(painting: Washerwomen at Etretat by Félix Vallotton)
(second from the lovely: by land by air by sea)
1. “My poor sight gives me an advantage. I can’t see the people in the audience who are scratching their heads while I am lost in my role and giving everything I have to the drama.” ~Maria Callas
2. Callas also had very poor eyesight which required her to wear very thick spectacles in order to see at all, a thing she refused to do onstage with the result that she was virtually blind during performances. In fact, during a performance of Tosca at Covent Garden she leaned too far over a candle and her hair caught fire. Improvising magnificently, Tito Gobbi, as the loathsome Scarpia, extinguished the fire by throwing water at her before the audience had noticed. Although they weren’t much use for seeing with, her eyes were a great asset for her acting, in turns flashing like a demon then shining like an angel.
(no. 2 here)
Of all the plants Ami could have picked, she decided upon African violets.
Botanical name: Saintpaula ionantha
Plant type: perennial
Planetary ruler: venus
Elemental ruler: water
Reputation: one of the most difficult houseplants to care for and keep in bloom
Meanings: a delicate love, modesty, Mary, spiritual wisdom, humility, faithfulness
The smell of the nursery greenhouse reminded me of summers spent at my grandparent’s house, especially my grandmother’s greenhouse. It was there my brother and i ran free without the clutches of an over-protective mother. We explored St. Francis park and the creek behind their house during those humid Texas months. We collected insect specimens, biked through the park’s wooded patches where children had built forts, and a car – half buried and rotted with rust – inspired stories of murder, dead bodies, and cautious glances over our shoulders. We walked the railroad tracks in front of their house, leaving pennies on the tracks. Their house, my father’s childhood home, was at the bottom of a hill. On top of the hill was an old cemetery and a story about a heavy rain that brought skeleton bones and a skull to the base of the hill.
My grandfather built the greenhouse for her, a gift to house the plants she cared for year after year. This mystical fortress with a screen door entrance included a huge, glistening spider web that hung from one corner to the other. In the center of its web, a yellow and black spider stood guard, protecting the plants and the insects that made her greenhouse their home. We were terrified of the spider, of breaking her web, and yet curiosity made us return daily to watch the spider.
Open the screen door, inhale the glorious smell of earth and nature, feel the escaping warm air, take a step closer to the spider, feel the hair on the skin rise.
If my grandmother has a scent, it is the smell of her greenhouse.
Several summers after my grandfather died, ferns hung from the ceiling in the bedroom where they used to sleep. I lay next to her in the grand bed and asked if she missed him.
She nodded and said, “but he is often here with me.”
Of all the plants I could have picked, I selected two ferns.
We set up the terrariums and planted our plants that evening. Ami prepared a fishbowl – quickly and excitedly – some rock, a little charcoal, peat moss, planting soil and then her African violets. She touched the flowers and petals despite my concern that such a touch could kill it.
I over-watered them that night.
Daily, she cares for her violets and the other plants – examining, watering, and mothering them. On Sunday, she set up a small bench to display the plants for my mother and father. When they arrived, she picked up her plant with its bright raspberry-colored blooms. Full of life.
“African Violets!” said my father. “When I was a boy, I helped Great Grandma Betty take care of her African violets.”
During the course of their visit, a message arrived: “She has fallen.”
That night, Ami lay next to me in the big bed. We spoke about hip bones, broken bones, getting old, and she asked, “what does a hospital bed look like?”
The ambulance arrived at my grandmother’s house.
And another message came: “Hip broken. Will need surgery.”
Late into the night, on the other side of town, my father, wound up in emotion, called for my mother to lay down next to him.
And in the darkness, perhaps, another violet bloom opened.
“There is even an economic argument for choosing a literal nest egg over a figurative one. Conventional feminist wisdom held that two incomes were necessary to provide a family’s basic needs — not to mention to guard against job loss, catastrophic illness, divorce or the death of a spouse. Femivores suggest that knowing how to feed and clothe yourself regardless of circumstance, to turn paucity into plenty, is an equal — possibly greater — safety net. After all, who is better equipped to weather this economy, the high-earning woman who loses her job or the frugal homemaker who can count her chickens?”
1. This impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world, is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root. Poetry and politics both have to do with description and with power. And so, of course, does science. We might hope to find the three activities–poetry, science, politics–triangulated, with extraordinary electrical exchanges moving from each to each and through our lives. Instead, over centuries, they have become separated–poetry from politics, poetic naming from scientific naming, an ostensibly “neutral” science from political questions, “rational” science from lyrical poetry–nowhere more than in the United States over the past fifty years.
2. A Mohawk Indian friend says she began writing “after a motor trip through the Mohawk Valley, when a Bald Eagle flew in front of her car, sat in a tree, and instructed her to write.”
3. …poetry, too, begins in this way: the crossing of trajectories of two (or more) elements that might not otherwise have known simultaneity. When this happens, a piece of the universe is revealed as if for the first time.
(photo: cosmic dust)
(1, 2, 3 from woman and bird by adrienne rich)
(“…and he hears me.”)
Shine on, shine on harvest moon
Up in the sky,
I ain’t had no lovin’
Since January, February, June or July
Snow time ain’t no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on harvest moon,
For me and my gal.
(Shine On Harvest Moon, Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth)
The Harvest Moon is also known as the Wine Moon, the Singing Moon and the Elk Call Moon. In American myth and folklore, the full moon of each month is given a name. There are many variations, but the following list gives the most widely known names in theUS:
In the 1960s, the terms “spelunking” and “spelunker” began to be considered déclassé among experienced enthusiasts. They began to convey the idea of inexperienced cavers, using unreliable light sources and cotton clothing. In 1985, Steve Knutson (editor of NSS publication American Caving Accidents) made the following distinction:
…Note that I use the term ‘spelunker’ to denote someone untrained and unknowledgeable in current exploration techniques, and ‘caver’ for those who are.
This sentiment is exemplified by bumper stickers and t-shirts displayed by many cavers: “Cavers rescue spelunkers”.
The little boy was looking for his voice.
(The king of the crickets had it.)
In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.
I do not want it for speaking with;
I will make a ring of it
so that he may wear my silence
on his little finger
In a drop of water
the little boy was looking for his voice.
(The captive voice, far away,
put on a cricket’s clothes.)
(the little mute boy, Federico García Lorca)