Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Poem for Wednesday and Little Lions

By Baron Wormser

A moment from a life--a husband holding up
A tee-shirt for cursory inspection;
A child trudging home from a dull school day;
A tree in heavy wind--when placed within

The careful rails of verse acquires the dear,
Facile pout of meaning. It's a feeling
Rather than a faith since faith knows
Its way beforehand, while this telling us

A seeking. We read under the beneficence
Of a minor spell. Even the pain comforts:
Any life does; any avenue counts.
The man recalls a Sunday softball game;
The child stops at a puddle and peers into
Gorgeous nothingness; the tree falls or doesn't.


I spent Tuesday morning and afternoon doing chores so I could enjoy my evening, which consisted of going out to dinner with Gblvr after dropping Adam off at his painting class in Glen Echo. He is frustrated because the painting class in his high school is full; I wrote to his guidance counselor to see whether maybe they could make room for him but it sounds like the class is already over capacity. Daniel had a service day yesterday with College Park Scholars -- there are photos and a small article here -- and today he went to a barbecue at his high school girlfriend's dorm which apparently is about as far across campus from his own as it's possible to be. He sounds happy, though, except about the lack of air conditioning.

I watched "Once More With Feeling" while folding laundry because I was in a Buffy mood and that's the only episode from a season later than the second that I own...obviously this must be remedied. Gblvr and I had Indian food, compared notes on our sons' experiences at UMD, and walked around the mall, though we really didn't buy anything...we did admire the new Hallmark ornaments; I'd stopped collecting Star Trek ornaments, but that Spock/McCoy "Mirror, Mirror" ornament is really tempting, as is the Jack Sparrow ornament. Below are some photos of the National Zoo's lion cubs, which are now nearly as big as their mothers (the father was not in the enclosure, I suspect that the male cubs are getting too old for him to spend much time with the group), taken last weekend before the rain:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Poem for Tuesday and Monocacy Groundhog

The Sea And the Hills
By Rudyard Kipling

Who hath desired the Sea? -- the sight of salt wind-hounded --
The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber win hounded?
The sleek-barrelled swell before storm, grey, foamless, enormous, and growing --
Stark calm on the lap of the Line or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing --
His Sea in no showing the same his Sea and the same 'neath each showing:
            His Sea as she slackens or thrills?
So and no otherwise -- so and no otherwise -- hillmen desire their Hills!

Who hath desired the Sea? -- the immense and contemptuous surges?
The shudder, the stumble, the swerve, as the star-stabbing bow-sprit emerges?
The orderly clouds of the Trades, the ridged, roaring sapphire thereunder --
Unheralded cliff-haunting flaws and the headsail's low-volleying thunder --
His Sea in no wonder the same his Sea and the same through each wonder:
            His Sea as she rages or stills?
So and no otherwise -- so and no otherwise -- hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her menaces swift as her mercies?
The in-rolling walls of the fog and the silver-winged breeze that disperses?
The unstable mined berg going South and the calvings and groans that de clare it --
White water half-guessed overside and the moon breaking timely to bare it --
His Sea as his fathers have dared -- his Sea as his children shall dare it:
            His Sea as she serves him or kills?
So and no otherwise -- so and no otherwisc -- hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her excellent loneliness rather
Than forecourts of kings, and her outermost pits than the streets where men gather
Inland, among dust, under trees -- inland where the slayer may slay him --
Inland, out of reach of her arms, and the bosom whereon he must lay him
His Sea from the first that betrayed -- at the last that shall never betray him:
            His Sea that his being fulfils?
So and no otherwise -- so and no otherwise -- hillmen desire their Hills.


Dementordelta and I had plans to decompress and watch movies together on Monday, but the hurricane wrecked those -- the power at her store is not back on yet, so she couldn't leave. So I had a pretty quiet back-to-school day after 6:45 a.m. when -- 15 minutes after Adam had left for the bus -- one of his friends called looking for him. He had cross country practice after school, so I did laundry and various other chores, took a walk, and tried to get done some of the work that got put off last week.

