Thursday, October 28, 2010

Now I might as happy be as earth is beautiful

Here is an October Poem for you.  It's one I love, because it captures so well the strange sadness that comes over me in the Fall.  I love the colors and the leaves and the gold light on the mountains, but there's this feeling of loss and endings and passings-on that I can never shake. 

I remember Leslie Norris reading Edward Thomas to us fairly often---Thomas was also Welsh---and his poems always seemed to have a touch of sadness to them.  To me it seemed like he must have had some premonition of his own death (he died in combat in World War I), but then, I guess it doesn't take any special foreknowledge to be aware of or disturbed by the relentless march of time.  Especially in the Fall, when the coming winter looms so large and un-ignorable.

First I love Thomas's comparison of Fall and Spring; the realization that, taken out of context, Fall's changes are just as "fresh" and "new" as spring.  It's only what comes next that makes them endings instead of beginnings.  And I love the balance he finds in the season---"the touch is not more cool / Than it is warm to the gaze"---because I always notice that too: the coolness of the air balanced with the warmth of the colors, like the extremes of the summer are finally being moderated.  Like we're being compensated somehow, or given an extra measure of beauty to bear us up during the winter to come.

I love the line, "now I might / As happy be as earth is beautiful / Were I some other or with earth could turn / In alternation of violet and rose."  I guess that is the problem: that as a prisoner of mortality, I know everything is changing, time is passing, my children are growing up and away, my body is slowly breaking down---but unlike the changes of the seasons, these changes are irreversible and permanent.  There's no coming "spring" on which to fix our hopes through the dark winter of change, no restarting point where things will go back to the way they once were.  And that's why we can't just enjoy the Autumn, carefree and heedless of what's to come.  We know each year brings a death of what was---a place we can never really return to. 

But then that last quatrain brings a sudden and surprising insight.  Here Thomas suggests that maybe true happiness comes WITH and BECAUSE OF this very melancholy:  in the contemplation of change and the realization of impermanence, in spite of the pain such thoughts bring.  "But if this be not happiness, --who knows? / Some day I shall think this a happy day."  Doesn't it remind you of "for if they never should have the bitter they could not know the sweet"?  After bringing back all our deepest fears of change and getting old and dying, Thomas suddenly forces us to ask ourselves if we would have it any other way.  If we really could change back and forth with the seasons, alternating between new and old, "violet and rose," would we ever feel we had actually progressed?  Would we be able to appreciate the times past, if we knew we could re-live them at any point?  Would we value rebirth without the death that comes before it?

All right.  Enough analysis: now, the poem.

October

The green elm with the one great bough of gold
Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one, --
The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white,
Harebell and scabious and tormentil,
That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun,
Bow down to; and the wind travels too light
To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern;
The gossamers wander at their own will.
At heavier steps than birds' the squirrels scold.

The rich scene has grown fresh again and new
As Spring and to the touch is not more cool
Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might
As happy be as earth is beautiful,
Were I some other or with earth could turn
In alternation of violet and rose,
Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due,
And gorse that has no time not to be gay.
But if this be not happiness, --who knows?
Some day I shall think this a happy day,
And this mood by the name of melancholy
Shall no more blackened and obscured be.

---Edward Thomas

Important Bulletin

You should know (as I just found out) that today is National Chocolate Day.

When I think of chocolate, this is what I think of.  This cake.  Sebby Cake, to be precise.  [It is called Sebby Cake (stop me if you've heard this before) because the first time I ever tasted it, I promptly went into labor with Sebastian.  Meaning, perhaps, that he couldn't wait to get out and be part of a world that included this cake.  And who can blame him?  We took it to the hospital with us, where it made a very nice post-labor meal.]  Have I really not posted this recipe before?  It's one of our very favorites.  Easy, and delicious.  Please try it.  For me?  For National Chocolate Day?  You'll not be sorry.


Chocolate Sebby Cake

1 Devil’s food cake mix
1 small package chocolate pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 c. sour cream (or, I use plain yogurt)
½ c. warm water
½ c. canola oil
1 to 1 ½ c. semisweet chocolate chips (mini chips work well, but regular are fine)

Mix all ingredients. Pour into sprayed bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. After 10 minutes turn out of pan and drizzle immediately with frosting.

