Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Today again to the beach. A perfect day for it! Tonight we are watching a lightning storm through the windows. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Swim Time

This is what we did today, then a barbecue and a walk. And then ice cream. I'm in bed now. Good night!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Afternoon Walk on Aunt Kim's Farm

ripening berries
near the field's far edge
--children' keen eyes

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tacos with plenty of sour cream

 At Aunt Kim's house for a very delicious meal.
A day filled with long walks and other activities.

ripe blackberries
just one for each grandchild
along the trail


It's been a long day . . .
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Logan Walks

Grandkids went up to visit Aunt Kim by the road. Logan decided to come back home and just started and Kim phoned to tell us to meet him. He won't be three until October, but just started down the private lane between us. I think he was a little relieved when he saw me. I had fun taking pictures as he came.

Here he is in the lower left corner, a speck on the road.

See him up there by the tree?? Coming along.

And we finish with another bit from the Road-side Dog, by Czeslaw Milosz. (See previous posts if you don't know this dog.)


In order to accomplish something, one must dedicate oneself to it totally, so much that our fellow men cannot even imagine such an exclusivity. And that does nor mean at all the amount of time consumed. There are also the innumerable emotional subterfuges practiced against oneself, slow transformations of personality, as if one supreme goal, beyond one's will and knowledge, pulled in a single direction and organized destiny."

I thiink this quite suits Logan's Walk! 
Next door they are setting off fireworks at a party, and the sky is lighting up. Logan didn't wake up and his big sisters ran out on the porch and enjoyed the thrills. It didn't go on very long and I hope Luella is OK
Sleep well and dream of sparks in the sky!.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Today at the Oden Fish Hatchery

My granddaughter is taking videos of the fish in the stream-viewing chamber. I loved the light-through-the-water in this place. The kids really enjoyed this no-fee interpretive center, with the stream-side trails, things to see and opportunity to feed the fish.

Tonight's gift is again from Road-Side Dog, by Czeslaw Milosz from page 62.


On one side there is luminosity, trust, faith, the beauty of the earth, on the other side darkness, doubt, unbelief, the cruelty of the earth, the capacity of people to do evil. When I write, the first side is true, when I do not write, the second is. Thus, I have to write, to save myself from disintegration. Not much philosophy in this statement, but at least it has been verified by experience.

This gives those of is who write another take on the subject, Good NIght!

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grandson at Camp Petosega

As evening shaded into night and the Northern Michigan sun meant we could play and play and play. And now we are home and showered to prevent the dread swimmer's itch! And going to bed including this grandmother.

And this is my granddaughter running to the sunset.

Good night.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gardens at Lavender Hill Farm

Isn't this pretty??? I had a lovely time there, at Lavender Hill Farm.
Tonight I just have time for another section of Roadside Dog, the wonderful book by Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz, which I describe in this recent post.


"You have no idea what is going the heads of people who walk by you, Their ignorance is hard to imagine and it can be discovered only by accident. This does not mean you are wise and they are stupid; simply that everyone garners information up to a certain level only, and is unable to reach higher. Space is limited, and they may be unaware of what is happening in the next street. Also time is limited, and events, which for you happened yesterday, for them are sunken in the fog of an indefinite past. Thus TV, print can transform and alter as they please everything that is and has been. We should wonder not at the power of propaganda but at the modest amount of knowledge that somehow gets through."

Czeslaw Milosz, Road-side Dog, page 91.

This is a very interesting passage to think about. I am still thinking about it. Sleep well.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grandchild at the center

Intensive four grandchild family probably means shortish, or even weird posts for the rest of the month. This was the first full day! Pretty great; we walked up to see their aunt's sheep and goats.

Here is another poem from Darkness Sticks to Everything, by Tom Hennen, Page 136.

Outside Hay Pile 1956

Dark summer nights lead into autumn
And the frost that floated about me.
Cold air from the shadows flower over  me
Onto the sheepskin coat I wore
That smelled of the barn and tractor oil.
On my back in the hay pile I watched the Milky Way
Turning through the far-off dusk
Like a country road,
Stars billowing thick as dust clouds
Behind a pickup truck.
If someone were to ask where the road leads,
Who would dare answer?
When the big dog pushed his head into my face
I held onto his fur with both hands
To keep from falling into the sky.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Falafels inside

This is the very cute little place where we had falafel gyros tonight. Lovely fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with a yoghurt sauce inside with the falafels. Do you make one falafel plural by adding an "s?" I could easily have eaten two gyros, but the one was very satisfying, since I was tired and hungry and since falafels are a favorite food of mine, and one I usually don't have here in Northern Michigan.

Grandchildren, four of them, are due to arrive after midnight, at the end of a truly marathon drive from Northern California, with their parents taking turns at the wheel. I've just been on the phone with the oldest one; she told me that the moon was up and it was pink! By the time I saw it, it was already dark here. But I have seen that pink moon that catches the tail end of the sunset.I dearly love these children, three girls with a boy as  a finishing touch.

I just found out about another poet. This one has been flying quietly under the radar and publishing without making a big splash, while doing other things, like working at a wildlife refuge. The book is called Darkness Sticks to Everything by Tom Hennen, It's from the splendid Copper Canyon Press this very year, 2013. The poems are rooted in the natural world, which is my preference, really. Many of the poems are short, like this one from page 45.

After a Long Trip

The river is going to the Gulf of Mexico.
The moon on the top of the water
Doesn't move.
It's not interested in a
Trip to New Orleans.
It's light is already tired from traveling
250,000 miles
To shine on some trees.

or this one, on page 48,

Independent Existence

A small pond comes out of the hillside.
On its surface
Hangs a frog imitating moss
A willow leaf
Drops on the water
And is immediately still.
Autumn air penetrates the ground.
Wind hums endlessly
To the tangled grass.
When things happen here
There is no urge to put them on TV.

