Friday, July 31, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/30/20: Eggplant Stew, Cool Billy Collins, Fantasy Baseball Laughter BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Thursday's jazz music: Cool Jazz station on Pandora.

1. While the kitchen was still fairly cool this morning, I started the day making a pot of eggplant and chickpea stew. I found a simple recipe in The New York Times. I made a quick trip to Yoke's to buy the onions and white wine I forgot yesterday. Once home, I chopped up two onions, sauteed them for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I crushed coriander seeds with my mortar and pestle and made a mixture of coriander, cumin, and parprika, added these spices to the onions and then folded in the two eggplants I had chopped. After this cooked for a few minutes, I added white wine, diced tomatoes, and chickpeas and let it all simmer for about 40 minutes.

I tasted the stew while it cooked and decided to add another can of diced tomatoes, some salt, dry basil, and a small amount of red pepper flakes. These were spot on decisions.

After about 40 minutes of simmering, I concluded the stew needed to cook longer, but I didn't want the stove's burner on any longer, so I got out a slow cooker, transferred the stew into it, and let it cook on low for a few hours.

Success! We had some leftover brown rice to put underneath this stew and Debbie and I both savored the stew's texture and tasty blend of flavors.

2. On his poetry broadcast today, Billy Collins continued to read poems from his 1995 collection The Art of Drowning. He read another poem about creating art, "Horizon", followed by the title poem, "The Art of Drowning", and ended with "The Biography of a Cloud", and "Conversion".

Can poems act as fans, cooling the air in a room heavy with late July heat?

Maybe not literally, but Billy Collins, with his dry wit, cool persona, and cunning poems were a welcome relief this afternoon as the heat grew more stifling here in the Idaho Panhandle.

3. Maybe I'm trying to persuade myself I mean it by repeating it so often, but  I've been telling Debbie, maybe a little too frequently, that I don't really care that much about winning and losing in the fantasy baseball leagues I belong to -- mainly, I enjoy the way it keeps me paying close attention to what's happening in the major leagues and familiar with the players.

Since Thursday, July 23rd, it's been easy for me to say I'm in it mainly for the fun, because, in the head to head league, my team, the Kellogg Johnniez, have been absurdly successful.

My team in the rotisserie league, the Sunnyside Oddfellowz, on the other hand, have been absurdly terrible and are languishing in the cellar.

So, today, in the head to head league, a handful of my players' teams had a scheduled day off and others didn't play because the Cubs and Reds were rained out.

The Johnniez were shorthanded and the Pinehurst Sluggers crushed them today.

Well, I saw this coming this morning when I realized that the Johnniez would be seriously depleted.

I laughed out loud this morning anticipating the blowout that lay before me today.

When it happened, I laughed some more.

When the Oddfellowz climbed out of the cellar temporarily and then crashed back into it by evening's end, I laughed again.

I can't get worked up about fantasy baseball set backs.

I laugh.

I'm just having fun.

Besides, as the saying goes, the season's still young.

Anything can happen.

(Well, not anything. Mr. Gibbs is not going to become the Chancellor of Germany because Javier Baez hit for the cycle, but you know what I mean.)

Stu helps us celebrate National Avocado Day (July 31) with this limerick:

It’s a fruit with a seed tough to spit!
Gets teased for the size of that pit!
Slice it open to see,
How much to eat there will be.
From the stone to the peel’s what you git!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/29/20: Being Over 65, Poetry and Paintings, Ice Cream Drink BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Wednesday's jazz: I started with Joe Sample and then gave a long listen to the band he was in, The Crusaders.

1. When I was younger and heard those announcements on tv or the radio telling us a heat wave was underway and that people over 65 or those with respiratory problems should stay indoors, I used to think,"What a bummer for those people." Then I'd go out and work in the yard or go for a hike up Sweet Creek or maybe even go to a ball game at Civic Stadium.

Now that I'm leaving age 65 farther and farther in the rear view mirror of aging, I'm understanding better and better how difficult it is to be older and exposed to the heat. "What a bummer for those people." Now I'm one of them!

Today the temperature got up into the 90s and it's expected to get even hotter for the next few days.

So, I did my best to stay cool, but I took a short trip to Yoke's for a few things and, when I returned home, I didn't want to do anything at all except sit in the house and rest.

2. Before I went to the store, I watched today's online broadcast by Billy Collins (2:30 PST). Billy continued to make fun and rambling comments about his poems and read three selections from his book, The Art of Drowning -- "Days", "Cheers", and "Metropolis".

I made one serious miscalculation while living in Greenbelt, MD. I thought I would live there a long time. Had I been thinking more clearly about how unstable life is and how things can change quickly and how it's wise to do seize each day and do what I love as often as possible, I would have visited the National Art Museum more often in Washington, D. C. (I would have also gone to a baseball game at Nationals Park.)

Billy Collins' poem, "Metropolis" explores his love for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and, as he explored his affection for paintings in the more remote and sparsely attended corners of the Met, I thought about the paintings I loved at the National Museum, how I loved standing, say, in front of paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec and looking at the soul-crushed faces of the women he painted in public places and at the soulless faces of the men looking ready to numbly prey on them and I tried to imagine stories for them, how they came to be where they are in the paintings and what might lie ahead. My stories weren't very good -- I don't know enough -- but those afflicted faces stayed with me. They haunted me. I see those faces all over the place, at the store, in the bar, walking in Kellogg or in Spokane or in Coeur d'Alene. I saw them when I taught -- and, at LCC, I often didn't have to imagine stories -- either in writing or in conversations in my office, many students told their stories.

3. I bought a half a gallon of vanilla ice cream while at Yoke's. Later in the evening, I put scoops in a wide mouth glass, poured milk in the glass, and stirred until I had a cooling refreshing drink that was close enough for me to a milk shake. It cooled me and sweetened my disposition.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

It’s place near a gray sludgy quag.
Was not a feature of which we could brag.
But, on ice it was handy,
And in traps ‘stead of sandy.
Some uses for a mountain of slag

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/28/20: Introductions, Surprise McFlurry, Mr. Gibbs Has a Playdate BONUS A Limerick by Stu

On Tuesday, Oscar Peterson played piano jazz all morning with some help from Roy Eldridge.

1. During his broadcast today, Billy Collins read poems from his collection, The Art of Drowning, with special emphasis on satirizing poets giving long introductions to their poems before reading them. When he started poking fun at these introductions, I had hoped he would also make fun of the long introductions hosts often give to welcome a poet before the poet reads -- these long introductions often become more about the introducer than about the poet being introduced and, back in the old days in Eugene, some of my friends and I used to have some fun talks and long laughs remembering some of these introducers' (absurd) performances.

2. Ever since Stu posted a limerick several weeks ago about ice cream drinks, I've been hankering for some ice cream. It's funny. When I've shopped at Yoke's, wanting ice cream has slipped my mind -- we rarely buy it -- and so I haven't had any. BUT, today, while I was tuned into the Billy Collins broadcast, all of a sudden Christy popped in the Vizio room with a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup McFlurry. It matched perfectly, somehow, with the Billy Collins' reading. Both were cool and refreshing. It made my afternoon.

3. Debbie and I went up to Diane's late this afternoon, back to Gibbs' birthplace. Gibbs loved seeing his mom, Chloe, and immediately began to wrestle and play with Diane's puppy, Olivia. While the dogs played and followed each other around, with occasional breaks to rest up apart from one another, Debbie, Diane, and I enjoyed a great spread of snacks and cocktails and we talked for a few hours about all sorts of things, ranging from property management to Silver Valley history.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

We complain ‘bout the weather a lot.
Maybe also when younger....or not!
But, the cold gives you willies,
Icy sidewalks your Achilles.
And you can add your own comment for HOT!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/27/20: Naomi Shihab Nye, Poetry Podcast, Fantasy Baseball BONUS A Limerick by Stu

I was a part of the in crowd today. Monday's jazz was performed by Ramsey Lewis. I enjoyed his tasty improvisations on songs recorded by the Beatles. 

1. For the next several days, Kellogg will a blast furnace. So far this summer we've been fortunate with moderate heat, but, this week, we enter the hellmouth.

So, when the going gets hot, I spend a lot of time in the Vizio room with its sun blocking curtains and cool air being fanned in from the basement.

I started my retreat from the heat by going into the archives of this year's Sonoma Valley Authors Festival and clicking on last Friday's poetry reading by Naomi Shihab Nye, followed by her conversation with Emilie Lygren, a Bay Area nature writer, well-known for her workshops on writing about nature.

It was about twenty-six or twenty-seven years ago when I first heard Naomi Shahib Nye read as a part of Bill Moyers' Language of Life series. Over the years, I haven't read a lot of her poetry, but I came across her poem, "Kindness" and will always think it's one of the finest poems ever written by any poet at any time.

Today Naomi Shahib Nye, as she did in her conversation with Billy Collins, deeply impressed me with her depth of spirit, enthusiasm for poems, gratitude for her mentors, in short, her goodness. Again and again her poems led me to contemplate upon our better selves, upon how we all have it within us to respond to what's occurring in our lives with compassion, with words and actions that unite rather than divide us, to seek and live on the side of goodness.

I hope the archives of the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival will remain available for an extended amount of time. I want to return to Naomi Shahib Nye's reading and her conversation with Emilie Lygren and give myself over to her graciousness, enthusiasm, and love of others, of life itself.

2. My experience with poetry is decidedly limited and I'm thrilled that thanks to Bill Davie taking breaks from singing his songs and reading poetry during his concerts and thanks to Billy Collins' broadcasts on M-F on his Facebook page, my world of poets and poems grows larger by the day.

Today, Billy Collins explained on his broadcast that The New Yorker broadcasts a regular poetry podcast hosted by its poetry editor, Kevin Young. I'm not sure if every episode follows this format, but often the podcast features a poet who has been published in the magazine and that poet presents a poem published in The New Yorker by another poet and one of his or her own poems published in the magazine.

A recent podcast featured Clarence Major, a poet (and visual artist) who has been publishing poems, book of poetry, anthologies of African-American writers, fiction, African-American slang dictionaries, essays, and other writing for over fifty years.

