Sunday, June 30, 2013

Daisies grow in the meadow without a plan

Malcolm Gladwell has done it again!!! In The New Yorker for June 24, 2013 he has written an article called "The Gift of Doubt" on pages 74-79. It's a review of the book, Worldly Philosopher; The Odyssey of Albert O. Hinchman by Jeremy Adelman (Gladwell calls this "a biography worthy of the man" so, as soon as I finish Kafka, I am going to get it onto my Kindle!) Once again, I am introduced to someone I have never heard of who has so many appealing insights and ideas. Some of these I have entertained myself in embryonic form. Here is a Hinchman quotation Gladwell supplies from the book.

"While we are rather willing and even eager and relieved to agree with a historian's finding that we stumbled onto the more shameful events of history, such as war, we are correspondingly unwilling to concede--in fact we find it intolerable to imagine--that our more lofty achievements, such as economic, social or political progress, could have come about by stumbling rather than through careful planning. . . .Language itself conspires toward this sort of asymmetry: we fall into error, but do not usually speak of falling into truth." (page 75)
I had never heard of this HInchman before and am very glad I have now. I'll be thinking/talking more about this tomorrow and maybe even the day after that. For many, many years I have been watching the things I care about (wildlife, birds, forests, bodies of water, the lives of children, various forms of social progress) as  multitudinous individuals and groups try to instigate changes they think will be useful. Using meetings, agendas, demonstrations, fundraising, legal challenges, and streams of written and videographed propanganda, they have demonstrated again and again the futility of most of this.

Careful examination of the past by a clearthinking mind may give us some useful clues! Good Night!

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Afternoon light at Goatsbeard Farm

This is my daughter's pasture a couple of days ago. You can see some of her Shetland sheep grazing there. I wrote about them in another post.  They are quite sweet. She locks them up at night because of the coyotes. Coyotes have to live, too, but we don't have to make it too easy for them. Are you a sheep or a coyote, or do you sometimes change your pelt??

One of the great poets of Brazil was Carlos Drummond de Andrade. He lived from 1902-1987, which makes him a member of the generation of my father, Jack H. Hopper (1906-1987) Tonight's poem was translated by Elizabeth Bishop, who is one of our great poets, who spent many years of her life living in Brazil, and translated Brazilian prose as well as poetry. The headnote is by Czeslaw Milosz, from The Book of Luminous Things, page 8.

This poem is like a joke and we are inclined, first, to smile. Yet a moment of thought suffices to restore a serious meaning to such an encounter. It is enough to live truly intensely our meeting with a thing to preserve it forever in our memory. (CM)


In the middle of the road there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
there was a stone
in the middle of the road there was a stone

Never should I forget this event
in the life of my fatigued retinas.
Never should I forget that in the middle of the road
there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

(Translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Bishop)
When I first read this poem, I said, "Huh?" But Milosz, a very smart poet, must have chosen it from all of the poems in the world to be the fourth of four poems in the anthology's short first section "Epiphany."  So I read it again, and the headnote, again, and thought some more. I was still pretty much at a loss--no epiphany yet--so I read it aloud a few times. Now I could begin to follow the repetitions, and the rhythm of the phrases as they assume differing places in the poetic line. I liked the sound of that. There are six road phrases and seven stones. The actual fact of the stone's hard existence is, I think, the important thing. I like that it is an inanimate stone, rather than a bone, or a tree or a fox. It can just sit there as a hard fact.

Right now Robert Aubry Davis is hosting his late evening music program on Sirius XM Radio's Symphony Hall. Satellite radio (there is only one now) cramped itself from three to two classical music stations. There are hundreds of other stations; it makes me feel disregarded. Boy sopranos are singing some early Polophony. S is sure that music has improved since then; this makes his brain WEEP! But he lets me listen because of my RAD fanship. Good night.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

TWO KINDS of people, those living by Will and those by Imagination

This is that same Viva geranium, as filtered through the Holga setting in Picasa. It's like looking out of a cave   into the light through a spiderweb-shrouded dusty window. Today, as I was hauling a stack of books upstairs to get them out of the living area, I had the sudden insight that I relate best to other people through the medium of books! I read things that some of the other people in my life like because they like them! I read motorcycle travel adventures that my son recommends, for instance. They are pretty cool! There's been a new Paris Review burning a hole in my patience for several days. I had seen there were THREE interviews in this issue. As you can probably tell, biography is just about my favorite form of book. And I LOVE interviews! There wasn't much time today, but I managed to finish the PR Interview with fabulous, much honored biographer Michael Holroyd. This is amazingly interesting and even more full of wonders than the usual PR Interview. For rhose who hadn't found it yet, the Paris Review has placed ALL of its interviews online. FREE. Since the mid-1950s! Enough reading for this lifetime and the next. Get started tonight (or tomorrow.)

I will have to finish my discussion of this Paris Review over the next few days, since I have been away from this post an hour or so looking for photos of my cousin, Dwayne, to post an In Memoriam on Facebook. I just learned that he died last Tuesday. We had such a lovely visit in Mesa, Arizona, a couple of years ago. I was hoping to get back in a year or so!
NOTE: Visit the people you love whenever you can. Tell them you love them!

I'll talk more about the Michael Holroyd Interview later--there is enough in that one article for a week of posting. But I want to give you this one paragraph for tonight. Think about it!!!

"Interviewer: How do you choose your subjects?

