"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, August 29, 2016

All Roots and Reasons

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Celine ~ Summer 1994
Visiting Dove Cottage, where the poet William Wordsworth
and his sister Dorothy lived a life of "Plain living and high thinking . . . "
from December 1799 to May 1808
Grasmere, Lake District, England

Celine ~ Summer 1994
Visiting a house once lived in by Elizabeth Gaskell,
one of the major subjects of Celine's research.
Knutsford, Cheshire, England

I am posting a day late this time, on the 29th instead of the 28th in honor of my dear friend Celine Carrigan, born this day 74 years ago. Anyone who knew her, and even some who did not have the chance, can scarcely believe that the world has been turning for 19 years without her gentle, loving touch. How we miss her and always will!

Celine Carrigan, O.S.B.
August 29, 1942 - April 24, 1997
"A Room of One's Own," where Celine wrote her dissertation:
"Versions of the Governess: Narrative Patterns in
Ellen Weeton, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Bronte."

Celine was in the PhD program with me at the University of Notre Dame (1984 - 1988). Her area of specialization was Charlotte Bronte & Elizabeth Gaskill. When I knew her, she had already been a Benedictine nun, a teacher, and a death - row advocate for many years. She was at Notre Dame on sabbatical from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where she returned upon the completion of her doctorate in 1988 and taught for 9 more years until her untimely death from ovarian cancer in April 1997. As I wrote to Celine's sweet great niece not long ago, Celine was an angel upon this earth! And not just because she was a nun -- she would have been an angel no matter what she did. When she died, our mutual friend Marv wrote: "So sorry to hear about Celine. She was such a gentle soul, and good person. There is clearly no relation between life span and beauty, tenderness, kindness, bravery, intelligence or wit."

Celine's office in the library at Notre Dame.
I like it that of all the book titles,
the one word you can clearly see is "SOUL."

The perfect story for a blog of literary coincidence is the delightful request I received from a girl I had never met; yet, through Celine, we were connected. It seems that there are always so many surprising connections just waiting to be made, so many voices nudging us "to nurture the souls of things," as I learned last year when the following note appeared in my inbox:
Hi, Kitti! My name is Mads Carrigan (as you can see), and I'm Sister Celine's great-niece. Her brother, Pat, is my grandpa. I found one of her poems online at one point, and can't find it. I looked up her name and came across your blog! She died when I was only a few months old, so I never got to know her, but I've been told that she was a wonderful person, and you seem to have thought so, too! I just wanted to thank you for writing about her at all, because I've always loved hearing about her.

Do you by any chance have her poem, "Spring"?

****************

Dear Mads -- The particular poem you mention doesn't immediately come to mind, but I have saved every card and note that Celine ever sent me, and I will gladly start a little project of going through them all until I find anything at all similar to the one for which you are searching.

I would love to talk to you about Celine anytime! I wish you had known her! She was an angel on this earth! She often talked to me about all of her nieces and nephews and loved them all!


****************
How thrilled I was to write back the following month with the good news that I had been able to track down what was undoubtedly the poem that Mads had come across when she googled Celine's name but then lost track of -- so easy to do and so very frustrating (as I well know from many a search and frantic re - search).

This beautiful poem was the re - discovery that Mads was hoping for and a new discovery for me. I was not acquainted with it from any writing that Celine had shared with me previously; yet suddenly, here was her voice ringing back over the years, reminding me of her attention to every sensory detail, her astute perception, her measured pace, her love of the world -- just as it is, combined with her hope for making it even better.

Thank you Celine for remaining near and for leaving behind this poem for us to find. And thank you Mads for letting me know that "Spring" was out there for the finding -- to see, to hear, to taste, to smell, to touch!
Spring

I want to live this spring
not hurry it away, or
neglect its nearness.

I want to look long at
shoots and leaves--
at all roots and reasons
for be-ing once again.

I want to hear sparrows sing,
soft rains fall, and voices
that nudge me to nurture the
souls of things
.

I want to taste berries,
(and--maybe--burritos)
new flavors of ice cream
and backyard cooking, and
savor long the caring of
those who came and call.

I want to smell roses,
lilacs and lilies, early morning air,
good coffee, and cake rich with
orange rind and cherries and
its giver’s goodness.

I want to touch water and wood,
other’s hands--everything alive,
so steeped in summer sunshine
and the glory of rebirth.

I want to feel pretty, at peace
with memories and surprises.
I want to pray and linger
over time in the open spaces
of my heart.

