Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poem for Sunday, Mockingjay, Smaug, Harpers Ferry

From Epithalamion
By Edmund Spenser

Ye learnèd sisters, which have oftentimes
Beene to me ayding, others to adorne,
Whom ye thought worthy of your gracefull rymes,
That even the greatest did not greatly scorne
To heare theyr names sung in your simple layes,
But joyèd in theyr praise;
And when ye list your owne mishaps to mourne,
Which death, or love, or fortunes wreck did rayse,
Your string could soone to sadder tenor turne,
And teach the woods and waters to lament
Your dolefull dreriment:
Now lay those sorrowfull complaints aside;
And, having all your heads with girlands crownd,
Helpe me mine owne loves prayses to resound;
Ne let the same of any be envide:
So Orpheus did for his owne bride!
So I unto my selfe alone will sing;
The woods shall to me answer, and my Eccho ring.

Early, before the worlds light-giving lampe
His golden beame upon the hils doth spred,
Having disperst the nights unchearefull dampe,
Doe ye awake; and, with fresh lusty-hed,
Go to the bowre of my belovèd love,
My truest turtle dove;
Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake,
And long since ready forth his maske to move,
With his bright Tead that flames with many a flake,
And many a bachelor to waite on him,
In theyr fresh garments trim.
Bid her awake therefore, and soone her dight,
For lo! the wishèd day is come at last,
That shall, for all the paynes and sorrowes past,
Pay to her usury of long delight:
And, whylest she doth her dight,
Doe ye to her of joy and solace sing,
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring.


We had another movie day -- since we all wanted to see it and we saw the first two together, we went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One. I'm not sure I loved it as much as I loved Catching Fire -- I think Katniss is a stronger character in that one and I wanted more Haymitch, less Gale, and in general less gratuitous love triangle since ultimately it's not important to her character arc -- but I thought Julianne Moore was brilliant, I was glad to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, I love Natalie Dormer, and I think Jennifer Lawrence gets better in every movie she's in. I'm still not sure Mockingjay needed to be two movies, but it's not like I was ever bored, and the focus on propaganda is very timely.

Afterward we went to Blaze Pizza for dinner -- there's actually one in College Park but neither Daniel nor Adam has ever eaten in that one -- I got every kind of cheese they have on mine. Adam went over to a friend's house where a bunch of his other high school friends were gathered while on break from their respective colleges. Because we are likely to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Hours Armies when they're next home at the end of the semester in a few weeks, we watched the extended version of The Desolation of Smaug and now I am SO irritated we did not get Thrain in the theatrical version in place of some gratuitous special effects! Since I'm short on time, have a photo of fall in Harpers Ferry:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Poem for Saturday, Interstellar, Black Friday

[I'm not with my]
By Joshua Beckman

I'm not with my blue toes or my doggies
nor am I under any arched roof rotting blossoms
in my drain, sunlight pouncing upon me,
nor am I fixed like a tree, nor am I unfixed
like a wind. I ate an apple, that's fine
and after Anthony left I got a whiskey.
I stared a bit like a shadow at a book,
a fold in my shirt showed a monk's bowing head
in a column of dusty light, but I just basically
used it to cover up my arm which was prickling
now because of some awful thing within me.
Big nasty sun making me feel old and then
this lovely gold bird flew up to my lunch.
An actual family of little white turnips
rolling over in the boiling pot like some
clouds is how I act. A great blue sky for a bed
and that beauty make me happy again.


We had a quiet morning at home doing things like watching the new Star Wars trailer, then after lunch we all went to see Interstellar. I really loved it -- definitely some scientific quibbles but it's basically A Wrinkle In Time adapted as science fiction, even the explanation of tesseracts, so in that regard it made me very happy and I liked the entire cast, especially the person I didn't know was in the movie who provided a twist I did not see coming.

We had dinner again with Nicole and her family at my parents' house because they're leaving tomorrow -- we won't see them again till my niece Molly's Bat Mitzvah in January and who knows after that, since we could be visiting Daniel wherever he has a job next Thanksgiving, whoo! -- then came home and, since Nicole said it was funny and my kids are looking for jobs, watched The Internship. I shut off my feminist brain and tried to enjoy the nerd jokes -- there's Quidditch!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Poem for Friday and Thanksgiving

Fire Dreams
By Carl Sandburg

(Written to be read aloud, if so be, Thanksgiving Day)

I remember here by the fire,
In the flickering reds and saffrons,
They came in a ramshackle tub,
Pilgrims in tall hats,
Pilgrims of iron jaws,
Drifting by weeks on beaten seas,
And the random chapters say
They were glad and sang to God.

And so
Since the iron-jawed men sat down
And said, "Thanks, O God,"
For life and soup and a little less
Than a hobo handout to-day,
Since gray winds blew gray patterns of sleet on Plymouth Rock,
Since the iron-jawed men sang "Thanks, O God,"
You and I, O Child of the West,
Remember more than ever
November and the hunter's moon,
November and the yellow-spotted hills.

And so
In the name of the iron-jawed men
I will stand up and say yes till the finish is come and gone.
God of all broken hearts, empty hands, sleeping soldiers,
God of all star-flung beaches of night sky,
I and my love-child stand up together to-day and sing: "Thanks, O God."


We had a very nice, fairly quiet Thanksgiving with family, starting with a morning of watching the Macy's Parade with Adam while Daniel slept in, then lunch together before Paul's parents arrived and we all went over to my parents' house, where my sister and her family is visiting.

I ate lots -- tofurkey, mashed and sweet potatoes, carrot souffle, cranberries, pomegranate seeds, pineapple, cake -- and caught up with my nieces. Given the weather the day before, I am grateful everyone made it! Here are some pics of various family members with stuffed turkeys and photobombing:

Paul's annual cookie cake (previous cakes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).

We never partake in Black Friday shopping, though we are probably going to the movies. Hope everyone celebrating had a good Thanksgiving and enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Poem for Thanksgiving

The Thanksgivings
By Harriet Maxwell Converse

Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
        to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered
        that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
        to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
        for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
        from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
        for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
        and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun
        that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank
        all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being
        of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,
        the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard
        through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit’s music,
        and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies
        on this occasion.


Wednesday arrived, and with it the snow that had been forecast, though we ended up with nothing sticking on the roads and only a dusting on the grass -- enough for my neighbors' kids to build a very small snowman with grape eyes and a baby carrot nose. At 11 a.m., Paul and I went to College Park to pick up first Adam at his dorm, then Daniel at the lab where he works before stopping to pick up his clothes -- he got another extremely impressive post-graduation job offer today! -- which required that we drive on the Beltway during the worst of the storm. It was very pretty and I was very glad not to be behind the wheel!

We made it home with everyone and had a late lunch together except for Adam who had to eat everything in his fridge before the dorms were locked for the long weekend. Then we watched Dark City while Paul finished work and I folded laundry, since the kids had not seen the movie, and I took a walk to see the snow. Adam had demanded "non-diner" food for dinner, meaning not bland, so we had Indian stuff. After that, we watched Monty Python Live : One Down, Five to Go, which none of us had seen -- it's hilarious and has so many of their best moments -- and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which all of us have seen every year for ages!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Poem for Wednesday and Homestead Farm Animals

By W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is


We took the van in for scheduled service, so Paul worked from home, and after lunch we went to pick it up behind a crowded mall where everyone apparently went to start pre-Black Friday shopping since I have gotten emails from everyone from Macy's to Kohl's to Michael's telling me that I can get Black Friday sale prices NOW NOW NOW. (If I owe you something from the post office, it's going to have to wait till I ship out holiday stuff because I could not face the mob in the parking lot today.) Have some Homestead Farm animals from apple season instead:

Again it was a beautiful day, slightly cooler than Monday but still gorgeous to be outside -- I saw three bunnies and four deer in our neighborhood, including the young stag. On Wednesday, of course, we are being threatened with anywhere from one to eight inches of snow depending on which way the storm tracks. We are supposed to pick up the kids from College Park around lunchtime so we are hoping the weather cooperates. TV tonight was The Flash, and we watched The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain which we had never seen and found very amusing!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Poem for Tuesday and Huntley Meadows Heron

By Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger.'

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.


I hadn't read that poem in years when I found it the other day while looking for a poem about Baltimore to post with pictures of Federal Hill. I'm not sure which is more depressing: that it was written in 1925 and still comes up as one of the most famous poems to mention the city, or that I could easily believe this is not a poem of "old Baltimore."

In happier Baltimore news, I just watched the Ravens beat the Saints. I feel vaguely guilty watching this instead of leaving the news on, but there's not much I can do tonight, now that I've fired off my email to Governor Nixon asking him to protect the lives of those he serves by not authorizing the use of rubber bullets against peaceful protesters.

It was a beautiful day, no rain after the morning, temperatures in the 70s during the afternoon and still in the 60s, though we've been warned to expect snow on Wednesday when everyone's trying to get home for Thanksgiving. When I wasn't doing work, I was out enjoying it with the deer and bunnies. Here's a heron from Sunday at Huntley Meadows:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Poem for Monday and Huntley Meadows

By Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.


I sorted beads and reorganized craft stuff downstairs and have no idea how it got to be nearly midnight so I shall keep this short. We had a nice low-key Sunday; got leaves off the deck, read a decent amount of the paper, then after lunch we went to Huntley Meadows, where the amphibians and reptiles were hibernating for the season but we saw lots of evidence of beaver activity, plus little fish and plenty of waterfowl:

We stopped at CVS (had planned Trader Joe's but found out my mother had already gotten the tofurkey we were going to buy), came home for dinner, and caught up on the Once Upon a Time mid-season finale a week late, still wishing Snow would shut up but I love that it was all about women saving and obsessing over women with the men largely sidelined, even if I want more Swan Queen, less Frozen! And no pre-Thanksgiving snow!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poem for Sunday and Pennyfield Lock

"An Insistent and Eager Harmoniousness to Things"
By David Keplinger

                —David Abram

Like an enormous leech the pancreas lies with its head tucked into the duodenum, upside down, the tail outstretched over it, an animal curled in on itself. In the preserve jar of the belly, it wriggles like a strange, medieval cure. When we sleep, Anicka, the pancreas secretes its juices, reverting tonight's toutlerre into Germanic syllables again: cake, meat, blood. All of this healing is out of our hands. I turn to you, completely unconscious. Completely unconscious, you turn to me.


