dual personalities

Category: Poetry

“So here hath been dawning Another blue Day…”

So here hath been dawning
Another blue Day:
Think wilt thou let it
Slip useless away.
Out of Eternity
This new Day is born;
Into Eternity,
At night, will return.

–Thomas Carlyle

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My confused Christmas Cactus blooming again!

It was a beautiful weekend in flyover country and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend plenty of time outside soaking up the vitamin D. The boy came over for a chat on the patio on Saturday and shortly after he left to go to work, daughter #1 arrived from mid-MO in time for happy hour. There is nothing better, am I right?

If only, we could have beamed up daughter #2 and DN (a la Star Trek) for an hour or two!

Sunday was Pentecost, which I celebrated with my adopted Christ Church in Charlottesville, VA. My own Grace Church is supposed to start holding in person services next Sunday, but the Diocese has imposed a lot of rules (masks, no singing, social distancing, only 10% of capacity, and so on) so I may just stay home and continue to sing along with Sam Bush.

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I read quite a lot of The Accidental Tourist by Ann Tyler, curious to reread it after daughter #2’s negative review last week. I have to say, I am enjoying it and do not find all the characters to be “weirdos”! As I told daughter #2 when I talked to her on Sunday, clearly she was on edge and not in the right frame of mind to read this particular book. Indeed, I am actually enjoying it more than when I first read it nearly 35 years ago. There is actually a lot of humor in it. The main character, who is a member of a very introverted wasp-y family who really only feels comfortable with his own siblings, seems very familiar to me. On the other hand, a couple of months ago I tried to reread Breathing Lessons, for which Ann Tyler won the Pulitzer Prize, and I found it unreadable, so irritating were the characters. So go figure.

And true to form, the OM sent away and got me one of these very special face masks from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City! ##HashtagTheCowboy #CowboyTim

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Please keep daughter #2 in your prayers. She is still waiting for the newest wee babe to arrive, now past her due date. It should be an exciting week.

Thought for the day:

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The powerful play goes on

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Opera

Throw all your stagey chandeliers in wheelbarrows and

move them north

To celebrate my mother’s sewing-machine

And her beneath an eighty-watt bulb, pedalling

Iambs on an antique metal footplate

Powering the needle through its regular lines,

Doing her work.  To me as a young boy

That was her typewriter.  I’d watch

Her hands and feet in unison, or read

Between her calves the wrought-iron letters:

SINGER.  Mass-produced polished wood and metal,

It was a powerful instrument.  I stared

Hard at its brilliant needle’s eye that purred

And shone at night; and then each morning after

I went to work at school, wearing her songs.

– Robert Crawford, b. 1959   

We haven’t had a poem for awhile, so I thought I’d include this one which I read in an online poetry class facilitated by a friend of mine. It reminded me of my own mother, although her Singer sewing machine was always on the dining room table. I don’t know a lot about contemporary poetry beyond a few poems by Mary Oliver and Billy Collins and Seamus Heaney, but I am learning that there is some good stuff out there.

One birthday has passed this week that we have not noted, Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803), and another, Walt Whitman’s (May 31, 1819), is coming up on Sunday. It is always a good time to turn to these two titans for some inspiration.

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
                                       Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Sunday is also the birthday of film titan Clint Eastwood, who turns 90! Can you believe it? He is still going strong–the man has got some good genes.

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I might watch Million Dollar Baby (2004) or Gran Torino (2008) which are both excellent. I watched A Perfect World (1993) a few weeks ago and liked it. Kevin Costner is the lead with Eastwood supporting. He directed all three of these movies. Another good one, directed by Eastwood but not starring him, is American Sniper (2014) which, you  may recall, set box-office records.  I will probably opt for the younger, dreamier Clint though.

Lately he has been speaking to me.

So anyway there will be lots to toast this weekend! 🍷🍷🍷 To Ralph, to Walt, to Clint, to life!

The painting is Sewing (The Artist’s Wife) by Australian painter Hans Heysen (1877–-1968)

Madder ‘n mischief

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We had several good midwestern thunderstorms this past long weekend. Coincidentally I found this copy of “The Thunder Baby Boy” handwritten by our mother many years ago. At some point in my childhood, she placated me during a thunderstorm, explaining about the Thunder Baby Boy who was making all the noise.

After that we would ask her to recite the poem from time to time. We weren’t scared anymore, but we liked the poem.

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On the reverse side is another poem and a drawing by our brother of Civil War era soldiers (blue and gray) firing at each other.  I suppose you could date the note by his skill level–pretty darn good–to the late 1950s?

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Isn’t it amazing the things that turn up?

Here’s a link to the poem on Project Gutenberg from the original book of poetry.

And now it’s back to the salt mine. I hardly looked at my computer or phone all weekend! Lovely.

