A Precious Substance

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We are in a precious moment of essential life

A global purification and concentration of creativity

Feel the wondrous light emanating

From the shared emotion

as we stand together on the edge

Don’t you feel alive!

 

(Hold this moment as you would any precious substance)

 

Caged Bird

 It was Dunbar who wrote the poem, Sympathy, which inspired

Maya Angelou to title her memoir,  I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. 

 

Sympathy

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!
Paul Laurence. Dunbar, ““Sympathy.”” from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, )

Savor These Moments

Good Morning World.

The river that connects us all is flowing deeply through my sub-conscious.  Why else would I write at two in the morning?

I remember being a schoolchild, how excited it felt to awaken in the morning to a blanket of white powder and hear on the radio that school was closed!

A day of snowballs and snowmen was rich.

Yes, I understand this is different, but stepping outside into the crystal clear and cold air last night there was a panoply of glittering stars.  I took a deep breath, inviting the air into my lungs and savoring the feeling.  How sweet it is to feel human, to step away from the grinding machine of life in the modern world.

Each day, the red circles of Coronavirus clusters saturate the global map.  In a few weeks, the circles will disappear and all will be in red.

Some of us will take leave, most will not, and when the red fades the machine will slowly come back to life.

Savor these moments.  Savor———-these——–moments.

Breathe the air, drink water, stay warm, sleep, and join me on the river, exhaling the vapor of life above the flowing water.

 

 

Good morning world.  Here is one of my favorite poems.  It was not my first favorite poem but came early in that distinction when I was around thirteen.

I thought amidst all of this tension some beautiful words by Dylan Thomas  might be welcome.

 Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

A Cosmic Protective Embrace

I wrote this for my daughter but think she won’t mind if I share it with others. She is tirelessly working to protect the health of the people she works for in Dallas, Texas-that is all the people of Dallas, and Texas, and all of us.

I’m throwing my embrace around you in a massive cosmic way to keep you safe from anything.

Notes From The Pandemic

These words are not anything more than thoughts evaporating into space.

Fate plays its hand when we take our eye off the ball. On a planet with between seven billion people, a crisis happens every day. It only feels real when it touches us. Today, it is real.

Many thought the horror of WW1-The War to End All Wars would unify the world and bring us to a more harmonious place (it did not). Robert Oppenheimer thought the destructive implications of nuclear weapons would arouse a spirit of shared horror and bring the world together (it did not).

Neither did we come together when we saw the moon from outer space, nor have we become of one mind from witnessing mass animal extinctions, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, tsunamis, global warming, destructive hurricanes, genocides, fires, droughts, deluge, or pandemics.

We are fragile little creatures no different than any other.

We react better than we plan. We grieve better than we prevent grief. We may have rational faculties but we seldom deploy collective rationality before a crisis. We are what we are.

Bus drivers in Mexico like to surround themselves with talismans and plaques with thoughtful sayings. One read, “God is my boss, but I do the driving.”

Before Super Bowl XII, both teams had self-professed “Born Again” quarterbacks. For The Denver Broncos, Craig Morton, and for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach. In a television interview with both men before the game, a reporter asked who would win. Morton answered, “If God wants it, Denver will.” Staubach replied, “I think God wants us to win.”*

Take the reins of your life. Take care of yourselves and the people you love and the others who need your support.

This too shall pass.

*Cowboys won: 27:10.

Today

-I called an older friend to be sure he was staying in and that he had enough food. He reported back that he had stocked up on wine.
-No sneezes or coughs.
-I heard one person cough at Costco, fifty feet away from me. I abandoned my cart for a few minutes and washed my hands for thirty seconds. Good soap at Costco and air dryers. All the employees wore gloves but there were no pepperoncini. Checkout lines were long and the chicken cases were empty but the beef cases were full. Salsa was cheap. The hot dog and pizza stand was overflowing and the seating area was packed like sardines. I’m done with stores until things settle.
-Dug a fence post hole and am eager to start the garden
-Washed my hands five times today for at least thirty seconds each time.
-Hugged one person over fifty. Living dangerously!
-I believe I touched my face a few times but only after washing my hands.

“A Roll, A Roll, My Kingdom For A Roll!”

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I worked on Soviet fishing vessels in the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea in the late seventies and early eighties. The Soviets were poor and the ships didn’t have amenities most Americans took for granted, like toilet paper! Ship latrines were open-pit squat toilets and daily visits, especially when the ship pitched and rolled in the waves, were not a pleasant experience.

But Russians, maybe as an expression of their ability to persevere in the face of great hardship, are inventive and find creative solutions to scarcity. They do not have an entitled sense of abundance and can build, modify, and fix anything.

No toilet paper, no problem!

One thing the Soviet Union never had a shortage of was written propaganda. If you’re old enough, you remember the Soviet Union’s main newspaper was called, Pravda, the Russian word for truth. Pravda was everywhere, even at sea. Waxing philosophical, the truth can take many forms.

On Soviet ships, the truth took the form of a triangle. In fact, ship latrines had stacks of triangles cut from Pravda; small, technique requiring triangles. The metaphorical irony of Pravda as toilet paper was not lost on the Russian sailors who frequently joked about the “appropriate use of Pravda.”

As Americans, in their frenzied response to the Coronavirus, sweep into to snatch up extra rolls of toilet paper, I wonder what it says about us that the first thought we have when panicked is to protect out toilet hygiene. Here’s a first, LOL.

Pravda

What does it tell us about ourselves that in the midst of a pandemic we stock up on toilet paper? (Another LOL thinking about a Freudian analysis of this) I’ll leave that for you to ponder, but one thing I know is that you can’t clean your behind by asking for help from Siri or Alexa.

And that is a little dose of the Damn Pravda!

Caged Beasts Unite! Flee, Flee Flee!

JoeyChimpanzee

The photo was shot by my friend, Eric Mirell, in 1972. It looks across the parking garage by where he lived on Kingsbridge Terrace. I was seventeen and had lots of hair. Albert was the young chimpanzee we took care of in my high school’s Animal Care Program, which trained students to be zookeepers at the Bronx Zoo. We also had a lion, Angela, who we walked through the Bronx one day.

On this day, Albert held me close as any young child would when out on the streets of NYC. I took Albert to my house where he promptly climbed the curtains and wreaked havoc on things. It was EPIC! New Yorkers are fairly naive about anything outside of the norms of the city and seeing a chimpanzee blew a lot of minds. I also had a boa constrictor that I trotted around from time to time.

On a personal note, I see my face and darkened eyes and it reminds me of why I left the city barely eighteen months later.

C

Humble Pie With No Foie Gras On The Side

What can I say, I grew up in New York City where snide was a valued art form. Yesterday I posted about NYC’s foie gras ban.

BUT: after posting the piece about foie gras I spent some time looking at images of modern-day foie gras “farms.” After seeing those I applaud any ban that seeks to end those practices. A bit to be funny is one thing but having seen the reality of how the geese are treated, I will not eat foie gras again unless I know the animal was raised with care and respect.

Today I eat a large slice of humble pie.