So, the U.S. government has gone into shutdown. If there is a good time to practice the "keep calm" mantra, now is certainly one. And as someone who works for public schools, this really sucks. Big time. Special education, which is the department that I work for, is one of the two exceptions that will continue to receive federal funding despite the shutdown, so I guess we are "lucky" (if you can call it that). Still, according to this article, there are programs that are at risk from a lengthy shutdown including Head Start for preschool children and the National School Lunch Program.
I really can't believe it has come to this. The children, most of all, don't deserve this. Especially if a group of men in the Congress is acting like stubborn kids themselves. They remind me of those playground bullies who throw their weight around just because they think they can. Unbelievable. I'm getting a headache just thinking about the number of people that's going to be affected and the trickle down effect that will happen if this will go on for a longer period of time.
Let's talk about poetry instead. Here is a poem that is very apt for today, along with the tree photo above. It was taken a year ago and I've always thought of it as a reminder to try and find humor in everything. And boy do we need that right now.
What Kind of Times Are These
by Adrienne Rich
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
*Watch Adrienne Rich read this poem here.
The cat looked at me and my disposable camera and turned her head away as soon as I clicked the shutter. Afterwards, when I had already put my camera away, she came up to me and we stayed there, in the middle of someone's courtyard, surrounded by wild roses and all that golden light.
I need to remind myself of these moments, especially on days like today when I'm running on 4 hours of sleep and feeling so exhausted that I have no time for anything else when I get home from work. I need to remind myself, after reading this series and feeling sick to my stomach that we live in such a world where people can be so cruel and heartless. I need to remind myself that there is still beauty, goodness, and moments of simple joy.
Today is Mary Oliver's birthday. The Poetry Foundation shared this poem in her honor.
"I am thinking/ that language / is not a river / is not a tree is not a green field / is not even a black ant traveling / briskly modestly / from day to day from one / golden page to another."
-- Mary Oliver, excerpt from Forty Years
I've spent some of the best moments with my favorite people here. Sunny afternoons napping on a blanket, reading a book, or watching the swans go by.
One lovely summer day with my mom, we had a small picnic under a tree, I brought my copy of Jane Eyre and opened it randomly to the scene at the library when Rochester talked to Jane for the first time and said, "You examine me, Miss Eyre...Do you think me handsome?"
I might have sighed aloud and my mom just smiled and shook her head. She does not read books but she understands how I live in them sometimes.
Labor Day 2013, Ocean Beach.
What you don't see in these photos:
A red-orange bridge, hidden by a playful fog named Karl.
Rows of sand dunes where one can sit and dream. And dream some more.
Lots and lots of birds skimming the water's edge.
Surfers, out far, riding the waves.
A group of friends, playing music and drinking beer.
A girl, perched on top of a sand dune, lost in a book.
Young children, running down hills as fast as they can.
Chipped red nail polish on my toes, against the ocean blue.
It was a lovely afternoon.
Sometime last spring, my phone was broken so I drove to a Verizon store to get it fixed only to find out that they had closed early (it was Sunday). Frustrated, I walked back to my car and saw this alley completely illuminated by the setting sun. It was almost like an outdoor stage with the string of light bulbs above and mountains in the distance.
So I went to a nearby pharmacy and bought a disposable camera. The guy behind the counter was taking his sweet time and telling me how people rarely use film camera these days and I just wanted him to hurry up so I can still catch the light. I don't know why it was suddenly important for me to take a photo. Then I ran back to the alley just in time before the sky turned to dark.
The world lost a great poet last Friday. Seamus Heaney's last words, a text message to his wife, were in Latin: 'Noli timere' – 'don't be afraid.' Indeed very fitting for a brave and generous soul whose life and works had touched so many people's hearts.
Here is one of my favorites of his poetry. So vivid and tender, it hit me like a punch in the gut when I read it for the first time. And oh, that last stanza!
Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication
for Mary Heaney
There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall
of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove
sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.
Now she dusts the board
with a goose's wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails
and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.
And here is love
like a tinsmith's scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.
Have a listen to Seamus Heaney read this poem here.
(Image credit: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland)