Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Poem for Tuesday and Pre-Lockdown Canal

The Solitary Reaper
By William Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.


Monday morning while I was posting photos from 15 years ago having a glorious afternoon in Durham, my governor finally issued stay-at-home orders to stop surging coronavirus cases. We're not entirely clear what this will mean in terms of local parks and neighborhoods -- no one wants a repeat of the mob scene at the DC cherry blossoms last week, except all the idiots who went down to the cherry blossoms and might try to do the same at various pretty parks -- but since county parks are blocking off paths that lead to play equipment and even our neighborhood has put police tape around the tot lots, we figured we had better go walk along the C&O Canal while it remained open, so although exercise at a safe distance is considered a legitimate reason to be outside and we've been very careful where and while we're hiking, here are what may be the last spring photos I can take outside my own neighborhood:







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As you can see, it was a gorgeous afternoon, nearly 70 degrees but breezy, and we saw several frogs, turtles, squirrels, ducks, and flowers including daffodils, redbuds, violets, and thousands of bluebells. We also saw a big tree that had fallen across the towpath that wasn't there three days ago, which someone had cut so bikes could get past it, but we saw few bikes and even fewer runners, though there were a couple of families with kids in strollers (and a couple of assholes who apparently believe social distancing means it's okay to let their dogs off leash). We had leftover stew (from a mix son had given us) for dinner, then we watched two episodes of Antiques Roadshow and James Corden's Late Late Show homefest concert. Now we're watching Colbert and for the first time ever I actually miss Jimmy Fallon -- will have to catch up on his house and his kids tomorrow. I'm trying to stay positive or at least distracted.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Poem for Monday and McCrillis Flowers

Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album
By Philip Larkin

At last you yielded up the album, which
Once open, sent me distracted. All your ages
Matt and glossy on the thick black pages!
Too much confectionery, too rich:
I choke on such nutritious images.

My swivel eye hungers from pose to pose —
In pigtails, clutching a reluctant cat;
Or furred yourself, a sweet girl-graduate;
Or lifting a heavy-headed rose
Beneath a trellis, or in a trilby-hat

(Faintly disturbing, that, in several ways) —
From every side you strike at my control,
Not least through those these disquieting chaps who loll
At ease about your earlier days:
Not quite your class, I’d say, dear, on the whole.

But o, photography! as no art is,
Faithful and disappointing! that records
Dull days as dull, and hold-it smiles as frauds,
And will not censor blemishes
Like washing-lines, and Hall’s-Distemper boards,

But shows a car as disinclined, and shades
A chin as doubled when it is, what grace
Your candour thus confers upon her face!
How overwhelmingly persuades
That this is a real girl in a real place,

In every sense empirically true!
Or is it just the past? Those flowers, that gate,
These misty parks and motors, lacerate
Simply by being you; you
Contract my heart by looking out of date.

Yes, true; but in the end, surely, we cry
Not only at exclusion, but because
It leaves us free to cry. We know what was
Won’t call on us to justify
Our grief, however hard we yowl across

The gap from eye to page. So I am left
To mourn (without a chance of consequence)
You, balanced on a bike against a fence;
To wonder if you’d spot the theft
Of this one of you bathing; to condense,

In short, a past that no one now can share,
No matter whose your future; calm and dry,
It holds you like a heaven, and you lie
Unvariably lovely there,
Smaller and clearer as the years go by.


Sunday started with rain but turned into a lovely, not-too-warm afternoon, so after a morning of chores and a bit of working on photos, we went to McCrillis Gardens, which is small and local and we figured would not have many people around, which made social distancing very easy. There were lots of wet hellebores, daffodils, and bluebells, plus the first emerging azaleas, which is what the garden is famous for, and some fading magnolias and camellias. We also ran (at a distance) into a friend of my mother's in the park.


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We Skyped with our kids and parents together, which our modems managed pretty well despite a couple of glitches, then had Indian leftovers for dinner and watched Westworld, which had some awesome twists (love Tessa) and a couple of big WTFs that will hopefully be resolved before the season finale (though either way Picard could have learned a couple of things -- post on that still to come). Then we watched Last Week Tonight and the beginning of a NatGeo special about Robert Ballard searching for Amelia Earhart.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Poem for Sunday and Carderock Flowers

The Bluebell
By Emily Brontë

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.

There is a spell in purple heath
Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath,
But fragrance will not cheer,

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,
And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold,
And earth her robe of green.

And ice upon the glancing stream
Has cast its sombre shade;
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed.

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,
The heath has lost its bloom;
The violets in the glen below,
They yield no sweet perfume.

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,
’Tis better far away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile to-day.

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall
Adown that dreary sky,
And gild yon dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy;

How do I weep, how do I pine
For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine,
To mourn the fields of home!


It was overcast and drizzly at times on Saturday -- kind of Seattle weather, though not too cold. I did a bunch of photo scanning and sorting in the morning, then we had bagels and went to walk along the canal, this time at Carderock, where we've had luck in previous years seeing frogs though perhaps because of the weather we weren't as lucky today. Still, we took a nice long walk while seeing few other pedestrians, so social distancing was easy, and there were ducks and birds and lots of bluebells down by the river.









