Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Last Day of National Poetry Month

Shakespeare's birthday was a few days ago. I asked the people in my writing class to go in turn and say the quote that comes most readily to mind -- because we do all quote Shakespeare sometimes not even aware of it.  We read a couple of sonnets.  And as every week this month, I gave the class copies of a poem I like. It's not a poetry class but one man surpd just written.

Here is one last poem of mine, written for my poetry class:

Que sera, sera

Too many say shit happens.                                                
 I say serendipity happens.
 A telephone call, a chance meeting,
 Sometimes nothing more than
 Cherries in the grocery store.
Others are planners, 
worriers weighing choices, seeking assurance,
 Needing approval, fearing the unknown.
 Others live by que ser sera.
 Not impulsive, but not mired.
 Opportunity knocks. “Hello,
 Give me a minute or two.”
Que sera sera isnt' winning the lottery
Or sitting on yuor hands awaiting gifts.
It's not wanting too much
Or valuing too little what you have.
Life doesn't owe you a dmaned thing.
Take whatever falls in your lap.
Que sera sera and serendiity,
are good friends of mine.

Monday, April 28, 2014

On My Way, Catherine Deneuve

Spur of the moment, I noticed that a French film, On My Way, (in English -- what it is in French I don't know), starring CatherineDeneuve was playing at the Cape Cinema only at 4:00 .  So I went because I'm a Deneuve fan.  This road trip movie written and directed by Emmanuelle Bercot has all the characteristics I love about small-ish French films: a complex main character with a complex past and present, a kid (her grandson) who is difficult, complex and open, lovers and ex-lovers and an involvement with life that most American main characters don't have. Deneurve is very beautiful, of course (but not in the too pretty-perfect Julie Christie was in the Alzheimer's movie I saw a couple weeks ago). She had been Miss Brittany but never went to the finals for Miss France. Now she's 60+ at least two sizes larger than previously, a hint of a double chin, wears a loose blouse to hid the middle as so many of us do. She is complex, utterly alive, mainly seeking a cigarette although she gave up smoking a year ago. Ms. Bercot gives depth to the story of individuals and an aliveness American movies usually don't have. I suspect the movie will not be shown many places but perhaps it'll have a life on the smaller screens since Deneuve has many fans like me. I totally enjoyed the film -- spur of the moment personal treats is a priviledge of the retired.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Celebratory week

The end of the week was a busy and celebratory time.  The end of the semester for the Academy for Lifelong Learning which is my major activity now in "retirement".   This is my fifth year here on Cape Cod and I feel I found exactly the involvements that were best for me. 

On Thursday fairly new group of creative women who were gathered together by one "people person" and have been meeting since last spring, had a surprise birthday party for one member, a woman I like very much.   She was truly surprised and admitted to having had very few birthday parties during her life.  "My mother wasn't into mothering" she said. What a radiant smile she had all day.

That evening was the ALL annual banquet. I was given a ride there by a woman I had not had a chance to talk with as much as I'd have liked; we had a nice visit going and coming.  The food was the best (or maybe second best) I've ever had at such an event. Conversation at the table where I sat with some new acquaintances and others I've known some time, was very enjoyable. The next day was the last day of my writing class. The writing was great to hear and people said nice things to me.  Then the next to last documentary film class was the classic Leni Reifenfeld propaganda film, Triumph of the Will which I had never seen. A film that helped inspire the fanaticism of the Nazis -- marches, music, speeches, joyous faces -- everything meant to inspire dedication to a leader. Having now seen it once, I'll never forget it and certainly have no desire to see it again. However this coming Friday we will see  the biographical documentary about Leni R. who was an amazing woman and continued to be amazing long after the defeat of Germany. In fact she leaved to 100 or more, barely stopping her very creative life.

