Saturday, August 31, 2013

The poem that is too overdone--is it like the faked-up sunrise?

Well, sure, I stitched several shots together and then I fiddled with it some more, but it WAS a great sunrise this morning. Then S got up and made the packet of Chocolate Chip pancake mix that we bought for grandkids to munch up. Since we never got to use it while they were here, we had to munch it ourselves. Luckily the chips didn't stay stirred up and he got most of them. Coz I really didn't think that the chocolate flavor went well with the maple syrup.

And tomorrow is Sunday, with no appointments! Scott read me today (from a newspaper) that we are the only wealthy country that does not mandate paid vacation time for workers. Figures. Still, it is shocking to think about. I cannot imagine that such a mandate could ever be put into place now, but it would definitely enrich peoples' lives, and create more jobs. The money spent in leisure travel and such would improve the economy. The same article mentioned a study that found that people who worked closer to 11-hour days were much more likely to suffer from significant depression that the 8-hour folks. Surprising???

The GEPPO came today, it's the newsletter study publication of my haiku society. I highly recommend you click the link and join up if you have even the slightest interest in haiku. I have belonged to this group for more than thirty years now, and my life has been enriched again and again, by the people and the interesting and varied activities. The person who introduced me to the group is writing a series of articles in GEPPO sharing her experience and knowledge about writing the best, deepest, freshest, haiku you can. The series is called "Zigzag of the Dragonfly" In this installment, she reemphasized the importance of writing every day. Since haiku are brief and made of quick perceptions, almost anyone can squeeze out a few minutes for this. Naturally, this is something I have meant to do; I've just never done it. I write on nature walks, at meetings, and on other occasions, but I NEED TO WORK ON THIS EVERY DAY! Not to beat myself up about it (which doesn't work) but I have proved that I can write every day by doing this blog, so this is a needed next step.
Today, instead, I did the laundry, emptied the dishwasher, and set up my replacement bird feeder. After I hung it out, I sat on my balcony for about half an hour just enjoying the late afternoon (I could have written haiku!) and the female hairy woodpecker kept flying to the balcony (where she perches while she checks out the safety of the area) seeing me, and not landing on the railing, and then sitting on the dog-yard fence and cheeping sharply. Then a few  minutes later, she would repeat the whole performance. I am pretty sure the woodpeckers, all three kinds, will like the feeder, made of cedar, like the old rotten one, and with easy-to-reach suet holders. With better, dry seeds (the old one leaked) I also hope to attract some chickadees, who have been very scarce this year. We shall see-- it's been an odd year.

Ans here's a haiku about that by the kingpin of haiku: BASHO!

Not grown to a butterfly
this late in autumn
a caterpillar

From Basho and His Interpreters; selected Hokku with sommentary by Makoto Ueda,
Stanford University Press, 1991. Page 271.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Turkey Wings in the Morning Meadow

This was a nice surprise about 8:30 this morning! The Samsung battery went dead when I fired up the long lens, so I had to catch this with the adored Lumix pocketable beauty, I think there were nine of them, two adults and seven children.  Set me up pretty well for the day. A couple of days of rain have made the meadow green up nicely.

Poetry news tonight is the recent death of Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet and Nobel Prize recipient, who was not as old as I am. So another great one has left us.

Here is the last part of 

 Keeping Going by Seamus Heaney


My dear brother, you have good stamina.
You stay on where it happens. Your big tractor
Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people,
You shout and laugh about the revs, you keep
old roads open by driving on the new ones.
You called the piper's sporrans whitewash brushes
And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen,
But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.
I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,
In the milking parlour, holding yourself up
Between two cows until your turn goes past,
Then coming to in the smell of dung again
And wondering, is this all? As it was
In the beginning, is now and shall be?
Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush
Up on the byre door, and keeping going.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Brunch in Brutus, where there are a lot of dead things on the walls

Do you approve of taxidermy? A couple of years ago when I was eating the cherry chicken salad (divine) the man at the next table over waws having trouble devoting attention to HIS meal because of the questions his kid was asking him about the taxidermied fish, fowl and mammals here. The kid could smell the DEATH behind it all, and he wasn't about to quiet down.

Outside of a natural history museum, I have never seen the like. Here's another view, which doesn't even include ALL the dead things:
There is even a fish head on a plaque swimming toward you with his mouth wide open! I have to admit I look at them all with interest and surprise when I am there

Above the grill (a peek shows at the left) where two manly guys in baseball caps fry meaty treats, is a


metal sign with three bullet holes in it. Since I have just been involved in creating a No Hunting Nature Preserve, I am clearly in another camp. And I like to think I am more willing to tolerate their camp (AMERICA!) than they are to tolerate mine.

Anyway, about taxidermy, what do you think?? I know this perhaps has nothing to do with poetry.

Metal sign:


(Don't put any bullet holes in it . . . . )   Good night!

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Logan Paints

During the grandchild visit, we had several outstanding painting sessions. I have chosen Logan's painting to show you because of his color sense and the joyous freedom of his watercolor washes. (He won't be three until October.)
[Recommendation: I remember Prang watercolors in the black metal box from my childhood. They were always more satisfying to use than other kid paints, with juicy color that releases easily without scrubbing the paint cake. Now they come in extra colors, too (Logan was using the box with the two purples) and are still great paints! I saw them at Walmart just the other day with the school supplies. Just throw away the brush that comes in the now-plastic box, and substitute one of the cheaper well-formed synthetic brushes, one that has a little snap. A couple of the girls preferred a brush with a slanted chisel shape; I was surprised that they noticed!]

I feel autumn coming on and I am unprepared to leave my woodlands. The hibiscus beside the house is a riot of giant blossoms. The veronica looks great, too, and makes a beautiful well-organized shape over a long blooming season. Here is a something that Stanley Kunitz wrote about his garden:


Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees; 
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view 
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."

I can scarcely wait until tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

from Next-to-Last Things; new poems and essays by Stanley Kunitz; 
The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985. Page 17.

What will you be doing tomorrow? I don't have any definite plans.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

VISION; and just floating along

I've been thinking about vision today. This picture interested me because of that. When my grandchildren were here we went twice to the Pickerel Lake beach at Camp Pet-O-Se-Ga (can you guess how Petsokey was named after this Ottowa leader?? Just before we left the beach, my grandchildren pointed out geese in the water near the far shore. So I zoomed some shots. Because of the light, and how near it was to getting dark, there is only that streak of light on the water that sets off the shapes of the geese so beautifully. It is almost like a black and white photo without being anything but an unmodified color photo straight from the camera. The detail on the far shore is almost gone, yet you can see that it is wooded. The greens are very subtly varied, though. and you can make out some branches and leafy shapes. You probably cannot see it at this size, but, on the bank below the bare branches, are two watercraft turned upside down in case of rain. The larger one is red. But you would not title this photo "The Red Boat" in a gallery. Because the picture is all about the geese! And the subtle color and the streak of light and the way the whole is arranged in bands.

 * * * * *

I have worn glasses since I was nine years old, and the teacher noticed me squinting to see the blackboard. And today I went for an extra check because I am right on the border of glaucoma, as I learned at my last checkup in Idaho, and should be checked every few months. I have been to Dr. O'Bryan twice before, and he is my eye-guy here in Michigan.
I had cataracts removed thirty years ago and now mostly wear hard contact lenses. But since I would have to take them out for an eye exam anyway, I went in my new pair of thick glasses, prescribed and purchased in May. The experience of visiting his office, Pleasant View Eye Care and Eyewear, was delightful and consumed several hours. Both Dr. O'Bryan and his assistant NEVER RUSH! They always have plenty of time. After I had been there a while, I found that I was totally relaxed and calm, too. If either of them need something from one of the back rooms down the hall, they stroll back and get it. If the phone rings, it is answered, and the person on the phone is given full answers as requested. I think they schedule for this pace, because there was never more than one other person waiting, even though I was there for almost three hours. Since I was often without my glasses, I had plenty of time to just go with the flow and just observe; it was completely relaxing. It made me think a lot about how rushed we often are and the pressures we put on ourselves and other to "save time."
As he goes through the process of a full examination, Dr. O'B lets drop little bits of information about the structure and function of the eye in general, your particular eye, asks pertinent questions about your history and so forth. All of this is delivered gently as if there is never any rush. He guessed, for example, that I had been nearsighted in childhood, which was true, on the basis of my prescription for cataract glasses. Meanwhile, he is typing away at a keyboard because of the new requirements to generally make people's medical information available as needed. He is not totally comfortable with this, and says he is still learning and the software is being improved, but he proceeds calmly, AS IF THERE WERE PLENTY OF TIME!