In other words, I have nothing exciting to report. We had Indian food for dinner and watched Warehouse 13, which made me shriek because I didn't know Kate Mulgrew was going to be on. I am not sure I like where this arc is going -- suddenly the show is reminding me of La Femme Nikita, which I mean in the convoluted internal conspiracy arc sense rather than the awesome characters sense, though Warehouse 13 has those too. Now we're watching a public television special on Montgomery County, which has some nice information on sites to see and some infomercial qualities. The Yankees beat the Orioles, feh.

Here are the groundhogs we saw at Monocacy Aqueduct a few minutes after the earthquake last week, scampering around and diving into their hole under a tree:

Monday, August 29, 2011

Poem for Monday and Post-Hurricane Maryland

The Hurricane
By William Carlos Williams

The tree lay down
on the garage roof
and stretched, You
have your heaven,
it said, go to it.


Hurricane Irene knocked out our power several times during the night, making the sump pump stop working and causing the cats to thunder all over the house each time, which woke me up repeatedly. Paul kept getting up to check that the sump pump wasn't overflowing and woke me up some more. So I was pretty out of it on Sunday and had little energy. We had planned to take Adam and a friend to Kings Dominion for a last blast before school started on Monday, but Kings Dominion was closed, as were Six Flags and many other local attractions. Daniel had sent a message telling us he needed a different wireless card to access the secure network on campus and that he'd forgotten the case for his eyeglasses, so we decided to run those over to him, then go to Great Falls. Unfortunately, there were so many trees down in that part of the state that we had to drive through traffic lights that didn't work, but we managed to get his stuff to him.

This skink ran out of a storm drain at the University of Maryland.

When Adam knelt down to take a photo of it, it ran right over his leg!

The small creek that runs by the agricultural college's farm was very swollen.

Though the university kept its power (other than failures in the campus-wide fire alarm system), much of the county around it did not, meaning many stores were closed and traffic lights were out.

However, though the official national park web site hadn't said so, Great Falls was closed -- there were barriers up and we could see branches and leaves all over the road leading to it. So we stopped at the Bethesda Co-op, then came home so Adam could walk the neighbor's dogs. Both Adam and his friend had been talking about having gone to a birthday party at the local restaurant Plaza Azteca, so although we adults had never been there, we decided to take them there for dinner. Adam had summer math homework to finish in the evening -- naturally, he waited till the night before school started -- so I watched Friends With Money, which was well-acted, particularly by Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand (and I am never sorry to see Jason Isaacs or Simon McBurney, though the men's roles were pretty thankless) but rather depressing given its theme of upper-middle-class white mid-life angst. Conclusions: it is better to be rich than not to be rich, though being filthy rich brings its own angst, and sleeping with married men is a bad idea, though the only alternative may be a sexless, thanks?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Poem for Sunday, College Move, Hurricane Irene

A Line-storm Song
By Robert Frost

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift,
The road is forlorn all day,
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift,
And the hoof-prints vanish away.
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
Expend their bloom in vain.
Come over the hills and far with me,
And be my love in the rain.

The birds have less to say for themselves
In the wood-world’s torn despair
Than now these numberless years the elves,
Although they are no less there:
All song of the woods is crushed like some
Wild, easily shattered rose.
Come, be my love in the wet woods; come,
Where the boughs rain when it blows.

There is the gale to urge behind
And bruit our singing down,
And the shallow waters aflutter with wind
From which to gather your gown.
What matter if we go clear to the west,
And come not through dry-shod?
For wilding brooch shall wet your breast
The rain-fresh goldenrod.

Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
But it seems like the sea’s return
To the ancient lands where it left the shells
Before the age of the fern;
And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain.
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
And be my love in the rain.


We had the major event of Hurricane Irene distracting us on Saturday from the even more major event of sending Daniel off to college. His original move-in slot was from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but since we brought most of his things over on Friday while it was still dry, we didn't leave the house till after noon, following Adam's track practice at a park in Gaithersburg. His roommate was there when we arrived, having unpacked quickly in the morning so his parents could drive back to New Jersey before the storm arrived -- it started raining in the late morning, but even when we walked across campus at 3 p.m. to get a longer USB cable at the bookstore, it felt like a regular August rainstorm, not a hurricane, with temperatures in the 70s that made it much more pleasant in the dorm without air conditioning.

