"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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lucky Rock

Vernal Haiku:

Equinox wonder
and worry; the Wabash has
overflowed its banks.


My dad worked at Rocketdyne from 1962 - 1967, writing systems & procedures manuals in the Quality Control department. Neosho is a small town in southwest Missouri, where I went to school K - 4th. This picture was taken when we went back to visit in 2002.


For me, nothing tops those moments when Life offers its own theme to a strand of apparently accidental events, and everything hangs together for a moment in such an uncanny way that you'd swear it was all planned out somehow!

I can easily spend an entire day sidetracked from my initial focus by a trail of coincidences that I just have to follow. For example, not long ago, I went to facebook where my friend Jan mentioned her extra short story about a tell tale heart. So off I headed (www.jandonley.com) to hear the heart beat (very Wordsworthian!). Then back to facebook to ask some of Jan's friends to be my friend (mission accomplished). Then back to Jan's website to read "Trash Talk" (very reminiscent of my years in Philadelphia); and THAT is when I noticed Jan's link to my blog and for just a moment felt overwhelmed by her great faith in this enterprise.

Next, I had to check out Jan's play, "It's Just the Wind" (very Godot but funnier!) and make a mental note to ask if she had noticed that in Linda Pastan's poem, the father says "don't be afraid / it's just the wind." Then I had to feel guilty that I've loved this little poem for so long yet never taken the time to look up Pastan's reference to Goethe's "Der Erlkoenig" (which I then did, but that's another story):

from "The Months"
by Linda Pastan

When the Earl King came
to steal away the child
in Goethe's poem, the father said
don't be afraid,
it's just the wind...
As if it weren't the wind
that blows away the tender
fragments of this world—
leftover leaves in the corners
of the garden, a Lenten Rose
that thought it safe
to bloom so early.

And to top it all off, as I came downstairs this morning, planning in my head a letter for Jan, what were the first words I heard? My son Sam saying: "It's my lucky rock; Mom gave it to me." Turns out, Gerry was asking about the shiny rock that he had just seen Sam pick up from his desk and drop into his pocket. I was touched by Sam's belief in lucky rocks and by his sentiment of hanging on to a talisman from his crazy old mom. It was, however, no more than a fleeting morning moment -- yes, sweeter than most but still fleet -- until it suddenly took on a life of it's own. Why? How? Because, taking another moment to peruse Jan's website, my eyes fell on the title, "Pocket." How had I missed this entry, pocketed as it was, right there in between "Heart" & "Fable," which I had read several days ago? Well, can you imagine my astonishment when just a few lines into the story, I read her words, "Not even a lucky rock"? A lucky rock?

Sometimes, life is so full of coincidences that I think my head will split open trying to take them all in! It's enough to make me believe in the whole Universe at once! Here I was, sitting alone, reading a story about the very object my loved ones had been discussing a mere thirty minutes earlier. And not just any object, but a lucky, magic object, "something to keep forever." And now I know why I overlooked "Pocket," the other day -- the goddess was saving it up for me, a lucky story to read on a lucky Friday! Because we all need stories -- "clear, round, and easy to carry" -- in our hearts.


  1. Kitti, Your entry is wonderful. The connections you make are inspiring. I love the line, "Yes, sweeter than most but still fleet." You are living, breathing literature--that is what I have always seen in you. And I am thrilled that readers get to experience your intuitive, intellectual slant on the intersections of literature and life. -Jan

  2. Jill said . . .

    I enjoyed reading your blog. My Uncle Floyd collects rocks and can a story about almost all of them. I have brought him some from places he never got to go to. Like you, I enjoy the appearance and feel of rose quartz. Another thing this reminds me of - my grandpa always carried a buckeye in his pocket, one that was perfectly shaped for rubbing his thumb against. I believe I have his old buckeye. I don't generally carry it my pocket but I had done that with pieces of quartz before. It's kind of comforting.

  3. The Erl-King

    Original German ~ Literal Translation

    Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
    Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
    Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
    Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

    "Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?"
    "Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
    Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif?"
    "Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif."

    "Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
    Gar schöne Spiele spiel' ich mit dir;
    Manch' bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
    Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand."

    "Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
    Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?"
    "Sei ruhig, bleib ruhig, mein Kind;
    In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind."

    "Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehen?
    Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
    Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,
    Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein."

    "Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
    Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort?"
    "Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh es genau:
    Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau."

    "Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
    Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch ich Gewalt."
    "Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
    Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!"

    Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind,
    Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
    Erreicht den Hof mit Müh' und Not;
    In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.


    Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
    It is the father with his child.
    He holds the boy in the crook of his arm
    He holds him safe, he keeps him warm.

    "My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously?"
    "Father, do you not see the Erlking?
    The Erlking with crown and cloak?"
    "My son, it's a wisp of fog."

    "You lovely child, come, go with me!
    Many a beautiful game I'll play with you;
    Some colourful flowers are on the shore,
    My mother has many golden robes."

    "My father, my father, can't you hear,
    What the Erlking quietly promised me?"
    "Be calm, stay calm, my child;
    The wind rustles through dry leaves."

    "Do you want to come with me, fine lad?
    My daughters should be waiting for you;
    My daughters lead the nightly dances
    And will rock and dance and sing you to sleep."

    "My father, my father, can't you see there,
    The Erlking's daughters in the gloomy place?"
    "My son, my son, I see it well:
    The old willows seem so grey."

    "I love you, your beautiful form entices me;
    And if you're not willing, I shall use force."
    "My father, my father, he's grabbing me now!
    The Erlking has done me harm!"

    The father shudders; he rides swiftly,
    He holds in his arms the moaning child.
    Barely he arrives at the yard in urgency;
    In his arms, the child was dead.


  4. *Adaptation:

    Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
    The father it is, with his infant so dear;
    He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm,
    He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

    "My son, wherefore seek'st thou thy face thus to hide?"
    "Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side!
    Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?"
    "My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain."

    "Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
    Full many a game I will play there with thee;
    On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
    My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold."

    "My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
    The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?"
    "Be calm, dearest child, 'tis thy fancy deceives;
    'Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves."

    "Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
    My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care
    My daughters by night their glad festival keep,
    They'll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."

    "My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
    How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?"
    "My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
    'Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight."

    "I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy!
    And if thou'rt unwilling, then force I'll employ."
    "My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
    Full sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last."

    The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
    He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child;
    He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread,--
    The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead.