Friday, May 1, 2015


I definitely know how the vegetable and animal kingdoms must feel (and I know that theoretically I count as an animal); the confusion in the seasons is quite disconcerting. I think it is mid-summer whereas it is only early April. Helllooo!

And now, my friends, it is mid-April and getting warm. There just never seems to be enough time to write. Or I am just dumbfounded and not able. Even now, when I am taking a few minutes to get started, I know that I will have to stop to take my mom to the tax accountant very shortly. In fact, I should go wake her up from her afternoon nap.

I’ve been gardening a lot. I think the adage “A watched pot never boils.” would be more accurately “A watched seed never sprouts.” But then they do and the impatience is refocused on the plant becoming what you dreamed it might be. So, my first planting of (the evidently dreaded, at least in California) morning glory is spiraling up and I am waiting for the first buds.

A long interim sets in ...

The gardening is going well, so that's something. Mostly what seems to come up are weeds, but the nasturtiums are jammin'. No blossoms on anything I have started from seeds. 

A month or so ago, I noticed that our across-the-street neighbor was getting rid of a bunch of stuff, among that, a potting bench! There was a scroungerman or perhaps I should say urban scavenger, with his truck was going through the treasures as well. I tagged the bench and he helped me get it to our backyard as it was far too heavy for me.

Now it sits beneath my bedroom window, serving as a shaded nursery for all the plants I have been propagating. Oh, and Emmylou uses it to get in and out of the house. Unfortunately, my desk is under that same window, and hence she tracks dirt in and out (there's a split infinitive that cannot be avoided). Then she has to pick her way through the open iPad and laptop and desk lamp and speakers, which is a delicate maneuver. Emmy enjoys helping with the gardening. (The pretty godetia in this photo is not nearly so pretty now. Anyone have any maintenance recommendations?)

I, too, am an urban scavenger, although I mostly raid healthy plants in order to propagate them. There's jasmine growing all over the place, on parkways, in planters on city streets and such. I feel I am just helping out by a little pre-emptive pruning. I did find a discarded Ikea cutting block that is just perfect as a grill-side table.

I am still reeling from the devastating news about my dear friend. While I was looking for that word, devastating, I looked up "tragic" as well. They do mean similar things. Tragic is "causing or characterized by extreme distress or sorrow." Devastating is "causing severe shock, distress, or grief," and "highly destructive or damaging." Tragic seems much more monolithic, stationary. Devastating feels like a process, a river, a deluge with waves. Tragic can be locked up, put far enough away to look at. Devastating is a moment-to-moment struggle.

Way back when, when I had a birthday, there were many generous people who gave me a nice, light shower of gifts and money. (Thank you all again.) I was able to go out and buy one of the new books I was jonesing for,  Jane Hirschfield's new book of essays, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. This is the opening paragraph.

Good art is a truing of vision, in the way a saw is trued in the saw shop, to cut more cleanly. It is also a changing of vision. Entering a good poem, a person feels, tastes, hears, thinks, and sees in altered ways. Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means? Some hunger for more is in us—more range, more depth, more feeling, more associative freedom, more beauty. More perplexity and more friction of interest. More prismatic grief, more longing, more darkness. More saturation and permeability in knowing our own existence as also the existence of others. More capacity to be astonished. Art adds to the sum of the lives we would have, were it possible to live without it. And by changing selves, one by one, art changes the also the outer world that selves create and share.  

If you substituted the name of my friend for the word art, you would come close to describing my cherished ami. Ami, too, is a better word than friend, as it is rooted in love.


I am the shadow in the shadow of the wicker.
The wicker is in the shadow in the shadow of the vine.
I sat here when? Ago. Blinked at the flicker
Of a falling star. Said the moon: Be mine.
Said the star: Will be. And then, and now and then,
The shadow is in the shadow is the shadow of Again.

And went away. Or came. What happened? O
It is June again and moony. Song, song,
So-ong, the crickets. And blop, blop, b-lop,
The frogs. And ago, ago, ago
Says the rational man in the shadow. (This is his sop
To the passionate man in the song.) O do I belong
To that rational man? To that passionate, singing man?
Which body shall I wear to memory
When I arise from shadow?

Shall I cry Mother or write prose?
Turn Catholic or blow my nose>
If I rise and go inside,
My dead setter will have died:
“Here, Tug, here, Tug, here on the lawn,
Here in the shadow.” Tug is gone
To watch my shadow being born.

I was at the center of the shadow.
I am the shadow at the center of thought.
The house behind me is a house I know,
At every sill and step the house forgot
All but song, so-ong, and blop, b-lop.
That music is because it cannot stop.

For the center of music is another music
And the center of the center is a stir,
And what is time that visited my father
With worms and roses and religious physic
And gave his house to me to sit and gather
Shadow at the center of the music of the stir?
—And a rational man? And a passionate, singing man
And now,
                 and then,
                                    a third, an invisible man
Singing and trusting and distrusting the song
At the center of the center where the shadows throng.

— John Ciardi

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