Clarence Major read Billy Collins' superb poem, "Downpour" (published in the Nov. 18, 2019 issue of The New Yorker). He and Kevin Young discussed the poem with illuminating insight, some of which Billy Collins shared on his broadcast. Clarence Major then read his poem, "Hair" (published May 7, 2018 in The New Yorker). His poem touches on deep Black cultural history and superstition around hair and its many powers. Eugene Young is thirty-five years younger than Clarence Major and they discussed, in an almost father/son sort of way, the common ground they share as African-American men, even though they grew up in different times and in different places.

Yes, listening to Billy Collins, Naomi Shahib Nye, Clarence Major, and Kevin Young introduced me to more poetry I hadn't known of, let alone heard or read before. Moreover, listening to them further expanded my understanding of the USA, its multi-dimensional history, its multi-dimensional cultural life, and the great variety of writers whose work can help us dive into the vibrant variegation alive in the USA. With each poem, each reading, each discussion or conversation, my world becomes larger and my love for the great variety of American voices and experiences deepens my affection for what I enjoy most about the USA.

3. Now that Major League Baseball is underway, I begin my days at the ESPN Fantasy Baseball site and set my lineups for my teams in both leagues I participate in. Today looked dreadful for me in the head to head league. Several of my players are on teams who had the day off and my opponent has some firepower talent on his team -- Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, and Bryce Harper, especially.

Soon, however, the news emerged that the Miami Marlins have had a Covid-19 outbreak on their team. Their game was cancelled. This had little impact on our head to head match. Then, however, because the Marlins had just played Philadelphia, the Phillies' game with the New York Yankees was also postponed, meaning that Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper and Gary Sanchez would not be playing for my head to head opponent.

Losing those players and the fact that Mike Trout had a lousy day at the plate contributed quite a bit to my team's success in widening its lead over my opponent -- our head to head matchup continues until Sunday.

I hated gaining on him in this way, though. It dismays me that the Marlins have had so many players and staff contract Covid-19. I'm not sure what to think about Major League Baseball's decision to play games all over the USA, have teams travel, and not do what the NBA, WNBA, and NHL are doing -- severely limiting the venues where their games are being played.

I'm less interested in any discussion about this than I am interested to see how it pans out.

For any number of reasons, I hope the Major League Baseball protocols turn out to be effective in protecting players and staff from exposure to this virus.

I will admit it -- my hope for MLB's success has an awful lot to do with how much I enjoy getting up in the morning, fixing a cup of coffee, and starting off my day deciding who plays, who rides the bench, seeing if I have active players for each of my team's positions, deciding if I'll let the pitchers who are scheduled to start go ahead and pitch (I can bench 'em), and contemplating dropping players and going to the player pool to see what players are available if I do let any players go.

It's a blast. I hope the season continues. We'll see.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

There’s times you don’t know what to say.
You’re told to keep quiet that day.
You just wait and be ready,
And hope emotions are steady.
For the good news you hope’s coming your way.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/26/20: Beat the Heat, Uncluttered Garage, Superb Food and Drink BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Sunday's jazz artist: Bill Evans, sometimes with Tony Bennett.

1. The best way to beat the heat today? Spend time in the Vizio room, shaded by light blocking curtains, and listen to Bill Evans improvise on melodies.

2. I took a break from staying cool and made a quick trip to the transfer station to recycle cardboard and plastic bottles in my never ending mission to keep the garage uncluttered.  I stopped in the liquor store on my way home and stocked up a bit -- including a bottle Creme de Cocao for future Brandy Alexanders.

3. Debbie made a very tasty sweet potato hummus and plopped a small bowl of it on a plate with some chilled fresh slices of cucumber and red pepper and stalks of fresh asparagus. It was a perfect complement to my cold dry martini, stirred, up, with three green almond olives. I daydreamed about martinis at the Sapphire Lounge, the Peacock Lounge, the Riverbank Taphouse, South Hill Grill, Luna, Tomato Street in CdA, and Rock City Grill. 

A bit later, we each enjoyed a bowl of egg noodles topped with the latest of Debbie's pesto experiments. Then it was time for a Brandy Alexander on the deck. Then a nap. Refreshed, I returned and Christy came over and enjoyed a Brandy Alexander and she, Debbie, and I got in some solid yakking.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Can be exciting or unsettling state.
The future is up for debate.
Could be life changing in scope,
Or some news which brings hope.
But, there’s time when we all have to wait!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/25/20: Chet Baker, Writing Letters, On the Deck BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Saturday's jazz: all day with Chet Baker.

1. Although I wasn't in a wistful mood today, nor was my soul in a state of longing, I got to feel that sense of things being incomplete, that haunting feeling that there must be something in life I'm missing by listening to Chet Baker play his melancholy trumpet and sing old standards in his yearning way all day long.

2. I returned to an old, neglected pleasure today: I wrote two letters by hand. I might just add letter writing to my growing list of pleasures to enjoy while spending so much time in the house.

3. After Debbie and I finished our delicious dinner of green bean, white bean, white onion, and artichoke heart salad, a salmon patty, and brown rice, Christy came over to the deck and I got to make her one of those cocktails I made last night, blending brandy, rye whiskey, triple sec, and orange bitters. It worked again. We had fun yakkin' away and cooling off on the deck.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Is there any food now you will fix?
That when younger you’d just “eighty six”?
Strewed tomatoes, raw fish,
Sauerkraut in a dish?
You can tell tastes have changed from our picks.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/24/20: Fantasy Baseball Again!,Ron Koertge, Fritters and Cocktails BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Friday's featured jazz artist was George Benson, sometimes with Joe Farrell. (Remember the Benson and Farrell album? The album cover featured what looked like a pack of Benson and Hedges cigarettes, but, instead, it was a funny pack of Benson and Farrell's!)

1. Major League Baseball returned Thursday with a couple of games and a nearly full slate of games today. And, if you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you know what that means for me: Fantasy Baseball. My mornings are packed now. Chat with Stu. Select a jazz musician. Get going on my blog. Do some other writing.  Above all (!), though, I get my fantasy baseball lineups set for the day. It's a blast.  I have zero expectations for success. Good thing. Today I watched my squad in League #1, the Sunnyside Odd Fellowz, sink like a cannon ball in the sea to last place, but my League #2 team, the Kellogg Johnniez, had a great day thanks to splendid performances by five of my pitchers. I don't expect the huge lead I currently hold in League #2 over the Pinehurst Sluggers to hold -- but you never know.

2. In his live broadcast today, Billy Collins read mostly poems by his longtime friend, Ron Koertge. Koertge is a witty poet. He loves creating absurdity, turning familiar things upside down, and having fun with word play. Alongside his wit and humor, Koertge is a thoughtful poet and so I not only laughed while Billy Collins read some of his poems, I also gained insight.

3. We have a lot of produce on hand and, late this afternoon, Debbie decided to focus on broccoli.
She combined steamed broccoli, eggs, flour, Parmesan cheese, and garlic, formed patties, fried them and we had delicious broccoli fritters (for the first time) for dinner with brown rice and a garden fresh salad enhanced with the licorice-y splendor of fresh tarragon.

I contributed to dinner with a cocktail experiment that we both enjoyed: one oz each of George Dickel Rye Whiskey and E and J VSOP brandy with a half oz of Triple Sec and a few shakes of Orange Bitters. I shook the cocktail with ice until cold and included the ice in the glass when I poured the drinks. I liked the way the brandy and rye whiskey played off of each other and we love bitters. One day, I think Debbie and I will look back and declare 2020 the Year of Triple Sec. We've a lot of fun with it this year.

Here's a limerick by Stu to commemorate National Carousel or National Merry-Go-Round Day.

On playgrounds they used to be found.
At fairs you can ride them with sound. 
Whether pushing them fast,
Or grabbing rings to be cast.
Them things just keep going ‘round and ‘round.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/20: Smooth Jazz on KXLY-AM, Pizza BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Today's jazz music:  Bob James in the morning and afternoon; Eric Gale in the evening.

1. Listening to Bob James much of the day today took me on a welcome trip back to about 1977-78. My memory is a bit fuzzy on this. I'd sure appreciate any help if what I'm about to write brings memories back for any of you reading this post.

I think the term used in radioland for stations like KXLY-AM 920 in Spokane was Middle of the Road (MOR). Their programming was built around soft rock and smooth jazz, so one might hear Chuck Mangione ("Feels So Good") or Bob James ("Angela") followed by Debbie Boone singing "You Light Up My Life" or Bob Welch belting out "Sentimental Lady". Host Joe Lyons (in the Lyon's Den) loved Michael Franks' song "Popsicle Toes". I got to hear it a lot. Ha! It was an easy station to wake up to in the morning and the CBS radio news programming was terrific, especially Charles Osgood's daily spot.

Now, here's where I could use some help. KXLY's programming also included a show on Saturday nights that I listened to frequently that counted down the week's most popular smooth jazz tunes. I think the show had the words "jazz" and "countdown" in the title and I would love to recover the name of the show's host. At the time I was listening to this show, the most popular tune week after week was George Benson's "On Broadway", but the show regularly featured Chuck Mangione, The Crusaders, Bob James, Joe Sample, Grover Washington, Jr, and many other similar muscians.

This style of jazz was popular among my friends, students, people I worked with at Whitworth, and people my wife worked with downtown in Spokane.  I can't remember if these people  listened to the jazz countdown show, but I loved the many conversations I had, listening to albums with other people, and, on occasion, playing some smooth jazz on LPs with my poker buddies.

Over time, I moved on from listening to this style of jazz and began listening to Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Chet Baker and other jazz musicians. I listen to all of them to this day and, every day, when I tune into Billy Collins live broadcast, he plays jazz music and my horizons broaden.

Recently, though, I've been enjoying the sounds of those artists I listened to on KXLY -- I've enjoyed their wanderings into fusion, the funky inclusion of the slap bass guitar, the inclusion of the electric piano, the jazz covers of songs like "Masquerade" or "Feel Like Making Love", and memories of Saturday evenings in the tiny house on Mountain View Lane in Spokane, lying down on the love seat, my legs hanging over the far end, tuning in to the jazz show on KXLY, thinking I'd never forget the name of the show and the host, but now I have, and listening to and taking in the elegance of smooth jazz, as if I were under the comfort of feathery duvet.

2. We listeners were fortunate that Billy Collins didn't cancel his broadcast today. He is plagued with an attack of the gout.  We learned from Suzannah from off camera that his foot, out of sight behind his resolute desk, was elevated.

I enjoyed Billy Collins reading a selection of his own poetry, but, even more, I enjoyed responses to recent writing I've done about his readings. Don M. sent me a link featuring a reading of W. B. Yeats' poem "The Second Coming". Diane S. wrote about how she's been working from home during the pandemic. She has replaced her morning commute to the U of Washington with a morning walk on a gorgeous trail near where she and Bill live and, in the ecstatic spirit of Marvell's "The Garden", she joins in spiritual union with the world of nature.

She also commented about how much her four years of university study meant to her, describing the experience of being a student in a way that matches my experience at NIC and Whitworth. We both experienced having four years of study as a luxury, as a time to experience the flames of our deepest interests to be fanned and fueled. I know that I reached a point in my undergraduate studies when I no longer thought about grades and I didn't think much about what I'd do for work when my four years of studies ended. (Luckily, that worked out.) All I cared about was learning. I was hungry, even greedy, and whether I was that good of a student or not, my inner life of learning was being fed. It expanded. Reading, listening to lectures, writing, and talking with professors and friends at school about poetry, plays, novels, history, art, theology, and other stimulating things intoxicated me. I loved it.

As an instructor, I tried to convey this love in the classroom and in conferences with my students, hoping to help them see that what we were doing wasn't primarily about grades and credits and earning a degree to get a job, but was about beauty and the great questions of what it means to be human.

I also heard from Deborah. She told me that reading my words of wonder and love about poetry and other things have been a balm during these weary days of sheltering in place. We shared our love of Mary Oliver.

Deborah's email, much like Diane's comments and Kathleen's email to me the other day, encourages me to keep writing about my daily experiences with poetry, fiction, music, conversations, and so on, not only as record for myself, but as a way of deepening friendships and our understanding of each other as we communicate about what's written here at kelloggbloggin'.

3. Late this afternoon, I had to go to Yoke's to pick up some medicine and a few groceries. Debbie and I agreed it would be fun to take a night off from eating superb home prepared food and eat a pizza. I brought home a pizza from Yoke's baked and ready to eat and Debbie and I sat on the deck and downed slices and talked about all that had happened today -- family updates, pandemic updates, Billy Collins' gout, Gibbs' house training progress, and other things. A little later, we dropped in on Christy and Everett.  Like us, they were enjoying how we'd had a cooler day today in Kellogg and how the night air was growing more refreshing as the outdoors grew darker and darker.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

We know Sugar makes things taste sweeta!
And wearing tennies not boots make you fleeta!
So today if you make,
A blended drink to partake?
You need this to create a Margarita.

National Tequila Day
Si Si Senor

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/22/20: "The Garden", Like Watching Baseball, Back to *The Pillars* BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Wednesday's jazz music: Dave Brubeck, often with Paul Desmond in the morning; Lester Young in the afternoon; Bob James in the evening.

1. The weather heated up today in Kellogg and I happily relaxed in the Vizio room and spent much of the morning writing in my blog and writing some correspondence while listening to Dave Brubeck, often with Paul Desmond. 

Around 2:30, I tuned into Billy Collins' daily broadcast. 

Back at the U of Oregon in 1984-85, I spent the entire year taking courses from Prof. G. William Rockett in 17th century poetry and some prose. Professor Rockett loved the outdoors and often connected poems we studied to his love of navigating the McKenzie River in his drift boat and fly fishing. I remember one poem in particular lighting him up: Andrew Marvell's "The Garden". It's a rapturous poem, praising the quiet of a garden and the power of herbs and flowers, of apples and grapes, of trees and birds to move one's soul, to urge one to transcend the world's striving for gain. Marvell treats the garden of his poem as a paradise and Prof. Rockett felt the same way about the McKenzie River, beaming as he paralleled his experience on the river with the Edenic and sublime  experience Marvell describes when the speaker of his poem retreats into the world of nature.

Billy Collins didn't read the entire poem, but read verses 5 and 6. In verse 5 the poem's speaker is ecstatic, proclaiming, "What wond'rous life in this I lead!". The speaker is referring to the garden, and goes on to detail his experience:

Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Ensnar'd with flow'rs, I fall on grass. 

In the next verse, the poem's speaker's mind "Withdraws into its happiness" and Marvell delves into the details and experience of this happiness in this verse and the three that follow, bringing the poem to its joyful conclusion.

As Billy Collins read verses 5 and 6 and, later, when I turned to the poem and read it all, my mind, too, withdrew into its happiness.

The poem argues that what the world of achievement, material success, awards, degrees, of constant striving offers in the guise of fulfillment is inferior to the quiet and happiness one finds in the garden. The garden stands for the larger world of nature, the world of rivers, drift boating, fly fishing, waterfalls, the Oregon coast, sand dunes, wild rhododendrons, trilliums, mountain lakes, huckleberry patches, and all other such sources of beauty, all inviting us to step outside of our bodies and join the world of nature in spiritual union.

2. When I retired, one of the first things I wanted to do was see if I could experience poetry and other literature, especially Shakespeare, as not academic subject matter, not the source of a paper to write, not as a source of instruction that then became a means for students to earn grades and earn credit.

It's happening. When I listen to Bill Davie read poetry during his Tree House Concerts, nowhere in my mind do I any longer wonder how I can write an effective prompt to help students write essays on those poems, no longer am I wondering what I would say in an essay about any of the poems.

Likewise, because Billy Collins has been dedicated for many years to popularizing poetry, trying to help people experience poetry as a part of everyday life, his broadcasts have been invigorating. Last week, Billy Collins was a featured author, via the internet, at the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival. Today, I registered for the festival, went to the archives, and clicked on Billy Collins' contribution. For about a half an hour he read poems and then he and Naomi Shihab Nye conversed for a half an hour, each of them talking from home.

Somehow, I realized during this hour of poems and dialogue that, indeed, I wasn't listening to these poets for academic reasons.

It felt more like I was watching a baseball game. Anymore, when I watch baseball, I do it for the beauty of the game's rhythms, drama, and the way a baseball game alternates between periods of slowness and eruptions of action. Oh, yeah, I wanted the Nationals to win the World Series last year, but most of the time, I don't care much who wins or loses. I enjoy the experience of watching baseball.

So I listen to a poem and about the last thing I think about is its "meaning".  I give myself over to the experience of the poem, its sounds, its movement, how its making me feel, what thoughts the poem is rousing in me. Poems offer insights -- don't get me wrong -- and if the poem leads me to an understanding of love or death or the afterlife or the renewing qualities of nature or anything else, I enjoy that, ponder it, live with it, but I don't have to translate any of this into an essay nor do I have to create a way for students to exchange their understanding of the poem for a grade or for credit.

I loved teaching. I loved the communal experience of enjoying poems, essays, stories, and plays with students in a classroom. But, I grew weary of the grades and the credits.

Now I can tune into Billy Collins' broadcasts, listen to him chat with Naomi Shihab Nye, listen to Bill Davie read poems on Tuesday evenings, and share poems/discuss poetry on ZOOM with the Basementeers every other Sunday afternoon and enjoy the communal experience, virtually (but communal all the same), and enjoy it without any course objectives to meet, papers to assign, papers to write, or grades at stake.

It's just what I'd hoped for when I retired.

3. I spent a lot of time in the cool of the Vizio room today, listening to jazz, looking up poets and books that Billy Collins referred to or that came up in the audience comments while he presented his broadcast. I discovered a blog called A Year of Being Here. The blogger, Phyllis Cole-Dai, posted a poem a day for three years. They are mindfulness poems. I went to the start of her blog and read several poems from January, 2013 and plan to return often with the promise that I will discover countless poems and poets I'm not familiar with.

I also returned to my reading of The Pillars of the Earth and finished the first chapter. The pace of this story is often breathtaking, the suspense riveting, the things that occur unnerving, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this story moves forward.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

It’s not nice to call someone obtuse.
But, when naming wild animals loose.
They knew a coyote from a bear,
And could tell a skunk from a hare.
But, did not know an elk from a moose.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/21/20: July Heat, Billy Collins and a Moving Letter, Cooling Off BONUS A Limerick by Stu

Tuesday morning's jazz: Lionel Hampton.

1.The weather started (continued?) to heat up today in Kellogg and I realized, again, my days of enjoying the lazy crazy hazy days of summer outside are long gone. Gone are the days at the city pool, playing sandlot baseball with neighborhood kids or organized baseball in Little League, Babe Ruth, and American Legion; gone are firecracker July days riding my bike around town; gone are the days of running through the sprinkler or, when it got dark, dragging plastic sheets and old mattresses and sleeping bags into the back yard and sleeping under the stars.

Now, the days heat up and Debbie and I try to keep the house cool.  I hydrate, enjoy the pleasures of listening to jazz music, working puzzles, catching up on some news, reading, thinking, remembering, imagining, talking with Debbie, laughing at Gibbs, holding him, and making the most of staying indoors.

2. Around 2:30, Billy Collins' daily (M-F) broadcast started on the Billy Collins Facebook page. Billy and his wife, Suzannah, were celebrating their first wedding anniversary and to mark the occasion, Suzannah, whom we normally hear as an unseen off-camera voice, took over Billy Collins' desk chair. She made me laugh as she read and showed us the decidedly unsentimental cards Billy Collins had given her. Better yet, she read a poem that she'd had published in the Florida Review, entitled "On Living with a Famous Poet".  I thought it was a knockout.

Billy Collins then resumed his place in the chair and he read the witty and sexy seduction poem, "The Flea" written by John Donne around 1590 (published posthumously in 1633). We listeners had been told about an hour earlier on the Billy Collins Facebook page that he'd be reading this poem in case we wanted to read it in advance.

I did.