Yesterday we held an open mic event in the afternoon -- a first attempt to see how it would work.  As expected there were somewhat fewer people than I had hoped. But there were enough to have a good session of listening to people read their prose and poetry. Some was quite excellent and everyone there enjoyed hearing the readings. That is the last event except for the annual meeting with year end reports and new board of directors electees.  From here until September, no more classes ... but my anthology committee will meet and the submissions for the next edition are arriving -- which is one of the most exciting parts for me. So I look  back and think, yes, I have found a niche and I'm enjoying it very much.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Caring because you've been there

Traveling is to learn that other people in other places are as precious as people you see every day.   No, I've never climbed Mt. Everest, but I have trekked in Solo Kumbu, the Sherpa state in Nepal which includes Everest and the biggest mountains.  Thirteen Sherpas died last week preparing the mountain for rich people who want something to brag about and can afford the climb. Many, many Sherpas have died on Everest -as far back as the '30 when George Mallory was trying to climb the north (Chinese) face of the mountain. Eight Sherpas died on one of his attempts.  He had with him a truly kind and noble companion (and I'm very sorry I've forgotten his name) who said after that accident that he was sorry he hadn't died so that they would know that their lives are not cheaper than that of the men who employed them.  I don't think any of the potential climbers today have such feelings (not that I actually know; but I'm a cynic about very rich people -- and I've read a lot about the climbers).

By the way Sherpa is the name of the people who live in that area. They migrated from the Kham area of Tibet many, many generations ago.  They have adapted to the height with changes in their breathing and their blood's composition. They are very strong people who carry loads half again their own weight up mountain trails.  During the two treks I made in the Himalayas the Sherpas were good natured, very professional, thoughtful, kind.  I thought they were beautiful.  I remember, frivolously,  but sweetly, having a shampoo at our camp when a Sherpa poured heated water over my head as I stood near a washing bowl.  I did not ask him to, I could have wet and rinsed my own hair, but he did it with a smile.  A small thing, a kindness.

At Thengboche monastery, which was our goal, the oldest woman had a small stroke, not serious enough to need air evac. She was hearty woman who probably weight about 175.  Two young Sherpas carried her the next day, piggy-back, about six hours of walking, taking turns.  The young men probably weighted less than 120 themselves.  At day's end we reached Namche Bazzar where regular plane service was available to Kathmandu.  They did not complain, it was part of their job.

This was a heroic event I witnessed.  I know that the Sherpas who work on Mt. Everest do much more demanding and heroic work to make the trails safe for the pampered climbers.  When one has seen a group of people at close hand, recognized personal quirks and talked about families, disasters, be it the deaths on Everest, or stories of war in other countries, the pain is as deep as if it were people who lived in the same town as you.   Well, for some of us -- quite a few I think -- although, as said before, I am cynical about the rich who are accustomed to having others do the hard work and take the economic difference as their right. Sherpa  means hero to me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Rockin' Change of Pace

The documentary film class has been heavy with concerns the last few weeks -- it usually is -- but  both Lili, who runs the class, and the class itself felt a need for something lighter.  A change of pace. To her surprise, said Lili, the DVD of this year's Oscar winner for best documentary rose to the top of her waiting list  in the library system.  She showed 20 Feet from Stardom.   WOW!!!!

In my world of classical music only, I have been aware that big rock stars have back up singers but I've paid so little attention to the stars themselves I actually didn't recognize by sight (No, I'm not blushing, it's a fact) Sting or Stevie Wonder and it took a couple of clips to recognize Bruce Springsteen.  I had heard some of the women's names but barely.

What a film.  What voices, what women!  They were magnificent and their individual stories were fascinating. . So many grand voices, and of course they could all dance, they wore magnificent clothes on stage, they were eloquent and forceful when they were interviewed,  They had magnificent laughs.  The movie skimmed analysis of why some could be called divas and some had solo careers -- but usually short. They were very much appreciated by the various male stars who spoke of how much they need the voices behind and with theirs. 

In about an hour and a half I made up for forty years of ignoring rock/pop music. This was a wonderful change from Henry Kissinger and the insanity of fracking. I won't change my music listening habits but I'm very, very glad my perspective has been broadened. 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unsettled Weather

Ah, spring is here, I rejoiced the  last several days.  And, indeed the daffs and narcissus are up and beginning to bloom.  BUT when I looked out this morning the predicted rain for today was coming down in the form of white flakes, icy white flakes.  The ground was lighted sprinkled, my car needed brushing off, the very strong breeze -- or better said, wind -- was definitely wintery and out of the north. Nasty puffs from the mouth Boreas himself.

No, it didn't last long, the snow was gone in an hour and the sun tried to shine and succeeding for longer and longer periods.  I was rudely slapped back to the reality that it won't  be dependably spring until the end of the month but surely will be by then. The photo above was taken a couple of years ago just at the end of April when Rachel and I were walking  on a road not far away. It seems to me a perfect little patch of spring.  