* * *

These small poems seem to like having each line begin with a capital letter. I like it, too.
It is something I have avoided in the past. Now I plan to try it. Good night.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Panorama Practice under the Summer Sky

Yes, my angel, it really is that beautiful here in summertime! Meadow, trees and clouds, clouds, clouds! I stitched many shots together on my iPhone this afternoon to get this, And it is blessedly quiet, too. I feel very lucky to have spent time in such different parts of the country. Today I was putting more books away in the guest room which will soon have guests that need to walk where some boxes were. One box was all poetry books from a former neatening. It's been hard to find good large bookshelves any more. When I go into furniture stores, there are many TV stands and so forth, but actual books seem to be out of fashion. But I was delighted to find a copy of Road-side Dog, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1999, with an actual dog drawing on the front cover. This is a book of short pieces by Czeslaw Milosz, who is a great, great, great poet who writes in Polish, and lived in California for many years. I heard him read many times. He grew majestic eyebrows, the most spectacular I have ever seen on a person. He is the author of my all time favorite poem, "Encounter" which I put into this post. And also the compiler of The Book of Luminous Things, which is the source of many of the poems I have featured this year. Road-side Dog, seems to me the perfect size for a book of prose poems and short pieces like this; it is about 5.5 x 6.5 inches, which is ideal for a coat or jacket pocket. The paperback covers are softly flexible, not brittle; it is pleasant to hold in the hand. This is the very first piece in the book, on page 3, and explains the title.

Road-side Dog

" I went on a journey in order to acquaint myself with my province, in a two-horse wagon with a lot of fodder and a tin bucket rattling in the back. The bucket was required for the horses to drink from. I traveled through a country of hills and pine groves that gave way to woodlands, where swirls of smoke hovered over the roofs of houses, as if they were on fire, for they were chimneyless cabins; I crossed districts of fields and lakes. It was so interesting to be moving, to give the horses their rein, and wait until, in the next valley, a village slowly appeared, or a park with the white spot of a manor in it. And always we were barked at by a dog, assiduous in its duty. That was the beginning of the century; this is its end. I have been thinking not only of the people who lived there once but also of the generations of dogs accompanying them in their everyday bustle, and one night--I don't know where it came from--in a pre-dawn sleep, that funny and tender phrase composed itself: a road-side dog."

One of the great things I love about this is it takes me to a landscape where I have never been, traveling in a manner I have never traveled, and yet it is perfectly simple and easy to understand because of the clarity of the description.

Tonight I am also trying a bigger font; if it is too awful, I can always change back, and as Scarlett O'Hara once said, "I'll think about it tomorrow."


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Last night's sun leaving the great bowl of sky

You can just barely see the house on the right. This is taken with my much-longed for new Olloclip iPhone fisheye lens. I just love the sky here and this is another swell way to say so.

Stanley Kunitz is back tonight from his book The Wild Braid; a poet reflects on a century in the garden.  This book is illustrated with lovely color photos of Mr. Kunitz in his garden and is a true delight. Copies are still available; I would recommend this a a great book gift for writers or gardeners or just for anyone who loves the natural world.

This is the first part of the section called, The Wilderness:

"One of the great delights of poetry is that when you're really functioning, you're tapping the unconscious in a way that is distinct from the ordinary, the customary use of the mind in daily life. You're somehow cracking the shell separating you from the unknown.
There's no formula for accessing the unconscious. The more you enter into the unconscious life, the more you believe in its existence and know it walks with you, the more available it becomes and the doors open faster and longer. It learns you are a friendly host. It manifests itself instead of hiding from your tyrannical presence, intruding on your daily routines, accomodations, domestications.
The unconscious is very much akin to what, in other frameworks,, I call wilderness. And it's very much like the wilderness in that its beasts are not within our control. It resists the forms, the limits, the restraints, that civilization itself imposes. I've always felt, even as a a child, that there was the decorum of the social structure, and so forth, and then there was the wild permissiveness of the inner life. I learned I could go anywhere in my inner life."
(page 87)
It was hard to stop typing, and I will probably share more of this passage this week.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Lavendar Filaments of the Campion flower

I got my Olloclip 3 in 1 lens for the iPhone yesterday. Tonight I used the fisheye for wonderful cloud photos. It is sort of like a toy, with tiny parts to lose. The lens caps are the size of small coins. You are supposed to carry it in a little sack in your pocket, but because it is the size of about two of those big gum balls that seems like a silly idea to me. After I took a zillion cloud views with both the fisheye and the wideangle, I decided to try the macro again, since my in-house trials had not been very good, except one that shows how coarsely bristled the dachshund nose is.
This is a campion, which blooms at this time of year, and which I always think of as a dainty little wildflower. I have forgotten if it is the bladder campion, or the white campion. I was trying to pin this down to be accurate here, and still can't quite be sure, but what I found out is that it is a noxious weed and a great trouble to farmers in Oregon.
I also found out tonight that macro photography with this setup requires a very steady hand, and most likely a tripod. And naturally, there was a slight breeze. This is the best photo I got and it isn't really sharp. But how otherwise, an such a small flower, would I know that the filaments are such a delicate shade of reddish purple. I also think the foremost anther is almost in focus. Tomorrow!

* * *
Such a very small flower I felt required a small poem, so I looked in the latest Acorn; a journal of contemporary haiku  #30 and found this one on page 48::

into a sky
all spent reed and burdock
a burst of goldfinches

                                   John Barlow
* * *

I am happy for Mr. Barlow, my goldfinches have been very scarce this year. Although there is plenty of reed and burdock at the other end of the meadow in the new Hymas Woods Nature Preserve.

* * *

In redoing a bookshelf today, I found Stanley Kunitz's choice small book, The Wild Braid; a poet reflects on a century in the garden, W.. W. Norton & Co., 2005. Here is just a taste of prose from page 97.