I enjoyed being transported back to the U of Oregon and 1984-85 when I spent the school year preparing for a four hour written exam in Non-Shakespearean Renaissance Poetry and Prose. John Donne enthralled me back then and I'm happy to say the old John Donne magic lives on in me.  I not only enjoyed Billy Collins reading of the poem, but also enjoyed his story about when he first encountered John Donne as an eighteen year old college freshman and loved his explication of the "The Flea".  He talked a bit about the poem's structure and how, verse by verse, the speaker makes his witty, flea-based argument to the woman he's with that they really should join themselves in erotic union.

Billy Collins also read Robert Herrick's "Upon Julia's Clothes", another erotic poem from the English Renaissance and then he read two of his own poems, "Writing in the Afterlife" and "Litany", both gems.

After the end of the broadcast, I checked my email and discovered Kathleen H. had written me an astonishing and moving letter about her friendship with the poet Lucia Perillo. You might remember that when I wrote about Billy Collins' July 20th broadcast, I expressed delight that he read a poem by Lucia Perillo, a poet I'd never read before.

Well, it turns out that Kathleen and Lucia became friends over thirty years ago at St. Martin's College. Kathleen wrote in scintillating detail about her friendship with Lucia Perillo, about memorable times they spent together, and about her grief upon learning Lucia Perillo died in 2016.

I loved reading Kathleen's letter. Not only did I relish learning more about Kathleen and Lucia Perillo, I also thought about how listening to these Billy Collins broadcasts has, in just the past five days, significantly expanded my inner world and deepened connections between me and others. Both Bill Davie and Bridgit Lacy were among the virtual audience members today during the broadcast. I could feel their presence and delighted in knowing that these two longtime friends and I were enjoying this broadcast together.

3. The sun dropped out of sight. Darkness began to blanket Kellogg. Slowly, surely, as it does without fail every summer night, the Kellogg air began to cool and Debbie and I took Gibbs out on the deck and we enjoyed the relief of the temperature falling and I deepened my comfort by pouring myself gin and tonic, the perfect July evening cocktail. We talked aimlessly, wandering through a variety of things on our minds, with one thread tying everything together: it felt great to cool off.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

We should have said this long before.
After running onto fields and the floor.
Thanks to crowds and the bands,
And cheerleaders facing the stands.
You supported us no matter the score.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/20/20: Radio On, Bill and Willa, Infinite Riches BONUS A Limerick by Stu

This morning's jazz: Herbie Mann.

1. I think it was on Sunday. Bill Davie's song "Radio On" kept playing in my head, to my great pleasure. The song got me thinking about other radio songs, songs like Van Morrison's "Caravan", Elvis Costello's "Radio, Radio", Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio", Steely Dan's "FM", The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star", Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll" -- please, if you are reading this, fill in the blanks I've left. There are a ton of radio songs out there. I had to hear a particular one of them, though, so I plugged in the earbuds, went to YouTube, and found "Roadrunner" by The Modern Lovers and listened to it three or four times, loving its power and drive and its feel for being alive, driving at night, in touch with the modern world, with modern loneliness when it's cold, these things and so much more, all with the radio on.

I had meant to write about this experience on Monday morning, but my blog post was occupied with other things; then, in the afternoon today, I tuned in to Billy Collins' live broadcast. Willa Bauman was in the virtual audience. So was Bill Davie. Billy Collins read poems out a couple of anthologies and, as if to inspire me to do that forgotten writing about radios, he read Charles Bukowski's poem, "A Radio with Guts".

Bukowski tells a story in the first person about a guy in a second floor flat who day after day got drunk and threw his radio through the window and, every time, the radio sat on the roof and kept playing. It was a "magic radio", a "radio with guts". I won't give away the rest of the poem -- you can find it by doing a quick internet search -- but as Billy Collins read it and I knew Bill Davie was listening, in my mind I heard that radio with guts on the roof playing "Caravan" or "Rock and Roll" or "Roadrunner" and thought how Charles Bukowski could have done what Bill Davie did and called his poem, "Radio On".

2. So, an array of teaching memories flashed in my mind as the Billy Collins broadcast got underway. To set a mood for his broadcast, it opened with his empty chair at his desk and we heard a recording of Glenn Gould playing one of the tracks from The Goldberg Variations. The music transported me back to teaching WR 122. I used to burn each of my students a copy of Glenn Gould's 1982 recording of The Goldberg Variations and built a writing assignment around their listening to this recording and, apart from the writing assignment, tried to persuade students to think of developing ideas in their writing as doing something similar to what Bach did: explore their ideas copiously, in great variation, focused not on how little might be written about the idea, but how much, to explore the variations and many possibilities.

Did my attempts to help students understand writing in terms of music help my students? I'll never know. I do know, however, that I loved the writing they did in response to The Goldberg Variations and loved hearing from many students that listening to the recording sweetened their previously sour assumptions about classical music.

I enjoyed very much being in the virtual room with Bill and Willa. Bill was a student of mine at Whitworth in 1977 and again in 1983 and, while I won't detail them here, a rush of memories came back to me connected to those years in Spokane.

Willa was a student in Margaret B's and my team taught course in Working Class Literature and Composition. I can't pinpoint the year, but it seems like it was about eleven years ago. Another rush of memories -- not only that course, but Debbie's friendship with Willa's mom and dad and stopping by to have a cup of coffee and visit with them at their booth at Eugene's Saturday Market, Dana's Cheesecake. I remember Willa's brilliance as a student, but, even more, I remember the day in class when she spoke forcefully about her love of The Wire. I remember thinking at the time, "I've got to look into this show" and, eventually, I did and it made a lasting impact on me. Willa was the spark.

3. Billy Collins read a poem entitled, "Say This", written by Lucia Perillo. It's a short poem exploring the miniscule predatory activity in the world of reptiles, birds, and insects. I had never heard of Lucia Perillo and when Billy Collins' broadcast ended, I read more about her. After graduating from college, Lucia Perillo worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and later as a seasonal worker for the Mt. Ranier National Park.

She also began writing poetry. It became her vocation. She taught creative writing and continued to write poetry, fiction, and essays.  In 2000, she was awarded MacArthur Fellowship Grant.

In the late 1980s, Lucia Perillo found out she suffered from multiple sclerosis. Much of her writing, then, to quote the Washington Post, "unflinchingly dissect[ed] mortality".

Lucia Perillo died in October, 2016 in Olympia, WA. Billy Collins didn't mention anything about her life or death when he read the poem (no problem) and discovering that she'd died at 58 years of age shocked me.

Soon my mind made a jump. I think it had to do with Lucia Perillo having lived in Washington State. I suddenly had a vague recollection of another poet I used to read back in 1985-6 whose name I couldn't quite remember and who, if I remember correctly, was a family friend of a couple I used to house sit and dog sit for in Eugene.

I did some poking around on the World Wide Web and her name came back to me: Carol Jane Bangs. She lives in Port Townsend. New Directions published her collection, The Bones of the Earth, in 1983 and I discovered it on a book shelf at the home where I was house and dog sitting. I remembered enjoying that book and now I'm going to order it and read it again and see what I think after not having read it for so long.

These Billy Collins broadcasts only last about twenty-five minutes. I've listened to three of them live. They are helping reawaken me to poets and poems I had forgotten about, introducing me to works I've never heard of, and renewing my excitement not just for poems, but for the world of poetry.

It all goes back to 1977. Bill Davie was a student in the Writing I course I taught at Whitworth. We became friends. He started giving online performances from home back in April. He decided to read poems along with performing his songs. He mentioned during one of his Tuesday evening concerts that Billy Collins was broadcasting daily during the week.

I checked it out.

My world grows larger.

It turns out that Christopher Marlowe, back in 1589-90, described the Vizio room these days in this one line from The Jew of Malta:  "Infinite riches in a little room."

Here's a limerick by Stu:

Small steps can sure set the pace.
Giant leaps help settle the case.
When the Eagle has landed,
The whole country banded.
To see men at Tranquility Base.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon on July 21, 1969.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/19/20: Biking in Kellogg, ZOOM Time, Ed on the Deck BONUS A Limerick by Stu

While I wrote on Sunday morning, my featured jazz artist was Sonny Rollins.

1. Our bill came from the utility company and usually I write out a check and walk it over to the payment drop box near Yoke's. I walk it over for the exercise, not to save money on postage. This morning, I hopped on my bicycle and rode over to the box and then I took a little spin around central Kellogg. I checked out the fire damaged building that once housed Best Shots to see if any new signs were on the door. None. I biked over to the Veterans Memorial. Back in March, I sent an application to the local Veterans' Committee on behalf of the memory of my uncle (William Earl Woolum) who was killed at the Battle of Vella LaVella in Solomon Islands in 1943. I haven't heard back from the committee (no problem), but I thought, just for something to do, I'd see if Uncle Bill's name had been engraved in one of the walls. As I expected (no problem), it hadn't. I think I'll hear from the committee before an engraving happens, but, I looked any way. I pedaled around some more, the sun started to get to me, and I headed home.

2. I spent a couple of hours talking on ZOOM with Bill and Diane this afternoon. We talked about a lot of things -- among them, health, dining in for months, the USA, a Whitworth student of mine from 1978 I wondered about, and poetry. Diane read a piece of Bill's writing. I think it was an email from years ago that he wrote in such a lyrical way that she regards it as a poem. Then Bill read some of his poems. It's been a long time since I've heard Bill read his poetry. I enjoyed the poems thoroughly. Since April, I've had more involvement with reading and listening to poetry than I had in quite a few years.  Bill reads poems during his Tree House Concerts. Bridgit read poetry in an online poetry reading. Colette and Bridgit both read poems they'd written in our first Sunday ZOOM talk. I listen to Billy Collins' poetry broadcasts. I think he presents them Monday through Friday.  In the last few weeks, I've purchased several books of poetry to read to myself here in the Vizio room. It's been invigorating.