I can see, though that I am out of steam, if not time, for tonight, and since I want to write more about the rest of this experience and do some more thinking, I will finish tomorrow. You will be amazed to learn (at least I was!) that it makes a difference to your prescription if you move your eyeglasses slightly forward from where they now sit. ! Try that! Good night for now, DON'T RUSH to bed . . . .

autumn afternoon--
the sandy soil already dry after
last night's heavy rain

And for the poem, I just made you a leisurely haiku. There isn't any hurry.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 26, 2013

This year I have learned the cry

of the pileated woodpecker. Instead of the woodpecker family I had two years ago, this year there is only one, And I think she's a kid. The call is a series of short repeated notes. Not very musical, but the bird is so spectacular one does not care. A favorite woodpecker food item is the carpenter ant--we have plenty of those! This picture through my kitchen window shows how one likes to work over a dead tree. When they started on this one, it wasn't quite dead yet.

Today I got out my neglected Samsung with the longer lens. And I have ordered a replacement for the wooden feeder that just failed after so many years, because suddenly I want more bird photos! Don't you? .

Tonight's poem is translated from the Portugese of Eugenio de Andrade by Alexis Levitin. I found it in The Vintage Book of World Poetry, edited by J. D. McClatchy, Vintage Books, 1996, on page 14. It is from White on White, a book of poems of about sonnet-length with Roman numerals instead of titles. Suddenly I want to write a series of numbered poems! Don't you?? Let's begin with one for each of the four seasons. Last night it felt like rain, and we got a soaker!


Sometimes one enters the house with autumn
hanging by a thread,
one sleeps better then,
even silence stills itself at last.

Perhaps out in the night I heard a rooster crow,
and a little boy climbs the stairs
with a carnation and news of my mother.

I've never been so bitter, I tell him,
never in my shadow did the light
die so young
and so obscured.

It feels like snow.

---Eugenio de Andrade (pen name of Jose Fontinhas) (19 January 1923 – 13 June 2005)

This poet is very well known in his country; often I am sad that I know only the one language. I definitely feel that we are moving into autumn now, which makes me think about haiku; the most moving ones have autumn season-words, I think. This brief poem has prompted me to try one of my own.

Goatsbeard Farm News! Tonight, Scrubby, the young buck goat has been penned away from the ladies, to prevent any more of those disastrous in-the-snow goat births. Goats like to hang out with other goats, and he has done so all of his short life. And he is crying piteously, my daughter says, It's a sad life, sometimes. Good night, and may there be no bleating to keep you awake! We can't hear Scrubby from here. It's another sad story, though.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Morning Light, Evening Lght

All day long these aspen leaves quiver in the changing light. Today has been mostly about weather. I finally did some watering of wilting perennials, and was rewarded by a brief, but splendid rainstorm, It has been so dry this year that it needs to rain for DAYS, but this was very welcome.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, (1775-1851)the great English painter, loved weather and made many sketches and paintings of clouds and sunsets.

CLOUDS TO THE WEST, THE GREAT BOWL OF SKY fills with the last of today's sunlight.

Here, as promised last night, is another Transtromer poem, with some of the mystery left in.


William Turner's face is weather-brown.
He has set up his easel far out among the breakers.
We follow the silver-green cable down in the depths.

He wades out in the shelving kingdom of death.
A train rolls in. Come closer.
Rain, rain travels over us.

Tomas Transtromer from The Great Enigma; new collected poems, translated from the Swedish by Robin Fulton. Page 214.

CLOUDS TO THE EAST, REFLECTED SUNSET tints the clouds pink tonight. I love pink! And I take too many pictures of clouds. However, I console myself by remembering that the great photographer, Edward Steichen (1879-1973) took many pictures of clouds from the roof of his New York abode. And he had to pay for film! Sleep well, and dream of rain.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Another Daylily Summer is Passing

After we built at the edge of the meadow, S. wanted flowers near the house; they had to be the kind of flowers that could manage by themselves when we were not here. And perennial, to come back on their own. Here, daylilies fill that bill, and we have many different kinds and a blooming seaons that lasts for months.

I have been reading the book The Wild Braid, with pictures of Stanley Kunitz as he worked in his garden near the sea,. The book preserves lots of his garden-talk and poetry-talk, which flows seamlessly back and forth between topics, It is a true pleasure with great color photos; the kind of slender book to browse in, as well as to read right straight through.

