By Donald Hall
When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I've cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
of the trivial: a white stone perfectly round,
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell,
a broken great-grandmother's rocker,
a dead dog's toy—valueless, unforgettable
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother's souvenirs of trips
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens,
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate.
Another from this week's New Yorker. (Hall was married for over 20 years to the poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995, and his past several books have been about coming to terms with that loss.)
We thought about going to the zoo on Wednesday to see the pandas -- something we will not be able to do for much longer, since Tai Shan is going to China early next year and his parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, may follow soon after, since their lease is ending -- but it was very cold and I had to get up very early to have a fasting blood test, so we ended up deciding instead to go have my belated birthday lunch. The Indian buffet at Minerva is the best thing ever, and even though I ate lots of things I am sure would get me in trouble with my doctor if she knew -- good thing I had the blood tests before the food -- but it was worth it for the chicken korma and fish curry and tikka masala and til ke aloo and gajar halva (one of the few forms in which I really like carrots). Mmmmm! We also stopped at Home Depot to by snow shovels, which the weather forecasters have been warning us all day that we may need in the next 48 hours, and at Borders, where I used a holiday gift card to get a book on the art of Avatar.
I had long conversations about Avatar with several Facebook friends, including a couple of academics, who really loved the movie, which was nice because I'm still on a movie high. I can tell when a film or TV episode has really impressed me because it distracts me from exercising -- I HATE exercising, whether it's the treadmill or swimming or dance or what have you, there has never been music or TV or anything that can make me forget how much I hate it for more than a couple of minutes unless my form of exercise for the day is something like hiking up Glastonbury Tor, but when my brain is fully engaged thinking about something, that alone can make me forget my loathing of exercise, and for the past two days, I've had Avatar bliss. If it's not your thing, I can certainly respect that -- I hated the very popular Iron Man, it was one of the most offensive films I've ever seen -- but if you're not seeing Avatar only because you think you're not supposed to like it, please do yourself a favor and see the film.
A glimpse inside George Washington's ice house at Mount Vernon, built into the hillside behind the mansion sloping down to the river.
Normally the door is locked to visitors, but since the location played a role in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, it is opened for the behind-the-scenes tours.
Though this door looks similar, it's actually George Washington's original tomb, along with more than 20 other family members...
...until they were all moved into the newer tomb built in the 1830s as specified in Washington's will. He and Martha Washington's remains are in the visible sarcophagi, while the rest of the family is behind the black grate at the rear.
No visit to Mount Vernon is complete without visiting the farm animals, including the Ossabaw Island hogs...
...and the Hog Island sheep, both rare breeds dating to the 17th and 18th century.
This bluejay decided to listen in on our tour when we walked down by the river.
Chocolate-making demonstrations, which we used to see only in the summers at the 18th Century fair, are now year-round -- with free samples, and more for sale in the gift shop!
In the evening we watched the last scheduled episode of Eastwick, since ABC skipped the episode that would have shown us Jamie's fate and how all three women survived what appeared to be certain death a couple of weeks ago -- I can't figure out if they thought they were doing a nice thing and ending the run with an episode that has a sort of resolution, or whether they were doing a nasty thing and trying to make us by the DVD set. "Magic Snow and Creepy Gene" is one of my favorite episodes despite the giant plot holes left by the preemption of the previous episode; I loved the glimpse of Eastwick's maritime museum, I'm finally really liking Joanna, I'm highly amused they had Rebecca Romjin's husband join the show during the episode where she finally got some serious lip-locking time with Paul Gross. And I love love love that her character dumps his for her girlfriends: "You're my muse, but so are they." It's a lovely note as an end to the sadly abbreviated series. As Joanna said, "I'm so happy I have to pee." Oh, and congratulations to Patrick Stewart on his imminent knighthood.