Still fishin’

Wolf moon over Wolf Lake. With Mars above:

Technically the full moon was 23 hours ago, but I was in class, so here is Wolf Moon, the first full moon of the new year, rising over refineries on the Indiana side of Wolf Lake. I think the way the cloud rises then flattens out makes it look like a dinosaur.

Why is it called Wolf Lake?  And why are these “dog” footprints as large as my sneaker?

The moon is supposed to be at perigee, but it is depressingly dark.  Although it is twenty degrees or so, the snow cover is mostly gone, which cuts down on reflectivity.  I think there is a little mist over the moon, too. I have no tripod, so the photos were taken with the camera pressed firmly against a tree, rock, or fence post. The lightened background and the effects were done with Picasa 3, sorry it doesn’t do PNG, only JPG, so you see some squarish artifacts. Resizing for blog was done with Irfanview. Free programs all.

Here is a poem we were given to memorize in the 6th grade.  Actually we were given a choice between memorizing an insipid two page poem about animals for an A or a one page poem about a wolf for a B.   When it comes to sixth grade poetry , quantity must be the same as quality.  Everyone got the message and memorized the “A” poem, except for the top student in the class whose name was Barton (not Bart) who today is a German professor in Massachusetts. Barton memorized and recited both, ruining his straight A grades with one B just to make a point.  I also memorized the wolf poem, but didn’t tell anybody, which is how I can google it now.  I don’t care if it’s a children’s poem, I still like it.

The Wolf
Georgia Roberts Durston

When the pale moon hides and the wild wind wails,
And over the treetops the nighthawk sails,
The gray wolf sits on the world’s far rim
And howls: and it seems to comfort him.

The wolf is a lonely soul, you see,
No beast in the wood, nor bird in the tree,
But shuns his path; in the windy gloom
They give him plenty, and plenty of room.

So he sits with his long, lean face to the sky
Watching the ragged clouds go by.
There in the night, alone, apart,
Singing the song of his lone, wild heart.

Far away, on the world’s dark rim
He howls, and it seems to comfort him.

gone fishin’

Dusk at Wolf Lake. Freezing rain all day, but finally the temperature got one degree above freezing. Time for a walk. After two weeks with the flu (so much for flu shots), it’s good to get out. Looking north with the glow of Chicago on the left:

Looking east with the glow of Hammond on the right:

There are huge, I mean really huge, “dog” foot prints in the snow.

Last supper

No, not Leonardo da Vinci’s famous mural, and not my own last, last supper, although you can never know for sure, but a metaphor for putting yourself in the presence of virtual, or depending on what internet slang you use, “invisible” friends.  And also a sort of bowing out of writing new posts for the next couple of days, since I have a work project due this weekend, which will take a lot of time with “rubrics” and such.  It doesn’t pay all that much, but I have been told in glowing terms how good it will look on my resumé CV.

If you follow a blog for any length of time, sooner or later the babble disentangles itself into discrete human voices, humans which you will probably never shake hands or share a cup of coffee with, but people you have ended up spending some enjoyable hours with.  And yes, you would like to be in the same room with them, somehow.

I think my all time favorite discussion is here, in a thread with most of my favorite commenters, that turned into a recipe discussion about Welsh rabbit.  It was even more poignant because my personal life had taken a turn for the worse, and I was living between a place with no electricity and another place with no phone connection, charging my laptop daily in a storage area, packing by candlelight, trying to avoid the gang members upstairs who were running what turned out to be a meth lab, and trying to avoid my new landlord who turned out to be beating his pregnant wife.  In the midst of all of that, the internet was the only sane place to retreat to.  Suddenly one of the voices got me on his wavelength with “Don’t you also beat an egg into it, with a little worcestershire sauce and good sharp mustard? All poured steaming over a thick toast of grainy bread? Garnished with parsley and course-ground pepper?” I could touch the bread and smell the pepper. The voice was (and is) an axis on a rotating planet.

Virtual connection isn’t always enough though.  Sometimes I want a tangible reminder of the lively thoughts, something I can touch, before the inevitable hour those things retreat into the background.  I don’t have all the ingredients for the Welsh rabbit (or rarebit), but I do have some fresh rye bread, Jarlsberg cheese, and peppercorns.

And last night I picked up a new bottle of Australian port.

And of course, right next to the only supermarket in Chicago that carries Jarlsberg cheese and the only liquor  store in Chicago with Stone’s ginger wine is…Powell’s used bookstore. So I couldn’t resist a dead-tree version of some Valéry poems.  So far, I’m not that impressed with his famous “Le Cimetiere Marin” (although I like “That sea forever starting and restarting.” La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée!)… but “Les Pas“…oh, my! Echoes of Rumi who traveled to Damascus looking for Shems (who had probably met an untimely end), only to find Shems had been in his soul all along.

Is it any accident that it was bread and wine Jesus shared with his friends before his departure (a much older ceremony), telling them to do it “in remembrance of me”?  Of course he reappeared, but when he did, he was resurrected, changed, and no one recognized him at first.  Things end, summer dies and is resurrected, one door closes and another door opens.  And just as one ingests the communication elements  and “eats God”, perhaps becoming God?–as we choose our companions, virtual or otherwise,  we also choose who we want to become more like, whose values we are closest to, sometimes even whose mannerisms we will end up unconsciously copying or being copied by. When we touch bread and wine with our invisible friends, we are also touching those invisible qualities of our own we want to endure.  Well, this is getting way too metaphysical for me, where I am always out of my depth, so maybe I’ll just think of it more like Omar Khayyam’s “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine”.  Looking up the Rubaiyat now, I see it’s really ” a loaf of bread”, “a flask of wine”, and a “book of verse”, so it looks like I did the right ritual after all.

And now, as Robert Frost says, “I have promises to keep…”

Posted in Food. 4 Comments »


L’Abeille (Paul Valéry) (The Bee)

À Francis de Miomandre.

Quelle, et si fine, et si mortelle,
Que soit ta pointe, blonde abeille,
Je n’ai, sur ma tendre corbeille,
Jeté qu’un songe de dentelle.

Pique du sein la gourde belle,
Sur qui l’Amour meurt ou sommeille,
Qu’un peu de moi-même vermeille,
Vienne à la chair ronde et rebelle !

J’ai grand besoin d’un prompt tourment :
Un mal vif et bien terminé
Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant !

Soit donc mon sens illuminé
Par cette infime alerte d’or
Sans qui l’Amour meurt ou s’endort !

Lionel Abel’s translation of Valéry’s “The Bee” (1922) here.

An excerpt:

Un mal vif et bien terminé
Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant !

A torment prompt and soon done with
Is better than one that sleeping lies.

Valéry’s later tours de force:  Le Cimetière Marin (French and English) and La Jeune Parque (in French).

Too funny: Google Translate renders Vaut mieux qu’un supplice dormant ! as “Punishment is better than sleep!” recalling the adhan call from the muzzein at dawn for the first prayer of the day: الصلاة خير من النوم “Al-salatu khayru min an-nawm” or “Prayer is better than sleep.”

Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable.
-Paul Valéry, Notre destin et les lettres, 1937

Posted in Poetry. 8 Comments »

The defiant word, the cutting word, the cold word

While chasing down St. Patrick’s Rune the other day, I ran into the “Song of Amergin“.  In Gaelic that’s Amhairghin or “Birth of song” from Lebor Gabála Érenn’s 11th century “Book of Invasions”. It’s a druid incantation claiming the land of Ireland for the “Men of Míl” from the Tuatha Dé Danann, who were either a faery clan or gods.   The poem is said to have many forms in both Gaelic and Welsh. For more references, here is an essay, comparing the poem with other historical sources, including the Welsh bard Taliesin.

A popular version (several Gaelic and English versions at this URL):

I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?

In this version, the subject of each line leads into the next line:

I invoke the land of Ireland
Much-coursed be the fertile sea,
Fertile be the fruit-strewn mountain,
Fruit-strewn be the showery wood,
Showery be the river of water-falls,
Of water-falls be the lake of deep pools,
Deep-pooled be the hill-top well,
A well of tribes be the assembly,
An assembly of the kings be Tara,
Tara be the hill of the tribes,
The tribes of the sons of Mil,
Of Mil of the ships, the barks,
Let the lofty bark be Ireland
Lofty Ireland, darkly sung,
An incantation of great cunning;
The great cunning of the wives of Bres,
The wives of Bres of Buaigne;
The great lady Ireland,
Eremon hath conquered her,
Ir, Eber have invoked for her.
I invoke the land of Ireland.

I rather like this one:

I am the wind on the sea
I am the stormy wave
I am the sound of the ocean
I am the bull with seven horns
I am the hawk on the cliff face
I am the sun’s tear
I am the beautiful flower
I am the boar on the rampage
I am the salmon in the pool
I am the lake on the plain
I am the defiant word
I am the spear charging into battle
I am the god who put fire in your head
Who made the trails through stone mountains
Who knows the age of the moon
Who knows where the setting sun rests
Who took the cattle from the house of the warcrow
Who pleases the warcrow’s cattle
What bull, what god created the mountain skyline
The cutting word, the cold word

Sung in gaelic by Lisa Gerrard, lyrics below the embedded video:

Am gaeth i m-muir
Am tond trethan
Am fuaim mara
Am dam secht ndirend
Am séig i n-aill
Am dér gréne
Am cain lubai
Am torc ar gail
Am he i l-lind
Am loch i m-maig
Am brí a ndai
Am bri i fodb fras feochtu
Am dé delbas do chind codnu
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe
Cia on co tagair aesa éscai
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne
Cia beir buar o thig tethrach
Cia buar tethrach tibi
Cia dám, cia dé delbas faebru a ndind ailsiu
Cáinte im gai, cainte gaithe

Middle photo : the Atlantic Ocean looking south towards Boston.

Top photo : Mount Rushmore, the four presidents carved into the mountain at the Black Hills, South Dakota. Our landtaking legends, our leaders carved into the land, the land  carved out by their words. And the words of the incantation are : “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island, from the redwood forest, to the gulf stream water, this land was made for you and me. “* Instead of becoming the land, personifying the land to claim power, the land is at our feet for our disposal.

*compare “from Dan to Beersheba”

Posted in Poetry. 1 Comment »

Salmon with ginger wine

A quick supper after class: salmon, olive oil, chili powder, banana, Stone’s ginger wine, to be microwaved 8 minutes and eaten with mashed potatoes (potato boiled with skin on and mashed with milk, olive oil, zattar). And a few black olives on top. Dessert: a few slices of Granny Smith apple, Dutch Farms Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese, and one finger of Courvoisier cognac. And so to bed.

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Artificial language

The movie Avatar has just been released.  It’s in 3D, but I watched it in a four-inch window here.  While no money was wasted creating a new plot–they just recycled the same old sci-fi plots that have been used for years–quite a bit of effort was spent on the effects and on the language.  It has an artificial language, Na’vi, created just for the movie, an improvement over devices like Yoda-style English accent that inspired this Yoda-speak generator.

Constructed languages are nothing new.  Omniglot lists several dozen “con-scripts”, alphabets constructed by readers. In the meantime Yoko Ono (thanks, Marilyn Richardson!) is commemorating the 1969 “War is over if you want it”  campaign with downloadable posters in 60 languages, including Klingon, Chethlonian (???–Hebrew Hethlon?), Kamakawi and Lojban.

Image: “War is over” in Klingon.