This is a quiet week for me.  I skipped the foreign film yesterday because I saw it when it came out a few years ago and was not greatly impressed.  So I have two free days and have three projects in the works.  I like to work on more than one thing at a time: a quilting job, a writing job, and a "ugh" job, in this case, little efforts at spring  house cleaning.  Today it was mostly laundry and some sorting -- the big put away/get out closet change over it not going to happen for at lesat two weeks because the weather just isn't that dependable.  Tomorrow will be another day split between the jobs and I will have a sense of accomplishment by the end of the day. I think of Marge Piercy's poem about work in which she, the most practical and down to earth of her generation of women poets, says we need meaningful work -- as a pitcher needs to contain water. It's true. I like her simplicity and I like to feel I'm working, accomplishing something, getting a quilt made, writing (just now) a booklet of quotes for a friend's birthday, and doing the woman's work I learned about so long, long ago, keeping the house clean and relatively tidy. 

I do not understand people who can be satisfied (are they really?) with a day spent watching TV. I do understand poet Mary Oliver who wanders fields all day and then writes poems about them. Her careful attention to the natural life around her and it's translation into words that helps her readers see what she saw. I have been very much into reading and writing and thinking about poetry lately.  Yesterday a man in our poetry class read a poem describing childhood games of Monopoly with such vividness the ritualistic qualities that the audience had experienced as he did was made clear and took on a broader meaning of how we learned capitalism (although he did not say so in so many words until after the poem was being discussed).  Helping others see and understand is a poet's job -- a job as useful as a pitcher holding water.  I dislike my poems when they are far short of that goal.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An April poem

It's April again and I think spring is really here.  I was reminded of the April poem I wrote about a year ago. Since it's still National Poetry Month,  here is the poem, called "Flirty April."

Flirty April

Today’s early-in-April sunshine
Has a determined adolescent strength—
The breeze ruffling the grass shakes its fists
like a freckle-faced sixth grade bully.
I claim nearly empty Long Beach as my own.
This mile-long spit of land and sand,
marsh grass and still brown tangles of thorny roses.
A flat-land farmer’s daughter who didn’t see
an ocean until I was twenty-three,
Far from my own adolescence, I welcome
This youthful day in fickle April.

As I walk the damp sand, I peel off my jacket,
tie it around my waist, push up my sleeves—
Come, Sun, pour your vitamin D into me.
I see, footprints in the sand--not sneaker prints—
bare, man-size footprints–paw prints too.
I look the length of the gently curved shore.
Who dared the chilly sand so early? 
I do not see this “Friday”–the native, I surmise.

The tide reaches, then recedes reluctantly.
To my right, sun jewels flash on the water;
to my left, a wind-row of broken shells,
once stony homes to tiny globs of life.
I settle where I often pause to gaze
on the blue illusion we call horizon,
where sky and water only seem to meet
because we are small, our perspective limited
and they are vast, almost endless.  I often
meditate on that metaphor, but not today.
Breezy fingers ruffle my hair inviting me to play. 
April, child of early spring,
I will join your light-hearted game. 
I pull off my sneakers and socks.
I’ll make another pair of prints.
Come, lapping water, kiss my feet.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It MUST be Spring

A wonderful walk on the beach yesterday.  Rachel and I decided it was warm enough not only to peel off our jackets but to take off our shoes and walk barefoot.  Even on the wet sand at the edge of the turning tide, my feet were not too cold.  To me, this is the beginning of summer.  I'm hoping today, being Sunday, it will be nice enough to take my beach chair down to the sand and work on the Sunday crossword puzzle.  Ah...  we've waited long enough for this.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Laughter on a Rainy Day

April showers are one thing.  Rain that thinks it's still March is another and it's very uncomfortable.  But yesterday's cold, dreary rain was lighted in the afternoon by first my poetry class and then the foreign film series.

Only about half the usual class braved yet another nasty day but among those present we had a couple of treats.  Leslie who is new but showing both serious and fun talent, brought in a poem that was a complaint about the weather with a perfect rhythm and rhyme to match "A Few of My Favorite Things" ... not!  She read it and then the class spontanteously sang it back to her (we bring copies of our work for each person) then applauded her and ourselves. A little later, Anna, who is a musician and has in the past brought in some serious song lyrics, sometimes with a tape of herself singing and playing the piano, brought a quintessential country & western song, on tape.  The last thing one would expect from the lady with the elegant French twist hairdo.  All about heartbreak and sorrow, of course.

