Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poem for Sunday and Local Arboretums

By Kay Ryan

There are bands
in the sky where
what happens
matches prayers.
Clouds blacken
and inky rain
hatches the air
like angled writing,
the very transcription
of a pure command,
steady from a steady
hand. Drought
put to rout, visible
a mile above
for miles about.


"When I first came across Kay Ryan's poetry, I half suspected she was simply writing formal verse fractured into unorthodox lines to disguise its beauty (beauty being anathema to the postmodern sensibility)," writes Steven Ratiner in The Washington Post in a brief review of The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. "Though Ryan is comfortable exploring the natural world, her work is more preoccupied with the realm of ideas than's the poem "Virga," a particularly heady dose of her lush musicality. In the utter complexity of her vision and lyricism, I'm reminded of those mechanical devices of the ancient world meant to show us our place among the stars and help us navigate the uncharted darkness beyond."

We had lofty goals for Saturday -- after Adam got home from volunteering at Hebrew school and Daniel got home from demonstrating his school's robot to elementary school students at a county high school, we were planning to go to Maryland Day at the University of Maryland, but it was raining by the time we finished lunch, and since the campus is enormous (gorgeous, but there's lots and lots of walking between the agricultural school, the communications department, and everything in between), we decided it might not be the best day for the trek. Plus we were going to go seeThe Mikado at Daniel's high school in the evening, but the friend he wanted to see play Nanki-Poo had appeared the night before and wasn't playing the role, and we were all feeling kind of tired.

So instead we went to see the azaleas at McCrillis Gardens, the stunning local park that has hundreds of azaleas blooming beneath tall old oaks and tulip poplars, with everything looking very pretty and shiny in the drizzle. Afterward we drove through Garrett Park, a town that voted in 1977 to make itself an arboretum, with a committee that has planted more than 400 rare trees and shrubs and homeowners of beautiful old Victorians with yards full of tulips, snowball viburnum, and lots more azaleas. While we were in the area, we stopped at MOM's Organic Market to get nuts, oatmeal, low sodium Indian sauces, and peanut ginger tofu.

An azalea with raindrops at McCrillis Gardens...

...which has thousands of colorful flowers -- plus robins, woodpeckers, cardinals, and Carolina wrens -- in a much smaller area than the huge local arboretums.

Many of the purple azalea varieties are already past peak, while the whites are just coming into full bloom.

The garden also has pagodas and lots of places to sit and read or sketch.

Local houses in that Bethesda neighborhood tend to have beautiful yards as well.

Both the huge restored Victorian mansions and the smaller houses in Garrett Park often have colorful yards too...

...with azaleas and dogwood dominating at this time of year.

It must be nice to live in a neighborhood that's an arboretum.

In the evening we watched How the States Got Their Shapes on the History Channel, which was really fascinating -- the lost state of Franklin, the city of St. Genevieve, Missouri which is older than New Orleans and very proud of being French, the onetime capital of Illinois in Kaskaskia which is now an island cut off from the state by the Mississippi River, Pennsylvania's demand to have a Great Lakes port. Then we watched Doctor Who on BBC America (meaning that I am two weeks behind like most people in the U.S., I have not seen this week's UK episode, and I really wish people would keep character name spoilers out of their subject lines). Most of what I liked about the episode had to do with Amy Pond -- I'm completely ambivalent about Eleven in terms of how the Doctor is being both written and performed, but I loved Rose Tyler before I was sold on Doctor Who in the first place, so that's not a bad thing.

Spoilers: Matt Smith just doesn't have the gravitas to pull off a line like "I'd love to forget it all, every day, every second" -- I was imagining how both Eccleston and Tennant would have delivered that line, a variety of ways I could see each delivering the line. I gather this isn't as Doctor Lite as I had feared, or if it will be eventually, they must at least address all the darkness Nine and Ten carried around, plus I am rather nervous about the title and one-line description of the episode "Amy's Choice" (if it has anything in common with Sophie's Choice I may run screaming from the franchise). But I liked Amy from "You never interfere in the affairs of other people or planets unless there's children crying" and she had me at "What if you were really old and alone, the last of your kind?"

The Redskins have let Jason Campbell go for a far-away long-off draft pick, which is kind of sad but we all knew when they got Donovan McNabb that this day was coming. On Sunday the area is going to be crazy -- there's the huge Earth Day rally and concert downtown, but the Metro Red Line is supposed to have shutdowns all afternoon causing hour-long backups, and the storms that caused those horrible tornadoes in the South are heading this way, so I think we're going to stay local and sleep late!

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