Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pumpkin time

Every year a traditional New England style white church on Rte. 28 in Yarmouth, here on Cape Cod fills it's expansive lawn with pallets of pumpkins, from large to small -- a sea of orange with green paths between. It's a gorgeous, autumn sight. For years I've muttered that I must take a photo. Today I took a few, this is one that show the size and expansiveness of the display. 

Pumpkins are not a favorite food of mine and I'm not enticed by the various "pumpkin spice" flavoring being offered everywhere from Starbucks to Dunkin' Donuts. Nor am I a holiday fan of pumpkin pie.  I do love their brilliant color and enjoy driving past that church  all of October. 

There are now white pumpkins for sale in the grocery stores.  They seem like freaks of nature, possibly grown so people can paint extravagant faces on them. Or maybe just "because it can be done."  We never stop tinkering with nature. I can't help remembering the first line of a James Whitcomb Riley poem: "When the frost in on the pumpkin and the fodder's in the shock..."  Once America's most quoted poet, (early 20th century) now forgotten.  A Hoosier, so we read him in school back home in Indiana.  I find it satisfying to think about how quickly hacks are forgotten.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Autumn is here

The new header is rose hips -- the red from red roses (natch) and the yellow from white roses.  They are full of vitamin C and they make good jam. I've been told how to do it but I haven't and probably won't. I use very little jam. I understand they also can be the basis of good teas but that I probably won't do either as I mostly prefer a black tea or a peppermint one.  But they're pretty! I understand you can't dry them (they shrivel up) and use them for Christmas tree decorations which sounds lovely .... but, alas, impossible.

 I often chat a bit a man who goes to the beach I prefer to walk on for a long day of sunning on weekends.  He works during the week.  We are "regulars" as is a woman I often chat with too.  (She feeds the gulls.) This man wanders along the beach, sometimes collecting can and other junk to put in the garbage barrel as he leaves.  One day I saw he had a gallon-size plastic zip baggie of rose hips.  I asked if he or his wife planned to make jam.  He said, "No, they're for the rabbits."  He explained two little brown rabbits live at the far edge of his lawn and one day he had brought home some rose hips which is wife didn't want.  So he put them out for the rabbits to eat if they wanted.  They very much wanted!  They loved them. Now they come into the yard looking to the house waiting for rose hips which he keeps in the refrigerator and doles out sparingly.  He says they have even sometimes come up to the patio slider and looked in. 

UDDATE about the manatee:  She swam around for nearly a month and then was  caught and taken to a marine animal center in Mystic, Connecticutt where she was given a pool of water about 60 degrees, and examined. They found she was pregnant.  The last I heard the plan was to take her back to Florida. I hope she survives.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Hyannisport Manatee

A couple of days ago when I went for a walk on my favorite lesser known beach, I met a man  coming from the other end of the beach who told me there was a manatee -- it was up where "that last group of people" were.  I started walking much faster than usual but it was not to be seen by me --
however a small group of  boats were gathered in an area some distance out. I even saw a kayaker paddling in that direction so I believed the man had told me the truth but the manatee was happier far enough from shore not to be visible expect by boat and I was not sure the boaters saw him either ... although I don't know.  This was the second wayward manatee, so far as I know (I don't read the local paper athough I do hear local news on the radio) this summer.  And I heard that a year or two ago another manatee was in our waters, was captured by the appropriate rescue organization and was put into a tanker truck and sent back to Florida. Except that unfortunate beast died somewhere on the way.

I looked up pictures and some information about them -- I've never actually seen one -- and I wrote a somewhat silly little poem but I dis try to make a point about the changing climate and that it is messing up the lives of a great many kinds of animals -- also birds and, of course, quite a lot of humans as well.  Here is the poem.

The Hyannisport Manatee

He-she-it is the second this summer,
lost, paddling through oddly warm waters,
— how long can a manatee swim free
out in the depths of the sea?
Poor manatee hasn’t a cute wrinkle
on his baking-potato-like body
and yet you can’t help feeling sorry
for the critter from Okefenokee.

A year or two ago kind locals rescued another
—for all we know it could have been this one’s brother.
They put him-her-it in a big tanker truck
and headed down to Florida. But bad luck!
He-she-it gave up the fight, north of Georgia.
one sloshing nasty bumpy night.
Will this one face a similar plight?

What to do when the climate is so muddled
animal instincts become befuddled?
Take pity on them and try to rescue?  Yes!
Shouldn’t we announce loud and clear
climate change happens everywhere, even here?
What about TV news?  Well, unfortunately
nothing is photogenic about a manatee.
not a make-over candidate is it/he/she.
Anti-ugliness discrimination needs a  mascot.
All of those in favor of a manatee, please shout
“lost and loveless manatee, you are me.”