"The poet is an anomaly in our culture. The goal of our culture is money and power. And that's not exactly what poetry is about. What is it about? That's a hard question. It's about anything the human mind can produce. And that's infinite.
Some people think being a poet is like being, say, a bluebird. It's hardly that. But then, why not? I wouldn't mind being a bluebird for one day! It certainly would be fun to be perched in my garden, at the top of this spruce here, singing like mad and pursuing another bluebird,"

Bluebirds, goldfinches, campion and  burdock! Be sure to get outdoors tomorrow, even for a few minutes, if the only growing thing you can see is a potted petunia! Good night!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

My sisters at the haymow door

This is another of my mother's photographs. (A single click will enlarge it.) I love the skewed viewpoint and the light on those fresh rosy faces. I also like the hands and the knees. What my brother, Robert, used to call our FOO (family of origin) was in many ways a family of brothers--four of them born in less than 5 years! This wolf-cub group was flanked by these two girls. I am the oldest child, four years older than the older girl here.

Tonight here is another poem from The Book of Luminous Things, which I have described at the end of this post. Again the headnote is by the editor of the anthology, Czeslaw Milosz.

Wayne Dodd 1939-  (Click his name to go to his web page.)
[This poet was born in the same year as the older girl in the photo, my sister, Susan.]

Rural America persists in the consciousness of city inhabitants, for after all many of them come from families with a rural background. Here, the news of a farmer's death brings members of the family from a distant city.


Beside the gravel pile, the lizard
warms himself in the dazzling greenness 
of his life, watching us casually
through half-lidded eyes,
It is May.
Next week he would have been 57.
My daughter holds my hand, 3 years old
and ignorant, the airsickness forgotten,
and the hurried trip
and interrupted sleep.
Below the road
the whiteface cattle graze
in the morning peace
The house is quiet.
Inside, his daughters stare unbelieving
into coffee cups, unable to imagine
the future.
My child throws some gravel
and the lizard fixes us
with both eyes, but does not
run, unwilling to leave
the warmth of the sun.
I can hear everything so clearly.
Years later, she will ask
what he was like, her grandfather/
And I will try to remember
the greenness of this lizard,
he loved the sun so.

Wayne Dodd, from The Book of Luminous Things, page 247.

This poem follows a process of thought that seems completely believeable. The use of numbers, not words, for their ages. calls attention to the age disparity between the daughter and her father's father. The very shortest lines deal with time. And the figure of the lizard holds the whole thing together.  A simple, elegant poem. that deals with elemental matters. Sleep well.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stuffed Marten in Window LIght

     This marten has probably been dead for a long time, but he still can manage quite an arrogant stare as he stands near the door in the R & R Cabin breakfast and lunch eatery in downtown Alanson, Michigan. He's not so much a greeter--one doesn't notice him on the way in---as a sayer of goodbyes. You cannot miss him on the way out.

I have gotten used to the amount of taxidermy on view in restaurants in Northern Michigan through 20-some years of summer visits here, but it isn't common in other places I have lived. I was caught by the shaft of sunlight on his face, and by how much he resembled a very small bear. I've never seen a marten, even in a zoo. It's haunting, thinking about life and death.

Here is another poem from The Book of Luminous Things, one of my favorite anthologies, which I describe at the end of another post here.

The editor, Nobel Poet Czeslaw Milosz, writes a headnote for each poem, which I include here. In this case he has written about the poet, Kenneth Rexroth.

Kenneth Rexroth 1905-1982

Kenneth Rexroth, who used to live in Japan, wrote toward the end of his life a parable on Buddha, a poem of far-reaching nonattachment.

Buddha took some Autumn leaves
In his hand and asked
Ananda if these were all
The red leaves there were.
Ananda answered that it
Was Autumn and leaves
Were falling all about them,
More than could ever
Be numbered. So Buddha said,
"I have given you
A handful of truths. Besides
These there are many
Thousands of other truths, more
Than can ever be numbered.
                                                        ---Kenneth Rexroth, page 287

I like the formality the use of capital letters gives this poem.  I also like the way  the phrase "more than can ever be numbered" is used twice and spread across two lines in two different ways.

Tonight, I am thinking it probably doesn't matter if I approve of, or understand, hunting and the wish to preserve a simulacrum of an animal in this way. Things are the way they are, and here stands the marten in sunlight from the plate-glass windows in this particular small town in America. Where are you tonight? And have you changed your mind about anything, important or trivial???  Sleep well.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Children in red & gray

 Another image from my mother's slides. I do not recognize a single one of these children, nor the location, but think this would make a great painting in the manner of Velasquez? Vermeer? Bruegel? I am going to go with Bruegel after all. It's partly the presence of the large red shapes. I love the textures of the brick floor. It looks like there might have been moisture in the cracks between bricks.

I know it must be cold outside, because we always tied up the heads of the little ones in scarves like this when it was very cold. Their heads and necks are all swathed. Why the boards? What is the golden shape at the top center? If one of my brothers has a perfectly simple explanation for this pictorial event I will let you know. In the meanwhile, let's all write our own poems.

Here is a poem by Brenda Hillman that also has children and strangeness in it. It is from her book Fortress, which was published by Wesleyan University Press in 1989. It is on page 15.


Often visitors there, saddened   
by lack of trees, go out   
to a promontory.

Then, backed by the banded   
sunset, the trail   
of the Conquistadores,

the father puts on the camera,   
the leather albatross,   
and has the children

imitate saguaros. One
at a time they stand there smiling,   
fingers up like the tines of a fork

while the stately saguaro   
goes on being entered
by wrens, diseases, and sunlight.

The mother sits on a rock,   
arms folded
across her breasts. To her

the cactus looks scared,   
its needles
like hair in cartoons.

