I think every kid must have some sort of fantasy about castles. About living in one, about fighting for one, perhaps even about being held prisoner in one. Any kid who has ever seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang must have the castle of Neuschwanstein imprinted upon her imagination:
I had the great good fortune to grow up within a few miles of a castle. More or less. The tower of the Casco Castle Hotel, in South Freeport, was the only thing that remained when I was a kid, the main portion of the building having burned down in 1914. However, from the time we were old enough to ride bikes, we’d make our way from Grover’s Crossing and down toward the harbor, then veer off and climb the path up onto the granite ridge where the ruins remained.
In the after photo above, you can see the window at the bottom right where we’d scale the stones to enter. Once inside, it was possible to climb further, into the small chamber to the right. Howard, one of the nine Nichols kids from Grover’s Crossing, claims to have climbed up as far as the cross-shaped windows; and there were stories of people climbing higher, though I never saw them do it myself–there were even stories of people falling, and, as the kids whispered in awe, breaking every bone in their bodies. The castle tower was on private property, and we all were, of course, trespassing; the owner did not like it, on account (I know now) of insurance liability concerns, but we kids just thought he was being a jerk…because we were kids.
So that’s where my love affair with castles began, and of course my love is tinged with the romantic: I prefer my castles ruinous. Since then
I’ve been to castles in England and France–Windsor, for example, and Versailles–and breathtaking as those were, they were intact, and not exactly to my taste. Of course I loved exploring them (the parts open to the public, in any case), but always, in wandering about, I found so little left to the imagination.
How, after all, can one imagine being a knight in shining armor, or a feisty princess (none of those damsels in distress for me, thanks), when one is constantly followed around by security, are thoroughly frisked and scanned on entrance and shunted through the gift shop upon exit? Where’s the romance in that?
Which, I think, is why my favorite castle of all time is Tintagel, in North Cornwall. You want ruinous? This place is perfect. To get to the castle, you must take a footpath out of the village toward the Celtic Sea; once you’ve paid admission, you need to hike up another path to a bridge where you can turn left to climb a mountain of steps and explore the mainland side of the castle, or turn right, cross the bridge, then climb yet other stairs to the island side (these two parts of the castle were once one, before the tides wore through the cliffs and split them apart). Though I was there in July, on a brilliantly blue and sunny day, one of the only two National Trust people I saw told me that in February the wind blows off the sea so harshly that it’s impossible to stand up straight on the island. Imagine the cold and the loneliness then…and of course, that’s the keyword: imagine. So much more romantic to be able to imagine the way into stories about a ruinous castle, especially one that’s the legendary birthplace of that most romantic of kings, Arthur. Then, of course, there’s the imposing way this castle towers over the Haven, and dwarfs the village, back over its shoulders. This is a castle that is truly magical.
Not that I’ve entirely switched my allegiance from the ruinous castle of my childhood–not at all. How could I? Casco Castle is still the tower in my dreams. Now, however, that I am so much older, I give myself nightmares about climbing it. I did that? I must have been one stupid kid. I’m just grateful that I was not one of those fabled people who fell and broke every bone in my body.
People can still fall from the cliffs at Tintagel.
April is the cruelest month, and the coolest. April is, of course, celebrated as National Poetry Month. In April, just like Chaucer’s pilgrims, I always feel restless when the snow recedes and the flowers begin teasing, when the birds come back, when the mud oozes forth. In the poetic realm, I am not, by far, the only one. So many poems to choose from for April and for spring! And finally, on April 30, with temperatures reaching toward the 70′s, and the sun high enough in the sky to warm things…finally, finally…it really is spring, isn’t it?
April 1, Monday: ”Just Before April Came” by Carl Sandburg
April 2, Tuesday: ”Song of a Second April” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
April 3, Wednesday: “April Chores” by Jane Kenyon
April 5, Friday: “Dear One Absent This Long While” by Lisa Olstein (I’ve had a sad couple of weeks, and this piece has an incredibly sad beauty to it…I’m glad to have come across it.)
April 8, Monday: “It will be summer–eventually” by Emily Dickinson
April 9, Tuesday: “Spring Rain” by Matsuo Basho
April 10, Wednesday: “Spring Pools” by Robert Frost
April 11, Thursday: “Home Thoughts from Abroad” by Robert Browning
April 12-19: April vacation–no school!
