Tag Archives: T.S. Eliot

April 2018

Arlington House, April 2018

Arlington House, April 2018

I told you four years ago that I didn’t think that April was the cruelest month (April: Cruelest Month (?), Earth Day, Earth Mother, and the Possible Limitations of Agnosticism). I am still on board with that thought, but T.S. Eliot’s words, the beautiful flowers, and gravestones are keeping me on some emotional edge. Maybe it is because Tom and I have taken to walking through Arlington National Cemetery–just a few blocks from where we now live.

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones

redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and gravestones

unknown citizen and old cherry tree

unknown citizen and old cherry tree

I keep thinking of the ones I love: here and now and way back when.  The young, the old, the healthy, the sick, the troubled, and the dead are all crowding around in my head. I remember the day Martin Luther King, Jr. died, in April. I remember when our youngest son was born, in April. That year, the spring tree green was just starting when we came home from the hospital. My baby son and I sat together on the couch hour after hour and day after day until the spring green turned to full green. I first went to Zion National Park in April. It was spring, and  through the night, boulders rattled down  the canyonsides in the spring runoff.

A week or so ago, I was at my friend Kate’s place and her lilac was blooming near her Zen garden. First lilac of the season for me.  (I didn’t get a photo, sorry. My hands were dirty with planting the lettuce and Swiss chard seedlings). Since then I have been thinking not just about T.S.Eliot, but also of  Walt Whitman: “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,”  which was written after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  I remember Lincoln’s words and I think about mercy.

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” (from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address)

Today, Tom and I walked to Fort Bennett Park and Palisades Trail–about a mile from our condo. We found what we were looking for: two bald eagles in a giant nest taking care of their young. Until today, in all my years of wishing and searching, I have never reliably seen bald eagles flying free.  I am hopeful today that we may yet bind up the nation’s wounds.

My April wish: May you be well. May you be happy. May you have peace. Or as “The Wasteland” has it:

Shantih   shantih   shantih

tulips near the Netherlands Carillon

tulips near the Netherlands Carillon

 

 

Words for a Friend

 

Moonrise, Ft. Davis State Park

Moonrise, Ft. Davis State Park

Usually, I have plenty of words. Occasionally, some people have suggested that I might use more than enough words.

That’s is not the case today. I don’t have the words I want to say to a friend who has recently suffered a loss.  So, I am using some other writers’ words and am hoping they help.

From “Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot (1930)

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.


Golden Slumbers, lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (1969)

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden Slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down

Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time

Oh yeah, all right
Are you gonna be in my dreams
Tonight

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make

Tom and I love you and wish you well.

Phoenix feathers for you

Phoenix feathers for you

April: Cruelest Month (?), Earth Day, Earth Mother, and the Possible Limitations of Agnosticism

lilacs, Denver Botanic Gardens

lilacs, Denver Botanic Gardens

I want to go on record that I don’t think April is the cruelest month. How could I believe that when my youngest child and my father were born one day (and about 70 years) apart in early April? I just like T.S. Eliot and so I usually remember these words about this time of year:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

From “The Waste Land,” by T.S. Eliot, 1922

I have also been thinking about Earth Day/old days. In 1970, I went to the Teach-In on the Environment at the University of Michigan. We were big on teach-ins back there in Ann Arbor. 1970 was also the first summer I went west and thereby became even more taken with nature than I was growing up on a lake in Michigan. In Ann Arbor, I was a minor functionary in ENACT (Environmental Action for Survival). In fact, in 1971, I submitted testimony for ENACT related the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to Congress. My own comments related to possible drawbacks of the pipeline for native peoples were included along with other, more academically expert, testimony. Since I am bringing up this tiny historical footnote, you probably notice that it was a big deal for me. I think we all stopped the pipeline for a few minutes or something.

Not only was I not very successful as an environmentalist, I didn’t even make it as an Earth Mother, and that designation didn’t seem to require any coursework. I sort of went back to the land to the extent that I have been an (mostly) organic gardener for forty years. I do recycle (some), I do clean with vinegar and other non-toxic materials, and I think our children feel a connection with and a responsibility to the natural world.

The Part about Agnosticism: Actually, I am a flaming agnostic (some might say waffler, know-nothing, etc.). I don’t claim to know anything  about god or the meaning of the universe–and I have a hard time figuring out how one would claim to know such information–and I don’t have much use for or patience with organized religion. The thing is, because of my broken wrist (see, Scat Happens), I have had call to stretch my hands like this:

hands

hands

This exercise has made me think about prayer. I am still a flaming agnostic and proud of it, but I am still reverent and hopeful within the natural world. So, below are a few of the photos I’ve taken on our travels. Happy Birthday Bill and Dad. Happy April. Happy Earth Day/Week/Month.

butterfly and coneflowers

butterfly and coneflowers

 

Scenic Lake, Michigan

Scenic Lake, Michigan

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

View of Cape Royal and Wotan's Throne, Grand Canyon

View of Cape Royal and Wotan’s Throne, Grand Canyon

Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island, Utah

Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island, Utah

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

 

 

Summer: Poetry, Flowers, Fruit

I thought I would write about poetry.  This idea didn’t just come out of the ether.  My friend Pat recently sent me Billy Collins’ poem “Forgetfulness” (published in Questions About Angels, 1991). I think the poem perfectly delineates the waning of my once (if I do say so myself) prodigious memory.

Forgetfulness

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Here’s the link to Billy Collins’ website: http://www.billy-collins.com/.

Along with the poem:   Some people seem to enjoy my photos, so I am enclosing some recent flower photos:

butterfly and black-eyed Susan

butterfly and black-eyed Susans

clematis, H.F. Young

clematis, H.F. Young

gomphrena

gomphrena

scaevola

scaevola

black-eyed Susan vine

black-eyed Susan vine

The words that have been going through my mind the most, though are from John Prine:

Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own

From “Spanish Pipedream (Blow Up Your TV), John Prine, 1971;see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9RBgfUvymM or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG0-iWCKjsw, for example.

Do I dare to eat a peach?

peaches #1

peaches #1

peaches #2

peaches #2

peaches #3

peaches #3