Sunday, July 31, 2011

Poem for Sunday and Bohrer Park Animals

From 'The Vision of Sir Launfal'
By James Russell Lowell

And what is so rare as a day in June?
     Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
     And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
     An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
     Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
     Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
     The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
     To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
     Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
     With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,—
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
     And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
     Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop over-fills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
     That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
     We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,—
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
     Tells all in his lusty crowing!


The TV meteorologist says that we have had 23 straight days at 90 degrees or above in the DC area, and that is not supposed to change in the next five days. So it's a good thing I will be at the beach before it ends. As a result, we spent most of the day indoors. We had a quiet morning during which I reposted to LiveJournal all the files I'd been saving in Google Docs until LJ was back up and running, though I'm still having issues with comms. After lunch and before we had to drop Adam off at his final health class for the summer -- where he had a final exam that he declared boring, while the rest of us stopped for Slurpees -- we went to Gaithersburg's Bohrer Park and walked around the little wetlands and pond. There were turtles and geese and birds, and a bunny who hopped away too quickly for photos:

We went to the food store and CVS to get necessities for our trip (bread, cheese, sunblock, bug spray) and tried to avoid hearing about the Orioles' embarrassment and humiliation against the Yankees (at least the Nats beat the Mets). After dinner I went looking to see what was disappearing from On Demand at the end of July and discovered that it was my last chance to watch Remember Me, so I put it on. It's very depressing -- I was spoiled in part for the ending, but really I found it pretty bleak overall, there are not many movies that make me so glad I've never lived in New York. Pattinson's not bad -- I can see why they cast him, it's like an AU Twilight, his love interest is even the daughter of a policeman who doesn't understand her -- and de Ravin's okay, but I have no idea exactly what Pierce Brosnan is doing in the film. Did it occur to the director that casting people with authentic New York accents might be a better choice?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Poem for Saturday and Wilting in Heat

The Dance
By Humberto Ak'Abal
Translated by Ilan Stavans

All of us dance

on a cent's edge.

The poor—because they are poor—
lose their step,
and fall

and everyone else
falls on top.


So LiveJournal has been bragging on Twitter since last night that they're back, except that I can't post to communities and I can't post any entry of more than a couple hundred words anywhere. To me that is not "back" -- and I understand that they have been working very hard to restore things, but I am also tired of the campaign of silence by which they can admit that they're under a DDoS attack but not explain by whom or why they last so long when other sites recover from DDoS attacks far more quickly.

It wasn't all that exciting a day, so I don't have much to report anyway. Daniel has completed the classroom portion of his driver's ed course and now has a few more in-vehicle lessons, plus he needs to log 60 hours driving with us before he can get his license. Adam finished his health homework and has the final exam on Saturday. I posted a review of the animated Star Trek episode "The Jihad", which is pretty dreadful. We had dinner with my parents and watched Torchwood, which is holding our attention completely -- spoilers -- Mare Winningham is glorious pure evil and I will be so sad if we don't see her again, she's even scarier than Bill Pullman, and I love Gwen's hatred of high heels, but I really don't like how Rex went after Esther for visiting her sister and compromising them mission when he went to see his father -- pot, kettle.

Our ABC affiliate weather reporter just announced that July has been the hottest month ever in DC. Here are some photos from Longwood Gardens back in the spring, since those are what I can access at present and since local flowers are wilting in the heat:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Poem for Friday and Stargazing Farm

America [Try saying wren]
By Joseph Lease

                    Try saying wren.

It's midnight

in my body, 4 a.m. in my body, breading and olives and
cherries. Wait, it's all rotten. How am I ever. Oh notebook.
A clown explains the war. What start or color or kind of
grace. I have to teach. I have to run, eat less junk. Oh CNN.
What start or color. There's a fist of meat in my solar plexus
and green light in my mouth and little chips of dream flake
off my skin. Try saying wren. Try saying

                    Try anything.


I started Thursday morning by trying to post yesterday's blog entry to LiveJournal, without success. This made me grumpy, so I got off the computer and made a couple of pairs of earrings out of beads and charms I already had. After lunch, Adam again went to the track with friends and Daniel again went to driver's ed. The University of Maryland finally got Daniel's AP scores, so now he has 30 college credits -- nearly a full year -- including so many history credits that he's dropping the history class for which he originally signed up, meaning he's taking five classes instead of six, which I think is all to the good. He may minor in history but he has plenty of time for those classes later.

I had dinner at the mall with Gblvr, where we both had Indian food and did a bit of shopping -- I found a skirt on Old Navy's clearance rack for $1.49, a charm necklace at Laila Rowe for $5, and glittery purple flats at Forever 21 for $9 (these are a necessity to go with my sparkly purple bat peplum skirt). Bath & Body Works already has Halloween merchandise on display! When I got home, we watched the animated Trek episode for the week, then the Orioles losing to the Blue Jays (the Nationals had already lost to the Marlins), then Futurama, which was utterly hilarious -- it involved time travel, the fathers of our country, and Benjamin Franklin doing awesome things with lightning.