For real loud laughs, the foreign film series showed Waking Ned Devine, an Irish comedy in which poor Ned had the winning lottery ticket and died of a heart attack upon hearing the news. With many a ploy and some sight gags (two elderly men, by turns, riding a motor cycle naked, for example), the small town found a way to get the large lottery jackpot and share it fairly with everyone. There were appropriate subplots: a young woman courted by two men, a mean old woman on her motorized wheelchair, much drinking in the pub and some happy dancing and music making. It was a totally delightful movie and when it was over at 5:15 the rain had stopped although the sun was not going to be out all day. It's promised for today but so far the clouds are still there.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Like a Battlefield

Instead of walking on the beach yesterday, I walked around Hathaway's Pond, which is in a conservation area, mostly wooded. The path around the pond is somewhat rough--not the kind one could push a baby carriage on, say, but one dogs enjoy romping on. Rachel and I used to walk around the pond frequently while Molly was still alive.  I had not been there since early in the winter.

Immediately I had to duck under a tree that was fallen, held up by it's tangle of limbs caught in the trees that had caught it and stopped it's fall onto the path. And so it went all the way around the pond, several leaning over the path and many more fallen, often not quite to the ground. I could not help thinking of a battlefield. Indeed the high winds of winter's blizzards are to blame for all the devastation.

The day was mild and the breeze that might have been quite chilly at the beach was pleasant among the trees which are not yet showing promise of leaves, although some of the briars which are plentiful near the path were rosy or turning chartreuse. Spring is just a hint here in the woods. Out in the lawns of homes crocuses are beginning to open. If the weather continues in the high 40s and low 50s spring will burst forth ... it is time.  We have had a harder winter than in the previous four years I've been here. I am ready for a change and so are all the friends  I talk to -- and it's a subject that comes up often.

I suspect these trees are going to stay where they are for some time. This is only a tiny bit of a rather large area of wild wood.  I've approached it from other entry points and do not understand the tangle of paths through the gerrymandered form of the area.  I blame a walk in a different section for the nasty tick that bit me a couple of springs ago and sent me to the hospital.  Thank goodness it did not carry Lymes disease but a bug called earlycosis  (which may not be spelled that way) and was cured quickly once identified so that the right antibiotic could be prescribed. Never mind the unseen dangers of walking in the woods.  I still enjoy it and don't plan to stop although in really warm weather it's the beach that calls to me.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another poem: Que sera sera

April, as noted before, is National Poetry Month.  Here is a poem written for my poetry class.
It's what the class leader calls a "manifesto poem."

            Que sera sera

A telephone call, an invitation                                   
To an important conference came                              
Just at the time I needed to meet                               
Those people, just at the time                                               
I welcomed a change.                                                 

Too many say shit happens.                                     
I say serendipity happens.                                        
A telephone call, a chance meeting,                           
Sometimes nothing more than                        
Cherries in the grocery store. 
Others are planners, worriers weighing
Choices, seeking assurance,                                       
Need approval, fear the unknown.                            
Others live by que sera sera.                                    
Not impulsive, but not mired.                                   
Opportunity knocks. “Hello,                                                
Give me a minute or two.”                                         

Que sera sera isn’t winning the lottery,                   
Or sitting on your hands awaiting gifts.                    
It’s not wanting too much                                         
Or valuing too little what you have.                          
Life doesn’t owe you a damned thing .                      
Gladly take what falls in your lap.                            
Que sera sera and serendipity

Friday, April 4, 2014

Winter damage

A couple of bright sunny, if still chilly, days let me walk to the end of "my" beach (really a conservation area) which is a long spit of land between an inlet of the ocean and an outlet of a creek that joins with the inlet (actually in the top picture).  Over the past couple of years, thanks to hurricanes, I have thought it possible a narrow strip between the two bodies of water that separates the longer spit from the comma-shaped end, was likely to wash away so that the end would become an island, or at least an island at high tide. 

Yesterday I discovered that the conservators are trying what they call (on a sign) "an ancient" method of dune stabilization. A least a couple hundred stakes, about ten inches tall above the sand (how long underneath I don't know) have been set out.  Five years ago there was a higher dune on the ocean side and an area of marsh grass on the other side.  Now it's all sand and I hope this method works.