Holroyd: My very first subject, Hugh Kingsmill, was an accidental subject. I came across his writings and his books in a public library, which in a sense was my university. One reason he appealed to me is that he believed life was divided not between men and women, Tory and Labour, or one nationality and another, but between people of will and of imagination, all of whom sought a sort of unity. People of will often did so by force. Those of imagination detected a harmony underlying the discord of our lives. And that latter idea was very pleasant to me, because it appealed to my laziness. It meant I didn't have to go out and fight, and, after having done National Service in the Army, this was an attractive alternative. So I wrote about Kingsmill. I particularly liked his little book on the writer and editor Frank Harris, which seemed to me a wonderful mixture of irony and lyricism/ And a minor subject in that book was Lytton Strachey, because Kingsmill was considered a follower of Strachey, who evolved into my next subject. That happened again with Augustus John, who appeared in Strachey, and then with Shaw, who appeared in Augustus John. And so it has gone on. It gives me the illusion of them choosing me, rather than me choosing them."
Paris Review, 205, pages 46 and 47.

In thinking about this paragraph, don't get taken in by Holroyd's modesty. He has written very long books on very important and well-documented people, and is clearly not lazy, or drift-along. What I'd like you to think about is that division of people into those living by will or those living by imagination. Try to think about people you have known and see whether you get any new insights this way. It seems very interesting to me. And with that flat sentence, I'll say good night, and get to bed!
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

DSL failure means no post tonight

View from the living room last nite. Attempting to send via 4G phone network. Excelsior!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

True Red Geranium

20-SAM_0169 by jhhymas
20-SAM_0169, a photo by jhhymas on Flickr.
I told you about this yesterday, and here is a portrait, taken with the Samsung NX-1000, which is turning out to be a sharp, quick, useful little camera. I got it from WOOT! Every time I buy something from that site, I am reminded of my old neighbor, Fernando, who told us about WOOT, and always called me up if they had a special on photo paper, on which he thought I spent toooo much. He also got us started on computing in early 1983 (Apple IIe) and both computing and WOOT have been important to me ever since. He died several years ago from something called Burkett's Lymphoma; I still miss him.

The geranium is called Viva Big Red and is billed as the "first true, deep red." This was the last one left, beautifully grown, and I snatched it up! Now to keep it going all summer. I try to have a porch geranium every year--the climate seems suited for that and they do flower for a long time. My mother-in-law always had beautiful orangey-red geraniums in a planter under her window in the years right after my marriage. She was a truly hard-working woman, and was always very nice to me, so I am often surprised at the conflicts I hear about.

I was rolling right along with Richard Yates today, until I misplaced the book when I got up to answer the phone. So I switched back to John Cheever. I am sure this is not a good idea, since they lived at about the same time and I am sure to become confused. But the reading News Of The Day is the book of essays by Janet Malcolm called

Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers 

I started it on my lighted Kindle in the night and read a lot more this morning. Since it is essays, I could keep pretending that I would just read the few more pages of the one I was on. The first one, on artist David Salle is riveting. I have read several of these essays over the years in the New Yorker, which often publishes her work, but I didn't mind at all reading them again, As soon as I finish posting tonight, I look forward to running upstairs and finishing the book before I go to sleep. And, happily, there is a lot more Malcolm available on Kindle.

Tonight's poem is the last of the ones I brought with me by Li Young Lee, when I left his books in Idaho.
It is the most mysterious to me but offers up irresistible beauties and quite makes my mind hum! Follow the seed, the sown, the births/deaths to the wee man carving a name on a stone, Here it is!

My Father's House

Here, as in childhood, Brother, no one sees us.
And someone has died, and someone is not yet born.

Our father walks through his church at night
and sets all the clocks for spring. His sleeplessness

weighs heavy on my forehead, his death almost
nothing. In the letter he never wrote to us

he says, No one can tell how long it takes a seed
to declare what death and lightning told it

while it slept. But stand at a window long enough,
late enough, and you may some night hear

a secret you'll tomorrow, parallel to the morning,
tell on a wide white bed to a woman

like a sown ledge of wheat. Or you may never
tell it, who lean across the night and miles of the sea,

to arrive at a seed, in whose lamplit house
resides a thorn, or a wee man carving

a name on a stone, the name of the one who has died,
the name of the one not born unknown.

Li-Young Lee from Book of my Nights, BOA Editions, LTD, page 23.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Through my windshield

What is it I love about these iPhone snapshots that I take through the windshield? Here we are heading Eastish on Highway 90, roughly following the same route as the Yellowstone River, which makes one think of explorers and expeditions Of course I took this picture because of the clouds, and the particular striking dark coloration of the sky (I didn't enhance the color)  but there is also the wonderful way the road narrows to the vanishing point. And the little bit of spring greening on the plains. And the graceful curve of the distant slopes. And no wires, no signs, no blowing trash, no buildings--either rotting or new, no visible mining or fracking. Looking out like this quiets my mind, Just so, the earth.
And then there is art, here's an example:

Someone saw an elephant, or a picture of an elephant. And decided to make inflatable elephants out of white fabric. Well, you can see it is an elephant, sort of, and one can appreciate its whiteness, but it is trapped indoors and there is a very slight hiss from the machine that maintains the pressure. I liked seeing them, of course, and I was reminded of real elephants. And I never would have thought of it myself. So I am not sure. And, when it is uninflated, where will it go? Into some sort of warehouse? 

