dual personalities

Tag: Moby-Dick

“Surely all this is not without meaning.”*

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The wee babes came over yesterday and learned some new words.


Aunt Susie reads “Moby-Dick”–can you say harpoon?

Yes, we are in the big build up to Herman Melville’s 200th birthday/birthday bash at the end of the week. So, of course, we had to get the wee babes in the act.


Lottie says, “Is there a sea princess in this book?”

Here, then, was this grey-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a Job’s whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals–morally enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right-mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge. How it was that they so aboundingly responded to the old man’s ire–by what evil magic their souls were possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the White Whale as much their insufferable foe as his; how all this came to be–what the White Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life,–all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go. The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick? Who does not feel the irresistible arm drag? What skiff in tow of a seventy-four can stand still? For one, I gave myself up to the abandonment of the time and the place; but while yet all a-rush to encounter the whale, could see naught in that brute but the deadliest ill.

*Herman Melville

“I will not afflict you with complaining.”*

IMG_6583.jpegGreetings from the land of the living. I am checking in while daughter #2 is busy in NYC. For several weeks after my surgery I was not reading much; it was difficult to focus.

I started slowly with poetry…FullSizeRender-1.jpg

and  moved on to old, familiar Kierkegaard and a wonderful new history by David McCullough…


Finally I made my way back to Moby-Dick and a recent biography of Melville. (Don’t you just love his face?)


I am not a STEMM person by any means, but genetics has always fascinated me, and this book is quite engaging and easy to read.


This is not to say that I spend all my time reading. Hardly. I wiled away many an hour in the first weeks of my recovery watching two seasons of sleep-inducing episodes of Murder She Wrote (better than any sleeping pill). When feeling more engaged, I have chuckled my way through several seasons of Corner Gas (2004-2009), a Canadian show about a small town in Saskatchewan where nothing much ever happens, which in my weakened state, I have found to be hilarious.

Screen Shot 2019-06-18 at 2.51.12 PMSometimes, when I am feeling really productive, I work on a new needlepoint project while I watch the telly.


This old Victorian chair is remarkably well suited for sitting in and sewing by a sunny window. And how about that  decoupaged side table I picked up at an antique mall a few months ago? How could I resist those tassels?

Chemotherapy commences tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

“An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless measureless leaves upon the sea.” (M-D)

Meanwhile, what are you reading?

P.S. Here are a couple of pictures of the wee babes, because I know you have missed them, right?


*Lucy Backus Woodbridge, pioneer, quoted in The Pioneers by David McCullough

Send us now into the world in peace

Well, first this:


The dapper wee laddie had his fitting for the suit he will wear as the ring bearer at his aunt’s wedding in June. He seemed pleased with the look. I am not surprised, as his father always liked getting dressed up as well.

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He has always been at home in formal attire…

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 4.18.32 PM.pngAnyway…my weekend was low key and fun.

The gabfest with my two old friends was wonderful but too short. I forgot to take a picture.

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(taken at an event I did not attend–love those flyover blonds!)

Daughter #1 arrived home in time to make margaritas at 5 pm. Then she played DJ and we listened to music. There is nothing I like better than to listen to favorite tunes chosen by someone else.

We went to church on Sunday morning and then she had to hurry back to mid-Mo as she was heading to KC bright and early on Monday morning. But first we sat on the patio at Club Taco under the blue, blue sky…


..and listened to our friends Gary and Don play some good, good music…


Good times…Meanwhile I am re-reading Moby-Dick and loving it. It is amazingly current and prescient.

This, shipmates, this is that other lesson; and woe to that pilot of the living God who slights it. Woe to him whom this world charms from Gospel duty! Woe to him who seeks to pour oil upon the waters when God has brewed them into a gale! Woe to  him who seeks to please rather than appall! Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness! Woe to him who, in this world, courts not dishonor! Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation! Yea, woe to him who, as the great Pilot Paul has it, while preaching to others is himself castaway! (“The Sermon”)

Look to yourself, Episcopal Church.

