3.21.2022 – Are you sitting in

are you sitting in
the catbird seat? explain what
the gibberish mean
s

The one and only reason this haiku got written is because it makes me laugh.

Wellllll, maybe not the haiku itself, but the source.

Hopefully someone recognizes that it comes from a short story, Sitting in the Catbird Seat by James Thurber.

Not place dropping, but I was at Thurber’s house this past summer in Columbus, Ohio.

Due to Covid, the museum wasn’t open but Leslie let me run around the outside of the house taking pictures and two little girls came by selling flowers they had just picked from the next door garden so we sat on the front porch, sitting in the catbird seat, and had a nice little chat.

The phrase, sitting in the Catbird Seat, is a quote from Red Barber, the radio announcer of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In the short story, Thurber writes:

She was constantly shouting these silly questions at him. “Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are you sitting in the catbird seat?”

It was Joey Hart, one of Mr. Martin’s two assistants, who had explained what the gibberish meant. “She must be a Dodger fan,” he had said. “Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions–picked ’em up down South.” Joey had gone on to explain one or two. “Tearing up the pea patch” meant going on a rampage; “sitting in the catbird seat” meant sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him.

The short story was one my mind, and I know what you are thinking, these stories are always on my mind, but that’s not true.

It’s the short story, “One is a Wanderer” that is always on my mind, but that is for another time or an earlier time as I know I must have commented on it a couple of times in this blog.

But why tonight?

When bored and wanting something to read that won’t land me in a war – as an aside I think the last 10 or so books, fiction and non fiction, that I picked up landed me in a war or a refuge crisis or somehow, I am still not sure, in a morgue – I check out what my Canadian Friends have added to the Faded Page.

You will remember that those wonderful people in Canada are finding older books whose authors or copyright holders have allowed the Canadian Copyright’s to expire which puts these books in the public domain.

They are careful to say that if the copyright is enforce in your country, Do Not Download These Books.

So please be aware of that and please don’t throw me in that briar patch.

When I checked tonight, Faded Page had added a half dozen Thurber Books including Thurber Carnival, My Life and Welcome To It and the far-to-little-read The Years with Ross.

These are all there, ready to download for any device or read online.

You can read Sitting in the Catbird Seat here and I hope you do.

The books are here and you read or down epubs or mobi.

Did I tell you how much I love Canadians?

Like Mr. Martin, I will end with, “He went out and shut the door, and his step was light and quick in the hall. When he entered his department he had slowed down to his customary gait, and he walked quietly across the room to the W20 file, wearing a look of studious concentration.

3.20.2022 – imagination

imagination
must paint this – broken hearts can
not be photographed

This photograph is from the war in Ukraine where a memorial for the children killed in the war was created by empty strollers and car seats.

The text of the haiku comes from an article in the New York Times dated October 20, 1862.

The article is a review of the showing at Mathew Brady’s Studio of the first photographs of a battlefield made available to the general public, ever.

The reviewer wrote:

These is one side of the picture that the sun did not catch, one phase that has escaped photographic skill it is the background of widows and orphans, torn from the bosom of their natural protectors by the red remorseless hand of Battle, and thrown upon the brotherhood of God. Homes have been made desolate, and the light of life in thousands of hearts has been quenched forever. All of this desolation imagination must paint — broken hearts cannot be photographed.

This is one the of the photographs that was displayed at Brady’s Studio.

The reviewer stated: Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it. At the door of his gallery hangs a little placard, “The Dead of Antietam.” Crowds of people are constantly going up the stairs; follow them, and you find them bending over photographic views of that fearful battle-field, taken immediately after the action. Of all objects of horror one would think the battle-field should stand preeminent, that it should bear away the palm of repulsiveness. But, on the contrary, there is a terrible fascination about it that draws one near these pictures, and makes him loth to leave them. You will see hushed, reverend groups standing around these weird copies of carnage, bending down to look in the pale faces of the dead, chained by the strange spell that dwells in dead men’s eyes. It seems somewhat singular that the same sun that looked down on the faces of the slain, blistering them, blotting out from the bodies all semblance to humanity, and hastening corruption, should have thus caught their features upon canvas, and given them perpetuity for ever. But so it is.

We don’t need to go the gallery on Broadway.

Jut turn on the TV.

Just open a device.

Seems like maybe we should have come up with a solution to this in 160 years.

But so it is.

1862.

Damn.

3.19.2022 -saudade, long lost

saudade, long lost
irretrievable but
the dream of it

” … there is a word in Portuguese called saudade that appeared to represent the farm and our lives, a homesickness or longing for something vital that had been irretrievably lost and only the dream of it could be recovered.”

From “The Road Home” by Jim Harrison.

The online dictionary defines saudade (sau – da – de) as a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.

Wikipedia says, “Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never be had again.”

Then Wikipedia adds this.

Saudade is a word in Portuguese and Galician that claims no direct translation in English.

However, a close translation in English would be “desiderium.”

Desiderium is defined as an ardent desire or longing, especially a feeling of loss or grief for something lost.

Desiderium.

Not a bad word.

Desiderium.

But it smacks of things other than the heart some how.

Desiderium.

No, I will take saudade.

I keep saudade in my head for those moments when there are no words.

Somewhere along the line of my life I came across the singing of Cesaria Evora.

Her song Sodade is a saudade put to music.

I am not sure what it is called when a feeling, an outlook, a word and a song all combine the same way.

Jenny Lawson writes in ‘Furiously Happy” that when there are no words, she has license to make one up.

For me then, when a feeling, an outlook, a word and a song all combine the same way I call in omniaonomatopoeia.

In Portuguese it comes out as saudade.

In English, there is no translation.

3.18.2022 – present perspective

present perspective
creates no absolutely
new situation

In a sermon preached at the invitation of Canon T.R. Milford at Solemn Evensong in the Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin on June 8, 1941, C.S. Lewis said this:

I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective.

The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.

Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.

Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.

Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.

This sermon was after almost two years of war between Great Britain and Germany.

TWO YEARS that we here in America watched and read about the invasion and destruction of Poland.

TWO YEARS that we here in America watched and read about the invasion and destruction of Holland, Belgium and Denmark.

TWO YEARS that we here in America watched and read about the invasion and destruction of France.

TWO YEARS that we here in America watched and read about the invasion and destruction of Norway.

TWO YEARS that we here in America listened to Edward R. Murrow say, This … is London.

TWO Years that we here in America listened to Murrow say, with the sounds of bombs falling and going off, “The lights are swinging over in this general direction now. You’ll hear two explosions. There they are. That was the explosion overhead, not the guns themselves. I should think in a few minutes there may be a bit of shrapnel around here. Coming in–moving a little closer all the while. The plane’s still very high.”

TWO YEARS that we here in America listened to Winston Churchill saying things like “we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

And then something happened.

You know what?

The Japanese, on December 7, 1941, bombed Pearl Harbor.

And America was at war with Japan.

Then for reasons historians have debated for last 80 years, wonder of wonders, Hitler declared war on the United States of America.

Had Herr Hitler not done that, it is doubtful that the United States would have got into that European war.

The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.

America has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.

And sometimes, that has been very hard for American’s to take.

PS: This photo of FDR on Dec 8th is in today’s House of Representatives. The rostrum was completely rebuilt to today’s polished wooden look in the 1950’s. The ceiling was also replaced as when this room was built, in the 1860’s during the Civil War, the ceiling was a vast leaded glass skylight which was being replaced when this photograph was taken.

3.16.2022 – Strong doesn’t mean big

Strong doesn’t mean big
Strong is brave to fight for right
to live decently

This is from one of the few known prints of Van Gogh’s Six Sunflowers – the original was destroyed by bombs on Japan in WW2

Strong doesn’t mean big.

Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world, human rights for freedom, for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes, and not when it’s wanted by someone else, by your neighbor.

I am almost 45 years old. Today my age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths. This is my mission as a leader of my people. and as a leader of my nation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the US Congress on March 16. Below is a translated transcript of his speech, primarily delivered in Ukrainian, and taken from the C-Span network.

Thank you very much, madam speaker, members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen.

Americans, friends. I am proud to greet you from Ukraine, from our capital city of Kyiv, the city under missile and airstrikes from Russians every day.

It does not give up. We have not even thought about it for a second. Just like many other cities and communities in our beautiful country which found themselves in the worst war since World War II. I have been honored to greet you on behalf of the Ukrainian people and freedom-loving people who for years have been resisting Russian aggression. Those who give their best sons and daughters to stop this full-scale Russian invasion.

Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy. Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, our cities. It went on a brutal offensive against our values. Basic human values. Against our freedom, our right to live freely, choosing our own future. Against our desire for happiness, against our national dreams.

Just like the same things you have, you Americans. Just like anyone else in the United States. I remember the national memorial Mount Rushmore. the faces of your prominent presidents, those who laid the foundation of the United States of America. Democracy, independence, freedom.

For every person who works diligently, who lives honestly, who respects the law, we in Ukraine want the same for our people. All that is a normal part of your own life.

Ladies and gentlemen, Americans, in your great history you would understand Ukrainians. Understand us now. We need you right now.

Remember Pearl Harbor. The morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Remember. Remember September 11. A terrible day in 2001 when people tried to turn your cities into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked attacked from the air. No one expected it. You couldn’t stop it.

Our country experiences the same every day. Right now, this moment, every night for three weeks, in various Ukrainian cities, Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people. Russian troops have fired 1000 missiles at Ukraine. They use drones to kill us with precision.

“No-fly zone”
This is a terror Europe has not seen for 80 years and we are asking for an answer to this terror from the world. Is that a lot to ask? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people. Is this too much to ask? A no-fly zone. Russia would not be able to terrorize our cities.

If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defense systems we need. You know how much depends on the ability to use aircraft to protect our people, our freedom. aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe. We know they exist and you have them. They are not in Ukrainian skies.

“I have a dream. I have a need.”
I have a dream. I have a need. I need to protect our skies. I need your help, which means the same you feel when you hear the words I have a dream. Ladies and gentlemen, friends. Ukraine is grateful to the United States for its overwhelming support. Everything your government and your people have done for us, for weapons and training, for leadership to pressure the aggressor economically.

I am grateful to president Biden for his sincere commitment to the defense of Ukraine and democracy all over the world. I am grateful to you for the resolution which recognizes all of those who commit crimes against Ukraine as war criminals. In the darkest times for our country I call on you to do more.

New sanctions are needed constantly every week until the Russian military machine stops. Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based: all politicians in the Russian Federation who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are responsible for the aggression against Ukraine from the state duma members upwards.

All American companies must leave Russia from their market immediately because it is flooded with our blood. Ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress. If you have companies in your district who financed the Russian military machine, you should put pressure. I am asking to make sure the Russians do not receive a single penny they used to destroy people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe. All American ports should be closed for Russian goods. Peace is more important than income, and we have to defend this principle in the whole world.

We have to defend the world. We already became part of the antiwar coalition, the big antiwar coalition that unites many countries, dozens of countries, those who reacted to president Putin’s decision to invade our country. We need to move on and do more. We need to create more tools to respond quickly and stop the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. It would be fair if it ended in 24 hours, that people would be punished, that evil would be punished.

Today the people do not have such tools. Institutions should protect us from war but they unfortunately do not work. We need new alliances and we offer them. We propose to create an association, united for peace, a union of responsible countries to stop conflict immediately, provide all the necessary assistance in 24 hours, weapons if necessary, sanctions if necessary, humanitarian support, finances, everything you need to keep the peace and quickly to save the world, to save life.

Such associations would provide assistance to those who are experiencing natural disasters, who fell victim to humanitarian crisis or epidemics. Remember how difficult it was for the world to do the simplest things just to get a vaccine against covid to save lives, to prevent new strains. The world spent months, years doing things like that much faster to make sure there are no victims.

Ladies and gentlemen, if such an alliance would exist today we would be able to save thousands of lives in our country, in many countries around the world, those who need peace, those who suffer inhumane destruction. I ask you to watch one video. a video of what the Russian troops did in our country, in our land. We have to destroy every single aggressor who seeks to subjugate other nations. Please watch the video.

In the end, to be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country does not depend only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong does not mean weak. Strong is brave and ready to fight for his citizens as citizens of the world. For human rights. For freedom. The right to live decently and die when your time comes and not when decided by somebody else.

Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine. We are fighting for Europe and the world and our lives in the name of the future. That is why today the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe and the world to keep the planet alive. To keep justice in history.

I am almost 45 years old. Today my age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths. This is my mission as a leader of my people. and as a leader of my nation.

I’m addressing president Biden. You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.

Thank you.

Slava Ukrayini.

3.15.2022 – to speak to strangers

to speak to strangers
everyone had a story
and wanted to tell it

Adapted from the line, “she resolved to speak to strangers, since she had discovered that people like to talk, and it only took a couple of questions to make friends and find out lots of things.”

From the book, The Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (2020 – Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York).

Fitting thoughts while listening to a Concert for Ukraine on the radio (online) from London.

I was thinking about talking to strangers.

There must be something about my wife and I when we go out to the shore or the river as people talk to us.

Most often folks ask us to take a picture of themselves as they can’t get a good selfie together.

One time this nicely dressed couple approached us and asked if we wouldn’t mind taking a couple of pictures if them as a couple with their phone.

They had a story all there own.

They had just been married at a local old church down here on the river side.

Everyone had been there.

Photographer photographed everything.

It all had been picture perfect.

Except that everyone then left and the couple realized they had no photos of themselves that could be posted on facebook or anything else.

That lucky couple got pictures and hugs.

We like talking to people.

We like talking to kids.

But often it seems like kids don’t like talking to us.

My wife says it freaks out kids when I do the pull-the-tip-of-my-finger-off.

But I know better.

Kids are all told not to talk to strangers.

And they aren’t ever going to meet anyone stranger than us.

3.14.2022 – think of violence

think of violence
goes nowhere – to not think
about it, absurd

Adapted from the paragraph:

This is the brain fog of war.

It’s impossible to think straight, because thinking about violence goes nowhere, yields no new insight, has no texture.

The alternative would be to not think about violence, an absurd idea.

Everybody’s in the same state.

If you’re not talking about Ukraine, you’re thinking about it, so everything else you say is gibberish.

It’s better just to talk about it, but say what?

Which appears in the article, The impotent fury of watching the war in Ukraine is giving us all brain fog by Zoe Williams in the Guardian today.

She ends with this:

When all this is over, people say, the world will be changed.

We keep saying that about things. Some phrases I don’t understand, because they don’t mean anything (“new normal”).

Others, I’m only beginning to understand as they draw to a close (“rules-based order”).

The brutal truth is as true for Ukraine as it was for Covid: that those who lose the people they love will be changed for ever, and the rest will find 100 really solid reasons why it’s time to move on.

We might be more human while we’re not thinking straight.

BTW, the image is another sunflower image painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

I have been using the sunflowers as folks have pointed out that the sunflower is the national flower or symbol of Ukraine.

Of this painting it is interesting to note that it is one four paintings by Van Gogh made of sunflowers in August,1888, when models hired for the day did not show up.

Of the four paintings, two are famous and been reproduced around the world and in this blog.

One of the four went into private collection (after being last exhibited in Ohio in 1948 and never seen again).

This painting, named Six Sunflowers, was in a private home in Japan when it was destroyed during a US bombing raid in World War 2 on the same day that Hiroshima was destroyed, in a separate bombing attack on Ashiya.

It’s impossible to think straight, because thinking about violence goes nowhere, yields no new insight, has no texture.

The alternative would be to not think about violence, an absurd idea.

3.13.2022 – have each of us the

have each of us the
advantage of using the
books of all others

In the 1985 movie, Silverado, a western written, produced and directed by Lawrence Kasdan (just after he made The Big Chill, which I saw in special preview in Ann Arbor and which was my first glimpse of the Low Country – I just didn’t appreciate it at the time) there is a scene where Kevin Kline walks through the swinging doors into a saloon and stops, looks around and breathes deep with the satisfaction of someone who has arrived in their one perfect place.

Yesterday, after two years of Covid restrictions and 1 year of reduced operations for renovations, I went back to the Bluffton branch of the Beaufort County Library.

I walked through the double doors and into the lobby and I stopped and looked around and I breathed in deep with the satisfaction of someone who has arrived in their one perfect spot.

According to legend, and in this case by legend, I mean the classic Autobiography of Ben Franklin, which I was taught may have been the single most successful manufactured self-serving long-lasting piece of propaganda ever published but that is for another day (lets just say that Ben was in it for the long game with the possible goal of walking off with the state of Pennsylvania for himself), it was in 1731 that Dr. Franklin and his friends worked out how to share books.

Dr. Franklin writes, “, a proposition was made by me that, since our books were often referr’d to in our disquisitions upon the queries, it might be convenient to us to have them altogether where we met, that upon occasion they might be consulted; and by thus clubbing our books to a common library, we should, while we lik’d to keep them together, have each of us the advantage of using the books of all the other members, which would be nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole. 

It didn’t work out as “yet some inconveniences occurring for want of due care of them” and this first effort was stopped but it led to the what we would call a subscription library and eventually that cornerstone of liberty and freedom, the public library.

Now closing in on 300 years after Ben’s Book Club, in an edge of electronic books and reading, the role of a public library has to be questioned as really necessary?

(Ever see the TV show, The Librarians? I don’t mean the American docu-drama, I mean the one from Australia?)

I will say the the tools have changed but the need, the job, the role of the public library is as important and necessary as at any time in history.

Big surprise there right?

What would anyone expect me to say?

I love the library.

I was happy that when we moved to the low country I saw that the county library system was investing in their buildings and that the local branch, the Bluffton Public Library would be getting almost a million dollar renovation.

And when I walked into the re-opened library building yesterday I just felt good.

Much like a walk on the beach, it was refreshing, good-for-the-soul just to be in there.

I thought of the Hemingway line of, “This is a clean and pleasant café. It is well lighted. The light is very goodand I thought of how in the Hemingway short story, the older waiter thinks, “Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the café.”

The people I know and the people I worked with in the libraries were like that and were often reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the library.

I walked around and just enjoyed the books and the clean, well lit space.

I looked for new books, challenging myself to grab any fiction book at random off the 14 day loan shelf to searching out old favorites and to see how many Jim Harrison books were in the stacks (7!).

I went through the library sale books.

I sat in the new chairs.

I chatted with librarians and volunteers.

I checked my books out and left thinking that maybe, just maybe, the hordes would be held at bay for another 20 or 30 years.

In my life time anyway.

I thought about the other Ben Franklin library story.

When Benjamin Franklin passed away on April 17, 1790, he left Boston and Philadelphia $2,000 for libraries. He’d saved this money while he was Governor of Pennsylvania (1785 to 1788). The money was not to be distributed until 200 years after his death.

In 1990, the bequest was worth $6.5 million and Philadelphia’s portion of the trust was $2 million.

By all scientific examination of Ben’s kite flying in the thunderstorm stunt, Dr. Franklin should have been fried to a crisp.

Kind of glad he wasn’t.

First lending library. Charles Mills murals

3.12.2022 – incongruous range

incongruous range
of turmoil and misery
and stupidity

These last weeks have made it difficult to write both haiku and essays about haiku.

I watch TV and its about the war we can’t do much about.

I pick up one book and suddenly I am back in the refugee crisis caused by the Spanish Civil War.

I pick up another device and without any indication of where I was going, I find myself in Carville, Mississippi and learning about a US minimum security prison that shares housing with the national leprosarium because all persons diagnosed with leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in the U.S. were required, by law, to be quarantined and treated there.

While at the same time, my job is to sell sunshine and beaches online.

Going mad, using both definitions of the word at the same time.

You bet it has been difficult to write both haiku and essays about haiku.

Good gracious, but what is wrong with me today?

What worked for me in the past was to get back to the roots of all this and focus on word usage in my reading.

I came across this line from the book, How Proust Can Change Your Life, by Alain de Botton,

I have been avoiding this book because no matter how I try I cannot get into Proust.

The legendary Civil War writer Shelby Foote loved Proust and claimed to read the complete In Search of Lost Time (all 9 or is it 10 or more volumes) at least 10 times.

But I cannot get it going so I did not want to know how Proust could Change my life.

Anyway I was paging thought the it and there was this:

However brilliant, however wise the work, it seems that the lives of artists can be relied upon to exhibit an extraordinary, incongruous range of turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Now on usage, it is a wonder.

Not just turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Not turmoil, misery, and stupidity that works together and builds on itself.

But incongruous turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Incompatible turmoil, misery, and stupidity.

Turmoil that rejects the misery and the stupidity.

Misery that cannot relate to the stupidity and the turmoil.

Stupidity that cannot understand the turmoil or the misery.

All adding to one vile brew in my brain.

And not just incongruity in my turmoil, misery, and stupidity but extraordinary incongruity in my turmoil, misery and stupidty.

In the words of Charlie Brown, THAT’S IT!.