Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poem for Halloween and Hurricane Pictures

Hallow-E'en, 1914
By Winifred M. Letts

"Why do you wait at your door, woman,
     Alone in the night?"
"I am waiting for one who will come, stranger,
     To show him a light.
He will see me afar on the road
     And be glad at the sight."

"Have you no fear in your heart, woman,
     To stand there alone?
There is comfort for you and kindly content
     Beside the hearthstone."
But she answered, "No rest can I have
     Till I welcome my own."

"Is it far he must travel to-night,
     This man of your heart?"
"Strange lands that I know not and pitiless seas
     Have kept us apart,
And he travels this night to his home
     Without guide, without chart."

"And has he companions to cheer him?"
     "Aye, many," she said.
"The candles are lighted, the hearthstones are swept,
     The fires glow red.
We shall welcome them out of the night—
     Our home-coming dead."


It's hard to believe that Halloween has arrived -- we haven't even carved our pumpkins, we've been so focused on other things, and I've read that trick-or-treating has been postponed in the Hudson Valley while the hurricane cleanup continues. We had rain all day, but in our own neighborhood at least, thankfully there were few indications of how severe the storm was overall. There were a couple of trees down, but nothing like after the derecho in July and nothing like what New Jersey and New York got, plus our neighborhood kept power nearly continuously, though there are people in the region and the state who still don't have it (waves to Rachel). I feel very, very lucky, though older son is complaining that Sandy was a disappointment in College Park!

We had a quiet day with everyone home again -- schools closed, Paul's office closed, several local roads closed so we didn't go anywhere besides Adam's girlfriend's house and the food store (having not bought milk or cheese in case we lost power, we were running low). I walked around to see what the neighborhood looked like after the storm, but it was raining and quite chilly, so I didn't cover the entire area. We watched The Runaways because Paul hadn't seen it. I don't understand why people are freaking out about the Disney-Lucasfilm merger, even (or perhaps particularly) feminists: how could anything Disney did possibly be worse than Attack of the Clones? Best of luck to everyone cleaning up after the storm; here are a few unimpressive photos from right around here:

A tree fell across three of my neighbors' backyards, smashing through several fences.

Even in the worst of the rain on Monday, younger son walked the neighbor's dog.

We had lots of leaves down, green ones as well as autumn ones...

...and impromptu streams forming where we usually have a trickle...

...but apart from backed-up gutters, we were on high enough ground not to have any flooding.

Now we have some completely bare trees and some still gorgeous like this pair.

I am pleased to report that the five-deer family I often see in the neighborhood woods appear to have come through the storm fine.

And most of the Halloween decorations appeared to have survived.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Poem for Tuesday, Post-Hurricane, Pre-Halloween

Eternal Father, Strong to Save
By William Whiting

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm has bound the restless wave,
Who bid the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

And when our ship's long course is run,
Her work for home and country done,
Of all the souls that in her sailed
Let not one life in thee have failed;
But hear from heaven our sailor's cry,
And grant eternal life on high.


It is probably an odd thing to be upset about the loss of a ship when people have died in a storm -- even one of the crewmembers from that ship, whose captain is still missing -- but with the sinking of the HMS Bounty, I feel like a celebrity I'd met several times has passed away. We lost power briefly tonight, but otherwise I will cautiously say that personally we got very lucky as Hurricane Sandy swept through; we had pouring rain and leaves coming down all day, tree branches scratching our house through the evening, but nothing like what parts of DC and New York City are getting hit with, not to mention the coastal areas. Based on the photos of the island, I am worried about the ponies on Chincoteague, and though everyone I know personally in the evacuation areas of New York has checked in, I'm sure there are plenty of distressed people. The worst injury to anyone I know personally was Adam's girlfriend's father, who fell off a ladder fixing a leaky roof, though apparently he's okay.

My whole family had the day off and will again tomorrow -- Daniel had classes canceled in College Park, Adam's high school is closed along with the rest of the county, and Paul's local office told everyone to stay home. Maddy visited for a while and Adam managed to walk the neighbor's dog, though it was pouring and quite chilly. I did laundry last night since I was afraid of losing power and I folded it today while watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest because I wanted to watch a movie with the Bounty in it, then I made some jewelry and rearranged my accessories drawers; I didn't want to start anything on the computer because I thought we might lose power any minute. Evening involved downloaded TV (Merlin, quite enjoyable though they need to give Gwen more to do, and Downton Abbey, better than last week) and a bit of Monday Night Football's lopsided game. Anticipating Halloween, here's the local pumpkin stand and some decorations:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Poem for Monday and Pre-Hurricane Canal

Problems with Hurricanes
By Victor Hernández Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.