I want to hope,
and believe,
and love.
I want to live this spring.
[emphasis added above]

~ Celine Carrigan, O.S.B.
Kitti & Celine ~ Ever the Best of Friends ~ Celine & Kitti
Fall 1987 ~ Notre Dame ~ South Bend, Indiana


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday September 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Because It Is My Heart

A GARDEN WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Lionheart Lily

London Heart Lily

Lilies as hearts (tulips as lungs). Since last month's Fortnightly post, featuring my professor's advice from long ago -- "listen to your heart, figuratively and literally" -- I've been seeing hearts and hearing heartbeats at every turn. Sure enough, I saw them in the garden over the weekend and heard them a few days ago when I picked up Charley Henley's new book of short stories, The Deep Code.

So many codes structure our existence: computer codes, nuclear codes, Hammurabi's Code, the Fibonacci Sequence, the human genome, our cardiovascular system, and so on and so forth. Naturally, one of the most persistent of all these "deep codes" is the human heartbeat," as in:
"Heart throb, heart throb, wonder past knowing,
Where did you come from, where are you going?
"
Each of Henley's stories is governed by at least one deep code or another. In connection with my recently acquired understanding of rubato and rubatosis, here are a few passages that struck my heart:

1. In "The Golden Horde of Mississippi," Grandma Lucy and Jessica Sue are conflicted over codes of ladylike behavior and funeral etiquette. Grasping her cousin Bobby's cremation urn, Jessica longs to disperse his ashes "back into the system. . . . she wondered about the countless generations bound up in the meat of her own palm. If you sit quiet enough you can hear the flux of your own nervous system, that great collision of billions upon billions of tiny stones" (43).

2. In "Satellite Mother," the teen-aged son carefully follows his father's instructions for aiming a rifle: "So I did what Pop taught me. I closed my eyes. I fell into the rhythm of my heart and lungs. I breathed normal. I breathed easy. Your muscles need the oxygen, and your heart needs to calm down, I heard Pop say. Your heart needs quiet. You need peace to make this shot. . . . I slipped down into the rhythm between the spasms of my heart. I took hold of the jerking muscle in my chest, and I smoothed it out. I let it all go. I breathed deep and when I opened my eyes, my heart was beating at a perfect sixty beats per - minute" (64).

3. In "Cerrito Blanco," young Tessa runs from certain trouble into the calm "cool sanctuary" of [an old] church. . . . Her heartbeat thundered in her chest. It echoed through the silence, as if the whole world throbbed with it." Meanwhile, her father Leonard recalls with despair the dissolution of his marriage to Tessa's mother, Darcy: "It was like his heart had gotten clapped in the door somewhere, and it was still there, stuck and beating and distant, a heart gone to him now and lost forever" (158, 163).

Equally wrenching is the "feeling like cold steel that crept up his guts when he thought about" Darcy's domineering mother. In the story "Pleco Fez," another fractured character shares Leonard's visceral anxiety: "It gave me this cold feeling . . . Like a lump of wet metal moving back and forth in my guts" (153, 118). Both of these passages bring to mind the aching innards described in my previous post, "Longly, Longingly."

But, getting back to hearts, all of the above characters, in their imprecise cosmic pursuits, embody the words written by Stephen Crane and borrowed by Joyce Carol Oates (and me):
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
[emphasis added]
Or how about the determined villagers in Lisel Mueller's poem, "Moon Fishing," who are advised to
". . . cut out your hearts and bait your hooks
with those dark animals;
what matter you lose your hearts to reel in your dream?

And they fished with their tight, hot hearts . . .
"
Reading Charley Henley's book, I can't help wishing that each story would last just a little (or a lot!) longer. You too will be drawn into the narratives of these folks, hunkering over their hearts, listening intently to the universe, and living by the deep code.

***************

At the heart of our garden ~ thanks to Gerry!

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday August 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rubato

ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

Rubato: Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure of music; the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.

Rubatosis: The unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat.

A Great Yogi

In my travels I spent time with a great yogi.
Once he said to me:

“Become so still you hear the blood flowing
through your veins.”

One night as I sat in quiet,
I seemed on the verge of entering a world inside so vast
I know it is the source of
all of us.


Mirabai (1498 - 1550*)
16th - Century Indian Mystic

Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
*Differing dates
suggested by various editors.