3. Ed came over around five this afternoon, excited to share a favorite whiskey of his with me: Brown Sugar Bourbon. I fixed some cheese and crackers and put out a bowl of chips and Debbie's guacamole and we sat on the deck and protected each other by sitting a ways apart. The whiskey really grew on me as I sipped more and we talked more. I especially enjoyed its cinnamon flavor and thought it would be a fun after dinner whiskey to have around.

Since I'm not dining in restaurants, I haven't been a part of the weekly breakfast at Sam's. The guys are meeting on Saturday mornings now. This evening, Ed caught me up on news about the guys and about work projects in the Silver Valley -- it was almost like being at breakfast at Sam's again. We talked about a lot of other stuff, too, including how Ed's retirement is going (great!) and what we've heard lately from friends of ours.

It was a great session.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

How could we get to a state?
Where a mask and your goodness relate?
Only one way to think,
Has brought us to the brink.
Let’s calm things before it’s too late!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/18/20: Out of Isolation, Green Curry, *Pillars of the Earth* BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Through YouTube, I played Miles Davis on the wireless speaker. The heavy curtains in the Vizio room shade it, keep it cool, and I sit in a comfortable chair. I took care of some business, did some writing, and read some news and editorials. I could have sat in here all day reading, working puzzles, listening to jazz music, and feeling at peace. But, I didn't. I emerged and drained a cubed block of tofu while I fixed myself some eggs and serrano pepper hot sauce to put on a tortilla layered with melted taco cheese. I mixed sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic chili paste, and honey in a bowl, folded in the tofu, put a lid on the bowl, and marinated the tofu in the refrigerator for several hours.

2. I also cleaned the kitchen so I'd have a clean place to make a green curry sauce. I combined the usual ingredients: a plug of green curry pasted heated up, two cans of coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, chopped fresh ginger, and brown sugar. As a bonus, today I added two dried kaffir lime leaves. Meanwhile, in the bottom of the Dutch oven, I cooked the tofu for a while, removed it to a bowl, and lined the bottom of the Dutch oven with slices of white onion. I poured the sauce over the onions, and added the tofu back in along with broccoli florets and fresh green beans. I cooked the sauce slowly while I made a pot of jasmine rice and, within an hour or so, Debbie and I each filled a bowl with rice and curry sauce, garnished it with peanuts and cilantro, and marveled at what what a difference the kaffir lime leaves made in adding flavor to the curry.

3. I started reading Ken Follett's novel, Pillars of the Earth, this evening. I don't think I've ever read a novel set in the 12th century. When I read novels (or watch movies), I'm a believer and from the get go, I am trusting in the authenticity of Follett's portrayal of medieval life. More important, though, from the grisly prologue that starts the book on through his telling of the dangers of the forest, I'm finding Follett's story telling riveting.

Today, Stu's limerick introduces a new word into my (and maybe your) vocabulary:

You use cash to measure how rich.
And radar the speed of of a pitch.
Pounds or kilos for lifting,
Inch by inch continents drifting.
And pig's bacon is measured by FLITCH!

National Flitch Day.
Enjoy responsibly. 😀🥓

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/20: Background Jazz, Billy Collins Into the Night, Pesto BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Thursday was rare day, full of fun and pleasure, and I spent most of this morning drinking dark roast coffee and writing about it. Making a record of the day helped me relive all the enjoyment and I further augmented my pleasure by going to YouTube and putting on a video that featured a seemingly endless string of jazz piano tunes that were relaxing to have playing in the background. It was a great morning in the Vizio room.

2. In the afternoon, notification arrived that Billy Collins was about to begin another live broadcast and so I sequestered myself once again in the Vizio room to tune in. Today, Billy Collins brought us into the world of Philip Larkin by reading, "Aubade". An aubade is a poem or a piece of music appropriate for the early morning or the dawn. In Larkin's poem, the speaker awakes at four in the morning. The day before, he's worked all day. He got half drunk that night. As the new day stretches out before him, he realizes his death "is a whole day nearer now" and Larkin muses for the rest of the poem on death's inevitability.

After making and reading some comments on "Aubade", Billy Collins read a poem he wrote about death entitled "The Fish". It's not only a poem about death, it's also a poem about dining alone in an unfamiliar city -- in this case, Pittsburgh. It's a wily poem, seeming to be about the absurdity of having a plate with a fish on it staring up at the poem's speaker with "its one flat, iridescent eye". The poem turns, though, and becomes a tender meditation upon compassion and sorrow.

Later in the evening, Debbie and I turned off the news and I poured myself a cocktail I'd never tried before by mixing brandy, a spot of white creme de menthe, and some triple sec. I added orange bitters.

I told Debbie how much I was enjoying the Billy Collins broadcasts and, before we knew it, we launched into a long and wonderful discussion of Collins' poem "The Lanyard". Debbie read it aloud. We marveled at how deeply and lovingly Billy Collins' poem illuminates the essential generosity of a mother and how he excites such deep mother/child feeling in the poem through meditating upon a child making a lousy lanyard at summer camp and giving it to his mom.

3. So, wow!, Debbie has been exploring the copious possibilities of making pesto. Tonight, for dinner, she served egg noodles and perfectly cooked broccoli covered with her latest pesto made from cilantro and macadamia nuts. Brilliant. As the old tv ads used to say about Mounds candy bars: this pesto was indescribably delicious!

Here's a limerick by Stu:

They're found on a desk or a wall.
Moments in time to recall.
Could be scenery or places,
Maybe portraits or faces?
It's true that a picture says it all!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/20: Walking with Forever Friends, Cool Billy Collins, Mr. Gibbs Has a Reunion BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Stu warned us that the family property out at their ranch would be buggy, so I pulled on my hiking pants and a light, long-sleeved shirt, and my new hiking shoes (which fit perfectly and are like limousines for my feet) and I sprang into the Sube and high-tailed it out to the Cataldo Trail Head on the Trail of the CdAs where Ed, Stu, and I met up and each drove our vehicles to the ranch Stu's family owns up Skeel Gulch.

It was my first outing in nature with others since last fall. We were all protective of one another's health by maintaining space between each other as we headed up the mild incline leading out of the area where Stu's sister, Carrie, lives with her husband, into the woods. Ed and Stu inspected different white pine, cedars, and other species of trees, speculating which ones might be suitable for logging before long and Stu is always keeping an eye out for December's Christmas tree.

Since I don't know anything about logging, I hung back, let my mind wander, inspired by the occasional sounds of gurgling water and the great variety of wild daisies, evergreen trees, and other foliage as we walked about a mile through the woods.

I hadn't seen Ed in person since the last time I joined the other guys for breakfast at Sam's back on March 13th and hadn't seen Scott since one day in -- I'm going to say April -- when he delivered a bottle of DuCard Rose wine to our house.

We've all talked on the phone or exchanged written messages, but it was really good to see one another in person and get caught up on family news and what's happening around the Silver Valley and elsewhere.

For the record, I'll just say that as the morning warmed up, I struggled a bit on this walk, even though many stretches were in the shade. By the end, after two miles, back at our cars, I was very happy to sit on the back fender of the Sube, in the shade, and was very happy that Stu, Ed, and I talked more while sitting still and I cooled off. Throughout the walk, I stayed hydrated, but these days I'm not doing very well with sunshine and even moderate heat. When it came time to jump in our rigs and head back home, I was very grateful for the Sube's air conditioning.

Oh! Stu commemorated our walk today in a limerick. Scroll down if you'd like to read it at the end of this post.

2. Back home, I cooled down more. After a short trip to Yoke's and the liquor store, I thought about the coolness of Billy Collins, his love of cool jazz standards, his cool, understated manner, his cool, wry wit, and his cool, jazzy, accessible poetry. I'm not sure if Billy Collins broadcasts live at the same time every day, but, when I can, I'm going to start looking around 4 p.m. PST to see if possibly he usually gets started around 7 o'clock EST.  (If I miss him live, his broadcasts are archived on his Facebook page.)

Today, an online copyright enforcer blocked Billy Collins' Facebook Live feed. Billy Collins likes to play a jazz standard as a lead in to his broadcast reading poetry and musing about things. Today, he put on Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache" and got shut down. No long afterward, he returned, explained with his own style of dead pan befuddlement what had happened, and then chatted and read poems for about twenty minutes, focusing on poems from his 1988 collection, The Apple that Astonished Paris. 

I think each poem he read today was new to me and not only did I delight in the poems, I also enjoyed Billy Collins' comments about how his writing of poetry has evolved over the years -- he told us his poems written later in life are not as tight and are more discursive and wandering than those he wrote as a younger man.

3. Today was a day jam-packed with pleasures, more than I can fit into writing only about three beautiful things. So, I'm going to go expand this third beautiful thing and preserve my experience of this evening's many delights.

At around five, Diane Trecker arrived with her two dogs in tow: Chloe is Gibbs' mother and Olivia is Diane's Maltese puppy.

Debbie made a perfect snack spread: shrimp and cocktail sauce, chips and guacamole, and she lathered a chunk of cream cheese with pepper jelly Diane had given us and served it with Ritz crackers.

We also invited Christy over and she joined our party and brought cherries.

I mixed us gin and tonics -- well, I mixed gin and tonics for the others: I sipped on a couple of dirty martinis.

So, before our very eyes a mother and child reunion unfolded.

Over the last three or four weeks, Gibbs has been a happy and contented dog.

This evening, we witnessed him experience ecstasy.

His first response to Chloe was to jump on top of Chloe and wrap his front legs around her torso, as if he were hugging her. He "hugged" her several times. Then, he rounded up Chloe and Olivia and led them into our house, as if to assure his mom and his good friend, Olivia, that he'd scored a good home when he left them.

After a while, it seemed Chloe had had enough of being hugged and shown around.

No problem.

Gibbs and Olivia became playmates, figuring out ways to goof off and wrestle around. After a bit, they ventured deep into the back yard where Gibbs showed Olivia the wild weeds and raspberry plants and small bushes he enjoys exploring. Olivia enjoyed our unkempt garden areas, too, as if the ungroomed nature of these areas is exactly what these dogs love.

Christy, Diane, Debbie, and I yakked about a bunch of stuff including dog breeding, books written by women about life in the Silver Valley, and some of Diane's latest news about her family and some prospects for the future.