Today we went into town to get some weird U-shaped fluorescent tubes so I can see in the laundry room. And there was a big bright clear red geranium out in front of Home Depot. And now it is on my front porch, making me very happy. 
A while back I started the new acclaimed biography of John Cheever. I liked it so much that I ordered a copy of the biographer's previous effort on Richard Yates, which I started yesterday. These are serious, doorstop-sized books. And on the coffee table,the recently suspended Franz Kafka, and upstairs Joyce Carol Oates Diaries 1972-1983, left behind in 2011 and but recently resumed. I am 100 to 200 pages into each one. But stick with me, these are VERY interesting people that we are all glad we were not married to or even related to. Except for Joyce, who seems quite nice, and scarily intelligent. Also she doesn't seem to abuse 1) alcohol 2) drugs 3) tobacco 4) family and friends. Stay tuned, tonight is not a night for poems.  Sleep well, and try to use good sense in your reading life this week!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fun with colored plastics

Tender Buttons [Milk]

by Gertrude Stein
A white egg and a colored pan and a cabbage
   showing settlement, a constant increase.
A cold in a nose, a single cold nose makes an excuse.    
Two are more necessary.
All the goods are stolen, all the blisters are in the cup. 
Cooking, cooking is the recognition between sudden
   and nearly sudden very little and all large holes.

A real pint, one that is open and closed and in the
   middle is so bad.

Tender colds, seen eye holders, all work, the best of
   change, the meaning, the dark red, all this and
   bitten, really bitten.

Guessing again and golfing again and the best men,
   the very best men.

This poem is in the public domain. I got it in the daily poem emails 
from the Academy of American Poets. The Gertrude Stein book called Tender Buttons
is full of such mind-bending wonders!! I think this is from the section called FOOD. 
Whenever I spend a little time with Gertrude, it seems to make my mind hum! 
I don't feel that I understand much in the usual way of understanding, 
still my mind is humming and that seems to be a good thing, at least in my case.
Also, it is possible to be reminded of milk at several places in this poem. 
Which is what made me think of this childhood picture of my oldest grandson,
who, at this time (almost 20 years ago) was sort of tender and milky.

Sleep tight!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Do I have your attention yet???

Nothing like a poppy from my daughter's garden, up close and personal. Another day (an unpleasantly warm one) spent fiddling and fixing and putting things away. I hope to get settled in here eventually, but have complicated doings with books, magazines and art supplies. Plus, trying to make things handier for S. who can't pick things up off the floor yet since his fall. He had a nice talk with his niece today. Her husband needs custom-made shoes for his injured feet which may cost $1000! It might as well be a million, since they don't have it. Thus life goes on, lots of fussing about all sorts of things, while in individaul houses people try to decide how to manage to exist in the world as it is. And the world doesn't care. I am having a little trouble working out where I want to go with this blogging. I'm rolling toward the half-year mark of writing every day, which seems to call for some sort of sober assessment.

I was quite thrilled to find this by a great painter, J. M. W. Turner

'Foam's Frail Power

the gay occident of saffron hue
In tenderest medium of distance blue
While the deep ocean heaves a smooth trance
Calm foamless far distance
The beauties and the wonder of the deep
While the blanchd spires of canvas creep
Upon the dark medium as village spires
Point as in foam where hope inspires
The blanched sand within the reach of tide
Glimers in lucid interval the washing pride
With little murmurs breaks along the shore
In treacherous smoothness scarcely whited o'r
With foam/s frail power undulating.


From The Oxford Book of the Sea; edited by Jonathan Raban, Oxford University Press, 1992, page 168.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills

This is a small watercolor landscape that I started in watercolor class last spring and liked too well to finish. It seems to go with the Bukowski title above.That book was one of the first books of poetry I read when I was just beginning to write. I liked it a lot. I think it "waterproofed" me against anything too sweet in a poem. And the days DO run away, I am in an odd mood, because I just peeled an orange and put the peeling in the disposall. And it won't turn on. I have pushed the reset button and nothing. Next step, the dread electrical panel in the basement. But the blog must come first!
Well, today we got the TV working. We thought while we were doing it that someone was shooting in the woods. But coming into another room, we can see fireworks to the east, so someone is just not waiting until the Fourth. Our Fourth is very quiet now, but I hope to go to the parade in Alanson this year. I always love to look at the little kids.

Here are a few of Raymond Roseliep's haiku. He was one of the first acknowledged masters of the form in English. I have just chanced upon some of his (pages 213-215) in the book, One Hundred Frogs; from renga to haiku to English by Hiroaki Sato. I read much of this book many years ago (it was published in 1983) but just this week got my own copy. I had forgotten the scope and sweep of it. Mr. Sato takes us through the history of Japanese poetry from its beginnings modeled on Chinese poetry, through court tanka, through group-written  renga, then into the hokku being separated from the position of the beginning verse in a renga and becoming haiku, which stands alone. like the cheese in the children's circle singing game. Then haiku began to be written in other languages than Japanese. Mr. Sato includes a good sampling of these in English in the book. It's a nice journey and I am glad to be taking it again, after studying haiku for thirty years.

blues are the big thing
with Monet,  she said,
spreading the Roquefort

he removes his glove
to point out

spring breeze
puffs through the skeleton
of a bird

walking in rain
I pass a stranger
          I know

the farmer talks corn
pointing where the corn
is talking

trees unleaf;
my mother
grows smaller

All haiku by Raymond Roseliep (1917-1983)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Evening LIght

I keep running outside to take these pictures of sky. I don't think I got any mosquito bites tonight, but last night I got two adjacent ones on my neck. That way you can scratch them at the same time. Mosquitoes have always been a feature of the season here, but I never remember this abundance!
I have just about finished cleaning out the car the mouse/mice lived in while it was stored in the barn. It was interesting to see what it/they did and did not do. It took a lot of bites out of the blue plastic foam of the water buoyancy belt I used in the water exercise classes. It made a nest inside a plastic bag [just wrote "plastic bog" which is an interesting idea] that held some white foam water exercise dumbells, and chewed halfheartedly at one of them. Made a big nest in a blanket and pillow and chewed lots of small holes in the blanket. Completely left alone a bag of books to be donated, and ate the edges off (in a very messy way) the AAA travel guide in the glove box. Think it may have lived a while in the glove box, which is now the cleanest one in any of our vehicles.Stuff you don;t really need anymore tends to dwell there. Lastly, friend mouse left huge amounts of small bites of white paper everywhere. And dainty, dry little shapely mouse-turds. The white bits were the hardest part of the clean up. I'll need a small stiff brush to get into some corners. I'm happy though, that the nest and the smell was on top of some washable pillows and blankets and the upholstery wasn't involved at all. A lucky break, I think.

And them I turned the other way and the moon was coming up. Pretty fine, it comes up all the time.
Look up!

Tonight's poem is another one from Kay Ryan.


We know it is close
to something lofty.
Simply getting over being sick
or finding lost property
has in it the leap,
the purge, the quick humility
of witnessing a birth---
how love seeps up
and retakes the earth.
There is a dreamy
wading feeling to your walk
inside the current
of restored riches,
clocks set back,
disasters averted.

From The Best of It; new and selected poems, page 134, by Kay Ryan.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Danny and Dolly Dee

This is my incredibly cute baby sister holding a pair of dolls I made two years before she was born. The pattern was Simplicity, I think (I would love to find it again) [ here I broke off to search for the pattern on Google and the first item returned was this post "8 minutes ago" while not what I wanted, certainly interesting to think of the mighty Google ranks of  machinery indexing all this drivel] and the dolls were named Danny and Dolly Dee. The arms and legs are made of checked gingham, the bodies were, I think, plain muslin trapezoids. By this point they have forever lost their corduroy shoes which were hand stitched and raveling. At age twelve, I hadn't been introduced to the wonders of interfacing.
I made the dolls as a charity project to be sold at our Church's Relief Society Bazaar. My mother was so impressed that she bought them secretly and gave them to me months later for Christmas. They sat on my bed ot chair until I went away for college. At which point they seem to have become Marji's. My mother gave them to me again years later and they now live in a box in California. When I go back, I'll make another photo.
This one I found in the last dab of stuff my brothers a I liberated from the storage locker about three years ago. I LOVE IT. This is so much like her, shows the side of the house at The Farm, and is just all round very cute.
I have looked for half an hour to find a good poem for tonight, and have failed. Good Night.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Living Spaces

New Living Spaces: that's the title of one of these books, filed under CONSTRUCTION in the used book section of the Habitat ReStore (for Humanity) in Harbor Springs. S is doing hot pool therapy for his back injury at the Sports Medicine facility next door. So I shop. Books are nicely sorted; fiction is alphabetical by author. In a way, it's like seeing my life as a librarian pass before my eyes. Books and authors I bought, mended discarded, etc. having their last half- or quarter-lives here, before they are used for fuel. Available for 94 cents, the good, the bad, the ugly--all the same price.What city is it that heats its main hospital with used library books? Now I have forgotten.

I used to borrow and look at books like this myself whenever we thought we might do something to the house. We painted a lot of single walls orange, and--a few years later--painted them into neutral colors again. Now these books have a dated, hopeless look to them. Even the typography looks old.

Tonight's poem is by one of our few female poet's laureate of the US, Kay Ryan. (Served: 2008-2010) When he used to know her at the College of Marin, my friend Paul's lover, Bill Peters, kept wanting to introduce us. Because I was a poet, too! Then Bill died (of AIDS (before we even know there was such a thing.) And then Paul died, after we knew what it was, but while we were still helpless to do anything very useful about it. And then we rode out on San Francisco Bay in a Neptune Society boat, I was surprised how white and powdery his ashes were; they blew about some before going into the water. Then Paul's sister, Sandy, handed out kites and read passages to us from Paul's journal about kites. (He flew them every spring and summer,) We flew the kites from the boat until gradually, each kite dipped into the water, and the kite-string broke.

This poem is from The Best of It; new and selected poems by Kay Ryan, Grove Press, 2010, page 192. This book was discarded from the Baltimore County Public Library. I purchased it used through Amazon. It's in great shape and I love those mylar book jackets libraries use! Still, I always felt we had to discard books too soon. That was a sadness I found out about librarianship after I entered it.


At first
each drop
makes its
own pock
against the tin.
In time 
there is a 
thin lacquer
which is
layered and
until there's
a quantity
of water
with its 
own skin
and sense
of purpose,
shocked at
each new violation
of its surface.

Admirable for its simplicity, this poem makes a clear statement of the poet's observation. Catch those rhymes tin/thin/skin and purpose/surface as well as the almost rhymes, like drop and pock. Sleep tight, dream of water, because I just got The Oxford Book of the Sea and it looks to be full of wonders!