Further on the winter damage is clear. A large shrub that was closer to the end has been washed at least 20 feet.  Beyond it is a tree that has become more and more endangered each season. It was alive and covered with leaves five years ago but is now dead  and for a couple of years has become a "shell tree" where broken conch shells are threaded onto the limbs.  I see that a few shells have been placed on the displaced shrub as well. 

I understand the impulse of walkers to pick up these large, usually broken, shells and give them a home on the tree.  I've added my share.  Behind the tree some of that tangle of shrubs will surely come out in leaf and some of the tangle of beach roses will flower.   And I will continue to walk out here and watch the changes. Yesterday's walk was beautiful because I finally had a blue sky day.  But it was one of the uglier days to walk because a great deal of brown seaweed has been washed up all along the mile long beach.  As a country girl, I must say that those piles of matted brown vegetation reminded me of barn manure.  Happily it was not rotting enough to stink -- because the temperatures were still cool I surmise.  I am happy these days have been lovely and I hope the weekend will bring more so I can begin to feel that the time for daily summer beach walks is approaching.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bergman's Wild Strawberres

About memory again, on several levels:  Yesterday's foreign film was Igmar Bergman's 1957, Wild Strawberries. I saw a Bergman retrospective sometime in the '70s and believe(d) I saw it then.  A couple of other women who went to the filming with me also said they had seen it.  At the end of the movie -- which happens to be all about an old man's memories and his coming to terms with the kind of person he has been (a beloved doctor but cold to his family) -- we three said almost simultaneously, "I don't think I ever saw that before."  I have not talked to the others but on the way home I began to have a shadow memory of the movie I had just seen. Maybe I DID see it before, certainly the themes were familiar and some scenes began to seem recently and distantly famliar ... perhaps I did see it.

It is a beautiful, complex story of Isek, in his '80s, about to be given a grand recognition of accomplishment.  His beautiful daughter-in-law, who is very outspoken, accompanies him on the day long drive. They pick up three young people, a girl and to boys, both in love with her, one to be a minister and the other a musician. They are so fresh and young; they are very beautiful, so is the daughter-in-law, but older and wiser. Many memories come to Isek, and he also stops to visit his very old mother. We see his complex marriage, not to the woman he had hoped to marry and we see him struggle to understand and even possibly overcome his lifelong habit of emotional reticence. It's a classic as it deserves to be and seeing it again, I'm sure I understood it better than I would have 40 years ago ... if I actually saw it back them.

April is National Poetry Month

I like to post poems, usually not my own, here during April.  Yesterday I read the following new poem to my poetry class and decided that, actually, it worked better read with a little drama than it seemed on the page.  However, I'm posting it here for the start of the month. The picture is of the Mayflower in Cape Cod Harbor which figures in the poem.  The  poem itself was inspired, as it says, because I just read Thoreau's Cape Cod and found a footnote that resonated in my imagination.

Oprah and Peregrine

One morning I saw Oprah step out of a limo
In front of the Plaza Hotel, assistants poured
Onto the sidewalk as she walked regally
Up the steps never glancing at gawkers like me.
For the next two weeks I told everyone,
“I saw Oprah,” basking in rub-off celebrity.
Friends had their stories, many better than mine. 

Americans love celebrities, just a glimpse
Makes us feel special. An old phenomenon.
A footnote in Thoreau’s Cape Cod records
A proud glimpse of Peregrine White.  Who?
500 years has erased Peregrine’s fame.
Born aboard the Mayflower in Cape Cod Harbor,
November, 1620--the first Massachusetts born settler.
Said the person who chanced to glimpse Peregrine
Shortly before he died at 83, “He was vigorous
And of a comely Aspect to the last…”
Oprah is vigorous and comely and apt to stay that way.
“Altho’ he was in the former part of his Life extravagant”
Certainly something we can say about Oprah 
…”yet [he] was much Reformed in his last years
and died Hopefully.” … Hopefully?
Today’s extravagant celebrities do not seem headed
For Reform. But who can say? Will they die “Hopefully”? 
The gossip media will surely let us know.

Perhaps Peregrine deserves a statue with a plaque
Proclaiming him “Original American Celebrity:
A Prototype for Celebrity-hood.”
We of the Chance Glimpse Crowd should remember
“A cat may look at a king but will always be a cat.”