Sieges tremendous*

Now be witness again, paint the mightiest armies of earth,
Of those armies so rapid so wondrous what saw you to tell us?
What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?*

Well, another week of Zoom meetings…

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and cramped working space has come and (almost) gone. I can’t complain. Like my DP, there is a part of me that really enjoys being home, far away from the madding crowd. Another part says, Let’s try to make the most of our predicament! And, of course, I am counting my blessings.

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Since it is Friday, I am, of course, thinking of movies to watch over the weekend. Did you watch siege movies last weekend? I watched Rio Bravo (1959) and The Desert Rats (1953)–both were great!  This week’s theme, in consultation with daughter #2, will focus on our other preoccupation–babies!

The 1980s supplies the lion’s share of our titles. (What is with that?) We remember these movies fondly as being lightweight, but fun:

Willow (1988)–Warwick Davis plays a dwarf and aspiring sorcerer, who protects the infant Elora Danan from an evil queen in this fantasy directed by Ron Howard.

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Three Men and a Baby (1987)–Tom Selleck, Steve Gutenberg and Ted Danson play three bachelors attempting to adapt their lives to pseudo-fatherhood. Mishaps and adventures ensue. I had forgotten that it is directed by Leonard Nimoy and is based on the 1985 French film Trois hommes et un couffin, which as I recall, is also worth watching.

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Look Who’s Talking (1989)–A RomCom starring John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. Bruce Willis plays the “voice” of the baby, Mikey. This was the movie that re-launched Travolta’s career.

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Baby Boom (1987)–Diane Keaton as a yuppie who “inherits” a 14-month-old girl. Sam Shepard co-stars.

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Of course, our favorite “baby” movie of all time is John Ford’s 3 Godfathers (1948)–there is no resisting John Wayne, Harry Carey, Jr. and Pedro Armendáriz as the fabled outlaw godfathers of a newborn.

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Meanwhile our own wee babes are sheltering at home and learning like little Einsteins.

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Brilliant.

One of my students shared this with me. It is très amusant.

Have a good Zoom-free weekend! Sunday is Palm Sunday! Can you believe it? Be sure to go to virtual church!

*Walt Whitman, “The Wound-Dresser”–read it all here.

What’s playing at the Roxy?

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What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

–Philip Larkin

Another week flies by–the highlight of mine being Tuesday, when the wee laddie came over after work for a wee visit while his dad took Lottiebelle to her dance class. (Their mom was busy practicing with her varsity cooking team.) He was not thrilled about being left alone with Mamu, so we settled down in the den and watched quite a few truck/construction videos.

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This placated him. (Usually the den is off limits, so the mystery factor played a part in his acquiescence.) Trucks, as you know, are his passion. This is a subject he knows a lot about. And now I know more about it.

On another note I have been reading The Chain by Paul I. Wellman, a bestseller from 1949.

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Why? you ask. Well, I was prompted from something I read on the Mockingbird website:

Well, it turns out there are some conscious Christian masterpieces out there, which were very successful in their day but have been almost completely smothered, in the reception, by This World. I mean, who has ever heard of The Chain by Paul Wellman? Yet it is simply the most touching story of a young Episcopal minister in Jericho, Kansas, who preaches and acts out Grace in a stratified and complacent city with great sacrifice yet great success. The Chain is a must read! Yet it’s been almost completely buried, as have been many other works like it, by “the World, the Flesh and the Devil”.

Long out of print (and not available in my university’s library) I found a used copy online and bought it. Paul Wellman also wrote The Comancheros, so I had heard of him. The novel is pretty dated, especially when it comes to its female characters, but most everybody in the book is recognizable if you have spent much time in an Episcopal church. Times have not changed that much when it comes to power players in a church. I’m sure in 1949 it was considered to be quite risqué and sexy, but it is not in the least shocking by today’s standards. I’m sure you can imagine. Even though I would hardly call it a “Christian masterpiece,” it has held my interest and I want to see how the young minister fairs. I think I may check out some other mid-level fiction from days of yore. It beats most of what’s published today.

The OM and I watched Little Caesar (1931) this week. It is the movie that made Edward G. Robinson a star and typecast him forever. It also features a very young Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. miscast as Robinson’s friend. I can’t say the gangster genre is a favorite of mine–not now, not ever–but Robinson is unforgettable and his death scene is worth the price of admission.

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I could not find a clip, but here’s the Muppet reenactment–almost as good.

I have no plans for the weekend. What are you doing?

(The painting is by Hendrick Averkamp, b. 1585)

A bushel and a peck

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Well, I have had a busy week! I even gave a talk to 150 people and lived through it. “I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,” wrote Paul to the Corinthians. “And my speech and my proclamation were not in words of wisdom.” This is always how I feel, but according to people in attendance, I did not embarrass myself.

I also went to an event after work for a friend who is running for City Council. Another thing I haven’t done in a long time–go out after work!

Later today, after work, the OM and I are taking the River Runner Amtrak train to Jefferson City.