We had a pretty quiet Sunday waiting for the storm. It was cloudy and overcast all day but we didn't get any rain until after dark and it's still just drippy, nothing like we've been warned to expect tomorrow. Neither of my kids has school on Monday -- both the county and the university have canceled classes -- and Paul doesn't have to go to work, as the local offices of his company are all closed. So we did things like getting Halloween candy, in case the stores are closed between now and then, and doing laundry, in case we have no electricity to wash the bulky items next week. We missed the Redskins game, which ended badly anyway, and saw about half of the Giants-Cowboys game, though I was mostly rejoicing that the Eagles had lost. Congrats to the other Giants!

In between chores at home, we went to the C&O Canal to walk a bit on the path by the river, which was so still and glassy that it was hard to believe a huge storm was coming. We also stopped at the Bethesda Co-op for non-perishables in case we have to empty our freezer, so that was mostly organic snacks and a bottle of sangria! We were subjected to endless election related advertising and robocalls and I've lost another friend on Facebook whom I never judged when she told me about various bad behavior at work but who apparently cannot handle having Republican distortions debated. I've decided I'll vote for Question 7, the casino referendum, if they'll do one ad supporting Question 6 and showing gay marriages taking place at the proposed casino!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Placeholder for Sunday

I am just home from the Bat Mitzvah reception for my oldest friend's daughter, which has taken up the part of my day when we didn't get out to enjoy the calm before the storm with Adam at Little Bennett and Black Hill Regional Parks. The former is much further along in the autumn than the latter -- most of the tall trees have completely lost their leaves, though the Allegheny "mound builder" ants are still active in their enormous anthills and this year the beavers did not dam up the creek and flood the trails, while at Black Hill there are many colorful trees plus ducks and geese eating off the bottom of the lake.

I am bummed that the Terps lost but we didn't see a minute of the game. My evening has involved lots of food and "Y.M.C.A." and a chocolate fountain and disco lights and seeing old friends plus many of their relatives, which has been perfectly lovely -- this is the daughter of our friends who throw the Super Bowl party every year -- and I had a whiskey sour so I had better quit typing while I am ahead. Will post park photos during the week assuming Hurricane Sandy permits it; our plans for Sunday have been canceled by the theater, which is closing for the day in anticipation of the storm. Stay safe and dry, everyone!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Poem for Saturday, Catoctin Creek Sheep, Past Tense

History of Hurricanes
By Teresa Cader

Because we cannot know—
we plant crops, make love in the light of our not-knowing
A Minuteman prods cows from the Green with his musket,
his waxed paper windows snapping in the wind,
stiletto stalks in the herb garden upright—Now
blown sideways—Now weighted down in genuflection,
not toward,
And a frail man holding an Imari teacup paces at daybreak
            in his courtyard in Kyoto
a cherry tree petaling the stones pink and slippery
            in the weeks he lay feverish
waiting for word from the doctor, checking for signs—Now
in the season of earthenware sturdiness and dependency
            it must begin, the season of his recovery
No whirling dervish on the radar, no radar, no brackets
no voices warning—no Voice—fugue of trees, lightning
Because we cannot know, we imagine
What will happen to me without you?
I know some things I remember—
the Delaware River two stories high inside the brick houses
cars floating past Trenton like a regiment on display
brown water climbing our basement stairs two at a time
Like months of remission—
                        the eye shifts
the waxed paper windows
                      burst behind the flapping shutters—
and how could he save his child after that calm,
a man who'd never seen a roof sheared off?
Across town the ninth graders in their cutoffs:
Science sucks, they grouse. Stupid History of hurricanes.
No one can remember one;
velocity, storm surge—
the earth churns as Isabel rips through Buzzard's Bay
A hurricane, as one meaning has it:
a large crowded assembly of fashionable people at a private house
The river cannot remember its flooding—
          I worry you will forget to check
                        the watermarks in time
An echo of feet on stone is all the neighbors
                   knew of their neighbor,
                        a lover of cherry trees
and of his wife who prayed for him at the shrine,
her hair swept up in his favorite onyx comb