Daniel and his roommate (also an engineer, and also a Daniel, which my Daniel says means whoever did the room assignments might be a troll) mostly conversed about computers and seemed to hit it off fine. They had plans to go to dinner and then a floor meeting in the evening, though nearly all activities at the University of Maryland have been called off for the entire weekend. We left College Park around 4 p.m. which was when the heavier rains were supposed to begin and drove home on a very wet Beltway. My parents invited us over for leftovers, so we had dinner with them. Daniel was on his computer in the evening chatting about routers and power outages -- College Park is east of us and has had more storm issues -- so I am not as traumatized at his departure as people seem to expect me to be, though I'm sure it'll sink in over the next several days and then I'll be sad.

My Superpoke penguin hung out with some friends during Hurricane Irene.

Meanwhile Daniel and his roommate fiddled with computer wires.

We watched The Tourist, which seemed like a good fluffy movie for an evening on which my attention span was pretty low -- so much so that we all forgot there was a new Doctor Who episode on till after it had started. I like Angelina, I like Johnny, I didn't even know Paul Bettany was in the movie, it was superficially enjoyable and I think may have had massive plot holes but I wasn't really concentrating enough to worry about anything but how pretty Venice looked. We caught the midnight rerun of "Let's Kill Hitler" and perhaps I am a bit overtired and stressed, but it felt not cleverly absurd nor wittily silly but just plain stupid. Gay gypsy Bar Mitzvah...way to trivialize the Holocaust, boys. Fortunately Amy is cardboard and has no substantial human emotions, so it doesn't matter that River's origins become less important than River looking hot in a Nazi uniform. No wonder I'm slowly moving from disinterest to dislike.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poem for Saturday and Maryland Move-In

Listen To The Mustn'ts
By Shel Silverstein

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me --
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.


Though the official move-in day is Saturday, we spent Friday afternoon moving most of Daniel's things in at the University of Maryland, which decided to allow students to start moving in because Hurricane Irene is expected to disrupt everything severely on Saturday. My father took Adam to play tennis and out to lunch while my mother came with us to help us lug Daniel's things up four flights and set them up in his room, which is bigger than the one in which he stayed at orientation but is not air conditioned. We met the R.A. for the floor -- an aerospace engineer who plays the guitar and has hair as long as Adam's used to be. There's a little convenience store only a few yards from his dorm and the agricultural school farm is nearby, though it's a bit of a walk to the library and engineering school.

We came back in the afternoon, collected Adam from track, and went to get haircuts, then went to my parents' house for dinner -- cornflake chicken (and "chicken"), potato pancakes, chocolate roll. Then we grabbed a few things at the food store in preparation for the hurricane, since the local power company left everyone in the area phone messages warning us that everything in our refrigerators may be doomed, and watched Torchwood all together after I raced out with Adam to take photos of the toads he spotted while walking the neighbor's dogs. I am enjoying the Trek alumni turning up on the series, though I suspect none of the rotating guest characters will live long enough to share the screen for more than a couple of minutes. I am ridiculously sad at the news that Google is getting rid of Slide and shutting down Superpoke Pets. But hey, the Orioles beat the Yankees!

Daniel and Paul set up his biggest priorities, his computer and TV.

My mother and I worked on mundane matters like making the bed and putting his clothes in his closet and drawers.

Though move-in officially starts Saturday, the university invited students to come early to avoid terrible weather.

As you can see, we got rather sweaty and disheveled in the not-air-conditioned dorm room.

Here are my parents and kids after dinner.

And here are the deer and fawns we saw en route to dinner with my parents...

...the frog by the neighbor's pond...

...and the toad Adam spotted across the street.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poem for Friday and Rainy Zoo

Family Reunion
By Jeredith Merrin

The divorced mother and her divorcing
daughter. The about-to-be ex-son-in-law
and the ex-husband's adopted son.
The divorcing daughter's child, who is

the step-nephew of the ex-husband's
adopted son. Everyone cordial:
the ex-husband's second wife
friendly to the first wife, warm

to the divorcing daughter's child's
great-grandmother, who was herself
long ago divorced. Everyone
grown used to the idea of divorce.

