Friday, July 31, 2009

Poem for Friday

In Summer
By Paul Laurence Dunbar

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air's soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer's boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another's ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o'erfull heart, without aim or art;
'T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.


Adam got me up early so our Superpoke penguins could acquire their own magical forests, pirate hideouts and toy stores -- have I mentioned that I often want to be a Superpoke penguin? -- which was just as well because we all had dermatologist appointments after lunch. We have enough skin cancer in the family that I'm supposed to get checked every year, and the pediatrician said that the kids should probably have a check-up just so there would be a record of any odd-looking moles by someone who routinely tracks them. I had thought the birthmark on one son's leg would be the most suspicious, but the doctor wasn't at all concerned about that; he did take a photo of the birthmark on other son's chest, which isn't a uniform color, and said it should probably be checked yearly. So I guess I will have company for this trip from now on.

It was overcast a bit in the morning, but bright and sunny when we got home, so I sent the kids off to the pool and caught up on some stuff. We had talked about watching A Mighty Wind with the kids now that they've seen This Is Spinal Tap (which is Jon Stewart's fault -- he had Spinal Tap on the other day, the kids howled, we had to show them "Stonehenge" and the "Smell the Glove" discussion), but they asked for "Diefenbaker" which is what they call Due South, so we watched "The Wild Bunch" and "The Blue Line" -- had some scary moments during the former because younger son does not like animals in jeopardy, but it all ended well. And Paul discovered that it was Chili Dog Day from the Washington Nationals, so we had those for dinner, and he found an old concert by Peter, Paul & Mary that he put on after the kids went to bed, so it was a good evening.

Blue Ribbon Alpacas at the Montgomery County Farm Festival last weekend.

They were very friendly, though a bit nervous about all the visitors -- they made those adorable little alpaca braying noises.

Whereas this sheep was not nearly so discreet about expressing its displeasure at being washed and shorn -- everyone could hear it baaaaaing all over the farm!

In addition to the alpacas, the Blue Ribbon Alpaca farm has sheep...

...and horses, though we didn't get to pet them.

Here is another look at Star Gazing Farm's chickens...

...and the neighbor's cat, who visited the farm and meowed at all the cars driving into the lot.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poem for Thursday

Mu Ch'i's Persimmons
By Gary Snyder

    There is no remedy for satisfying hunger other than a painted rice cake.
                                                — Dogen, November, 1242.

On a back wall down the hall

lit by a side glass door

is the scroll of Mu Ch'i's great
sumi painting, "Persimmons"

The wind-weights hanging from the
axles hold it still.

The best in the world, I say,
of persimmons.

Perfect statement of emptiness
no other than form

the twig and the stalk still on,
the way they sell them in the
market even now.

The original's in Kyoto at a
lovely Rinzai temple where they
show it once a year

this one's a perfect copy from Benrido
I chose the mounting elements myself
with the advice of the mounter

I hang it every fall.

And now, to these overripe persimmons
from Mike and Barbara's orchard.
Napkin in hand,
I bend over the sink
suck the sweet orange goop
that's how I like it
gripping a little twig

those painted persimmons

sure cure hunger


We had very little rain but quite a bit of thunder on Wednesday, meaning that when the kids tried to go to the pool, it was closed...and the pool's lawyers have ordered the lifeguards not to let kids play ping-pong under the tent and wait it out for liability reasons, so they can't stay there during brief storms. Sigh. Since I had them at home in the early afternoon, we went over to my parents' house and watched Armageddon, which I had loaned my father, since he had never seen it. That movie never gets old.

Daniel has an A in online health class right now, meaning I may have to sit on him for the next couple of days to make sure he tracks down whatever gets uploaded rather than slacking off and playing computer games. Adam has been doing his summer Chinese homework, but each of them has a math packet and I believe they're both supposed to write up book reports, too. I hate to be reminding them about homework in the summer, but it'll be August before the week ends...eek!

Dee Dee, the miniature Sicilian donkey at Star Gazing Farm...

...and one of the horses who lives there, retired from giving rides to children, who visited with them last weekend at the Montgomery County Farm Tour.

I believe this sheep is the one named Gruff...

...whose wool was being spun by these demonstrators.

In any event, the sheep was not bothered by ducks and chickens wandering through...

...which is fortunate, because there are many living on this farm.

Those laying eggs are kept in places where the pig and goat, who would eat them, can't get at them.

The goat, Mr. Newman, is unafraid of anyone, will wander through any gate left open for him, and will try to snatch anything edible he can find.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Poem for Wednesday

Money Talks
By Rae Armantrout


Money is talking
to itself again

in this season’s
and safari look,

its closeout camouflage.

Hit the refresh button
and this is what you get,

money pretending
that its hands are tied.


