Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Poem for Wednesday, Mount Vernon, Seneca Creek Lights, Terps

The Year
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.


Daniel and I have both apparently caught my father's cold, but it was gorgeous out and we didn't feel like staying in the house, so we went to Mount Vernon to see the holiday festivities. The Christmas camel is making his annual visit, the decorated trees are all around the visitor center, and the top floor of the mansion -- which is only accessible to visitors in the winter -- was open. It wasn't very crowded and the sheep and pigs were out, plus a huge flock of Canada geese down by the Potomac River, so it was a nice afternoon.

Adam's friend's surgery has been rescheduled for tomorrow, so we still have no news about him, but in my distraction being upset about that, I forgot to mention that Adam got three As and three A+s during his first semester at college, while Daniel (who has accepted a job for next year but doesn't want me to say where yet) got an A+ in the OS class that has made him crazy all semester. Huzzah! In the evening we went to see the holiday lights at Seneca Creek State Park, and now we are watching the Terps play Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Poem for Tuesday, Hospital Visit, Hillwood Jewel Trees

A Toast
By Ilya Kaminsky

To your voice, a mysterious virtue,
to the 53 bones of one foot, the four dimensions of breathing,

to pine, redwood, sworn-fern, peppermint,
to hyacinth and bluebell lily,

to the train conductor's donkey on a rope,
to smells of lemons, a boy pissing splendidly against the trees.

Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,
until each ungovernable heart admits: "I confused myself

and yet I loved--and what I loved
I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels,

to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord."


We have had a stressful Monday. In the late morning, we went out with Adam, picked up four of his friends from high school and college (mostly cross country and track runners), stopped at a store to buy Get Well balloons, and drove to Baltimore, where their mutual friend is at Johns Hopkins waiting to have surgery on Tuesday after a car accident on Christmas and some scans at a local hospital indicated cause for concern. The friend seems in good spirits and his parents have a lot of relatives around, but they must all be scared -- I know I am.

At least the friend got to see a lot of people who care about him -- in addition to the ones we drove, there were a couple of others at the hospital when we arrived, and Adam's former girlfriend and her father came a bit later; I hadn't seen her since before Thanksgiving nor her father since the Fourth of July. We had lunch with all the kids at the Subway in the medical complex, and when eventually we got home around 7 p.m., we ate dinner and watched some Adam West Batman episodes to unwind. Hillwood holiday displays to go with the Cartier exhibit:

Aquamarine Tree

Pearl and Diamond Tree

Turquoise Sèvres Dining Service

Ruby Tree

Emerald Tree

Sapphire Breakfast Service

Monday, December 29, 2014

Poem for Monday, Hillwood Holidays, Horns, Hulk

With Child
By Genevieve Taggard

Now I am slow and placid, fond of sun,
Like a sleek beast, or a worn one:
No slim and languid girl--not glad
With the windy trip I once had,
But velvet-footed, musing of my own,
Torpid, mellow, stupid as a stone.

You cleft me with your beauty's pulse, and now
Your pulse has taken body. Care not how
The old grace goes, how heavy I am grown,
Big with this loneliness, how you alone
Ponder our love. Touch my feet and feel
How earth tingles, teeming at my heel!
Earth's urge, not mine,--my little death, not hers;
And the pure beauty yearns and stirs.

It does not heed our ecstacies, it turns
With secrets of its own, its own concerns,
Toward a windy world of its own, toward stark
And solitary places. In the dark
Defiant even now; it tugs and moans
To be untangled from these mother's bones.


It was a drizzly Sunday in the DC area, but that didn't stop us from having a nice day, apart from the fact that Daniel has a cold and doesn't feel well, plus one of Adam's good friends from high school and college was in a car accident and is going to need surgery which is always scary. Cheryl came up in the late morning, Paul made us all lunch, then we went to Hillwood, leaving older son resting his head and younger son going out with a friend. Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate is decorated for the holidays with this year's theme being trees that echo the Cartier jewels on display in the Cartier exhibit in the Adirondack Building in the gardens. Both the house and the exhibit were gorgeous for the season -- the Russian icon displays have been redesigned and it's always fun seeing the pictures of British royalty on display!

