Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poem for Thursday, Antietam, National Treasure 2

The Duties of the Wind Are Few
By Emily Dickinson

The Duties of the Wind are few —
To cast the Ships at sea,
Establish March,
The Floods escort,
And usher Liberty.


It wasn't as warm on Wednesday as it was on Tuesday, thankfully. We had kind of a slow morning -- Daniel was still recovering from his overnight at the University of Maryland, I'm not sure what Adam's and my excuses are -- then my father took the kids to Hamburger Hamlet and I ate a bagel with melted cheese and had to wipe a cat's tail after she jumped on the table and got cheese on it. (At least it wasn't a cereal bowl with milk this time.)

In the late afternoon I took Adam to tennis, which is a very small class this time, semi-private lessons. It's great for him and great for me because the temperatures in Cabin John Park by the creek under the trees are much lower than on the sunny neighborhood paths. I walked up to Shirley Povich Field, where the Big Train was working out before a big game tonight. Young baseball players look good stretching. *whistles*

A friend of mine sent Daniel Helen Mirren's University of Maryland coffee mug from National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets that the friend had won in a prop auction, so we decided to watch that tonight in her honor. Imagine my delight not only to see several places at the University of Maryland that we saw in person just the other day, but to realize that Buckingham Palace in that movie is clearly played by the same building as Buckingham Palace in The King's Speech -- both the hallway where Ben and Abigail sneak with the flowers and the Queen's private study, which is the same room where Bertie was rehearsing with Lionel.

Musicians at Antietam wait outside the Dunker Church to perform for visitors.

Here I am with my family and my father-in-law at the monuments near the visitor center.

Visitors can drive through the park or take a ride in a horse and cart.

The site of Joseph Poffenberger's farm.

The state of Maryland's monument at Antietam, ringed with plaques honoring different brigades.

A grasshopper in the cornfield.

Sheep on one of the farms reconstructed at the battlefield.

The dorm is one of the closest to the department of agriculture, which has a Silent guns.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poem for Wednesday and South Mountain Creamery

Get Used To It
By Margaret Young

Wake up, even Monday the cup's still full,
lettuce rosette-ing up between sandstone scraps
by back steps where ladybugs swarm in
to die or lay eggs, some say, death-march
or birth-march looking about the same.
The rust of barn-sides: different chemical effect
than rust of oak-copse, burning with late fervor
beyond reaped cornfields.


I spent the morning doing laundry and other chores while Adam went with my father to play tennis. Then, after lunch, Adam and I went to pick up Daniel from college orientation -- the Beltway was kind to us but I got utterly lost trying to find the parking lot once we were on campus (you'd think something as large as the Comcast Center would be difficult to hide behind a farm). Daniel was in a good mood although he had blisters from walking several miles all over the area in sandals; he's been wearing those instead of sneakers because they're easier to get on and off with his arm in a splint, and we didn't think about the fact that he'd need sneakers and socks to cover both the very large campus and off-campus shopping on Route 1. He is currently signed up for six classes, which I hope is not too many!

My dermatologist called to tell me that the mole he almost didn't bother to remove last week was mildly abnormal; the last one was moderately abnormal, so this is actually an improvement, but considering that it was on my back in an area usually covered by a bra strap or bathing suit and can't possibly have been exposed to the sun much in my adult life, I am disturbed that it was up to anything at all. I have a bit of a headache from the 92-degree heat in which we had to hike around campus carrying Daniel's luggage and from the thunderstorm that rolled through at dinnertime, though Jon Stewart punishing himself for mocking everyone in politics so Fox News knows how fair he is has made me feel better. Here are some of the animals that were adorable at South Mountain Creamery last weekend:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poem for Tuesday and University of Maryland Orientation

First Gestures
By Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye,
we're leaving," and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.

Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map--
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.

Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light--
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She's too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.


