Thursday, December 31, 2015

This glitzy 2016 is appropriate for the day. I truly wish a happy new year for the world and most especially for the people I know and care about. Long ago I was told that people react to their names -- of course that's a very old idea. We know there are name ceremonies in many folk traditions and that in some groups a person has a secret, personal name that is not revealed to others.  I suppose my last name, "calender" has me pondering on New Year's Eve and on birthdays, mine and others.  Ponder I do, and have as long as I remember. I rarely go out to parties or such on New Year's Eve. I assess and mediatate and throw the I  Ching - a very long time habit.

I feel it has been a good year for me; good health, some accomplishment, a sense of being very creative in many ways that is extremely satisfying, a kind of harvest of many years of learning to write and quilt and, laterly, especially write poetry.  If this is the autumn of life, as I tried to say in a quilt I made this fall, it is a colorful and beautiful one.

Not so for the world in general. I have difficulty thinking about all the awful things I read and hear. I find the terrorism, whether the extremism of ISIS or the home grown madness of random shootings, of police shootings of, often, unarmed people, and the bigotted ugliness of the Republican candidates for President, depressing and stupid. Meanwhile the weather around the world, the degradation of our natural resources, including the seas themselves is awful for the human suffering already happening and the increase in suffering it is bringing. 

I have been thinking about "Dover Beach," Matthew Arnold's despairing poem that tends with these  painful lines:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another!  For the world which seems to
To lie before us like a land of dreams
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Has really neither joy, nor love, nor light
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain,
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

That was a hundred years ago; it is still true. I can only agree with his first ten words (and the exclamation point) -- we must be true to those we love, to those we care for in any way. We must live with love and kindness despite the state of the world.  We can do very little, one at a time, to influence the ignorant armies that clash by night. But we can do all we can to make the small world around us a place of refuge and peace. We can resist the hate and bigotry that seems to be infesting so much of the world and of our country.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas time

Some bright quilt blocks are about as Christmasy as it's going to be this year.  I  have a small poinsettia (because Rachel doesn't like them and it was given to her by a co-worker). I never decorate for Christmas  and barely celebrate it so this is my "ho-ho-ho!" 

With the temperature above 60 today, it's a lot like being in Florida for the holiday.  I really like red, I have a lot of red in my living room and I have not been without a red raincoat for half my life, I think. The current one needs replacement but that will only happen if I find another red one.  I actually have an "undercover detective" beige trenchcoat  but it doesn't feel as right as the old red raincoat does.  And talking about it today is not out of place although the sun is now shining. We had something near two inches of rain in the night and more is predicted for this afternoon or evening. The morning newscaster assured his litsteners that Santa Claus would make his rounds. 

The quilt of red squares is the throw that's on the back of my beige sofa and the fancy log cabin quilt was sold at the time I moved from New York City to Cape Cod.  I hope its owners are enjoying it. I enjoyed making it and am proud of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Magic Flute for the Whole Family (Except Grumpy Gramma)

Mozart's Magic Flute was given a  Las Vegas magic show production at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004 with a stage full of amazing puppetry by Julie Taymor. The photo shows Papageno, the Bird Catcher, who is the comic relief and entirely charming in anybody's production of the opera. I was undecided about going to this simulcast yesterday because I've seen mysterious Magic Flute production, feel I  don't really understand what Mozart was doing with this, his last opera. I know he was expressing his understanding of the Masonic tenets but I'm unclear whether the"war" between the Queen of the Night and Sarastero, a light or sun "god?" is about good and evil or about men triumphing over women.  Those sorts of thoughts and analyses are not pertinent to this production.

Whatever Mozart was saying isn't important because the opera has become a "family" spectacle complete with a new rhymed text that is too close to Mother Goose for Dr. Suess.  The opera has been cut down to under two hours -- fine!  It's a cartoon, a prince and princess have to undergo trials before they can get together and finally the evil queen is "disappeared".  I came away from the theatre thinking that as I grow older I become more and more liberal politically and more and more conservative culturally.  I've seen too many "new" productions of operas and classic dramas tarted up to appeal to today's taste.  I certainly am glad opera now expects the singers to also act (no more "park and bark" static productions!) but a stage full of serpents, birds both flying and dancing en pointe, and various esoteric symbols all thrown together in one witches' cauldron of florescent colors doesn't appeal to me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beautiful Bolshoi Ballet

The Lady of the Camillias was the ballet that was "simulcast" from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow on Sunday. I have never seen or heard about it although I had heard of John Cranko of the Stuttgart Ballet whose idea it was. But he died before finishing it so it's really the work of John Neumeyer and has mostly been done in Germany. This was the Bolshoi's first production and it was spectacular and marvelous. It's a full-length (very long, in fact) costume ballet that tells both the story of Marguerite (renamed Violetta when Verdi used this story for La Traviata) and Armond. It is paralleled by the story of Manon Lescaut and  Des Grieux, also the subject of an opera.  The music is all Chopin.

Cranko and Neumeyer were very influenced by Stanislavski's acting techniques so that the dancers were cast for appearance and acting ability -- it was superb! -- to the point of being told that every movement must reflect the emotion of the moment. Mostly in ballet technique and dancing comes far ahead of acting, but in this case, they were equally important and equally well done.  Sets, lights, and the many, many costumes were equally expressive. The various Chopin music was exactly right -- some with piano alone and some piano and orchestra.

Seeing this ballet was absolutely fascinating. I felt I was seeing a work of art that went beyond the wonderfulness of ballet -- and ballet is to me always very wonderful. 

For a change the sometimes awkward intermission features (which are done in English, French and Russian) was an important addition helping me understand what I was seeing.  I'm totally delighted that I only have to drive about 15 miles to see something of this sort which I could never see otherwise.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey Da

Cape Cod is full of wild turkeys.  These three paraded across our lawn one day last winter -- I sit at my computer looking over the lawn, beyond some low plantings beneath my window. As I worked I saw three ugly, wrinkled red, gray and black heads moving above the shurbs. I grabbed a camera and hurried out to photograph them.  They are the only ones that I've seen on our lawn, but I have seem plenty of their uncles, siblings and cousins all sorts of places.  Four or five are at home on the Cape Cod Community College campus. They stop traffic when they decide to cross the roads which they do as they wish, caring nothing for whatever might be coming.

I have yet to hear about any being hit. A fatally close encounter would be hard on a small car, probably of little importance on a big SUV or any kind of truck.  I've thought about turkey fatalities (to the turkey, not the humans) and wrote a short story called "Bringing Home the Turkey" in which one is killed early on Thanksgiving morning. The young man who hits it is tender hearted and full of remorse and of an ethical and ecological frame of mind. He and his girl friend planned to ignore Thanksgiving but he takes the dead bird home, feeling the only ethical thing to do is to eat it. "It should not give up its life in vain."  Unsurpringly, he finds a number of videos on You Tube that tell how to prepare and cook wild turkey. 

The story is humorous -- how else to treat such an incident! -- and was read as a dramatic reading at a gathering of  a group I  belong to called Blithe Spirits.  And it will be read this afternoon at our Thanksgiving dinner, probably between main course and dessert.  Rachel has invited a house full -- it will be eleven adults (counting two high school age nephews who are in physical size and appetite adult) and five children from 2 to 8.  The family has a dramatic bent so I think I will hear a good reading and we will laugh enough to prepare us for the rich desserts.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Classic French movies

The Tuesday afternoon free film series at the Cape Cod Comunity College usually shows foreign films. Often I have not seen them but I had seen the two shown in the last two weeks, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring -- a pair that tell a story that is classic in French film, so well told, so full of place and social commentary that it seems to have been made from a grand, classic novel. In fact, there is no novel, the two are the  creation of the film maker.

They are set in early 20th century in a small town and countryside around it, in Provence, life is not easy, much depends on water from natural springs and the unpredictable rains of summer. Ugolin returns from military service determined to earn his living growing carnations to sell in the local market.  He is mentored by his uncle, a local landowner, intent on maintaining his family's lost status in the area. 

A newcomer arrives to live in the near-by house, once a part of  the estate. He is a hunchback from the "city" with books on agriculture, a wife and a little daughter. He is a menace with his plans to raise rabbits and plant a garden.  A spring is stopped up so that when summer drought arrives, the newcomer's plans are ruined.  One  thing leads to another and eventually Jean dies trying to dynamite a well. The neighbors unstop the well, but the little girl sees them as the family is leaving.

Ten years later the little girl, now a beautiful young woman, returns to the house, lives alone, raising goats. Ugolin falls madly in love with her but he is both ugly and lumpish and totally under his
uncle's plotting rule. Through a beautifully paced series of events the girl (Manon) discovers the source the town's water supply and in her turn stops that spring. That is only the first of the twists at the end of the story. It is so well known that it's not a spoiler to say that eventually the uncle discovers the hunchback was a son he  didn't know he had and remorse for his greed leaves both men dead.

This synopsis does not do justice to the richness of the story.  Yves Montand is the uncle. The films are complex, beautifully acted and filmed in an area that is stark, and fascinating.  I rarely either see films twice or read books twice, but this was very worth seeing again. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cloud. What cloud?

All our computer files are stored "in the cloud".  Well, I'm a very literal person.  Not so literal as to look up in the sky and wonder which cloud has my files in it.  But I do picture something cloud-like when I hear or read that comment.

In the editorial section of Sunday's New York Times was an article about the cloud.  Surprise. There is no cloud.

There are hundreds -- yea, thousands -- of fiber optic cables all over the country, although there is wifi, as we know, the information get carried and stored on  cables.  No one is entirely sure where all those cables are.  They know that several exchange points exist where many come togehter in such a way as to send on information. But these cables are vulnerable to disaster -- earth quakes and man-made disruptions, things like ship anchors being dropped on a stretch of cables in the bottom of San Francisco Bay and severing some or many.  Like, of course, vandals, terrorists and so on. Severed cables that disrupted data flow could stop small and many very large systems.

I'm a lover of metaphors, but a great many metaphors we come across are inaccurate, give a mistaken idea of what a thing is like. So I'm muttering to myself this week ... what cloud?  No cloud.  Oh, oh-oh.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Free Range" Children

"Write about something you experienced but that your grandchildren probably won't know anything about."  That was the assignment for my writing class yesterday.  The first man who read his work wrote about being part of a neighborhood group of kids who played in the streets and parks, made up their own rules for games, had their own pecking order and seasonal patterns.  Another woman, a retired guidance counselor who keeps up with the trends, wrote about the freedom she and her twin had to dash out of the house after breakfast and go play with their neighborhood friends, traveling dozens of backyards. 

She defined her childhood and that of the first man as fitting into a new term, "free range childhood." The group spent some time talking about the regimented lives of children now, the fears parents have, the necessity to be supervised when both parents work and they often must have designated activities in non-school time because parents aren't home. Nostalgia was thick in the room, of course. I was certainly a free range child although I was on a farm and had no nearby playmates. So my free ranging was helping in the garden or in the kitchen, wandering around the farm with my little brother although he soon became big enough to spend most of his time with our father.

I understand the changes in society that have come with two working parents, latch-key kids. And I think many of the after school activities are enriching. I suppose sports will always be part of boys' lives and I'm glad girls are now playing sports too, especially soccer. But the fear of letting a child out of your sight, the fear of kidnappers and various kinds of sex predators has been greatly revved up by the media.  In general, my impression is that children are in much greater danger from the bad moods, and actual violence against them by their own parents who bring frustrations home from work, the many who use alcohol and drugs and are inattentive, irresponsible, unloving parents. There have always been bad parents and child abuse. I don't think it's increased, really.  And I'm glad there are counselors at schools who listen and help children.

Actually the class could have gone on and on but we had to move on to the woman who wrote about typewriters and the man who related being trapped in an outhouse at his grandfather's farm when a mean rooster stood guard outside the door waiting to attack.

(The happy kid in the photo is my middle great-grandson, Cole.)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Documentary - Glen Campbell

I know nothing about country music although everything that's very popular somehow impinges on my consciousness. I didn't really know who Glen Campbell is, although I was vaguely aware of some of his songs like "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Yesterday's documentary film was about Campbell and especially about his final tour, which extended from a planned two months to two years although he had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The film, I'll Be Me, began with his diagnosis and the way he joked with the doctor who showed him the MRI scans and explained about it.  (I suspect this was a re-created scene when the decision was made to do a documentary).  The documentary seemed to be strongly controlled by his wife, Kim.  (They are shown the photo at the Academy Awards).

The film was touching, not the least because Campbell's performances during that tour were a large part of it. His songs are easy to listen to, the band with him were mostly his children, his wife was always there.  The film shows the deterioration in tiny bits, the memory loss was often covered with a joke, the repetitious questioning that drives many caretakers almost around the bend was mentioned only once, the frustrations and angers were shown in miniscule scenes as was one of licking his plate at the end of a meal.  We saw that his inherent niceness and his considerable talent (even I could see he was a fantastic guitarist and could hear a sweet personality in his singing voice) was one side of Alzheimer's that is not usually shown in the documentaries and movies.  The movies are often all about loss, all about the pain of family and friends as they see someone disappearing.  Campbell did just the opposite of disappear; he performed. Sometimes he lost his place, sometimes he repeated himself -- the audience knew and loved him for being willing to go on (or perhaps instinctively understood that he needed their applause and acceptance).

The film was a good balance to all the too earnest, too dire pictures the media are giving us.  The pleas, a couple of times in the film, for medical research and cures seemed to me a knee jerk reaction. As people in our class said several times as they related stories of their relatives who have finally been institutionalized with Alzheimer's, a widespread effort needs to be made to see that people are not simply drugged and warehoused when they need some enrichment. And one enrichment, very much so, is music -- music is one of the deepest parts of the brain, one of the very last to deteriorate.  Surely intelligent additions of music (not just muzak!!!) would be one step in the right direction

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Ghost Story

Persistence pays -- well, it doesn't pay in money, not if you're a writer like I am.  But it pays with publications eventually.  I've been persistent the whole year and most of last year too. I've had three short stories and one flash fictionand half a dozen poems published in small literary journals, most of them online only, all this year.  It's not a new career for me, but at last it's become easy to submit to  most of the many little journals -- without the SASEs and copies and all that.  The internet has been my friend.

Yesterday I got a note saying my one and only ghost story is in print in a new journal called Sediments which has "hauntings" as the theme of it's first issue.  My one and only ghost story, written about five years ago, since then having garanered a number of rejections, has been published in this journal and can be read on line. It's called "Fog." Click the link that follows, then click "Fog" on the index page.

click here

What makes this most satisfying to me is that absolutely all of it is fiction.  I have driven in dense fog but not under these circumstances.      

