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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