Here Kunitz is on his garden: "On some level, when I was looking at that sloping sand, I had a vision of my garden as it is now, certainly in terms of its composition, structure and form.
What I wanted was to heighten the image of a garden tat seems to have taken over a steep hillside, something at rest and in motion at the same time.
The colors of flowers have different vibrations, akin to what Rimbaud spoke of when he referred to the colors of vowels. Rimbaud was one of my very early influences, so that would be a natural alliance here in this garden.There is an internal motion, a sense of timing arising out of the nature of this particular garden, of the plants growing and fading and falling away. And there is the natural motion that comes from the wind itself."  (page 71)

Earlier, in talking about a juniper that had to be pruned, he says, "I kept pruning it back, converting its battered state into an aesthetic principle, and now it has taken on a completely different shape, speading, rather than growing upright. As with the making of a poem, so much of the effort is to get rid of all the excess, and at the same time be sure that you are not ridding the poem of its essence.
The danger is that you cut away the heart of a poem and are less.ft only with the most ordered and contained element. A certain degree of sprawl is necessary; it should feel as though there's room to maneuver, that you're not trapped in a cell. You must be very careful not to deprive the poem of its wild origin." (page 57)

Here is a poem by Tomas Transtromer, from The Great Enigma; new collected poems translated from the Swedish by Robin Fulton. (page 208)

Night Journey

Thronging under us. The trains.
Hotel Astoria trembles.
A glass of water at the bedside
shines in the tunnels.

He dreamt he was a prisoner on Svalbard.
The planet turned rumbling.
Glittering eyes walked over the ice fields,
The beauty of miracles existed.

Transtromer is a good poet to hang out with to get the feeling of wild origins still in the poems. I have two more poems already picked out out this more. 
And in case you are wondering about Svalbard, it is quite interesting; here is a link.

Challenge to self and to you, too! Write a poem that is too much and then revise it without taking out all of its "muchness." And now to bed, sleep well.

ines Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 23, 2013

Disappearing Day Over Pickerel Lake; "Our shadows are giants."

I loved this visit to the lakeside with my grandchildren. As the sun went down they were finishing their picnic and I was watching the light on the lake.

Here are a few of the haiku written by Tomas Transtromer, They are not like any other haiku I know. But I seem to want to dwell in their presence. These are a few from his book, The Sad Gondola, in the translations by Robin Fulton that appear in The Great Enigma on page 209.


The power lines stretched
across the kingdom of frost
north of all music.
The white sun's a long-
distance runner againsst
the blue mountain of death.
We have to live with
small-print grasses and
laughter from the cellar.
The sun is low now.
Our shadows are giants.
Soon all will be shadow.

Watching the light as the day progresses, and watching the track of the moon, or the brilliant stars, have been of the greatest pleasure to me this summer. Unlike other places I have lived, this house encourages that. Tonight the moon is high. Good Night!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inside another eatery

Lately I have found that snapshots inside pizza parlors or such places work beautifully with the app TangledFX and its black and white etching filter. I guess it is something about the chairs. This place is called Mancino's; it's in downtown Petoskey, Michigan.

Right now, the sun has just gone down just outside the big windows overlooking the meadow; the sky is suffused with that rosy glow. The opera channel is playing on satellite radio. All and all, a mellow evening.

I got out the Transtromer again today, and took it to bed with this cold. The book made me very happy, and it has been hard to pick just one for tonight.
[I just picked one, talked about it, and finished typing it when the laptop decided to do a Windows update, without any warning! and I lost all but the paragraph above. Can't overdo the crabbiness I felt, but here I am back for the re-do.]

The poem I have chosen in TRACKS by Tomas Transtromer, one of my favorite poets. It is on page 34 in The Great Enigma; new collected poems, translated from the Swedish by Robin Fulton.


2 AM: moonlight. The train has stopped
out in thw middle of the plain. Far away, points of light in a town, 
flickering coldly on the horizon.

As when someone has fallen into a dream so deep
he'll never remember having been there
when he comes back to his room.

As when someone has fallen into an illness so deep
everything his days were becomes a few flickering points, a swarm,
cold and tiny on the horizon,

The train is standing quite still.
2 AM: bright moon light, few stars.

---Tomas Transtromer

This is also, for me, a Memory Thread, since this was one of the three poems Robert Hass brought to our seminar to introduce us to the work of Transtromer. More than 30 years ago!!! I have loved the sensible and mysterious work of the Swedish poet ever since, and am glad to back here tonight. Sleep Well!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This is a real flower

that looks almost fake, I think. If I didn't have a cold, I could perhaps put one behind my ear and dance a hula. We planted this three years ago and hadn't seen the bloom yet. Hibiscus is a favorite flower of my husband, so he is very pleased with the many healthy buds on the plant. It is supposed to rain tonight, and I hope it does, because everything is very dry.
This is my fourth try at posting tonight--it is almost as if the Internet is broken. I finally sent the picture up from my phone and am writing this on the laptop. All this stuff is so great when it works. And so to bed, hoping for a miracle cure for the cold and for the Picasa posting function. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Look East, Look West

Posted by Picasa
As the sun goes down, the moon comes up! This will give you some idea of the tranquil evening just passed. Of course I ran out to shoot the moon, even though I don't have the proper tripod and such. You can just see the light from our windows in the picture with the last of the sunset. I have to check my camera lens for the smirch in the sky.

