The baby says to the old man let’s have a cup of coffee the old man says now you’re talking
I hate to sound old and grumpy, but I am having software angst with WordPress. Like every other software platform that feels the need to incessantly change everything, they have eliminated my old editor and gone with a new fancy block design thing that I do not find as intuitive as they claim it should be. I feel a fish out of water trying to figure it out. Things that were effortless before now take me a while to figure out or are down right frustrating. For everyone else who wants to link their blog to all kinds of social media they are probably thrilled. But as I have given up on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram I don’t really see any advantages yet to having all this new stuff and all my old stuff harder to find. I’ll get there after a while. I floundered around figuring out the old editor when I started my blog and I’ll flounder around figuring this one out too, but eventually I’ll swim in a straight line again.
The truth is things become obsolete. I am stubbornly loyal to some of my possessions; an antique dresser my Mother gave to me for a high school graduation gift that was completely impractical and was her way of saying; “make sure you have someplace to live, even if its not with me”, old floor lamps I have rewired, old tools that maybe aren’t as good as the newest technology but are familiar and have echoes of former projects that still resonate when I pick them up. However, I can eventually part with sentimental treasures. Not only did I take on responsibility for care and feeding for the dresser, but I also adopted my Mother’s antique upright piano, which had a cast iron plate nearly the size of a grand piano. It was a majestic behemoth that weighed what felt like an actual ton, with real ivory keys and pearl inlays and was built in the 1920s. My father and several of his friends had risked life and limb moving it from an apartment to our childhood home and I foolishly decided to do the same. For the first 4 houses I owned it made the move each time. Finally, in Mankato 15 years ago, I decided it was time to let it go. I tried selling it intact on Craigslist but no one wanted it. It was in need of a fair amount of restoration and it wasn’t worth it, as the new Yamaha electronic keyboards with keys that had action identical to a piano were all the rage. One Saturday morning after several months of trying to sell it, I woke up and decided the easiest way to dispose of it was to take it apart piece by piece and haul it to the dump. It was surprisingly easy. It’s components came apart with nothing more than a flat head screw driver and a sledge hammer to break up the cast iron once outside so that I could get it down to manageable pieces I could haul by myself. I honestly didn’t miss it once it was gone though the new lightweight perfect sounding Yamaha never managed to worm it’s way into my heart. Instead, I found my enjoyment of playing the piano had come to an end. In that moment of change, I had failed to understand that it wasn’t a new piano that I wanted, it was a new instrument – a pen.
Taking Apart My Childhood Piano
by Rebecca Macijeski
My mother and I sit on the back porch, bare feet in summer grass as we take the upright down to pieces, breeze humming through its strings.
I extract each melodic tooth and sort them in octaves for rinsing, tidy enclosure in boxes, remembering in each how my young fingers rioted over them searching for sound
and the way it grows like its own unruly animal. The old piano lies open to Sunday morning sun, swallowing blossoms that drift over like stars
from the apple tree I climbed as a girl. My mother and I sit here in a quiet usually reserved for churches, hands moving slowly over what we gather
—piles of soft hammers, odd coils of wire. We take up wet rags and wash each wooden key down its surface, wet music pooling onto our skin.
When do I see thee most, beloved one?
When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
The worship of that Love through thee made known?
Or when in the dusk hours (we two alone,)
Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
And my soul only sees thy soul its own?
O love, my love! if I no more should see
Thyself, nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,–
How then should sound upon Life’s darkening slope
The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
The wind of Death’s imperishable wing?
Gabriel Dante Rossetti may have been blessed with artistic ability from birth by his parents honoring Dante as his namesake. Rossetti was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais and became the main inspiration for a second generation of artists like William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.
I like his paintings, ornate with color and complex shading. They are highly stylized, erotic and beautiful, with imagery filled with symbols and connections to myth, religion and art. His poetry leans like his painting to the romantic, but there are deeper shades of meaning than just sweet nothings he is whispering in your ear. At a time when hope is something that many of us are finding in short supply, his poem The One Hope is a good reminder that hope is something we can obtain merely for the focus on the word alone. As silly as it may sound, I can find hope in Hope.
The One Hope
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
When all desire at last and all regret
Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
And teach the unforgetful to forget?
Shall Peace be still a sunk stream long unmet,—
Or may the soul at once in a green plain
Stoop through the spray of some sweet life-fountain
And cull the dew-drenched flowering amulet?
Ah! when the wan soul in that golden air
Between the scriptured petals softly blown
Peers breathless for the gift of grace unknown,
Ah! let none other written spell soe’er
But only the one Hope’s one name be there,—
Not less nor more, but even that word alone.