Saturday felt more like fall than winter, for which I am grateful because I am not ready for winter, even though the light doesn't start coming back till the solstice and I am very ready for that. We had a fairly quiet morning, then after lunch we went to Blockhouse Point along the C&O Canal, since we had never hiked there before, and then to Pennyfield Lock, so we could walk along the Potomac River. The sky was gorgeous and we saw a surprising number of animals given the cold -- lots of songbirds, herons, a raccoon, a bird of prey that may be a juvenile osprey or broad-shouldered hawk, plus bunnies when we got home:

We came home to watch the Maryland-Michigan game, which I did not have high hopes that the Terps would win since it was in Ann Arbor. But the Terps played well (plus the Wolverines made a couple of big mistakes) and Maryland won 23-16! After that delightful result, we had ravioli soup for dinner, and our neighbor brought us chocolate-covered key lime pie from the restaurant where she was having dinner in Alexandria after I begged her on Facebook. At that point I was in the mood for something British, so we watched Colin Firth in My Life So Far, which can't quite decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a farce but is still enjoyable.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Poem for Saturday, Sunspots Studios, Covenant

A Conceit
By Rae Armantrout

Local anchors list the ways
viewers might enjoy tomorrow.

One says, "Get some great....", but
that seems like a stretch.

The other snickers, meaning,
"Where were you going with that?"

Like you thought


Like you could defend

in the sense of
idle conceit,

vacuous self-

doing whatever
it takes to




As if to say,
is the vacuum energy."


Went out to California Pizza Kitchen with my parents, had hummus and flatbread and everything was very good, but my stomach is really angry at me right now and I'm not sure whether there's a connection. I had a pretty quiet Friday otherwise: posted a review of Deep Space Nine's intense "Covenant", talked online with both kids about school and work stuff, had a lovely unexpected visit from Adam's high school girlfriend who's back in town for Thanksgiving, we took a walk and saw bunnies!

After dinner Paul and I came home and watched Sweet Revenge, in which Sam Neill, Helena Bonham Carter, Rupert Graves and many other usual British suspects scheme against one another with entertaining results. It is both Angela and Kevin's birthdays at midnight, though I didn't feel up to going out for their party and am going to crash early for a weekend night. Meanwhile here are some photos from Sunspots Glassblowing Studios in Staunton, which we visited a couple of weekends ago:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Poem for Friday and Federal Hill

The Moment of the Fall
By John A. Nieves

Autumn awakes the night mouse
avoids snake, its strike

made sluggish by the cooling
air. The branches hear

the victory squeal, the slow
recoil, a tongue flicked

in hunger. And how could they not
change? The reds and golds

seep subtly into the edges—a slight
tint of things to come, of a forest

stained with setting sun, poised
to shake itself naked

across the lengthening nights'
lingering chill. One small

escape, one tiny failure: a life
spared to bury itself, a yearning

born to fan small fires in houses,
in windows waving summer

away, lapping up the coming cold. Already,
we are pulling closer, together.


"I was trying to integrate and trouble as much as the web of meaning centered on the word fall as I could," Nieves told The Baltimore Review. "The verb to physically descend, the season Autumn, the Christian mythology of original sin, the verb to initiate a loving relationship, the verb to become of less stature. I wanted to tease out the frayed edge of as many possibilities in as little space as possible."

Thursday, thankfully, was warmer than Wednesday! I did laundry and chores in the morning, and after lunch, Paul and I picked up Daniel from College Park and drove him to Baltimore for a job interview. He was already in a good mood because he got a great offer from the company at which he interviewed last weekend, and he is talking to another big company next week. The Baltimore company is in the Federal Hill neighborhood, overlooking the harbor on one side and the stadiums on the other, so while Daniel was interviewing, Paul and I visited the Cross Street Market and walked to Federal Hill Park, which has great views of the Inner Harbor and has both Civil War and War of 1812 monuments, plus a playground with a miniature B&O Roundhouse, USS Constellation, and Signal Hill Tower cannons.

We wandered a bit in Federal Hill's shopping district -- lots of restaurants and bars targeted to sports fans, quite a bit of furniture and antiques -- until Daniel was finished, then we drove him back to College Park and took him to Azteca for Mexican food for dinner. (Adam was on the way to a formal with his girlfriend, so we didn't get to see him.) We ran into lots of traffic driving home due to a Beltway accident, but we made it in time for Gracepoint, which is going to make me SO mad if it doesn't keep Broadchurch's ending in big strokes even though the producers said they weren't going to, and Elementary, which had such a strange open ending that we thought maybe the episode had cut off prematurely after starting late because the network decided to show Obama's speech on immigration.