I have copied and pasted the poem below (why it has a different look) from the blog Wild Fire, by Patrick Burke, so I wouldn't have to type it and because my book, Next to Last Things by Kunitz is upstairs. It is another poem from this time of twilight, and I think, a very successful and memorable poem.

Lamplighter: 1914

by Stanley Kunitz

What I remember most was not

the incident at Sarajevo,

but the first flying steamkettle

puffing round the bend,

churning up the dirt

between the rocky pastures

as it came riding high

on its red wheels

in a blare of shining brass;

and my bay stallion snorting,

rearing in fright, bolting,

leaving me sprawled on the ground;

and our buggy

careening out of sight

those loose reins dangling,

racing toward its rendezvous

with Hammond’s stone wall

in an explosion of wood and flesh,

the crack of smashed cannon bones.

Who are these strangers

sprung out of the fields?

It is my friend, almost my brother,

who points a gun

to the crooked head.

Once I was a lamplighter

on the Quinnapoxet roads,

making the rounds with Prince,

who was older than I and knew

by heart each of our stations,

needing no whoa of command,

nor a tug at his bridle.

That was the summer I practiced

sleight-of-hand and fell asleep

over my picture-books of magic.

Toward dusk, at crossings

and at farmhouse gates,

under the solitary iron trees

I stood on the rim of the buggy wheel

and raised my enchanter’s wand,

with its tip of orange flame,

to the gas mantles in their cages,

touching them, one by one,

till the whole countryside bloomed.


And here is tonight's moon! Remember to look at the twilit or moonlit, or starlit sky, before you SLEEP TIGHT!

Monday, August 19, 2013

This Morning in the Meadow

Haven't seen very many dear deer this summer, so was pleased with this misty morning sight about 7:30 a.m.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A night of Double Posting

I was looking for a poem to go with the roofers in the previous post and found this one and changed my directions! So I will leave that as it is and double post for tonight. Here is another picture from the Evening Walk with Golden Grasses, This short and lovely poem is from the portfolio of Marie Ponsot's poems in the May, 2013 issue of Poetry Magazine, which was published in honor of the award to her of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. This poem is on page 130.

Out of Water

A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
                        dots the grass already dotty
                        with aster-white and clover.

I warn, "They won't last out of water."
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of water
children don't last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of what's next
          and what was yesterday
they pick today.

Marie Ponsot has raised seven children and is now in her nineties! I love the gentle  perception in this poem!

Posted by Picasa

Roofers taking off shingles outside my watercolor table

The tool that they use to remove shingles is really great! It scoops up the nails and flings shingle bits to the ground. These guys make it look soooo easy.
The roof is done now. They did it in two days and it looks great!
I feel as if we are getting ready to leave for the winter. I wonder if we will make it back next year.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Roofer outside my bedroom window in early morning light

He brought his brother and another guy and finished the job in two days, It was hard work, bnt they had good tools and by working from 7 a.m. until quite late, they got the job done. Today his children came by with his lunch (he's got a teen and a little guy;) I have been impressed with how hard he works.
I'm almost too tired to keep my eyes open! As Scarlett O'Hara said, though, "I'll think about it tomorrow, after all, tomorrow is another day."

Pat Conroy began a book with a big section about the effect Gone With The Wind had on his mother, and on him, and on almost everybody in the south. I read it in upstate New York when I was in Junior High. Afterwards, I rewrote the ending about nine million times so that Rhett and Scarlett could get back together. Too bad, they never did!
Good night!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer's Height; the three of them

Just before the end of July on the famous grandchild visit. These are the three youngest near the daylilies S planted around the house several years ago.

And later that same day, the same lovely children were looking for ripening raspberries in the grass,: Samantha is holding the turkey feather that she lost before she got home, and mourned greatly until she went to bed..

