Saturday, January 19, 2019

Poem for Saturday and Hillwood Faberge

Fabergé's Egg
By Elizabeth Spires

      Switzerland, 1920

Dear Friend, “Called away” from my country,
I square the egg and put it in a letter
that all may read, gilding each word a little
so that touched, it yields to a secret
stirring, a small gold bird on a spring
suddenly appearing to sing a small song
of regret, elation, that overspills all private
bounds, although you ask, as I do, what now
do we sing to, sing for? Before the Great War,
I made a diamond-studded coach three inches high
with rock crystal windows and platinum wheels
to ceremoniously convey a speechless egg to Court.
All for a bored Czarina! My version of history
fantastic and revolutionary as I reduced the scale
to the hand-held dimensions of a fairy tale,
hiding tiny Imperial portraits and cameos
in eggs of pearl and bone. Little bonbons, caskets!
The old riddle of the chicken and the egg
is answered thus: in the Belle Epoque
of the imagination, the egg came first, containing,
as it does, both history and uncertainty, my excesses
inducing unrest among those too hungry to see
the bitter joke of an egg one cannot eat.
Oblique oddity, an egg is the most beautiful of all
beautiful forms, a box without corners
in which anything can be contained, anything
except Time, that old jeweler who laughed
when he set me ticking. Here, among the clocks
and watches of a country precisely ordered
and dying, I am not sorry, I do not apologize.
Three times I kiss you in memory
of that first Easter, that first white rising,
and send this message as if it could save you:
Even the present is dead. We must live now
in the future. Yours, Fabergé.


We had less than an inch of new snow on the ground on Friday morning, but Paul worked from home to avoid potential traffic entanglements, so we hung out with Adam listening to music, eating soup and cheese for lunch, and eventually watching Boy Erased now that it's streaming because I'd meant to see it in the theater weeks ago -- Crowe, Kidman, and Hedges are wonderful and for the most part the directing is nicely restrained, but there's a horrible rape scene about which no one warned me and I felt like in the effort to keep the parents humanized, the kid's trauma doesn't get explored deeply enough.

While Paul was on a call with the office, I went out to a Kyogre raid in the park. We had dinner with my parents, who wanted to hear about Adam's trip and gave me a late birthday present, a birthstone ring which I've wanted for a long time. We came home for Blindspot -- not sure I believe Zapata though I wish I could -- and were going to put on a movie, but we thought Adam had just gone upstairs for a few minutes to Skype his girlfriend and an hour later realized he was probably asleep, so we watched the Australian Open instead. Here are some of the Faberge eggs and luxury itemws that we saw at Hillwood last weekend:

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Frame and vase with cornflowers by Faberge.

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Grand Duke Pavel's Regimental desk clock with music box chime.

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Yusupov Egg (also a clock) and surprise with miniature of Yusupov's son.

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Belt buckle, hat pin, lipstick holder, and perfume bottle by Faberge.

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Blue Serpent Clock Egg, on loan from Prince Albert of Monaco, once a gift from Czar Nicholas II to his mother.

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The Twelve Monogram Egg, a permanent resident at Hillwood, acquired by Post in 1949 after being owned by Maria Fedorovna to commemorate her long marriage to Alexander III.

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Silver and enamel dishes and gifts by Faberge.

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An incense burner easter egg by Eugene Fontenay that may have inspired Faberge.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Poem for Friday and Hillwood Orchids

Black Oaks
By Mary Oliver

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,

or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I’m pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can’t keep me from the woods, from the tonnage

of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another — why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,

I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.


A winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Oliver died yesterday at home in Florida at the age of 83.

The DC area was under another Doom Watch all day Thursday with the initial snowfall totals growing and the predicted hour of its start getting earlier all afternoon. So I kept an eye on the sky while taking Adam and Maddy to lunch at Noodles and Company (he wanted spicy food, she wanted the opposite) and to grab essentials at MOM's. The snow was just starting when I went to the church around the corner to do a Kyogre raid, and now we have new snow over the old.

