Friday, November 30, 2012

Poem for Friday and Hillwood Holidays

What I'm Looking For
By Maureen N. McLane

What I'm looking for
is an unmarked door
we'll walk through
and there: whatever
we'd wished for
beyond the door.

What I'm looking for
is a golden bowl
carefully repaired
a complete world sealed
along cracked lines.

What I'm looking for
may not be there.
What you're looking for
may or may not
be me. I'm listening for

the return of that sound
I heard in the woods
just now, that silvery sound
that seemed to call
not only to me.


Quick entry because I spent the day with Dementordelta so I got behind on non-fun activities! We went to the Hillwood Museum and Gardens so that she could see Pret-a-Papier, the Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibit of paper couture, and I could see it again before it closes in December. There were few people there, particularly in the gardens since it's chilly though there are still gorgeous Japanese maples with leaves, and we had most of the rooms in the mansion to ourselves.

Me and Delta reflected in Marjorie Merriweather Post's dressing table...

...and the mirrored wall in the Icon Room, just behind the Faberge eggs.

The house was decorated for Christmas.

There were poinsettias in the breakfast room...

...miniature trees on the dining room table...

...and artificial cardinals in the trees around the front door.

Me by a De Borchgrave dress...

...and Delta by the visitor center tree.

Afterward we went to Noodles and Co. for lunch, then came back to my house and watched Little Shop of Horrors which I discovered to my horror that she had never seen. After she had to go home, my family had butternut squash soup and French bread pizza for dinner, then Paul and I watched Beauty and the Beast (too much crime, not enough Vincent) and Elementary (finally a story not primarily about a murder). Now Jon Stewart is explaining how the fiscal cliff might really be a slope, or a garden...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poem for Thursday and Brookside Winter Preparations

A Christmas Song
By William Cox Bennett

  Blow, wind, blow,
Sing through yard and shroud;
Pipe it shrilly and loud,
  Aloft as well as below;
Sing in my sailor’s ear
The song I sing to you,
“Come home, my sailor true,
For Christmas that comes so near.”

  Go, wind, go,
Hurry his home-bound sail,
Through gusts that are edged with hail,
  Through winter, and sleet, and snow;
Song, in my sailor’s ear,
Your shrilling and moans shall be,
For he knows they sing him to me
And Christmas that comes so near.


Our minivan was in the Toyota place for service, so Paul worked from home. He made me eggs benedict with veggie Canadian bacon for lunch and we had a quiet afternoon chasing cats off the vents. I spent most of that time finishing a Ridiculous Project that I started more than a year ago, then got distracted from, but which I will be posting soon for your entertainment. Then I took a walk -- deer were crossing the street, much honking ensued but no accidents for which I am very grateful -- and we went to pick up the van, which fortunately needed only minor tweaking.

We put on Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration, another loan from Delta, which was completely awesome because I had no idea who was in it (Glenn Close! Kiri Te Kanawa! Elaine Paige, who can still give me shivers singing "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina"!). Then we watched this week's Nashville, a show I am liking better every week; I want that "Wrong Song" from the end of the episode right now, but it's not out till the album is released on December 11th, woe. Some photos from Brookside Gardens during the setup for the winter lights show:

These are the only flowers blooming at Brookside Gardens outdoors these days...

...though there are plenty of winterberries.

The "Rainbow Giraffe"... enormous dragonfly...

...a beehive and bees...

...and a kangaroo.

The gift shop sells natural critter ornaments...

...mostly based on local animals.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Poem for Wednesday, Black Hill, We Bought a Zoo

The Future is an Animal
By Tina Chang

In every kind of dream I am a black wolf
careening through a web. I am the spider
who eats the wolf and inhabits the wolf's body.
In another dream I marry the wolf and then
am very lonely. I seek my name and they name me
Lucky Dragon. I would love to tell you that all
of this has a certain ending but the most frightening
stories are the ones with no ending at all.
The path goes on and on. The road keeps forking,
splitting like an endless atom, splitting
like a lip, and the globe is on fire. As many
times as the book is read, the pages continue
to grow, multiply. They said, In the beginning,
and that was the moral of the original and most
important story. The story of man. One story.
I laid my head down and my head was heavy.
Hair sprouted through the skin, hair black
and bending toward night grass. I was becoming
the wolf again, my own teeth breaking
into my mouth for the first time, a kind of beauty
to be swallowed in interior bite and fever.
My mind a miraculous ember until I am the beast.
I run from the story that is faster than me,
the words shatter and pant to outchase me.
The story catches my heels when I turn
to love its hungry face, when I am willing
to be eaten to understand my fate.


