"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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Afternoon,
Summer Afternoon


"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ~ Henry James

And those most be nineteen of the most beautiful words that Henry James ever wrote.

If you ask me, what is one of the most beautiful things to do on a sunny summer afternoon? Why, go to the pool, of course! A hidden gem of our neighborhood, the pool is nestled in a small valley at the foot of a big hill. Lucky for me, it's only a few blocks from my house, close enough to bike. On a hot July day, nothing feels better than floating lazily or doing a leisurely backstroke while gazing above at a big blue bowl of sky and all around at a big green basket of grass.

Peace and the "Sounds of Silence." That's what the pool provides for The Graduate-- Benjamin Braddock / Dustin Hoffman. The desultory pace of his summer is measured in the movie by a succession of swimming scenarios. While he sits on the bottom of the pool in his scuba gear, his head is filled with the echo of his own breathing. Avoiding the reality of "plastics," he rests listlessly in the sun on his air mattress, "drifting, just drifting," to the strains of Simon & Garfunkle. I can't sit underwater like Benjamin, but when I swim laps I can go inside my head, think about what I'd like to read and write, and hear nothing but the sound of rhythmic breathing until the whistle blows.

No summer day feels complete without those laps. Some days I have the pool to myself; other times it's a perfect microcosm of the entire community: little kids, big kids, young adults, old adults, experts, amateurs, and many beginners -- of all ages; some who swim fast, others who take it slow; some treading, some diving; some taking lessons, some working out with serious purpose and some just having a good time! It can occasionally feel like a big old human soup pot, on the very hottest, busiest days, but I try to work around that slightly stewed sensation and keep my focus. Despite the heat, with just a month of summer afternoons left, we have to enjoy every one!

"Lap swim -- lap swim."

To me those are two of the most beautiful words on any summer afternoon between Memorial Day and Labor Day!

" . . . there is no end, believe me! to the inventions of summer, to the happiness your body is willing to bear." --Mary Oliver

Neighborhood Kiddies: Molly, Ben, Emily, 1991

Neighborhood Cheers: My Swimming Buddies, 1992

If you have to choose between straight hair & swimming, don't fight the curl: CHOOSE SWIMMING!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hominy, Horseradish, and Buffalo Bill

Summer Squash and Black Currants

Here I am with my Grandpa Lindsey,
ready to ride the train to Kansas City
to visit his sister, my Great Aunt Mabel
These were the old days, when you could actually go places on trains in this country, and we -- just the two of us-- were taking a day trip from Grandpa's little town in Kansas up to see his older sister in Kansas City. Even though we would not be spending the night, I insisted on taking my little suitcase, just barely visible in the corner of the photograph. To this day, I can tell you exactly what was in there: my little white Easter gloves (remember when we wore those?) and a six - pack of Butterfinger candy bars!

Without knowing this photograph or the story behind it, my dear friend Lisa sent me the following birthday card a few years ago:
When I read the caption -- "in their purses were candy bars" -- I knew it was true! You can see why I was reminded of myself at age 9, holding hands with my grand-dad at the train station.
Our Train Schedule
See -- my grandfather has written: "Mabel's Phone"


In 1976, seven years before he died, my Grandpa Paul Lindsey, wrote an autobiographical essay entitled “A Look at Caney, Kansas: What I Saw From the Wagon Seat as a Child.” He begins with a description of his mother’s perseverance:

My mother, like all those dear old souls who settled this country, could have lived on a rock. I mean, you could not have starved them. They believed they were citizens of a free country and were determined to live and stay free.

“My mother started a good-sized patch of horseradish and prepared to make hominy. She established a line of customers, including several hotels and boarding houses. By the time I was five, she would take me along to hold the team—old Dolly and Lucy—while she delivered hominy and horseradish, ready to serve, at twenty-five cents per quart.”

The Lindsey farm wagons were a familiar sight on Caney streets, marketing—in addition to Sally’s farm fresh hominy and horseradish—water from the bubbling hillside springs, melons and sweet potatoes grown in the loose sandy soil, and potted plants or bouquets of flowers in season. As my grandfather grew older, the area covered by the delivery trips widened to include nearby towns and cities. On one of these trips, he and his father were privileged to eat lunch at the private table of Buffalo Bill Cody when the Lindseys delivered sweet potatoes to the exhibition’s commissary while the Wild West Show was performing in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

When I was little, how I loved to hear my grandfather tell this story! In vivid detail, he would recall how Buffalo Bill regaled the assembled diners with tales of adventure and wore on his finger a diamond “the size of egg.” Even now, whenever I see an image of Buffalo Bill on a postage stamp or on my cowgirl dress -- or read the ironic "Portrait" by e.e. cummings -- I am reminded of my Grandpa Lindsey’s brush with greatness and that incredible diamond ring!

Buffalo Bill's
who used to
ride a water-smooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

(poem by e. e. cummings)