Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Putting in the Seed
You come to fetch me from my work tonight
When supper's on the table, and we'll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea),
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a springtime passion for the earth,
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Going to Walden
It isn't very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!
Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe. But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchard for a dome,
Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;
I just wear my wings,
And instead of tolling the bell for church,
Our little sexton sings.
God preaches,--a noted clergyman,--
And the sermon is never long;
So instead of getting to heaven at last,
I'm going all along!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The weather may be similar, but I must admit to looking forward to the magnificent ocean views. The hotel claims to offer views of the bay in one direction and a view of Mt. Vesuvius in the other. It's a win-win!
What I don't look forward to is the 10 hour flight. My husband and I dread that, but once again we'll fold our aging, aching bones into our seats and beg stewards for water throughout all for a chance to unfold once again in Europe in spring.
This year we're going back to Italy, because when we last went to Rome we regretted that we had missed Pompeii. We had to correct that. We'll also visit the Isle of Capri, including Anacapri and the Villa of San Michele. Heavens above, I can't wait for that! We haven't decided yet about the Blue Grotto. I'll let you know when I return. Naturally, we'll spend a day in Pompeii. We're also considering a day trip to Rome, but it depends on just how strong we're feeling.
Rome was for us a fairy tale. We fell head over heels in love with that city and both knew it needed more time than the week we spent exploring, but we're older and slower. If we could detour to Florence, I'd definitely go north, because one can not gaze long enough at Michelangelo's "David." These days it may be enough for us to get to Pompeii, Capri and Naples. We'll see.
The best thing about Italy is the gelato! ...To-Die-For Gelati! When in Rome, we had it from nearly every vendor we passed. One of the numerous guides I've read about Naples promises the same, streets and streets of gelato vendors! Bless the Italians!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Axel Munthe was a Swedish physician who, in his youth, traveled on holiday to Capri (say that with the accent on the first syllable) and fell in love with it. His book, The Story of San Michele, defies definition. Loosely, it is an autobiography, very loosely. It might be called a memoir if it did not cling so dearly to the dream of Dr. Munthe's to dwell in and restore San Michele.
The book's copyright is 1929, and Axel Munthe wrote it in his elderly years, but having been to Italy once before, I know that the charm and vibrancy of his descriptions are accurate for the modern nation, and I can't wait to see Capri for myself.
"I sprang from the Sorrento sailing-boat on to the little beach. Swarms of boys were playing about among the upturned boats or bathing their shining bronze bodies in the surf, and old fishermen in red Phrygian caps sat mending their nets outside their boat-houses. Opposite the landing-place stood half-a-dozen donkeys with saddles on their backs and bunches of flowers in their bridles, and around them chattered and sang as many girls with the silver spadella stuck through their black tresses and a red handkerchief tied across their shoulders. The little donkey who was to take me up to Capri was called Rosina, and the name of the girl was Gioia. Her black lustrous eyes sparkled with fiery youth, her lips were red like the string of corals round her neck, her strong white teeth glistened like a row of pearls in her merry laughter. She said she was fifteen and I said that I was younger than I had ever been. But Rosina was old, "é antica," said Gioia. So I slipped off the saddle and climbed leisurely up the winding path to the village. In front of me danced Gioia on naked feet, a wreath of flowers round her head, like a young Bacchante, and behind me staggered old Rosina in her dainty black shoes, with bent head and drooping ears, deep in thought. I had no time to think, my head was full of rapturous wonder, my heart full of the joy of life, the world was beautiful and I was eighteen. We wound our way through bushes of ginestra and myrtle in full bloom, and here and there among the sweet-scented grass many small flowers I had never seen before in the land of Linnaeus, lifted their graceful heads to look at us as we passed.
"What is the name of this flower?" said I to Gioia. She took the flower from my hand, looked at it lovingly and said: "Fiore!"
"And what is the name of this one?" She looked at it with the same tender attention and said: "Fiore!"
"And how do you call this one?"
"Fiore! Bello! Bello!"
She picked a bunch of fragrant myrtle, but would not give it to me. She said the flowers were for S. Costanzo, the patron saint of Capri who was all of silver and had done so many miracles, S. Costanzo, bello! bello!