On a billboard by the 880,

money admonishes,
"Shut up and play."


Another from this week's New Yorker.

The kids and I went to Wheaton at lunchtime to meet Hufflepants at the mall, which I only make it to about once a year, which is silly because it's probably about as close as Lakeforest and there's covered parking. We grabbed food in the food court and wandered around a bit. Then I took a wrong turn out of the mall parking lot, which put me on University Boulevard going east instead of west, and since I was already nearly there, I decided to stop and visit my former favorite comic book store from high school, where I bought Star Trek fotonovels in the days before eBay made those easily accessible at less-than-convention prices. Apparently it is closed on Tuesdays, woe! But it's next door to my favorite local Jewish bookstore, so we went there and I bought a couple of very pretty hamsa charms, plus an Israeli dreidel (the last letter is different from dreidels made everywhere else).

In the late afternoon the kids went to the pool and I folded laundry while watching Burn After Reading, which was whacked even for the Coens. The acting is terrific -- Brad Pitt really should do more comedy, and John Malkovich plays scary-angry yet impotent brilliantly -- but I'm not sure what the point of it all is, except that the people working in the CIA are probably as stupid as the people working in your local gym and there's no such thing as a faithful lover except someone you'd dismiss immediately as a loser. The pacing is great and the editing is good but I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone who doesn't love the Coen brothers or one of the actors in the film. Why is it that so many critics found this original and clever, rather than typical black comedy with quite a bit of misogyny mitigated only by the fact that the men behave as badly as the women? And in the evening we watched Warehouse 13, which continues to be watchable but unremarkable.

This is my kids' favorite restaurant in downtown Hanover. See if you can guess why. (They've never eaten there.)

It was a hot day for the Dutch Festival last Saturday, but the trees and tent shades made it tolerable outdoors.

Wood crafts are very popular in the area...

...and there are lots of seasonal and holiday decorations.

I love the easy mix of country crafts and Halloween/pagan symbols.

There were at least three tents devoted to designer doggie biscuits, which surprised us in this economy. There were also plenty of doggie shawls and decorated collars.

These bags and packs are all made from recycled clothing bought at a women's shelter.

And these boxes and furnishings were made over near Lancaster.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Poem for Tuesday

By C.K. Williams

Face powder, gunpowder, talcum of anthrax,
shavings of steel, crematoria ash, chips
of crumbling poetry paper—all these in my lockbox,
and dust, tanks, tempests, temples of dust.

Saw-, silk-, chalk-dust and chaff,
the dust the drool of a bull swinging its head
as it dreams its death
slobs out on; dust even from the scoured,

scraped littoral of the Aegean,
troops streaming screaming across it
at those who that day, that age or forever
would be foe, worthy of being dust for.

Last, hovering dust of the harvest, brief
as the half-instant hitch in the flight
of the hawk, as the poplets of light
through the leaves of the bronzing maples.

Animal dust, mineral, mental, all hoarded
not in the jar of sexy Pandora, not
in the ark where the dust of the holy aspiring
to congeal as glorious mud-thing still writhes—

just this leathery, crackled, obsolete box,
heart-sized or brain, rusted lock shattered,
hinge howling with glee to be lifted again . . .
Face powder, gunpowder, dust, darling dust.


From this week's New Yorker.

The only real excitement of my Monday was taking Adam to the orthodontist to get his bracket fixed after it came loose from eating a blackberry seed over the weekend. The orthodontist is in a local mall, and I had a Bath & Body Works coupon, and that awesome-smelling Sweet Fig & Argan lotion from the Morocco line was half-price, which is 1) great because it meant I could buy some and 2) terrible because it means it's going to disappear already. I got the kids bubble tea, took them home for lunch, then sent them to the pool, where they waited out a thunderstorm playing ping pong under the tent enclosure. And I did laundry and thrilling stuff like that.

We just finished watching the 1998 film of Les Miserables with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush, which I hadn't seen because it didn't get very good reviews when it opened and no one ever said "Hey, you've got to see this," but Paul figured the kids might be interested since they like the cast (also Uma Thurman and Claire Danes) and we just subjected them to the musical. I really enjoyed it a lot -- obviously it's very abridged, and there was quite a bit missing that I'd rather have seen included (Eponine, for instance) with some other scenes trimmed down, but Neeson and Rush were both terrific, Thurman was very good -- Fantine is really a thankless role, she has to be weak and fragile and at the same time tough and determined, and then she's dead -- and I liked Claire Danes better than I often do.

