Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Greetings from Home, Of Course

Of course my computer picked this week to misbehave. It's running at a crawl, opening on things I didn't click on and refusing to acknowledge things I did click on, and I can't even get Malwarebytes or a virus scan to run to tell me what's going on. Day of course was unexciting, anyway -- we saw parents briefly, went for a walk, watched two episodes of Antiques Roadshow, worried about Boris Johnson which I really am not sure he deserves. Since the National Park Service closed Great Falls today for the rest of the crisis because too many people have been going there and not following social distancing rules, have a C&O Canal frog:


Monday, April 06, 2020

Poem for Monday and Carderock Color

No Man is an Island
By John Donne

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


Quickie -- we watched World On Fire (Sean Bean and Helen Hunt are great, script's a little all over the place) in the hour when we usually watch Westworld, so now we're watching Westworld very late (and I was sure about what was going on with Charlotte but I thought something else entirely was going on with Dolores herself and I'll always be Team Maeve but she needs to be doing it for herself, not because someone else threatened/pressured/bullied/warned her) and in between we watched the end of Garth and Trisha's concert from home before Last Week Tonight started with its terrifying expose on OAN.

Earlier we had eggs benedict and skyped our kids (who are fine though restless to walk outdoors more than they get to in locked-down Seattle and San Francisco) and I talked to my sister on the phone. Plus we went for a walk along the canal near Carderock -- our original plan was Swain's Lock, but we looked at the number of cars and concluded that was a bad idea -- where again social distancing should have been easy but so many people never learned/refuse to walk single file, but we headed into the woods when necessary and saw several frogs, a couple of turtles, and lots of flowers by the canal and river:






Sunday, April 05, 2020

Poem for Sunday, Pennyfield Lock, Onward

The Elephant
By Hilaire Belloc

When people call this beast to mind,
They marvel more and more
At such a little tail behind,
So large a trunk before.


Saturday was a gorgeous day, so after some morning chores and sandwiches, we went to Pennyfield Lock to walk along the canal. There were very few people -- some runners, some bikers, a couple of other hikers, but since the towpath is wide there and there are short paths to the river, it was very easy to socially distance. We didn't see any frogs, but there were several turtles in the canal, cormorants and ducks in the river, and a big heron we saw catch a fish nearly half its own size, plus many flowers:






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I did a bunch of photo scanning when we got home, Paul made a big lasagna for dinner so we could freeze and eat it several more days, and we watched Onward on Disney+, which is a bit blokey but well-paced and fun visually. Then we watched National Geographic's Amelia Earhart documentary (good on biography, mediocre on science) and now we're watching DisneyNature's Elephants, which does a huge amount of anthropomorphizing but I don't get why certain critics were griping at Meghan over that!

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Poem for Saturday and Canal Frogs and Turtles

The Frog
By Hilaire Belloc

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As 'Slimy skin,' or 'Polly-wog,'
Or likewise 'Ugly James,'
Or 'Gap-a-grin,' or 'Toad-gone-wrong,'
Or 'Bill Bandy-knees':
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.
No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).


Friday wound up being warmer than forecast, though I wasn't outdoors much. I scanned a bunch of 2001 photos and posted the last of our 2005 England trip photos on the same dates to Facebook, plus I caught up on some correspondence. We took a walk in the afternoon after trying out the cloth masks a friend made for us; our neighborhood is starting to get tulips and there are lots of violets with a couple of bunnies munching on them. Then we had paprikash for dinner (with fake chicken of course).

Now that Andrew Lloyd Webber is putting his musicals on YouTube to stream, we watched Donnie Osmond in a quite fun and quite dated production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and now we're watching Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which either improves on subsequent viewing or just hits all the right fannish buttons for me at the moment -- I appreciate fan service right now and it's less absurd than Picard! Here are some frogs and turtles enjoying the C&O Canal a few days back:








Friday, April 03, 2020

Poem for Friday, Bluebells, One Man Two Guvnors

The Bluebell
By Anne Bronte

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
'Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood's hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others' weal
With anxious toil and strife. 

'Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!'
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.


