Showing posts from February, 2021

Poetry Sunday: Away above a Harborful... by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, beat poet, playwright, publisher, and free speech activist died last week at the age of 101. As a publisher, perhaps his crowning achievement was to publish Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems in 1956. He also helped other beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs to reach readers. Ferlinghetti's most famous collection of poems was A Coney Island of the Mind which was published in 1958. Here is one of his poems from an earlier collection, These Are My Rivers , published in 1955. I thought it was a good example of the jazzy rhythms and earthy imagery of so many of his poems. I hope you enjoy it. Away above a Harborful . . . by Lawrence Ferlinghetti Away above a harborful                                               of caulkless houses    among the charley noble chimneypots                   of a rooftop rigged with clotheslines                 a woman pastes up sails                                           upon the wind hanging out

This week in birds - # 440

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  A Purple Finch and Pine Siskin feed on black-oil sunflower seeds scattered on the ground. My winter bird watching has been greatly enhanced by the irruption of Purple Finches to this area. At times I've witnessed a dozen or more at one of my feeders. In most winters I'm lucky to see one or two. *~*~*~* Anthropocentric as we are, we have mostly focused on the suffering of our own species in regard to our recent experience with the polar vortex, but it has been a disaster for some wildlife as well. Some more endangered species may be pushed to the brink of extinction because of it. *~*~*~* In other bad news related to that weather event, oil refineries, chemical manufacturers, and other industrial plants in Texas reported releasing around 3.5 million pounds of extra pollutants into the air during last week’s freezing temperatures. The Houston region accounted for one-fifth of excess emissions of toxic chemicals.

Light in August by William Faulkner: A review

  “. . .in August in Mississippi there’s a few days somewhere about the middle of the month when suddenly there’s a foretaste of fall, it’s cool, there’s a lambence, a soft, a luminous quality to the light, as though it came not from just today but from back in the old classic times. It might have fauns and satyrs and the gods and---from Greece, from Olympus in it somewhere. It lasts just for a day or two, then it’s gone. . .the title reminded me of that time, of a luminosity older than our Christian civilization.” - William Faulkner writing of Light in August I try to read at least one Faulkner book every year if only to remind myself of where I come from. Light in August certainly accomplishes that.  I have read a number of Faulkner's books, some of them multiple times, but I had never read this one before. Most of his books deal in some way with the racism that was pervasive in the Mississippi that he knew, but often the references are oblique or are buried in the narrative and

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer: A review

  Robin Wall Kimmerer is a trained botanist who, as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, is also a firm believer in the indigenous wisdom that values the other beings with whom we share this planet, both plant and animal. She particularly embraces the idea that plants with their long history of living on Earth have much to teach us, that they are in fact our oldest and best teachers. The Native American consciousness acknowledges our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world and the generosity of Earth in providing everything that we need to live. "In the indigenous view, humans are viewed as somewhat lesser beings in the democracy of species. We are referred to as the younger brothers of Creation, so like younger brothers we must learn from our elders. Plants were here first and have had a long time to figure things out. They live both above and below the ground and hold the earth in place. Plants know how to make food from light and water. Not only do they

Poetry Sunday: Snow Day by Billy Collins

There have been a lot of "snow days" over the past ten days or so, even in places that don't usually have snow like here in Southeast Texas. Even though the weather brought hardship because our state's power grid was not prepared for it, many kids still found joy in the white stuff. For many, it was the first time they had ever seen snow. Billy Collins writes of a snow day when the schools are closed and the girls "whispering by the fence" are plotting ways to have fun in the snow.   Snow Day by Billy Collins Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,    its white flag waving over everything, the landscape vanished, not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,    and beyond these windows the government buildings smothered, schools and libraries buried, the post office lost    under the noiseless drift, the paths of trains softly blocked, the world fallen under this falling. In a while, I will put on some boots and step out like someone walking in water,   

