Saturday, August 31, 2019

In the Western Hills ...a poem

For my friend who has painted many wonderful images...a word picture
for Daria…

In the Western Hills

The road rises
through gullies
edged with wild seed flowers
Queen Anne’s Lace
bobs high on slender stems 

Atop the rise, on both sides
Black cows graze in golden grass.
Yellow headed daisies 
poke through the white lace umbels
Sunshine in a sea of clouds. 

August 2019

painting by Daria Shachmat

Monday, January 14, 2019

Today, while it is Yet so Called

Yes.  Pressing on. 
One step at a time. 
“At a time.”
The morning routine is fraught with awareness of time.

How often is time noted by mortals as “fleeting”?

Youth, at play, absorbed in doing-exploring-being, does not take note of time.

Those of us older than a child,  those who’ve passed into the realm of self consciousness, also can dwell in deeply immersed doing, but in retrospect are often aware…“Time got away from me.”  

Or, did I get away from time? 

So much time does get away, and then we splash in pools of memories, murky little puddles though they may be.

I have muddled in my own and others' memories at near expert level, looking for that jigsawed piece that could  finish the puzzle laid out on today’s flat surface.  What could -should -would such completion mean for tomorrow? 

But fragments of time gathered again, like crumbs of bread brought back to the baskets after all have been fed and are satisfied, speaks not only of brokenness but of the whole always fragrant and new. 

The invitation is ever emblazoned on the morning: ”, while it is yet called today...” 

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Madonna and Child

by Sebastiano Conca ( 1676-1764)

Such a lovely depiction this the years I was privileged to see it daily, it never failed to touch me. 

Joyous Christmas Tidings 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Book Review: Americans and the California Dream by Kevin Starr

I read Kevin Starr’s Americans and the California Dream very slowly, in small passages and with no sense of pressure over a period of 8 months. 

It’s not a chronology of large happenings, but rather a record and Starr’s literary cultural analysis of what others thought and wrote in and about the California of 1850-1915. Starr had, as his vantage point, substantial historical knowledge and a native son’s heart for ferreting out the antecedents of subsequent events and dynamic on-going consequences intended and otherwise. 

In Starr’s words from the last page, he selected "acts of definition, moments when vision and event betrayed their interchange, and the aesthetic pattern and moral meaning of social experience became clear. History grants few such occasions.” (P. 444) 

I construct a timeline for myself as I read any history. As much information as I am able to retain, dates often escape me. Starr presents his narrative as an ”act of memory” rather than a classic or linear analysis. It might help some readers to read the final page reflections in conjunction with the introduction to avoid what some reviews express as frustration and disappointment to this approach to history. 

Any study of people, time and place is best done through the politics, history and literature of the period. Starr’s book is best read as an adjunct to both linear historical documentations and first hand accounts, journals and essays of the time.  I have read many of the accounts to which Starr refers with some notable exceptions. I have never been able to read Gertrude Atherton and Starr’s assessment of her outlook helped me understand more clearly why I have resisted both her “history” and her novels. “For the sake of the establishment myth, and for the sake of her own role as a writer in that establishment, Gertrude Atherton did her best to sustain an illusion…” 

And then there is a book to which Starr has alerted me that I plan to seek out. California Coastal Trails, a Horseback Ride from Mexico to Oregon, by J. Smeaton Chase, was published in 1913. Mr. Starr says that past, present and future converge in this elegant narrative and he likens it to an elegy and yet Chase shares his hope. In Starr’s words, “In 1913 California-as-nature yet seemed capable of coping with California-as-history.”( P. 438)

Kevin Starr researched and wrote with hope himself and his work is testament to his belief that commitment to California does not preclude scrutiny, nor does admiration always blind one to her faults. Americans and the California Dream is work to read, but it is a worthwhile work.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Body of the Earth

The body of earth,
our patch of garden,
makes mottled pears and
raspberry red juice run up thorny vines.
Flat white flowers turn
into strawberries.

