Tuesday, June 30, 2015


On a porch in Arkansas, my grandmother's extended family assembles. This is a scan of a bent photocopy of a copy, but you get the idea. My father's mother (Marjory Ann Carr) is at far right in the middle row, with the bangs and the row of buttons. Her arrow says "mother" She was born in 1874. Her father died when she was only six months old. Her mother died when she was nine, so I think these two sisters has already been orphaned when this picture was taken. Her sister, Lillian is on the far right; her arrow says "Auntie" which was what she was called by my father. Lillian never married and lived with her sister's family. Here is a passage from Marjory's autobiographical record:

"My Mother left Miss Co. soon after my father's death and went to Woodruff Co. Ark. She took her [his] three small girls Elizabeth, Lillian and Marjory Ann with her.

She bought a farm six miles from Augusta the County seat for Woodruff Co. The oldest girl Elizabeth died 
when she was 4 yrs old and was buried at a country grave yard near our farm.

My Mother Minnie Ann Carr died when I was 9 years old. After her death, my sister Lillian and I made our home with our mother's brother, Ollie Johnson's family who lived in Augusta.

I stayed there til I was 16 yrs old. I then took an examination and taught several country schools. Finally when almost 20 I took another examination and got a scholarship to enter Peabody Normal College in Nashville, Tenn. I boarded with my father's brothers family (Uncle [Niel] Carr) the three years I was in college. After I graduated I went to my old house in Augusta, Arkansas, 
and taught 4 yrs in the school where I went as a child.

During my stay in Augusta I met John R. Hopper and we were married in Nashville, Tenn June 12, 1901."


This is quite an inspirational story, don't you think? And probably no different than many other life stories of people who lived in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century in the United States.

I wanted to chose a picture of some vintage to go with this recent poem from The New Yorker. I think because of the old-fashionedness of the words "ingle" and "nook" which are combined in the word inglenook, which was produced from old words for fire/fireplace and nook, meaning a corner.

Notice how in the poem below, Mary Ruefle has made two new compound-words: face-wash and tooth-clean. I imagine my grandmother might have known this word: inglenook. It's a word I like and carries shreds of antiquity within itself. Make up compound words of your own for your poems, if you can,

I grew up in New York State and my grandmother lived in Yuma, Arizona, so I never knew her well. It's a loss, I think. Now I wonder if this is Ollie Johnson and his wife standing in the doorway of the picture above.


I live in the museum of
everyday life,
where the thimble is hidden
anew every week and often
takes five days to find.
Once it was simply lying
(laying?) on the floor
and I missed it,
looking inside my mouth.
A grease fire in the inglenook!
That took a lot of soda!
Free admission, but guests
are required to face-wash
before entering and 
tooth-clean before leaving.
Open daily, the doorknobs
are covered with curated
fingerprints, and pass
on the latest news.

Mary Ruefle
The New Yorker, June 1, 2015, page 64.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Great Blue Heron in evening light

Again, tonight, he took up a fishing spot under a small aqueduct that crosses the Canal.
And, again, I got a fairly sharp picture with the Samsung Galaxy camera, 
which is a phone, really, with a 21x zoom lens melded to it in the middle.
I thought he was a good omen for starting up the blog again
after this month-long pause. It was much, much, much easier to stop 
than to get myself started up again. 


I saw the heron
      like a branch of white petals 
         in the swamp,
in the mud that lies
   like a glaze,
      in the water
         that swirls its pale panels

of reflected clouds;
   I saw the heron shaking
      its damp wings--
         and then I felt

an explosion--
   a pain--
      also a happiness
         I can hardly mention

as I slid free--
   as I saw the world
      through those yellow eyes--
         as I stood like that, rippling,

under the mottled sky
   of the evening
      that was beginning to throw
         its dense shadows.

No! said my heart, and drew back.
   but my bones knew something wonderful
      about the darkness--
         and they thrashed in their cords,

they fought, they wanted
   to lie down in that silky mash
      of the swamp, the sooner
         to fly.

 Mary Oliver
from House of Light, Beacon Press, 1992

There are many wonderful heron poems! Look for some more.