With its arms in preacher   
or waltz position,   
it gives the impression

of great effort
in every direction,   
like the mother.

Thousands of these gray-green   
cacti cross the valley:   
nature repeating itself,

children repeating nature,   
father repeating children   
and mother watching.

Later, the children think   
the cactus was moral,
had something to teach them,

some survival technique   
or just regular beauty.
But what else could it do?

The only protection   
against death
was to love solitude.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

My Mother's Photographs

Tonight I unzipped and uploaded some more scans of the slides my mother took in the Fifties and Sixties. I love the effect in this shot of my sister at our place caused, I guess, by sunlight on the lens. It was nice that she was wearing a long red spring coat, so you can pick her out of the green expanses. And it looks like the trees are all leaning toward her protectively,
She is a widow, now, and her four daughters all live in the town where she does, and 12 of her grandchildren do, too. And the youngest of her sons. Three other sons live elsewhere. Quite a family! And quite a time, our last half of the Twentieth Century.

For tonight's poem, let's have one by the Canadian painter and poet Lawren Harris (1885-1970)  who did his work largely in the other half of the Century from my sister, who was born in 1939, (She was a premature baby and was saved from that eye problem  (I think it is called retrolental fibroplasia) caused by two much oxygen given to newborns by the fact that at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, all the incububators were in use by preemies who needed them worse that she did. Still, before she came home, my mother had time to knit her an outfit, blanket, sweater, hat and booties of soft peach colored yarn. Later, her husband had it framed and it hangs in her home.)

Oops, back to Lawren Harris! He worked very hard at  modernizing his painting, and achieved striking results. He was also interested in what we now call Modern Poetry. I had heard of the Group of Seven, Canadian painters who banded together to promote a more modern style, but I didn't know their names. Harris was a founder of that group. In addition to the stark Lake Superior paintings for which he is known, he painted and wrote poetry about the urban life he knew. The source for this poem is Lawren Harris in the Ward; his urban poetry and paintings, edited by Gregory Betts. The poem is on page 32.

Look at All of Us

Here, look at me
Going along my little way --
Here, look at you
Going along yours --
There, look at you-him and you-her,
And me-her and me-him
Going along theirs --
Each knowing what he knows
Or not knowing --
But each
Dragging one foot along
Behind the other
Up hill,
Or down hill,
Or along the gutters --
Look at all of us --
Take a long look.

Modern as this poet was, notice that he still begins each line with a Capital Letter, uses commas and dashes and ends with a period. I find that it is very hard for me to think of capitalizing the first letter of each line of one of my poems. I also like to punctuate in the regular way, and bring things to a stop now and then with a nice, definite, period. I also like to break poems up into stanzas and I often prefer stanzas that have the same number of lines throughout the poem. I think many of these preferences are unconscious, and not really based on anything that has been carefully thought about. I also don't like poems with short lines at the end; they look to me unbalanced, as if they could tip over. I think it pays to examine these unconscious, or semi-conscious biases, and see if new ways can improve our poems. And I've preached enough tonight, here in the still-unfolding Twenty-First Century.  Good night!

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Taking Flight

In lavender chiffon and and on a day with just the right breeze to keep her in motion, she greets the visitors to Lavender Hill Farm outside Boyne City, Michigan. Early lavenders are in bloom now (some are still to come--I had no idea there were so many different kinds! And white ones!) and the moving air is gloriously scented. I loved the way her dress and arms move with the air, and come to rest when the wind pauses. I spent quite a while thinking about the idea for this human simulacrum and wondering who the artist is, and if she does it for love or for money. The white gloves seem like a double layer of stitched felt and have the right weight and substance to catch the wind and make such a fine confident walking illusion. The hat is perfect and the ropes of beads at her neck also!

Recently the mail brought the volume Black Aperture, by Matt Rasmussen (Louisiana State University Press, 2013) which  recently won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, and thus wound up in the mailboxes of those of us who belong to the support group. Often it takes me some time to warm up to a new poet, but this was interesting right away, and not just because of the backstory, a brother's suicide. The poem I finally chose is this one.


The man who 
drew the first 

map was able
to see through

the eye
of a bird,

Fields speckled
with snow

are covered
in clouds

like dark faces
veiled twice

I have told
you too much,

forgive us both,
O sun,

O stainless fuselage,
weave us

between the veils
before we darken

and dip into
the twinkling net.

Each small town
a blemish

on the night's skin,
each city

a tumor of light.

Matt Rasmussen, op. cit. pages 8-9

There is a great deal to think about in a poem with such short lines, which starts out with
such a promising image. I found it surprisingly difficult to type the linebreaks and had to go back to
insert a return. Right now I am scratching a recent mosquito bite and cannot think about poetry anymore.
But I am planning to write a poem with VERY short lines. Wish me luck! Good night.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Golden Baby Sister at the beach

I am still working with the slides taken by my mother from 1953-1970s. This was cropped from one of the earlier ones, maybe from the summer of 1954. The light is just about perfection, and the wet sand the perfect background color for the child's coloring. There is even some motion, as she digs in the sand. Mom had a good eye.

Because of the beautiful, tender simplicity of this picture, tonight I have selected some of the haiku of Hosai Ozaki, which Hiroaki Sato translates to be printed on one line. Each line is a separate poem, complete in itself. They are from the one of my favorite books:
Right Under the Big Sky, I Don't Wear a Hat, Stonebridge Press, 1993. Hiroaki Sato has dedicated the book to the poet John Ashbery. Surprises abound on printed pages! Pick up a book at random and look!