Excuses Minnesota Child Uses to Get Out of Swim Lessons While Going Through Her Fear-of-Water-and-Obsessed-with-Dying-Before-She’s-Ready Phase
by Ash Goedker
Last time you said there’s cabins north nowhere near water or heaven, or me –
Ever hear of the Boundary Waters
Lake of the Woods
Child Lake Lake Watch Me Do a Flip
You Can’t Make Me Lake
Lake Looks Like a Lady
Grave Lake Holy Name Lake
Ice Cracking Lake Big
Too Much Lake
Lake of Fire
Like My Back Door?
I’m still training
in the Lord’s Army,
and if I drown
get a postcard –
not from me.
I have been on vacation this week, camping 5 nights in a tent several places in Northern Minnesota, spending three of those nights on the shores of Lake Superior north of Grand Marais, Minnesota. Lake Superior is an inland fresh water sea, an ocean of fresh water, that is almost too mystical to imagine if you haven’t been there. It is different from the ocean in that the water is soft and clear and cold. Lake Superior is a rocky, largely undeveloped shore line that remains not disimilar to what it looked like one hundred years ago. My grandfather helped build the original highway from Duluth to the Canadian border in the 1920s. The boundary between Canada and the United States from Grand Portage to the Northwest Angle was the last portion of the boundary to be surveyed by both countries and wasn’t completed until the 1920’s as well. We camped 20 miles from the Canadian border right on the lakeshore on a portion of the Lake Superior Hiking Trail. We largely had the place to ourselves. We had brought our kayaks and kayaked on the lake during calm waters, finding rocks and shore line agates in the water, using the kayak to scout drift wood and find treasures.
There is nothing like a tent camping vacation. We back packed into a campsite for two days, reminding us how heavy even the most modest of conveniences and necessities are and the need to upgrade some of our equipment for future back country experiences. It was also a reminder of how little you really need on a vacation when the focus is on quiet and wilderness. I am blessed to have an adventurous partner who is not intimidated by biting insects, sleeping on the ground and uninvited leeches during our daily swims. It is a peaceful lifestyle to wake up in the morning, decide on what to do and go out into nature and experience it. Do you have a favorite camping destination? How do you like to camp?
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Dear friends, reproach me not for what I do,
Nor counsel me, nor pity me; nor say
That I am wearing half my life away
For bubble-work that only fools pursue.
And if my bubbles be too small for you,
Blow bigger then your own: the games we play
To fill the frittered minutes of a day,
Good glasses are to read the spirit through.
And whoso reads may get him some shrewd skill;
And some improfitable scorn resign,
To praise the very thing that he deplores.
So, friends (dear friends), remember, if you will,
The shame I win for singing is all mine,
The gold I miss for dreaming is all yours.
As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea —
And that — a further — and the Three
But a presumption be —
Of Periods of Seas —
Unvisited of Shores —
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be —
Eternity — is Those —
I aspire to be dubbed an idler. It sounds like a knighthood for sonnet writers. The Beneficent Society of Idlers strikes a nice cord, maybe with a large pennant on a red velvet cord for worthy recipients. Great unutterable thoughts that somehow are still uttered is what makes poetry a glue that connects people across time and place. Dickinson is the master of the unutterable and letting unutterances exist between the words and yet be completely understood despite each of our understandings different.
Poetry is not a user manual. It is not meant to be literal or complete. The best of it it is a glimpse into another’s inner life, hopes, dreams and miseries. And if the Sea should part and understanding is lying gleaming in the sand, don’t rush in too quick to pick it up. Let the Sea return to equilibrium and let it soak for a bit. And then dive down again to revel in your discoveries, holding your breath with excitement.
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known under his pen name Lewis Carroll, authored some of the most complicated and inventive poems and stories in the last 200 years. Both Jabberwocky and The Hunting Of The Snark are unfairly in my mind categorized as nonsensical poems or pigeon holed as “children’s” literature. Yet, I have met more than one grown adult who knew only one poem by memory and that poem was Jabberwocky and could recite it brilliantly after a couple of beers.
What about Carroll’s imagination continues to connect with generation after generation of readers? I believe it’s because his “nonsensical” literature actually makes more sense than some of our real life experiences. Danger and unfairness abounds in Alice in Wonderland but in the end she returns safe and sound to her sister’s side to share her adventure. Carroll turns the world upside down and topsy-turvy not as a parody but because that is how life can feel for many of us. Crafting all of his writing as “children’s” stories is the real brilliance of his subversive literature, allowing readers of all ages to identify with the humor and inventiveness while letting each of us decide how it connects to our imaginations. If you haven’t read Jabberwocky recently, here is a link.
Carroll’s ability to make up words is a gift limited to very few writers. I have only attempted it a couple of times in my own writing and nothing as bold or timeless as Carroll’s additions to the English language. The tradition of using made up words is a hallmark of poets that goes back to oral traditions by story tellers from the beginning of time. Maybe all new words start out as nonsense. And only become respected members of dialogue as time passes. Do you or your family have a made up word that fits perfectly in your vocabulary? Is it alive and well and have you immortalized it in a poem?