These wise words from the poet - princess - saint Mira / Meera brought to my mind some excellent advice that I was given years ago by another wise woman, my undergraduate major professor Connie Holt Jones. I believe it must have been as we were discussing Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence that she advised us to listen to our hearts:
"He came to consciousness again, hearing an immense knocking outside. What could be happening, what was it, the great hammer-stroke resounding through the house? He did not know. And then it came to him that it was his own heart beating. But that seemed impossible, the noise was outside. No, it was inside himself, it was his own heart. And the beating was painful, so strained, surcharged." (from Women in Love, Chapter 20)
If it seems that time is rushing by too quickly, Connie said, find your heartbeat and it will slow you down. On the other hand, if time is dragging unbearably slowly, put your hand over your heart until you find the beat and you'll discover that, in fact, you are moving right along. Your heart will always provide a constant center in the midst of panic or gloom, over - excitement or tedium.

Countless times over the years, thanks to dear Professor Holt Jones, I have exercised this small discipline, which I have only recently learned is called "rubatosis: the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat." Or to borrow from the world of music, rubato. In life as in music, flexibility will allow "quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace."


"Only from the heart can you touch the sky."
Rumi (1207 - 1273)
Persian Spiritual Sage

More from Rumi

Summer Moons: June (above) and July

Summer Tunes:
1965: "Baby, baby, can't you hear my heart beat?"
1973: "When you were young and your heart was an open book . . ."

Summer Runes:
Thanks to Mimi
& Mindyana: Perfect Equanimity

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday August 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Eagles is Freedom

ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Visiting the Bald Eagles at the Columbian Park Zoo
With my friend Nikki ~ April 25, 2016
Fly Like An Eagle
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I'm free
Oh, Lord, through the revolution

Feed the babies
Who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin' in the street
Oh, oh, there's a solution

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I'm free
Fly through the revolution

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I'm free
Fly through the revolution

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'
Into the future


~ The Steve Miller Band



Admiring the impressive eagles and measuring my own "wingspan" reminded me of a teaching anecdote posted by my friend Sandy's daughter Rachel a couple of summers ago:

July 4, 2014 · Bangkok, Thailand ·
Blech. I'm homesick. I don't want to be in Bangkok. I want to be in the States doing American things. You know what's weird? I haven't spent a 4th of July in the US since 2010 . . . weird.

Also, there was this conversation in tutoring yesterday . . . appropriate for the eve of July 4th? I think so. (Talking about carnivores vs herbivores, which led to a discussion about birds of prey. We were in no way talking about the US, the Fourth, or anything like that.)

Varit: What win when fight? Eagle or hawk?

Phonpisith: Eagle! Because it strength and FREEDOM.

Me: ??? Where did you even hear that? I never taught you that and your homeroom teacher is English and didn't teach you that.

Phonpisith: I know about freedom. And eagles is freedom.

[ellipses in original; emphasis added]

Could it be that these young Thai students had heard John Denver sing:
The Eagle And The Hawk
I am the eagle, I live in high country in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky.
I am the hawk, and there's blood on my feathers.
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry.
And all those who see me, and all who believe in me
share in the freedom I feel when I fly.

Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops.
Sail o'er the canyons and up to the stars.
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are.

These two songs are connected not only by vivid imagery of flying eagles but also by the mysterious passage of time. For John Denver, "time is still turning"; and for the Little River Band, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' / Into the future."

Even more important, perhaps, is their shared theme of social justice:
LRB ~ "Feed the babies
Who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin' in the street
Oh, oh, there's a solution"

JD ~ "And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are."
Come the Revolution! Happy Bastille Day!

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday July 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Shadowiness of the Still House

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Childhood Paintings by Gerry McCartney ~ late 1960s
The Listeners

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.


Walter de la Mare

The Sea Gypsy*

I am fevered with the sunset,
I am fretful with the bay,
For the wander-thirst is on me
And my soul is in Cathay.

There's a schooner in the offing,
With her topsails shot with fire,
And my heart has gone aboard her
For the Islands of Desire.

I must forth again to-morrow!
With the sunset I must be
Hull down on the trail of rapture
In the wonder of the sea.


Richard Hovey
*Sam recited "The Sea Gypsy" at St. Peter's
Poetry Declamation ~ 4th grade ~ September 2002

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, July 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In a Museum!

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Glass Miniatures at the
Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Museum Connections:

A couple of months ago, on my Quotidian blog, I posted Sam's favorite paintings from the Guggenheim, along with a throwback reference to one of our favorite childhood movies Don't Eat the Pictures. I turned again to this Sesame Street favorite, about an overnight visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on my previous Fortnighlty blog, "Light as a Feather." One of the subplots for Big Bird concerns finding an answer to the all - important question: "Where does today meet yesterday?"