Having become a pickle tub weight, smug, a hunk of gravestone

My long-time-no-see face is reflected in the pond I've come to

A spider has caught a dragonfly under the eaves I'm living

Letting a lot of frogs croak I turn off the lamp and go to sleep

I ended up lending my only umbrella

Lake houses in a row, catching small fish, their life

The nail I missed cocked its head

With a face saying I caught something, a child came out of the bush

I go in and out of the back wooden gate, morning glories turn into seeds

The letter I'm writing lying down is peeked in a by a chicken

I walk with children, at our feet waves roll

I hope you can get to the beach this summer, if you want to! Sleep well tonight.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Whole Roll of Film

My mother took this picture of me days before I left for college in 1953. Despite the fact that cash was short because we were fixing up our old farm, she used a whole roll of film! "You'll never be the same," she said, and it was true. I was gone to Arizona by the time the pictures were developed and only remember seeing a couple of them. These are all rare pictures of me without glasses, (which my mother had instructed me to remove) which I had been wearing since I was nine years old.
I've been working on a batch of these scanned slides today and yesterday; I want to get them tuned up, uploaded to Flickr, labeled, and shared with the rest of my family. It is fun to see these pictures, and also a little sad, because now (if I'm lucky) I have less time left to live than my whole 17 years up until that point. And my brothers and sisters (all younger) were each one of them SO terribly young!

Here is another poem from Dark Elderberry Branch; poems of Marina Tsvetaeva. The translation is by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine, page 15.

I know the truth

I know the truth! Give up all the other truths.
No time on earth for people to kill each other.
Look---it's evening; look, it's nearly night. No more
of your talk, poets, lovers, generals.

Now no wind, and the earth is sprinkled with drizzle,
and soon the blizzard of stars will go quiet.
And soon, soon, to sleep, under the earth, all of us,
us who alive on earth won't let us sleep.


Read this short account in Wikipedia of Marina's life. It will make you relish the pleasures in your own life, I am sure. In the translation above, I am particularly fond of the "blizzard of stars" and the way the word "drizzle" chimes to that.  I also think the one word, "generals" introduces a topic of which all of us are aware, and about which there is nothing that we ordinary folks can do. Tonight, I was asked what "depleted uranium" was by someone who just encountered the phrase in a news article about a veteran's health problems, We read the article in Wikipedia. I'd do something about the way were have strewn and are strewing this stuff about on earth in many places if I could. Or if I could choose just one thing to "do something about" how would I choose?? Perhaps I'll go out now and look at the blizzard of stars, and try to think of some way to do something useful. Good Night.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer on The Farm, 1950s

 Here is another one of the family slides. I just had 1468 of them scanned, but you won't have to see all of them here. Eventually most of them will be on Flickr, but as I am cropping some and straightening some and color-correcting some; this all takes a while.These slides have been marinating for a long time, and the technology has improved.

Here are three of my brothers doing what boys did then. I think that is John in the air--but it could be Richard--how to tell?--with Robert and David as onlookers. This time in our family life is mysterious to me, since at that point I had left home. My Childhood Home was in the Village of Scotia, New York, where I spent my first fifteen years. But the boys spent a great part of growing-up-time here on The Farm. (Not that we grew much: a garden, some horses and some chickens; mostly children.) I love the great arching swing of this photo taken by my mother Wild freedom!

Tonight we have a work by Steve Kowit, who lives on the four-point-five acres near Chula Vista, mentioned in the poem. He has written a good guide to writing poetry called In the Palm of Your Hand; The Poet's Portable Workshop. Several fine collections of his poems have also been published. This is another poem from A Bird Black as the Sun; California poets on crows and ravens, Green Poet Press, 2011.


Squawks from a raven in what used to be Jack
Funk's field over the fence, scolding
me til I look up and see that the hills
are still there, that the day
couldn't be lovelier, sweeter. Susan Green's
little girls are chatting in singsong
up in the tree house,
in what used to be Dempsey's old place
to the west, & who will stroll over these four-
point-five acres of rolling high-desert chaparral
when we two are gone?----The tin barn.
The pump house and shed. That underground stream
from which we've been drinking
our fill these dozen years.
Who'll own all this dusty blue mountain lilac,
the aloes & roses & pines & bright orange iceplant?
Who'll walk in the shade of that live oak
under which Ralphie &  Ivan & Charlie
& Eddie are buried? Who'll watch the quail
flutter out of the brush & the rabbits
scurry for cover? Who will these granite
boulders & lovely agaves belong to
when you & I, love, are buried
& long forgotten?----Forgive me,
sweet earth, for not being shaken more often
out of the heavy sleep of the self.
Wake up! Wake up! Scolds the raven, sailing off
over the canyon, Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
                                                                            by Steve Kowit, page 129

First, I want you to say, "Jack Funk's field over the fence, scolding . ." Say it a couple of times!
Then I want you to follow the ampersands through this poem and note how they support the structure.
Then I want you to read the whole poem out loud. Twice.  Sleep tight!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

1955, & all that "O things going away!"

I just got back the group of some of my mother's slides that I sent to be scanned! This picture that I don't remember ever seeing was in it. My husband has just come to my parent's house near Schenectady where I stayed during his basic training. It is near Thanksgiving and I felt very shy about meeting the train in one of my new pregnancy smocks. At the train station, I didn't recognize him when he got off the train. They had cropped his beautiful hair, given him military eyeglasses (he went away wearing classy horn-rims) and he had lost a lot of weight. In mid-December, I joined him at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where he did the rest of his Army service, and our daughter was born.

I just sent the next to last batch of my parent's slides to for scanning. I highly recommend their service! These slides (this is one of them, taken by my mother) are old, and often oddly exposed, since you had to set your exposure for each shot, and the slide film was pretty unforgiving. This was probably taken with a Contax or Contessa camera, both of which my folks got when my dad was on a business trip to Europe. I still have these cameras, and fiddle with them once in a while. I took the Contessa to college with me and it was my family camera for many years. I've had all those slides scanned, too, in the last two years.