The Voice Of The Lobster
by Lewis Carroll
”Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare
‘You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.’
As a duck with its eyelids, so he with his nose
Trims his belt and his buttons, and turns out his toes.
When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
His voice has a timid and tremulous sound.’
‘I passed by his garden, and marked, with one eye,
How the Owl and the Panter were sharing a pie:
The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy, and meat,
While the Old had the dish as its share of the treat.
When the pie was all finished, the Owl, as a boon,
Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon:
While the Panther received knife and fork with a growl,
And concluded the banquet by [eating the owl.]
About what’s past, Hold on when you can, I used to say,
And when you can’t, let go, as if memory were one of those
mechanical bulls, easily dismountable, should the ride
turn rough. I lived, in those days, at the forest’s edge —
metaphorically, so it can sometimes seem now, though
the forest was real, as my life beside it was. I spent
much of my time listening to the sounds of random, un-
knowable things dropping or being dropped from, variously,
a middling height or a great one until, by winter, it was
just the snow falling, each time like a new, unnecessary
taxonomy or syntax for how to parse what’s plain, snow
from which the occasional lost hunter would emerge
every few or so seasons, and — just once — a runaway child
whom I gave some money to and told no one about….
Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm
by Carl Phillips – 1959-
So that each
is its own, now—each has fallen, blond stillness.
Closer, above them,
the damselflies pass as they would over water,
if the fruit were water,
or as bees would, if they weren’t
somewhere else, had the fruit found
already a point more steep
in rot, as soon it must, if
none shall lift it from the grass whose damp only
softens further those parts where flesh
goes soft. There are those whom no amount of patience looks likely to improve ever, I always said, meaning
gift is random,
here withheld—almost always
as it’s turned out: how your hands clear
easily the wreckage;
how you stand—like a building for a time condemned,
then deemed historic. Yes. You
will be saved
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts–from far where I abide–
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see:
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
I have always had a hard time reading or hearing Shakespeare prior to starting this project. My mind doesn’t follow old English grammar and vocabulary easily. I get bogged down and frustrated following the plot and dialogue in the few Shakespeare plays I have seen live or movies made true to the old script I have watched. I am afraid that biased me fairly negatively towards his sonnets in the past. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that the longer Fourteen lines continues the easier it is for me to put myself inside Shakespeare’s sonnets. My enjoyment of his complicated and witty verse continues to grow.
My daily social distancing has not been particularly intellectual. I have retreated to the simple pleasures of popcorn, games and mindless TV. But the longer this goes on, the more restless my mind becomes and I can feel more serious pursuits starting to push towards the front of my mind as fall looms. Maybe my brain is starting to awaken again after sheltering in place for a bit.
I recently got my hair cut for the first time since January. My stylist asked me; “how was your quarantine?” For a moment my mind couldn’t wrap itself around the question, realizing how chipper he was when he said it. I could tell he was brimming with excitement to share his experience, which was refreshingly upbeat. I let him do all the talking. In the end I did what midwesterners do, I simply didn’t answer the question as sometimes silence is better than being gloomily honest.
I wonder what my brain would look like in an MRI section right now? Would it look elegant and complicated as in the video below? Or would it look like a big bowl of popcorn, simple and satisfying but not particularly motivating. What does your brain look like right now? What colors is it radiating based on the current palete of your mind.?
Sonnet CXIII (113)
By William Shakespeare
Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind;
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth latch:
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud’st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour or deformed’st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow, or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine eye untrue.
The palm and the leather come rarely together,
Gripping the driver’s haft,
And it’s good to feel the jar of the steel
And the spring of the hickory shaft.
Why trouble or seek for the praise of a clique?
A cleek here is common to all;
And the lie that might sting is a very small thing
When compared with the lie of the ball.
Come youth and come age, from the study or stage,
From Bar or from Bench—high and low!
A green you must use as a cure for the blues—
You drive them away as you go.
We’re outward bound on a long, long round,
And it’s time to be up and away:
If worry and sorrow come back with the morrow,
At least we’ll be happy to-day.
Saturday was one of those perfect August days in Minnesota that you need to take a deep breath, soak up the blue skies, savor the low humidity and comfortable temperatures and file it away for January when you might need it. I played 9 holes of golf with my sister, her partner and my father in honor of his 89th birthday this week. Golf is a timeless activity that no matter your strength or age on any given shot you can out play your partners. My father isn’t as limber as he used to be or as strong, but once he got warmed up he played right with us or out played us the last 5 holes. He and I always only play nine holes, to be honest its about all the time I can stay interested in the sport, but it is a lot of fun to watch my father play golf. No one has ever enjoyed the game more than him. My father was never a scratch golfer in terms of talent, but he has this innate ability to compete when it counts. More often than not, when he needs to make a good shot, or chip it close or sink a putt, just to show he can, he does. And the smile on his face is identical when he executes his game as when he was 40 years younger. On the 7th hole, a par three, everyone else was off the green and he hit it to within 5 feet. A beautiful thing.