When we came home, we watched Horns, which was marketed as a Dorian Grey story -- I thought the character grew bigger horns as his behavior got worse. That is not what it was about at all, and though I found the supernatural theology somewhat muddled, it was interesting and Daniel Radcliffe's performance showed quite a lot of range. We also watched a bunch of Shoujo Cosette episodes (which included Javert's "Would you like my hat?" line!). But the biggest news from the TV this afternoon was the Ravens' victory over the Browns, which got them into the playoffs (I was not devastated that Washington finished its season being crushed by the Cowboys). In the evening, because we noticed it was on cable, we watched the Eric Bana Hulk movie, which I did not love but didn't think was significantly worse than the Ed Norton one.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Placeholder for Sunday

Extreme quickie tonight since I was out until late after dinner with my friend Hildy, whom I have known since first grade! Here are a few photos of the rest of my day, which my family spent wandering around over many blocks in DC. More tomorrow!

Paul, Daniel, and Adam in front of the US Capitol (under construction) and the Congressional Christmas tree.

Inside the Library of Congress, about to visit the Magna Carta on loan from Lincoln Cathedral.

A coded letter by Sir Francis Walsingham in the Decoding the Renaissance cryptography exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

At one of the US Botanic Garden holiday displays...

...and at the train display.

Speaking of trains, here we are at the big Norwegian tree at Union Station.

And out in front of Union Station at dusk.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Poem for Saturday, Washingtonian, Divergent

Hand Grenade Bag
By Henri Cole

This well-used little bag is just the right size
to carry a copy of the Psalms. Its plain-woven
flowers and helicopter share the sky with bombs
falling like turnips—he who makes light of other
men will be killed by a turnip. A bachelor,
I wear it across my shoulder—it’s easier to be
a bachelor all my life than a widow for a day.
On the bag’s face, two black shapes appear
to be crows—be guided by the crow and you
will come to a body—though they are
military aircraft. A man who needs fire
will soon enough hold it in his hands.


We're watching Divergent right now, which I must admit I like even less than I liked Twilight. In the latter, I didn't much like the characters' motivations a lot of the time, but at least I had some clue what they were, whereas in Divergent, they don't even have actual personalities. Perhaps I was spoiled yesterday by The Imitation Game, but in fairness I'd rather watch The Battle of the Five Armies again than Divergent even if the latter passes the Bechdel test.

We had a fairly quiet cleaning-up-stuff family day until late afternoon, when we went out to meet Kay and Chris and their kids at Guapo's for dinner (I had enchiladas and at least three hundred chips with salsa). She brought us Christmas cookies for dessert! I dragged everyone to Charming Charlie because I'd seen an ad that their holiday items were 50-75% off and I really wanted the snowflake bracelet -- got the last one! Here we are looking at the holiday displays:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Poem for Friday, Christmas, The Imitation Game

London Snow
By Robert Bridges

When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
    Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
    Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
    All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
    And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled—marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
    The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.
    Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snowballing;
    Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees;
Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder,
"O look at the trees!" they cried, "O look at the trees!"
    With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
Following along the white deserted way,
A country company long dispersed asunder:
    When now already the sun, in pale display
Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below
His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
    For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow;
And trains of sombre men, past tale of number,
Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go:
    But even for them awhile no cares encumber
Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken,
The daily thoughts of labor and sorrow slumber
At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they have broken.


On Christmas we slept late, hung out at home, were briefly visited by friends between their own Christmas celebrations, chatted with other friends online. Then we picked up my parents and went to see The Imitation Game. It was excellent -- by far the best of the many movies I've seen in the past couple of weeks, superb acting, terrific pacing, directing that didn't get in the way of the story. I can't believe I may have to join the legions rooting for a member of the young British cheekbone brigade to win an Oscar, but unless Selma blows me away, Cumberbatch and Redmayne would seem to be the best actor competition.

After the movie, our intention was to go out for Chinese food, but apparently the Jewish Christmas tradition was in full swing, plus plenty of people who'd been at home with family all day and decided to go out. So we stopped at three different restaurants, all of which were packed, before going home and ordering delivery online...except that although the restaurant sent a confirmation, they never sent the order to the kitchen and we didn't get food till after 9:30 p.m., leading to some extreme crankiness on the parts of some relatives. Now we're watching the Doctor Who Christmas special rerun since we were eating earlier!