As promised, Star Gazing Farm photos, assuming they will load by the time you see them:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Poem for Thursday, Kenilworth Gardens, The English Patient

Leaving the Empty Room
By Stephen Dunn

The door had a double lock,
and the joke was on me.
You might call it protection
against self, this joke,
and it wasn't very funny:
I kept the door locked
in order to think twice.

The room itself: knickknacks,
chairs, and a couch,
the normal accoutrements.
And yet it was an empty room,
if you know what I mean.
I had a ticket in my head:
Anytime, it said, another joke.
How I wished I had a deadline
to leave the empty room,
or that the corridor outside
would show itself
to be a secret tunnel, perhaps
a winding path. Maybe I needed
a certain romance of departure
to kick in, as if I were waiting
for magic instead of courage,
or something else
I didn't have. No doubt
you're wondering if other people
inhabited the empty room.
Of course. What's true emptiness
without other people?
I thought twice many times.
But when I left, I can't say
I made a decision. I just followed
my body out the door,
one quick step after another,
even as the room started to fill
with what I'd been sure wasn't there.


From Here and Now: Poems, which The Washington Post yesterday, saying, "The poems are consistently smooth and insightful...overall it's a wonderful example of the poet's ability to satisfy readers and anticipate their thoughts."

It was such an uneventful Wednesday that I forgot it was Wednesday when it was time to take Adam to tennis and had to be reminded. My mother took Daniel out to lunch, then dropped him off at driver's ed. Adam went to the track with his friends. I fought with LiveJournal for a little while, then realized it was hopeless and went researching how other web sites deal with DDoS attacks because I don't understand why on LJ they last for days and days while on other sites they seem only to last for a few hours (and I can't figure out from the conflicting articles whether the villains are supposedly enemies of Russian democracy trying to silence liberal bloggers or pro-democracy Russians trying to disrupt a blogging site owned by Russian oligarchs).

I worked on a writing project, worked on an article, and while Adam was at tennis I took a nice long walk in the woods, where it was both cooler than last week and blissfully wasp-free (or, at least, if there were wasps I didn't get stung, though I did get rather mosquito-bitten). After dinner I put on The English Patient which I'd gotten in the mood to watch after seeing that Kristin Scott Thomas movie last week; I'd only seen it once and I must admit I thought it was somewhat overrated, though very well acted (and I wasn't a Colin Firth fan at all then). Watching it again, I must confess that again I thought it was a bit overrated; don't get me wrong, the acting is phenomenal and the cinematography is gorgeous, but the main story leaves me feeling rather distanced and even somewhat annoyed with the characters. I keep wanting more Hana and less flashback.

I was going to pass more photos from Star Gazing Farm, but LJ does not want to let me access that page of my Scrapbook, so here are a few more photos from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and hopefully you'll get adorable sheep tomorrow:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Poem for Wednesday, Bonsai, Invictus

By William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


We watched Invictus, having realized that it was the last night it was free on On Demand, and now I have no idea why it took us so long -- I often loathe the treatment of women in Clint Eastwood movies (they're pretty marginal in this one) and I'd heard that Matt Damon wasn't the greatest, but I'm a total sucker for sports movies, I know too little about rugby to have any idea how well they recreated the big matches, and I thought that, apart from his accent being a bit inconsistent, Damon was quite good (Freeman was, of course, extraordinary, though I don't think I've ever seen him be less than good even in bad movies).

Otherwise, it was a quiet day; my father played tennis with Adam in the morning, then took both kids out to lunch before Daniel had driver's ed and Adam did his health homework. I finished and folded the laundry, worked on some article stuff, and saw both a fawn and a bunny in the woods. The Orioles beat Toronto by 8, the Nationals lost to Florida by 9, I have nothing useful to contribute to the national debt debate hysteria, and Juan Williams was just very impressive on The Daily Show. Here are the National Arboretum bonsai from a couple of weekends ago, the final two from an exhibit on how a bonsai is created:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poem for Tuesday and Star Gazing Farm