Golf is either is in your blood or it isn’t. I refuse to take it seriously or dedicate the time and practice to become good at it. But I like to play once a month and I enjoy my inconsistency. On yesterday’s round I hit one of the worst iron shots I have hit in years; a complete mishit, wrong direction, just terrible from 85 yards from the flag. I was off sitting green side left in the rough, short sided with a bunker in the way between me and pin. I followed that terrible shot with one of the best iron shots I have hit in years and lobed it over perfectly two feet from the pin. There are lots of ways to make par. Golf is a game that you will never completely figure out. If you have no interest or consider it frivolous, consider this; golf is a game, no matter your skill level, in which your enjoyment is inversely proportional to your ability to accept your failings.
It’s hard for me to compute that I have a father who is 89, only because what that translates into the age I must be. One of the amazing things about my father is his unique ability to think differently than everyone else. Not only would he think of the cow, in the parable below, he might even consider a goat or a sheep too. Happy Birthday Dad. And many more happy days ahead sinking putts on gorgeous August days. But come what may, at least we were happy to-day!
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,
And warmly debated the matter;
The Orthodox said that it came from the air,
And the Heretics said from the platter.
They argued it long and they argued it strong,
And I hear they are arguing now;
But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,
Not one of them thought of a cow.
No matter how she tilts her head to hear
she sees the irritation in their eyes.
She knows how they can read a small rejection,
a little judgment, in every What did you say? So now she doesn’t say What? or Come again? She lets the syllables settle, hoping they form
some sort of shape that she might recognize.
When they don’t, she smiles with everyone else,
and then whoever was talking turns to her
and says, “Break wooden coffee, don’t you know?”
She pulls all she can focus into the face
to know if she ought to nod or shake her head.
In that long space her brain talks to itself.
The person may turn away as an act of mercy,
leaving her there in a room full of understanding
with nothing to cover her, neither sound nor silence .
I have noticed that one of the by-products of wearing masks during the pandemic is how hard it is to understand other people speaking and other people difficulty in understanding me. I hear, “What did you say?” all the time, either coming out of my mouth or someone else’s. I don’t think masks garble the words, it’s hearing is based in part on our reading lips and expression and body language to a greater extent then I understood before. Communication is way more than auditory. Masks mask emotions, they prevent us from seeing irony and the wry smile, they make it harder to follow interactions on every level. In short they are a barrier to efficient and effective communication. Research on infants suggests one of the ways babies learn about human interaction is by intensely studying faces. We learn at a young age how communication is shared non-verbally through the most minute of expressions on our faces. So is it any wonder we are all feeling a little lost and bewildered among a faceless crowd of strangers these days in masks?
Maybe we are all experiencing a touch of prosopagnosia, the rare medical condition in which people are unable to distinguish between different people’s faces, where everyone looks the same. Is that why the world feels a little more harsh these days? Our individuality is being absorbed by a collective mass disinterest in the world around us as we each try and manage our way through this confusing mix of trying to self isolate and remain human.
Maybe its time we all learned a bit of sign language? What if we collectively entered the world of the deaf and experience their reality for a little while? It would be a safer alternative to speaking, reducing a bit of talking of simple expressions would likely reduce droplets in the air and possibly risk of transmission when in close proximity to strangers. I am not making light of the deaf, but suggesting that empathy is the thing that is in shortest supply right now and maybe if we experienced another’s permanent reality temporarily it would recenter us as a society that we have a shared purpose in looking out for one another. Would it be so awful if we all learned ASL for hello, goodbye, please, thank you, could you help me and a few other key words and phrases? It would force us to slow down, look up at each other, pay attention and acknowledge each other safely. And by doing so maybe retrace our steps back to a world where we were not fearful of the stranger next to us in line.
Raymond Luczak is a deaf writer, poet, playwright, renaissance man who lives in Minneapolis. The video below is him, reciting his brilliant poem in a beautiful expression of how to communicate beyond speech.
Instructions to Hearing Persons Desiring a Deaf Man
by Raymond Luczak
His eyebrows cast shadows everywhere.
You are a difficult language to speak.
His long beard is thick with distrust.
You are another curiosity seeker.
His hands are not cheap trinkets.
Entire lives have been wasted on you.
His face is an inscrutable promise.
You are nothing but paper and ink.
His body is more than a secret language.
Tourists are rarely fluent in it.
His eyes will flicker with a bright fire
when you purge your passport of sound.
Let your hands be your new passport,
for he will then stamp it with approval.
A deaf man is always a foreign country.
He remains forever a language to learn.