yellow grass curls and straggles its way to the sky
as do I.
in a way, I long to follow the hawk lifting on borrowed air
but I do not know where he is going
and I care; I have to walk very straight and narrow
because no one is flying there.
yellow grass curls and straggles its way to the sky
when barren twigs erupt
into newness of light green life
I cannot forget this tenderness.
I cannot forget (I am forgetting)
the analysis of twilight deer
when I perched in a tree like a human owl
and was an altogether new thing to their baffled eyes.
and the Scottish sea blooming into froth and foam
under cliffs that held my train;
I cannot forget this wilderness.
I cannot even forget what I am forgetting:
the air strikes I did not see
the hands holding only fear and memory
the free-falling red dust
every foreign spring comes home to me; I cannot forget.
I am forgetting.
the wind also sings
out of my register
it flings me to second chair
with a worship beyond world
like an armed vanguard
it heaves a mighty word upon us
with the insistent roar of a highway
Coming! Come. . . ing!
weaving the trees
thatching a banquet hall
sweeping it clean
the wind also sings.
make room in me for new things,
for I cling hard to the thin trees of winter
and the mint taste of cold air.
ducks, compared to me, are much more organized
they pattern themselves
submitting for miles to wing-beats in front
faces watch tail feathers and eyes never meet
friendship forgotten in the circle of sky, the same of wings, the
above scrawny oaks and the grope of mistletoe, I hear duck voices
no, I do not know what it means
do they hate or love the regimen?
I see only this: they get where they mean to go.
It was not a year of quantity regarding books. But some of these stand out to me like boulders that made my path clear. As always, this is not a list of book endorsements. I do not necessarily recommend all of the following.
The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton*
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling*
Magic by G.K. Chesterton
Defiant Joy (The Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K. Chesterton) by Kevin Belmonte
The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak (a boulder-book; a thing of beauty)
Tales from Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Song of Roland translated by Leonard Bacon
Master of the World by Jules Verne
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley*
What’s Wrong With the World by G.K. Chesterton
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul by Douglas Adams
The Poets Laureate Anthology compiled by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt (a boulder-book; a collection of fire and ash)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (almost a boulder; this small story spoke to me of humanity and communication)
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
Star Trek: Federation by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
King Lear by Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
A Window in Thrums by J.M. Barrie
Mathematics in Western Culture by Morris Kline
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
A Continuous Harmony by Wendell Berry (a boulder-book; this was my first time reading Wendell Berry and it tied together some important loose ends of my life)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling*
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
The Catbird’s Song by Richard Wilbur
Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff
A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
Songmaster by Orson Scott Card
Christianity for Modern Pagans (Pascal’s Pensees) by Peter Kreeft (a boulder-book; a work of apologetics infused with love and honesty)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Persuasion by Jane Austen*
Station Island by Seamus Heaney
*denotes previously read
8/30/14 – 1:49pm Greenwich Mean Time
We took off about half an hour ago. Goodbye, Britain. It’s been historic. I have new favourite places all over the country. When we first got to London, I didn’t really like it. But I think it was mainly the culture shock and fatigue. Even though we speak the same language, there are innumerable small differences between America and Britain that take adjusting to. It smells different, for one thing! The cities smell kind of like coffee and smoke and something else I can’t describe. The rural areas don’t have the same smell, though- I guess the wind that blows through the world kind of universalises the smell of the outdoors. They do have lots of flower smells of which we Texans are regrettably deprived. Sometimes I would just be walking along a street and smell lilies. Once I smelled honey comb waffle cereal and I am still baffled by that! Anyway, London was just so big, crowded, and different. But when the culture shock wore off, I enjoyed the city quite a lot. It’s so diverse- it should be nicknamed ‘the city of endless discovery’, because every corner you turn, there’s another ancient church sandwiched between two modern buildings, or a lady playing classical violin in a square, or a little independent shop that sells paints, or yet another antiquarian bookstore. I like best to stroll along the Thames, seeing two vast swaths of city and a swirling crowd of humanity divided by the river that creates enough space for reflection. When I come back to England (and I do hope to!) I think I would do London in the middle of the trip though, not the start and finish. I might start in Oxford! Oxford was definitely one of the best places we visited. It’s impossible to pick a favourite, though! Canterbury, Dover, Salisbury, Oxford, the Letcombes, Wantage, York, Alnmouth, Alnwick, Edinburgh, Inverness, Glencoe, Keswick… out of all the towns we spent much time in, it would probably be a contest between Oxford, Dover, Salisbury, and Keswick. But the most jaw-dropping scenery was in Scotland for sure. I totally fell for that country. We’re up above the Atlantic, and the cloud-trails of other planes stream like kite tails beside us. It is something to be PART of the sky I always crane my neck to see. And it was SOMETHING to be part of the country I have always dreamed of visiting.