Now that it's free, we binged the rest of Picard, which I'd thought was going downhill but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer awfulness of the finale. I'll have to do a separate post about it so I don't spoil people who haven't watched yet, but objectively I think it was worse than both the Voyager and La Femme Nikita finales though I loved those shows more so I hated the endings more, and if I loved Picard more I'd be devastated. We also watched Hail Caesar, which has its flaws but was a lot more relaxing and fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Poem for Saturday, Spring Canal, Newsies

Afternoon at Great Meadows
By Louise Berliner

two swans stroll
on caramelized water
like prophets,
all leg and neck,
inspecting a beaver lodge. 

each step makes a satisfying crack,
their unwieldy height forcing a slow motion waddle
as they navigate familiar territory gone solid.

they pace counterclockwise, puzzled,
perhaps wondering why the beavers don’t invite them in.
hot chocolate might be nice.

someone’s foot crashes through
it’s loud  and there’s a belly-flop—
proper swan pose at last.

they turn fleet, the first inching
her prow among the icebergs
followed by her pal,
who savors the cleared path.

they run aground,
step up again to the surface,
shake out their giant handkerchiefs.

they could fly but
some memory tethers them to the tundra
summer, perhaps,
just below the surface,
perfect in grasses, worms, frogs.


Friday was thankfully less exciting than Thursday, and also less costly. I did a lot of photo sorting and scanning, Paul had several phone conferences. In between, to my great pleasure, we had Bethesda Bagels -- not my favorite, but they deliver very inexpensively and unlike Goldberg's were not out of pumpernickel. In the late afternoon, we went down to the river, where the bluebells are now all over the banks, the ducks are pairing off, and the frogs and turtles are out!







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Since we had invaders in our house yesterday, we did not see my parents even from a distance; instead we had leftover pizza for dinner before catching up on Supergirl (I like Alex and Kelly but I prefer no damsel in distress storylines even when women do the rescuing) and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist (ugggh make New Greg go away). Then we watched the stage musical of Newsies, which we'd not seen before, since it's on Disney+. I missed Christian Bale but I enjoyed it anyway.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Poem for Friday, Bird Rescue, Park Bluebells

The Fledgling
By Mary Oliver Rotman

A fledgling crow huddled in
the grass beneath the drooling
gazes of my curious dogs.
Its eyes were blue.

And in the tree, its mother screamed.

In my hands it lay, gently confused.
Too young to fear me,
it opened its thirsty beak and greedily
swallowed water from a syringe.

And outside the window, its mother screamed.

I scratched its head,
stroked its breast,
and boxed it for its journey
to a refuge for homeless birds.
And, as I carried it to the car,
its mother circled overhead.

And screamed.


After more than two weeks of having done everything we were supposed to do to keep ourselves and the public safe -- social distancing, no going in public places even for groceries (which we've had delivered), no dining out for family celebrations, live conversations only from several feet away -- we reset everything this morning when we had to invite strangers in because we could hear that the animal in the exhaust vent was still there and trying frantically to get out. We had to call in local wildlife experts -- the humane ones, of course -- and they had to go on the roof and into the attic, then cut two holes in the bathroom drywall just to figure out where it was so they could lure it out. From the level of scratching on the ducts, we were betting that it had to be a squirrel, but it turned out to be a starling that flew out into the living room, where we then had to rescue it from Katniss, who jumped higher than we knew was possible to try to grab it before we shooed it out the back sliding door and it flew into the trees.

So $300 later, the bird was free, we didn't have to worry about a dead animal in our duct work, the space through which we believe the bird entered has been sealed, and now we just have to hope neither of the nice men who climbed all over inside and outside our house have anything contagious. Since this was the most excitement the cats have experienced in years, they slept the rest of the afternoon while we wiped down every surface the animal control guys touched or might have touched. Then Paul did a bunch of phone conferences and I scanned a bunch of 1998 photos, after which we went for a walk to the spring peepers and bluebells at Locust Grove. We had leftovers from the restaurants for dinner, then we watched the Heath Ledger Casanova on Vudu, partly because we really like the movie and partly because Vudu was giving out $2 credit for watching their free-on-demand movies leaving in March. Here's my day, including a frog and ducks at the park, cat supervision, and my new washable safety mask:

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Poem for Thursday and Cherry Blossoms

Gate A-4
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
"If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately."

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help,"
said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
"Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let's call him."

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.


It rained pretty much from dawn till dusk and was very dark outside. I got some scanning done and some chores done, but a lot of my day was taken up with threatening my computer, which has taken to clicking on things I never clicked on even when the mouse is unplugged, and trying to figure out what kind of animal got in through the exhaust vent we just had repainted and I don't know what the guys who did it might have done to make it more accessible to animals (the scrabbling in the vents has stopped, which I deeply hope means the animal got out and not that it's still in there too weak to move).

So I was in a crappy mood till late afternoon, when I did two Pokemon raids from the car in the rain with a friend from high school and her kids. For dinner, we ordered from the Cheesecake Factory to get the dessert part of Paul's birthday. Now I'm very full and have watched The Masked Singer, which somehow always improves my mood greatly, followed by LEGO Masters, which is guaranteed to have a woman in the final, and Stumptown, in which I hope they're not setting up a competition over a boy and which had a great ending. Some attempts at artsy cherry blossom photos and neighborhood art:








Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Poem for Wednesday and Socially Distant Birthday

Love's Philosophy
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river
   And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
   With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
   All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
   Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven
   And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
   If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
   If thou kiss not me? 


Wednesday was Paul's birthday, though it was of necessity a pretty low key one. He had a bunch of phone conferences, I worked on a bunch of scanned photos, we had leftover pizza for lunch. My dad dropped off some presents and we had a socially distant conversation on the sidewalk, then I talked to a couple of neighbors from the same distance.

My parents had offered to get us dinner and we were going to have Cheesecake Factory, but they were only delivering till 4:30, so we had BGR instead. Then we took a walk and Skyped with our kids (both still locked down, both restless). We didn't make it through a full episode of TV because his relatives kept calling but it was nice to hear from everyone!

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