All of the playing and excitement wore out Gibbs. He fell into a coma of contentment, even before Diane, Chloe, and Olivia left.  We are hoping that Gibbs can have more get togethers with Olivia and Chloe.

Debbie and I retired back into the house and watched some news programming and then our evening shifted into a higher gear of enjoyment.

First we watched, The Boys of '36, an hour long American Experience documentary telling a condensed version of the same story told in The Boys in the Boat. I particularly enjoyed the film footage of these guys training and racing and seeing the footage of the Berlin Olympics made what I'd read in the book even more memorable.

Earlier in the day, I bought a Jameson family pack at the liquor store, three 50 ml (a little over 1.5 oz) bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey, Jameson Caskmate -- IPA Edition, and Jameson Caskmate -- Stout Edition. The Caskmate batches of whiskey are ones where in the last stage of production, the whiskey is finished in beer barrels. Debbie and I shared each of these little bottles and enjoyed them thoroughly. I was particularly intrigued by the IPA Edition. At first, to me, it tasted like regular Irish Whiskey and then after a second or two, the taste of hops and the floral delight of an IPA asserted themselves and my eyes widened a bit in wonder. The Stout Edition was very good, but didn't pack, for me, the element of surprise I experienced in the IPA Edition.

So, I wondered, how might I bring to a close a day of so many delights, of being with three friends I've known forever, of poems read live by Billy Collins, of having Christy over, of drinking martinis and eating superb snacks, of fun conversation on the deck, of seeing Gibbs express the most joy of his young life, of revisiting the boys and their boat, and of sampling three styles of Jameson whiskey?

I tried out a couple of Pandora stations before deciding that I wanted Stan Rogers to serenade me out of this wonderful day. I listened more than once to "The Mary Ellen Carter", "Barrett's Privateers", and "The Flowers of Bermuda" and in a mood mellowed by the joy of the day and those samples of whiskey, I marveled, almost as if I hadn't been listening to him for over 30 years, at Stan Rogers' artistry, his guitar playing, songwriting, commanding singing voice, and invigorating love for joining forces with his fellow musicians to create some of the most rousing and touching songs I've ever heard.

Stu wrote this limerick to commemorate the walk that he, Ed, and I enjoyed today:

It’s easy to follow current trends.
And complain as restriction extends.
But, unlike many places,
Where there’s not open spaces.
You can at least be out of doors with your friends.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/20: Finished *Boys in the Boat*, Eating In, Billy Collins LIVE BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. From the very the very early pages of Boys in the Boat right to its conclusion, I enjoyed the way Daniel James Brown wrote this book. Brown writes intelligently,  insightfully, and knowledgeably in a graceful and straightforward style. It's a deep book.  He probes the historical context of what was happening in Washington State, the U.S.A., and Germany as the crew of rowers at the University of Washington he writes about steadily mature into the team that eventually competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Brown also probes inwardly, not only examining the complex of emotions these rowers experience, but also the invisible spiritual bonds that unite them. In addition, Brown takes us inside the union that formed between the boat builder of the book, George Pocock, and the wood he used and his methods, as if the love for the materials and his craft endowed the boats he built with animation. The boats themselves seemed alive.

Brown's descriptions of the different races are suspenseful, made even more riveting by his discussions of the team's strategies and what each rower contributed to the crew's success. Ultimately, though, the races themselves and the team's success were secondary, in my experience, in my experience, to the way Brown brought to life the deeper, more spiritual, and unifying dimensions of boat building, team building and rowing.

2. The other night Debbie combined a medley of ingredients and seasonings into a tomato based stew that we enjoyed over rice. Tonight, she used the leftovers of this meal to stuff red and yellow peppers and she made a delicious and lemony broccoli salad. On March 13th, I ate breakfast at Sam's and haven't eaten a meal out since. Once, when Cas and Tracy came over, I ordered a pizza at Yoke's. Otherwise, Debbie and I have enormously enjoyed eating at home, expanding our culinary possibilities, preparing mostly vegetarian or fish based meals. We've had fun trying out new ideas and making delicious meals, pleasing each other.

3. When Bill Davie performed Tree House Concert #14 Tuesday night, he mentioned that Billy Collins is regularly broadcasting poetry readings on Facebook. Today, I became a follower of Billy Collins' Facebook page. I listened to a past broadcast in which he read and made low key, wry, and dryly humorous comments about W. H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts", followed by a reading of his own poem, "Musee des Beaux Arts Revisited". I also caught the last half of the live broadcast he gave today. He introduced me to a terrific poet I'd never heard of, Ada Limon; he then read two poems by one of my favorites, Naomi Shihab Nye.

I've got to keep going back to this broadcast and dipping back into archived videos.  Billy Collins will introduce me to poets I'm unfamiliar with; he'll reanimate my love for poems, like "Musee des Beaux Arts" that have lived inside me for as long as forty-five years or more; and, I can enjoy his low key, casually intellectual persona, as he quietly tosses off compelling commentary and reads different poems in his unaffected, easy going manner.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

A nickname's what you can be called.
Could be apt or instead's got you galled?
Might be just shortened name,
Or by your looks or your game?
Or a hobby that's got you enthralled?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/20: Bike Ride to Yoke's, Asian Pasta, Bill Davie LIVE! BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I strapped on my back pack and leapt on my bicycle -- it sure works better with air in its tires -- and rode to Yoke's and picked up a few items and came home on a slightly longer route to get a bit more exercise. My bike rides the last two days haven't been, by any stretch, very long, but they've been beneficial. They got me a little winded, got my heart pumping, and, maybe best of all, helped me sleep a lot deeper at night (well, and during the day when I nodded off in a chair after returning home!).

2. Back around the turn of the century, in Eugene, Nancy LaVelle introduced Debbie and me to the cookbook, No-Cook Pasta Sauces by Joie Warner. I love these recipes. Today, Debbie thumbed through it and suddenly said, "Bill, I want you to make this one for dinner tonight" and directed me to the recipe entitled, "Asian Peanut Butter and Garlic Sauce."

No problem.

Around 4:30, I poured myself a refreshing gin and tonic, took out the food processor, and got to work. First, I processed a few cloves of garlic and a chunk of fresh ginger. Next, I put peanut butter, a few peanuts (since I didn't have chunky peanut butter) water, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic paste with chili in a bowl and dumped it all into the food processor and ran the machine. Soon, the sauce was ready.

In the meantime, I boiled a pot of water with some sesame oil and salt and then turned the heat down to low. After a bit, we decided we were ready to eat dinner, so I brought the water back up to a boil and cooked a batch of pasta. I drained it and combined it with the peanut sauce I'd made.

We had cilantro and green onion greens and peanuts on the table to garnish our pasta bowl. Debbie also gathered some red lettuce and herbs from the garden and made a light salad.

I'm crazy about peanut sauce. For unknown reasons, I hadn't made any for a long time. This sauce was superb: creamy, nutty, a little salty, slightly sweet, and just a little heat.

We loved this dinner and enjoyed eating it in the comfortable late afternoon Kellogg air and refreshing shade out on the deck.

3. No single Bill Davie performance on Tuesday night is more special than any other. They are all superb, giving all of us who love his music and his sensibilities an hour of humor, terrific songs, and scintillating poetry. Tonight, Bill's wife, Diane, was in charge of the set list. I thoroughly enjoyed finding out what some of Diane's favorite Bill Davie songs are. Her choices were exquisite. As he does each week, Bill augmented our listening pleasure by reading poetry. Tonight's poet was Billy Collins. In the best way possible, Billy Collins' poems are loaded for me: he was popular among friends in Eugene, I loved introducing students to his poems when I was an instructor, and, on August 30, 2014 I leaned against the wall (or sat on the floor) in a huge hall at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D. C. at the Library of Congress Book Festival and listened to Billy Collins give a splendid poetry reading. I loved that day.

So Bill's songs transported me, as they do every week, to different phases and events of my life over the last thirty-five years or so and the poetry of Bill Collins was sublime and stimulated both pleasant memories and some thinking, among other things, about the nature of poetry, the devotion of mothers, and jazz music.

Bill is taking a couple weeks off from his Tuesday night performance schedule. I look forward to his return on August 4th.

In today's limerick, Stu takes us back to the working lives of Fred Flintstone and George Jetson:

You really do not have to choose.
Whether future or past you can’t lose. 
Fred has Boss, Mr. Slate,
George made “Sprockets” first rate.
Watching their antics now sure beats the news.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/20: Spiritual Union, Bicycle Ride, Mr. Gibbs Goes to the Vet BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. If you've had kind of experience in sports, the classroom, on a team at work, or anywhere else where individuality falls away and you've experienced the coming together of disparate people to work as a single, collective force, bonded together by a common purpose, then you've experienced something like what happens in a boat when members of a rowing team give up their individuality and row in harmony with each other, in the spirit of trust and commitment to a greater good. In Boys in the Boat, as Joe Rantz and his teammates mature, they experience this surrender of individuality and growth of unity.  Competitive success results.

2. I took my bicycle out for a spin today. I rode east down Mission Ave. to Division St., turned south, and then turned west on Mullan Ave until I reached Oregon St., turned south, rode a couple of blocks to Cameron Ave., and headed west back to our house. It was a short ride, about a mile and a half, but it turns out that it got my heart working, shortened my breath, and make my legs hurt a bit. I need to build up some strength and stamina.

3. After his exhausting trip to the groomer on Saturday, today Gibbs got wiped out again today with a visit to the vet where he got his next vaccination(s). Upon returning home, all the boundless energy of a puppy temporarily was drained from him. Debbie plopped him next to her on the couch and he fell into a deep slumber. After a little rest, he was back to his energetic self, ready to chase toys, bite and shake his little saucer-shaped bed, and dash outside and explore.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

There are things which are done out of spite.
Sadly, other under cover of night.
Choosing mayhem it seems,
Fits only negative schemes.
But, your gut knows the wrong from the right.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/12/20: Spiritual Wood Working, Mr. Gibbs Answers the Call of the Wild, Good Talk BONUS A LImerick by Stu

1. I spent a good chunk of the day reading deeper into Boys in the Boat. I experienced unexpected pleasure in the passages describing George Pocock building the racing boats (or shells). The passages present boat building as a mystical experience, as creating a spiritual bond between the builder and his materials, especially the wood. The boat, when built with such loving attention and care, becomes almost like a living thing itself, holding the spirit of nature and and builder. I thought of  two friends, Jeff Steve, a woodworker and builder of kayaks and of Curtis Rockwell, a luthier, and wondered if Daniel James Brown's descriptions of George Pocock at work would resonate with them and if, possibly, I now have a better understanding of their experiences creating beauty and function out of wood.