Here are photos of the bunnies and groundhog that live in the field behind my in-laws' house, along with field mice, stray cats, and lots of birds. I do not believe the groundhog is Maximus, whom I photographed regularly in 2004 -- this one is darker and a bit wider. The solo bunny sat outside in the shade under a tree all day, but the three bunnies appeared later and chased each other and jumped over each other with the groundhog nosing in the background, until one of the cats showed up and everyone flattened against the ground nervously. (The cat left them all alone, being busy prowling after something on the hillside.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Poem for Monday

Blue Pitcher, Empty and Full
By Kevin Prufer

You will use it for the flowers the others bring because he is dead.

Or you will use it for dark blue light, the arc of it when, the next evening, the sun cries over the house and sends all the windows to the floor.

A trill of orchids wilts over the rim. You will use them for perspective. The petals fall when you're asleep like petals in a dreams, dying to stop.

You will use them for silence, when the room is a rumble of passing trains and his picture rattles over the end tables.

"You'll use it for flowers," I said the other day, placing the blue pitcher on the windowsill, turning it so it balanced there. The windows were cold to the touch because it was almost winter and the wind blew from the lake.

When the relatives left, the house was a hush. The tracks bent into the woods along the lake, the pitcher looking out the window like a great blue eye.

I know you are reading this in the fragility of evening, when the rain comes in from the lake and simmers over the house.

I know you are reading in the half-light, your fingers covered with flour, the oven on and a silence from the kitchen where the bread is baking.

The house juts over the lake on spindles. The pitcher paints a blue arc on the floor. There is no one upstairs.


We had a day of changed plans, though it still managed to be a fairly relaxed Sunday, though now I have a weather-related headache and am hoping this does not mean the thunderstorms are coming back. The original plan was for Dementordelta to come over and we were all going to see Harry Potter in the afternoon after the Montgomery County Farm Tour & Harvest Sale, but her car decided to misbehave on the way here, woe! So we put off the movie and went to the Blue Ribbon Alpaca Breeding Company and Star Gazing Farm, where we saw many alpacas, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, horses, dogs, donkeys and more, as well as spinning and weaving demonstrations:

Alpacas roam inside and out at the Blue Ribbon Alpaca Breeding Company.

They are guarded by this dog, who appeared to be having a bit of a lie-in...

...and their wool, plus products made from their wool from yarn to finished sweaters, can be purchased on the farm.

There are also sheep on the farm. This one was being washed and shorn while we were there and could be heard complaining very loudly.

Star Gazing Farm rescues animals destined for slaughter after careers as entertainers or because of unfortunate farming practices. Adam got to hold one of the chickens.

The donkey is either itchy or very silly. Maybe it thinks it's a cat.

Most of the sheep and goats were hiding from the sun, though one goat, Mr. Newman, followed around all the groups of visitors.

As is typical around farms, there were cats. This one was meowing in complaint as we pulled into the parking area, but then Adam bonded with him.

Our plan for the evening was to go see the Capitol Steps at Mason District Park, but there were two thunderstorm warnings for different parts of the area, and since half the neighborhood lost power in last night's storms, we decided not to go. So of course it didn't rain -- at least, not here (it may have rained in northern Virginia). We watched Merlin -- I love all the Morgana-centric episodes, especially the ones where she's arguing with Uther -- and then two episodes of Due South, again at older son's request -- neither anywhere near as good as "Gift of the Wheelman" but I was entertained to see Susan Gibney, who was almost Captain Janeway, as Ray's as-if love interest. I still need the perfect Fraser icon!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Poem for Sunday

By Kevin Prufer

The pepper on the cutting board and the seeds inside it:
a tiny congregation in a doomed church.

Or the sliced cantaloupe and its stringy heart --
sweet and slick, the closest thing to rot.

I was thinking of you when, distracted, I cut my hand
so blood pearled, then, seed-like, dripped into the sink.

I was thinking of the thick blue vein
where the IV goes.

(Or the mourner who planted his wife beneath his window.
She didn't sprout. She didn't sprout.

Then, one day, an onion shoot,
which he devoured.)

Darling, do not die tonight. The doctors are good,
the hospital quiet as a pill beneath chaff-like stars.

Darling, I brought you flowers and sat by your bed
until the white moon rolled behind the towers.

These days, the faucets won't stop dripping,
and I stand in the kitchen dreaming of nurses

who roam the white halls like quiet animals --
and you, in your bed, unable to call them.


"We'd driven from our rural town to Kansas City because my fiancée had been feeling out of breath recently, had had an irregular stress test, and her general practitioner wanted her to have a couple further tests at a larger hospital," writes Prufer in Poet's Choice. "In the end, she spent many days in the ICU, her heart stopped twice, and it was almost a year before she felt truly healthy again. I wrote the first draft of this poem during one of my evenings alone at home...I built the poem around that sensation -- the unfamiliar silences of an empty house, the miles between us, the sound of the faucet in the next room." The poem will appear in Prufer's upcoming Little Paper Sacrifice.

We spent the day in Pennsylvania with Paul's parents, mostly watching the bunnies and groundhog in the backyard and visiting the Hanover Dutch Festival, which has hundreds of craft and food vendors, live German music, and a classic car show outside my in-laws' church. Most of us had crab cakes and fish & chips for lunch, and we walked around the various display tents, many of which had Pennsylvania Dutch crafts, plus lots of jewelry, stuffed animals, yard decorations, and stationery. I bought a handbag made from a pair of old jeans recycled from the Westminster Women's Rescue Mission -- it has bees on the lining and yellow flower beads hanging all around and is adorable.

Amish visitors to the Hanover Dutch Festival.

Many of the crafts were Pennsylvania Dutch designs.

There was also plenty of food, including bratwurst, funnel cakes, and seafood from Maryland...

...and plenty of fall and harvest items, including these Halloween decorations.

Plus there were terrific baked goods -- my in-laws got both apple and raspberry bread, mmmmm!

The festival was right downtown among the chamber of commerce, banks, churches and shops.

This is one of a few dozen classic and antique cars on display.

And Tinkerbell came to promote a local production of Peter Pan.

It was quite hot by the middle of the afternoon, so we went back to my in-laws' house, watched some baseball, and eventually had barbecue. They are going to visit the west coast relatives in a couple of weeks and we hadn't seen them since we got back from New Orleans, so we talked travel and ate blackberry pie (Adam apparently knocked a bracket loose trying to get a seed loose, grr). Then we drove home and, at the kids' request, watched a couple of episodes of Due South, including the utterly awesome "Gift of the Wheelman" -- I usually hate Christmas episodes of anything so it ought to tell you how good this one is that I loved it so much. I have to warn all you Ray K fans that I expect to be very, very, very sad when Ray V is no longer at Fraser's side. And I must get the soundtrack!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Poem for Saturday

Master of Disguises
By Charles Simic

Surely he walks among us unrecognized:
Some barber, store clerk, delivery man,
Pharmacist, hairdresser, bodybuilder,
Exotic dancer, gem cutter, dog walker,
The blind beggar singing, Oh Lord, remember me,

Some window decorator starting a fake fire
In a fake fireplace while mother and father watch
From the couch with their frozen smiles
As the street empties and the time comes
For the undertaker and the last waiter to head home.

O homeless old man, standing in a doorway
With your face half hidden,
I wouldn't even rule out the black cat crossing the street,
The bare light bulb swinging on a wire
In a subway tunnel as the train comes to a stop.


I had a domestic Friday that involved packing up and rearranging a bunch of stuff in my bedroom -- for the first time since I got them, my Star Trek Mego action figures are in a box, but I no longer have a stack of books and Tarot decks on the floor -- plus catching up on a bunch of correspondence, including a note from a good friend from high school whom I lost touch with about 15 years ago and who is now on Facebook. I didn't finish my Next Gen review because TrekToday was down for quite a while -- that will be posted tomorrow, hopefully. We had dinner with my parents and contemplated changing our beach plans to coincide with theirs.

An award-winning chicken at the Baltimore County 4-H Fair last weekend.

The event was held at the Maryland State Fairground in Timonium.

The last time we were in this building, there were train displays where the cows are.

The goats were not much in the mood for posing for photos, preferring to eat...

...and the alpacas were a bit nervous about having strangers around.

The freshly shorn sheep, however, were resigned to their fate, perhaps because they could hear the woeful bleating of the sheep being shorn just outside.

I'm not sure whether this big fuzzy one ever faced the shears.

And in addition to the barnyard animals, there were rabbits and cats, too.

The Friday Five: Writing Five
1. Do you like your handwriting?
Not particularly -- I'm very careless about it.
2. Do you prefer to print or write in cursive? Print, though there tends to be a bit of cursive when I do.
3. Do you think handwriting should be graded in school? In this era of word processors? Absolutely not.
4. Do you prefer writing in pencil or pen? Pencil for Sudoku or crosswords, pen for everything else.
5. When you write in ink, do you prefer a neutral color such as black or blue, or a fun color like purple or green? Bright colors if I'm writing creatively; neutral colors if I'm trying to stay focused on something.

Fannish 5: Name the five best uses of flashback/non-linear storytelling.
1. Ulysses
, the novel by James Joyce.
2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the play by Tom Stoppard.
3. Merrily We Roll Along, the musical by Stephen Sondheim.
4. Pushing Daisies, the television series by Bryan Fuller.
5. Memento and The Prestige, movies by Christopher Nolan.

Saturday we are going with my in-laws in Pennsylvania to the Hanover Dutch Festival -- crafts and food, yay!