"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

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Say Moon

Includes: "Lullaby of Broadway" (from 42nd Street)
"Never - Never Land" (from Peter Pan)
"Jenny Rebecca" (by Carol Hall)
"Blueberry Eyes" (from Gone With the Wind)
"Castle on a Cloud" (from Les Miserables)
"Not While I'm Around" (from Sweeney Todd)
"My Broth of a Boy" (by Cole Porter)
"Edelweiss" (from The Sound of Music)
"New Words" (by Maury Yeston)
"Count Your Blessings" (from White Christmas)

Lullabies of Broadway by Mimi Bessette was one of our family's earliest lullaby purchases, so early, in fact, that we owned the old technology cassette tape version (1990), ordered from one of our all-time favorite catalogues: Music for Little People. I upgraded a few years ago to CD, because I just can't live without this beautiful, lyrical collection of tunes for night - night and early morning ("Manhatten babies don't sleep tight until the dawn"). I first bought it for my kids, of course, and then for friends of ours as their children came along, but it turns out that I'm the one who has remained in love with every song, every word.

One of my favorites is "New Words," a song about discovery, connection, the magic of language, and the gift of naming. I couldn't find it on youtube, but listen ~ here ~ for a short, sweet snippet.

And the rest:

New Words
[published by Yeston Music Ltd.]

Look up there
High above us
In a sky of blackest silk
See how round
Like a cookie
See how white, as white as milk
Call it the "moon" my son
Say "moon"
Sounds like your spoon, my son
Can you say it?
New word today, say "moon"

Near the the moon
Brightly turning
Are a thousand sparks of light
Each one new
Each one burning
Through the darkness of the night
We call them "stars," my son, say "stars"
That one is "Mars," my son
Can you say it?
New word today, say "stars"

As they blink all around us
Playing starry-eyed games
Who would think it astounds us
Simply naming their names

Turn your eyes
From the skies now
Turn around and look at me
There's a light
In my eyes now
And a word for what you see
We call it "love," my son
Say "love"
So hard to say, my son
It gets harder
New words today
We'll learn to say
Learn "moon," learn "stars"
Learn "love"

Music & lyrics
by Maury Yeston

I like the way the opening stanza moves so swiftly from one simile to the next, as the moon becomes first cookie, then milk, then spoon. And a few lines down, the verb astounds is so astounding, isn't it? Not necessarily a word you expect to come across in a lullaby, yet so apt -- because it does indeed "astound us, simply naming their names": Aldebaran . . . Andromeda . . . Cassiopeia . . . I am reminded of a conversation I was having just recently with my mother - in - law Rosanne. She said that it is so entrancing each month to watch the moon get full, you'd think it had never happened before. I had to agree!

This lullaby of amazement is perfect for the night of the full moon, such as February's Full Snow Moon, coming soon, or last month's most unusual Halo Moon, as photographed by my son Ben:

After one of last winter's full moons my friend Cheryl wrote to say that she had been up at 4:00 that morning and seen the full moon "shining across the new snowfall. It was breathtaking, but I couldn't get my camera to capture it very well." A few months of following this blog, and you will notice, if you haven't already, that, like Cheryl, I have a weakness for running outside and trying to photograph the full moon whenever it presents itself. Without any special National Geographic equipment, it's hard to get an excellent shot, but every now and then, with the help of my little zoom lens, I get one that turns out right.

On this occasion, I wrote back to share with Cheryl that, no matter how our photos had turned out, I knew just what she meant about the moonlight on the snow -- it's like that line from The Night Before Christmas: "The moon on the breast of the newfallen snow gave a lustre of mid-day to objects below." When I was little, I had no idea what that meant, but now I get it! [Also, see my post Blue Moon.]

And in closing, how about these inspiring words from my insightful friend and fellow blogger ~ Almost 60? Really? ~ Paula Lee Bright. [Also, see my post Green Stamps]:

When I was a kid I didn't know what it meant either, but it's funny: when presented with something like that a kid's brain still attempts to make sense of it. And in a way, I did! Keywords moon, snow, and mid-day DID kind of sink into our consciousness, and the other words were stored away with a tiny bit of info attached to them. How they were used, with other words. And so we began to understand. Isn't the way kids learn vocabulary and imagery and yes, even art such as poetry ~ isn't it fascinating? Dang, I loved teaching!

Like you, I am in love with language. Nothing else in the world is as all-encompassing and exciting (other than the coolness of TEACHING language to exciting kids!).

Yes, indeed ~ thanks Paula! As Mimi Bessette sings so poignantly:

New words today
We'll learn to say
Learn "moon," learn "stars"
Learn "love"

One further connection:
Mimi Bessette has also performed in the musical Opal, written by my cousin Robert Nassif Lindsey. How I would love to have seen that production live!

More on Opal:
Fortnightly: "In Love With the World"
On Kitti's Book List: About Opal Whiteley
Click to watch on youtube

The Full Wolf Moon
January 2012

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

My Favorite Result: November 2010
Comprehensive List of Full Moon Names
Gutsy Lantern
[see first comment below, from Eileen S. H.]

Saturday, January 14, 2012

This Year's Words

~ RUMI ~


"Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers."

from The Wasteland
by T. S. Eliot

A new year full of new words!

Some of the best New Year's words I know come from T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets":

Quartet No. 1: Burnt Norton
Quartet No. 2: East Coker
Quartet No. 3: The Dry Salvages
Quartet No. 4: Little Gidding.

These are perfect poems for the re-beginning cycle, dealing as they do with the human experience of past, present, and future and our place within time.

In the first quartet, Eliot imagines the simultaneous existence of past, present, and future:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

"Burnt Norton" (from section I)

In the fourth quartet, some things, like "last year's words" can be left in the past, while "next year's words" remain in the future. In my post last month, I quoted Salman Rushdie as saying that "the home we make . . . is anywhere, and everywhere, except the place from which we began." Eliot, however, brings us back around:

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice . . .
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from . . .
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.*

"Little Gidding" (from sections II & V)

*These great lines from Eliot have already
appeared a couple of times previously on this blog:
see ~ "Three Passions"
and ~ "Parallax"

On the topic of wintry words, you may remember this one from
last January,
but here it is again, always a favorite:

"Antiphanes said merrily,
that in a certain city the cold was so intense
that words were congealed as soon as spoken,
but that after some time
they thawed and became audible;
so that the words spoken in winter
were articulated next summer."

Plutarch, (46 - 120)
1st Century Biographer
born Greek but later became a Roman citizen

A Little Window on Winter

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, 28 January 2012

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Snow at last!
Time to winterize your croquet set!