My Tuesday was mostly about work, holiday projects, and laundry -- when I could get into the laundry room, a task made difficult by two enormous camel crickets determined to make me run back upstairs screaming. I did successfully extract two loads by early afternoon, which I folded while watching We Bought a Zoo, which I figured I would probably like just for the zoo parts even if the script was mediocre. I expected lots of bad animal humor and was surprised that it's actually much more a drama and quite sad, with a dose of histrionics involving the teenage characters. I can see why it wasn't a box office success -- lots of talk about death interspersed with occasional cute animals -- but I thought Damon and Johansson were good in it, though everyone else seemed pretty over the top to me.

Paul picked up Adam on his way home since it was raining in the morning so Adam didn't bike to school, and they arrived at the same time. We had veggie bratwursts for dinner and gave the cats some of the new Friskies food that we took out for Rosie originally to try to tempt her to eat when she was sick, then discovered that all three cats will whine piteously for it. Then we watched Calendar Girls, which Delta loaned me -- I loved it, both the storyline (senior girl power being something never seen in Hollywood films except as comic relief) and the acting, particularly Mirren, Walters, Celie Imrie and Penelope Wilton. Here are some photos from Black Hill Regional Park a couple of weekends ago, while there were still lots of colored leaves on the trees!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Poem for Tuesday, Seneca Creek, Hitchcock Movies

On a Thought of Wordsworth's
By Théophile Gautier
Translated by Agnes Lee

I've read no line of Wordsworth whom the steven
   Of Byron hath assailed with bitterest gall,
   Save this I came upon, a fragment small
In a romance pseudonymously given,
From Apuleius filched, "Louisa,"—leaven
   Of thought impure and pictures passional.
   How well the flash of beauty I recall,
The "Spires whose silent finger points to heaven!"

A white dove's feather down the darkness strayed,
   A lovely flower abloom in some foul nook.
      And now when riming halts and fancy tires,
And Prospero is of Ariel unobeyed,
   I over all the margin of my book
      Trace group on group of heavenward-pointing spires.


Having not spent a single cent shopping over the weekend, not even online, I figured it was safe on Monday to venture out to a mall to see whether they had jeans and t-shirts still on sale (they did, but not in my size). So I told my mother to come meet me for frozen yogurt. And apart from a few bucks on the froyo and $5.50 on vanilla perfume at Claire's, plus a few gifts from Shutterfly that could have been ordered any time but it made more sense to do when I had 40% off plus free shipping, I spent no money during the giant shopping orgy of the weekend. Oh, and I won a Samsung Galaxy t-shirt at a mall kiosk while I was waiting for Mom -- all I had to do was play with their new phones and tablets. Maybe next time I'll win one of those!

Otherwise my day involved laundry, cleaning up leftover Thanksgiving and sick cat mess, visiting the neighborhood deer in the woods, and chatting with my neighbor who does the awesome Halloween display as she was putting up her Christmas lawn decorations. We watched this week's Merlin, which I enjoyed because it had quite a bit of slapstick among the dark arc stuff (I saw that the BBC officially announced today that this season is the series' last, waah). Then while younger son printed out his AP World homework we watched The Girl, which was well-acted but really not an appealing story -- put me right out of the mood to see Hitchcock despite Mirren and Johansson, since Staunton and Miller, both of whom I like, didn't save The Girl for me. Some Seneca photos from last weekend:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Poem for Monday and National Geographic Museum

Upon Seeing a Coloured Drawing of the Bird of Paradise in an Album
By William Wordsworth