Today (it's the middle of 2013!) we went on an excursion to a lavender farm. Fields of many different varieties of the scented stuff, some in full bloom, some of it not yet in bloom. Naturally there was a gift shop. And lavender goat's-milk soap for $7 a bar. You can choose the bar with little scratchy bits of lavendar flowers or the kind with no bits.

Tonight's poem was not published by Philip Larkin while he was alive. He left instructions that his diaries were to be destroyed and his assistants duly shredded them; it was a sizable job. He left instructions in his will to destroy his unpublished work unread; but he also gave his literary executors permission to publish what they wished. "The legal word for a will which contradicts itself in this way is "repugnant." Larkin's will was repugnant in this sense. It doesn't help anybody." (Isn't that wonderful??) This information and quote is taken from an article by noted British poet and critic James Fenton in the Summer, 2013 issue of the Threepenny Review, titled  "What Are We Going to Do About the New Philip Larkin," pages 7-10. This is a wonderful article, a review and consideration of Larkin occasioned  by the publication of Larkin's Complete Poems in 2012  by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Fenton  makes a good case for reading Larkin's published volumes in reverse order. He also mentions his surprise at the many unpublished, untitled poems that follow one another in the Collected without a typographical clue as to where a new fragment begins. You can figure it out, but he suggests it was a bad mistake for the reader. Fenton calls this the "yard-sale effect." This review is chock-full of information about Larkin's entire output.


Clouds merge, the coast darkens,
Sunless barley stirs,
The sloping field alters
To weed-ribboned rock,
Waders and lichens,
The sea collapses, freshly.

A vacant park inland
Is roughened by wind,
Trees throng the light-oak chapel,
Storms-spots quickly round
A railed tomb of ssilors.
The house is shuttered.

Embedded in the horizon
A tiny, sunlit ship
Seems not ot be moving.

O things going away!

Philip Larkin, as reprinted in the Threepenny Review, Summer, 2012, page 10.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Memory Swan

Back in ancient times, when I sometime used the new roll of color film this developing outift used to send me whenever they developed and printed a roll, I stopped on the path when I saw the swan, and waited for him to swim away from the foliage, so I could get the reflection. Some of my friends that were on the ginko (walk for the purpose of composing haiku) told me to hurry up and rejoin the group.
This lone photo from the 1980s turned up last year when I was going through some papers. I have no idea what other photos I took that day, or what haiku I wrote. But the feeling of seeing a sudden swan on the water, surrounded by foliage in dappled light is still quite clear. Because of the odd film and the intervening years, the colors in this print are not true to nature. But I like the muted, somewhat limited and subtle palette of toned-down color. There is an iPhone program from Adobe that takes the main colors from a photo and turns them into a set of color blocks, like paint chips. I'd like to try that on this picture. I think I would see some deep greens, some brighter greens, some muted blues and a quite a bit of a sort of light tan, with a lot of almost-black, and just a trace of something reddish near the top,

Lately I have been looking at a blog called My Scandinavian Home. What seems to tie the homes together (it's not just one, but a lot of different homes, sort of like decorator pornography) is that they are ALL WHITE! They might have some wooden furniture, or some black accents, but the walls, drapes, floors and much of the furniture is white, white, white. It's oddly beautiful and compelling and sort of scary. Need I add, there is NO CLUTTER (and not much evidence of actual human life. . .) and I don't see any books. But these spaces are very beautiful, and I sort of wish I could . . . etc.

Tonight's poem, naturally, is from A Bird Black as the Sun; California Poets on Crows and Ravens,  Green Poet Press, Santa Barbara, 2011. Maybe, later, I can find (or make) a white bird book, for quick reference..


She said she would return
as a crow,
swarm on the spiked branches
of Monterey pines
with others in her flock
Not some regal raven,
but a so-so black bird

In life, she dressed
in peacock feathers
and amethyst beads
Now she'll hover,
a dark phantasm

Perhaps in the long days
of her dying
she kenned
an elegant coherence
in the world
black silhouette
against almond sky.

Charan Sue Wollard, page 128

The form is three stanzas of 7, 5, and 7 lines. I don't see syllabics, or a metrical pattern. And of course, the word I wanted above for the tan color is "almond," If you could return as a bird, what bird would you be?
Good night! And in your dreams, try to fly!
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Monday, July 08, 2013

In Alanson, it is Summertime!

Fairbairn's (family-owned for more than 100 years) hardware store in downtown Alanson, Michigan, gets a truckload of these chairs each summer, stacks them up, and sells them all summer long. Some of the most populat colors are gone already (this shows the last white one, which has since been sold.) It is quite fun each time we come to town to see how the stacks have dwindled as the season progresses. At night they are chained up here beside the highway. I enjoyed watching a couple fit two of them (purple ones!) into a small hatchback a few weeks ago, but I couldn't manage a picture of that. I might buy a couple of these chairs  myself (I love the bright candy-colors, but favor, cowardly, the simple tan color, which is almost gone.) except that this is the WORST mosquito year in memory and we are not sitting around outdoors yet. It feels like never, but it should be possible later in the summer. There ARE fireflies, but I turn off the lights to watch them through the window. And tonight, I should report, there are no sounds of fireworks!

In the background of the photo, you can see the cute gray real-estate office that one of the Fairbairn sons created out of an old place that has housed a variety of different enterprises, most recently a coffee shop.
The heart of the Village of Alanson (check it out on Google Earth) is strung out along the path of the Crooked River, part of a system of lakes and rivers that made it possible for the Ottowa and other tribes to paddle across the tip of Michigan from Lake Michigan all the way to Lake Huron. There is a little museum in town that celebrates that Inland Waterway. On the non-river side, there used to be a railroad that ran through town (I think it brought vacationers and took away lumber) and the old depot currently houses a nice restaurant. People came "up north" from the southern part of the state to get away from summer heat. The museum has photos of them in their 19th Century holiday dresses, hats, and stiff tailoring.