We are really blessedly lucky in the lives we live! The new Harper's Magazine has an article on a herd of rogue elephants, which, instead of roaming in an accustomed annual pattern in search of seasonal foods, have discovered that rural villages in India have caches of food and native beer in villages and homes. So. led by their crafty matriarch, they have destroyed entire villages, in search of Good Eats. Some of these villages have now been given up by the inhabitants. Human elephant conflict is responsible for about 400 people deaths and 100 elephant deaths in India each year. Elephants are protected and also revered as being an avatar of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god. \
hruba, the specialist in Human Elephant Contact profiled in the article, travels from village to village to instruct people on the best ways of dealing with the problem without so much loss of life.

Here is what he has to say, " It is difficult to prove an elephant's intelligence. They don't have a monkeylike intelligence. 'Intelligence' isn't even the right word. It's more like wisdom. They can sense things. They know what to do. They'll take whatever a situation offers them and use it to their best advantage. And they don't aggravate situations. Unlike monkeys." Harper's Magazine, August, 2013, page 65.

There is a poem in here somewhere, filled with pity for both people and elephants. Good night and sweet dreams!

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Transformation!

And here you have the same house (see previous post) with the chimney completed, and the high-pillared porch. Notice how PLUMB the corner near the chimney is now.  This was circa 1956 (it looks like Christmas because of the decoration on one pillar.

In July of 2006, my sister went back to visit and took this picture! My Dad did a good job! It still looks plumb. FIFTY years later!!!

We were only here seven years and I missed four of them. But this place is a big part of our family folklore.
Here is a link to the post about how it lloed when we bought it.

And here in Michigan, roofers are coming in the morning with first light, before even the dogs are awake.
And so good night!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Transitional Phase

Yes, of course it is the house at The Farm, circa 1955-6.  I have now left home to be married. Since this is a Memory Thread, let me give you the most specific memories I can. The original section of the house was built circa 1850-1860; it was in need of almost total restoration and renovation, and it came with barns, a decrepit outhouse (which made a great bonfire!) and 140 acres of land.
You will notice that there is a chimney-shaped hole in the end of the house with the unpainted siding. This is where the chimney will be built, with a fireplace insert that will take a five-foot log. The corner closest to us is the one that taught me what "plumb" means. Dad hung a plumb bob from the roofline. He made it himself from a length of lead bar, with a hole drilled in it for the string. (I have this 3-inch bit of lead and string, which were in my mother's things when she died.) Daddy explained to me that we were going to raise that corner with a jack just a little but every few days. He did get the house straight in the end; afterwards none of the upstairs bedroom doors would close, and all had to be rehung. Also, he improved the foundation.
The roof is metal; I knew it well, since I painted every inch of it. A flat ladder was placed in one strip--I used it to paint from, doing the adjacent strip. Once I slipped a little, but I never fell. I was paid $1 an hour, which was pretty good for those days. This money I saved for college. I went away to the University of Arizona in August of 1953.
I had forgotten that the addition on the back of the house had a captain's walk on the roof, but I remember the addition well, since I painted the siding from a ladder, first with a coat of linseed oil on the new wood (I think this was to save on paint.) and then a coat of white paint. Money was borrowed to build this two story addition, which was not recovered in the sale of the house when Dad was transferred to Cleveland in 1957. I think it took the folks about five years to pay down this loan after they moved. The addition was built during several weeks over one summer by a pair of carpenters named Tom and Bob, I seem to recall; Dad did much of the other work himself, He completely rewired the house, which had only one bulb hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen. He used a new kind of  cream-colored GE click switches. If I every see any of these switches in an older place, I am reminded of my Dad.
There was one pipe bringing water to the kitchen sink. Waste water went into a large milk can which had to be carried outside to be emptied. All the first summer, we bathed in a tub upstairs that was fed cold water from an outside tap by a hose laid up the side of the stairs. We warmed this with two or three kettles of boiling water carried up the stairs. I am happy to report that, as the oldest child, I carried the kettles and took the first bath, followed by Susan, and then by the four boys, probably in groups. I think my mother bathed toddler Marji earlier in the day in a smaller amount of water. Dad had done the outflow plumbing for the tub. I am sure my parents bathed during that first summer; I seem to recall carrying the kettles for Mom once, but I don't remember more. Such are the limitations of Memory Threading.
Well, this is really enough for tonight. I'll do another one of these soon, covering the porch, the trees and a few things about the interior.