We watched The Orville, which was predictable but fun (Yul Brynner! Billy Joel!), then, since it's now streaming, we watched A Star Is Born, which I felt the same about as the first time: adore the music, love the performances, appreciate the first hour, feel increasingly manipulated by the flaws in the screenplay in the second hour so that by the climax I'm more irritated than moved. Since it is snowing again, here is some color from Hillwood's greenhouse:

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Greetings from National Airport

Quickie, just back from airport picking up Adam from his Caribbean vacation (he swam with sea turtles, biked past cacti, hiked past iguanas, crawled with hermit crabs, drank lots of Blue Curaçao and generally had a great time). I had a good day beforehand -- did a Pokemon raid with a local publisher whom I know from Star Trek (he's written for Pocket Books' line) and visited his office, discovered his graphic designer is the son of a fannish friend of several decades, had lunch with another local friend, did some chores! Flowers from Brookside's departing holiday display:


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Poem for Wednesday, Marriott and Mall

In a Hotel
By David Caplan

In a hotel, even prayer feels adulterous,
the skyline smudged in light, a distraction
just before dusk. In the lobby

a woman tells a stranger what she will do
for three hundred dollars, what
she will do for four. Some have the custom

of opening a book randomly with a question in mind.
Some have the custom of  forgetting.
At six my friend beat his father at chess,

beat his father’s friends so easily
he wondered if  they tried.
At seven he shook the governor’s hand.

Don’t call it a failure; call it knowledge:
the peculiar taste that filled his mouth
as if   he had bitten his cheek.

Whatever he risked did not matter, whatever
he could imagine was already lost.
Bored, the other boy coughed into his hands.


I have had a lovely busy day during which very little work got done! I met a friend from Pokemon Go who works at Marriott headquarters in Bethesda, which I knew from PoGo had a Model T in the building because the gym there is named for the car, and he had offered to give several of us a tour of the museum and display rooms. I had in my head that "display rooms" meant dioramas, but it's actual full-size replicas of hotel and conference rooms from Marriott-owned hotels all over the world, so that was very cool! Afterward a bunch of local PoGo  players went to the mall for lunch at Crave.

The Sears in our mall is closing in a week, so I stopped in to see whether anything was on an insane sale, but pretty much the entire store has been wiped out and there are only a few linens and rugs plus some very ugly shirts at 90% off. Then I came home to try to get some things done before going out to meet Angela and Carrie at Lebanese Taverna for dinner, a date we've had on the calendar since December because our holiday schedules were so busy. I brought Paul shawarma and we watched The Flash (meh except Tom Cavanagh) and The Gifted (go Lauren).

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Poem for Tuesday, Tidelands, Still Snowed In

Blue Jays In The Snow
By Louise Driscoll

A lovelier thing I do not know
Than blue jays flying in the snow.
Junco, with your ashen breast,
Nuthatch, with your steely crest,
Little friendly chickadees,
Crying in the cedar trees;
Crow, that never seems so black
As upon a Winter track;
Did you see them going by,
Like small bits of the blue sky,
Hidden now behind something
Dusky gray like a bird's wing?

As blue flowers delicate
Laid upon a china plate,
As an orchid suddenly
Blooming on a barren tree,
They were with me yesterday
In the snow and shadows gray,
Earnest of the lovely things
In the pack that April brings.

Now my faith is strong again
In dogwood and in cyclamen,
And I believe in iris now,
And flowers on the apple bough,
And under the great drifts of snow
I see the pale arbutus grow,
Although the wind is loud and cold
And all the trees look hard and old.

As if some bed of blossoms blue
Suddenly took wings and flew,
The blue jay chattered, as jays will,
And flew over my Winter hill,
And then the gentle chickadee
Came down to sing familiarly,
And where I'd tied a lump of fat
A black and white woodpecker sat,
And the blue glory had gone by,
And it is Winter still. But I
Can shut my eyes and see them go
Like morning glories in the snow.


