Fall, Leaves, Fall

Even in SoCal, on this Autumnal Equinox, leaves do fall.

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Emily Brontë

To a Butterfly

STAY near me–do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!
Float near me; do not yet depart! – Wordsworth

This female Papilio glaucus, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, hung around for about half an hour, leisurely fluttering from one flower to another. I almost felt like paparazzi as I snapped photo after photo of this Lepidopteran celebrity. A little research revealed that the first known drawing of a North America butterfly was in 1587 of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by John White.

It happened in the front yard this time along the dry river bed.

I was enchanted while she took a rest break on the ground, basically right at my feet, long enough for me to take about fifty more pics.

To a Butterfly

STAY near me–do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!
Float near me; do not yet depart!
Dead times revive in thee:
Thou bring’st, gay creature as thou art!
A solemn image to my heart,
My father’s family!
Oh! pleasant, pleasant were the days,
The time, when, in our childish plays,
My sister Emmeline and I
Together chased the butterfly!
A very hunter did I rush
Upon the prey:–with leaps and springs
I followed on from brake to bush;
But she, God love her, feared to brush
The dust from off its wings.


By William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

…and so it begins

Here in SoCal, there are unusual excessive heat warnings for the coast; it could reach 105 degrees today. It was 87 degrees at 8:00 a.m. and now it’s 101 at 11:00 a.m. HOT!

The National Weather Service announced red flag warnings for high fire probability with humidity less than ten percent. The forecast also calls for areas of smoke. High heat records are being broken this weekend. Our desert temperatures could exceed 126 degrees. Crazy!

There’s ash on my car and deck from the fire in Alpine, fifty miles away in the east county. I tried to go for a walk at 7:15 and not only was it already too hot, but my breathing was compromised from the smoke so I had to turn back. As of right now, the (named) Valley fire is estimated to have burned 4,000 acres and is 0% contained. Ten structures have been destroyed.

And then I found this, the first one of the season. The first leaf fallen from the mulberry tree. Autumn in SoCal.

I see a few more yellow leaves up there; soon I’ll be raking them up and the branches will be barren.

Sometimes I hear the voice of my poetry professor and search for a poem to illustrate the bittersweet feelings of the changing season. This is a good one by Rossetti.

Autumn Song
Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems—not to suffer pain?

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?
By DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI

We Wear the Mask (Poetry/Reality)

Here’s my assortment of masks waiting for me on the front seat of the car.

That’s REALITY, a temporary address where I don’t really like living for any length of time, as I’d rather dwell in the realm of fairy gardens with doors that open to a gentle forest of everlasting happiness.

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How’s everyone doing with the novel Corona virus, now officially called SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2)

Are you masking up in public?

Have you been to a restaurant?

Have you or anyone you know been exposed and/or tested positive?

Are you still restricting your daily activities?

Are you still washing your hands more than ever?

Disinfection game still at a high level?

ME:
• I wear a mask whenever I go to a store. As soon as I walk outside, I take it off.
• No restaurants or bars for me.
• My DILs brother-in-law got it, was extremely sick and hospitalized, it was touch and go but he pulled through.
• I’m in the high risk demographic and haven’t/won’t attend any large gathering and I also stay well away from anyone in public.
• Still washing/disinfecting daily but to be honest, I’ve always been a clean freak, so it’s not a hardship.

Here’s the bottom line…I HATE wearing a mask but I do it to protect myself and others.
Just in case. Kind of the same reason I wear a seatbelt. Or don’t drink and drive. To protect you and me. Just in case.

It’s a small price to pay, whether or not it’s actually necessary, but doctors and medical professionals wear masks and other PPE during surgery and when they’re in the presence of patients who present potentially contagious symptoms, so why not?


Here’s POETRY.

Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem about another kind of mask. He was an amazingly insightful poet.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!
BY  PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

“The Sparrow” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I love this little bird. It really seems like he likes to follow me around so I started to follow him and snap pics everywhere he hopped.  A special little friend for sure.