8/23/14 – 11:05pm Greenwich Mean Time
I like my bed at this Keswick YHA because it’s a single twin by the window with a tiny shelf and a bed light. There is a set of bunk beds in here as well, but their occupants are elsewhere. And there’s a sink in the room! And the window overlooks a river! So it’s quite cozy.
The Lake District is incredible. Of course it is. The bus ride from Penrith rail station was flooring. The mountains remind me of the Scottish highlands, but since this is further south everything is more developed. The slopes are embroidered with hedges and knotted with sheep. So it doesn’t have the same raw vastness of Scotland, but oh, is it spectacular. The sun lavishes some serious affection on these hills. On the way here, I had to just put down my camera, lean my head back against the seat, and stare. There’s too much to take in! In places like this, it’s best to lie like a stone in a river, letting the beauty flow over you. And, like a stone, let the moss of a place grow into your pores so that wherever you go, you will always wear the stains of that life.
8/24/14 – 8:17am Greenwich Mean Time
If Scotland was glory, this place is glory covered in a quilt and made comfortable.
I’m always the one who puts the lights on the tree. The task used to fall to my mom, but once I got old enough to have an eye for that sort of thing, I took over. I wanted it to be me hanging the light.
I play Christmas music and I start with garden shears. Giving myself a hand cramp, I squeeze the shears and bite off the branches that are going limp or yellow. Then I sit back on my heels and size up the crowded mess of fir, deciding where to make holes.
Needles fall thick. Sections of the trunk appear. It seems wrong to trim perfectly good branches but the tree is so stuffed with green that there’s no room for light. I can’t hang the lights until there’s enough emptiness for them to fill.
The tree looks hurt when I finish. The holes I’ve made stare at me accusingly. I start unwinding the strand of yellow lights and twisting them around branches. I cluster light in the holes I made, all the way up the tree. My hands get splotchy with sap. When I’m finished, I step back.
The once-bare places shine.
“and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself?” -Herman Melville
Light cannot enter us until there’s enough emptiness for it to fill; until we are scraped empty and trimmed bare.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9
8/21/14 – 5pm Greenwich Mean Time
Having just walked over a mile from a cafe near the Glencoe bus stop to our hostel, I can definitely say I’m glad we packed light! The bus ride from Inverness was incredibly scenic; especially once we neared Fort William. The mountains are stunning. Oh, Scotland. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.
I have felt the slow creeping of fern-like things budding in my mechanical heart.
and the streams I see tunnelling under Scottish roads; they flip over themselves in haste for the sea…
I have felt the slipping streams tunnelling through me.
8/16/14 – 12pm Greenwich Mean Time
We’re on the train to Hexham, bound for Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve had this line from W.H. Auden rolling about in my mind since I saw it in York: “And down by the brimming river, I heard a lover sing; under an arch of the railway: Love has no ending.” I guess the trains keep it fresh in my memory. If I have any money left when I get home (doubtful), I want to buy Auden’s ‘Age of Anxiety’ with intro and annotations by Alan Jacobs.
The landscape is fantastic. And varied. Right now there are hugely tall pine trees looming over the fields, and horses with oversized feet grazing the hillside. And now there are ancient oaks and slender aspens with ferns going crazy below. There are hills green with grass and fields yellow with wheat. Several kinds of purple flowers- some with long rush-like fronds and some with small round petals and white centres- follow the track. And when we pass a village there are always brick houses (with the inevitable white window frames) and a church spire looking extremely historic, but the details of which I’ll never know. Incredible, the surplus of history that is packed into this island. And the surplus of blackberries is also ridiculous. =D