April 22, Monday: “Wash” by Jane Kenyon
April 23, Tuesday: Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare (because it’s his birthday and we’re celebrating!)
April 24, Wednesday:”The Snakes” by Mary Oliver
April 25, Thursday: “What to Do” by Hayden Carruth
April 26, Friday: “Ticket” by Meg Kearney
April 29, Monday: “A Sighting” by Connie Wanek
April 30, Tuesday: “Over the Land is April” by Rober Louis Stevenson
What a beautiful day to end with! Sunny, deep blue sky, buds the maples outside my classroom window, temperatures climbing toward the 70′s. The kind of day that brings a person hope.
March is the most difficult month in school: everyone is exhausted. Perhaps it’s because it’s winter’s last hurrah? However, it’s also, fortunately, the month when spring fights its way in, so there’s something to look forward to. Ah, and the advent of Daylight Savings Time, when it is lighter later in the afternoon. My list this month is, for the most part, hopeful, or at least leaning toward longer days, warmer temperatures, and perhaps even flowers. It’s how I keep the fire alive.
The poems by Christian Barter mid-month come from his new book, In Someone Else’s House, which he was kind enough to sign for me at AWP in Boston. The kids in first period selected “Heisenberg” primarily because they were amused (bemused?) at the intersection of poetry and science. Let them be!
So: poems. Hope you like ‘em.
March 1, Friday: ”A Birthday” by Christina Rosetti (because tomorrow is my son’s 17th)
March 4, Monday: ”Report from the West” by Tom Hennen
March 5, Tuesday: “Mud Season” by Jane Kenyon
March 6, Wednesday: “Down East News Item” by Maxine Kumin
March 7, Thursday: “The Notice that is called the Spring” by Emily Dickinson
March 8, Friday: “The Wind Sings Welcome in Early Spring” by Carl Sandburg
March 11, Monday: “Heisenberg” by Christian Barter
March 12, Tuesday: ”Stars” by Christian Barter
March 13, Wednesday: ”Twilight Comes” by Hayden Carruth
March 14 & 15: workshop days–no class
March 18, Monday: “Hawk’s Beauty” by Robert Peter Tristram Coffin (whose birthday it is today)
March 19, Tuesday: what? A snow day? Pffft.
March 20, Wednesday: what? ANOTHER snow day? And on the first day of spring? Pfffft.
March 21, Thursday: “Fiction” by Lisel Mueller
March 22, Friday: “A Light exists in Spring” by Emily Dickinson
March 25, Monday: “Morning” by Frederick Smock
March 26, Tuesday: ”The Sound of Trees” by Robert Frost (because it’s his birthday!)
March 27, Wednesday: “Everything is Going to Be All Right” by Derek Mahon (with thanks to Annie Deppe for the suggestion)
March 28, Thursday: ”Early Spring” by Rainer Maria Rilke
March 29, Friday: “Very Early Spring” by Katherine Mansfield
At the end of the month I received in the mail a lovely card from the poet Ellen Rachlin, thanking me for sharing her poem “Night Swim” last May. How wonderful! This is the contact I long for, that between people who share the love of the word. (Also, it’s good that I put up a new mailbox that week, just in time, to replace the one hit by the snowplow…)
Jonathan Byrd’s a seventh generation North Carolinian who plays a flat-picking guitar and sings. What does he sing? Most of his show at the Chocolate Church in Bath on Saturday night was made up of original compositions, though he threw in several by friends of his from the plains, from Canada–wherever he’d picked the songs up in his travels. And travel he does, in a little rental car, packing his guitar and as many CDs as he thinks he’ll sell–though last summer, he did gigs in Europe (not in that car), including one festival in England at which some of my English friends discovered him. He’s underground, but as he put it Saturday night, when encouraging the audience to find him online (and buy his work, as he’d sold out of CDs on this trip), he’s everywhere.
I discovered him through my friend Brenda Sparks Prescott. She’d found him in venues around Boston, had him do a house concert at her place. Then she sent me one of his CDs, This is the New That, which he had signed and on which he had written Play it loud! I played it loud, and I played another of his CDs Brenda had sent me–Cackalack–all the way down the highway to Bath, to get in the mood. When I met my way-cool sister, I told her I hoped he’d play two songs from Cackalack, “Scuppernong” and “I Was an Oak Tree.” I got my wish on one of the two, as he opened the Chocolate Church show with the latter. (My sister, who didn’t know of him–you will, Brenda told her–seemed to like it.) On my other side, a couple was singing along; the man actually requested a song later in the program. The acoustics were fantastic, even though we were in the front row, but that might have been the space, or the single mic. Jonathan Byrd played on a bare stage, with only a stool to hold his water bottle and his scarf (someone must have made that for him, said my sister, the inveterate knitter).