Who rashly strove thy Image to portray?
Thou buoyant minion of the tropic air;
How could he think of the live creature--gay
With a divinity of colours, drest
In all her brightness, from the dancing crest
Far as the last gleam of the filmy train
Extended and extending to sustain
The motions that it graces--and forbear
To drop his pencil! Flowers of every clime
Depicted on these pages smile at time;
And gorgeous insects copied with nice care
Are here, and likenesses of many a shell
Tossed ashore by restless waves,
Or in the diver's grasp fetched up from caves
Where sea-nymphs might be proud to dwell:
But whose rash hand (again I ask) could dare,
'Mid casual tokens and promiscuous shows,
To circumscribe this Shape in fixed repose;
Could imitate for indolent survey,
Perhaps for touch profane,
Plumes that might catch, but cannot keep, a stain;
And, with cloud-streaks lightest and loftiest, share
The sun's first greeting, his last farewell ray!
   Resplendent Wanderer! followed with glad eyes
Where'er her course; mysterious Bird!
To whom, by wondering Fancy stirred,
Eastern Islanders have given
A holy name--the Bird of Heaven!
And even a title higher still,
The Bird of God! whose blessed will
She seems performing as she flies
Over the earth and through the skies
In never-wearied search of Paradise--
Region that crowns her beauty with the name
She bears for 'us'--for us how blest,
How happy at all seasons, could like aim
Uphold our Spirits urged to kindred flight
On wings that fear no glance of God's pure sight,
No tempest from his breath, their promised rest
Seeking with indefatigable quest
Above a world that deems itself most wise
When most enslaved by gross realities!


We spent Sunday afternoon at the National Geographic Museum downtown -- first at the Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution exhibit, then the 1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization exhibit, and then the Desert Air: Photographs by George Steinmetz exhibit. The first one, an eight-year expedition by two Cornell evolutionary biologists to study every species of bird of paradise in New Guinea, was my favorite, partly because the birds themselves are so spectacular and partly because I enjoyed hearing about the things they needed to do as photographers to capture images of the birds. The Muslim exhibit was targeted more towards kids and teens, but it started with a short movie starring Ben Kingsley about Islamic scientific contributions and I learned a bunch about architecture and medicine in the Muslim world during the so-called Dark Ages. The photos were taken mostly from above and were spectacular, especially the remote regions of Asia.

The Birds of Paradise exhibit has many video and interactive features...

...including an animatronic bird demonstrating the muscles and feathers during a courtship dance...

...a chance for human males to try out the head-shaking, butt-wagging dances...

...and a feature on the sexy reasons these are important to birds of paradise.

These Victorian hats were made with whole birds. We all agreed that the feathers look a lot better on living birds.

There were few examples of mounted birds because the animals are so rare and most are highly endangered.

This is the elephant clock from the 1001 Inventions exhibit, a model of Al-Jazari's original which used dripping water to tell the time via a Rube Goldberg effect among the various creatures on the clock.

We had parked in front of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, which had its inner doors propped open when we got back to the car. I had never seen the inside of the cathedral and was struck by how gorgeous it is, so we stopped inside for a few minutes before heading home. After catching the very end of the Ravens game, which they won in an overtime nail-biter with their new and apparently worthy kicker, we had dinner with my parents so they could see Daniel before we took him back to school. Then we picked up Daniel's laundry and fencing stuff from home and drove him to College Park, arriving home just as Once Upon a Time was ending -- we had recorded it, so we watched that before the Giants-Packers game which sadly did not go well for Green Bay.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Poem for Sunday and Croydon Creek Nature Center

Big Game
By Brenda Shaughnessy

        —after Richard Brautigan's "A Candlelion Poem"

What began as wildfire ends up
on a candle wick. In reverse,
it is contained,

a lion head in a hunter's den.
Big Game.

Bigger than one I played
with matches and twigs and glass
in the shade.

When I was young, there was no sun
and I was afraid.

Now, in grownhood, I call the ghost
to my fragile table, my fleshy supper,
my tiny flame.

Not just any old, but THE ghost,
the last one I will be,

the future me,
finally the sharpest knife
in the drawer.

The pride is proud.
The crowd is loud, like garbage dumping

or how a brown bag ripping
sounds like a shout
that tells the town the house

is burning down.
Drowns out some small folded breath

of otherlife: O that of a lioness licking her cubs to sleep in a dream of
savage gold.

O that roaring, not yet and yet
and not yet dead.

So many fires start in my head.


It was quite chilly but lovely out on Saturday. We had a quiet morning -- Daniel slept late, Adam worked on various projects -- and after lunch we went to Croydon Creek Nature Center, where we used to go more often when the kids were younger to hike and because it's just behind the Rockville climbing gym where they had several birthday parties when they were younger. This time Adam could not get a photo of the woodpecker he spotted but he was excited to find that Glenview Mansion, which is also on the property, had a portal for Google Ingress, so we walked around the mansion, where Daniel got to the portal first and claimed it, to Adam's annoyance.

This albino corn snake lives in the Croydon Creek Nature Center... does this diamondback terrapin.

Here are my men on the rocks above the creek.

A little waterfall over a buried pipeline.

We saw two cardinals, a woodpecker, and many other birds.

We also saw several deer, though they trotted away as soon as they saw us.

Here are my kids in the nature center in 2006...

...and here they are by the same turtle tank today.

Fortunately we found another portal at Twinbrook Library so Adam could claim it. In the evening, Adam took his girlfriend to The Melting Pot for their one-year anniversary dating and Daniel went to his high school's robotics alumni dinner at a local Chinese buffet. Paul and I watched the sad end of the Maryland-UNC game, stopped at CVS and My Organic Market, watched most of the Notre Game game, then retrieved the kids. After that we put on last week's Merlin, which certainly isn't boring this season but I'm really frustrated with how the women are being written, which is ruining any fun I might be having with the ongoing slash-fest.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Poem for Saturday, Prophet Motive, Lincoln Movies

Hush'd Be The Camps To-Day
By Walt Whitman


Hush'd be the camps to-day;
And, soldiers, let us drape our war-worn weapons;
And each with musing soul retire, to celebrate,
Our dear commander's death.

No more for him life's stormy conflicts;
Nor victory, nor defeat—no more time's dark events,
Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.


But sing, poet, in our name;
Sing of the love we bore him—because you, dweller in camps, know it truly.

As they invault the coffin there;
Sing—as they close the doors of earth upon him—one verse,
For the heavy hearts of soldiers.


We slept as late as the cats would permit to recover from our food comas -- which was not very late at all, though at least Rosie's appetite is returning -- but since Paul and I both had work to do on Friday morning, that wasn't really a bad thing. Have a review of Deep Space Nine's "Prophet Motive", though I forgot to post the finished article till after dinner. After lunch, we went to the movies with most of my extended family (my sister and her youngest daughter stayed back). My father and Daniel went to see Skyfall, which ended up being interrupted in the middle for twenty minutes because someone had to be taken out of the theater on a stretcher, probably more excitement than they were expecting from the film.

The rest of us went to see Lincoln, which I loved. It's a bit pedantic especially at the beginning, though I did wonder how many people needed the historical background because they didn't get the kind of public school education our kids have been lucky enough to have, and despite being talky it's never boring thanks to surprisingly un-showy cinematography and the phenomenal cast (Day-Lewis, Field, Jones, Strathairn, a nearly unrecognizable terrific Spader, a delightful turn by Pace whom I hadn't known was in the movie, and many other wonderful performers). There are interesting parallels to this election season, with corruption obvious among members of both parties, and quite a bit of humor, not all of it ironic (Lincoln tells a naughty story about a Washington painting).

We went back to my parents' for a quick dinner -- my sister's family had to rush back to New York for a Bar Mitzvah tomorrow -- then came home and decided it was a good night to watch Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, which Adam said lowered his IQ just by existing but the rest of us really enjoyed despite the cracky premise and cheesy special effects. I really liked his relationship with both Joshua Speed and Mary Todd, who's usually reduced to near-incoherent hysteria over her family tragedies, even by Spielberg; Bekmambetov's Mary actually has a Buffy the Vampire Slayer moment that I love. Here are some photos from Scott's Run several weeks ago, pre-hurricane, the last time Daniel was home:

In the past five minutes I've come across several reports that Larry Hagman has died. I loved Dallas for many years of my youth and have been enjoying the reboot. I know he fought with cancer for a long time. RIP.