We took walks separately on Thursday because we were waiting for a Peapod delivery order, and, when a bunch of things on our list turned out to be unavailable, a Whole Foods order (no toilet paper anywhere online though we're okay next week, but I can't get veggie burgers anywhere and am starting to get worried). Otherwise, nothing exciting happened: I talked to a couple of friends on the phone and one, in London, via Google Hangouts, I did some more photo organizing, I did two Pokemon raids by myself.

The National Theatre streamed One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden for free on their YouTube channel in the afternoon, and though we couldn't watch when it first aired because Paul had a phone conference, it's available all week so we watched in the evening. It's laugh-out-loud funny and translates well to the small screen! We also watched a Father Brown episode about a choir competition with lots of relaxing Anglican hymns and no murders. Here are some C&O Canal bluebells:








Thursday, April 02, 2020

Poem for Thursday and McCrillis Flowers

Hiding in plain sight
By Denise Riley

I try to find you, yet you are not here.
I’ve studied absence, fought to fill it in –
courage comes easier with a grasp of why.

A secret’s camouflaged when unconcealed.
I chose to not see/saw the thing too near?
Absence turns thicker, muscled by its strain.

A moon in daylight, whitest blue on blue,
surprises briefly, to appear surreal
until it slips to rights. I couldn’t spot

the obvious – obviam, in the way; plain
sight goes blind through chasing clarity.
I looked for you, so couldn’t see you gone.

I sensed your not-there in its burning life.
I listened out to feel its silence beat.
It does not speak with any human mouth.


On Wednesday I took a shower, put on clothes that were not Cuddl Duds, got some insignificant writing done, and did a couple of small craft projects. Plus Paul and I took a walk in the early evening and the weather was lovely and there are still flowers. Oh, and I filled out the census online. I realize that these are very scant accomplishments compared to people who are running companies from home while also homeschooling, shopping for their elderly neighbors, and raising money to build factories to manufacture medical equipment, but I also know people who have been in pyjamas for two days watching that tiger show you couldn't pay me to watch, though I am in no way judging, just trying to establish that I'm as close to normal as I ever am, which is not very.

We watched the two-hour episode of The Masked Singer in which to no one's surprise That Patriots Player was unmasked -- I enjoy his enthusiasm but it's criminal that Chaka Khan was sent home before he was -- then an episode of Earth's Sacred Wonders on PBS, which made me worry how the people of Mali will rebuild the Djenné Mosque. Tonight Colbert beat out Fallon because of Ryan Reynolds, but I'm feeling quite fickle these days about late night. Tomorrow will be more exciting, since our Peapod order is arriving, and I am frankly more concerned about them having enough cat food than most human food, though they're out of Cherry Coke Zero and this may become distressing to me eventually if we can't source it elsewhere. Flowers from McCrillis Gardens last weekend:








Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Poem for Wednesday and 1999 Birthday Party

The Mad Potter
By John Hollander

Now at the turn of the year this coil of clay
Bites its own tail: a New Year starts to choke
On the old one's ragged end.  I bite my tongue
As the end of me—of my rope of stuff and nonsense
(The nonsense held, it was the stuff that broke),
Of bones and light, of levity and crime,
Of reddish clay and hope—still bides its time.

Each of my pots is quite unusable,
Even for contemplating as an object
Of gross unuse.  In its own mode of being
Useless, though, each of them remains unique,
Subject to nothing, and themselves unseeing,
Stronger by virtue of what makes them weak.

I pound at all my clay.  I pound the air.
This senseless lump, slapped into something like
Something, sits bound around by my despair.
For even as the great Creator's free
Hand shapes the forms of life, so—what?  This pot,
Unhollowed solid, too full of itself,
Runneth over with incapacity.
I put it with the others on the shelf.

These tiny cups will each provide one sip
Of what's inside them, aphoristic prose
Unwilling, like full arguments, to make
Its points, then join them in extended lines
Like long draughts from the bowl of a deep lake.
The honey of knowledge, like my milky slip,
Firms slowly up against what merely flows.