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Big Apple

This place has divine bagels and muffins and really good sandwiches! It's on the edge of Petoskey, Michigan,.We tested it yesterday and it definitely passed! There is a big apple blackboard painted on the wall, and an uncredited chalk artist made this decor for the current project: June birthdays, I guess, names and dates. But, since this is my name, if not my birth month, I whipped out my iPhone--et voila!
Right now we are in Michigan, after nearly 50 years in California, and short sojourns in Utah (Provo) Oklahoma (Lawton) and Ohio (Cleveland). I grew up in New York State and S in Idaho.
I also have many members of my family who live in Utah, and because of my Mormom ancestors, I am always interested in the history and people of that state. I love the poetry of May Swenson, who grew up in Southern Utah. In her work, one often finds a deep understanding of animals. She was also a master of typography, and arranged poems on the page in many unusual, striking and effective ways. Here is a very interesting example of that.
Tonight's poem by May Swenson is printed centered in Poems of the Sea; selected and edited by J. D. McClatchy (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series) on page 64. Since I am far away from my beloved Pacific, it has a special appeal to me tonight.


Meekly the sea
now plods to shore:
white-faced cattle used to their yard,
the waves, with weary knees,
come back from bouldered hills
of high water,

where all the gray, rough day they seethed like bulls,
till the wind laid down its goads
at shift of tide, and sundown
gentled them; with lowered necks
they amble up the beach
as to their stalls.

May Swenson  1919-1989\

This is another poem that yields up some of its secrets when read aloud. Listen for the rising and falling/coming and going, as of the surf. Notice the rhythms. I've not lived with cows and (on the evidence of this poem alone) think that this poet has. Good night.
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Monday, June 17, 2013


Blue sky; gray sky--clouds make everything more interesting. What with one thing and another, not time for blogging. But I did get a lot of things handled today. This is a blue sky, but sometimes the color changes.
The new Modern Haiku magazine came Saturday; I have not read it yet.
But it does have this haiku from the woman who introduced me to haiku and to so many wonderful & interesting people and haiku adventures. It changed my life!

From page 85, Modern Haiku, Volume 44:2.

hazy moon
woozily the surgeon's words
it's malignant

Patricia J. Machmiller

They think they caught it in time. The lymph nodes are clear. Blue sky, white clouds of hope!

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Great Bowl of the Sky

I looked up and saw a pink cloud. So I ran out with my camera and took pictures in every direction. This is looking west.

This is looking EAST at the cloud pinkened by the sunset's reflection.

And here is the same pink cloud in context.

Far away sliver of moon, looking south.

And here is that sliver of moon in context.

Looking Northwest, the sky is more somber. Then I zoomed in on the pattern of the dead tree branches.

The redddish newest leaves on a young maple caught my eye.

Here is a sunset sky view from a couple of years ago, when we were here through the winter.

I took almost 60 pictures in a few minutes! And am much too jazzed to type a poem. Gooooood night!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Suet on her beak

Tonight, when the light is almost gone, she turns up to dine on the rapidly vanishing suet cake. Raising and lowering her crest in the excitement of eating! It looks almost fluorescent to me!

This was a lazy day, spent recovering from yesterday's too-full day. S. is listening to a copy of Cheever; a life that he borrowed from the library. I had been eating little bits of Cheever's diaries for a couple of months and brought them with me. So natch, I got a used copy of the biography and began it right away before finishing (actually--before even getting well-started) on poor old Franz Kafka, who looks at me reproachfully from the coffee table. But, biographies are like suet to me--I'll be back soon.
. .
Trying to think of what to write next, I idly pick up the crisp untouched copy of the Spring, 2011 Gettysburg Review, (which I left behind when we went back west) and scan the Table of Contents for poets. And here is Dean Young, whose work I have loved for a long time. I look at the titles--can't resist: "Soon All Your Questions Will Be Answered"--what reference librarian (even a retired one) could? And then I got to the bird! So here it is!

Soon All Your Questions Will Be Answered

What is reflexology, anyway?
What baffling hurt will it assuage,
what buffing draft of doom? Can it
bring back my bird? Can it make the echo
shut up and explain itself? Can the heart
stay drunk on rainwater alone? You sure
these muchrooms won't also kill us,
these rice balls distract the river phantoms?
This letter, twice forwarded, at last received,
bears witness to its indistinct travails
like a wound in the nose, an enigma
in an arroyo. And under all the kernel
of lived life, complaint and horselaugh,
restorative as plutonium. Many have swept up
here before, been swept up, blatant ads
for health and the tonic contradictions
of suffering. Take as long as you want,
you need only sign your name once then
the system takes over.

Dean Young in the Gettysburg Review, 24:1, page 18.
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Friday, June 14, 2013