Readers of this blog may know that I like old things maybe better than I like new things. My experience with this old house may have something to do with that. My interest in Stanley Kunitz has endured for many years. I note that he was born in 1905, just a year before my father. But he lived to be One Hundred, instead of only Eighty like my Dad. Both were extra-smart young men who improved their stations in life dramatically through education.
Today I read about half of Stanley Kunitz's essays in the volume collecting earlier writings (many had previously appeared in periodicals) that was published by Atlantic, Little Brown in 1975. The book is called A Kind of Order, a Kind of Folly; essays and conversations, and is arranged in thematic sections. Much ephemeral writing from the mid-20th Century, no longer reads very well, but these are certainly an exception. It was quite a trip for me to remember some of the times, events and people and to see his balanced views and comments on so many different topics, politics, poetry, creativity and art from those times. As I was reading, I marked things to write about here; I was delighted, for example, to find a couple of pages discussing haiga and haiku, and the relation of art to poetry.
For tonight, from pages 115-116, I would like to give you the poem he has written an essay on the writing of; the poem is called:

End of Summer

An agitation of the air
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

--Stanley Kunitz

In a lucid page and one-half, he describes the genesis and maturation of this poem. In itself, since it touches on so many of the things that can strerngthen a poem--and how one finds them--this would make a great lesson for a poetry-writing seminar. Let's write something tomorrow, for sure!! Then revise it! Sleep well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lining Up

Geese on Pickerel Lake near sunset, August, 2013

When I was in school, in choir, at dancing lessons and in gym class, I was always horrified by this command, "Line up according to height." Because I was always the tallest until sometime late in Junior High. Most of my height is in my thigh bone, so when I was seated, and rose to my (then) great height, some innocent who was forced to ask someone to dance (These ballroom dancing classes were held in Schenectady in the Van Curler Hotel. My mother, who loved to dance, worked hard to manage the money to pay for them.) fell back in horror. I was self conscious about this and about the length of skirts (which girls then wore every day to school) and compensated for that by sewing my skirts extra long or adding a band to the bottom of skirts that were given to me. I think I enjoyed the motion of the fabric of these long skirts, even if I never really enjoyed dancing.

Here are some examples. These are images of myself I don't remember ever seeing; it is fun to have them now. If you are waiting to scan your family slides from the 1950s, I encourage you to take that step. I used Scancafe,com. They often have good reduced-price offers. If you sign up, they will send you special offers in your email.
Looking at these pictures and remembering how I felt about my body then makes me wonder why we can be so self-critical. I look OK, it's that porch on the farmhouse we have recently acquired that needs help. And another slide shows that it got it. Recover and label your family history while you can!

I promise poetry will come back soon . . .
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Horse, Cindy, and me

I have been working on these scanned slides all evening and find there are only five minutes until midnight in this location! I almost missed my post-a-day since January First! Special thanks to all my friends who are reading this!

Cindy was the $75 horse my folks bought me when we moved from Scotia to The Farm in 1950. When we went to pick her out, they offered us an Appaloosa cross named Sis for another $65, a deal, so we got her, too. Both mares were pregnant. I think I was wearing these clothes at that time, and so this is probably when the horse and I were quite new to each other.
At this remove, it seems that we were ill-prepared and ill-suited to the task of properly caring for horses. If I tell the truth, I liked reading horse books better than actually hanging out with horses. Besides, I had absolutely no experience with them, and very little idea of the care they would require. But I did learn how to properly cinch a saddle girth, and how to stick my thumb in the corner of the mouth to get Cindy to open up for the bit.
My father had played polo in college (They used the horses belonging to the U.S. Cavalry at the University of Arizona.) As far as I know, the Cavalry didn't have much of a role in World War II, but my father was in college in the early 1930s and there was still an active unit then. He also had extensive experience doing farm work with mules as he was growing up. (Are mules tougher than horses?) But since there was always a culture of managing things without spending money in our family---nothing going on there for softies---I don't recall big expenditures for grain and hay. The horses were allowed to forage in the pasture all winter as long as the snow cover wasn't too deep.
Dad did have rudimentary hoof-trimming skills, but he was out of practice and getting this done was quite a strenuous project.
I have been quite captivated by pictures of the horses and colts in slides taken by my mother that I just had scanned. There is also a series of great shots of my siblings in the haymow door, taken from below. I am now inventing methods of labeling and organizing all these pictures to share with my family. These slides have been in closets since the 1960s and most of them are unfamiliar. It is a true delight to have a chance to work with them.
There is more to tell, of the birth of foals, of Sis's case of mange that turned her into a pale blue ghost in the meadow, and which was eventually cleared through veterinary advice after she lost virtually all her hair. Of the Palomino stallion with the crippled leg. And especially of riding down the side of the long hayfield on my Cindy, the three-quarter Morgan Horse with the white star on her forehead.
That's the memory thread for tonight; I hope not to become unbearable with these. Good Night!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Late Sunlight on Crooked River

My grandson came home for a short visit and we managed to hitch up the boat to the Bronco and get in the water just before a late dinner.

