All Hallows Day/Samhain Mashup


Grumpy hummingbird in a local cemetery. Appropriate.

This is the time of year when it’s dark when we leave the house and just about dark when we arrive home. Very little sun to be seen unless we make a concerted effort to get outside on breaks (and if it’s not raining). So thoughts turn inwards. It’s an understandable time for the development of All Hallows Eve (Halloween), Samhain, Day of the Dead. Also, we might be coming down from yesterday’s overbought-for-the-trick-or-treaters sugar high. And of course the election is next week. Yep.

For truly wallowing in the experience, provoking some thought, and then moving on better for it, I recommend:

Listening to Leonard Cohen’s new album, You Want it Darker. He’s 82 and acknowledges he’s winding down but seems to be at peace with that. Haven’t formed an opinion of the album yet beyond being glad that it exists. His voice, never strong, has lost some of what was there. Doesn’t matter.

Reading appropriate poetry such as T.S. Eliot’s “Animula.”

Carving out time for the full length read, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty.

Remembering both Tempus fugit and Carpe diem.

Not one item above is morbid. Accepting, moving on, and DOING SOMETHING with the time we have. Yes.

23 Days ’til Christmas: A Little Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Happy Veterans Day

Thanks to our veterans.  Particular thanks to my dad, the Korean War Vet!  Amazing that 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI and that we’re 96 years away from the armistice also celebrated on this date.  My paternal grandfather tried to enlist in 1917 but his first wife (not my grandmother) marched down to the draft board office and said that he was “needed at home” so he wasn’t sent off.  We have a copy of the document with that notation at the bottom.  I think he was trying to both do his duty and escape from his wife who was significantly older than he was.

I wasn’t able to find any VFW members selling poppies today but here’s the poem:

In Flanders Fields
–by John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.


The moon is full tonight. Did you notice?

It is the very error of the moon.
She comes more near the earth than she was wont.
And makes men mad.

–William Shakespeare, Othello

Ef You Don’t Watch Out!

I’m not swearing at you (get your mind out of the gutter). I am quoting poetry. That’s from James Whitcomb Riley’s “Little Orphant Annie.”  Interesting article and the text of the poem appear over on the Paris Review.  The article caught my eye because this is one of the poem’s that my dad had memorized–whether because he had to do so in school or because someone recited it to him, I don’t know.  Anyway, he used to do dramatic recitations of it and then grab my shoulder on the refrain. Spooky! And I loved it.

Check it out.

Appropriate for the month of Halloween, too for “..the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you

Of Steinbeck, Mottos, and Pigs

Do you have a personal motto?  They can be inspirational or representative.  I like Steinbeck’s Ad astra per alia porci which literally translates as “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”  There is some controversy about the use of alia in this case rather than alas (alia could be “garlic”).  However, it does appear that Steinbeck, for better or for worse, truly used alia.  Steinbeck’s Pigasus is also awesome.  A winged pig!winged pigThis leads to a silly story (ooh! another tangent).  When I was very young and someone would say something like “When pigs fly” with the clear meaning of “Never,” I would be terribly confused.  Because pigs can fly–at least “weather pigs” do.  Where did I get that idea?  A mishearing of a line in Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”  You can read the entire poem here but the relevant stanza is:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

I thought it said weather and that it was a declarative statement rather than a question to discuss.  Also, the possibility of winged-but-flightless piglets never crossed my mind.

Anyway, back to the idea of a motto.  I want one.  It should be in Latin and at least a little bit original.  Ideas welcome.  And, if you have your own or have heard one you like, please share.  I’d like the inspiration.  I already know about Semper ubi, sub ubi.

Poetry Time

As we pointed out in the Spring 2012 issue of QSB Magazine, April is Poetry Month.  Do you have a favorite poem or favorite poet?  T.S. Eliot is, upon occasion, my favorite poet (I’m suffering from failure to choose).  Then there’s Robert Hass.  And Emily Dickinson.  And I did spend two years studying Petrarca in the original (don’t ask…really, don’t go there).

Longfellow‘s “The Rainy Day” is a favorite work–most likely because lines were frequently quoted in my house when I was growing up (thanks, Dad! it’s not very cheerful) and the poem is stuck in my head to this day.  In fact, I thought it was a perfect poem for our winter issue but it didn’t rain so I couldn’t take any appropriate illustrative photos.  Stupid weather.  You haven’t dodged that bullet, though, for here’s “The Rainy Day” in its entirety:

The Rainy Day 
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary; 
It rains, and the wind is never weary; 
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall, 
But at every gust the dead leaves fall, 
    And the day is dark and dreary.       
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary; 
It rains, and the wind is never weary; 
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past, 
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast, 
    And the days are dark and dreary.        
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; 
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; 
Thy fate is the common fate of all, 
Into each life some rain must fall, 
    Some days must be dark and dreary.

And how about you?  Poems?  Poets?  Do tell.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley

It’s Burns Night (the night honoring Scottish poet Robert Burns who was born on January 25, 1759) and I forgot until the last minute due to the January doldrums/slump/blues plaguing me.  My go-to shop for haggis was already out–even of the vegetarian canned stuff so things didn’t go as planned.

I did get “neeps” (rutabagas) and “tatties” (potatoes).  The cranachan was yummy.  Too bad about the haggis–the quarter of me that is Scottish is very sad.



Find Burns Night (including similar cranachan recipes) here.

You may recognize this poem–or at least the lines in bold?

To a Mouse
by Robert Burns, 1785

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Happy Burns Night.  You don’t really have to celebrate it on January 25th.  Pick any day you want.