Frosting:
1 1/3 c. chocolate chips
2/3 c. evaporated milk

Combine chocolate chips with about 1/4 c. milk in glass bowl; microwave on high for 1 min.; stir till smooth. Then add rest of milk to reach desired consistency.

Lemon variation: Use lemon cake and lemon instant pudding. ½ c. poppyseeds instead of chocolate chips. Drizzle with glaze made from lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Random Thoughts

I can think of few things worse than having to exercise while someone yells, "YEAH LADIES!  WORK IT!  WOOOO!" at me.

It may be a cliche, but old people really do just want to talk about their health problems all the time.  (As an honorary old person, I'm not meaning to criticize.  Maybe I'll understand someday.)

I'm glad I don't have to teach my children another language so they can read the scriptures.

Sometimes having access to too much information on a subject is just as discouraging as having not enough.

We finally saw How to Train Your Dragon, and I liked it, but I couldn't help thinking it was strange to make a movie where the moral was, "If you'll just take the time and effort to get to know the big scary monsters you'll find they're actually not that bad!  Except for the biggER scariER monster of course; he's exactly what he seems so just go ahead and kill him right off."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Maple Canyon

I love warm days in the Fall.  I can do without the "hint of chill" everyone's always raving about (unless that means temperatures in the 70s, in which case, I agree).  It's fun to go places that we went last year, and see how different the colors are this year.  I guess all the variables---temperature, amount of water, root systems?, etc.---make for an endlessly variable Autumn display, and I love it.

I was saying to Sam, I used to think the leaves with spots and speckles on them weren't as pretty as the more flawless specimans.  But now I love that kind of variety, too---the leaves with holes eaten through them, the spotted ones, the ones that are half red and half green.  I love the distant views, where you just get the full impression of the colored trees like streaks of paint on the mountain, and also the close views, where you can see each color in each leaf.  I think I will never get tired of it.

(Not Maple Canyon, but pretty)

Monday, October 18, 2010

In the spotlight

Hey!  Here's one of Sam's book covers finally out!

I would like to draw your attention to the words "The Secret Life of".  Do you recognize that handwriting?  That's right, it's Marilynhand.  (I think he modified the "S" a bit, though; it doesn't look quite right.)  Still, doesn't the font convey just the right amount of playful casualness while still being neat and readable?  The cover, honestly, wouldn't be the same without it.  I haven't seen my share of the royalties yet, though.  Sam?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

sigh.

Abe brought this test home from school the other day.  Now please believe that I always try not to be crochety about spelling (no correlation between that and intelligence, etc. etc., as Mr. Rutter always pointed out) and I really do understand that we all make stupid writing mistakes sometimes (especially when working fast---trying to get through lots of papers---etc.).  I've never wanted to be the all-knowing grammar snob (at least not openly), because I've got enough flaws/blind spots of my own, and I try to remember that.  But . . . "YOUR so smart"??  And this isn't the first time I've seen his teacher make that particular mistake.  As well as their/they're.  And it just makes me a tiny bit sad, because these are not really difficult concepts, right?  Contractions vs. possessives?  Certainly not un-learnable, with a bit of effort.  And they're things I'd really like Abe to have a grasp of.  But how will he if even his teachers don't?  And WHY don't his teachers?  They have college degrees, they're smart and capable.  So . . . why?  Of course I wouldn't say anything about it to the teacher.  But I'm silently (not so silently now, I guess) disappointed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On the hill's shoulder

  A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
  Blackbirds and the sun of October
     Summery
   On the hill’s shoulder. 
That Dylan Thomas, he's something.  And you know what else was something?  These aspen trees.  I was astonished to see RED and ORANGE aspens among the usual golds up the canyon.  I didn't know such a thing was possible!  I sent Sam scrambling up hill and down gully to retrieve me a single leaf from each tree for closer inspection, because I couldn't believe my eyes.  But indeed, they were all aspens---just multicolored.  Amazing.
 Orange!  Orange!  Orange!

 A few golds, with oranges and reds mixed in

 This is more what I expect to see: bright yellows and golds!