Can you guess the answer? "In a museum!"


Last summer (August 2015), Gerry and I visited several museums in Lincoln, England. We were lucky enough to be there for the octocentenary of the Magna Carta (1215 - 2015). Of all the awe - inspiring documents and artifacts that we surveyed as part of this town - wide octocentennial celebration of today meeting yesterday, what made the most lasting impression on me was an ancient jar of ancient pennies on display in The Collection Museum.

I couldn't help thinking of the ancient family (probably Roman) and all of the household items they might have valued, even treasured: an ornamental vase or wall hanging? a headdress or some jewelry? the best tableware or even the second - best. Of all these items, could they have ever guessed that what would survive would be the unused pennies, the most humble currency? Of all their arts and crafts and labor, is this what they would have chosen for us to remember them by, 800 years hence?

Certainly of all the things in my home that I consider beautiful or useful (see previous post), it is not the souvenir jar of nearly worthless pennies that I would send as emissary to the future. Yet, as it turns out, that's where yesterday met today, and where today might meet tomorrow.

The riddle of Don't Eat the Pictures -- "Where does today meet yesterday?" -- can also be found in the following two poems. Underlying their sophistication and elegance is the same conundrum. In "Museum," Wislawa Szymborska observes that "Since eternity was out of stock, / ten thousand aging things have been amassed instead": plates, weddings rings, fans, swords, lutes, hairpins, crowns, gloves, shoes, dresses. Ten thousand artifacts! Some quite impressive, others merely as silly as a jar of pennies. Her closing image of the determined dress is particularly timely and of interest, since I've recently learned that clothing in any way unusual -- not only vintage styles, but also novelty fashions and passing fads -- may be donated to the Purdue Theatre Department. Such garments might be used onstage or studied in the classroom -- where today meets yesterday.

The second poem, "In the Museum of Lost Objects," is Lindenberg's tribute to "the magnitude / of absence," all the long - lost relics, jewels, and documents that we shall never lay eyes upon. For every thing that we can see, there is so much more that we never can. For every heirloom or rustic jug retained, how many more disappeared in the landslide? How many were crushed in the landfill and have now disintegrated beyond all existence? As with cemeteries, for each loved one commemorated, there are millions more whose bones and names we shall never know. The Terracotta Ghost Army remains 8000 strong, but where are the citizens of the realm? "Gone to feed the roses" -- that's where. Their lives too would fill huge vacant fields, huge vacant rooms -- but we have "ten thousand aging things . . . instead."

Four Salon Walls from
Frye Museum of Art, Seattle

Museum

Here are plates with no appetite.
And wedding rings, but the requited love
has been gone now for some three hundred years.

Here’s a fan -- where is the maiden’s blush?
Here are swords -- where is the ire?
Nor will the lute sound at the twilight hour.

Since eternity was out of stock,
ten thousand aging things have been amassed instead.
The moss-grown guard in golden slumber
props his mustache on Exhibit Number --

Eight. Metals, clay and feathers celebrate
their silent triumphs over dates.
Only some Egyptian flapper’s silly hairpin giggles.

The crown has outlasted the head.
The hand has lost out to the glove.
The right shoe has defeated the foot.

As for me, I am still alive, you see.
The battle with my dress still rages on.
It struggles, foolish thing, so stubbornly!
Determined to keep living when I’m gone!

Wislawa Szymborska


In the Museum of Lost Objects

What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee;
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage.
Ezra Pound

You’ll find labels describing what is gone:
an empress’s bones, a stolen painting

of a man in a feathered helmet
holding a flag-draped spear.

A vellum gospel, hidden somewhere long ago
forgotten, would have sat on that pedestal;

this glass cabinet could have kept the first
salts carried back from the Levant.

To help us comprehend the magnitude
of absence, huge rooms

lie empty of their wonders—the Colossus,
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and

in this gallery, empty shelves enough to hold
all the scrolls of Alexandria.

My love, I’ve petitioned the curator
who has acquired an empty chest

representing all the poems you will
now never write. It will be kept with others

in the poet’s gallery. Next door,
a vacant room echoes with the spill

of jewels buried by a pirate who died
before disclosing their whereabouts.

I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept
a few of your pieces

for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.

Rebecca Lindenberg

Into the museums they go, so that today may encounter yesterday: bones and paintings, helmets and spears, classic books and curios, wonders of the world, unfinished manuscripts. Sensing how elusive eternity can be, we save what we can. As T.S. Eliot (and later Joan Didion) once said: "These fragments I have shored against my ruins."

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, June 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com