Friday, March 23, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass. And the eyes of those two Indian ponies Darken with kindness. They have come gladly out of the willows To welcome my friend and me. We step over the barbed wire into the pasture Where they have been grazing all day, alone. They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come. They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other. There is no loneliness like theirs. At home once more, They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, For she has walked over to me And nuzzled my left hand. She is black and white, Her mane falls wild on her forehead, And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist. Suddenly I realize That if I stepped out of my body I would break Into blossom.
by James Wright
Monday, March 19, 2012
Is it possible that spring could be once more approaching? We forget each time what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep, adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, "mugwump of the final hour," lest an agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it, and the whole point of its being spring collapse like a hole dug in sand. It's breathy, though, you have to say that for it. And should further seasons coagulate into years, like spilled, dried paint, why, who's to say we weren't provident? We indeed looked out for others as though they mattered, and they, catching the spirit, came home with us, spent the night in an alcove from which their breathing could be heard clearly. But it's not over yet. Terrible incidents happen daily. That's how we get around obstacles.
by John Ashbery
Friday, March 16, 2012
Chris: "Say, let's take a group shot! Here, I'll hold the camera..."
David: "I don't know. Maybe Nikki should take the photo."
David: "I don't think the camera is — did you just take that shot?"
David: "You're not in the shot."
Chris: "I'm sure I am."
David: "Try pointing the camera down. No, further down —"
Chris: "I've got it!"
David (wistfully):"You know who's good at this? Valerie! Valerie is really good at this. Where's Valerie?"
Chris: "I can get this..."
David: "Let's give Nikki the camera."
Chris: "I've got it!"
Nikki: *patient smile*
Nikki: "Are you in the shot, Chris?"
David: "Maybe Nikki should take the photo."
Chris: "Am I pointing it down far enough?"
Nikki: "Do you want me to take the picture?"
Chris: "No, I've got it this time—"
David: "Nikki, for the love of God, get the camera away from her!"
David: "That's going to look good."
Nikki: "I so got this!"
Chris: "Thank you, Nikki."
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
It was unimaginable.
The Innocents goes a long way into making modern readers understand the horrors of this particular war.
Identical twins Iris and Dorthea had a difficult life. Their mother died at their birth, their father died during their childhood — so they were essentially "raised" by their (much) older brother in the opulent wealth of Eastern élite at the turn of the twentieth century. In his defense, he didn't really quite understand what it took to do that. Any mistakes were made out of ignorance, more so than intentional neglect.
Despite their privilege and opportunity, the women came to life when taking action during adversity. First, it was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, which was considered one of the worst disasters of New York City until the unfathomable horror that occurred early in the next century. Soon, their beloved France was deep in war, and America was poised on the brink. These women again wanted to make a difference, and the American Red Cross sent them to the French front to work as nurses. Never were they more focused than in the field hospital where, as les anges, they spoke quietly to the men who lived long enough to make it to their care, wiping fear and blood from soldiers' brows.
Even in the midst of war, they never totally escape their contemporaries, however, encountering acquaintances, not to mention at least one fighter pilot who could tell the difference between identical twins. In the madness of war, their lives were forever changed.
Author Caroline Seebohm's characters are recognizable, but not familiar. She may introduce the efficient hospital administrator, but there is no one quite like the efficient and calm Sister. Fighter pilots are never quite like Harry, a hero of Harvard's football field and hockey rink who took risks in the air much like he did on the ice. Maurice starts out totally unassuming, but there's something about him that catches the attention of readers (and a certain identical twin). The rich, the vapid, the completely clueless Americans file past with names recognized in history and literature, adding credence to the twins' understanding of their life before the front.
Seebohm captures beautifully the horror and darkness of the Great War, the degradation of spirit as the days continue and the unimaginable unfolds before them. Each chapter has a date and location on it, so readers know where they are in history and watch the war — and life beyond the war — progress.
This is a worthy novel to join the genre that captures the loss of innocence the Great War brought about. Thanks to BBC dramas of this time period making their way across the pond, I hope more readers will seek Seebohm's bold and unflinching novel. It is worthy of their time.
Friday, March 9, 2012
The Month of Letters was not the smooth situation I expected.
First of all, have you tried writing a letter with a kitten who thinks pens are great sport? Not easy, I assure you.
Then there was the "what do I write about" dilemma: like a talkative toddler who who goes mum when the phone is thrust in her face, my ability to think about letters dried up as soon as pen was poised on the page. I relaxed, however, when I realized I could simply start with where my mind was then, dragging the poor letter recipient into the madness of my mind. Only a couple of letters were intentional, written to convey a specific spot. The rest were rather spontaneous. I heard no complaints, so I assume they were well-received.
The real lifesaver was photo postcards. I printed a few extra photos when sending some to the grandmothers, and I decided to share them with those who simply didn't expect them. It was bliss.
I know at least one person who shared her address with me is waiting still for her letter, which will emerge from my pen next week. Another's letter was returned because I didn't follow my own advice. And I myself received letters in return of mine, which was lovely.
In the end, I managed one letter for every day mail was delivered, for a grand total of 24 correspondences. I had hoped for a lofty 29, but I am glad for what I accomplished.
Thankfully, March also is a month of letters, although less intense than February. Every month should be full of letters — don't just stop because spring is approaching or February is past.
Keep writing letters. Your recipients will thank you. I know I will, if I am one of those recipients.