This week in birds - #439

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : This Spotted Towhee  is having a drink at Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas. *~*~*~* The weather disaster that has afflicted Texas over the last several days was thoroughly predictable and in fact, was predicted after the last severe cold we had here ten years ago. But our independent power grid which is not allowed to share energy with the other two power grids in the country had not heeded the warnings to prepare for extremely cold weather, and so it failed , and people suffered and died. It failed, not because of frozen wind turbines (although some did freeze), but primarily because of frozen pipelines that had moisture in them. *~*~*~* The extremely cold weather was deadly not just for humans but also for the sea turtles that make their way to Texas shores at this time of year. About 3,500 of the turtles were rescued this week and taken to South Padre Island Convention center to be kept warm and safe. *~*~*~

The Survivors by Jane Harper: A review

  I had been looking forward to Jane Harper's next Australian mystery and so I pounced on this one as soon as it was published. It did not disappoint. Harper's books are often set in some of the bleakest places Australia has to offer, such as the Outback. This one takes us to Tasmania, to a little town on the coast called Evelyn Bay. It is the town where Kieran Elliot grew up and where twelve years before he was involved in a tragedy that changed his and several other lives forever.  Since then he had moved to Sydney and made a new life for himself with his girlfriend, Mia. They now have a young baby daughter. But Kieran and his family have been drawn back to Evelyn Bay and all the memories it holds by the needs of his parents. His father, Brian, is suffering from dementia, and his mother, Verity, is no longer able to care for him at home. He will have to go into a care home that is able to deal with his problems. Kieran is there to help with the transition. When Kieran meets s

Red Pill by Hari Kunzru: A review

If you remember The Matrix , you may remember that the blue pill would give you a happy, if illusory, life, whereas the red pill would allow you to see the world as it really is. Reality versus happy fantasy: That was the choice. The title of this book is Red Pill and yet throughout much of the book, it seems as though our unhappy and unnamed narrator may have ingested the blue pill, although it certainly hasn't made him happy. But he definitely seems to be living in a fantasy world.  Our narrator is an essayist and teacher, a husband and father, living in comfort in Brooklyn. At least it should be comfortable, but he is suffering from an unspecified dread that has rendered him unable to write. His writer's block is complete and it begins to extend to other parts of his life. He imagines that he would be unable to protect his family should calamity arise. And calamity seems always just over the horizon. When he receives an invitation to a fellowship at a Berlin think tank, it

Poetry Sunday: How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It's Valentine's Day, so let's have a love poem. This is actually one of the most famous and also a personal favorite. It says it all really and quite succinctly. How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.

This week in birds - #438

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Lesser Goldfinch joins Pine Siskins at a feeder station in Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas.  *~*~*~* La Niña has really done a number on our typically mild winter in Southeast Texas. We got cold in December and it has pretty much stayed cold since. Usually, we have a few days in there where we have to have the air conditioner on. Not this winter! The next few days are expected to be brutally cold and forecasters are saying we could get into single digits Monday night and Tuesday morning. We have lived here for thirty-three years and I've never seen single digits before. Sadly, I expect to lose quite a few plants in my garden. There's just no way I can protect them all and the garden isn't planned around weather this cold. *~*~*~* The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is happening this weekend. Citizen scientists around the world are observing and counting birds and reporting their findings to the

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: A review

Kristin Hannah is the hugely popular author of at least twenty books, many of which are best sellers. I had never read any of them. I'm not sure if Firefly Lane is typical of her writing, but it is essentially a love story between two best friends. It follows the history of their friendship, begun in high school, for thirty years. Kate Mularkey is the least popular girl in her school. In 1974, she is the nerd with glasses that everybody ignores. Then Tully Hart moves into the house across the street. Tully is the absolute opposite of Kate. She is the coolest girl in school and everybody wants to be her friend. But something terrible happens to Tully at a party one night and when she goes home, she happens to meet her neighbor Kate. Still distraught from her experience, she confides in Kate and Kate is sympathetic and comforts her. On the basis of this shared moment, the coolest girl in school chooses the most unpopular girl in school to be her friend. And soon they are best friend