I spent most of Monday at the University of Maryland's summer orientation program for incoming freshmen, which includes two days of activities for students and one for parents. While Daniel -- who bumped into friends from high school almost as soon as we got there -- went off with the engineers for scheduling, campus tours, sports, movies, and an overnight in one of the dorms, Paul and I went to sessions on finance, health and safety, counseling, dining service, and other less-fun but still interesting subjects. We met several families from New Jersey which I thought was interesting -- I hadn't realized that UMD was such a draw from that state -- and had lunch with parents from Waldorf who are both engineers, though their daughter wants to study something in the humanities. We got to eat in the South Campus dining hall, and I ate way too much, having forgotten the evils of the college buffet -- salad bar, pizza, multiple desserts, and those are just the vegetarian things (there were also burgers, sandwiches, etc.).

We did a bit of walking around the central area of campus and visited the bookstore in the student union, which was where the main program was held in the ballroom. The program was very well organized, with student volunteers everywhere and speakers from various academic areas, student life, campus tech, etc. It was quite hot in the morning when we decided to walk from the parking lot near the Comcast Center to registration in Cole Field House, but it was overcast and quite lovely in the afternoon when we saw Testudo in front of the library and passed the sheep in the agricultural school's farm on the way back to the parking lot. Adam spent the day with my parents playing tennis and Scrabble and eating out for both lunch and dinner so he had a good day; Daniel replied to my last text asking how the night had been with "Still doing stuff" which I assume means okay. We get to retrieve him tomorrow afternoon and hear about things he has decided he must have for college.

Maryland mascot Testudo in front of McKeldin Library...

...and his twin in the Stamp Student Union. (Students rub their noses for good luck, as you can tell.)

A view of the longest university mall (by six inches) in the United States.

Famous Terp alumnus Jim Henson is commemorated by a bench that portrays him in dialogue with his beloved Muppet.

One of the "Fear the Turtle" statues has been made up as Kermit, too.

This one, nearby in the student union, has musical notes and rainbows and butterflies.

This is the dorm that houses the College Park Scholars program, where orientation students spend the night.

The dorm is one of the closest to the department of agriculture, which has a small farm on campus with cows and sheep.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Poem for Monday and Riverbend Park

Are You Jealous
By Jalaluddin Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Are you jealous of the ocean's generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this gift to anyone?

Fish don't hold the sacred liquid in cups.
They swim the huge fluid freedom.


We had beautiful weather in the area on Sunday, so after a slow morning in which we tried to get organized for Daniel's college orientation on Monday (there's also an all-day parent session before the students stay overnight in the dorms), we went with my parents to Riverbend Park -- our original destination was Great Falls, Virginia, but the line of cars to get into the parking lot was so long that we went further up the road to the wide Potomac River bank far above the falls. Though there were a lot of cars in the lots there, too, the trails weren't crowded at all, and there was a gorgeous breeze in the woods. The coots were hiding on the rocks in the river, as were a couple of great blue herons, but there were plenty of insects and some summer wildflowers.

We had dinner with my parents, who ordered pizza, then we came home and watched Animal House on the theory that Daniel really should see it before his college orientation. Wow, has it dated; I had recalled that it was pretty sexist, but I had forgotten the staggeringly racist sequence with the girls from the women's college, which is almost unwatchable given how it's played even taking into account that the movie is set in the early '60s. "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" is still funny, at least. I have to get up very early for the orientation, so here are belated memes from Friday:

The Friday Five: Travel
1. What is your favorite way to travel (ship, plane, car, train, etc)?
Depends where I'm going. Plane if it's overseas, ship if it's leisurely, car if we can stop lots of places on the way.
2. Who is your favorite person to travel with? Paul and my kids.
3. What is the best vacation you've ever taken? I can't pick among the three times I've been to England.
4. Where will your next vacation be to? North Carolina in August.
5. If you had the time and money to go anywhere you wanted, where would you go? Around the world. Would settle at present for all over France.