A long file of girls with tufa stones on their heads slowly advanced towards us in a stately procession like the caryatides from the Erechtheum. One of the girls gave me a friendly smile and put an orange into my hand. She was a sister of Gioia's and even more beautiful, thought I. Yes, they were eight sisters and brothers at home, and two were in Paradise. Their father was away coral-fishing in "Barbaria," look at the beautiful string of corals he had just sent her, "che bella collana! Bella! Bella!"
"And you also are bella, Gioia, bella, bella!"
"Yes," said she.
My foot stumbled against a broken column of marble, "Roba di Timberio!" explained Gioia. "Timberio cattivo, Timberio Mal'occhio, Timberio camorrista!" and she spat on the marble.
"Yes," said I, my memory fresh from Tacitus and Suetonius, "Tiberio Cattivo!"
We emerged on the high road and reached the Piazza with a couple of sailors standing by the parapet overlooking the Marina, a few drowsy Capriotes seated in front of Don Antonio's osteria, and half-a-dozen priests on the steps leading to the church, gesticulating wildly in animated conversation: "Moneta! Moneta! Molta moneta; Niente moneta!" Gioia ran up to kiss the hand of Don Giacinto who was her father confessor and un vero santo, though he did not look like one. She went to confession twice a month, how often did I go to confession?
Not at all!
Would she tell Don Giacinto that I had kissed her cheek under the lemon-trees?
Of course not."
--from the opening chapter of "The Story of San Michele" © renewed 1957
Thursday, March 26, 2009
"...I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond.... So I went on for some days cutting and hewing timber, and also studs and rafters, all with my narrow axe, not having many communicable or scholar-like thoughts, singing to myself,--
Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings--
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances:
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.
...Before I had done I was more the friend than the foe of the pine tree, though I had cut down some of them, having become better acquainted with it."
I do not know that many folk do or know any better than 164 years ago today.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I learned something absolutely novel to me today. I googled the word "distaff" and was quite surprised to discover that, consistent with its domestic use as a noun, it is also an adjective, describing the female side of a family. It just goes to show how deeply interwoven was this activity of spinning and weaving in the role of women among my European ancestors.
A saga reader like myself knows how valuable the products of weaving were, because men used ells of cloth in trade in the same way they traded marks of gold. Cloth was even used for compensation at the death of a kinsman. A man who didn't have a wife to weave cloth for him was a poor man indeed. Farming, fishing and husbandry kept meat and bread on the table, but weaving represented wealth. In many ways, women, Germanic and Scandinavian in particular, ruled the roost, but weaving was their particular domain. A man, too, could run the farm as many women did, maybe even own the keys to the house, but only women spun and wove.
More than once I've run across the idea that it is a sign of a woman's favor if she produces a set of clothing for a man. Throughout the sagas, too, the quality and color of a person's clothing is indicative of his status. Red (or colored) duds represent a wealthy or high-born man. In one tale, a man's character is condemned because he cut away a soiled bit of his cloak and tossed it away. The Icelanders considered him a wasteful lout and vain.
When my ancestors contemplated the nature of their goddesses, they necessarily pictured them as spinners and weavers. Frigg, for example, spins the threads which the Norns weave into the fates of men. Frigg's symbol is the distaff. I learned something else new; I learned that another word for distaff is "rock." Frigg is the heavenly spinner, and the constellation Orion is named "Friggjar Rockr," Frigg's distaff. That puts a whole new spin on things, yes?
We like March, his shoes are purple,
..He is new and high;
Makes he mud for dog and peddler,
..Makes he forest dry;
Knows the adder's tongue his coming,
..And begets her spot.
Stands the sun so close and mighty
..That our minds are hot.
News is he of all the others;
..Bold it were to die
With the blue-birds buccaneering
..On his British sky.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
They who know of no purer sources of truth, who have traced up its stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by the Bible and the Constitution, and drink at it there with reverence and humility; but they who behold where it comes trickling into this lake or that pool, gird up their loins once more, and continue their pilgrimage toward its fountainhead.