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On Sunday I hope the wee babes will come over with their parents for an old-fashioned Valentine’s Day party like the ones daughter #2 alluded to in her post yesterday.

The wee babes have been wearing Valentine outfits all week.

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Lottie is one of only a couple of girls in a class full of boys, so odds are she will make out like a bandit in the Valentine lottery. Unknown-2.jpegUnknown-3.jpeg

The wee laddie has a coterie of older girls (5 year olds!) who follow him around and tell him he’s cute. They can’t keep their hands off him. The acorn didn’t fall too far from the tree…

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Love is in the air.

Anyway, have a good weekend! Watch a good romantic movie!

dive for dreams

or a slogan may topple you

(trees are their roots

and wind is wind)

 

trust your heart

if the seas catch fire

(and live by love

though the stars walk backward)

honor the past

but welcome the future

(and dance your death

away at this wedding)

never mind a world

with its villains or heroes

(for god likes girls

and tomorrow and the earth)

–e.e. cummings

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10)

A little fishing village where there are no phones

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

–Billy Collins

Older readers will relate to this poem. I certainly do. Billy Collins wrote it when he was 58 and he is still going strong twenty years later, so take heart, right?

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In other news, my vestry retreat went well. It always helps when half the group stops at the Hofbrauhaus in Belleville, Illinois for happy  hour on the way to the retreat. (This is an Episcopal Church vestry after all.)

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I got home in time on Saturday to relax and recover, and on Sunday I got my laundry/ chores/puttering done. But I could definitely have used another day off. The wee babes came over for dinner with their parents and we had a merry time. At one point we were discussing the fact that the governor was in Florida for the Super Bowl and Lottie told me that her Noni and Papa (the other grandparents) were in Florida. I said, yes, I know. There are a lot of people in Florida. She looked at me and repeated what she had said, definitely with a tone.

I am a blockhead.

We did not watch the Super Bowl. Instead, after everyone had gone home, the OM and I watched The Matrix (1999) at the recommendation of the boy. I had never seen it! I enjoyed it, although I cannot say I really understood what was going on most of the time.Screen Shot 2020-02-03 at 1.43.34 PM.pngWell, I am trying to enjoy the warm spell we are experiencing until the next wintry mix assails us on Wednesday. Par for the course in flyover country!

Keep re-reading those books you’ve forgotten.

“We deliberately forget because forgetting is a blessing. On both an emotional level and a spiritual level, forgetting is a natural part of the human experience and a natural function of the human brain. It is a feature, not a bug, one that saves us from being owned by our memories. Can a world that never forgets be a world that truly forgives?”
― Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

Painting by Jacob D. Wagner (American, 1852-1898)

“Go not to the Elves for counsel”*

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A good name is better than precious ointment;
and the day of death, than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting;
    for this is the end of all men,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning;
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools;
this also is vanity.
Surely oppression makes the wise man foolish,
and a bribe corrupts the mind.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning;
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick to anger,
for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money;
and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God;
who can make straight what he has made crooked?

(Ecclesiastes 7: 1-13)

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“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.” –Bob Dylan

“Mark it, nuncle.
Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest,
Set less than thou throwest,
Leave thy drink and thy whore
And keep in-a-door,
And thou shalt have more
Than two tens to a score.”
― William Shakespeare, The Fool in King Lear (Act 1, scene 4)

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Be prepared.

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*J.R.R. Tolkien

Is it Friday yet?

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And the robin flew

Into the air, the air,

The white mist through;

And small and rare

The night-frost fell

Into the calm and misty dell.

 

And the dusk gathered low,

And the silver moon and stars

On the frozen snow

Drew taper bars,

Kindled winking fires In the hooded briers.

 

And the sprawling Bear

Growled deep in the sky;

And Orion’s hair

Streamed sparkling by:

But the North sighed low,

“Snow, snow, more snow!”              –Walter de la Mare

Do you have plans for the weekend? We are going to the annual Elegant Italian Dinner at our church, which, you will recall, is the fundraiser for the youth mission trip. Big Doings. The boy and daughter # 3 are going with us. The wee babes will be in the nursery. If the weather cooperates, daughter #1 will drive in from mid-MO and join us. Since it is an Episcopal church, there will be a cash bar. Good times predicted and one of my first social “outings” in a long time.

In other news, Lottiebelle has continued to build towers…

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“The biggest in the world!” with a little help from Daddy

…and the wee laddie continues to improve his driving skills…

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And here’s some news you can use:

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Plus, I thought that this was real good.

Have a good weekend!

Pick a little, talk a little

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I have had a very busy week at work. I got a lot done there, but there’s not much to write about here. So here’s a Wendell Berry poem to ponder.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Have a good weekend. It is raining here and it is supposed to continue into the weekend, maybe turning to snow at some point. I am sleeping in.

“The Gossips” by Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, children’s author: wood block print on cloth for the Folly Cove Designers near Gloucester, MA.