Slowing down
time will come
a flutter of falling leaves,
short waves of heat,
strong winds,
migrating birds.
The fruits of summer,
stung by the wasps,
bitten by the squirrels,
will be gone.

Today the figs are still plumping
purple lines of sugar.
Apples sun their cheeks
for just a bit more color.

I like them all best
standing on the skin of dirt,
eating them before they know
they have been plucked.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Notes from the Smokey West

I saw with delight that the forecast for tomorrow is for cooler weather. 
I hope that is really true....from 95* F down to 79* F.  It would be some help to those fighting the fires and those perched waiting to learn the fate of their homesites. 

Just the smokey air makes me lethargic and combined with the heat I could become truly cat like.  Phoebe the cat moves from one cute position to another on her little pillow.  I try to move around and be a bit more functional, but I did take a nap I hadn’t planned on. 

The strawberries were abundant again today and Mark picked quite a lot of tender little green beans.  We have been trying to keep up with them and not let them get big.  I have some blanched and frozen already and we have eaten quite a few.  

The peaches are such a gift; one night we just had piles of peaches and yogurt for dinner and we were quite happy.  Then there was the night we made a peach pie…oh my.  

Our daughter - S.B.- gave Mark some colored corn seeds last year for a present and he  gathered in his harvest  today.
 We sat in the shade and pulled back the husks; it is so beautiful.  It was like a treasure hunt, not knowing what colors of jewels we would uncover.  The colors are deep burgundies and gray blues, orange and golden yellow and these colors mingle in variations that say that summer does not last for ever…

Fire is certainly a phenomenon that forces much perspective on you even if you only get the smoke from afar.  I smell it and think of the those up close and laden in protective clothes and heavy gear fighting to corral the flames. I think of those evacuated from their land and homes, the short term times of wondering if it will be a long term displacement.

And for some,
no matter how the restoration takes place, is feeling at home ever quite the same?
I was truly touched by a man who wrote an on-line  thank you to firefighters with a picture of his gracious curved patio stairs, the stones littered with the ashes of his family home and the current site of his survivor chickens scratching through a feast that had been scattered for them by the firefighters.   Yes.   He has encouraged me and I  haven’t even lost anything. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Governor and the Chicken Lady

A True Story Retold...

Christian Archibald Herter, who lived from 1898 to 1967, was Governor of the state of Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957.  This is a story he told on himself.
 I heard a version of it in a sermon in the 1980’s from a dear Anglican priest, Fr. David Schofield, who used it to illustrate how important it is for us to know who we are.   Although I remembered the story vividly, I wanted to be sure I had the Governor's name right.  When I checked it out on the internet I found the tale has been repeatedly used  to make many points, but I think it hardly needs any amplification to be of great value.  Here it is as I remember it.
Christian Herter, a graduate of Harvard and the governor of Massachusetts mid 1950’s was seeking re-election.  He was having one of those really hard days on the campaign trail.  He had spoken at a morning breakfast meeting where he had no more than a cup of coffee while his listeners ate.   He had then skipped lunch altogether to meet other duties,  consoling himself that his last scheduled event on the trail was at a church barbecue.  He arrived a bit late and was relieved to see food was still being served.  The Governor  was really hungry. The queue was quite long but he resisted the temptation to be recognized for special treatment and stood at the end of the line.  The day was coming to a close, he was tired, he was hungry and everything smelled so good.  As he moved down the serving line he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken.  She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said. “Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
“But I’m so hungry, I haven’t had a bite all day.” 
“I’m sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one piece to a customer.”
Governor Herter thought of himself as a modest and unassuming man but he suddenly decided to throw his weight around just a little bit. He pulled himself up to his full height and asked the woman behind the platter of barbecued chicken, “Excuse me, but do you know who I am?” 
“Why, yes, Governor, sir, I do.  Do you know who I am?”  she replied. 
Governor Herter had to confess that he didn’t have any idea who the lady was.
“Well, I’m the chicken lady, and it's one piece per person. Now please, sir, kindly move along.”