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The trees are aglow, the season is turning

The light is the wonderful part of these photos.  The golden trees were caught just as the last brilliant rays of the sun hit them.  The ones in the back seem to be on fire.  That was last fall, after the first snow.  But I saw some splashes of color almost as good this afternoon. 

I was trying to find Books by the Sea, a fine little independent bookstore in Osterville. I don't really know the town so I was driving slowly -- but not so slowly that upon trying to retrace my trip, I managed to take a wrong road.  It's all two lane roads with wonderful houses and glimpses of the water, tall old trees.  I wasn't really lost, I just found myself going the wrong way.  But what's wrong about it when I'm looking at red and yellow trees and big cushion-y plantings of daisies and lots of pots of mums? 

Also wonderful, and it will remain this way, is that I see the sunrise every morning.  Right now it's a little after 7:00.  Soon we'll set the clocks back but I get up at 6:00 so, I'll continue to see sunrises until next March.

I keep taking photos. Of course, they're all different and I always like best the one that I'm looking at.  The thing I don't like is that this town has overhead wires. I wish they'd buried them long ago and I'm sure they claim doing so now would be too expensive.  It would save many power outages during storms when limbs and whole trees come down and it certainly would add to the photogenicity of these scenes.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Almost Turkey Time

A small flock (3 or 4 ) of wild turkeys roam the campus of the Cape Cod Community College. I've been wanting a photo and, for once saw them on a sunny afternoon when I had my camera with me. (I don't do the cell phone photo thing-I'm at least as old fashioned as the wild turkeys). I clicked this photo and then the message popped "change batteries".  This guy isn't looking very pretty. I've never see them when they are displaying their impressive tails (so I've been told). 

We have quite a few wild turkeys on Cape Cod. When I see then, often crossing the road in some residential area where there are plenty of trees and shrubs, the group is usually small, no more than half a dozen.  This one looks very nondescript, apparently intent on moving along. His (generic masculine pronoun) companions were in the shade somewhat behind him.  Only once did I see a group of three walk through my yard. On a winter day when there was light snow, I happened to look up from the computer, where I'm sitting now, and out the window and saw this very, very ugly head with wattles of hanging flesh moving just beyond a shrub as if disembodied. Then came another and another.  No photos that time. I am going to continue carrying my camera and maybe I'll have another opportunity with this little group.

I'm mildly thrilled that they have returned. When I was a school girl my belief was that they and the deer had disappeared from the Midwest where I lived when farmers cleared the land.  But they are now returning in amazing numbers, both deer and turkeys to that part of the Midwest where small farms are often left fallow because, in flatter, easier to till areas, giant farms have taken the place of small family farms.  Here on Cape Cod only a few farms remain; it's all built up but with enough nature reserves to welcome turkeys and deer, also coyotes, foxes and all the smaller animals that have always had their place, squirrels, o'possums, foxes, raccoons, skunks, and so on.  These wild turkeys are not in danger of becoming anyone's Thanksgiving dinner. You can see he doesn't have the kind of over-developed abs that domestic turkeys display in the supermarket meat cases.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Looking at HIGH NOON 60+ years later

 High Noon was the film we discussed yesterday in a philosophy and film class.  I must have seen it back in the early '50s when it was made and of course I've been aware it's considered an icon ... but really I didn't know why.  With 60 years of education under my belt, I suddenly appreciate this film enormously although I found the dialog a little too stilted even for the somewhat grim Will Cain (Gary Cooper very much deserved the Oscar he was given as best actor).

Probably I remembered the stark  scenes because I was accustomed the the standard B level Westerns which were full of constant action and, at the time, mostly in color.  The discussion of the McCarthy era clarified SO much. The screenwriter, Carl Forman, had left the US for England by the time this movie was shown.  For those who don't remember or haven't seen the movie for a while (you can watch it any time on the Internet) Kane is a marshal in a western town, married in the first scene to Grace Kelly, a Quaker woman. He's about to be replaced by another marshal and to go away and settle elsewhere with his wife.  BUT word comes that a convicted killer has been let out of a jail "in the north" and will be  arriving in town on the noon train. Three of his cohorts have gathered at the station to meet him.  He has sworn to kill Kane who  sent him to jail.

Kane starts out of town, but returns, knowing he'll be chased whereever he goes.  Everyone in town know this too. Kane tries to enlist a posse of deputies but absolutely no one will join him. He is left alone to face not one, but four men out to kill him. Nothing much happens until the final minutes of the film when Kane fights for his life - and his new wife shoots one of the "bad guys".  He is the one sane,  moral person in a town of conformists and cowards against evil.  It is America in the 1950s -- in black and white with the relentless  song, "Do not forsake me, oh, my darling....?" sung by Tex Ritter, with the clocks moving toward high noon, all is gray, no color. It is not a Western at all, it as an allegory.

And it is talking about the fear that gripped the US in the 1950s (thanks to Joseph McCarthy), and it is about the fear that grips many parts of American today with the rants against immigrants, against terrorists, with the incessant shootings. America is a country that has been both energized and paralyzed by fear most of its history--a country that has not yet come to grips with the fact that immigrants on this continent killed it's natives, brought in thousands of slaves, and continues to pillage, pollute and devastate it's natural resources. No the movie doesn't say all that; but extrapolating ... where are the people who are willing to help the moral few who will not run from the evil that the sane among us recognize?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Purely October

Petrified monster?  How could I not see this fallen, ruined, rotting piece of a tree trunk as an unknown species of monster, possibly related to alligators -- some kind of dragon?

The days of my lovely seaside morning walks are mostly gone -- I think I'll manage a couple more this weekend. (We are promised some 60-ish days) When it's too cool and very much too windy to walk on the beach I can go to near-by Hathaway's Pond which is a very nice size large pond or small lake that has a comfortable and slightly challenging walk around it.  There are uphill bits and then downhill bits; and stray outcrops of rocks to stumble on.  It's a good place to walk with my beloved trekking pole. Damp leaves can be slippery  and so can some of the slopes.

It's beautiful, entirely wooded but always with the glint of water off to the right through the branches -- when I walk clockwise.  And I always walk clockwise having trekked in the Himalayas where blessings come from walking clockwise around cairns and chortens and only wizards (of the dangerous sort) walk counterclockwise.  I was delighted to see this monster guarding the path. He wanted his photo taken and I thought that odd mouth of his smiled a little bit.  I'll be checking up on the state of his health over the next several months when winter comes and possibly does him some damage. Walking this wooded park area is far more satisfying than walking the very domesticated streets just beyond my door although those will be walked a good bit too, since I don't need to drive there and they won't be muddy after the usual autumn rains.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Savouring your life

I will immediately admit that I'm being a copycat.  I love the photographs take by Barbara Judge for her blog, Folkways (see and click the side bar here).  She has a marvelous gnarled apple tree picture.  I took this and another picture of the same gnarled tree during my walk at Long Beach.  I don't know what kind of tree this is. I think it was nearly uprooted and blown over on it's side in some gale. But the roots that remain in the soil are keeping it alive. I  walk by it often and sometimes think about the complexity of its roots and branches as being something of a metaphor for the human brain. It doesn't make quiet enough sense, really, for me to find a poem here. At least not yet.