There have been many changes in village and town life in America. I think the networks of people that these towns supported were a great strength that the country has lost. It is fine to see people working so hard to preserve what is left, but it also looks like a precarious enterprise. What do you think?
Muso Soseki , famous for the gardens he designed, as well as his Zen teachings, lived in Japan from 1275-1351. In this poem, translated by W. S. Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu, he puts some faith in the future, Maybe I should, too.

For Myo's Departure for Shofuku-ji

A single true man 
        appears in the world
                and all falsehood vanishes
No need to worry
        that the Way of the Patriarchs
                seems to be declining
This time
        your ax of wisdom
                has found wings
Some day
        surely it will rise up
                and fly

From Muso Soseki's Sun at Midnight, Copper Canyon Press, 2013, page 90.

I am inspired by the way the margin rolls in and back again and by the unpunctuated triolet structure. The single capital letter at the beginning of each section gives a nice artistic touch. Of course, we cannot reproduce in translation the effect of Japanese calligraphy, but attention to the arrangement on the page suggests a similar feeling. Write something pretty tomorrow, using color, special paper or some other method of artistry. Good Night!

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Fireweed and bee spotted today!

Strong mid-day wood's-edge light along the road at the south end of the Hymas Woods Nature Preserve shows off the intricate structure of the white parts of the flower. A bee bumbling here and there. There is a tiny red spot below the bee, which seems to be part of the bee. I have seen the yellow pollen baskets on other bees, but could this be a red one? Fireweed in bloom always makes me happy. since I first saw and identified it here just a few years ago. Looking it up, I find that in many parts of the English-speaking world, it is known as willowherb; this sounds very poetic, I think.
There were a few fireworks in the early evening. The sad thing is that the dog tried to dig out again when it got dark. It reminds me of a nervous breakdown, one that continues after the initial manifestation. We are all pretty upset about it.

This lovely flower seems to require Song of the Yodo as the poem for tonight. The Yodo is a river. This  SONG is the final poem (part of a very short section of poems that are not haiku) in the NEW book, Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson, translated by W. S. Merwin & Takako Lento. (It is on page 245.) I have been waiting a long time to be able to learn something more about Buson's haiku. He is particularly interesting to me because of his renown as a painter as well as a giant of haiku poetry. The procedure of this poem reminds me of "linking by scent (or emotion)" a method Basho discussed for the creation of renku poetry, which is created by small groups of people working together. Scent linking implies a connection between verses by agreement in mood or emotion rather than by association of specific things or ideas. Naniwa was later known as the city of Osaka.


A plum flower floats on the stream of Spring
the Uji flows down south and meets the Yodo
do not untie the sash of golden brocade
if you do the swift current will take the boat like lightning


The Uji water meets the Yodo water
they come together to become one body
I wish to sleep with you on the boat
and become a familiar resident of Naniwa


You are a plum flower floating on the water
floating down the river swiftly you leave
I am a weeping willow on the river's edge
my shadow is deep in the water
I cannot come with you

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Lost dog found: Luella is home!

This is an older picture of the dog that was frightened by fireworks and ran away on July 4th. We used it on the posters we took all over the village yesterday. She was located about 10 miles away today, so exhausted she just lay in the road. A passing mail carrier saw a grandmother and granddaughter protecting her and alerted my daughter.
When the granddaughter saw how happy she was to see her owner, the child cried.
We are very relieved. I might be a little happier, if people had stopped shooting off fireworks, but it is still going on right now from two different directions! Until about an hour ago, the dog was still frantic; she seems to have settled down some now. There has been a recent change in the fireworks laws in Michigan, so I imagine stories like this can be heard throughout the state. Fireworks were legalized and the burden has been put on the localities to set up the rules for fireworks. I don't hope for much change in the popping tomorrow, but maybe after the weekend??? And maybe if enough dogs and children are terrified, some useful guidelines will be implemented and enforced. Maybe . . .

I know this isn't really a FIREWORKS poem (or sort of) but "they must burn out like used candles," got me when I went to looking for a poem I might not have to type.

The heroic stars spending themselves,
Coining their very flesh into bullets for the lost battle,
They must burn out at length like used candles;
And Mother Night will weep in her triumph, taking home her heroes.
There is the stuff for an epic poem--
This magnificent raid at the heart of darkness, this lost battle--
We don't know enough, we'll never know.
Oh happy Homer, taking the stars and the Gods for granted.
The Epic Stars by Robinson Jeffers

It has been a very tiring day. And so to bed. . .
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Friday, July 05, 2013

Seriously, spring already sprung! Now it is July 5th.

 On the glorious Fourth, the firecrackers almost didn't stop. They've been going off for more than a week now. And as I write they are still going off here in the tranquil hinterlands. 

This lovely dog, seen here last month, when the poppies were at their height next door, tore out of her run and ran away last night. On other years, she hadn't seemed to mind the fireworks, but they went on a lot longer this year. Today we put up LOST DOG posters all over the village. But I am doubtful that she will be found. There is a pack of coyotes in the woods here, and plenty of other dangers.

For me, this afternoon, it was the Habitat for Humanity resale store again, while S did his hot-pool therapy, He does improve slowly, and I am quite encouraged about that.

I bought Selected Poems and Two Plays of William Butler Yeats from 1966. This copy is from the 17th printing, and is larded with student notes. I'm sure you have seen this same volume in a used bookstore. It has a red and black cover featuring an oval photo of the young, bespectacled, Yeats. There are many lyrical beauties inside, and it is hard to choose. I like this one, partly because I think the three beat lines are interesting. And look at the repeated "l" sounds!


A pity beyond all telling
Is hid in the heart of love:
The folks who are buying and selling,
The clouds on their journey above,
The cold wet winds ever blowing,
And the shadowy hazel grove
Where mouse-grey waters are flowing,
Threaten the head that I love.

