Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Poem for Tuesday, Lake Needwood, Mormon Temple Lights

By Rita Dove

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.


It was an unseasonably warm rainy morning again. Adam had lunch plans downtown with a friend from college, so he took the Metro to meet him. Daniel did laundry and worked on his costume for MagFest. We had thought we might go to the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade in the afternoon, but it closed at 4 p.m. and there was an accident making the Beltway very slow by the time we retrieved Adam. So instead we went to Lake Needwood, which has paved paths through the woods (and although it had finally stopped raining, it was still pretty muddy in Rock Creek Park).

We made a stop at Kohl's so I could pick something up bought online in the big December sale and got to see a gorgeous sunset in Gaithersburg. Then we headed to the Mormon Temple in Kensington, which has a festival of lights outdoors and creches from around the world inside the visitor center (the actual temple is under renovation and non-LDS aren't allowed inside). We missed the Gay Men's Chorus of DC in the indoor theater, but we got to see the life-size nativity recreation. Then we came home for a late dinner and watched Men in Black: International, which our kids had not seen.


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Monday, December 30, 2019

Poem for Monday and Holiday Happenings

Year's End
By Ellen Bryant Voigt

The fingers lie in the lap,
separate, lonely, as in the field
the separate blades of grass
shrivel or grow tall.

We sat together in the little room,
the walls blotched with steam,
holding the baby as if the two of us
could breathe for him and were not helpless.
Upstairs, his sister turned in her sleep
as the phone rang—

to have wakened to a child’s cry,
gagged and desperate,
and then repeat that terror when the call
split the quiet house and centered
its dire message:
                        a child was dead
and his mother so wrung by grief
she stared and stared
at the moon on its black stalk,
the road glistening like wire.
Rubbing the window clear of steam
as a child rubs sleep from its eyes,
and looking past the fence to where
he had plunged the sled up and down the hill,
we could still see the holes his feet made,
a staggered row of graves
extracting darkness from the snow.
When morning brought the new year in,
the fever broke, and fresh snow
bandaged the tracks on the hill.
For a long time we stayed in the room,
listening to him breathe,
like refugees who listen to the sea,
unable to fully rejoice, or fully grieve.


It rained hard all morning, so we got a slow start -- the young people were not even downstairs till noon -- then we had a nice busy afternoon, Paul made lunch, we went to Brookside Gardens' conservatory so they could see the holiday flowers and the train display, we stopped at Roots Market since we were up in that direction and got veggie stuff, then we met my elementary school friend Hildy and her husband plus two of her daughters for dinner at Cava (the third stayed back to babysit their dog at her grandparents' house) and talked for over two hours!

So it was awesome to see them, and afterward we came home, lit the menorah, and watched Us, which being a horror movie is really not my thing but which had a lot of very enjoyable performances and was definitely not boring! Here are a few photos of the garden, a post-dinner selfie, the last night of Chanukah, and Katniss watching the movie with Daniel, with whom she begrudgingly agreed to share the couch after having tried to sprawl over the whole thing:


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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Poem for Sunday, Potomac Overlook Park, Chanukah

Poem for the New Year
By Devin Johnston

I've tracked myself from day to day
how many steps through a field of snow
how many hours have I slept
what have I eaten
what did I burn
calories or cigarettes
what birds have poured
through Bellefontaine
where mausoleums bear the names
of Busch and Brown
Lemp and Spink
on marble white as winter endive
when I can read my title clear
to mansions in the skies
what have I read
how many words
what facts
statistics biometrics
what data aggregation
what news
of wins and losses
getting and spending
each dawn a color wheel
to gauge the shifting moods
the daylight sunk in trees
an index of attraction

According to the Tao Te Ching
each day brings more
and more of less
less and still less
with no end to nothing
and nothing left undone

Even here in Bellefontaine
along a winding street
silence brings an interval
of yet more distant sound
trucks along the interstate
a plane behind the clouds  


Adam came back early from his movie marathon to shower and change, then we drove him into the city to meet Katherine's family at the Kennedy Center to see My Fair Lady. We had thought about visiting art museums with Daniel while we were downtown, but it was over 60 degrees and we decided we wanted to enjoy the weather before the forecast rain on Sunday, so instead we went to Potomac Overlook Park, which has hiking trails and a nature center (and a bandstand where we've seen concerts, though not at this time of year).

My parents had invited Katherine's family to come for dinner and to celebrate Chanukah, so we went to their house in the evening and met up with Adam, Katherine, her parents, brother and sister, and a cousin. We ate a lot, played some dreidel, exchanged some gifts, and caught up on various local and global events, including the LSU-Oklahoma game. When we came home, we watched the end of the Clemson-Ohio State game, and as much as I don't like having to root for the latter as the Big 10 champion, I don't like unfair calls against them even more!

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Poem for Saturday, Cabin John and Chanukah

Year's End
By Richard Wilbur

Now winter downs the dying of the year,  
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show  
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,  
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin  
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell  
And held in ice as dancers in a spell  
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;  
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,  
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns  
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone  
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown  
Composedly have made their long sojourns,  
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise  
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze  
The random hands, the loose unready eyes  
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.  
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause  
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.