Have a good week!

Something all glorious and gracious

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“…But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new- mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil we how we may, we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greenness; as last year’s scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut swaths – Starbuck!”

–Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, Chapter cxxxii – THE SYMPHONY

Just a reminder that the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birthday is coming up on August 1, 2019, so it is time to read/re-read Moby-Dick!

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…God only has that right and privilege. Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that. And yet, I’ve sometimes thought my brain was very calm – frozen calm, this old skull cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and shiver it. And still this hair is growing now; this moment growing, and heat must breed it; but no, it’s like that sort of common grass that will grow anywhere, between the earthy clefts of Greenland ice or in Vesuvius lava. How the wild winds blow it; they whip it about me as the torn shreds of split sails lash the tossed ship they cling to. A vile wind that has no doubt blown ere this through prison corridors and cells, and wards of hospitals, and ventilated them, and now comes blowing hither as innocent as fleeces. Out upon it! – it’s tainted. Were I the wind, I’d blow no more on such a wicked, miserable world. I’d crawl somewhere to a cave, and slink there. And yet, ’tis a noble and heroic thing, the wind! who ever conquered it? In every fight it has the last and bitterest blow. Run tilting at it, and you but run through it. Ha! a coward wind that strikes stark naked men, but will not stand to receive a single blow. Even Ahab is a braver thing – a nobler thing that that. Would now the wind but had a body; but all the things that most exasperate and outrage mortal man, all these things are bodiless, but only bodiless as objects, not as agents. There’s a most special, a most cunning, oh, a most malicious difference! And yet, I say again, and swear it now, that there’s something all glorious and gracious in the wind. These warm Trade Winds, at least, that in the clear heavens blow straight on, in strong and steadfast, vigorous mildness; and veer not from their mark, however the baser currents of the sea may turn and tack, and mightiest Mississippies of the land swift and swerve about, uncertain where to go at last. And by the eternal Poles! these same Trades that so directly blow my good ship on; these Trades, or something like them – something so unchangeable, and full as strong, blow my keeled soul along! To it! Aloft there! What d’ye see?”

–Chapter cxxxv – THE CHASE – THIRD DAY

“The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

(The artwork is by Rockwell Kent.)

Merely bearing witness

Did you read that the poet Richard Wilbur died? You will recall that he was the Poet Laureate of the U.S. for awhile. He taught at Smith College when I was there.


He was much honored in his lifetime, but, of course, the NY Times obit tends to focus on the negative, stating snidely, “By the early 1960s, however, critical opinion generally conformed to Mr. Jarrell’s oft-quoted assessment that Mr. Wilbur ‘never goes too far, but he never goes far enough.'”

Well, I rather liked him.

To claim, at a dead party, to have spotted a grackle,
When in fact you haven’t of late, can do no harm.
Your reputation for saying things of interest
Will not be marred, if you hasten to other topics,
Nor will the delicate web of human trust
Be ruptured by that airy fabrication.
Later, however, talking with toxic zest
Of golf, or taxes, or the rest of it
Where the beaked ladle plies the chuckling ice,
You may enjoy a chill of severance, hearing
Above your head the shrug of unreal wings.
Not that the world is tiresome in itself:
We know what boredom is: it is a dull
Impatience or a fierce velleity,
A champing wish, stalled by our lassitude,
To make or do. In the strict sense, of course,
We invent nothing, merely bearing witness
To what each morning brings again to light:
Gold crosses, cornices, astonishment…

(Read the whole poem, “Lying,” here. BTW, “velleity” is a wish or inclination not strong enough to lead to action. I had to look it up.)

Wilbur’s papers are housed at his alma mater Amherst College.


I like this photo of Wilbur by Tsar Fedorsky (AC 1982)

Here’s an article about the archive.

While we are musing on Berkshires themes, don’t forget that today is the anniversary of the first publication of Moby-Dick in 1851, in Britain. Its publication in America followed on November 14, 1851.

“Speak, thou vast and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed — while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!”

And this struck me as very sad.


Yes, Country Curtains, a Berkshires favorite that started off selling a simple unbleached muslin curtain by mail order, will shut down by the end of the year in the face of unrelenting online competition.

I remember when they were a little mom-and-pop operation in Stockbridge and we would see their ads in the old Yankee magazine. I remember looking at their catalogs with my mother.  And I bought some of those plain muslin curtains–the ones with the pompoms–for our first apartment after the OM and I were married. I bought some curtains there just last year–they have elephants on them. Sigh.

But this was funny:

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Onward and upward. Hang in there and join me in a toast tonight to Richard Wilbur, Herman Melville and Country Curtains.

“Top-heavy was the ship as a dinnerless student with all Aristotle in his head.”*

So Bob Dylan finally made his Nobel Laureate acceptance speech, the only requirement to claim the money that comes with the prize, with several days to spare. (The deadline was June 10.)


And of course he spent a long portion of his speech talking about Moby-Dick! Bob never disappoints.

Huzzah for Bob! And here’s some Moby-Dick for your mid-week inspiration:

“Whether to admit Hercules among us or not, concerning this I long remained dubious: for though according to the Greek mythologies, that ancient Crockett and Kit Carson–that brawny doer of rejoicing good deeds, was swallowed down and thrown up by a whale; still, whether that strictly makes a whaleman of him, that might be mooted. It nowhere appears that he ever actually harpooned his fish, unless, indeed, from the inside. Nevertheless, he may be deemed a sort of involuntary whaleman; at any rate the whale caught him, if he did not the whale. I claim him for one of our clan.”

I will also note the passing a few days ago of rock legend Gregg Allman (1947–2017) who had been sober for twenty years and was a Christian. Funnily enough, he ended up an EpiscopalianInto paradise may the angels lead you. At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.

*Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

“Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky.”*


“Children are still the way you were as a child, sad and happy in just the same way–and if you think of your childhood, you once again live among them, among the solitary children.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It has been a busy week. Little Lottiebelle went home.


She also had her first appointment at the pediatrician’s office.


The little guy had to stay in the NICU, but he got a new pair of little man boat shoes. OMG. Can you stand it?


He came through his hernia surgery yesterday like a champ. We are hoping he’ll come home next week.

This weekend I’m going to get ready for the arrival of daughter #1 on Tuesday and then daughter #1 on Friday for a bridal shower next Saturday. You know, this means stocking the fridge/pantry with Diet Coke, white wine, leafy greens, and Flaming Hot Cheetos.

I’ll be ready.

In the meantime, did you know that S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders turns 50 this year? It may be time to re-read this classic.

“I’ve been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be. I want you to tell Dally to look at one. He’ll probably think you’re crazy, but ask for me. I don’t think he’s ever really seen a sunset. And don’t be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There’s still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don’t think he knows.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.”


Have a good weekend!

*Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; the top photo is little ANC III with ANC jr. on a beach in Italy in the mid-1920s

I look down deep and do believe

Moby Dick by Rockwell Kent

Moby Dick by Rockwell Kent

(Ahab) “Oh, grassy glades! oh, ever vernal endless landscapes in the soul; in ye,–though long parched by the dead drought of the earthly life,–in ye, men yet may roll, like young horses in new morning clover; and for some few fleeting moments, feel the cool dew of life immortal in them. Would to God these blessed calms would last. But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woff; calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no stead unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed graduations, and at the last one pause:–through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’s doubt (the common doom), then skepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.”

And the same day, too, gazing far down from his boat’s side into that same golden sea. Starbuck lowly murmured:–“Loveliness unfathomable, as ever lover saw in his young bride’s eye!–Tell me not of thy teeth-tiered sharks, and thy kidnapping cannibal ways. Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.”

Tomorrow is Herman Melville’s birthday, so take a break today and read some Moby-Dick!