Beauty and the face of Boris Pasternak

Posted by PicasaToday, as we left for the hot pool therapy for Scott's back, I grabbed a quick shot of this iris. It must be one of the ones we planted a few years back, but we hadn't seen it in bloom. It looks just fine against the leaves of the bleeding heart my grandsons gave me for mother's day almost 20 years ago. That plant just gets better and better. The foliage is completely fresh and new each season. It blooms early, has a long blooming season and looks attractive all summer long. Can't beat that! This iris is even prettier than the photo. The color is very rich, subtle and many-nuanced.
Next door to the physical therapy place is a Habitat for Humanity Resale Store. It's a full-scale one, from books and knick-knacks to furniture. As I went in a fellow was trying to lift one of those heavy CRT TV sets. He said he didn't think he could carry it upstairs at his place and decided not to buy it.
I bought three books at 94 cents each (they were overpriced, considering age and condition, but I enjoyed getting them nonetheless).and two audiotapes at a quarter apiece. One of the delightful things about a resale store for a person of my age is the layers of old technology, like videocassettes and audiotapes. It brings back all sorts of memory threads: about when you got a desired tape-player, or when this same chair was in a friend's house, or when you couldn't wait to see such-and-such a movie.
The tapes I got were a George Winston and a copy of Thriller by Michael Jackson. I think I'll get fifty cents worth of fun from them, but haven't started yet. The books were The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper, The Reivers by William Faulkner and this one. which is well explained on its front cover, probably in letters too small for you to read. It contains translations of a short autobiography, three stories and a selection of poems. I had hoped to use one of the poems tonight, but these translations are about 70 years old and pretty relentlessly overblown; maybe, anyway . . . This paperback is a 1959 issue of a 1949 title. We were still Cold-Warring with a vengeance then. The back is failing--I won't read much more until I put a little Elmer's Glue into the spine. The introduction was quite interesting, I may have read this autobiography long ago, but the first part held my attention very well. I want you to look at the expression on Pasternak's face in this photo (a single click will enlarge) it's like a Russian bronze of a mighty general. Seriously . . .

Pasternak's poem for tonight was translated by Babette Deutsch, This was a long-familiar name to me about which I remembered nothing. Wikipedia says this poet also made "some of the best English versions of Pasternak's poems." Her translations are at the end of the selection of poems; I had just about given up finding something to use when I got to them. 


I've come from the street, spring, where the poplar stands
Amazed, where distance quails, and the house fears it will fall
Where the air is blue, like the bundle of wash in the hands
Of the convalescent leaving the hospital;

Where evening is empty: a tale begun by a star
And interrupted, to the confusion of rank
On rank of clamorous eyes, waiting for what they are
Never to know, their bottomless gaze blank.

We're few, perhaps three, hellish fellows
Who hail from the flaming Donetz
With a fluid gray bark for our cover
Made of rains clouds and soldiers' soviets
And verses and endless debates
About art or it may be freight rates.

We used to be people, We're epochs.
Pell-mell we rush caravan-wise
As the tundra to groans of the tender
And tension of pistons and ties.
Together we'll rip through your prose,
We'll whirl, a tornado of crows,

And be off! But you'll not understand it
Till late. So the wind in the dawn
Hits the thatch on the roof---for a moment---
But puts immortality on
At trees' stormy sessions, in speech
Of boughs the roof's shingles can't reach.

Boris Pasternak, Safe Conduct, Signet, 1959, pages 219-220.

So, here we have it: a clear demonstration of the power of rhyming and metrical verse in the Russian imagination combined with a clear demonstration of the power of a translation to convey only some small part of that--at the very real risk of sounding silly. But the power of the poet is suggested by lines three and four:

"Where the air is blue, like the bundle of wash in the hands
Of the convalescent leaving the hospital;"

which are truly great! A whole life is contained therein. They are my favorite lines in this poem. Sleep well!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

This morning's dawn

As I did this and then that, starting with the early feeding of dachshunds, I took pictures. But by the time it was almost dark, and there were two turkeys posturing outside the front windows, I had forgotten the earlier pictures. It was a busy day, but the pocket Lumix makes it all possible. It turned out there was still enough light for turkey pix and when I went to transfer them from the camera, I was quite reminded of dawn. So here it is . . .

I did find time to read almost all of a book I recently got by David Lee, who taught in Southern Utah and became the first poet laureate Utah had bothered to have. The book is called So Quietly the Earth, from Copper Canyon Press, 2004. David Lee is the author of The Porcine Canticles (what a great title!) dramatic monologues spoken in the rich and earthy persona of a Southern Utah pig farmer. This has been a book I have loved for many years, and I try to keep up with his later work, which is also extremely strong and well-crafted, individual and different as well as very accessible,
One interesting strategy he adopts in this book is to scatter a series of poems called "While Walking" throughout the volume. They are numbered in sequence, and each one has a chapter-and-verse citation from the Holy Bible. I used my iPhone app to go to the citation as I read the poem and then I pencilled the bible verse or verses into the blank space beneath each poem. Each poem does not take off directly from the citation, but they respond to each other, the way the two parts of a good haiku "vibrate" against each other, or the way in the best haiga (art with haiku) the art is not a copy of the image in the poem, but rather relates to it in some other way. I hope to explore thia whole small series of poems in a later post, after I have spent some more time with it. Here is a dawn poem (pages 7-8) from this book; I have marked others to share with you later.

Dawn Psalm, Pine Valley

by David Lee

While I was not watching
sunrise came with a ruby throat
and gold-flecked wings.


and a small wisp of cloud
above the dark pine.
A jaysquall
leaves a small bruise
on one corner
of sky.


Boiling coffee.
A blue enamel pot
nestled in warm coals
beside the cold
sliding water.
Sky so close
you fear
bumping your head.


A brown breaks surface
rising to wingshadow
drifting on the blue selvage
of pond.


Golden lace.
Sunrise pours slantwise
into clear water
through the blue spruce,
the deep tangle of pine
and purled woodsmoke.


I turned
and the earth hushed.
While I leaned into silence
a morning too vast to fathom
filled with light.



I am not sure we need part 7, but that is a snobby quirk of mine. I prefer not to be taken out of the experience by being told what to think or feel. But that's a small quibble! Note here the lovely variation (I am telling you what to think!) in line length, even in a poem with such short lines.. I also love the compounded "jaysquawk" and "wingshadow" as well as the more common "slantwise and the "woodsmoke" that is upsetting my Blogger's spellcheck. (It didn't like that last word either!) Enjoy this poem, and remember some times when you have been outdoors at dawn. Pull on the end of your memory thread and write a poem! Good night!