Paul worked in the morning and our kids had plans with friends, so until mid-afternoon, a lot of my day involved running around -- getting Daniel to the Metro to meet someone downtown, picking up bagels for Adam for lunch, working on plans with my friend Hildy from elementary school who's in town with her family, sending Adam off to a movie marathon with his high school friends, retrieving Daniel whom Paul and I then took to walk in Cabin John Park before stopping at Giant to grab cat food and a few other necessities. We had dinner with my parents before coming home to catch Daniel up on the last four episodes of The Mandalorian, whose season finale we had watched earlier in the day with Adam while Daniel was out. Now we are once again watching Clone Wars!

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Friday, December 27, 2019

Poem for Friday, Riverbend Park and Washingtonian Lake

Double View of the Adirondacks as Reflected Over Lake Champlain from Waterfront Park
By Major Jackson

The mountains are at their theater again,
each ridge practicing an oration of scale and crest,
and the sails, performing glides across the lake, complain
for being out-shadowed despite their gracious
bows. Thirteen years in this state, what hasn’t occurred?
A cyclone in my spirit led to divorce, four books
gave darkness an echo of control, my slurred
hand finding steadiness by the prop of a page,
and God, my children whom I scarred! Pray they forgive.
My crimes felt mountainous, yet perspective
came with distance, and like those peaks, once keening
beneath biting ice, then felt resurrection in a vestige
of water, unfrozen, cascading and adding to the lake’s
depth, such have I come to gauge my own screaming.
The masts tip so far they appear to capsize, keeling
over where every father is a boat on water. The wakes
carry the memory of battles, and the Adirondacks
hold their measure. I am a tributary of something greater.


We had gorgeous weather on Thursday, so after Paul finished working in the morning (and the people who stayed up late the night before woke up), we headed to Scott's Run in Virginia, but the parking lot was so crowded that we decided to go to Riverbend Park nearby instead. There are no eagles raising chicks there at this time of year, but there are plenty of geese, ducks, seagulls, and songbirds, plus lots of evidence of beaver work though we didn't actually see any beavers.

We came home for a little while, then went to Washingtonian Center to meet Kay and Chris and their family for dinner at CPK. We haven't all gotten together in a long time, so that was great! Then we walked back to the car along Washingtonian Lake, which has some of Seneca Creek's winter lights on display, and came back for Chanukah and The Hitman's Bodyguard because the kids hadn't seen it. Now Daniel and I are watching more Clone Wars and everyone has plans tomorrow!


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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Greetings from Hanover

We spent most of Christmas with my parents and Paul's parents -- we drove the former to Hanover to the home of the latter, then we all went out for lunch at the Hibachi Buffet Grill and back to Clair and Cinda's house to exchange gifts and eat holiday cookies that Paul made. Daniel and I took a little walk to do a Jingle Bell Stantler raid and most of us took a little walk to the playground nearby just to get some exercise before driving home. We dropped my parents off, celebrated the fourth night of Chanukah, and played Goatfish until Adam went out with his high school friends to see Cats. The rest of us watched some World According to Jeff Goldblum and some Clone Wars. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, is having a Happy Chanukah, or at least had a lovely Wednesday!

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Greetings from the C&O Canal

Merry Christmas, all who celebrate! We are celebrating the third night of Chanukah by watching The Star Wars Holiday Special, which is surpassed only by Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight! as my absolute favorite Christmas show. Earlier we took a walk along the canal, where the turtles are hibernating but we saw lots of birds and squirrels, then we stopped at the food store and Daniel and I did a couple of Pokemon raids. When we got home, Paul made Swedish meatballs and dill veg so he could have the Christmas dinner of his childhood while we all watched The Report, then after we ate we played Goatfish before the Star Wars brilliance. Hope everyone is having a great holiday!

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Poem for Tuesday, Artechouse and USBG

Christmas Eve
By Ella Higginson

Straight thro' a fold of purple mist
   The sun goes down—a crimson wheel—
And like an opal burns the sea
   That once was cold as steel.

With pomp of purple, gold and red,
   Thou wilt come back at morrow's dawn…
But thou can'st never bring, O Sun,
   The Christmas that is gone!


Paul worked from home on Monday morning while all the young people in the house slept in, then we had breakfast together at 11 and drove downtown to L'Enfant Plaza so we could go to Artechouse to see Aurora: The Spirit of Northern Lights, an interactive light display creating a winter forest, a snow cave, and skies filled with snowy light. There's even a bar that serves drinks with augmented reality tags so that ice crystals and snowflakes appear around the drinks and drinkers if you hold them up to your mobile phone with the Artechouse app running.

From Artechouse we walked Katherine to the train to head to her home, then headed to the US Botanic Garden, which has its annual show of plant-based replicas of the buildings of the National Mall, plus model trains, poinsettias, and outdoor holiday lights. After walking back to the car, we were all hungry, so we went to the Silver Diner for which I had a coupon for a free birthday dinner and dessert. We started to watch The Witcher, but it was slow to get going and a lot of episodes to cram in, so we watched 6 Underground, which may be the most Michael Bay movie ever made!

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