A new month and a few things to keep in mind


A new month, a new calendar page and the end of summer in sight. For those of us in this flyover state it has not been a bad summer weather-wise. Indeed, we have had lovely long stretches of Michigan-esque weather. By this time, usually, we are counting the days ’til fall, but not this year. I am in no hurry for school to be back in session full throttle. I plan to enjoy the dog days that are left of summer 2013.

The August TCM star of the month is old Humphrey Bogart, film idol and Episcopalian.


As I’ve mentioned before, my mother had a preference for Warner Brothers stars, such as Bogart and Errol Flynn, because she went to see all those movies at the Lewis J. Warner ’28 Memorial Theater at Worcester Academy (which I blogged about here). Like my mother, I feel that same thrill when the Warner Brothers logo appears and their rousing theme is played at the beginning of all their movies. TCM is not showing anything that I haven’t seen a million times and my favorite Bogart film, The Petrified Forest, is not on the line-up, but oh well. They are all still better than anything you’ll see on network television–reruns and commercials!

Tonight, however, they are showing my second-favorite Bogart film Key Largo, which is also one of my all-time favorite movies. I just saw it again recently and it really is fabulous. John Huston and Bogart were a good team and the star is at his best, ably supported by Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor and Lauren Bacall. So be sure to tune in or (at the very least) set your DVR.

August 1 is also the birthday of Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891), American writer and author, of course, of Moby-Dick.


This would be a great month to read the great book! You know you’ve been meaning to. Here’s a little something to get you in the mood.

“There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:– through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’s doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.”

August 1 is the birthday as well of Jerome Moross (August 1, 1913 – July 25, 1983) who composed works for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, soloists, musical theatre, and movies. He also orchestrated motion picture scores for other composers. His best known film score is that for the 1958 movie The Big Country, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Original Music Score.

Jerome Moross - The Big Country - Front

The winner that year in that category was The Old Man and the Sea, scored by Dimitri Tiomkin. Hold the phone! Are you kidding me? Jerome Moross was robbed! But why am I never surprised? Anyway, you might want to watch that movie–it’s a good one. It misses being a great western because of the annoying plot and the super annoying character played by Carol Baker. Nevertheless, it has some great people in it: Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, and Burl Ives (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). And the score is probably the best ever.

So here’s to a good August filled with great movies and great books! Let’s all have a good one.

Happy birthday, Susiebelle*!


Sunday is daughter #2’s 23rd birthday. So today we wish her a Hipy Papy Bthuthdy!

“Can you read, Pooh?” Owl asked a little anxiously, and this is what he wrote:
Pooh looked on admiringly.
“I’m just saying `A Happy Birthday’,” said Owl carelessly.
“It’s a nice long one,” said Pooh, very much impressed.
“Well, actually, of course, I’m saying `A Very Happy Birthday with Love from Pooh’. Naturally it takes a good deal of pencil to say a long thing like that.”

(In Which Eeyore has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents)

I’m just saying.


This is my favorite picture of daughter #2 from back in the days when her role model was Stephanie Judith Tanner and she was writing a novel called “A Man from Melville”. Probably because she had two active and outspoken older siblings and had endured years of endless teasing, the Belle was always good at entertaining herself. She was so adept at shrugging it all off and going to her room where she could spend hours working on craft projects and reading Christian romance novels. She’s come a long way since then, but thankfully she is still the same old girl with the sunny, forgiving, glass-is-half-full personality.

I have mentioned before that, although as parents we look back nostalgically at our children’s childhoods and we miss “those days” (and our youth), it is truly wonderful when they turn out to be great adults. We appreciate and love them on a whole new level. And it is true that people who have a sunny, forgiving and generally positive attitude toward life are frequently not appreciated for their depth. In daughter #2’s case, this is a big mistake.

Who else but the Belle could have persuaded me to read Moby-Dick?

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”

― Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Happy birthday and God keep thee!

*A birthday shout out to our girl Sarah Michelle Gellar as well!


Sarah was born on April 14, 1977. As our loyal readers know, her alter-ego, Buffy Summers, shares a birthday with our mother. We consider her kin.