Fannish5: 5 best or worst mothers (that have a designation other than "evil stepmother").
1. Niki Sanders and Sandra Bennet
, Heroes
2. Martha Kent, Smallville
3. Jackie Tyler, Doctor Who
4. Sarah Connor, The Terminator
5. Gail Leery, Dawson's Creek
1. Corrine Dollanganger
, Flowers in the Attic
2. Atia of the Julii, Rome
3. Mom, Futurama
4. Helen Ryan Lindley Dawson's Creek
5. Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Poem for Sunday and Antietam Battlefield

The Ferryer
By Sharon Olds

Three years after my father's death
he goes back to work. Unemployed
for twenty-five years, he's very glad
to be taken on again, shows up
on time, tireless worker. He sits
in the prow of the boat, sweet cox, turned
with his back to the carried. He is dead, but able
to kneel upright, facing forward
toward the other shore. Someone has closed
his mouth, so he looks more comfortable, not
thirsty or calling out, and his eyes
are open, there under the iris the black
line that appeared there in death. He is calm,
he is happy to be hired, he's in business again,
his new job is a joke between us and he
loves to have a joke with me, he keeps
a straight face. He waits, naked,
ivory bow figurehead,
ribs, nipples, lips, a gaunt
tall man, and when I bring people
and set them in the boat and push them off
my father poles them across the river
to the far bank. We don't speak,
he knows that this is simply someone
I want to get rid of, who makes me feel
ugly and afraid. I do not say
the way you did. He knows the labor
and loves it. When I dump someone in
he does not look back, he takes them straight
to hell. He wants to work for me
until I die. Then, he knows, I will
come to him, get in his boat
and be taken across, then hold out my broad
hand to his, help him ashore, we will
embrace like two who were never born,
naked, not breathing then up to our chins we will
pull the dark blanket of earth and
rest together at the end of the working day.


We spent Saturday with Paul's parents at Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland's most famous Civil War site since it was host to the bloodiest single day in U.S. history. There's an hour-long documentary narrated by James Earl Jones that's shown once a day at noon, so we got there early and walked around the monuments for a while, then saw the film and had a picnic under the trees by the visitor center. Then we took a driving tour (accompanied by CD) of the farms, cornfield, woods, Bloody Lane, Burnside's Bridge, and other sites, some of which had to be hiked to from the parking lots, particularly the bridge which is now a beautiful scenic spot crossing the creek and hard to imagine as a place of utter carnage.

A horse-and-buggy ride stops near an observation tower at Antietam National Battlefield.

A sunflower grows amidst tubes protecting saplings from deer where woods have been replanted so the battlefield will look the way it did the day of the fighting there.

The view up the Bloody Lane.

Dunker Church (named because the German pacifists who founded it completely immersed people being baptized there) with reenactor musicians.

Decoration on the beautiful Irish Brigade memorial. (The Irish Brigade monument at Gettysburg is my favorite there, too.)

View toward the cornfield from the Visitor Center.

Burnside's Bridge, held by a small division from Georgia for many hours while the Union Army under the command of Ambrose Burnside (for whom sideburns are also named) tried to take and cross it.

One of the calves born at South Mountain Creamery.

It was Civil War Music weekend at the battlefield, so there was a fife and drum corps performing on and off throughout the afternoon. We drove through Sharpsburg (and stopped for ice cream), then went to the Dunker Church for a program of fiddle music. It was about 5 p.m. when we left, so since South Mountain Creamery was still open, we stopped to see the calves, piglets, bunnies, and other animals, and bought cheese for dinner. In the evening, since we are apparently having Rodney Dangerfield Week, we watched Back To School which I don't think I'd seen since I was in college, long before I knew who Terry Farrell was, so imagine my surprise to see Jadzia Dax as the son's love interest.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Poem for Saturday, Brookside Gardens, The Terratin Incident

By Audre Lorde

Coming together
it is easier to work
after our bodies
paper and pen
neither care nor profit
whether we write or not
but as your body moves
under my hands
charged and waiting
we cut the leash
you create me against your thighs
hilly with images
moving through our word countries
my body
writes into your flesh
the poem
you make of me.

Touching you I catch midnight
as moon fires set in my throat
I love you flesh into blossom
I made you
and take you made
into me.