Some of my older pieces bore inscriptions
That told a story only when you'd learned
How not to read them: LIVE reverted to EVIL,
EROS kept running backwards into SORE.
Their words, all fired up for truth, got burned.
I'll not write on weak vessels any more.

My juvenalia?  I gave them names
In those days: Hans was all handles and no spout;
Bernie believed the whole world turned about
Himself alone; Sadie was close to James
(But Herman touched her bottom when he could);
Paul fell to pieces; Peter wore away
To nothing; Len was never any good;
Alf was a flat, random pancake, May
An opened blossom; Bud was an ash-tray.
Even their names break off, though; Whatsisface,
That death-mask of Desire, and—you know!—
The smaller version of that (Oh, what was it?—
You know . . .)  All of my pots now have to go
By number only.  Which is no disgrace.

Begin with being—in an anagram
Of unending—conclude in some dark den;
This is no matter.  What I've been, I am:
What I will be is what I make of all
This clay, this moment. Now begin again . . .
Poured out of emptiness, drop by slow drop,
I start up at the quarreling sounds of water.
Pots cry out silently at me to stop.

What are we like? A barrelfull of this
Oozy wet substance, shadow-crammed, whose smudges
Of darkness lurk within but rise to kiss
The fingers that disturb the gently edges
Of their bland world of shapelessness and bliss.

The half-formed cup cries out in agony,
The lump of clay suffers a silent pain.
I heard the cup, though, full of feeling, say
"O clay be true, O clay keep constant to
Your need to take, again and once again,
This pounding from your mad creator who
Only stops hurting when he's hurting you."

What will I then have left behind me?  Over
The years I have originated some
Glazes that wear away at what they cover
And weep for what they never can become.
My Deadware, widely imitated; blue
Skyware of an amazing lightness; tired
Hopewear that I abandoned for my own
Good reasons; Hereware; Thereware; ware that grew
Weary of everything that earth desired;
Hellware that dances while it's being fired,
Noware that vanishes while being thrown.

Appearing to be silly, wisdom survives
Like tribes of superseded gods who go
Hiding in caves of triviality
From which they laughingly control our lives.
So with my useless pots: safe from the blow
Of carelessness, or outrage at their flaws,
They brave time's lion and his smashing paws.
—All of which tempts intelligence to call
Pure uselessness one more commodity.
The Good-for-Nothing once became our Hero,
But images of him, laid-back, carelessly
Laughing, were upright statues after all.
From straight above, each cup adds up to zero.

Clay to clay: Soon I shall indeed become
Dumb as these solid cups of hardened mud
(Dull terra cruda colored like our blood);
Meanwhile the slap and thump of palm and thumb
On wet mis-shapenness begins to hum
With meaning that was silent for so long.
The words of my wheel's turning come to ring
Truer than Truth itself does, my great
Ding Dong-an-sich that echoes everything
(Against it even lovely bells ring wrong):
Its whole voice gathers up the purest parts
Of all our speech, the vowels of the earth,
The aspirations of our hopeful hearts
Or the prophetic sibilance of song.


I'm just going to blog my boring life so the days don't completely blur together and someday I can say "oh that was the day the Target package arrived with the potato chip bag exploded inside it" and smile. In fact, it was the day the Target package arrived with the potato chip bag exploded inside it, plus I got some little craft goddesses to decorate, and when I wasn't organizing some beads and charms, I was working on the Old Photo Project, so here for instance is Daniel's sixth birthday party at one of those pottery painting places (I'm thinking Color Me Mine, but that may be the newer one):









It didn't actually rain till evening, but it drizzled in the late afternoon so I didn't walk as much as I should have for exercise, though I literally passed two people while circling the entire neighborhood. There are redbuds coming into bloom and the cooler weather means the daffodils are hanging on. We had spaghetti with veggie meat sauce for dinner and caught up on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist (mostly a good episode but UGH SHUT UP NEW GREG) and The Plot Against America (genuinely creepy and disturbing) before the season finale of Miracle Workers (crack) and Dan Radcliffe on Colbert.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Poem for Tuesday and Pre-Lockdown Canal

The Solitary Reaper
By William Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.


Monday morning while I was posting photos from 15 years ago having a glorious afternoon in Durham, my governor finally issued stay-at-home orders to stop surging coronavirus cases. We're not entirely clear what this will mean in terms of local parks and neighborhoods -- no one wants a repeat of the mob scene at the DC cherry blossoms last week, except all the idiots who went down to the cherry blossoms and might try to do the same at various pretty parks -- but since county parks are blocking off paths that lead to play equipment and even our neighborhood has put police tape around the tot lots, we figured we had better go walk along the C&O Canal while it remained open, so although exercise at a safe distance is considered a legitimate reason to be outside and we've been very careful where and while we're hiking, here are what may be the last spring photos I can take outside my own neighborhood:







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As you can see, it was a gorgeous afternoon, nearly 70 degrees but breezy, and we saw several frogs, turtles, squirrels, ducks, and flowers including daffodils, redbuds, violets, and thousands of bluebells. We also saw a big tree that had fallen across the towpath that wasn't there three days ago, which someone had cut so bikes could get past it, but we saw few bikes and even fewer runners, though there were a couple of families with kids in strollers (and a couple of assholes who apparently believe social distancing means it's okay to let their dogs off leash). We had leftover stew (from a mix son had given us) for dinner, then we watched two episodes of Antiques Roadshow and James Corden's Late Late Show homefest concert. Now we're watching Colbert and for the first time ever I actually miss Jimmy Fallon -- will have to catch up on his house and his kids tomorrow. I'm trying to stay positive or at least distracted.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Poem for Monday and McCrillis Flowers

Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album
By Philip Larkin

At last you yielded up the album, which
Once open, sent me distracted. All your ages
Matt and glossy on the thick black pages!
Too much confectionery, too rich:
I choke on such nutritious images.

My swivel eye hungers from pose to pose —
In pigtails, clutching a reluctant cat;
Or furred yourself, a sweet girl-graduate;
Or lifting a heavy-headed rose
Beneath a trellis, or in a trilby-hat

(Faintly disturbing, that, in several ways) —
From every side you strike at my control,
Not least through those these disquieting chaps who loll
At ease about your earlier days:
Not quite your class, I’d say, dear, on the whole.

But o, photography! as no art is,
Faithful and disappointing! that records
Dull days as dull, and hold-it smiles as frauds,
And will not censor blemishes
Like washing-lines, and Hall’s-Distemper boards,

But shows a car as disinclined, and shades
A chin as doubled when it is, what grace
Your candour thus confers upon her face!
How overwhelmingly persuades
That this is a real girl in a real place,

In every sense empirically true!
Or is it just the past? Those flowers, that gate,
These misty parks and motors, lacerate
Simply by being you; you
Contract my heart by looking out of date.

Yes, true; but in the end, surely, we cry
Not only at exclusion, but because
It leaves us free to cry. We know what was
Won’t call on us to justify
Our grief, however hard we yowl across

The gap from eye to page. So I am left
To mourn (without a chance of consequence)
You, balanced on a bike against a fence;
To wonder if you’d spot the theft
Of this one of you bathing; to condense,

In short, a past that no one now can share,
No matter whose your future; calm and dry,
It holds you like a heaven, and you lie
Unvariably lovely there,
Smaller and clearer as the years go by.


Sunday started with rain but turned into a lovely, not-too-warm afternoon, so after a morning of chores and a bit of working on photos, we went to McCrillis Gardens, which is small and local and we figured would not have many people around, which made social distancing very easy. There were lots of wet hellebores, daffodils, and bluebells, plus the first emerging azaleas, which is what the garden is famous for, and some fading magnolias and camellias. We also ran (at a distance) into a friend of my mother's in the park.


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2020-03-29 14.44.30


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We Skyped with our kids and parents together, which our modems managed pretty well despite a couple of glitches, then had Indian leftovers for dinner and watched Westworld, which had some awesome twists (love Tessa) and a couple of big WTFs that will hopefully be resolved before the season finale (though either way Picard could have learned a couple of things -- post on that still to come). Then we watched Last Week Tonight and the beginning of a NatGeo special about Robert Ballard searching for Amelia Earhart.