The Sparrow

A little bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window–pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song;
But I work on, nor heed its lay,
Till, in neglect, it flies away.
So birds of peace and hope and love
Come fluttering earthward from above,
To settle on life’s window–sills,
And ease our load of earthly ills;
But we, in traffic’s rush and din
Too deep engaged to let them in,
With deadened heart and sense plod on,
Nor know our loss till they are gone.
Paul Laurence Dunbar – 1872-1906

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Remembering Maya Angelou

We lost her six years ago today, May 28, 2014.
I honor her wisdom, character, and resilient soul.

“A Woman in harmony with her spirit
is like a river flowing.
She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination
prepared to be herself
and only herself ”

― Maya Angelou

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Elaine Bayley Illustrations

 

The Stolen Child

I was going to write a funny post about how my son is sometimes as childish as his four-year-old but then I saw this poem and magical picture from Ravenous Butterflies and thought I’d instead elevate my intellect with Yeats.

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
with a faery, hand in hand,
for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand…”
W.B. Yeats

Romany Soup

Image may contain: plant and outdoor
Here’s the entire poem:

 

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

W.B. Yeats

The boy who is my heart

Update Mother’s Day 2020: I wrote this post about my son lightyears prior to Angel Boy 2.0. because without him, I wouldn’t be a mommy at all.

Since the birth of his baby sister, AB 2.0 and I repeat this conversation pretty much every single time we speak or we’re together. (A little needed reassurance about his place in the world.)

“Who’s my very favorite boy?”

“I am, Grandma!”

And who’s my second favorite boy?”

“DADDY IS. DADDY IS!”

“You’re right! Now…who’s my favorite GIRL?”

“CharChar is, right, Grandma?”

“You got it, T. And then who’s my second favorite girl?”

“MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY!”

Just keeping it straight for the second little boy who is my heart.

(P.S. My poem was published in Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream Volume 34 #4)

 

The Yellow Steamroller

So much depends
upon

a yellow
steamroller

buried
in the dirt
 
behind the shed
On one bitterly cold wintry afternoon, I embarked on a major yard cleanup project. I raked all the pine needles shaken loose during the fury of Alaska-borne winds that roared down the coast to Southern California.
Metal rake clanged against metal.
Then I saw it, a bright yellow igniting the dirt and pine needles, suffused with a gleaming radiance through the brown. 
steamroller1
I threw down the rake, crouched on all fours, and with bare fingers dug through the wet fecund soil to uncover an abandoned yellow Matchbox toy from the spot where there once was a sandbox that my son’s dad  built for him when we first moved to this house in 1985.
I discovered in situ a three-inch wide artifact imbued with all the wonder of my perfect four-year-old child, the same age that my grandson is right now, thirty-five years later.
I gently brushed away decades of encrusted soil and sand.
steamroller2
sandbox
I was engulfed in wave after wave of memory.
I was there. Really there. 1985. 
I saw him–my precious four-year-old son in this beautiful huge sandbox filled with fresh, clean sand.  
I watched him as I often watched him from the bay window in the kitchen overlooking the backyard where I would wash dishes and keep an eye on him, keeping him safe–always keeping him safe–as he played in the sand with his dump trucks and cherry pickers and this steam roller and his buckets and plastic cups and forks and sticks with his cats and dog always near, and the loveliness of the memory set me on my heels and I cried.
Happy tears for the exquisite soft rosy glow of healthy well-fed cheeks, the deep Imperial jade green eyes, the curls that were my curls, my boy, my angel love.
The boy whose every breath contains a whisper of the intangible all encompassing LOVE I possess for this being who was a part of me before he was a part of the earth and sun and sky and sand.
The boy who is — and always will be — my heart.
I shut my eyes tight to keep the pictures from disappearing, but the ephemeral/evanescent impressions floated away with the tears that spilled out for the remembering of the beauty of a luminous child playing in a sandbox, singing to himself and constructing sand sculptures of the future, or, in his case, building words and spinning thoughts and erratica.
Those grains of sand that between his fingers mashed and smashed into forts and tunnels were the detritus of the granite from whence his brain reformed them grain by grain into skyscrapers of words and sentences that flow like a path from the back door to the sandbox.

And what eventually happened to the steamroller? It’s still here in the garden, living a new life helping another curly haired, green eyed little boy weave his own stories…

In a way, a sort of homage to…
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams
so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

“…that which we call a rose…

…would smell as sweet.

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First Robert Burns, and now Shakespeare?

During this Covid-19 pandemic, I seem to be living in an alternate universe of poetry and literature. Pretty soon, my brain will start to spontaneously remember all my years of French, and I’ll be ready for my trip to France to pay homage to the one and only Coco Chanel.

Once upon a time, in another lifetime, I memorized Juliet’s lines, Act 2, Scene 2, for an audition.

Nope, I didn’t win the role that time, but the words have never left me.

It’s a bit of a cliche considering my name, but a rose is a rose is a rose, according to Gertrude Stein.

JULIET

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name;

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What’s Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,

Nor arm nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

And for thy name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself.

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What’s NOT the best choice for a bedtime story? Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.

There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.

 

Since I was lucky enough to become a grandma (thank you DIL!) I’m always searching for new and interesting books to tempt Angel Boy 2.0 and his voracious appetite for words and pictures and language. One of my favorite photos was of AB 2.0 at around two months looking intently at AB 1.0 while he read a story. We swear he was paying attention. Maybe/maybe not, but we like to think so.

I went to our local library where they have a store staffed by volunteers and always find great books-sadly some never even cracked open-and grabbed an armful.

I parked myself in a little child-sized chair and briefly skimmed through my treasures. I found a book by one of my son’s favorite authors, James Herriot, who wrote All Creatures Great and Small and Moses the Kitten, along with about a dozen other really good stories, mostly about animals (my personal interests shining through).

Somehow, though, this book slipped by…

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Beth Peek.

Visually stunning, I anticipated a lovely illustrated poem that Theo would enjoy, but waited until I had already driven home to fully read this one.

UH OH, thank goodness I read it first and I’m even more grateful that Theo can’t read at all.

I know I initially read it in high school, because as soon as I saw this page, the horror I had initially felt–returned.

A bedtime story? I think not. Not unless you want to seed some traumatic nightmares! I can’t imagine what kind of positive life lesson there could be here, can you?

I didn’t remember that it ended with the mom dying, having sacrificed her life for her son, and it’s not even that I DISAGREE with that concept because I believe a good parent should place her/his needs beneath those of the innocents we bring into this universe, BUT the guilt trip that little guy will most likely endure isn’t an equivalent value for having his loving mother ALIVE.

No wonder it appeared that this book looked as if it had never been touched.

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

“Son,” said my mother,
   When I was knee-high,
“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,
   And not a rag have I.
“There’s nothing in the house
   To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
   Nor thread to take stitches.
“There’s nothing in the house
   But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody will buy,”
   And she began to cry.
That was in the early fall.
   When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
   Makes your mother’s blood crawl,—
“Little skinny shoulder-blades
   Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
   God above knows.
“It’s lucky for me, lad,
   Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
   His son go around!”
   And she made a queer sound.
That was in the late fall.
   When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
   Nor a shirt to my name.
I couldn’t go to school,
   Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
   Passed our way.
“Son,” said my mother,
   “Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
   While you take a nap.”
And, oh, but we were silly
   For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
   Dragging on the floor,
A-rock-rock-rocking
   To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
   For half an hour’s time!
But there was I, a great boy,
   And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
   To sleep all day,
   In such a daft way?
Men say the winter
   Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
   And food was dear.
A wind with a wolf’s head
   Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
   And sat on the floor.
All that was left us
   Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody would take,
   For song or pity’s sake.
The night before Christmas
   I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
   Like a two-year-old.
And in the deep night
   I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
   With love in her eyes.
I saw my mother sitting
   On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
   From I couldn’t tell where,
Looking nineteen,
   And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Leaned against her shoulder.
Her thin fingers, moving
   In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
   Wonderful things.
Many bright threads,
   From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
  Rapidly,
And gold threads whistling
   Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
   And the pattern expand.
She wove a child’s jacket,
   And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
   And wove another one.
She wove a red cloak
   So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
   I said, “and not for me.”
   But I knew it was for me.
She wove a pair of breeches
   Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
   And a little cocked hat.
She wove a pair of mittens,
   She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
   In the still, cold house.
She sang as she worked,
   And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
   And the thread never broke.
   And when I awoke,—
There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.
And piled up beside her
   And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
   Just my size.