Guess what I was Googling when I discovered that poem! Our news all day has been dominated (for a change) not by the election but by imminent doom approaching from the southeast, a.k.a. Frankenstorm, which is going to ruin 1) the weekend, 2) Halloween, and 3) Election Day when Hurricane Sandy comes ashore in 1) Norfolk, 2) Philadelphia, or 3) New York and 1) knocks over trees and knocks out electricity, 2) floods houses and subways and pollutes clean water supplies, and 3) merges with a nor'easter to creates a massive snowstorm. We went out and bought toilet paper, bottled water, and gas, but if our power goes out briefly, we are planning to mooch off my parents' new generator, and if the entire region goes out, we are planning an impromptu visit to my in-laws. We have theater tickets for Sunday in the Brandywine Valley with and are hoping the storm arrives late enough that we can go!

In other news, I posted a review of the two parts of Deep Space Nine's "Past Tense", which remains as socially relevant as it was when it first aired; I refrained from drawing too many parallels between the Romney-Ryan plan for America and the America of 2024 portrayed in the episode (particularly since it was written in the post-Reagan era in response to the Gingrich budget), but it's all too easy to imagine the Occupy tent villages winding up turned into Sanctuary Districts. We took Adam and Maddy to her house for dinner with her parents, had dinner with my parents, then came home and watched Nikita (LOL Doctor Who fans) before retrieving Adam and subjecting ourselves to The Weather Channel. Here are some photos from Catoctin Creek Farm, which primarily raises sheep for wool, though there are chickens and kittens running around too:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poem for Friday and A Paca Fun Farm

Fame is a fickle food
By Emily Dickinson

Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate,
Whose table once a Guest, but not
The second time, is set.
Whose crumbs the crows inspect,
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer’s corn;
Men eat of it and die.


My Uncle Mickey's wife Lesley is in town for business, so on Thursday my mother and I went downtown to have lunch with her at the Park Hyatt -- the Blue Duck Tavern's California Gold Rice Risotto is as good as its online reviews, and it was great to see Lesley whom I hadn't seen in nearly three years. After lunch and catching up on family stuff, my mom and I walked around in Georgetown for a while and stopped at Whole Foods for fruit, dark chocolate (her) and vegetarian frozen food (me).

Adam went with the cross country team after school to the course where regionals will take place and managed to arrange his own ride home, so I went out to the mall to get my free-with-Facebook-coupon L'Occitane En Provence peony hand cream. After dinner, we watched Beauty and the Beast and Elementary; I like the former better, since it has non-murder cases and more interesting women, but I am nonetheless delighted that the latter got picked up for a full season. Look, alpacas!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poem for Thursday and Frederick Goats

Spirit Birds
By Stanley Plumly

The spirit world the negative of this one,
soft outlines of soft whites against soft darks,
someone crossing Broadway at Cathedral, walking
toward the god taking the picture, but now,
inside the camera, suddenly still. Or the spirit
world the detail through the window, manifest
if stared at long enough, the shapes of this
or that, the lights left on, the lights turned off,
the spirits under arcs of sycamores the gray-gold
mists of migratory birds and spotted leaves recognize.

Autumnal evening chill, knife-edges of the avenues,
wind kicking up newspaper off the street,
those ghost peripheral moments you catch yourself
beside yourself going down a stair or through
a door—the spirit world surprising: those birds,
for instance, bursting from the trees and turning
into shadow, then nothing, like spirit birds
called back to life from memory or a book,
those shadows in my hands I held, surprised.
I found them interspersed among the posthumous pages

of a friend, some hundreds of saved poems: dun
sparrows and a few lyrical wrens in photocopied
profile perched in air, focused on an abstract
abrupt edge. Blurred, their natural color bled,
they'd passed from one world to another: the poems,
too, sung in the twilit middle of the night, loved,
half-typed, half-written-over, flawed, images
of images. He'd kept them to forget them.
And every twenty pages, in xerox ash-and-frost,
Gray Eastern, Gold Western, ranging across borders.


Stage one of The Flickr Upload of Doom is complete! Which is to say that 100,000+ photos have been uploaded, put in sets, tagged, and labeled. Currently they are mostly hidden so I can go through them and decide which should be public, starting with the big trips (the UK trips and a couple of others are already unlocked) and then various events, local sightseeing, etc. going back to 2000 (whether I want to scan any significant number of photos from before then -- now it's pretty much just our honeymoon, a few baby pictures of the kids, and some Star Trek conventions -- is a question for another day).

Apart from that, I got some writing done, the laundry got folded, the weather was gorgeous, I saw at least six deer while out walking (I say "at least" because I'm not sure whether I saw eight or whether two of them were the same deer who'd walked parallel to me in the woods). We watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang since I needed a laundry-folding movie; the acting was great and there was some truly hilarious moments, but overall it was too violent for me really to love it and the one person who deserved to die was spared. Then we watched Nashville, which I'm still enjoying though it's soapy. Have some Caprikorn Farm goats and cheese:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Poem for Wednesday and Frederick Festivities

Dreamy Willie and the Trinity of Cows
By Nicky Beer

     I was certain there would be a cloud and a burst of light
     and God would bring the calf in the cloud out of the light.

          —The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats

The field in the half-moonlight is a net of grasswater holding tepid light as if the stars
     Had sent us their dead.
This was where the pale cow had staggered an hour before, ribs glossed to breaking
     With long-held breaths,
Each exhalation sounding, to the boy, like her perturbed astonishment at finding herself
     To be a cow after all.
The boy had come here to wait for God. Flat on his belly for two hours now, heartbeat huge
     In the spindly rowboat of his ribs,
Now when the milk-light of evening and the milk-light of dawn chills to a Celtic blue
     As exactly the skies ought to
Before their ancient maker steps down into the waiting world. He'd already
     Rehearsed his embellishments
For the retelling, ready to say how God came with the calf in one ruddy, muscled arm
     And a gleaming confusion
Of bilberries and apples cradled in the other, and how even the scrubby pines had
     Choired mightily at the mystery . . .
As if to reproach the pagan embroidery of this reverie, the cow bawls out a warning,
     Nose tipped back to a violet rent
In a bank of clouds above the pines, answering it with her own cumulus of mucus,
     A thrilled, viscous heralding.
The boy's body becomes all expectation, potential: the neat clockspring of a sprout
     Packed in a seed-case.
He feels the benevolence of the flattened grass under him taking over his heart's rhythm,
      Dividing the labor
Between the thousandshare of their inchling respirations. The clouds sink
      Closer to the earth.
Another bovine bawl, and her forelegs collapse beneath her in a sudden mea culpa.
      (O for what transgressions
May a cow require absolution?) Her hindquarters follow suit, and her chuffing trunk is laid
      Low, tail quirked and raised
In a hairy cursive loop, an oculus through which he may witness His coming.
      At first, the boy, in his anxious audit
Of the treetops, misses the initial dilation, and the strange wet fist pressing
      Itself out of her flesh.
But then a rude splutter end-stops the phrase of his anticipation, the noise too
      Prolonged to be abrupt—
More like a lingering drawing-in of broth. There seems, at first, to be a sudden
      Shadow obscuring
The spectral thighs of the cow, but then the boy's vision adjusts to horror:
      The creature is pushing
A black, slick miniature of its own self out of its body, a sin-darkened incarnation
      Which it chose
Only now to cast off. Or was the larger, alabaster animal the decorous cloister
      From which the other
Was now wrenching itself? The blood on the white hide could mean
      Anything. The cow
Rises to its feet again, the lanky forelegs of the other dangling down like clappers,
      Its body all
Slippery joint and skin, a drowned tinker's sack. The boy's gone from closed
      Fist to floating feather
Over a chasm: he's dangling there with the creature above the ground, certain
      Its hooves will split
Open the earth where they touch down. Suddenly, the head on each end
      Of the heaving body turns,
Looking itself in the eye for the first time with a slow and liquid gaze, pouring
      Into itself, two
Floods meeting in an abysmal muteness that is half erasure and half incarnation.
      Then the golden light
Seizes them. The air fills with blood and milk and water.
      His back feels warm.
The world behind him is already in flames.


Work. Laundry. Flickr. Post-debate analysis. Texting. Giants. Facebook. Syria. Tropical storm. Cross-country regionals alternates schedule. Lunch. Laundry. Writing. Flickr. Climate change. Lance Armstrong. Twitter. Methane on Mars. Deer. Texting. Idiot Republicans in Indiana. Cats. Articles. Dinner. The Secret World of Arrietty. Scheduling. Flickr. Football. Stewart/Colbert. Frederick Festival of the Farm:

South Mountain Creamery

Gambrill State Park

Caprikorn Farm

Monocacy Valley

Catoctin Creek Farm

Spires of Frederick

South Mountain Creamery

Caprikorn Farm