Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gray Days

It is a gray day;
The gray clouds are raining
Gray rain on a dripping
Gray city.

This is the only way
I like to see it;
It lends a tragic grace
To all these sad, gray, twisted

Sometimes, I think they are
Bitter against all
That made them grow here.
But on gray days,
They are only sad—

Sad they are ugly;
Sad they are old;
Sad that they die in a world of

Today is a gray day.
File:The Rain..jpg
Simon Kozhin, The Houses of Parliament, Rain. 2006.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Egg Yolks and Tennyson

"Half a cup, half a cup, half a cup onward; 
All in the valley of eggs 
I squeezed out the oranges."

Perhaps my adaptation of the Charge of the Light Brigade's opening lines was not very inspiring, but it was with quite as much zeal as they that I plowed through the newly-discovered recipe for orange chiffon cake this morning... and with quite as much hopelessness, may I add!

First, it was the mistake about the orange juice.  When my husband poured out the last glass this morning, I stopped him- I had wanted it for Something.  But I could not remember what the Something was.  It must have been that I wanted some for the little one's oatmeal?  But no!!! Hours too late, gazing at my recipe with distress, it finally occurred to me that orange chiffon cake requires orange juice.  

After a few seconds of bitter self-accusatory reflection, and regret for the kind of disintegration that begins to take place in the mind with age, and visions of reincarnating various actions of my mother such as attempting absentmindedly to put dirty dishes in the laundry hamper, I gathered renewed vigor.  I had a bag of oranges, and had to zest a couple for the cake anyway.  I would therefore simply squeeze the required amount of juice as I would from lemons; time would be all I would lose.

As I was squeezing the oranges, my new version of Tennyson's poem began to whisper itself in my ear.  Amused with the first line, little did I realize it was a dire prophecy.  Next was the remembrance that I had broken the electric mixer, and my other quick fix idea for beating the egg whites hadn't worked.  I am all for doing things by hand, but beating eight egg whites until they form stiff peaks with a whisk is not my idea of a good time.  Daunted but not beaten (pun intended), "perplexed but not in despair," I threw them into the blender until they were frothy and then beat them the rest of the way by hand.

Midway through the egg crisis, of course, came the knowledge that I have no cream of tartar.  After two weeks of gleaning ingredients carefully, the time to bake arrived without cream of tartar.  After a sidetrack or two online, reading odd facts about cream of tartar and it's origins, I found the due substitute.  And here, several hours later, the cake is finally cooling on the rack.  But who knows whether it will come out of the pan???

"Forward the Cake Brigade!
Was there a cook dismayed?
Not tho' she knew it was she
Who had blundered.
Oranges not to make reply,
Egg whites not to reason why,
Theirs but to do or die-
Into the batter for baking 
I squeezed out the oranges."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

There... and Back Again. A Flower's Tale.

"I'm going out to clear the pasture spring.
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may).
I shan't be gone long.  You come too."
-Robert Frost, "The Pasture"

My favorite tree!  an ancient European beech.

"There's not a flower on all the hills, -the frost is on the pane;
I only wish to live till the snowdrops come again."
Alfred Tennyson, "The May Queen"

"I wish the snow would melt and the sun come out on high-
I long to see a flower so before the day I die."
"The May Queen"

Lenten roses.

"My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation
I hear the sweet tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
Thro' all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?"
-hymn, attr. Pauline T.

"What tho' my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth;
What tho' the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth."

"No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heav'n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?"

"My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall-- the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me."
Christina Rossetti, "A Better Ressurrection" 

There... and back again. A flower's tale.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Love and Such": A Valentine Collection


Commission for Zephyrus
Cupid and Psyche, L. Prang and Co, 1876. Boston Pub. Lib.
Run over the world with shining feet
And rhymes of light where waters meet,
Where waters laugh, where waters flash
And stones are stars; thereover dash,
Carry my cry and my call: my Song
has one note, and that note, strong.
Burn under the sky in words of gold
A meteor's tale.  To the gods unfold
Another highborn love, though late.
Nothing is chance: the rest is fate.

Brandish the headlong flame of God,
Your holy sword a lightning rod
Between two beings below the sun-
By Time-Space two, by God-Will, one.

Run over the world, to the living end:
You sought out Psyche, now seek my Friend.

Cupid and Psyche. Antonio Canova, 1787.

 "Reader, I married him."

--Jane Eyre

 "I tore him out of my heart and being like the blood of my body, and laid him on the altar.  But not without a long and anguished struggle.  And God gave him quietly back to me when it was done, though I couldn't see how..."
File:Godward The Old Old Story 1903.jpg
"The Old Old Story."  John William Godward, 1903.

"Indifferent, the clouds drift on above
In skies of glass, obliviously blue
And careless of the costliness of love.
Today I ache with growing pains anew."

photograph by Fry. Nov. 2012.

                          "She's got blue eyes like the sea,
                    That roll back when she's laughin' at me;
                                 She rises up like the tide
                         The moment her lips meet mine." 
                       --Plain White T's "Rhythm of Love"
"The Kiss," Francesco Hayez, 1859.

 " 'I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!'
'I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,' said Darcy.
'Of a fine stout healthy love it may.  Every thing nourishes what is strong already.  But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.'
 Darcy only smiled..." 
--Pride and Prejudice 

"Heigh ho! Sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving, mere folly:
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly."
--"Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind"
Harmony before Matrimony. James Gillray, 1805.

"You have both of you something, to be sure, but it is not a trifle that will support a family nowadays; and after all that romancers may say, there is no doing without money."
--Isabella Thorpe Northanger Abbey 

File:Northanger Abbey CE Brock Vol I chap V.jpg
Northanger Abbey illustration. C.E. Brock, 1907.

"...Ah, my God
What might I not have made of Thy fair world,
Had I but loved the highest creature here?
It was my duty to have loved the highest:
It surely was my profit had I known:
It would have been my pleasure had I seen.
We needs must love the highest when we see it."
Idylls of the King  

"View out my window."

"And it seems like the time when after doubt
Our love came back amain;
O come forth into the storm and rout,
And be my love in the rain."
 "A Line-Storm Song," Robert Frost
photograph by David Koiter, 2009.

"I will song you a song of our soul, O Man,
I will leaf you a brown leaf of Earth.
Since dawn began the gray drops ran
And still I my horizons scan
For him who to my old world's dearth,
Through One-Who-Is caused my rebirth."     


Monday, February 4, 2013

Polish Memories: Łazienki Park

Łazienki: the Palace-on-the-Water.  My favorite memory of two weeks in Poland is the day we spent
wandering around Łazienki Park.  It was a day more like myself: the weather was impish and in-between-ish, the bus ride short and our decision to hop off at the Chopin monument, impetuous.  We entered from the side with the great gray statue of Frederic Chopin: he drew us in at the first.  He sits there, a giant among beds of roses, but not in bloom... ghosts of summers past and concerts past linger in the air, roses and dusk and warm nights full of the maestro's nocturnes... and Chopin's memory too, presiding there over it as the Colossus in the corner.  The statue is romantic, and foolish as romance is apt to be: what emotion the reminder of a man's genius or talent can stir, what worship the human compels to himself when he is young and strong and beautiful to his own eye.  And what foolishness to worship so: and yet we do, as the cat his own cattiness, the baby his own cleverness, the lovely girl her own loveliness.  We are hopelessly vain creatures.
The park reaches it's arms out to draw you in, if you are a kindred spirit and wood-ish sort... my own worship rarely turns to the rhythm of man's genius, is far more tempted by the growing thing.  Chopin though, of all the figures standing in brass and stone commemoration, frozen larger than life and perhaps weary of too-largeness, who can say, drew my own yearning- for music flows like blood through the veins of all men, and the composer speaks with the language all times and tribes can understand.  And beyond him, and the hum of favorite melodies and softnesses of resolution and gentled fervor my fingers too remember (for no one who has played a piano or keyboard at all can forget certain of the masters' melodies and harmonies)- beyond him, as I said, the woods began and ran away, calling with bending paths beneath the boughs.  
Mr. Tumnus?!
 Through the woods we saw oh! so many wonderful things.  Winter left its leafy brown bed and tangy, woodsy smell all round.  A bit of green peeped out of the leaves, in clusters of the ivy so perpetually associated with oldness and romance.  The grounds were some old estate, but the history of it all is forgotten to me, in what it is: you see, it is about as much wild as A.A. Milne's Hundred-Acre-Wood, and about as docile as a dandelion.  We chanced first upon a building which was an old orangery and theater, and next upon... what I think was an art museum. But they were ruins too (some of the buildings, artificially so).  Pert squirrels, with bright eyes and tufted ears, dodged and dove in the leaves.  They must have been magical for I felt no natural enmity with them, and I always sense primal warfare rising in me when I watch or even think of squirrels in the cities here.  Songbirds fluttered lightly about; especially the ever-friendly chickadees, and tufted titmice, which I believe I distinguished.  An elderly gentleman stood alone in one path and fed them from his hand beneath the trees.  I knew him for a friend then, for I have done the same and the sound of those wings and the grip of those delicate claws are more poignant than faeries.  I know.  I think of the old gentleman still as my friend.
Grandmothers we saw not a few; wheeling children in "prams" up and down the lanes, chatting congenially, each with the round apple-like face of the aged Pole.  Further on, deeper in, we found the Palace-on-the-Water: over a small lake thinly sheeted with black ice, where the waterbirds were skiing, and statues where crows and pigeons played, saluted to the grand neoclassical residence, perfectly symmetrical and still perfectly beautiful.  On the far side of the lake an artificial ruins stood, an amphitheatre and temple of Diana, as I think    
it was; but by the water's edge one could see a bit of the nose of a rowboat, overturned and dreaming of sunny weather, and in need of a bit of paint.  Funny mixes of wild things and domestic plantings abounded.  Weeping willows graced the far end of the lake.  Peacocks and peahens promenaded joyously below some fir trees... I think perhaps they were hemlocks... and the bridge over the narrow place arched it's back lazily to the steely winter sky.
The place magicked the heart right out of me.  I could have spent many pleasant days there, though as so often with the loveliest moments, I had only one to spend.  How many countless lords and ladies and heads of state had dwelt there or stayed there, I cannot remember... I remember the two statues of the fauns, with their elbows crooked around lamposts, and ducks swimming up a miniature canal; I remember sporting with the squirrrels, and cavorting with ducks, and- I rather forget how we left.  And if that were not proof enough of the witchery of that day:

Somehow we were not in Łazienki any longer, and the long blue dusk was growing, and there was a little rain and noisy buses, and I had to use the bathroom somewhere and (because there are not general public bathrooms in Europe as there are here: one pays for the privilege of the privy) we found ourselves through the back door of a bakery and a restaurant, in the Belgian embassy by a trick of fate.  It was a very nice bathroom, and the kind person who led us there reassured us it was all right. ;)