Almost everyone has separated
from the landscape of a childhood.
Collections of people in cities
are divorced from clean air and stars.

Toddlers in day care are parted
from working parents, schoolchildren
from the assumption of unbloodied
daylong safety. Old people die apart

from all they've gathered over time,
and in strange beds. Adults
grow estranged from a God
evidently divorced from History;

most are cut off from their own
histories, each of which waits
like a child left at day care.
What if you turned back for a moment

and put your arms around yours?
Yes, you might be late for work;
no, your history doesn't smell sweet
like a toddler's head. But look

at those small round wrists,
that short-legged, comical walk.
Caress your history--who else will?
Promise to come back later.

Pay attention when it asks you
simple questions: Where are we going?
Is it scary? What happened? Can
I have more now? Who is that?


We were awoken very early Thursday morning by an aftershock -- there have been a few others, but this one rattled our windows and shook our beds, including Adam's who was sleeping at a friend's. So we were all rather tired when we got up early to go to the National Zoo, since who knows when we'll get to go there all together again; we took Adam's friend whom I joke is my other son since he's over here so often. It was drizzling when we left the house, but the rain wasn't supposed to arrive in earnest till afternoon, so we brought lunch with us.

We went first along the Asia trail, where the giant panda was awake but hiding behind a bush; then we went to the bird house, stopping to see the elephants along the way. It was drizzling again when we went to see the small mammals and started raining in earnest right after we visited the great cats, then it started pouring as we headed past the prairie dogs. We decided to have our picnic at home, but when we arrived, the storm had knocked our power out, so we ate on the floor in the living room surrounded by curious cats.

The giant panda has a snack at the National Zoo.

This rhea had several chicks in May.

Adam's friend waits for this meerkat to turn so he can take a photo.

Two cheetahs peer out of an enclosure.

Behind the glass of her enclosure, the sloth bear paces.

An elephant shows off for a trainer with rewards.

A burrowing owl perches in a branch to keep an eye on things.

And a golden lion tamarin does the same.

Adam had art class in the afternoon and we all went to pick him up so we could go get pizza at Vince & Dominic's, which Daniel had decided he wanted instead of Swedish meatballs (particularly since the lack of power at home for several hours made food preparation quite difficult -- I feel sorry for anyone who stocked up for Hurricane Irene before the outage). We did some packing and laundry, then watched The Return of the King. Eowyn makes me so happy in the extended edition, even if she and Faramir were both robbed of the Houses of Healing as it should have been filmed. I still adore these movies.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Poem for Thursday and Edwards Ferry

A Lane of Yellow Led the Eye
By Emily Dickinson

A lane of Yellow led the eye
Unto a Purple Wood
Whose soft inhabitants to be
Surpasses solitude
If Bird the silence contradict
Or flower presume to show
In that low summer of the West
Impossible to know --


Wednesday was another shopping day -- we needed to get Daniel a few more things for his dorm room and Adam a few more supplies for his art class. Adam's two good local friends who have been out of town for a few weeks -- one in Mexico, the other in Oklahoma -- also returned, and they all went to the pool together before son went to sleep over at one of their houses.

I had more laundry to do before son packs it and did some reading. Then after dinner (chicken parmesan, by Daniel's request -- tomorrow he wants Swedish meatballs, his other favorite thing Paul makes) we watched The Two Towers for the second night of our Rings-a-thon. Here are some more photos from the Monocacy Aqueduct and Edwards Ferry on Tuesday and a couple of memes:

I am Red/Green
I am Red/Green
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.
I'm both instinctive and emotional. I value my own instincts and desires, and either ignore or crush anything that stands in my way; planning and foresight are unnecessary. At best, I'm determined and fierce; at worst, I'm headstrong and infantile.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poem for Wednesday, Monocacy Aqueduct, Earthquake!

The Immanent God
By Cale Young Rice

See your God in the jelly-fish,
Sucking salty food.
See Him drift in the gulf-weed,
In shark-bellies brood.
See Him feed with the gull there,
In a grey ship's wake.
Feel Him afresh
In your own hot flesh
When into lust you break.

Hear His wrath in the hurricane,
Hushing a hundred lives.
Hist His heave in the earthquake,
In volcano hives.
Hark His stride in the plague-wind,
Over a sterile shore:
Down in a mine
Behold what wine
Of coal-damp He will pour.

Aye, and there in the ribaldry
Of a night-wench's song
Hear Him—or on a child's lips
Cursing a slum-mate's wrong.
Stark He starves in the street there,
Or, full-fed, will go:
He, your God,
In every clod
Or clot of human woe.

And—in every infamy
Loathed by you with shame.
Clear of the saddest soul-stench
None can keep His name.
Man's, you may say, all crime is,
But Who gave man birth?
Spawn of the years
Is he—with tears
And strife to give him worth.

Spawn of the Universes,
God's great flesh and bone.
Stars are the cells that float there,
Through lymph-ether strown.
Dying, living, and dead there,
Coming again to birth
Out of a Womb
That was their Tomb
Are they—and is our earth.

Such is your Immanent God—yea,
Evil as well as good,
Vileness even as beauty
Holds His strange Godhood.
Great He seems in the sea's surge,
Fair in a woman's face,
Yet with the worm
He feeds a term
On every goodly grace.

Spirit, then, you may hold Him,
High of plan and hope.
But world-flesh does He strive with,
Yearn like us—and grope;
So must ever and oft seem
Avid to escape
From the hid yeast
That moulds the least
Of all things to His shape.

Spirit, may be—or haply
We had known no growth,
But in a slime primeval
Still would dwell in sloth.
Yet if such is His Being,
Finite is His need.
To the same ends
As earth He wends
And journeying must bleed.


Apart from the earthquake, I had a nice day. I got up early to fold laundry and watched Main Street, which has Colin Firth and Orlando Bloom inexplicably playing people from North Carolina and Texas -- if you've seen Colin parodying British actors trying to play Southerners on Saturday Night Live, it's not far off at moments. Still, the cast is very good in general (Patricia Clarkson, Amber Tamblyn, Ellen Burstyn) and though the story had all sorts of ominous stuff going on, I liked the ending.

After lunch we decided that we wanted to go see the Civil War sites in Montgomery County from the TV show we had watched the night before, so we went first to Edwards Ferry -- where there is no longer a ferry at the point where the Army of the Potomac crossed in June 1863. But there is a lockhouse in very good shape and the ruins of a C&O Canal lock plus the onetime general store in the small town that was there -- there were frogs in the ruins and damselflies by the water.

Then we went to the Monocacy Aqueduct, which we hadn't even known about before the TV special, though one can walk from Montgomery County into Frederick County across it between the old railroad tracks and the point where the Monocacy River meets the Potomac. We saw lots of animals -- groundhogs, a deer and fawn, many birds and bugs. As we were walking across, several herons took off squawking from spots in the water and the railings began to shake. I thought it was probably from construction somewhere nearby, though younger son joked that it was an earthquake.

Then we got into the car and back into mobile phone range, and the text messages started to come in. We stopped for ice cream in Bealsville, by which time we had realized not only that we had felt an earthquake, but that most of the U.S. east coast had, too. My mother texted that they had had some photos fall down, so we were uneasy about what we'd find at home, and sure enough, we had a major book avalanche off a bookcase and a bunch of small items falling from high shelves, though fortunately nothing major was broken.

Younger son had art class, so Paul drove him while I was still picking up the books and tchotchkes. My parents took older son to pick up a new printer for college. After we retrieved younger son at Glen Echo, we went to California Tortilla for dinner, and we have just finished watching the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, since older son decided that we should watch The Lord of the Rings in its entirety one more time before he goes to college. So, like I said, a lovely day, apart from the natural disaster!

The ruins of a chimney in front of the lockhouse at Edwards Ferry.

There is very little water left in the canal...

...but there is enough for frogs.

Confederate troops planned to blow up Monocacy Aqueduct with the help of some Maryland residents, many of whom were Southern sympathizers.

Now, many animals live in the vicinity, including this groundhog...

...and several herons. This photo was taken very nearly at the moment the earthquake's tremors began, when the birds took off squawking and the railing began to rattle.

We stopped for ice cream at a store that had ducks and chickens in a coop outside.

And came home to scenes like this, plus a couple of very unhappy cats.