He puts on a good show. I knew many of the songs he played, from my CDs. ”Chicken Wire” was a fun one, especially when he did the rooster impression; the á capella “Poor Johnny” had everyone singing. My sister was affected by “Father’s Day” from Cackalack, an autobiographical song about the singer’s relationship with the father he didn’t understand until after his death. I was pleased to hear an acoustic version of “Amelia, My Dream,” one of my favorite songs from the fully-accompanied This is the New That; and the story behind the song, about a dangerous former girlfriend who burned down his house, was a distinctly odd counterpoint to the beautiful lyrics:
Amelia, my dream
The eyes of a doe
Watch for our children wherever you go
They’re the color of leaves
The color of snow
Amelia, my dream, I still love you so
With the intermission, the show was about 2 1/2 hours long. Jonathan Byrd made himself available to fans between sets, and again afterwards. He estimated at one point that the theater held about 50 people; I couldn’t tell from the front row. What I could tell from there was that all of us in the front row were there for him–we were singing–but hadn’t known about the seating per se. I was directly in front of the mic; my view, as I later told him, was of his knees and up. A person more familiar with the venue would probably would have chosen seats a couple of rows back. Next time I’ll know–the woman at the box office implied that they’d have Jonathan Byrd back again, and she’d make sure I chose better seats then.
Much of the between-songs patter was about his family: his wife (his “.38 Baby”) and son Rowan, who loves trains and songs about trains. Thus the encore was “The City of New Orleans.” My sister had said at intermission that she hoped he wouldn’t play another song that made her cry–but “The City of New Orleans” has always made me cry. Don’t ask me why. I can’t help it. And I choked up singing the refrain the other night, too.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the blog posts Jonathan Byrd put out last summer, especially those from Denmark and England. This man is a writer: evocative, atmospheric. Why he isn’t more well-known than he is is well beyond me
It’s March. So it must be time for the Saw Doctors!
This time last year, I adventured out to Mohegan Sun with Tommy and Suzanne Strempek Shea to see the Shams at the Wolf’s Den. This year, I was on my own, Tommy having fled to the Middle East to edit a newspaper in Abu Dhabi. The closest venue to me this time around was Tupelo Music Hall, in Londonderry, NH. I’d never been there, though I’d heard great things.
The hall did not disappoint. By far the smallest place I’ve ever seen a Saw Doctors show, Tupelo seats 240 and has standing room for a few more up back. It’s intimate. I told a friend that, with my seat on the right, I was so close to Anthony Thistlethwaite’s side of the stage that I could probably feel him breathing. But I also told her that, as my seat was on the aisle, I wouldn’t spend much time sitting, either. And I didn’t. How could anyone sit when the Saw Doctors take the stage within arm’s length, and open up with “Macnas Parade?”
That’s getting ahead of things, though.
The band took a roundabout way to the stage, in from the back and up the aisle on my side, led by Leo Moran–who was wearing the parking attendant’s vest and waving his orange flag to clear the path. Since the audience was perhaps 90% long-time fans, this was the sort of arrival they were used to, and it provoked much familiar laughter. It set the tone for the evening, too: one of controlled hilarity. After mounting the stage, Leo said that, had they known they’d be so close to us (of course they knew), some of them might have showered. The band was in a fine humor all night, with patter between songs that included giving a hard time to drummer Rickie O’Neill (apparently all the women are now asking Davey and Leo if they play in that band with the cute young drummer), a bit of political/economic commentary, and a geographic placement of band members (Leicester? Islington? Chicago?). Then Leo’d say something about enough messing and they’d wheel into another round of playing.
Many favorites were represented on the playlist: not just “Macnas Parade” and the song Tommy Shea identifies as a masterpiece, “Takin’ the Train” (I agree with Tommy), but the sexy naughtiness of “That’s What She Said,” ”Bless Me, Father,” and “I Useta Love Her.” In such a small house, the sound was raucous, especially as the faithful sang along–I had visions of the building rocking right off its foundations. Of course, as masterful showmen of long standing, they ratcheted the intensity down a notch or two with quiet songs such as “To Win Just Once” and “Share the Darkness” and then back up again with more rowdy pieces such as “Michael D” (that paean to Irish President Higgins) and “25 Quid.” That call to the Irish in all of us, “The Green and Red of Mayo,” had everyone swaying; and Anto Thistlethwaite’s solo on the sax in “Clare Island” sent us all into ecstasies. And of course, the band wound everyone up and off with “Hay Wrap”: when the bunch of them, Kevin Duffy included, lined up with the electric guitars, the roof nearly came off. The first note had me jumping up and down in the aisle. MY aisle.
Each of the Saw Doctors shows I’ve been to have had a different flavor. Last year’s, in the round theater in the middle of the casino, was kinetic and electric, and the big projection screen overhead lent it a kind of Superbowl feel; but this intimate show at Tupelo, with its patter which frequently turned to conversations between stage and floor, and the sense that the band was blowing the roof not off a concert hall but off our living room–this was by far the best.
I’m always grateful to Leo for playing “Galway and Mayo.” It’s a song that makes me think about my dad, and after talking to Leo about it last year, I was inspired to write a bit of flash fiction, “My Father Walks Through Water,” which was published in The Waterhouse Review. Mine was a dad who drove us around the countryside in a Ford, too.
This month I was ambivalent. I wanted to read poems about love, after a fashion, because of Valentine’s Day. But this February was also full of winter, full of snow, and so many snow poems presented themselves. Thus, I waffled back and forth. Top this all off with a healthy dose of restlessness, and there it went. Skyscrapers? Sure, Carl Sandburg–this from a man who crossed the country in boxcars–the embodiment of restlessness. I had planned a theme, and it fell apart, as the best laid plans oft do.
So. Poems. Here they are.
February 1, Friday: ”February: Thinking of Flowers” by Jane Kenyon
February 4, Monday: ”The Skyscraper Loves Night” by Carl Sandburg
February 5, Tuesday: ”Cold Night: the Wild Duck” by Basho
February 6, Wednesday: ”Figment” by Lance Nizami
February 7, Thursday: ”Apology” by Richard Wilbur
February 8, Friday: ”Blizzard” by William Carlos Williams
February 11, Monday: “The Presence” by Maxine Kumin
February 12, Tuesday: “To My Valentine” by Ogden Nash
February 13, Wednesday: “Another Unfortunate Choice” by Wendy Cope (because the magnificent Jenny Doughty suggested it)
February 14, Thursday: Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett
Browning February 15, Friday: Winter Carnival day–no classes.
February 18-22: February vacation
February 25, Monday: “Snow Flakes” by Emily Dickinson
February 26, Tuesday: ”Toward Spring” by Cleopatra Mathis
February 27, Wednesday: ”In the Late Season” by Tom Hennen
February 28, Thursday: ”It is a Beauteous Evening” by William Wordsworth (this because we were reading Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and the young people needed the comparison)
Thus a strange sort of February down. Next up, March–and spring. Hallelujah. I’m tired of winter, and there are many many spring poems to look ahead to.
As always, I’m open to suggestions!
Back in the Ice Age, at my graduate school graduation, I made a speech entitled “The Value of Ignorance.” My premise was that, if you recognize your own lack of knowledge, you give yourself the opportunity to rectify that lack; those people who firmly believe that they know everything–and we’ve all met them–never allow themselves the opportunity to learn something new. For my part, I am frequently mortified by how much I simply don’t know; but then I’m excited to be able to find out. Exploration is my drug of choice.
At this point, allow me to detail my journey to Bellowhead’s newest release, Broadside, winner of this year’s BBC 2 Radio Folk Awards Best Album. Many years ago, a wonderful friend, musician and ed tech in the special ed department attempted to teach my how to play the ukulele: his name was Lowell Oyster, and when I wrote about that particular contretemps, I dedicated the piece to him. When I read that piece at the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance fall writing getaway, the marvelous Tommy Shea heard it and immediately asked if I knew Oysterband. I’ve since come to be a rabid Oysterband fan, and if we fast-forward to last summer, I ended up participating (for one day, but what a day) in lead singer John Jones’ White Horses Walk; that evening I attended John’s Reluctant Ramblers show, where I met Benji Kirkpatrick, who, in another part of his life, plays bouzouki for Bellowhead. Are you following me? Convoluted, I know, but such are the best explorations.
There is something almost frighteningly attractive
about the Bellowhead sound. It’s huge. Well, it would have to be, what with 12 band members, who, between them, play something like 20 instruments (Benji Kirkpatrick alone, beyond the bouzouki, plays guitar, banjo and mandolin). Don’t let that folk appellation lull you: this is a band playing folk songs, sure, but along with all their strings and melodeon, they’ve a full brass section, an oboe, occasional bagpipes. The resulting sound is something like a cross between an orchestra pit and a tent revival, with a bit of klezmer thrown in. Jon Boden’s vocals, ranging from wild shouting to scratchy whispers and encompassing everything in between, fascinate and spellbind, especially when he and the enormous band play with dynamics.
(According to my friend Roger O’Neill, who was kind enough to dig Burlesque (2006) out of his massive CD collection to start me on my Bellowhead journey, Jon Boden and John Spiers, who had begun appearing together in 1999 or so, found their sound frequently too small for the bigger festival venues. Apparently, when they tried to think of musician friends to join them to fill out the sound, they just couldn’t stop.)
The lyrics on Broadside? Odd, narrative, tongue-in-cheek. Reminiscent, sometimes (as in “Black Beetle Pie”) of something vaguely Sweeny Todd-ish:
Come all you fine ladies
Listen to my tale
A curious story
To you I will tell
Such a strange little tale
Such a nasty surprise
There’s a lady who feeds the poor on her
Black beetle pies
Broadside is a party. I’m glad I was invited, albeit in a circuitous way. And it’s always good to know that
… we all got blue blind paralytic drunk
When the Old Dun Cow caught fire
P. S. The awesome vid for “Roll the Woodpile Down”:
January! What a hard month. The cruelest one–don’t you believe anyone who tells you that’s April. The big come-down off the holiday high, the wind howling down from the north, freezing everything it touches…and then suddenly, a day with a warm south wind that gives you a hint of what you’ve been missing, before yanking you back into the deep-freeze. I have such trouble with January. It saps me emotionally, more than anything else.
And yet, it’s a month which has encouraged so many poets to sit and take up the pen. Perhaps because it’s ever so much better to huddle next to the woodstove and battle with words than to go outside and battle with frostbite?
In any case, here are some poems for this month:
January 2, Wednesday: ”New Year Resolve” by May Sarton
January 3, Thursday: “Glass Night” by Wes McNair
January 4, Friday: “Orchard Trees, January” by Richard Wilbur
January 7, Monday: “Wind” by Ted Hughes
January 8, Tuesday: “The Snow that Never Drifts” by Emily Dickinson
January 9, Wednesday: “Myth Dispelled” by Adam Possner (because everyone’s getting the flu!)
January 10, Thursday: “Witness” by Denise Levertov
January 11, Friday: “You, Reading This, Be Ready” by William Stafford
January 14, Monday: “Thaw” by Edward Thomas
January 15, Tuesday: “Now Winter Nights Enlarge” by Thomas Campion
January 16, Wednesday: “The Snow Storm” by Edna St. Vincent Millay (anyone who can use “hexagonal” as an end-rhyming word is a goddess)
January 17: Thursday: “The Bridge” by Dawn Potter
January 18, Friday: “Cold Poem” by Mary Oliver
January 21, Monday: no school–Martin Luther King Day
January 22, Tuesday: “Poem About an Owl” by Deborah Garrison
January 23-25, Wednesday-Friday: midterm exams.
January 28, Monday: “A Little Shiver” by Barton Sutter
January 29, Tuesday: “Good-bye and Keep Cold” by Robert Frost
January 30, Wednesday: What? A snow day? Well, ice, really, but the end’s the same.
January 31, Thursday: “A South Wind–has a pathos” by Emily Dickinson
And so–we made it. Through January, to its strangely balmy end. Wonder what’s in store for February? Hey, you! You reading this! Send me some poem titles! Thanks.
You know what? The world didn’t end, and overall, it wasn’t a bad year. If it wasn’t for the distinct possibility that next year will be equally good–if not better–I’d be sad to see the end of 2012.
I was thinking the other day of a conversation I had some 25 years ago with my younger sister Jane. We
were in my old car (a two-tone two-door 1978 Mercury Zephyr, if you must know) driving across the green bridge between Topsham and Brunswick in the snowy dark–every detail of this moment has stuck with me for years, it’s so important–when I said, apropos of nothing, I want so many things, and none of them are things. To which my sister replied, I do, too. Well, Jane’s off in Manila working for the State Department. I’m on the side of a mountain in central Maine watching state plows strobe past. She, I think, is closer to those many things than I am right now…but sometimes, my universe expands.
This year it was with people. New people I met through ones I already knew; new people I met through new people; new people I met serendipitously.
For instance: way back in March, along with that most fantastic couple, the novelist Suzanne Strempek Shea and her husband the newspaperman Tommy Shea, I saw the Saw Doctors at Mohegan Sun. At the show we were seated next to Christine Feeney and her husband Ger, another couple of avid Saw Doctors fans. So avid that right now, the Feeneys are in Ireland for the holidays (they used to live there), where, of course, they had tickets for one of the Docs’ shows on their winter tour. (Envious? Oh, yes.) When Suzanne, Tommy and I went backstage after the Mohegan Sun show, I met new drummer Rickie O’Neill, and though I’d already met the others, I got a kiss from Davey Carton, and got to discuss Flannery O’Connor with Leo Moran. ”A Good Man is Hard to Find”: distairbing. I’ll tell you what: if I wasn’t in love with the man before, I sure am now.
Of course, the highlight of the year had to have been the trip to the UK. Of course. I went for Stephen Benatar’s publication party for the reissue of The Man on the Bridge. While there, I met his partner, Sam Robbins, who is incredibly good-looking, an interesting dancer, who knows all the words to all the songs in Evita, and paints. Paints! Stephen had a painting of Sam’s which fascinated me–all swirls of jewel-tones and gold leaf, and textured in such a way that I reacted to it viscerally and tactilely. I wanted to touch it. Desperately. Even though I knew I shouldn’t. I didn’t really understand my reaction, either, programmed as I am to understand representational art. This painting made me think of water, though I’ve never seen water quite that color; but there was nothing in it that I could point to and say that’s the ocean, right there–see? That’s a wave. However, imagine my surprise and delight when earlier this month a package arrived from the Dynamic Duo in London: my Christmas present–Sam’s painting. It’s now on the wall in my bedroom, the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Oh, I’m in love with the both of them, too.
Through Stephen, too, I met the inimitable John Ford. Or, as I’ve come to think of him, John-from-Islington. He was my savior at the publication party in the first hour or so before Stephen arrived. He squired me around, introduced me to others, made sure my glass was full. I’m fairly certain he must have recognized instinctively that I’m an easily frightened person; he took charge, and was incredibly solicitous. Since then, he’s been kind enough to forward some brochures and postcards from his autumn opera safari, so that my kids at school can have more places in the world to think about. What a delightful person! All right, then, I admit it: I’m in love with him as well.
Julia Hawkes-Moore, novelist, gourmet cook, and all-around magnificent hostess: I had known her through the discussion boards of Qi, the British quiz show. When I sent her a message, asking if we might meet up and do lunch when I was in England, her reply was simply come for the weekend! Can you imagine? She made arrangements for me to meet up with her friend–now my friend–Roger O’Neill at one of the park-and-ride lots on the ring road outside of Oxford, then he and I drove up to her in Bromyard. What a weekend! Food, books, talk, drink, explorations, gardens. Thanks to her, I also met her BFF (Julia’s words–letters–not mine), Jo Morris, who makes damson gin. I’m not kidding here. And forager jam, which is to die for. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much, or eaten so much, in a single weekend in my life. If she’ll have me, I’ll show up on Julia’s front step anytime for more of the same. Yep. In love. You know it.
23 people walked out of Goring-on-Thames on the rainy first day of the White Horses Walk, organized by Oysterband’s John Jones. I was one of them. I’d met only John before, and to tell the truth, looking out of the rain-streaked window of the B & B early that Monday morning, I told myself, easily-frightened person that I am, that I didn’t have to do this. And then I told myself that I did. So I marched out into the wet and met up with the bunch of strangers…and by the time we hit
Nettlebed late that afternoon, wet, muddy and ready for a pint at the White Hart, they weren’t strangers. Lesley Edwards told me about her YouTube videos, most of which I’d seen long before I met her; she also clued me in about the Oysterband’s Canadian tour in the fall. Lesley Collett and Steve Allen talked to me about walks around York, and underwater archeology. Colin shared his gummy bears. Trish and Stephen made jokes about machetes. Anne and Paul did a quick-change in a car park out of gaiters and boots into shorts and sandals which taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. They all let me celebrate Lesley’s birthday at dinner. Else refused to take my seat in the front row at the show at the intermission, because she’d see other shows that week and I wouldn’t. Lauren gave me a ride back to Goring at midnight in her car, mud and all. I had to see them off the next morning on their second day of walking, even though I couldn’t go–and I got hugs all around, and promised–promised–I’d be back. Because I loved them all: who wouldn’t?
Through Lesley Edwards, I ended up meeting Marg Thomas and her husband Jeremy, who live just outside of Huntsville, Ontario. You remember Lesley giving me the scoop on the Oysterband tour of Canada? How’s that for serendipity: Lesley introduced me to Marg online once we’d determined I was going to the Huntsville show, and Marg, in her infinite kindness, offered me an air mattress in her dining room. Stay
for a couple of days, she said. (No, it wasn’t her fault her lovely huge Newfie puppy bit a hole in the air mattress!). Marg and I stayed after the show for drinks in the dressing room with the band, where I met long-time fan Michael Schneider, who celebrated his 50th birthday by introducing the show (and apparently searching out passable sauvignon blanc for Ian Telfer), then spent the next day exploring. Word of advice: if you want to see the countryside, go with a woman who plows it in a big red truck in the winter. Marg knew where everything I should see was, and she introduced me to butter tarts. How could it have been any better? Well…maybe if I hadn’t ended up being trapped in the depths of a partially deflated air mattress…but never mind…I love her anyway…
So look at all this! I’ve been thinking about how my universe has been made bigger with all these really neat people entering into it this year, and once again I’m reminded: I really am the luckiest person in the world. How could I not be, with all these new people to love? If there’s one resolution I’m making for 2013, it’s to keep up with these new friends. If my luck holds, I’ll make some new ones this coming year as well.
Happy New Year, all. I love you guys. You know it.
Sometimes an amazing thing happens. You are plugging away, sharing the news article of the week, as chosen by the librarian, with your classes: it happens to be about a fire in a Bangladeshi garment factory, and a boy says, “That reminds me of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory!”…So you dig out your age-old copy of Fragments from the Fire, and read the kids a poem about that. Suddenly a kid says, “Hey, that’s cool that somebody can write in a dead girl’s voice about something a hundred years old that’s history that really happened and that’s still happening today!” Then you, a struggling and sometimes disillusioned teacher, start seeing dots connect…and it’s okay. It is cool. That’s what reading poems every day brings to me when I pay attention. I hope it brings the same thing to the kids. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Here’s the list for this month.
December 3, Monday: ”In the Fog” by Giovanni Pascoli (because it sure was foggy this morning!)
December 4, Tuesday: “I Am Appalled” by Chris Llewellyn (from Fragments from the Fire, because we fell into a discussion of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire yesterday)
December 5, Wednesday: “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur
December 6, Thursday: “In the Reading Room” by David Ferry
December 7, Friday: “One Perfect Rose” by Dorothoy Parker (because you know what? I’m feeling a bit snarky today myself!)
December 10, Monday: Snow day–no school. Well, more accurately, ice day.
December 11, Tuesday: ”Snow Flakes” by Emily Dickinson (the poem I had intended for yesterday, her birthday, which was somewhat ironically snowed out)
December 12, Wednesday: ”Winter Happiness” by Jack Gilbert
December 13, Thursday: ”Afternoon Nap” by David Shumate
December 14, Friday: ”Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost (though a girl in 7th period thought we ought to have saved this for the Mayan apocalypse on the 21st)
December 17, Monday: “Noel” by Linda Pastan
December 18, Tuesday: “Winter Trees” by William Carlos Williams
December 19, Wednesday: “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens
December 20, Thursday: “Snow” by Frederick Seidel
December 21, Friday: “Snow Day” by Billy Collins
I am a mother; I am a teacher. The December 14th school shooting in Sandy Hook brought me to the edge of despair. It angered my students, and on a much deeper level, terrified them; it did the same to my own children. All I could say to them was that we need to take care of each other, and that I had to have faith that we could.
Be well. Be safe. Be kind to one another. We owe this to the world.
Happy New Year.