I have had a great night. We went to a neighborhood potluck with lots of veggie options at the home of the parents of Adam's best friend, who have just remodeled -- expanded the kitchen and opened a wall into the living room -- so everything looked lovely and we got to share food with people we really should see more often considering how close we live but we somehow don't manage to connect as often as we should, plus I got to chat with people I see every day when I walk (and look my grungiest) and wave to but don't often talk to. Then we came home and watched Caddyshack -- the kids hadn't seen it, I hadn't watched it in probably two decades, we were all snickering -- and a few minutes after it ended, the New York Senate voted to legalize gay marriage. Evenings don't often end on a better note than that.

Friday wasn't so great early on; things were a mess in Syria, Peter Falk died, and at least eight cars in our neighborhood were broken into overnight with lots of things stolen (clearly by pros, no windows were broken or locks damaged, merely the fact that no one noticed them suggests they came in with a plan and worked quickly). That was a big topic of conversation at the potluck. My kids played with a friend and worked on their Minecraft server. I posted a review of the animated Star Trek's "The Terratin Incident". On Saturday we're going to Antietam with my in-laws, so in the meantime here are some photos from Brookside Gardens the weekend before last:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Poem for Friday and Virtual Life

The Creation of the Inaudible
By Pattiann Rogers

Maybe no one can distinguish which voice
Is god's voice sounding in a summer dusk
Because he calls with the same rising frequency,
The same rasp and rattling rustle the cicadas use
As they cling to the high leaves in the glowing
Dust of the oaks.

His exclamations might blend so precisely with the final
Crises of the swallows settling before dark
That no one will ever be able to say with certainty,
"That last long cry winging over the rooftop
Came from god."

Breathy and low, the vibrations of his nightly
Incantations could easily be masked by the scarcely
Audible hush of the lakeline dealing with the rocky shore,
And when a thousand dry sheaths of rushes and thistles
Stiffen and shiver in an autumn wind, anyone can imagine
How quickly and irretrievably his whisper might be lost.

Someone faraway must be saying right now:
The only unique sound of his being
Is the spoken postulation of his unheard presence.

For even if he found the perfect chant this morning
And even if he played the perfect strings to accompany it,
Still, no one could be expected to know,
Because the blind click beetle flipping in midair,
And the slider turtle easing through the black iris bog,
And two savannah pines shedding dawn in staccato pieces
Of falling sun are already engaged in performing
The very same arrangement themselves.


I'm sure I've mentioned that Rogers is probably my favorite living poet. This gem is in Firekeeper: Selected Poems.

This is going to have to be an extreme quickie because I got my Google Music Beta invitation an hour ago and have spent the past sixty minutes reading the disclaimers, uploading my music, installing the app on my phone, etc. Daniel got his invitation a few days ago and has been singing the service's praises; I hesitate only because Google has not said a word about how much it will cost for storage space and/or bandwidth once the beta period is over, whereas with Amazon's cloud I know both the limitations and the expectations.

My big event for the day was taking Daniel to get his cast removed. He has a splint now, which he is not required to wear (and is not supposed to wear for showering, swimming, etc.) but the orthopedist thought it would be more comfortable after four weeks in a cast. When we left the doctor's office we stopped at the mall, where my mother and Adam tracked us down and asked if we wanted to meet them at California Pizza Kitchen, which we did. Then I traded boys with my mother, taking Adam home with me while she took Daniel to get ice cream.

We watched the goofy animated Star Trek episode I need to review this week, then the new Futurama episodes (not my favorites, especially the gender swap story which didn't parody stereotypes in many cases so much as reinforce them, but still amusing). It's the second-to-last week of regular Superpoke Pets item releases, so since I am enough of a loser to have discussed my pursuit of the Boardwalk habitat yesterday and I lost the hour before I started futzing with the music app to getting this week's items, here are some of my penguin's recent adventures.

The Isle of Man

Thai Grand Palace

Royal Pet Port

Buckingham Hall

Werewolf Village

The Tony Awards

Welcome to Yellowstone

The DC Folk Festival