One of Adam's presents from his girlfriend.

Myself and Adam teasing the cat while waiting for dinner.

My fortune -- let's hope it ends well!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Poem for Thursday and Brookside Gardens

Hagar in the Wilderness
By Tyehimba Jess

Carved Marble. Edmonia Lewis, 1875

My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the fallen water jug,
of all the hope a vessel holds
before spilling to barren sand.
God of flesh hewn from earth
and hammered beneath a will
immaculate with the power
to bear life from the lifeless
like a well in a wasteland.
I'm made in the image of a God
that knows flight but stays me
rock still to tell a story ancient as
slavery, old as the first time
hands clasped together for mercy
and parted to find only their own
salty blessing of sweat.
I have been touched by my God
in my creation, I've known her caress
of anointing callus across my face.
I know the lyric of her pulse
across these lips...  and yes,
I've kissed the fingertips
of my dark and mortal God.
She has shown me the truth
behind each chiseled blow
that's carved me into this life,
the weight any woman might bear
to stretch her mouth toward her
one true God, her own
beaten, marble song.

Edmonia Lewis (1845-1907) was an African/Native American expatriate sculptor who was phenomenally successful in Rome.


Yet another quickie, this time because we are watching The Phantom Menace (don't ask me, my kids were in the mood and it has been so long for me that several things have surprised me) because after fighting with our Sony-made Blu-Ray player for an hour, we couldn't get The Interview to stream on either YouTube or Google Play. We started late because we were watching "The Himalayas" on Nature (quite good, though nature shows always have animals eating each other) and Adam's best friend, who's just home from Oklahoma where he's been visiting his father since Thanksgiving, stopped by.

Everyone here slept late, then we had lunch and went to Brookside Gardens. Because so much of the park is under construction this winter, there is no big winter light show, but the conservatory has the train display and since the weather was nice, we walked around the tea house, which was closed during the earlier phase of the construction, and followed the stream, which was swollen from the rain. We had Swedish meatballs for dinner since that's what we usually have with Paul's parents for Christmas, though they are in L.A. this year. Merry Christmas if you celebrate, and hope you have a day off regardless!

Daniel and Adam in the conservatory at Brookside...

...and myself and Paul by the poinsettias.

Adam was taking photos.

Thomas the Tank Engine rode around the miniature greenhouse in the train display. It has a miniature train, too.

Because of the construction, there are no outdoor winter lights this year. These were for sale in the gift shop!

Outside it was warm for the season but quite foggy.

This red-shouldered hawk did not seem to mind.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Poem for Wednesday, Conspiracy, Rush, Rawlings Conservatory

Written on the Banks of the Arun
By Charlotte Smith

When latest autumn spreads her evening veil,
And the gray mists from these dim waves arise,
I love to listen to the hollow sighs
Through the half leafless wood that breathes the gale.
For at such hours the shadowy phantom pale,
Oft seems to fleet before the poet's eyes;
Strange sounds are heard, and mournful melodies
As of night-wanderers who their woes bewail.
Here by his native stream, at such an hour,
Pity's own Otway I methinks could meet
And hear his deep sighs swell the saddened wind!
O Melancholy, such thy magic power
That to the soul these dreams are often sweet
And soothe the pensive visionary mind.


We had a fairly uneventful Tuesday. Adam had slept out at an all-night movie-watching party with some high school friends, so I went to pick him up after lunch and dragged him with me to pick up an awesome freecycling giveaway (a huge blue witch ball, 50 glass marbles, and a crystal perfume bottle). Daniel went with Paul so they could renew their passports at the post office, which actually took less time than getting through downtown Bethesda took me! When we all got home and got organized, we had green curry and peanut noodles for dinner.

After we ate, we lit the candles for the last night of Chanukah, and exchanged presents (I got The Sherlock Holmes Tarot, which has the best Happy Squirrel card ever -- the Giant Rat of Sumatra -- and Cards Against Humanity). Then, though I know it's a weird choice for Chanukah, we watched Conspiracy, the Final Solution movie with one of the best casts of male actors ever assembled. It was predictably depressing, so now we are watching Rush, which is an improvement on most racing movies I've seen! Some more photos from the Rawlings Conservatory's It's a Wonderful Life display: