"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, September 28, 2013

September Travels Slow

Hillsdale - Possum Bridge
Indiana photo by Marsha Williamson Mohr


"Because September travels slow
I catch it when I can
and hold it over for another month or two."

by Rod McKuen
from the poem "True Holly"
found in Twelve Years of Christmas
[for more Rod McKuen Christmas Poems]


"It was a day of exceeding and almost unmatched beauty,
one of those perfectly lovely afternoons
that we seldom get but in September or October.
A warm delicious calm and sweet peace brooded breathless
over the mellow sunny autumn afternoon
and the happy stillness was broken only by the voices of children
blackberry gathering in an adjoining meadow
and the sweet solitary singing of a robin."

Entry for Thursday, 24 September 1874
from A Wiltshire Diary: English Journies
by Clergyman & diarist, Robert Francis Kilvert, 1840 - 1879

Kilvert wrote these words one hundred and thirty - nine years ago, but it could have been this very week! How reassuring to feel so seasonally connected to the writers of yore, to know that the 24th of September in 1874 was precisely the kind of day that we experienced just a few days ago on the 24th of September in 2013! Is it that way every year?

As another sunny September draws to a close -- can it really be the 28th already? -- Rod McKuen's appealing suggestion seems the only way to go. No matter how slowly this beautiful month travels, it still goes by too quickly. Can we maybe hold September over for another month or two? Of course we know the answer. Not possible. Every year, I ask the very same question at the end of October -- Can we please turn back the calendar and have it all over again? It is not a question I ask at the end of every month. Just September and October, and, of course, June. For "what is so rare as a day in June? / Then, if ever, come perfect days" (as American Romantic James Russell Lowell points out in "The Vision of Sir Launfal").

It's true, only a few things are so rare as a day in June, and one of those things is a day in September, especially when it's that improbably fabulous Pleasantville weather: " . . . another sunny day - high 72, low 72, and not a cloud in the sky," so perfect, so beautiful that it would almost break your heart, though hearts don't break in Pleasantville, where perfection is unrelenting. In our world, however, such a sublime day is a reminder that the season doesn't last and that it is ever tinged with melancholy -- a sadness due in part to the fading light and the inability to say just what we mean or to pin down what is slipping away even as we speak.

Someone You Love is Far Away
but Near a Telephone

Twilight, and the maples outside the windows
Of this $95 - a - month room where I live alone
Are turning black with the time of day and time of year,
September. "It's sunset," I'd say if you called,
"And the trees are turning into shadows of themselves."

But it's too late for that, the sun is gone,
It's night here, and what I wanted to tell you

Is a lie already. Maybe, though, where you are, in the next
Time zone west, it's becoming true, taking shape
In the sky, the air, the shadow
You cast against whatever wall keeps you
There, in autumn, in twilight, on the other side

Of the telephone, where suddenly you are wanting to say
Something to someone about leaves, about light,

Not knowing what, or to whom, or why, or how far away
Anything is, while the day goes on changing
Slowly into the same night I wait in
Alone in the darkness, in love, watching the dial
Of the stars move, knowing we are both in the world.

T. R. Hummer
from The Angelic Orders

Phone Booth Near the Lake
painting by Scott Prior

For T. R. Hummer ,"the trees are turning into shadows of themselves," and for Thomas Hood, Autumn stands "shadowless like Silence, listening / To silence." I can't help wondering if, in the end, the two sensations are one and the same: Shadows to shadows. Silence to silence.


I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;—
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.

Where are the songs of Summer?—With the sun,
Oping the dusky eyelids of the south,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds?—Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
Lest owls should prey
Undazzled at noonday,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.

Where are the blooms of Summer?—In the west,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours,
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatch'd from her flow'rs
To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer,—the green prime,—
The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
On the moss'd elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling,—and one upon the old oak-tree!
Where is the Dryad's immortality?—
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
In the smooth holly's green eternity.

The squirrel gloats on his accomplish'd hoard,
The ants have brimm'd their garners with ripe grain,
And honey bees have stored
The sweets of Summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have wing'd across the main;
But here the Autumn melancholy dwells,
And sighs her tearful spells
Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.

Alone, alone,
Upon a mossy stone,
She sits and reckons up the dead and gone
With the last leaves for a love-rosary,
Whilst all the wither'd world looks drearily,
Like a dim picture of the drown├Ęd past
In the hush'd mind's mysterious far away,
Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
Into that distance, gray upon the gray.

O go and sit with her, and be o'ershaded
Under the languid downfall of her hair:
She wears a coronal of flowers faded
Upon her forehead, and a face of care;—
There is enough of wither'd everywhere
To make her bower,—and enough of gloom;
There is enough of sadness to invite,
If only for the rose that died, whose doom
Is Beauty's,—she that with the living bloom
Of conscious cheeks most beautifies the light:
There is enough of sorrowing, and quite
Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,—
Enough of chilly droppings for her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

Thomas Hood, 1798–1845

Pumpkin Bales
Photographer Jay Beets says,
"Tilt screen up . . . lean back . . . color gets better!
I liked the color the hay cast this morning . . . that pumpkin hue!"

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, October 14th

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

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry,
Just Eat Curry!

A quiet spot for coffee, tea, curry, rice pudding
and inspiration:
"No. No, we are not satisfied
and we will not be satisfied
until 'justice rolls down like water
and righteousness like a mighty stream.' "
~ Martin Luther King, Jr. ~

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Fountain & Waterfall
in the lovely Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Last year, when I flew out to San Francisco for the first time, I was stressing about the trip and asked my friend Eileen to send me some anti - worry mantras. She had already shared many; but, of course, when I needed them most -- when I was worrying! -- I couldn't remember them.