Instead I am writing a poem inspired by a blog by Brian Alger, a psychologist who writes about aging. I find I cannot give you the link. I don't understand how he's got his blog set up.  Anyway, he wrote about savouring -- meaning taking time to enjoy.  Mostly he wrote about savouring intellectual activity but I have begun a poem thinking about savouring the way small children do an ice cream cone on a hot day.  Hasn't everyone see the kid slowly licking the ice cream as it melts and runs down his hand and onto his clothes and his mother tells him to hurry and eat it because it's melting?  I'm sure I've been that mother.

Most of us un-learn savouring from that kind of sensible adult intervention. Don't linger over the delicious or lovely thing.  Get on with whatever is next.  Being a walker on a beach in the summer I observe that some people know how to savour the sun, they come early in the season and stay late, they find a spot a bit sheltered from chilly breezes and soak up the warmth.  These are a few, not the many.  Slow eaters, like the child and his ice cream, take time to chew and taste whatever is on the plate.  Oenophiles and gourmets make a point of enjoying, sometimes so loudly one wonders about their sincerity.  Gardeners fuss over their plants, stand at their doorway and thrill at the colors and arrangement -- those who do the work themselves. On that same walk to the beach I pass many large, expensive houses. All summer long, I see the landscaperrs planting, mowing grass, trimming. I suppose those home owners are pleased and possibly proud of their tasteful and beautiful plantings. But I think the gardener, the one who visits nurseries and reads seed catalogs in January, who savours the color and scent, not to show their wealth but because they love the flowers and plants.

Mr. Alger was not writing about this, really. He was writing about savouring our intellectual life. That's different.  I think the members of the poetry class I take savour the experiences they write about. I am trying to encourage people in my writing class to "read like writers" and savour good writing -- clear, meaningful, graceful writing, some with a sense of humor, playing with words and metaphors and similes and rhythm and even rhyme -- the last two not the sole province of poetry.

But beyond that Mr. Alger is urging people to savour the joy of being alive in a moment, whatever, wherever that moment is.  He does not mention Zen but I think Zen is what he is talking about, being present whether we are having a fascinating conversation with a friend or walking alone on a beach, past gnarled old trees or watching your dog dash and cavort when you let him off leash on that beach, knowing inside your own being just what those moments of  unusual freedom feel like. Molly, my daughter's late dog, almost always did a little dance when she went out into the yard, knowing she was going for a walk and I always understood, I think, the wordless joy of freedom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bumpy Learning Curve

I'm back to square one in many respects and have been assured that soon I'll be totally happy with my new MacAir.  I trust that will be true, but it's not yet because I am a kid in maybe the second grade after a  rather bad summer who as forgotten  the alphabet and the  numbers.  I was chugging along okay, but with a very irksome modem problem for which I blame Verizon.  Then I discovered my email contact list had been lifteed and possibly hundreds of people were getting a disgusting scam that was not even a new one -- months ago I got the same message supposedly coming from a past neighbor  with whom I may have corresponded by email  twice.   It was an obviously  sob story: I'm in the Philippines (which was misspelled) and lost my wallet and had to have  $1950 to get out of the country and come home.  I suppose if anyone fell for it they would have been told to send money to some bogus account, certainly not to me.  I hope no one did.

I disocovered that I have many concerned acquaintances and friends who told me about having received this email.  For all the nice people who wanted me to know, there were probably ten times as many who simply deleted it -- which is what I wish everyone had done.   This went on  for a couple of weeks,  I recovered my contact list and then it was lifted a second time and a second round of emails were sent, many to the same people.  It was embarrassing but beyond my control.  Fortunately I do not bank by mail and, yes, I occasionally buy books by mail from Amazon with a credit card but very little else.   I quickly talked to my bank and my  credit card  company.

The whole thing brought up the thought I've had for a couple of years: my computer was over 10 years old, it was getting slow; I didn't have various updates.  I was going to have to get a new one soon  I went to talk to the very nice people at the local Mac store and bought a new one.   It's a marvel.  I cannot believe something that seems too thin to c containmore than a tissue paper, actually has the computing and storage power it has.  But there's the catch.  Much has been changeed and I don't adapt quickly to new  things.  AFter all I'm in my 70s, that's my excuse and I think a valid  one.

So I just discovered I don't know how to access my photos except those on the desktop display to put on a blog.  I love the picture of Stella above but it wasn't what I meant to put on this post,  The MacAir has a program called Pages that emulates much of Microsoft Word but it's not the same and I have much to learn ... MUCH ...  it is the program I use most, like a few times every day. I am frustrated.  Old dog, new tricks.  Gotta happen   It's a great little laptop and I'm going to be happy with it .... in the fullness of time.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Back to School

Most of the week has been the kind of blue sky days that come at the end of summer; just before the autumnal equinox. Beautiful and turning just a bit cooler so one can sleep with a light quilt -- so welcome after the sticky humidity, twisting and turning with sheet scrunching around and off you.
With Labor Day late, the ALL classes started on a later date than usual. I was very ready for the more structured weeks they bring. I LIKE structure and understand that many retirees are lost without it. I make structure when I don't have the schedule of classes -- my morning walks on the beach, the 750 words in the morning, checking the email, often some writing, reading blogs. I have quilting to do, writing to do, submissions to journals. Plenty to feel busy.

But the return to class schedules is very satisfying, especially my new class of writing students. Everyone is over 50, many WELL over 50, but I couldn't help remembering singing in grade school, "We're all in our places with bright shiny faces. Oh, this is the way we start a new day." I looking at the 16 or 18 people in my "Writing: True and Right" class, several of them familiar, several of them new to me, and felt that elation I used to feel in grade school -- because I LOVED school.

But it was a special day, Friday, a day to remember, so the first writing exercise, which I offered with some trepidation because I didn't know what emotions it would trigger, was to write about when you heard of the attack on the Twin Towers. I was in NYC, and I knew Lynn had been. I knew Suzanne had been in Washington, I supposed most others had been in New England. I was pained to discover one woman had lived in New Jersey and was close to several people who lose loved ones that day. But, all in all, I think it was good to do such an exercise.  It has been 14 years and, as my daughter pointed out to me, the in-coming freshmen at the high school where she works were infants, or perhaps only about to be born. They have lived in a world in which the news has regularly been full of stories about terrorism, with a war in the middle of it, spilling in a sloppy way into over areas. 

I remember clearly what a bright blue sky morning it was as i went to work and that, when I had to walk the three miles home, passing through a nearly empty Times Square (unimaginable! but it was true), the sky remained that same placid blue for I was walking uptown, my back turned to the chaos that continued at the south end of Manhattan.  Among the brief pieces of writing the students read only the woman from New Jersey spoke of very personal fear -- her grown children were working in the financial district. Not in the towers but, for all anyone knew at the time, perhaps vulnerable to further attack.  They will finish their short pieces of writing and read them next week. These students are of an age when they have grandchildren who will turn to them asking "what was it like?"  We all carry a burden of history, however involved or uninvolved we were in its events; it is our duty to answer those questions with honestly and as much clarity as remains in our memory.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wyeths, and more

This is a typical Andrew Wyeth watercolor, perhaps a bit more dramatic than many with the dark wooden post on the right, but a typical New England house on a lonely beach  in the other two-thirds of the work.  We did not see this one today at the Three Wyeths exhibit at Heritage Plantation's small museum, but we saw, I think 15 by each Wyeth -- RN the illustrator/painter from the 1920s+ pater familius, mostly seen in Saturday Evening Posts, often illustrating patriotic stories and poems.  It is easy to say "meh!" but some of the works show his artistic self, a picture of Washington and his soldiers at Valley Forge, has the chill of winter fairly surrounding the whole piece. 

Andrew is my favorite, I see meditation and silence and rigor in his well known works. I've seen many and I do not see the "violence" that his son James is quoted as describing. But maybe he knows more of his father's personality than I.

I found no pictures to put in this post from James (known as Jamie), I had seem the short video of him painting his gull picture called Seven Deadly Sins, 1, which was in this show.  All seven were in a show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston last summer when Rachel and I were there. All contain gulls, not the indolent, slightly skittish birds I see when I walk the beach, but powerful, screaming big birds. The video shows Jamie painting very tactically -- using his fingers, the side of his hand, his own spit on his fingers to get the subtle effects he wants with the watercolors, straight from the tubes, mixed sometimes with his fingers. 

We went to see the art, but we took time to see the Plantation, at least a good part of it; we had all been there several times before.

We were not too old to ride the carousel although only Lexa
had a full enough skirt to  get on a horse.
And Miriam played the drums when there were no kids around eager to make their own music.

The Plantation is at its floral best in the spring at rhododendrum and azelea time, there were few splashy floral displays today but some big white-ish hydrangeas and lots of interesting hostas.

It was a beautiful end of summer day and many kids of the grade school variety were around, so were some retirees, like Lexa  and Miriam who spent their careers serving children as librarian and school administrator/teacher.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Take a rest, Woody

Irrational Man is Woody Allen's newest film.  The matinee I attended was nearly empty and I walked out wishing I hadn't wasted part of a nice afternoon.  Joachim Phoenix is a depressed philosophy professor -- I supposed about 50. Posie Parker throws herself at  him and lovely student, Emma Stone, falls hard ... what do you expect in a Woody Allen film? 

The plot rang bells of more than one novel or short story I've read starting with Crime and Punishment (the cathartic effect of murder). The murder is absurdly easily carried out, and absurdly easily figured out by Ms. Stone, the final twist was so far from a surprise I walked out of the theatre shaking my head that anyone bothered to make the movie. I saw a review that called it a "dramedy" -- no.  Not really drama and no comedy.  Boredom, plain and simple. How old is Woody?  86? or older?  It seems a good time to concentrate on the clarinet and stop giving us "older" men with younger women falling for them. Been there, seen that. Yo-humm.

What I'd love is a good movie (no hokyness) about an older woman (and I mean over 60, not over 40 which has stopped being "older" to everyone except a certain type of man), who attracts a devoted younger man. I think of Georgia O'Keefe who spent many of her last years with a much younger man. I don't know just what their relationship was but it was a lasting and apparently mutually satisfying one. I'm sure it happens, perhaps more than many of use know.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Mr. Holmes.  An old fashioned movie (British style) but with "British style", well written script, layers of story and wonderful acting from Ian McKellen and Laura Linney.  I left thinking "plain old entertainment doesn't get better than this."

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A gull-full summer

When  something becomes a habit, one begins to know other people with similar habits just because you're in the same place at the same time. Thus it is in the summer when I walk on Long Beach every morning approximately 8:30 to 9:30. My "familiars" are Stephanie and Ross. Ross works and is only there on weekends but S. is a regular and is now known to me and many other regulars are the gull lady. 

Last summer she began feeding an adolescent black back gull that she felt was possibly retarded (or cunningly lazy) because he was still being fed regurgitated food by his mother when he was big enough to fend for himself. If there isn't an adage, there should be that says "feed one gull, feed them all." Soon S. had a flock of gulls surrounding her beach chair. They watched for her and sent out the word to friends and foes. As soon as she appeared, so did the gulls.

Last year she occasionally had three dozen gulls around her. Sometimes she fed them bread, sometimes nuts. sometimes rather expensive kitty chow, sometimes rice cakes. They would eat anything and fight over it if it landed on the sand and not in an opportunist's beak.

This year the gang is larger. It was a hard winter for all wild life and for gulls too. That probably triggered a reproductive spurt. At any rate there are many, many young black backed gulls and others as well (also a super congregation of young crows). The lone bird above is an adolescent - I think his feathers are gorgeously patterned. They will be shed and he will become black backed.

One morning I was quite early and I saw not one gull at S's spot on the beach. Not one.  A long gull -- maybe a watcher, a scout, was floating in the water about ten feet out. I walked on up the beach. When I came back I knew S. had arrived, the flock was gathering, I saw a few winging from a distant shore.  This morning she had only recently arrived but I saw nearly fifty floating within sight of her and probably another three dozen on the sand waiting  for her to stop chatting with Ross and get to the serious business food distribution. She complained, when we talked, that they were now lazy.  The water was clear, they should have been fishing for crabs.  It seems crabs are scarce this summer and I think it is in the nature of a gull to watch for freebies when there is promise of them.

It's a part of the summer's entertainment.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

High, Hot Summer

For the last month Rachel's yoga teacher has been doing free and informal yoga sessions on Kalmus beach from 7:00 to 8:00 which means from when the sun is about to set until we get a sunset like this -- not the spectacular one seen from other vantage points, the  Beach Club house is in the way. But the sky becomes very wonderful, the pink actually is often caught by clouds all across the sky. 

The header picture I've just put up is  near the edge of the beach where we gather for the class.   The first class, a month ago, and last week's class, were at (almost) full moon time so as we were finishing the  asanas before relaxing and just watching the sunset, a white, nearly full moon arose in the east. Plus a couple of evenings kite flyers were on the beach which added its own magical touch to the quiet time.

This week has been hot and most of the time humid. I don't like humidity (does anyone?) so I go to Long Beach (about a quarter mile beyond the structure seen here. It is a nature reserve, not a big public beach -- not private, those who know about it are happy not to share it with too many others. At about 8:00 AM it is nearly deserted, a mile-long  peaceful stretch where I walk and do Tai Chi East and feel ready to face the day even if that means sitting here at my computer a large part of the time with the fan cooling me. I love summer. Being bare foot most of the time, wearing very little -- flowers, no jackets ... I love it!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

And to think I LIVE here ...

Days like this I think: people drive hours, jam the bridges, crowd the motels and hotels, B&Bs, friends' and relatives' spare rooms and couches, summer rental cottages, camp grounds ... and I LIVE HERE.  They think that's their beach but I know it's MY beach, all the way out around that arc, it's all mine, all year long, not just in July and August. I'm there at 8:00 a.m. when those chairs aren't there, only a few early walkers like me leave footprints at the water's edge, then it's MY beach. I have my favorite place to stop and do the tai chi easy (trademark) that feels graceful and is invigorating without vigorous effort. I have been coming down at 7:00 on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening with my daughter to do yoga with her gym teacher and a handful of others, by then the sun is sinking and the moon is rising, nearly everyone is gone.  I am not greedy, I don't have to own this beach, I simply stake out my bit as I walk.

How beautiful it is now that summer has finally settled in! A cloudless sky, on Sunday morning (at least today), no visible boats on the water. All is uninterrupted blue, the most serene color in the rainbow. The gulls gather just where they know Stephanie will be when she arrives. She will throw snacks to them and they will fight over them.  They watch for her.  She is "the gull lady" -- oh, not one of those dotty old women who loved birds (or cats). She's more Barbie than batty.  Sometimes a poet sometimes an essayist, always concerned about the beach, the ecology, the influx of tourists. 
Already we are eager for September, when the tourists go and the beach empties ... but I am not wishing away the summer.  This is the season I remembered so vividly when the snow was falling last winter.  Ah...and to think I LIVE here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baby bird season

The birds must be working very hard to get the "early worm" they wake me at 3:30 in the morning with their chirping.  I think the chicks must be asking for their middle of the night feeding as I remember very well, human babies were apt to do also. Maybe those bird calls that wake me are grumbling parents.  The Canadian geese that come to our lawn have been absent aweek or more, I'm sure they are tending to their young someplace near-by. In summers past they have occasionally brought the chicks to the yard, but not yet this year. 

This osprey is on a brand new (this spring) platform at the end of a funeral home's lawn. I didn't get a photo with the chick, but there was one and maybe more. A little further in today's walk is a second kettle pond -- we have them abundantly on Cape Cod.  We are so near sea level that any depression  is apt to fill with water and become a "kettle pond". -- there was a pair of swans and four cygnets.  Down at the beach where I walk areas are marked off limits for nesting piping plovers.  This abundance of baby birds is a part of the definition of spring. I don't know if it's the plovers or the sanderlings that fly overhead in hysterically shrieking circles when I am at all near those areas. I try to stay away, hysteria seems a bad state of mind for a parent whether male or female.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I'll See You In My Dreams

4:30 matinee on a beautiful sunny weekend and the Cape Cinema was almost packed to see "I'll See You in My Dreams."  Most of the audience were of an age to match the characters in the movie -- notably Blithe Danner, looking not a day over 45, and her three women friends all types -- stereotypes! -- of women who play bridge and gossip at a retirement community. I can usually count on better than average movies at the Cape Cinema (and I can count on seeing someone I know -- which I did). I was happy to run into Bob and Elizabeth and grossly disappointed in the movie.

The screenwriters pulled out every cliche and stereotype possible, were utterly without cleverness and the casting was so pat-ly stereotypical I couldn't beleive I was not watching a bad TV show -- at least TV usually has a group of writers and that insures some clever writing.  In short it was a horrible afternoon. Every stereotype about aging was on view, Blithe Danner's character had spent 20 years an idle widow living on husband's life insurance, in very fine style. She drank wine constantly, not at all referred to that she might be an alcoholic (how else did she say so slender!) As I think of it, even the wardrobe worn by Danner and was bad -- or do people really dress that way in California retirement villages?  Suddenly she was flirting with the pool guy and then just as suddenly a cigar chewing (but not smoking) guy gives her a rush, wants to marry her and then drops dead.That is the plot.

Since I do not have a television, I cannot say that people of this age and comfortable financial circumstances are or are not always shown as having empty lives and minds, but I suspect it is true. I suppose some of those women exist, I'm  very, very happy that the people I know actually have personalities, interests, lives that are meaningful.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Wonerful Time of Year

What a wonderful time of year it is when the rhododendrons burst forth with their big blossoms, especially in a town where some of these bushes are 50, or even 100, years old, big and full and showing off like an aging movie star, more than ready for her close up. When the air is mild and the sky is blue and the trees all have tender young leaves, a drive in almost any but the newest developments is a pleasure. The big old lilac trees have just passed their prime and, like an aging spinster (now that is really a ridiculous terms in this day and age -- from a turn of the century (I mean 19th to 20th, not 20th to 21st) novel, the lilac and mauve of dying lilacs is sad, but they are replaced with the azeleas and those rowdy rhododendrons.  Soon the hydranngeas will replace them, pink or blue, depending on the acidity of the soil -- there are riots of them just as big as the rhodies.  And they will be followed after they have the three weeks of glory by the roses that will, in most cases, last the rest of the summer.

I am constantly amazed to find myself in such a beautiful environment.  Today is my birthday and I am prone to contemplation about where I am -- which is to say where I have "washed ashore" (as is the description for those not born here. Okay, yes, I washed ashore, but I have a small portion of my family who are real Cape Codders, my grandchildren are natives (although Noah just happened to be born in Nova Scotia) and my great-grandchildren have not only been born right here but have the background and genes of one of the original Mayflower settlers. That amazes me.  I have never planned my life, it has happened mostly by serendipity.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How quickly our attentiobn wanders

The world's attention moves on.  I've been working on both a quilt about the destruction in Nepal and writing about my memories which are vivid and, I think, not the usual "travel magazine" stuff.  (This photo is of just a few of the row of prayer wheels that surround Boudhanath Stupa. I suspect this stupa sustained lesser damage than most else because it seems to be an almost solid structure (picture below)   Those are people walking it's layers, as I have done quite a few times.  It is the major Buddhist stucture in Kathmandu.  An older shrine, Swayambu (probably misspelled) is likely to have suffered more damage

And I'm thinking, too, of the monastery to which I trekked for a fall festival called Mani Rimdu. It was only 17 miles from Everest base camp, made of wood, mostly, and had been destroyed by fire and rebuilt twice. It was nearer the epicenter of both the first big shock and the severe after shock. I imagine it has been badly damaged if not destroyed.  My sadness for Nepal and it's people is similar to grief when a loved on dies. A senseless loss, without a culprit to blame-- we know the earth moves plain and simple, and, as always it is the very poor who suffer the most.

Some thousands of years ago all of the beautiful, rich, fertile valley in which Kathmandu, Patan and Bakhtapur sit was a gigantic mountain lake.  An earthquake broke down the obstructions in a defile that dammed the lake and the water poured (probably in a terribly devastating flood) down to the Gangetic plain known as the Terrai (the southern  band of the country of Nepal).That great lake had accumulated hundreds of years of silt and loam so that when the water was gone, the valley dried and became the fertile place that has since grown the majority of Nepal's food. They got three crops a year because of the fertility and the climate (same latitude as central Florida). Thus the Earth itself gives and takes with no regard to the life that lives upon its surface.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Suffering in Nepal

This is a tiny village in Nepal, Tenge, in the Mustang area where I trekked.  It is a couple hundred miles from the epicenter of the huge earthquake of Saturday. It looks idyllic, with those incredible mountains in the background (I'm not sure of the direction from which the photo was taken, but I think they are the Annapurnas) I was in many small villages like this which could only be reached on foot (or horseback). I have been in many, even smaller villages on the tourist trek-track toward Mt. Everest. They were nestled in the forested more southerly mountains. I have no idea if Tenge was badly damaged, I suspect it was. I am certain the villages on the track to Everest were destroyed as that was the epicenter of the quake and its almost as terrible after shocks. 

When I trekked there I greatly admired the young men who were "our" sherpas and the sidar (head Sherpa), Potasi. Totally professional, personable, very hard working. One of our small group, a woman of about 65 who probably weighted 165, had a mild stroke the morning we were to return from Thengboche Monastery to Namche Bazaar (a sizable tourist town  also probably now destroyed). Her condition was deemed not serious enough to need immediate med evac, so two young Sherpas (each probably no more than 110 pounds) carried her piggy-back (taking turns) all day to Namche from which she was helicoptered to Kathmandu (there was an Army encampment at Namche).  I can't even conceive the strength to carry such a load, let alone up and down rough mountain tracks.

I met so many people, and in the Mustang area, especially was deeply pained by their isolation and poverty.  In Lo Monthang, the capital, a walled city with a king whose lineage went back to 1230 -- a kingdom that had not been "at war" in nine centuries (can any Westerner imagine that?) three ancient temples were decorated inside with Newari painted mural from about 1300. They were being slowly restored as they were crumbling. But bigger problems: one of the three had a wide crack in its outer (plaster/adobe) wall from roof to ground and another had a roof about to cave in shored up with a maze of scaffolding. It is hard to imagine those ancient buildings withstanding the earthquake. 

In the Kathmandu Valley, I visited a third century shrine in Patan, dark, smoky, still in use; and in Bakhatapur saw several centuries old pagodas shaped shrines which I understand are now collapsed and that the ancient wood is being thrown willy-nilly into rubble piles. They will never be reconstructed. Such things are easy to grasp in the imagination.  The thousands and thousands of people who have died, the many more thousands who have lost families and homes and all forms of livelihood, who are sleeping in streets (it's cold that high up at night!) who have nothing to eat, where there is no electricity, where safe water is disappearing ... this is so heartbreaking one recoils from trying to imagine the suffering. 

I wrote on a social network site that this is filling my thoughts because I see faces and building and mountains in my memory.  I know that people who have not been there read it and file it in their  bits of current knowledge the way I have done with earthquakes in other parts of the world, Turkey, China, Peru, countries I have visited but not "on the ground" in the way one visits Nepal. The world is too big, there are too many people suffering in too many part of it for anyone other than a saint to begin to grasp, to have the stamina to care.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Will

It is the day scholars have agreed is Shakespeare's birthday.  Scholars agree on litte about him.  For the most part they are too stunned by the brilliance of his writings to admit a man with only a simple education, with a father who was a common tradesman, and who mostly made his money as an actor and theatre  producer could have written so gracefully and, what's more, so insightfully, about so many aspects of the human condition.  He covered everything from mythological kings to very real historical kings, from grand people to a fool so stupid he tells everyone to call him an ass.  

His poetry is magnificent and many phrases are a common part of our vocabulary. There's nothing I can write that is new or insightful that hasn't been said better by others.  I can only say, I'm always  astonished that one person could have been so brilliant.  I celebrate his birthday as I do Beethoven's, that of the birth of an individual who stands unsurpassed as a representative of what one man can accomplish.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring, according to the birds

This time of year you have to be totally self-involved not to notice the birds. I was walking to the lot where I parked my car the other day when I glanced up at a nearby roof that had two chimneys and saw an osprey on top of each.  Were they two who were going to build separate nests or a pair deciding which chimney would be the best for their nest? Of course, I don't know. I see and feel an imperative among the birds this time of year, they have important work to do and they are not slackers.  I wrote this little poem a couple of days ago.

At 3:30 – believe it! –
birds were raucous.
Not a hint of dawn
for a full hour, yet
they were full throat
into their mating calls.
I pushed myself up
onto an elbow to look
carefully at the red LED number.
So long and hard has the winter
been they must be desperate
to recoup and  preserve
their species.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April is ...

What can I say about April on this drizzly, chilly day without seeing a flower or an expanse of green grass. I think of T.S. Eliot -- I don't know where he was when he wrote his famous opening  lines of The Wasteland and refers to lilacs.  I don't expect lilacs for another four or five weeks.  But I have been thinking of that bulls eye of a first line:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing 
Memory and desire, stirring 
Dull roots with spring rain. 
Winter kept us warm, covering         5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding 
A little life with dried tubers.               

Piles of dirty snow long turned to ice, still hunker at the edges of parking lots. The wind and the rain are chilly, the sky sometimes turns sunny but mostly is gray.  It's a month to endure this year.  In the past it has been a month of promise and early flowers.  April is poety month and I have read some very fine poetry.  A ver nice thing indeed. I am not reading the remainder of TheWasteland, I need a warm and sunny day to counter the tone of it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Our poetry pact

 Rachel and I are attempting to write a poem a day in April -- that means, probably, many not so hot poems, mostly on domestic topics, I think.  Here is mine for yesterday.

Aerial Invasion

Dark bodies in the air
--only two today,
sometimes six or eight –
wide spread wing gliding
they signal plans to land
honk! honk! honk! honk!
no stealth approach, they
drop fast, heads back
chests out braking
wide webbed feet
their landing gear, breaking
their fall, touch down
lightly, running a few steps
on the lawn’s runway,
their breakfast buffet.
they are simply hungry,
barely notice me
I might as well be a tree.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring moning poem

April morning

Wet gray pre-dawn
I step out past the slider
the air is like tepid, too cool
to be comfortable bath water
my cupped left hand holds
the diced heel of stale dry rye
bread, I toss it on the grass
for the geese that will come
or other birds if they come first
the trees across the street
are loudly alive with songs
and calls of many unseen birds.

(the photo is an autumn scene, I will have to go out with my camera, maybe I'll replace it)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Long remembered poem

A small writing group I belong to chose to write essays for yesterday's gathering about "home". The word immediately recalled a couple of lines by Robert Lewis Stevenson.  I don't know why I remember them or his name, I know I must have encountered the poem in high school and that was a very long time ago. Such is the power of poetry, I remembered the vivid vision of a returnee, I did not remember the first part of the poem, perhaps at that early age I couldn't quite conceive of someone writing his own epitaph. At this age, it is the third line that  is an amazement to me.


Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be:
Home is the sailor, home rom the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April is National Poetry Month

I am a bit of a proselytizer when it comes to poetry.  I don't think enough people read poetry while I think poetry is the finest mode of express that exists. So when National Poetry month rolls around, I become a nudge and foist poetry on all the people I come across, a poem-in-the-pocket gesture as I carry short ones on little squares of paper and pass them out like advertisements, and longer poems that I read to classes and groups I'm in. My daughter even suggested we challenge one another and write a poem a day to send each other. I just sent her a poem -- a bit of a cheat as I wrote it for yesterday's poetry class. But I will not cheat and send old poems for the rest of the month. I think it was seven years ago she and I and her husband -- at his suggestion  -- tried writing a poem a day in November when many people were doing NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). I did write one a day and Rachel wrote several but not every day. Patrick wrote one!  One of Rachel's was very fine and second was quite good. The others are forgotten. One of mine still pleases me and I've forgotten all the others.  Such are the percentages when writing every day. Nothing to be ashamed of, really not bad at all. A good poem usually takes a lot of time.

Here is a part of a poem that deserve to be totally quoted but I will just quote a bit less than the last half, it is the best known, I think, of Mary Oliver's many wonderful nature poems, and it is often quoted. I know people who use the last line as a  reminder or a meditation prompt.

from "The Summer Day"

I don't know exactly what prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring light -GOLD

Rachel and I were in her kitchen talking about 6:00 last night when she glanced out the window and said "LOOK!"  The bare tree behind her neighbor's house was entirely gold as were some shrubs.  We went to the front and looked out and it seemed all the trees across the street had also been touched by King Midas.  She took these photos with her IPad and sent them to me. 