William Butler Yeats  (1892)  (page 13)

I want to spend an afternoon beside those mouse-grey waters!
Firecrackers are still going off in bunches here

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Seriously. Plus a little bit of flag. Also, Bliss!

 I don't quite get the reference. Is this supposed to be the Abominable Snowman? Or a species of pigmentless gorilla? Anyway his/her furry effigy sits on one of the sofas at the Friendship Center in Petoskey where the seniors sit to wait for the bus. Or I wait while the wonderful massage guy gives S. a massage, after which it will be my turn.
I like to think that the yellow thing around the neck represents a banana, (thus, gorilla?) and was crocheted as a gift by a friendly senior fiber artist. Since it is now so close to the Fourth, an extra small flag is also on display here, visible in the upper right corner of the portrait. Do you ever think that symbols are everywhere and that there must be some species of meaning in everything?

This afternoon on the way to the holiday barbecue to which we were invited, we passed through the hamlet of Bliss, MI. There is nothing much there but a small corner store (The Bliss Store!) and a large field of turf near some restored housing and stabling for the polo players and horses who come here from the South to play polo when it gets too warm where they come from. I kid you not, a polo summer camp! Quite posh.

Tonight's poem is by David Lee, Utah's first poet laureate. Which places him far away from Northern Michigan, where, near midnight now, someone is still setting off fireworks down the lane by the lake.

On Turning Up a Fossil in My Garden

Natural extinction need not connote
a forced or meaningless fall into oblivion:
instead, one of the simple facts of life, the ultimate
fate of all species, not tainted by a stigma
of failures like breath, frequent in occurrence
but unworthy of inordinate praise, not
especially provocative as conversation. As
when two lovers cease their heavy breathing, and part,
and the moonlight seeps into a darkened room:
seen clearly with no apprehension, animosity, fear.

from So Quietly The Earth by David Lee, Copper Canyon Press, 2004, page 20.

Hope you also had a Glorious Fourth, or a least a pleasant one. Good Night!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

World War II hasn't started yet . . . threads

This is a shout-out to my cousin Marilyn, the blonde with the hairbrush. Her big brother, my much-loved cousin Dwayne, died just a few days ago. Dwayne Brimhall was the oldest grandchild of the woman in this photo, my maternal grandmother Susan Elizabeth Redd Butler, the daughter of Mormon pioneers to the American West.
Since Marilyn lived in Mesa, Arizona and I lived in Schenectady, New York we weren't childhood buddies, or even acquaintances. I came to Mesa this once on the train with my mother to be shown off, and for photos like this one to be taken. It is the summer of 1938, I think. None of us are much concerned about the gathering storm in Europe yet. Though in the end, my mother's youngest brother, my Uncle Merwin, (Elbert Merwin Butler) will go to this war and serve on Okinawa.

Here is a letter Merwin sent us from Okinawa that my mother saved. At the time the photo was taken, most of the people in the salutation hadn't yet been born. Four little brothers and a sister! In the photo I am still an only child.

See the rubber stamp on the envelope? I Googled the phrase and found out that there weren't enough ships to transport the troops home rapidly after the war ended, so they carved this stamp (probably from an eraser) to put on letters sent home. It's an electoral threat. (Single-click on the image to enlarge.)

I've mentioned my thrift-store book-shopping expeditions. Last week I also got Winston Churchill's Memoirs of the Second World War, which is an abridgment of his 6-volume history published in 1959. ( I had always thought I would read that. Someday!) Still, it comes in at a respectable, if daunting, 1016 pages! There is a new introduction and an epilogue. I knew Churchill was a good writer--we all know tag-phrases from his great speeches--but I must say it is a pleasure to read clear and expressive English like this! So, once again, Franz Kafka in the also very well-written book by Frederick R. Karl, has to wait. . .

This is from Churchill's first chapter, "The Follies of the Victors" I want you to pay special attention to the masterful use of semicolons in series to convey the building blocks of a reasoned assessment.

"It is my purpose as one who lived and acted in these days, to show how easily the tragedy of the Second World War could have been prevented; how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous; how the structure and habits of democratic states, unless they are welded into larger organisms. lack those elements of persistence and conviction which alone can give security to humble masses; how,even in matters of self-preservation, no policy is pursued for even ten or fifteen years at a time. We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull's-eye of disaster. We shall see how absolute is the need of a broad path of international action pursued by many states in common across the years, irrespective of the ebb and flow of national politics.

It was a simple policy to keep Germany disarmed and the victors adequately armed for thirty years, and in the meanwhile, even if a reconciliation could not be made with Germany, to build ever more strongly a true League of Nations capable of making sure that treaties were kept, and changed only by discussion and agreement. When three or four powerful governments acting together have demanded the most fearful sacrifices from their peoples, when these have been given freely for the common cause, and when the longed-for result has been attained, it would seem reasonable that concerted action should be preserved so that at least the essentials would not be cast away. But this modest requirement the might, civilisation, learning, knowledge, science, of the victors were unable to supply. They lived from hand to mouth and from day to day, and from one election to another, until, when scarcely twenty years were out, the dread signal of the Second World War was given, and we must write of the sons of those who had fought and died so faithfully and well:

"Shoulder to aching shoulder, side by side,
They trudged away from life's broad wealds of light."
--Siegfried Sassoon"
(Churchill, pages 12-13)
(June here again!) I want you to notice the stunning cumulation of long series strung together by commas.
And because we are on THIS blog, the use made of quoted poetry to wind things up.

I'll wind this us for now. Except that I can't help thinking about the current world, the lighted flares which threaten to become greater, or even lesser, conflagrations, consuming lives and property like something from Biblical prophecy. You need only to visit one cemetery, or know one wounded veteran to gather deep resolve to do something, if only we knew something to do!