(postscript) Stanley Kunitz wrote a very, very fine poem called "The Wellfleet Whale" quite a few years ago. I've heard it called one of the ten greatest American poems.  I wouldn't presume to put any of my writing in the same category as Kunitz, but the sound of my title echoes his.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sullly, the film

Sully is Clint Eastwood's latest bio-pic -- the story of Captain, Chesley Sullenberger, "Sully" who landed an Aeirbus  plane with 156 people aboard in the Hudson River one frigid winter day when they ran into a flock of geese that knocked out both engines on the plane.  This is a story close to my heart because I lived only a few blocks from where the plane went down although I knew nothing about it until evening news.

As some fictional news reporter says at one point in the film, "It is wonderful to have a New York story about airplanes where no one is hurt.  It is a hero story, Sully most of all, the co-pilot also, and, as Sully says at the end of the movie, all the rescue personnel who came to the aid of those passengers who jumped out of the plane, onto rafts, or into the water that day in January which was -- and I remember this -- frigid. The air temperature was not much above freezing and the water was cold enough to cause hypothermia in a very short time. Yet, within 24 minutes everyone was rescued.

Much of the movie's tension was about the hearings held by the Airbus insurance company trying to prove that the plane could have been landed in either of the three nearby airports without damage to the plane.  I have a deep, deep hatred for insurance companies and the personnel were beautifully played and written.

Meanwhile Tom Hanks was a very fine Sully -- I have a picture of the actual man in my mind, slenderer, less bulky but in the hands of a very good and competent actor like Hanks I willingly  suspended disbelief.  It is a "feel good" movie and all the better because in essence (despite however the scriptwriter punched up the struggle for truth, it leave the viewer with a lump in the throat and a warm and fuzzy feeling around the heart.  Thank you. Mr. Eastwood!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Haunting news photo

This photo of an injured child from a bombing in a Middle Eastern city has been haunting me.  It is not quite as painful as the famous Viet Nam war photo of the naked little girl who had been burned with napalm -- but is there any comparison when children are badly hurt by war?  Surely it must make readers of the NYTimes stop and think about the victims of this horror about which we read nearly every day.  Here is a small child -- looking utterly numb, time has stopped for him, he may not know how he got to sit on the orange chair. We cannot imagine either.  He was doing something normal, probably with a trusted adult when there was a noise ... a noise that stopped time and then.... we don't know.  We hope he will forget ... probably he will forget but his life has been changed forever.  Possibly his mind has been changed forever.

We sitting in our comfortable chairs reading the newspaper or looking at the computer cannot imagine what has happened to him... we don't want to. He is half the world away ... but we see children his size, his age around us and we cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if a bomb went off just then ... This happens too, too often in too, too many places in the world, every day.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birthday American National Parks

A peaceful moment inYellowstone National Park, Leslie and I--we were about to leave Yellowstone and all the magnificent bison and elk and discover the sublime Grant Tetons.

Today is the 100th aniversary of the establishment of the National Park system.  I have not seen enough national parks yet, they are wonderful places.  Yellowstone was all I expected but with fewer bears than I'd been led to beleive. The Tetons were the most perfect mountains I've ever seen and I've seen mountains on five continents, many "grander" but the Tetons reflected in the lake as we drove south from Yellowstone were stunningly beautiful.  I've seen Yosemite and Bandolier, Acadia  and a tiny bit of the Smoky Mountans - not  nearly enough. Grand Canyon is conspicuously missing so far and Glacier  and then there's Denali, a park to dream about.

Nicholas Kristof in an editorial essay in Sunday's NYTimes writes of the treatsure of the parks. He mentions that, like so many of the things people of America value, (education, arts, music..) the Parks' budget is constantly cut -- a foolish cut. When trails and roads need repair there is not enough money so they are allowed to disintegrate until repairing them may require entirely new trails which will cost far more. 

Out little writing group had chosen national parks as the theme for today's writing. Everyone had experiences with one or many parks, warm memories, and in the case of Everglades, unhappy memories.  I have found times in parks preciously refreshing whether sitting on a rail fence beside a beautiful lake, or scrambling up a trail on Acadia mountain, gazing at the truly blue haze in the Smokies. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and the others who gave us these treasures.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Go see Florence Foster Jenkins !

This photo from the film Florence Foster Jenkins, is Meryl Streep murdering the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute when she sang at Ca rnegie Half.

The eponyous movie is essentially a bio-pic  about a rich New Yorker, her loving husband  (who nevertheless and for good reason, has a separate life) and a pianist who is hired to perform with her. She has a god-awful voice, is  terminally ill and is protected by her devoted husband.  So much about the movie is hilarious, so much is actually true, so much it is warm and human and touching, you can't help having a wonderful time while watching three perfectly cast actors (Streep, Hugh Grant as her husband and a pianist, unknown actor, Simon Helberb) as well as director Stephen Frear move this story which is both hilarious and touching from beginning to end.  It's a movie to  see with friends and to talk about over wine and nibbles later on. Streep's final line, "they said I couldn't sing, but they can't said I didn't sing," puts all the uptight audience, who laughed and laughed (as I did) in their place.