Friday, January 31, 2020

Poem 1923 + Photograph 2020

What are 97 years? Less than the blink of an eye ....

A winter Eden in an alder swamp
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.
It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead
And last year's berries shining scarlet red.
It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feast
On some wild apple tree's young tender bark,
What well may prove the years' high girdle mark.
Pairing in all known paradises ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.
A feather hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o'clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life's while to wake and sport.
"A Winter Eden"
By Robert Frost
Written in 1923; published in 1928

Friday, January 24, 2020

Once upon a time never comes again

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial is dedicated in remembrance of Marine dead of all wars and their comrades of other services who fell fighting beside them. It was unveiled in 1954 on the birthday of the Corps -- November 10 -- and is located in Arlington Ridge Park adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. As a nineteen-year-old Marine, I took the train from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to Washington, D.C. A few of us walked and ran from the station to the monument, including across the nearly half-mile long Arlington Memorial Bridge which spans the Potomac River. Later on the same trip, three of us raced the 898 steps to the top of the Washington Monument .... it occurs to me we were all a bit crazy in those days and it is my understanding the steps are now closed to the public.

Semper Fidelis, baby ....

Once upon a time never comes again is true for individuals, but it can come again and again and again for organizations and, in a way, for families. I look backward in time to my ancestors and think about them .... I look forward in time to my descendants and wonder about them. The past is foggy, at best, and the future is "whatever will be, will be -- que sera, sera."
There never will be another January 24 in which I meet a Marine Corps captain and a gunnery sergeant in a hotel room, sign on the dotted line to enlist in the Corps and take the oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me ...." I was eighteen .... a few months out of high school .... hungry for adventure.
Thousands took that oath before me and thousands will tomorrow and tomorrow and the days after tomorrow, creating an ongoing bond of "for now permanency."
In all probability, the Marine Corps will drift into obscurity at some future time and no doubt fade from living memory, but having been a Marine provides a "sort of lastingness" in a world where even the planet will disappear eventually and offers a legacy and traditions to grip firmly and to hold dearly.
By the way, the hotel where I met the captain and the gunnery sergeant is long since torn down ....
Who was it who first said, "the price of life is death ...."
Yep .... but, in the meanwhile .... semper fi, baby ....

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The road home ....

"He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night."
  Thomas Wolfe,  "You Can't Go Home Again"
The hill
Tom Wolfe was a writer of novels, dramas, short stories and novellas. One of his books was the novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," published in 1940, about two years after his death. Much of his work was autobiographical and impressionistic.
Seeing this ice-covered road brought the title of the novel immediately into my mind. This Dakota road was among my challenges to "get home again" for a few years. In winter, it often was a sheet of solid ice as it is in this photograph taken a few weeks ago. More than once the vehicle I was in slid down it, usually when going up it and failing to travel higher than the point where the road appears to end, sometimes turning completely around a few times, twice going off the road. There were occasions, when after a few failed attempts to reach the "summit," I parked at the bottom and walked up it, then another mile and one-half or so to my house.
A photograph might tell a thousand words, but these do not reveal the entire story of "my" hill. The second photo shows a bit of the twists and turns in the road as it approaches the hill. Try getting your vehicle up to a level of speed while managing to stay on the road rounding the those curves and the sixty-degree one at the base and then slip and  slide and fishtail and spin your way to the top.
And, the top of the hill is not even visible in the first photograph -- it goes on for another thirty yards, then has a ninety-degree uphill turn followed by another sixty-degree uphill turn before finally leveling out about a total of another hundred yards out of sight in the photo.
I made up my mind early on to think of reaching the top as a game and actually became quite adept at making the run -- and, enjoying the winter wonderland walk in the dark those instances I did not make it all the way. Sometimes my trek would be following the road, at other times cutting through the woodland .... what better way to find uninterrupted time for thinking? I also like to believe that years of driving on icy roads and my misspent youth racing cars on frozen lakes gave me and edge for handling this hill, too.
All this, of course, has little to do with the story of the protagonist in Wolfe's novel except for me to transfer the notion of going home from a mostly psychological to a primarily physical challenge. I will save the mostly psychological element for another day. By the way, the book is well worth reading, as are all of Wolfe's works ....

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Go ask Alice .... I think she'll know

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe .... all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain ...."
Segment of final speech
by the "replicant" Roy Batty
portrayed by Rutger Hauer
in the film "Blade Runner"

May 2020 be all you hope/want/wish it to be

"The Year" -- composed in 1910 by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
 What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
  The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
 We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
 We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
 We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
 We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year.

Something special ....