Painters and local people talk about "Cape Light" which is often glorious, but we had never seen this kind of gold at sunset. The the top photo we are looking south, in the bottom photo we are looking east.  A quick glance would make you think there is a huge fire in the bottom picture.

The bottom photo reminds me of a picture I saw recently of a huge solar flare that occurred a couple of days ago.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Sun Comes up Like Thunder ...

In writing class yesterday, Mert offered a blank verse description of sunrise.  I knew exactly what he was talking about. especially since our clock "sprang ahead" I have been watching sunrises.  My windows look due east.  I think Kipling was wrong in his simile "like thunder out of China 'cross the bay".  Gorgeous, yes, and a moment comes when the golden half-circle of the sun seems to spring full circle from behind the still bare trees (some fir trees are on the horizon too).  I've been trying to think of a better simile -- yes, I dare think this memorized, often quoted line of poetry sounds magnificent but isn't quite true. The full sun suddenly blinds me -- more like lightening than thunder, but that's not really right either.  Can't offer anything....

But Mert did explain, which, in truth I don't understand, why within a week the place on the horizon from which the sun rises has moved definitely northward.  A week or slightly more ago it was directly in front of me. Now it's over to the left several degrees. Says Mert, "the timing near the solstice is a sine curve; so it does appaer to change positions more rapidly than it does near the equinoxes."  Okay -- I see it, but I need much more explanation if I am to understand. 

Although, in truth, I don't need any explanation. I look at the colors spreading across the sky -- that wonder holds my attention each morning.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another Snow Scene

You know those ads for fancy ski resorts where a lovely young woman lies on a chaise in the snow, clad but obviously sunbathing in the brilliant snow while looking toward the mountain slopes?  I think that's what these Canadian geese are doing.  Soaking up the reflected rays while the person on the right is digging out his or her car which looks like a small mountain there.  This may be -- I hope will be -- the last snow picture of the year.  The day I took this picture my car was much like the one in the picture. When I went out to get my snow brush to tackle the inches burying my car, I found I could not even get into the car to retrieve the brush -- beneath the snow the car was encased in ice and I could not pull the door open although I heard it unlock.  So I brushed off what snow I could with hands and outstretched arm, went into the house and hung my clothes up to dry and then took my cue from the geese.  I waited for the sun to do its work.  Three hours later most of the snow was falling off the car and the ice had melted. Inside the car was reasonably warm, probably in the high 40s or low 50s.  Such is March in New England this winter.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Our Last Big Snowfall This Winter?

Another ten inches Thursday, on after a few hours of rain. I've never had a car totally iced over so that I could not open the doors -- until yesterday morning. The sun came out bright and happy. I swept off the fluffy snow. By 11:30 the sun did it's work, I could get into my car. 

Meanwhile the geese, like our summer beach visitors, seem to enjoy settling on the snow and sunbathing. I saw one guy with a baggie of bread pieces feeding them. 

This picture shows how the snow drifts up to the building, actually higher than the windows. And the narrow shoveled walkway is a ditch in the snow. In the afternoon my daughter came over with two shovels. We set about clearing what is really three parking spaces in the area of the lot I like to park in. We rememberted this kind of work in the long ago past when she was in high school and we lived in the snow belt of upstate New York. She reminded me that one of my first publications in a regional (not really national) magazines was a tongue-in-cheek article about snow shoveling in Yankee Magazine. And I reminded her that fifteen years before that I had published my first article in a national magazine called Baby Talk, which is still a freebie; in that long ago era long before Pampers, the magazine came with diaper services. But I digress. 

Maybe this is our last snow of the year here in New England. Records have been broken! But I have seen big snowfalls in April so... we'll wait and see.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Vienese Waltzes

I used to imagine that in another life I lived in Vienna during the period of the great Strausses, father and son, who composed one wonderful waltz after another. I heard the music and wanted to go whirling around a ball room in a full skirted dress.  The simple rhythm is totally infectious (as are polkas and marches). Dr. Oliver Sacks, as I've mentioned, has written about music affecting a primal part of the brain.  

Thursday it snowed again -- yes, again! When i arrived at my opera class I was told the opera of the day had been change to something light and cheery -- Die Fladermaus.  Oh, my! It was an old DVD of a performance done in Vienna, probably at New Years. The set and costumes were authentically Viennese, the singers were very fine, the comedy was broad - expecially in the final act! -- and the dancing, both waltzes and a breath taking polka, were so much fun I think the rather small turn out for the class totally forget the "weather outside was frightful" because the music inside "was delightful."

Yesterday at my writing class one person read a very short essay about being older and hoping for joy in the midst of his distresses. (His wife died only a few months ago.) In the last few weeks I have enjoyed so much music which has lifted me like helium into areas of joy -- it did not fall in my lap, I went where it was -- one sort of fell in my lap when a friend offered a symphony ticket to see the Annie Moses Band. I could have said no, but, of course I didn't.  One must not sit home and wait for joy to descend like the falling snow, you have to know what makes you happy and go where it is.  Of course it won't always be there. No, I didn't realize my dreams of whirling around with dashing partner.  Only once, in college, there was a polka and a partner and we whirled and stomped until we were so out of breath we couldn't talk. It was summer and we were on the big terrace of the student union building. A long, long way from Vienna. Some joys are short but unforgettable and, for me, many of them have to do with music.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Music is Magnificent

Maybe something about the prolonged cold and mild cabin fever makes me more than usually susceptible to the magic of music.  Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote that music is processed in its own section of the brain. Its effect on the human being is more pervasive and older than speech. Sometimes people who lose their ability to speak due to brain injuries such a strokes, can still sing, including the words.  So soon after the delight of the Anne Moses Band, I had another musical experience that I had been a little reluctant to go to but went and am so glad I did.

The opera class was to see a DVD of Candide. I heard it years ago and read the book even more years ago and was not very interested but was convinced to go by the same person who gave me a ticket to the symphony. Happily the coordinator of the opera class decided not to show the Broadway version but a concert version video taped in London in 1988, just two years before  Leonard Bernstein died. (He looked far older than he does in the picture here.) He had the gaunt face of an old man but it remained marvelously mobile and expressive).  Bernstein had worked on the initially unsuccessful opera (or operetta as Wikipedia calls it) for three or four years and at last had it in the shape that pleased him. He had a wonderful set of singer including Adolph Green (hardly a singer) as Pangloss/Narrator and the beautiful Krista Ludwig as the Old Lady and a cast of younger singers who were all very fine. It was in the Barbican Center in London with a large orchestra and chorus.

L.B.,  always a very dymanic conductor, known for speaking to the audience, did that too at times, he was a part of the event squared.  The video camer a was on his face often, he was involved body and soul, dancing, jiving, singing, he was very happy, he embraced singers many times.  It was a moment of great triumph and joy which was clear in every shot of his face.  Total involvement.  And empathatically I felt the same.

I also thought often of the stone deaf Beethoven trying to conduct his last great works with multiple frustrations and a contentious audience, I thought of impoverished Mozart and young, sick, sad Schubert with their magnificent works but never, as far as is known, the kind of immersion in a successful life achievement that L.B. has in this concert. I was thrilled for him, thrilled an artist can feel achievement so acutely. Search for "Bernstein conducting Candide", there are several video clips. The whole thing is available on DVD.  It's an experience to make your heart sing.