Between the government shutdown and the foot of snow we got over the weekend, nearly everything in the area was closed on Monday (and once again we didn't get our recycling picked up). Paul's office was closed, so we had a quiet day here working on our computers while watching the last several episode of Tidelands, which I enjoyed more than I probably should have; it's pretty soapy and unnecessarily violent but all the major characters are women and the ostensible villain is not judged for her extensive promiscuity (nor for her scheming, really; her motivations are a lot better developed than the women in most action movies).

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We went out briefly in the late afternoon to CVS so I could do a Pokemon raid, then had Indian food for dinner because there are several Indian holidays this week. Then we watched a PBS show on the Queen Mother that was apparently made by the BBC and is narrated by Anna Chancellor, though I can't find it on the IMDb or figure out whether it's for sale anywhere because I know a few King's Speech fans who really need to see it and it wasn't on in their markets -- there's tons of George VI newsreel footage and among people interviewed is Mark Logue, Lionel's grandson, showing pages from his grandfather's scrapbooks that I had never seen before!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Poem for Monday and Snowy Sunday

The Snow Man
By Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


For better or worse, the alarmist weather forecast of the past couple of days was right this time. We had about six inches of snow on the ground when we woke up and have nearly a foot now, plus the storm warning has been extended till 5 a.m. since we could get another couple of inches overnight. So we had a very quiet Sunday when not shoveling, brushing, or walking in snow. The Saints-Eagles playoff game ended the way I wanted and the Patriots-Chargers proved that reports of Brady's demise have been premature. We watched the return of Victoria (not rooting much for Albert) and this week's Madam Secretary (same goes for the defense contractors) plus an episode of Tidelands (not even sure who I'm rooting for but I don't think it's Adrielle). This is how the day looked:


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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Poem for Sunday and Hillwood Museum

Siren Song
By Margaret Atwood

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can't remember.

Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?

I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical

with these two feathery maniacs,
I don't enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.


The DC area was under a Doom Watch, I mean a Snow Watch, that got worse over the course of Saturday. So in the morning we decided to go to Hillwood for the last day of the Festive Faberge holiday displays in the mansion as well as the Faberge exhibit in the Adirondack Building. They were both lovely, not crowded though there were more people than we expected given the Doom Watch, with Christmas trees decorated to echo Faberge items on display.

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We stopped in Giant on the way home to stock up for Doom, I caught a bunch of Totodiles for January Pokemon Community Day, then we watched the Colts-Chiefs game (which did not go the way I wanted) and the Cowboys-Rams game (which did, and that more than makes up for the Colts losing). Afterward we watched some Tidelands, which has lots of sex and nudity if you're unconvinced by Australian drug kingpin fishermen and possibly evil mermaid sirens.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Poem for Saturday and Peeps Store

Sounds of the Winter
By Walt Whitman

Sounds of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains-many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train-from nearer field, barn, house
The whispering air-even the mute crops, garner'd apples, corn,
Children's and women's tones-rhythm of many a farmer and of flail,
And old man's garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out yet,
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt.    


I woke up on Friday with my back really killing me, which makes me very unhappy because I so do not want a replay of my month of agony from last year when I couldn't sit for any period of time including in a car to drive places. Advil and heat helps but only so much. I had plans to go see Aquaman with my cat-sitter neighbor, but she was sick, so I did what chores I could with my back killing me and went to CVS to get more Advil and Ben-Gay. My unhelpful cat threw up all over the carpet, requiring a lot of kneeling and scrubbing.

We had dinner with my parents, then came home for this week's Blindspot, which I liked a lot -- I've missed Jane being Jane -- then the Madam Secretary episode that we missed on Sunday, which I liked as well, both politically (would that we had that kind of a White House) and in terms of the characters (man, I hope Téa and Tim don't break up while the show is running). Plus we watched the first episode of Tidelands, which was pretty and strange. From National Harbor, here is the very colorful Peeps and Company store:

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