Men Working on Wings
By Stanley Plumly

In dreams they were everything hurt
whose faces were always coming into focus
like a feeling never before realized
offered now as longing; but not spiritual,
like the cloud in marble or the flaws
in sunlight streaking through the window,
but palpable, the way that cloud,
those flaws take on the human.
If I have to choose I choose those nights
I sat in the dark in the Mote Park
outfield waiting with my father
for the long fly balls that fell more
rarely than the stars. We'd talk
or he'd hit the hole in his glove;
a hundred times he'd hit the hole
in his glove. In his factory wool-
and-cotton gray uniform he looked
like a soldier too young to fight,
like his sailor brother and our monkey
uncle doughboy Harry who'd been gassed
in the trenches—too young to fight.
But nobody died. Once, on the Ponte
S. Angelo, leading from the Castle
of Angels across a wrist of the Tiber,
I watched the artisans of the working
classes work with the patience of repairmen
on the backs of the immortelles. Except
for their hands they sat the wings
in stillness, hammer and chisel, like
any other sculptors; the job endless,
infinitesimal, a constancy of detail,
the air itself the enemy, and the long
gold light pouring down. The big flat
dead leaves of the sycamores would whirl
around them in a theme, then drift
like paper to a river. The leaves
might float, in another life, all the way
to the sea, spotted and brown like the backs
of the hands of the old. The wings
of the angels were stone clouds stained,
pocked like a bird's. My father didn't want
to die, nor my uncles, in their fifties,
nor dull Jack Bruning, who'd have welded
wings to his back to get another day
of drinking, and who claimed that
in the war he'd eaten a man's flesh.
At one another's funerals they were
inconsolable: they would draw from
the scabbard, with its lime-green rust,
a sword against their deaths; in their
flawed hearts they would stand fast:
as on the bridge, with half-closed eyes
and mouths about to speak, the ten
Bernini angels, in their cold and heavy robes,
and wings unfurled with the weight of men,
were in alignment yet reluctant to cross.


Daniel had his first behind-the-wheel driving lesson bright and early this morning. He was not awake enough to be nervous. I was slightly nervous, but the teacher seemed very together (gave us a sheet with information about the state driving test that isn't on the MVA web site or in the book) and Daniel ended up in a good mood -- he knew the car spec stuff backwards and forwards, though obviously he needs more road driving experience. I took both kids to Bagel City to get lunch, then Adam was going to go running at the track with a friend, but a big thunderstorm hit and we had rain on and off for several hours while older son was in the driver's ed classroom in the afternoon.

It was a quiet afternoon -- I started the weekly laundry, listened to Adam's long list of complaints about the county health curriculum, worked on my ongoing efforts to save my LiveJournal photos until LiveJournal became too erratic for it to be worthwhile, took a walk and saw one of the neighborhood bunnies twitching its nose in a front yard with another neighbor's dog just down the sidewalk. I absolutely adored this week's Warehouse 13, not just the fabulous Pete/Myka "we did not" hysteria but Rene Auberjonois and Lindsay Wagner too (and even though it says Aaron Ashmore is a guest star, he's been around the whole season so far, yay). Now Colbert has my side literally in stitches from laughing so hard at his Summer's Eve parody, so here are some more Star Gazing Farm photos from Saturday:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Poem for Monday and Hanover in Heat

Up They Soar
By Inger Christensen
Translated by Susanna Nied

Up they soar, the planet's butterflies,
pigments from the warm body of the earth,
cinnabar, ochre, phosphor yellow, gold
a swarm of basic elements aloft.

Is this flickering of wings only a shoal
of light particles, a quirk of perception?
Is it the dreamed summer hour of my childhood
shattered as by lightning lost in time?

No, this is the angel of light, who can paint
himself as dark mnemosyne Apollo,
as copper, hawkmoth, swallowtail.

I see them with my blurred understanding
as feathers in the coverlet of haze
in Brajcino Valley's noon-hot air.


We spent a beastly hot Sunday in Hanover with Paul's parents, who are leaving in a few days to drive to the west coast to visit David and Jon's families for several months. Since we didn't see them on Adam's birthday, we celebrated that again by having lunch at a Chinese restaurant near them that he likes (I had excellent orange tofu). The restaurant is next door to an enormous, wonderful antiques mall which I asked for a few minutes to wander in and where we all ended up spending an hour -- because it was air conditioned, the kids were actually more willing to wander there than outdoors, and they had a good time laughing at old toys and kitsch, particularly some of the vinyl record albums (Jan and Dean Meet Batman, Music To Massage Your Mate By).

We decided to go for a walk at Codorus State Park to see the groundhogs and waterfowl, but it was so beastly hot and there was so little breeze that we didn't last there for long -- though we did get to see some groundhogs, plus some crazy shirtless people playing frisbee. Then we went back to Clair and Cinda's for birthday cake, and, eventually, pizza for dinner, with some games of Uno in between. I am still fighting with my phone (and am incredibly pissed off at Google in general for apparently having even less respect for users' privacy than Facebook -- what do I need Google+ for when I can have the same drawbacks on a site I already use?) but I will not belabor that, since I am still trying to get over my astonishment that more people I know posted yesterday about Amy Winehouse than Norway or Somalia.

This is one of several groundhogs we saw running away from us and diving into the many holes crisscrossing Codorus State Park.

There seemed to be more people on boats than on land at the park in the intense heat.

Earlier we visited this enormous antiques mall...

...where I was sorely tempted by this souvenir of a coronation that never took place. (I found a George VI florin in good condition for $3, which was the must-have item.)

We threatened to buy this for our children. They threatened to disown us.

Later, we went back for birthday cake...

...and watched a bunny playing in the backyard.