Friday, March 20, 2009
To those of you with whom I am in email contact, I will be checking only sporadically, so expect my reply rate to be slower.
On a high note, I met with the friendly folk at Rheinwood Hearth last night, saw their hof, the solar cross and held impromptu sumbel in observance of Spring. Our unrehearsed homage was casual but struck just the right notes under a clear, cool, springtime sky. It was my first taste of mead, and though I only drank a few sips I had a bit of a hangover at around three am. In all, it was a good evening with good food among good people.
Thanks and Hail to the folks of Rheinwood Hearth!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I'm running a full system scan, but I don't have much faith it will help.
...blast it all! I switched to Firefox, and so far I hate it. I've been trying to give it a chance--been about three days now--but I continue to find irritating, functional flaws. In the old days, I could easily have posted Hammerkast's photo here, but now I can only link to it. I'm going to try to go back to internet explorer without mucking up too much. I don't want to mess with this stuff. I just want to share my pictures and notes with peoplessss!
Here, at least, is the link to this amazing sculpture, so beautiful.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
These are the celebrities of spring, but I will miss the heroes of winter, juncos chief among them. The cardinal like a red star, who kept company with me through the cold, remains. He sings a new tune, as I do, of new things, like nests and mating, the earlier--and the later--sun, the warmth of days. "Raider, raider, raider," is his song, and "sweet, sweet, sweet, sweetie-sweet." Likely it was he who taught the birds to tweet. A carolina wren perched on my knee, making me giddy, and I am as thankful for stay-at-home wrens in spring as for the newly-arrived phoebes.
Thoreau wrote, "The Harivansa says, 'An abode without birds is like a meat without seasoning.' Such was not my abode, for I found myself suddenly neighbor to the birds." In Thoreau's case, his move to Walden brought him new and sudden neighbors, but it happens much the same each spring when we move from indoors to out.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Heritage research doesn't always involve sifting through musty census records. Sometimes it is about collecting and preserving fantastic, old photographs like these, bits of history, precious to me and my family. The top picture is of an old-time horseshow. The man in the white shirt and a cigarette, standing with his back to the camera in the lower right corner, is my grandpa. Even with his back turned, my grandpa is unmistakable. His style of dress and the way he's standing, especially the warm arm around a boy, either a son or grandson, the ever-present cigarette, the tip of his head, were all characteristic of him.
The lower picture is a close-up from the horseshow. It was only a happy incident that this clown was captured. Check out his mule! I bet the two of them gave a grand, ol' show.
I can't say where the show took place, but judging by the skyline, either Kansas or Oklahoma. Not knowing who the boy is with my grandpa, I can't tell when the photo was taken either, but if someone recognizes the years of car models in the background, maybe we can get a rough estimate from that. Suggestions are welcome, especially since knowing the decade might help me identify the boy with grandpa.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends....We enjoy now, not an Oriental, but a Boreal leisure, around warm stoves and fireplaces, and watch the shadow of motes in the sunbeams.
Sometimes our fate grows too homely and familiarly serious ever to be cruel. Consider how for three months the human destiny is wrapped in furs. The good Hebrew Revelation takes no cognizance of all this cheerful snow. Is there no religion for the temperate and frigid zones? We know of no scripture which records the pure benignity of the gods on a New England winter night. The best scripture, after all, records but a meager faith. Its saints live reserved and austere. Let a brave, devout one spend the year in the woods of Maine or Labrador, and see if the Hebrew Scriptures speak adequately to their condition and experience, from the setting in of winter to the breaking up of the ice.
- italics from A Winter Walk, Henry David Thoreau (Henry David Thoreau's forebears, as well as it can be traced, were English, French and Scottish.)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Njord, god of harbors and seas close to land, help us to remember the cargoes of wealth that float to our doors daily from the wonderful universe in which we live. Though our misfortunes may rise and fall like the tides, the chance of prosperity, like the eternal sea brimming with fish, is still there. Like the salt-sea spray, awaken us to the possibilities that surround us, so that our nets may be cast wide and return full of life’s gifts.