2. We do not have a well-groomed back yard. Guys come in about every two weeks to mow the grass, but what could be the garden areas are overgrown tangles of different grasses, a few raspberry stalks, random scraggly flowers, volunteer maple and lilac starts, and other things.

Gibbs loves our mess.

He loves to go over on the northwest area of our yard where Mom used to have raised beds and where the raspberries once were plentiful (since dug up -- are they at Carol's? Christy's? Both? I can't remember.). I like to think he feels the call of the wild back there as he nibbles on the few surviving berries, hides himself in knots of unruly grass and wooden stems, and finds places to dig a little bit and stick his nose in the ground. After a while, a sudden surge of joy shoots through Gibbs' little frame and he ecstatically sprints toward the deck where Debbie and I are sitting, sometimes dragging a thin stick three or four times longer than he is in his mouth.

3. I had planned (again) to take a bicycle ride late this afternoon when I knew the sun would be lower and possibly other riders might be done on the Trail of the CdAs. But, as it turned out, Debbie and I had some pressing matters to discuss and we got started on a good, long talk together. I took a slight break from our discussion to go down the street and replenish our liquor supply, returned home and mixed us each a drink, and we continued our conversation and had another cocktail or two.

By the way, this wasn't conflict conversation. We had some private matters to discuss that were urgent and we did it very well. We had a delicious pasta and pesto dinner and then headed over to Christy and Everett's deck and gabbed with them for a while.

Stu's limerick is in honor of National French Fries Day:

Origins of food are a hoot.
Like burgers from ham give the boot.
One crispy delight,
Made of spuds to taste right.
Was not French, but the point is now moot.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/11/20: Mr. Gibbs and the Groomer, *Boys in the Boat*, Cool Evening BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Debbie took Gibbs to the groomer today for his first visit. Debbie reported that Gibbs was fussy about having scissors in front of his face, so the groomer couldn't trim the fur around his eyes and mouth.  But, Gibbs returned home smelling fresh and sweet and his fur was feathery and fluffy thanks to his bath. The groomer recommended that Gibbs come in about once a month. It will help him become more accustomed to being groomed, and, she hopes, help him relax when it comes time to groom his facial fur. Debbie has some ideas about just putting scissors a little bit close to his face to help him feel more relaxed.

By the way, his trip to the groomer wiped out Gibbs. He spent much of the day alternating between some play time and a lot of rest and sleep!

2. I know it's not like we live in Arizona or other intense hot spots, but, for me, once the temperature gets up around 90 degrees, I am susceptible to not feeling well if I do much in the heat. I had some tentative plans to go out and ride my bicycle today, but, instead, I stayed in the cool of the Vizio room, aided by the sun blocking curtains covering the windows, and read several chapters of Boys in the Boat.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this book. It has many dimensions: it's an excellent sports book about rowing and what it demands of its athletes and about its popularity in the early part of the 20th century; it's a very interesting case study of one family and one boy's experience during the early years of the Great Depression; it's a revealing book about Seattle and Sequim during this time; and, because the book will eventually tell the story of this boat of rowers participating in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the author, Daniel James Brown, also narrates what's happening in Nazi Germany as the country prepares to host the Summer Olympic Games.

3. As the day cooled off, Debbie and I joined Christy and Everett on their back yard deck for a few libations and some time to yak about all kinds of things, among them:  the marvelous world of dogs, the old Three Toots Tavern, a joint that once sat at the bottom of the Page road on the old, old highway between Smelterville and Pinehurst, a mystery object sitting in a tree behind Christy and Everett's house, and the excellent care Everett experienced when he had his second cataract surgery this past week. The four of us continue to take all the precautions possible as the pandemic continues. I think it's good for us to talk about this as a way of encouraging each other to maintain our vigilance and our patience.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

It’s well known cartoon animals talk.
And we know which bunny asked “what’s up Doc?”
But, who declared “Bing, Bing, Bing”,
Or “Stage Left”, this Kitty’s thing?
And which blazing fast mouse was n’er caught?

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/10/20: Books Arrive, Tire Pump, Gibbs BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. I was sitting in the Vizio room pecking away, blogging, when Debbie walked in with a package. I could tell by its exterior that it was from Better World Books and joy surged throughout me. Sure enough, the rest of my order arrived:

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
The Great Fires by Jack Gilbert
Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert
The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Shorter, Third Edition)
To Read a Poem, Donald Hall

I jumped right into these books, sampling old favorite poems and reading some ones I'd never read. I have gone too long without John Crowe Ransom's "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" or Wallace Stevens' "Idea of Order at Key West" or poems by Emily Dickinson or Sharon Olds nearby and here they were, with countless others, in a small pile next to my chair, ready for me to plunge into again and again, ready to give me pleasure.

2. I'm never quite sure how I'm going to do with anything mechanical. So, I experienced some mild anxiety when I went out to the garage with my new bike tire pump to put air in my bicycle tires. Without much problem, I successfully made my tires firm with air and exhaled a deep sigh of relief. I put the bicycle in the back of the Sube and plan to go somewhere nearby on Saturday for a short ride. I know I'm in lousy shape and will need to build up some strength and stamina.

3. Gibbs is coming into his own as a growing puppy. He's daily more confident and animated, is getting more and more brave about exploring the back yard, has begun to develop a strut, and might even be getting a little cocky, to his credit. He is a very social puppy, enjoys being near Debbie and me, usually loves being held, and seems, happily,   to be catching on to the fact that Debbie and I are his people. His world is getting a little bigger, too. Sometimes he goes out to the back porch and sits there, gazing into the distance, looking up to the hills nearby, as if he's coming into some kind of awareness that he lives in a world much bigger than the inside of a house.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

What kind of food do you grub?
Do you like prawns or fries in a tub?
Steak or fish on a grill,
Fruits and veggies a thrill?
Or like Dagwood a piled up Sub?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/09/20: Transplant Now?, Roethke and Linda and Jim Hunt, Still Moving In, BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. Today was an especially uplifting day in the world of this blog because of responses people wrote, comments they made, and emails I received. Upon reading about my monthly blood draw, Marcia Morgan Jacobs asked me if I would consent to a transplant during the pandemic. Answering Marcia helped me review discussions I've had with the transplant team and with my Kootenai Health nephrologist, all of whom agree that as long as my condition remains stable and as long as I feel so good, I should feel free to turn down the offer of an organ -- unless, God forbid, it's a young, nearly pristine organ.

But even in that case, right now, when I think rationally about a transplant, I might very likely turn down an organ. Even if the people at Providence Sacred Heart are taking every precaution they can to keep the hospital safe and even if I were individually protected with high quality gear on my body, I'd be out and about a lot with my immune system mightily suppressed. Upon release from the hospital, I'd have to make frequent visits back to the hospital for lab work and check-ups. I'd either be staying in Spokane somewhere or commuting back and forth from Kellogg and, in my compromised condition, I'd be way more vulnerable to the virus than I already am as a person over sixty-five.

I enjoyed taking some time to think this through and respond to Marcia.

2. I also heard from Linda Lavigne, Liz Moudy, Roberta Garner, and Deborah Gridley. They have all loved reading Pillars of the Earth. Their comments heartened me to get going soon on reading this book, even as its thickness looks daunting, but, as I've said, kind of perfect for all the time I'm spending indoors.

I also loved hearing from Linda Lawrence Hunt.

I spent much of the day remembering my days at Whitworth as a student and colleague of her husband, Professor Jim Hunt and as a friend of Linda and Jim's. For just over two years, starting in September of 1976, my first wife and I rented a cottage that was right next to Jim and Linda's house. We got to see and talk with each other often. All day today I dipped into the bounty of warm memories I hold of those times living next to Jim and Linda back then.

Linda's comment, though, was a response to my writing about Theodore Roethke.

Linda told me that Jim loves this line from Roethke's poem, "The Far Field": "What I love is near at hand" and that it's been helpful for her as she's experienced three bouts with cancer.

I realized that it had been years since I'd read "The Far Field".

So I read it again.

Like Roethke's poem, "The Rose", which I commented on yesterday, "The Far Field" is another of Roethke's poems that comprise his "North American Sequence".

Like "The Rose", "The Far Field" is a somewhat long poem. I wanted to understand better the line that Jim loves and that has been so helpful to Linda. Here's the entirety of the verse that line appears in:

I am renewed by death, thought of my death,
The dry scent of a dying garden in September,
The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.
What I love is always at hand,
Always, in earth and air.

I don't know if it's a common experience, but I know that my brushes with death and that living with a chronic disease have sharpened my love and appreciation of the beauty I live within, the beauty in earth and air. In this way, I, too, am "renewed by death, thought of my death" and am buoyed by knowing that whether it's the rush of Coal Creek, the Shasta daisies blooming in our back yard, or the sparkle and shimmering of a North Idaho mountain lake, "What I love is always at hand."

The verse I quoted from "The Far Field" comes at the end of this poem's third section; in the fourth and final section of the poem, Roethke sums up the what makes the things of this world so renewing, so transforming, so joyous when he writes, "All finite things reveal infinitude".

Buddha might rephrase this line slightly and say that the only permanence is impermanence.

When I read this line of Roethke and when I reflect upon his insight that "What I love is always at hand", I realize that I experience the spirit of life, the sustenance of life, and the forces in life that are infinite in the finiteness all around me. All this finiteness will pass one day: Gibbs, friends and family, that stack of poetry books that arrived in the mail today, the scent of thriving foliage along the once dead and gray CdA River, the smell of cedar in the Settlers Grove, the way Placer Creek tumbles over fallen logs near the Pulaski Trail, the waves thundering and leaping over the rocks at Otter Beach along the Oregon coast, and much more. But in this brief time I have to love what I will lose, I experience mysteries and joys beyond my understanding, experiences that invite me to experience what is everlasting and nourishes my spirit.

I don't know if what I've written here connects with what Linda Hunt has experienced, connects with why Roethke's line "What I love is always at hand" has been helpful to her.

But, Linda's comment revved up my thoughts and memories and more of them are churning as I bring this short bit of writing to an end....Richard Wilbur's poem, "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World" .... Wallace Stevens' line from "Sunday Morning", "Death is the mother of beauty".... Gerard Manley Hopkins..."The world is charged with the grandeur of God".....Denise Levertov's "O Taste and See". . . but enough riffing.

Let's move on to #3.

3. A while back, Paul bolted a free standing bookshelf Mom left behind into one of our basement walls and we are using it for food and kitchen wares. It's a part of our basement pantry. Having this space to store things has inspired Debbie and me to do some rearranging in the kitchen and I pitched in today by dealing with our numerous quart containers of flour, hot cereal, dry beans, grains, sugar, and other items by organizing them in the rotating cabinet below the kitchen counter to the right of our stove/oven and moving other items to the basement.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

If you think back to jobs that were payin'!
Some weren’t that much fun I am sayin’.
Lots were dirty and hot,
And you weren’t paid a lot.
But for future was foundation layin’!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/20: Back to Roethke's "The Rose", Blood Draw, Quinoa Bowl BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. It excited me this morning when a package from Better World Books arrived. Two books came: first, some perfect reading for mostly staying at home these days, Ken Follet's 900+ page historical novel, Pillars of the Earth; second, one of my favorite books from all the way back to college, The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke.

On Sunday, while on ZOOM, I told Bill, Diane, and Bridgit that I had ordered Roethke's book and Bill asked me to explain my love for Roethke.

I stumbled around, perfectly sober, and blabbed some kind of incoherent response.

But, today, as I dove back into his poetry, the reasons for loving his poems started to come back to me.

The memory is a funny thing and mine gets slower and a little less reliable all the time.

On Sunday, as I stammered, trying to answer Bill's question, for some reason one of my favorite of all of Roethke's poems didn't even come to mind.

It's the last of six poems in his series called "The North American Sequence".

It's entitled, simply, "The Rose".

Roethke sets the poem in an unnamed estuary. It opens:

There are those to whom place is unimportant,
But this place, where sea and fresh water meet,
Is important --

With the mind of a naturalist and the music of a poet, he details the sights and sounds of what makes this estuary important. Before long, he comes to the poem's center, its focus. In the midst of all of the  motion and sounds of the estuary, ". . .this rose in sea-wind/Stays/Stays in its true place . . . ."

This still rose in a churning world, gives the speaker of the poem a triggering image. The speaker ventures inward and outward, into the world of  childhood memory, childhood greenhouses and the father's roses, and outward into the great span of the America, its sounds, to "the ticking of snow of snow around oil drums in the Dakotas" or to the "thin whine of telephone wires in the wind of a Michigan winter".

It's an ecstatic poem, in praise of a world of past and present, of places at hand and those far away that are all connected to each other, interdependent, all anchored by the rose, as if he has found that in a world of great variety and motion, the rose holds all things together.

By the last section of "The Rose", the speaker of the poem experiences a kind of rapture, and brings us into his euphoria:

. . . I came upon the true ease of my being
As if another man appeared out of the depths of my being,
And I stood outside of myself,
Beyond becoming and perishing,
A something wholly other,
As if I swayed out on the wildest wave alive,
And yet was still.
And I rejoiced in being what I was . . .

At the core of his exultation? The rose. Still. Hardy. Rooted. Gathering all about it and all beyond it into itself, a delicate but sturdy emblem of the world's natural and mystical union, its deep interrelatedness. 

Want to read "The Rose"? Go here.

2. I slipped on my comfortable Merrell hiking shoes and walked the half a mile or so up to the Shoshone Medical Center for my monthly blood draw. I appreciated how carefully the phlebotomist examined the directions in my blood draw kit, sent to me by a lab in Spokane, and confirmed with me that she understood the details of preparing the return of the box. My blood came most cooperatively out of my arm into the tube and, between us, we got the sample properly marked, packed, and sent back to the lab. By the way, this blood is not tested -- I simply submit a monthly sample to the transplant program's lab each month. If an organ should become available, this sample would be used to confirm that the donated kidney is a good match.

3. Back home, Debbie roasted some Brussel sprouts and combined them with quinoa. Then she sort of said, what the hell!, let's throw in some salmon and cooked up a couple salmon burger patties. I loved how these items tasted combined in a bowl, especially after I seasoned them with Bragg Liquid Amino.

Here's a limerick by Stu:

I've had quite enough of the news.
Can't tell what are facts from their views.
Felt better with Walter,
Huntley, Brinkley din't falter.
Or report only bias as a ruse.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/20: Hiking Shoes, Postmodern Jukebox, Bill Davie and Adrienne Rich BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. The new Merrell hiking shoes I ordered last week arrived on Monday. Today, I tried them on -- they fit well and felt good -- and gave them an initial test drive by walking down to the mailbox in front of the building that housed Stein's IGA for so many years. If footwear doesn't fit me right, either or both of my big toes blow up with redness, swelling, and pain. If today's walk is a true indicator of what I can expect, these new shoes will work beautifully.

Today, the bike tire pump I ordered last week arrived. Soon, I'll get some air in my bicycle tires and get back to flying (ahem) around on two wheels.

2.  I enjoy watching and listening to videos on YouTube of Postmodern Jukebox and today I discovered their classy cover of Aerosmith's "Dream On", featuring Morgan James fronting a string and piano ensemble. Recently, I also listened to a trio of Postmodern Jukebox singers, Joey Cook, Adana Duru, and Nina Ann perform a 1960's girl group styled (think "Mr. Postman") cover of Portugal The Man's song, "Feel it Still".  If you'd like to see these videos, a simple online search will lead you right to them.

3. I thoroughly enjoyed tonight's version of  Bill Davie's Tree House Concert. It was #13 and Bill seems ready to keep right on going, every Tuesday evening, from 7-8 o'clock. Tonight Bill read from the poetry of Adrienne Rich, focusing on selections from her collection, Twenty-One Love Poems. The poems are a a testimony to the power of honesty, honesty within herself, honesty with her partner, and honesty about the political dimensions of intimacy. Just as Rich's poetry explored the intertwining of intimacy, mortality, and politics, so Bill's selections tonight were also at times confessional, at times expressions of love (especially for his wife Diane), at times explorations of our mortality, and, at times, political. 

It's National Have a Coke Day and Stu wrote a limerick:

What do you drink for your thirst?
Cool water probably comes to mind first.
But, if it’s cola you’re drinking,
Give the red can some winking.
And blue one ok if aversed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 07/06/20: Cookin' with *Zaitoun*, Salmon Dinner. Too Much Sun BONUS Limerick by Stu

1. My assignment for tonight's birthday dinner in Christy and Everett's back yard was to make a rice dish. I immediately thought that I'd like to serve some kind of dish from the Middle East and so I consulted the cookbook Zoe gave me last Christmas, Zaitoun, a collection of Palestinian recipes. Sure enough, I found a delicious looking possibility: Brown Rice Lentil Pilaf with Crispy Fried Onions. It's simple. I cooked a pot of brown rice and a batch of lentils, drained, and combined them.  In the cast iron skillet, I toasted cumin and coriander seeds and crushed them with my mortar and pestle and added cinnamon and allspice to them. I melted butter and cooked the spice mixture in the butter and poured it over rice and lentils and, following the recipe's instructions, put some more water in the pot of rice/lentils, placed a dish towel over the pot, and cooked it at a medium to low heat for fifteen minutes.

Coincidentally, at the end of fifteen minutes the dish towel caught on fire.

That wasn't in the recipe's directions.

I transferred the rice and lentils into an our oblong glassware pan.

Then I thinly sliced three onions and cut the slices in half, covered the onion with all-purpose flour, and fried the pieces in hot oil in several batches, put the pieces on paper towels to soak up the excess oil, and topped the rice and lentils with the onions. I'm not sure the onion pieces were crispy, but they were well cooked.

I thought this dish would have tasted good with raisins and sliced almonds and I might add those ingredients in next time I make this.

2. Our dinner was superb. Christy cooked aluminum foil packets of perfectly seasoned salmon and zucchini with lemon slices on the grill. She also served a tasty bread. Debbie made a shrimp cocktail appetizer and one of her brilliantly imagined and executed green salads, this one featuring arugula. We enjoyed a selection of wines with dinner and, as requested by Carol for her birthday, Christy baked a delicious lemon cheesecake and served it with Limoncello.

3. I'll end with a not that beautiful of a thing that had a good conclusion, eventually. I want a written record of what happened as a reminder to myself to be more careful when it's sunny out.

I sat in the sun during dinner to keep physical distance. After dinner and dessert, we realized Gibbs hadn't had his dinner and I took him next door to our house to feed him. I suddenly realized, upon getting out of my chair and moving around a bit, that the sun had done a number on me.

I was rubber kneed and dehydrated and felt hot all over. I had planned to return to the party after feeding Gibbs, but I couldn't. I felt too lousy and needed to cool off, drink water, and rest. I tried to sleep, but the exposure to the sun had produced an adrenaline surge and I had to wait until that slowed down.

It took about three hours of sitting in the cool living room and drinking water and then going to bed and working a crossword puzzle with a window open and a fan running, but eventually my system got back into balance and fell into a comfortable sleep, interrupted only by trips to the kitchen to drink more water and some trips to the bathroom.

Stu says in a limerick, Happy Birthday, Ringo Starr!

His name is the formal of Rick.
Had a hard time at first, was so sick.
Met his mates in Liverpool,
Uses sticks for his tool.
And his song of a “Sub” is a kick.

Richard Starkey, a.k.a. Ringo Starr turns 80 today.