams are and many other parts of life, too!

The Bear
     I was standing near a corral of barbed wire attached to a barn out in the country along a dirt road. A white bear was wearing a path inside the fence. It was winter, night. Somehow, I was responsible for the bear, but wanted to go to town, but had to stay with him. But I decided to let him out, and if he killed some people, he killed them, and I'd be free of him.
     We headed along the snowblown dirt road to an intersection in the distance where winter swirled in the dark cone of a streetlight. The bear padded six feet in front of me. Would he turn on me?
     How stupid I was to let him out, to think of showing him where there were people. I wondered if I could get him back into the corral. Never mind, To hell with all the people.
     But halfway to the intersection I turned back. The bear followed, began to play, suspected nothing of towns or populations. He rolled in the road, charged into snowdrifts, knelt on floppy front paws and jumped away, turned a somersault in the air, his fur outlined in starlight.
     For now, there on that snowroad in the wild glitter of trees, in huffs of breathsteam against the blackness, in the icicle gleam of teeth, the white bear ran toward me and away, then toward me, his fur flying and swaying in slow motion as he followed me--so far, so good--back to the corral.
(page 13)

Things for me to think about in my own writing:
Varied sentence length. Sentence fragments.
Freshly compounded words: snowroad, breathsteam.
Metaphor: dark cone of a streetlight.
His use of commas, which keeps things moving right along and adds to a sort of dreamlike breathlessness.  Good Night!

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

There's something wonderfully messy about a streambank willow!

I wander around down here almost every day. The willow is slower to leaf than the cottonwoods. I love all the colors in the water; they change with the sky. We have enough male redwing blackbirds in the willow to exceed possible nest sites; it's like the men's dormitory! Although this morning there was a lone female on the patio eating spilled birdseed. This year the males just about OWN the birdfeeder. This morning, one little goldfinch had the nerve to begin to dine. I could see the blackbird watching incredulously. And then he flew right at the feeder--goodbye, little yellow-brushed beauty.
My beloved Frank Bidart has a new book of poems out--and naturally, I already have it. Here's one taste:


Ropes of my dead
grandmother's unreproducible

sausage, curing for weeks

on the front porch. My mother

Americanized, found them

vaguely shameful.
Now though I

taste and taste

I can't find that
taste I so loved as a kid.

Each thing generates the idea

of itself, the perfect thing that it
is of course, not---

once, a pear so breathtakingly

succulent I couldn't
breathe. I take back that

"of course"

It's got to be out there again,---
. . . I have tasted it.

from Metaphysical Dog; Poems, by Frank Bidart

Short as it is, there are many wonderful things about this besides the story! I particularly like the neat and attractive one-line/two-line structure which slows things down so one can "taste" the phrases one at a time. Bidart also makes full use of periods, commas, dashes (he uses a beautiful straight em dash that I haven't been able to reproduce on Blogger.) And be sure to notice something I once heard him call the "comma dash" which is just a little different in length than either of its components. And then of course Italics! It doesn't get much better than this! Good night, and good punctuation!

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Monday, May 06, 2013

Front Door Tulip

Planted three dozen bulbs and got three tulips! It must be better to put them in the ground rather than these bright large pots. Or maybe I waited until too late to plant. I know the daffodil bulbs were sold out. But this little bloom has lasted for several days, and might be enough. The afternoon was lovely and balmy (about 75 degrees) on the patio. I am studying this Olympus Pen Camera to see if I can learn to use it more effectively, and tried this tulip shot with it. I have the For Dummies book. Now what kind of poem might go with a tulip tonight?
In the late afternoon, the dark clouds slowly rolled in and there were those faint distant rumblings of thunder, and a fierce wind that made studying For Dummies books on the patio impracticable. After I went inside, just enough rain fell to dapple the cement. S was at Winco, and got rained on.


Out for a deadbolt, light bulbs
and two-by-fours, I find a flock
of sparrows safe from hawks

and weather under the roof
of Lowe's amazing discount 
store. They skitter from the racks

of stockpiled posts and hoses
to a spill of winter birdseed
on the concrete floor. How

they know to forage here, 
I can't guess, but the automatic 
door is close enough,

and we've had a week 
of stprms. They are, after all,
ubiquitous, though poor, 

their only song an irritating
noise, adn yet they soar
to offer, amid hardware, rope

and handyman brochures,
some relief, as if a flurry
of notes from Mozart swirled

from seed to ceiling, entreating
us to set aside our evening
chores and take grace where

we find it, saying it is possible
even in this month of flood,
blackout and frustration,

to float once more on sheer
survival and the shadowy
bliss we exist to explore.

R. T. Smith, reprinted in The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser, pages 29-30.
This is in the chapter on the importance of titles and your first lines as you revise a poem.
Also notice that this poet, whose other work I do not know, has a great confidence in the comma, that little workhorse of literature. He even uses it where the linebreak might be expected to do the work. I also like his use of assonance and alliteration, which repays some study.
And so to bed, may you find all the spilled seed and poetry you need to sustain you! Good Night! 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Another Sunset

Lovely fast party tonight for Taylor's 23rd birthday. Jill made Chinese chicken salad and lemon bars. Daylann brought her special deviled eggs and toasted cheese on Ciabatta Bread. Cousins and aunt came. Kevin and Ian, also, and a neighborhood kid, who almost burned his gullet on the hot mustard with sliced pork and sesame seeds, and then finished the rest of the plate.  A growing boy. And on the way home this sun was setting. Just so.

And I could have sworn I saw a beaver swimming away from me upstream just before dinner. Will be checking. And checking.

The new American Poet is here. And Brenda Hillman is in it because she got this year's fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for distinguished achievement. Which pleases me very much!

Here is a Hillman sample from the periodical:

The Unbeginning

--or maybe you could just
give up on beginnings. After all

this notion that things start
and end somewhere
has caused you so much trouble!

Look at the wild radish in the fields out there.
Isn't it always row
and row of pastel pink-
like some bargain
print of itself, in new pillowcases, on sale;

and you stumble
through it thinking art must come
from the book of splendor
or the book of longing
until the rhythms curve

and the previous music
hasn't ended yet:

the whir that blackbirds make,
as they land, sound like velcro,
like a child undoing
velcro from the winter jacket

(from the hood
of a winter jacket)

From Loose Sugar, by Brenda Hillman, reprinted in American Poet, Spring 2013, page 34.

OK. Here you have a poem that starts with a dash and abjures beginnings. that ends with a close parenthesis, that strings three colors together with hyphens, whose only period is near the beginning, which has a colon and a semi-colon and an exclamation point, but asks a question without a question mark. And yet everything works perfectly!! I might not even NEED a beginning! I'm in love!
Good night!
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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Know anything about mushrooms???

These are growing against the roots of both large cottonwood trees, down by the canal. When I brushed aside the leaf litter to take the picture, the broken tops showed dark underneath, almost black. Quite a vigorous sign of spring.

I am Kindling (not another book, June!) a new book called The Forest Unseen; a year's watch in nature, by David George Haskell. It is really a terrific book and not at all what I expected. I ordered it because of the great review in the New York Times, and because it was a finalist for the Pulitzer in non-fiction. He spent a year observing one square meter of forest in the hills near his home. I thought that would mean that he would dig up things and analyze them under the microscope, and conduct little on-site experiments. Not so! He just visits very frequently and sits on a nice flat rock and observes. No digging, or messing with anything! He starts at the year's beginning when it is very cold. He notices things. Then he explains what is happening and how and why. He references how things evolved, how organisms interact, how things change as the seasons change. He is a fine writer (I just found out he has also published poems!) and has all kinds of scientific information about small things I have never noticed, thought about, or understood. It's a WOW book, and I appreciate that it is just under $10 on Kindle, the price I think is about right considering there are no paper, ink or transit costs. And I cannot cut out the pictures, or scan pages.

Here is a little something about writing (my sacred love, writing, written and unwritten. . .) from William Stafford's daily writing for 28 June, 1968. Seems like only yesterday . . .
" Last night, sleeping on the floors of the Episcopal Chruch at Valdez [Alaska], I dreamed that some old, exposed roll of film had turned up. I held it, ready to develop it, and thought of the scenes, the people, ready there to be mine again, from that vivid, precious past. Without knowing just what they would be I yet hungered for them all.
Writing is like that, I realize: to hold the pen and wait, then start, is like holding that roll of film. Something will come; it will bring from the past. I wait deliciously. And the thing that occurs depends partly on how much I hunger!"
printed in Early Morning; remembering my father, by Kim Stafford, p. 154.

My idea from this for a writing prompt: choose a year, or even a decade, and imagine you have found a roll of undeveloped film. Write about what you might find, want to find, or fear finding.

Often, lately, when proofreading (yes, I DO!) I click on the little images below that the LinkWithin widget selects as having some relation to the displayed post. I am discovering all sorts of forgotten things, sort of like undeveloped negatives. As this blog cumulates, I find it serves me well as a stable repository for things I care about. Here is something I had forgotten. And so to bed. Good night.

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