I took 500 pictures with that digital camera viewing screen you cannot see in the bright light and some of them came out OK. If you have a digital camera, just keep shooting. Then you can fill up your hard drive with mediocrity, and be like me!

The pictures I like best are about the light on the water, like this one.

Here is a poem about light by Joseph Stroud.

Night in Day

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light.So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light's great
triumph, when fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun---
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, buts of night glistening in the grass.

It is on page 134 of A Bird Black as the Sun; Callifornia poets on crows and ravens, Green Poet Press, Santa Barbara, CA.

And here is more of the boat ride: Dream of water . . .

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Evening Prayers

Here I am saying my nighttime prayers at the cribside of my baby sister. The Sunbonnet Sue baby quilt has miraculously survived and now rests in my linen closet. The year is early 1940. That another Great War is coming is not even suspected by the two of us. My sister is doing well after a rough start. Born prematurely, she weighed but three pounds, and lost a third of that before she began to survive. The hospital had only one Isolette for keeping too small babies warm and giving them extra oxygen, and it was already in use for an even smaller baby. By this stroke of luck my sister avoided Retrolental Fibroplasia, the eye problems that many of these babies developed in later life as a result of excess oxygen. This is an abnormal development of blood vessels in the retina, which can also be caused by not enough oxygen. So, doctors have a tough call to make while treating these babies.

Religion was an important part of my upbringing and during all my early life. I was brought up in a Mormon home, and although I am no longer religiously observant, the history of my maternal grandparents, my husband's grandparents, and their participation in the Mormon migrations and the Westward movement are very important and interesting to me, and a definite part of who I am.

This morning I awoke with the hymn As The Dew From Heaven Distilling sounding softly in my head. it has a beautiful melody and I have been singing it to myself all day. S just told me the words in Spanish the way they sang it in Argentina. So I had to look it up. It is a Mormon Hymn, some of the hymns in the LDS hymnal also are sung by other Protestant churches and some, like this one, were written for Mormon use., and most probably are not sung by other denominations.

As the dew from Heaven distilling

 As the dew from heav'n distilling
Gently on the grass descends
And revives it, thus fulfilling
What thy providence intends,

Let thy doctrine, Lord, so gracious,
Thus descending from above,
Blest by thee, prove efficacious
To fulfill thy work of love.

These are the first two verses, for the citation, the music and the other two verses, click on the link above.
I am talking about this tonight largely because of the rhyming and metrical pattern of these lyrics. A poet who can rhyme gracious with efficacious so effortlessly deserves our respect.

I have been thinking about hymns lately because the water exercise group I belong to sings hymns and other songs while we do about 45 minutes of water exercises. Often we sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. (Try it! It's a good exercise tune!) and I knew three verses, but now I have discovered that there are five!  I find the structure of the lyrics and the choice of vocabulary very interesting, and plan to discuss this in another post. But for tonight, Sing Me To Sleep. That's the title of a song my voice teacher, Mrs. Louise Newkirk taught, and matter for another memory thread.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Oh, those iPhone photo apps!!

 I got a Kindle book on the subject of Instagram yesterday, because I looked at Instagram again and wanted to do something I could not figure out how to do! I am only a little way into the book, but so far, it has just inspired me to get other apps it talked about. This one is called Shakeme and arranges selected photos in different patterns when you shake your iPhone. This is a combo of three photos that were already modified ed in other apps, like Glaze, Tangled FX and ColorLake. The child is "Little Red", the red-headed younger sister of the girl in this post, and one of the family of grandkids that recently visited us in this glorious summer up North.

Tonight's poem is a nod to Shakespeare, because so many of Akhmatova's other poems are so bleakly colored by the times she lived through in Stalinist Russia. This was written before all that; it's the first one in the book of Kunitz's translations of Anna Akhmatova, on page 39.

Reading Hamlet

A barren patch to the right of the cememtery,
behind it a river flashing blue.
You said: "All right then, get thee to a nunnery,
or go get married to a fool . . ."

It was the sort of this that princes always say.
but these are words that one remembers.
May they flow a hundred centuries in a row
like an ermine mantle from his shoulders.

Anna Akhmatova, Kiev, 1909

The last two lines are like a blessing or a consecration. Think of something you would like to bless with a hundred-century mantle before you go to sleep tonight! And rest well.
Posted by Picasa