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Luella with a single poppy

This is my favorite kind of dog, one of the sheep-herding breeds. My daughter named this Australian Shepherd after her own grandmother, Luella. My husband wasn't enthusiastic about his mother's name being used for a dog, but it went with K's tradition of female people-names for pets, and is really a sort of homage. I always remember a lovely sheep she had that was named Barbara, It seemed to me an odd name for a sheep, but it suited this animal quite well..Today was bright and beautiful--so bright that you couldn't see what you were photographing on the iPhone screen, Still, I like this odd photo--I even like the orange smudge at the top that is probably my finger too near to phone lens.

Here is another poem from The Book of Luminous Things, (which I describe in the two previous posts)
together with the headnote for this poem by Czeslaw Milosz.
"Man confronting nature fears his foreignness and is ashamed of his intrusion, He would like to return to the earthly paradise before Adam's sin. This seems to be a very American dream, and Robert Creeley's poem pays tribute to the tradition.


Underneath the tree on some
 soft grass I sat. I

watched two happy
woodpeckers be dis-

turbed by my presence. And
why not I thought to

myself, why

--Robert Creeley

What I am looking at here is especially the short lines and the words and sentences broken by linebreaks. These are two of the things which give the poem its appeal. It is earlier in Utah and my brother reads my blog posts only once a week. Good night, David!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Call him a haiku frog

Or call him a memory of P's beach house on the Monterey Bay. I'm not sure what these frogs are supposed to look like, but this one seems a little scabby and slightly the worse for wear. But he was still quite lively and hopped away after enduring a short photo-shoot.
I've had a cold today and am also not at my best. But I did have a great talk with my brother! Early in the conversation, he posed this question, "Where do blogs go?" Where indeed? He had just been to a genealogy seminar, where they discussed  mediums of preservation for your family history. Look forward to the time when no one has an 8" floppy disk, a 5 1/4 floppy disk (beloved Apple IIe-clone Laser, I miss you still!), a 3 inch floppy (which by then was stiff, rather than floppy,) or a player for Phillips Cassettes or a VCR, or the reel-to-reel Webcor tape recorder that was so heavy my Dad had to carry it for my Mom when she went to her Gestalt Training sessions.
Understanding those things is relatively easy, but throw your thought forward to the time when no one can play your optical media: your CDs and DVDs that are probably useless anyway because of shellac failure or some such. Don't even start me on hard drives!
Long ago I read about the results of an experiment on the ability of notes taken in the field with different media to last. I wish I could remember more about this experiment, but I do remember the well-supported conclusion that good quality pencil marks on heavy paper held up the best in a long exposure to sun and rain, It gave me new respect for the lowly pencil. And of course reminded me of Thoreau and his family's pencil manufactory.
So where DO blogs go; I imagine they won't last forever; what do you think?  But I am enjoying producing this one and following memory threads down Memory Lane. Doing something every day is something I often plan to do. (Why not write one haiku a day? I often plan to start this.) But I haven't been consistent, except when able to read a book a day at ages 12-17, Now it often takes me quite a long time. Regular readers will remember when I read the LONG book about George Eliot by Frederick Karl. It was such a good book and so deeply intelligent, I decided to work on his other books. I just Franz Kafka; Representative Man and started it today, It is promising to be awesome as well, dealing with the European history of the time and the sources of High Modernism. I'll keep you posted.

Tonight's poem by W. S. Merwin is another from Czeslaw Milosz's anthology:
A Book of Luminous Things; an international anthology of poetry. Harcourt, Brace, 1996

It has a headnote from Milosz: "At any moment in our life we are entangled in all the past of humanity, and that past is primarily language, so we live as if upon a background of incessant chorus, and of course it is possible to imagine the presence of everything which has ever been spoken."


Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable

Look at this carefully. In its unpunctuated beauty, with its variation in line length, the evocative sounds in the poem and in each chosen word, and it's use of "spinning" as the earth spins, it is enough for tonight, don't you think?

Monday, June 10, 2013

House of Cards; her concentration

I love the light and her focus as she builds with index cards. It is such a pleasure to spend time with grandchildren! This child is particularly fond of office supplies, as I was also when I was young. I save envelopes and other items for her visits. As for myself, I still need extra pens and all different kinds of paper. And, waiting on a shelf, my beloved blank notebooks! And you always need index cards in both sizes and now they even come in colors! I don't like the lined ones, though, too confining.
Today I dropped by a resale store, while my husband was doing his physical therapy in the heated pool next door. I was looking for a small table to hold things he needed near his chair, while he heals from an injury.
I was the only customer, I saw one staff person, who was browsing the clothes and didn't seem to care if I had any questions. I asked her the price of a badly abused table, just the size I wanted, with a tiny rickety drawer. "There should be a sticker on it," she said, continuing to fuss with the racks of clothing. And then, from a dark cavity off to the side, came another voice. "I could give you 10 percent off on that," said the voice. The person never materialized. I moved the decorator items on the top of the table and found the sticker. It was round and green and said $45. (I'd have thought it might be worth about $10.) Then I fled. I haven't had such an unpleasant feeling in a store for a long time. And let's heal with a poem.


ESKIMO (anonymous) An Eskimo poet, who forever remain anonymous, composed a song based on a legend of origins from the oral tradition. (note by Czeslaw Milosz)

In the very earliest time
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could
all you had to do was say it,
Nobody could explain this:
That's the way it was.