She e-mailed back with a simple mantra, easy to keep in mind while traveling or anytime:
"Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry, Just Eat Curry!"

Okay! I could remember that advice and, even better, I could follow it! She added some additional words of wisdom that I continue to find both intriguing and useful: "Just breathe. And remember that anxiety and excitement are in fact the same sensations physiologically speaking, just with either fear stories or looking - forward stories attached. I think that's an oversimplification, but it can help." Yes, it does help! Anxious or excited? Choose your story, determine your mood! The power of narrative! Or, better yet, Nostalgic Narrative Therapy!

At the Samovar Tea Lounge
Unhurried, not worried, ordered curry!

We also discussed worry and perfection. Will we ever be able to stop second guessing that life should be other than it is -- or to accept that, in the words of Toby Maguire's character David, the twin brother in Pleasantville: "It. Is. Not. Supposed. To. Be. Any. Way."

"A great way to feel that comes and goes," Eileen said, supplying the following anecdote: San Francisco Zen Chef "Ed Brown tells a wonderful story about making his first from - scratch biscuits when he began baking at Tassajara. He kept being upset because they didn't taste like or have the same texture as the real biscuits that he remembered from childhood -- 'til he realized that what he was Proustifyin' about were those Pillsbury cartons that you crack and extract the crescents & pop in. He used to do a kickass dharma talk, extrapolating to advertisements, etc., on all the ways we imagine we are not 'measuring up.' Nothing one doesn't already know, intellectually, but to really take it in, receive and accept -- aaahhh!"

We interrupt this blog post
for an unexpected connection!

The best kind, of course! A surprise telephone call from dear Cate, who it certainly seems should know Eileen, although they are each from a different phase of my life (i.e., Cate ~ Philly; Eileen ~ facebook) and have yet to become acquainted. Maybe after this blog post they will!

When I told Cate what I was working on, she jumped right in and told me all about Edward Espe Brown's Tassajara Bread Book and Deborah Madison's Greens Cook Book, and their celebrated San Francisco restaurant Greens. Okay, I know where we're eating next time we visit!

My thanks to Cate
~ talented cook and student of Zen ~
for these cookery eatery references!


And now, back to Eileen for further annotation
and explication of our brief new mantra:
"Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry, Just Eat Curry!"

"I wonder if I even answered the simple question? She tends to leave out the obvious and important. That flurry of 'explain yourself, sir' (it feels more 'sir' than 'ma'am') that can overrun a thoughtful calm, 'Here is what I care about, and here are some ways I have earned a living at it.' So interesting, that wanting to be known for / as who you actually are, whilst resisting naming it; feeling like saying anything will somehow distort what might be 'felt - into' from just exposure over time. I remember when I decided to stop asking people that directly, like at parties, and began experimenting with other indirect probes [as I've heard they do in France]. But especially now, we are curious and wonder how others are putting it together / keeping body and soul together, and making sense and cents (that last word was corny, I just hadda end /stop). Also, facebook tends to just be verbal. I already know I am making a picture of my interests and concerns, in colors and shapes, for someone who wants to pay for my services. Doesn't even feel 'brave,' just feels obvious, easier, more relatable. From two phone calls I am intuiting what this person will enjoy. Quien sabe?"

Another nice lunch ~ this time at Cafe de la Presse

"Maybe it's a self-selection thing (big superego sorts), or maybe it's the scholarly crucible itself, but I can feel the 'military neck' want to happen. I so wanna be / have FUN. & ENUF (ha! I know u c that near - anagram). You know how in the Feldenkrais Method [similar to the Alexander Technique], you can 'visualize' a movement -- even if your body cannot or can no longer execute -- and it will have the same effect, neuro-howeverly? So then, can we not say that metabolizing insights is not doing nothing -- for the greater social organism, I mean. Is that what the Buddha meant by with our thoughts we make the world? All that time spent doubting the value of my natural way of doing my life? And, yes, I'll still do the odd 'motivational discussion,' but it will sound more like quietly coexisting and then 'reporting out to the group.' And inhale. And exhale."
Thanks Eileen!


Try to remember:

1. "Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry, Just Eat Curry!

2. "It. Is. Not. Supposed. To. Be. Any. Way."


Parting Words of Wisdom

from StoryPeople by Brian Andreas

Things to know about the future.
It doesn't have to look any particular way,
but around here, if it doesn't,
a lot of people will never speak to you again
[well, just don't worry about those people!]

deciding everything is falling into place perfectly
as long as you don't get too picky
about what you mean by place.
Or perfectly.


and from the movie Pleasantville, 1998
script by Gary Ross

David, the previously nerdy teen - aged son has returned from "Pleasantville," wiser in his newfound knowledge that there's no such thing as a perfect life, not even over the rainbow. He finds his mother crying and gently asks her what is wrong.

"MOM: Oh, I don't know. It's all so f---ed up. . . .
You know, when your father was here I thought well this is it.
It's always gonna be like this.
I have the right house and the right car and the right life.

DAVID: There is no right house. There is no right car.

MOM: Oh, God. It's not supposed to be like this. . . .

DAVID: It's not supposed to be anything.

MOM: How'd you get so smart all of a sudden?

DAVID: (stops for a second, smiles to himself, shrugs): I had a good day."


Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, September 28th

Between now and then,

feel free to take a look at my
San Francisco Photo Albums: October 2012 & September 2013

and read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

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