Sunday, February 28, 2010

Poem for Sunday and National Postal Museum

The Blizzard of 2010
By Linda Pastan

After the power was out
for four days
the temperature indoors
continued to fall,
though so gradually
they hardly noticed at first--
like the frog in the kettle
of previously cold water
who doesn't realize
he's being boiled alive.
After the last log
had collapsed
in a pyrotechnic display
of embers fading to ash,
and the glossy leaves
of the orchids, the lemon
had started to wilt
on their faithless stems,
they lay down together
unable to move, pinned
by the weight of their blankets
and afghans and quilts,
the pile of their winter
coats. And though
they were too cold
to sleep, they dreamed
about those unassuming days
when their garden-- now
a mausoleum of snow and ice--
warmed them in ecstatic
flames of blossom.


"The snow that buried the Washington area this February was only 'quiet' in the literal sense. Without heat, light, water, phone or stove, I felt like a character in "Castaway" or like a mountain climber stranded on the slopes," writes Pastan in Poet's Choice, who adds that she often writes poems in her head to distract herself during difficult events. "So 'The Blizzard of 2010' was largely written in my head as I lay beneath all those blankets and coats, waiting...for a snow plow to come and rescue me. I am still waiting for the temperature to rise enough to rescue the garden." Pastan's new book Traveling Light will be released in 2011; her 2008 book is Queen of a Rainy Country.

We have not seen my husband's parents for weeks despite having had plans with them due to the aforementioned snow that covered both DC and Hanover. So they came down today when it was time for lunch, which Paul provided -- buckwheat pancakes, veggie sausages, eggs -- then we headed downtown to the National Postal Museum, which is right near Union Station and part of the Smithsonian, housed in the same building as the National Capitol Post Office. My father-in-law collects stamps, so we figured it was a good belated birthday outing. The museum is bigger than I was expecting and really interesting, with exhibits on American history and the role of the mail, the role of the post office in fighting crime, postage art from around the world, and assorted delivery vehicles from sleds to carriages to airplanes.

A mail plane in the large central exhibit of the National Postal Museum, which also has mail trucks through the decades.

My kids and in-laws with the model horses that pull a historic mail coach behind them.

Stamps from Franklin Roosevelt's private collection. He had been interested in stamp collecting as a child and when he was president he had WPA workers design many stamps featuring national parks and national history.

Misprinted stamps, which in some cases are worth far more than the correct versions.

There is a postal train car in the central exhibit beneath the planes.

A caricature of a Mulready envelope, the much-reviled, elaborately ornamented two-penny mailer sold in the UK in the 1840s.

Most of the exhibits feature primarily US postal stamps, but there is a room with an old vault door displaying hundreds of international stamps.

After the museum, my father-in-law got his birthday cake.

When we left the museum, we came back to our house, where Paul made veggie cassoulet and served lactose-free German chocolate cake for dessert, since his father can't have milk products. My mother-in-law has been spending a lot of time researching her genealogy, so we showed them a bit of the Faces of America episode in which Henry Louis Gates, Jr. traces Meryl Streep's and Stephen Colbert's early Pennsylvania roots, since she has Quaker and Lutheran relatives from roughly the same areas. We'll see them again in a few weeks when Paul's brother Jon is in town for business and I promised to record the rest of the episodes for them. After they left, we watched the Olympics hoping for skating exhibition but getting mostly bobsledding -- I'm glad the U.S. won another gold, but I feel ripped off that we didn't get to see any of the pairs skating and the focus was so much on Americans and Canadians. Davis and White totally get props for skating to Chris Cornell's version of "Billie Jean" though!

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