I found this on page 268 of a wonderful and uplifting, anthology, A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czeslaw Milosz. Many cheap copies are still available through Amazon. When my brother was dying, he got rid of lots of things, books, audiotapes, etc. But he told me he kept a few books near his bed. They were this book, and a privately printed book of short poems by my friend Pat Shelley, The Rice Papers, which is no longer available. If there was a third (which I seem to remember there was) I have forgotten the title. Important things we have forgotten: there is another blog post!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

This is the crow in the story

On one of the first Mornings of Cranes this year, this crow (who does spend a lot of time here) was marching a straight line through the cut grass (a thing he often does) when a crane turned up behind him and began to march the same way and in the same direction. Although, as a crane, he took longer steps, and was gaining on the crow. But the crow kept marching, just notched up the speed a little. They continued for a short distance. Then the crane spread his wings and waved them, while aiming his long beak at the crow., Finally the crow flew. And the crane went along the lawn and on into the meadow.
I took this picture when the crow retunred to the lawn and began again the slow march that had been so rudly interrupted. After completing his lawn walk, he flew away. And another green day began.
No poem tonight, just this little fable. Sleep well!

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Doe in a frame of conifers

"The grass below---above the vaulted sky."

Today's doe watched me on the porch as I tried to get the camera to focus on her. It never really did. And now I have found the poem to go with her. It is also from Preferences: 51 American poets chose poems from the past and from their own work. I described that fine book here.

I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows
       My friends forsake me like a memory lost,
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
        They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
        Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
        But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems,
And e'en the dearest---that I loved the best---
Are strange---nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod,
        A place where woman never smiled nor wept;
There to abide with my Creator, God,
        And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below---above the vaulted sky.

John Clare in Preferences; 51 American Poets . . .  page 37

Passing the turnoff to the Little Bighorn EXTRA POST

Looking for something special for tonight, I began to play with the HDR Effect from Picasa. I quite like what it did to this fromthecar shot from our recent trip..Picasa also shows where the pictures were taken on Google, if there is GPS turned on in your camera. We were near the turnoff to the Battlefield Memorial.  So I went looking for a poem about the Little Bighorn, And dear old Uncle Walt (Whitman) turns out to have written a sort of elegy, "A Death Sonnet for Custer" for the New York Daily Tribune. The Walt Whitman Archive (a dandy find in itself) has the complete text. Go there and smile as you visit 1876.

Since I didn't really find this poem myself (Google did) you will probably get a post soon with a poem I found myself,

Friday, June 07, 2013

On the front porch; a memory thread

This photograph has just about everything! (Use a single click to enlarge.) You can even see the remnant of the pretty deckle-edge photos used to have. A weird light-leak or other light damage--probably to the negative--adds interest. This is the front porch of  316 and 314 First Street, Scotia, New York. Judging from the age of David, the baby, I think my mother, Olga, is holding, it is sometime in autumn 1945--when it was cold enough to to wear coats and hats. I am the older girl in the back. John is in the center with his sweet trusting smile.

Susan is seated in front in a dark bonnet. She is playing with something that I cannot identify, She and a small boy I think is Richard are seated on a small suitcase that I am sure is the dimpled leather one with my mother's maiden initials, OB, on it. Later, I carried that case to college for my first year--filled with my "school supplies," papers, ink, tape, staples, etc. The boy in a knit helmet in front of me is Wynston Leigh, who lived next door then. Later, his family moved back to Utah.

The occasion for the photo is mysterious. Is Mom going somewhere? Maybe to the hospital to have Robert, who was born Nov. 2, 1945? Is Wynston there because the Leigh's are taking my mother to the hospital? Likely something much more prosaic.

Other things I like about this photo: the shaft of sunlight on the right, the reflections in the glass door of our entrance, which include the moon-gate opening in the lattice on the porch, the porch itself--a reminder of how important porches were then to neighborhood life, a way of life that is gone now. I also see the mailbox between the two doors (the one at right is to the apartment that we rented out until my brothers were older, when it became a sort of boy-cave with a disconnected gas stove, and operating kitchen sink) is the mailbox for one family, in a size that was perfectly adequate to contain the amounts of mail we got then.

I also like the old fashioned door hardware and moldings. The pipe stair railing has the look of something practical added by my father, who often privileged function over aesthetics. This house was a two family house, with attic and basement, which sat on four town lots, and had a freestanding sort-of-garage and a row of four rental garages facing onto the back street. My parents paid $6000 for it and were warned by friends that they would never be able to pay back such a huge mortgage. We lived there until we moved to The Farm. We nourished fruit trees, a vegetable garden, a grape arbor, rhododendrons, white and lavender lilacs, forsythia, flowering quince, and daffodils. My mother grew bittersweet, with its decorative orange berries, on the front porch trellises. For autumn, we usually hung a bunch of varicolored "Indian Corn" near the doorway.

World War II has just ended, We live in the Village of Scotia, a friendly place. [Addendum on the following day: An earlier post gives a passage from Nabokov that goes very well with this post and this topic; Here's the link.]

Tonight's poem is another Vendler pick from The Harvard Book of Contemporary Poetry, page 145.


My great wars close:
ahead, papers,
signatures. the glimmering
in shade of leaf and raised wine:
orchards, orchards,
vineyards, fields,
spiraling slow time while
the medlar
smarts and glows and
empty nests come out in the open:
fall rain then stirs
the black creek and
the small leaf slips in.

A. R. Ammons

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