In the Northern tradition, there is a concept called Wyrd. It is the belief that our actions and of others shape (or weave) our possible futures. In practice, it means that we are not limited to a single future, predetermined by a higher power. Instead, we possess the power to either worsen or improve the course of our lives. There are limitations; the past, the environment, including the acts of other people, but we are not powerless. Our choices count. It means that we are responsible for our own failures and successes, but it also means we have power over our own lives. The prayer above reflects the belief in Wyrd. I like it because it allows for the life-affirming principles of positive action and hope.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Then said Thoralde, "If I must say the truth, king, as it is, I must declare that in the interior of the Throndhjem land almost all the people are heathen in faith, although some of them are baptized. It is their custom to offer sacrifice in autumn for a good winter, a second at mid-winter, and a third in summer. In this the people of Eyna, Sparby, Veradal, and Skaun partake. There are twelve men who preside over these sacrifice-feasts; and in spring it is Olver who has to get the feast in order, and he is now busy transporting to Maerin everything needful for it."
Now when the king had got to the truth with a certainty, he ordered the signal to be sounded for his men to assemble, and for the men-at-arms to go on board ship. He appointed men to steer the ships, and leaders for the people, and ordered how the people should be divided among the vessels. All was got ready in haste, and with five ships and 300 men he steered up the fjord. The wind was favourable, the ships sailed briskly before it, and nobody could have thought that the king would be so soon there.
The king came in the night time to Maerin, and immediately surrounded the house with a ring of armed men. Olver was taken, and the king ordered him to be put to death, and many other men besides. Then the king took all the provision for the feast, and had it brought to his ships; and also all the goods, both furniture, clothes, and valuables, which the people had brought there, and divided the booty among his men. The king also let all the bondes he thought had the greatest part in the business be plundered by his men-at-arms. Some were taken prisoners and laid in irons, some ran away, and many were robbed of their goods.
Thereafter the bondes were summoned to a Thing; but because he had taken many powerful men prisoners, and held them in his power, their friends and relations resolved to promise obedience to the king, so that there was no insurrection against the king on this occasion. He thus brought the whole people back to the right faith, gave them teachers, and built and consecrated churches. The king let Olver lie without fine paid for his bloodshed, and all that he possessed was adjudged to the king; and of the men he judged the most guilty, some he ordered to be executed, some he maimed, some he drove out of the country, and took fines from others."
-from Heimskringla, 105, Snorri Sturlson
-stock photo- credit: me!
Greetings to you, Sunna, Lamp of Odin, newly risen! Hail to you who has shown on all our ancestors, who shines on us, and who will shine on our descendants yet unborn. Share with us some of your light, your energy, your power, so that we might better fight our battles and attain our goals.SUNNA HAIL!!
-from Vaygar Elmersson's prayer last Sunday
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, both diseases which might have been closer to cures or amelioration if stem cell research had been properly funded, robbed my parents of peace and vigor in their retirement years. In my mother's case, she has lost even the sense of herself. I am duly resentful of the powers that robbed them and duly grateful that change is occurring so that others may not suffer what my parents will suffer to their graves.
The thirty years past retirement each that my father and mother offered of wisdom, experience and love, I trust, were a far greater gift to this world than a few, undifferentiated cells floating in amniotic fluid. As the great George Carlin said, "Not every ejaculation deserves a name." Shame on those who hindered cures for my parents, two hard-working, responsible, respectable, greatly loved and valuable human beings with much left to offer their family and the world.
Nominal Aphasia or anomia is the form caused by trauma like a stroke. The mild type is called dysnomia. That's what I suffer occasionally. It doesn't seem to be a problem when I write, only when I'm speaking. It causes me to adopt a kind of stop and start pattern. I begin a sentence, pause for a moment to search for the noun, then begin a new phrase with the recalled noun in place. When the noun is the subject, the pause is not even noticeable because I locate the noun before I begin speaking at all.
I've noticed that my dad has the same problem on occasion. However, he may have suffered mild strokes that produced it. I don't know if he was affected with dysnomia in his youth.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Yes, the popcorn ceiling still needs to go, but that's another project altogether, and I want to be sure the room is cleaned up before Dad returns, which I anticipate will be very soon.