Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World"

30 November 2016: I know I've been posting lots of poems as my "good things," but what can I say? I keep finding these gems.

Today's comes from Sherman Alexie. This poem says really simply something that I haven't had words for before--encapsulated first by its title. The parts of grief that can ache so much are those parts tied to material, sensory objects and memories. And it sneaks up on us when we have forgotten for a moment those we have lost. And memory is both a blessing and a burden.

"Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World"
By Sherman Alexie
The morning air is all awash with angels—Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”
The eyes open to a blue telephone
In the bathroom of this five-star hotel.

I wonder whom I should call? A plumber,
Proctologist, urologist, or priest?

Who is blessed among us and most deserves
The first call? I choose my father because

He’s astounded by bathroom telephones.
I dial home. My mother answers. “Hey, Ma,”

I say, “Can I talk to Poppa?” She gasps,
And then I remember that my father

Has been dead for nearly a year. “Shit, Mom,”
I say. “I forgot he’s dead. I’m sorry—

How did I forget?” “It’s okay,” she says.
“I made him a cup of instant coffee

This morning and left it on the table—
Like I have for, what, twenty-seven years—

And I didn’t realize my mistake
Until this afternoon.” My mother laughs

At the angels who wait for us to pause
During the most ordinary of days

And sing our praise to forgetfulness
Before they slap our souls with their cold wings.

Those angels burden and unbalance us.
Those fucking angels ride us piggyback.

Those angels, forever falling, snare us
And haul us, prey and praying, into dust.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy 184th Birthday!

29 November 2016: I woke up this morning to a heads-up about what would be today's good thing. A former student tagged me on Facebook with a post about today's Google Doodle, honoring Louisa May Alcott on her 184th birthday. I adore Alcott and love that Google honored her--and that several of my students reached out to me about it. Something about Alcott binds her fans into a lovely community. It's a wonder to behold.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Repulsive Theory"

28 November 2016: I came across this Kay Ryan poem today and it sort of blew me away, so it's today's good thing.

"Repulsive Theory"
by Kay Ryan

Little has been made 
of the soft, skirting action 
of magnets reversed, 
while much has been 
made of attraction. 
But is it not this pillowy 
principle of repulsion 
that produces the 
doily edges of oceans 
or the arabesques of thought? 
And do these cutout coasts 
and incurved rhetorical beaches 
not baffle the onslaught 
of the sea or objectionable people 
and give private life 
what small protection it's got? 
Praise then the oiled motions 
of avoidance, the pearly 
convolutions of all that 
slides off or takes a 
wide berth; praise every 
eddying vacancy of Earth, 
all the dimpled depths 
of pooling space, the whole 
swirl set up by fending-off— 
extending far beyond the personal, 
I'm convinced— 
immense and good 
in a cosmological sense: 
unpressing us against 
each other, lending 
the necessary never 
to never-ending.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas lights...

27 November 2016: I normally wait until after December 1 to put up any decorations, but I'm hosting the Sigma Tau Delta holiday party on Friday and wasn't sure I'd have time to any decorating before then if I didn't do it this weekend. So, the house is (almost) all decked out. And here, as usual, is my favorite part.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"I Belong to You"

26 November 2016: "I Belong to You" is one of my favorite songs on The Firewatcher's Daughter. It came on my iPod today while I was getting some work done at Panera, including almost completing my "to do over break" list.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gilmore Girls

25 November 2016: Oh my lord, these new episodes are soooooo good! Give Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop all the awards.


24 November 2016: These people...the "good thing(s)" for the day, of course.

Tara and I.

Tara and Jeff.

My dad and I, taken by Colin, who has some things to learn about photo composition.

My mom and Colin. He looks good here, but she's looking away, so we took another one...

...and he looks (intentionally) psychotic. Sigh.

This guy, our dear Wolfie, turned 18 in September, so he gets a seat at the table and some turkey.

Lots of karaoke...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

"When Giving is All We Have"

23 November 2016: More poetry for Wednesday's good thing...

Alberto Rios

One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"The Traveling Onion"

22 November 2016: Today's good thing...

"The Traveling Onion"
Naomi Shihab Nye

“It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt it was an 
object of worship —why I haven’t been able to find out. From Egypt the onion 
entered Greece and on to Italy, thence into all of Europe.” — Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way the knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,

Monday, November 21, 2016

"Flu Season"

21 November 2016: Today was a strange day--no classes but lots of work to get done, cold and windy outside, just...different. Gray. By the time evening rolled around, I was starting to feel a bit out of sorts. Just in time, the "Flu Season" episode of Parks and Rec came on and, to use the cliche, it was good for what was ailing me (and the start of a mini-marathon of episodes leading to "Harvest Festival"--an awesome run!).

In an episode full of great moments, one of my favorites is a Ben and Leslie moment, as Ben is awestruck by the speech a flu-ridden Leslie is able to give. It is one of the first times you can really see him falling for her. Sigh...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Trying to work through the feels..."

20 November 2016: Lots of nominees for today's good thing, including the fact that it is both Erin and Kelsie's birthday.

But since I couldn't choose between them, we are going to go with another option: this episode of 2 Dope Queens. I actually put off listening to it a bit because I didn't feel ready for Phoebe and Jessica's post-election thoughts (too soon...still so hard!), but I am glad I finally pressed play. It's a great episode, beginning with their moving thoughts on where we go from here. Then they hit the comedy itself, and it's great: filthy, feminist, diverse, and just freakin' hilarious. And if they can keep on keeping on post-election, then what's my excuse?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Good Bones"

19 November 2016: Really feeling this poem today.

"Good Bones"
by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Obvious Child"

18 November 2016: Today's good thing is this song, which came on just when I needed it to today, while I was in the midst of some serious grading. Chair-dancing ensued.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Grandmas feed everyone...

17 November 2016: How can this charming story not be today's good thing? Yeah: this is the story that America needs right now.

"The Truth"

16 November 2016: I started this episode of the Strangers podcast on my walk on Wednesday night. I knew I only about about 30 minutes of walking ahead of me and hesitated a moment before beginning a 40+ minute episode, but clicked play anyway. And, like so many great podcasts, I found myself unable to stop listening until it was over. This is a powerful, sad, and moving piece. I won't say much more so as to not give anything away, but it's really good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Billy on the Street

15 November 2016: Season 5 of Billy on the Street premiered tonight. Such silly, stupid fun, and a great way to end the day.

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Try to Praise the Mutilated World"

14 November 2016: Today's good thing? This poem.

"Try to Praise the Mutilated World"
Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"Voices Carry"

13 November 2016: This episode of "Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs," about Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry," is really good. There's a lot to like here: a great song, a charismatic and fascinating singer, and just...the timeliness of this song coming to mind at this time. Give it a listen.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

45 Years

12 November 2016: Finally got around to watching 45 Years, which is as good as you've heard. Quiet and powerful and haunting. And now "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (so good, sigh...) will be stuck in my head the rest of the day.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Miranda Family Does The Sound of Music

11 November 2016: Amazing, sweet, fun, and uplifting. Love this guy and his whole family.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Letter to American From Leslie Knope

10 November 2016: A friend sent me this link today and it absolutely today's good thing. I think Parks and Rec will be a good a continuing source for good in the world in these depressing days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"America, you great unfinished symphony..."

9 November 2016: Yesterday, I sat with my finger over the "publish" button for several minutes before publishing the day's post. It was the post's title that was hanging me up. It's so relentlessly positive. And I kept thinking, "But what if she doesn't win? Will I still feel that way?" I thought about hedging my bets a bit and going with the original post title ("History..."). But in the end, I left it as is. It was, I think, a sign of stubborn faith in this country and its people. I told myself, even if he does win, I will still feel that way about my country: We are lucky to be alive right now in this world, in this moment. Because we have the power to love and hope and pray and change and get work done.

One of my favorite literary critics, Sacvan Bercovitch, writes about the power and flexibility of American ideology. ("America, you great unfinished symphony...") For better or worse, it tells us we are always on our way to becoming the thing we are supposed to come. It tells us that dissent is actually assent, a way of staying in the system, working from within to make it better. Those ideas are sometimes problematic, but today, I find them comforting.

So yeah: lots of writers are running through my head today--Thoreau, Whitman, Alcott, and of course, Miranda. They, too, bring comfort.

I am so very sad and anxious. But I am also determined and hopeful. I think that those feelings--determination and hope, in all their messiness--are today's good things. But to stick to the rules, I am going to go with that line from Hamilton... It feels right and soothes my soul. Let's get to work, America.*

*Yup: the last episode of Angel, too, continues to come to mind when I need it to. (See #1 on the list in this post.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"Look around, look around! How lucky we are to be alive right now!"

8 November 2016: Who knows what will happen today when the results come in, but I voted for a woman for president today and darn it, did my eyes get teary! I voted for hope, love, and a deep faith in our common humanity and the American experiment.

Monday, November 7, 2016

"The Other Side"

7 November 2016: On the eve of tomorrow's election, I was so glad to listen to the latest StoryCorps podcast today. Featuring an honest and moving discussion between a father and daughter who disagree on all things political, it is well worth listening to. It gives me hope, if not for my interaction with some of my own family, at least for others and their families.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Steilneset Memorial

6 November 2016: I listened to a couple episodes of the terrific "Stuff You Missed in History Class" podcast today while on my walk and really enjoyed this episode on the Vardo Witch Trials (in Norway). At the end of the episode, Holly and Tracy (the hosts) talked about the memorial constructed to remember the victims of the trials and it sounded so powerful that I knew I was going to have to look it up once I got home. It is indeed impressive and moving. Check out an article about it here.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Farewell, Daylight Savings...

5 November 2016: I just hate it when it gets dark early, so I am not a fan of what's going to happen at 2:00 a.m. tomorrow, when Daylight Savings ends. Today, though, I made sure to hit the C&O for one more evening walk, something that will be harder to squeeze in for the next few months, when "evening" is so fleeting. Here come the days when the walks that have to happen later in the day will be walks through my neighborhood. That's not a bad thing, but I do prefer walking along the river. Oh's walk was a good one: great weather, pretty sites, and just a touch of indulgent melancholy (the good kind).

Almost, Maine

4 November 2016: A friend and I saw Shepherd's production of this sweet and charming play last night. I hadn't heard of it before, but apparently it's the most commonly performed play in high schools. I can see why--and that's not a criticism.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tau Sigma Induction

3 November 2016: A very busy day today with lots to choose from for the day's "good thing," but I am going to go with the Tau Sigma induction ceremony I attended today. Tau Sigma is the honor society for transfer students, an important population at Shepherd, and it was quite nice to see their achievements highlighted.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Cry to Me"

2 November 2016: Dang, this song. So freaking good. I've loved it since I was in middle-school and saw Dirty Dancing for the first time, but that's mostly because it played during that scene which made me swoon. Since then, though, every time it comes up, I can't help but stop and just...appreciate the heck out of it. Maybe age and maturity has something to do with it. (You think?) It came on my Pandora station today when I was grading (and felt like crying for another reason...ha!). I had to stop and chair-dance and sing along. So good.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Boy in Photo"

1 November 2016: Today I enjoyed the heck out of this episode of Reply All. Give it a listen!