Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, one and all

Me and my tree have just a moment to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone who stops by I Woke Up Thinkin' to read and comment. 
I read dozens of blogs, and I've been blogging since 2002 (starting with my first blog, Common Sensibilities). I'm never less than amazed at the quality of writing, the range of subjects, and the dedication to updating this still-new way of publishing.
Here at Thinkin' Central in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we've been slip-sliding through an ice storm and its aftermath, so I apologize for the spottiness of posts.
Stay tuned!
Bloggers and readers both, thank you! Have a wonderful holiday.
(Oh yes, that is my Christmas tree.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lavender in winter

If in summer
As I walk by
I can run my hand lightly
Along the tall spike
Covered with small flowers,
Releasing the sunny scent
Into soft air; it
Clings and lingers on my fingers.

Today I shuffled by
On ice-crusted sidewalk,
To find pale leaves buried
In last night's snow,
Bracts stiffened, color gone;
My gloved hand reached out--
To grasp only the faint memory
Of fallen flowers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

About Winter

Oh anybody could write a bad poem, but some days you just need to read a good one. It's about hope:

The Darkling Thrush

by: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

      LEANT upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-gray,
      And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.

      The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
      And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

      The land's sharp features seem'd to be
      The Century's corpse outleant,
      His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
      The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
      And every spirit upon earth
      Seem'd fervourless as I.

      At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
      In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
      An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
      Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

      So little cause for carollings
      Of such ecstatic sound
      Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
      That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
      Some blessèd Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.
You've got to love a poet who can combine both "The Century's corpse outleant" AND "Some blessèd Hope" in the same poem.

Seemingly, so little reason to sing--yet still he does. Still he does.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

About snow blowers

Astrological winter may not start for a week or so, but meteorological winter started December 1. 

Given the little snow storm that I drove home in tonight, winter has settled in beautifully, and intends to linger long.

And if I dislike -- nay, why sugarcoat it, loathe -- any kind of cold weather, the first site of flakes stirs a different kind of feeling in the men of my neighborhood.

Those flakes stir a love, an excitement, an anticipation among the menfolk here on Hearthstone Drive. Also, a competition that rivals the lawnmower wars of summer. 

It's a time to break out the snowblowers.

Honestly, I think the guys on our street, at the first hint of flake, glue themselves to window and weather radar, just waiting for that 1/16th of an inch coating they need to justify gassing up the snowblower and having at it on the driveway.

What is it about these things the guys love so much? Is it the satisfying roar of the engine at the turn of a key (or pull of a recoil starter)? And I mean roar. Is it the lurching thrust of the engine as the throttle is engaged and the monster takes off? Is it the graceful arch of said snow as the auger-thing sucks it up into the funnel then blows it into oblivian? Is it the site of of the newly cleared sidewalk, now safe for humanity to traverse?

I don't think so.

Rather: Is it the my-blower-is-bigger-than-yours competition, as evidenced by the covert looks given each other as snowblowers compete, driveway by driveway, seeing who can be done first?

Because the first one done then takes the responsibility of any sidewalk not already blown, any neighbor's driveway not already cleared, and any left-over patch of cement unfortunate enough not to belong to anyone.

It's like a fast-motion marathon of snow clearing, that begins at the first flake and doesn't end until the last wisp of wind has whipped the drifts to snowy peaks.

Because when you start with the first flake, one pass is not enough. Oh no. There's nothing better to a snowblower owner than a two--or even a three!--pass snowstorm.

The guys have all been out tonight--you can hear the noise on every side of the house. Radar looks like it's going to keep up most of the night. I'm guessing not one guy in the neighborhood is going to sleep well tonight--they're going to want to be up extra early tomorrow.

There's nothing like the roar of a nine-horsepower snowblower in the morning.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

About stringing words together

Night flurries

White out of blackness;
Driving through the snowy night;
Stars fall at warp speed.

School play

Rows of fresh faces;
Today they are eleven,
And sing without guile.

The tree

Pick out a good one;
Next place the lights, carefully;
Top with a bright star.

Friday morning

Sound of the alarm;
Another dark morning comes--
Motivation lags.


If I say I want
This, but you decide to buy
That--I won't be mad.

Full moon

Sharp through the skylight,
Moonlight falls on your face;
Ghost on the pillow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

About the three stages of belief

I have no memory of believing in Santa Claus.

I don't mean I never believed--I may have. I just don't remember the belief. My first memories of Christmas Eve involved listening to my parents wrapping gifts and putting stuff together.

Plus, I don't think either of my parents were big on the myth. My mom, especially--she liked taking credit for the pile of presents under the tree. A child of the Great Depression, she loved that she was able to provide her four kids with the toys she never had. She loved being Santa.

I do have a hazy memory of being taken to talk to Santa, who was holding court while stuffed into a cold, little hut in uptown New London, in front of the Ben Franklin store. I didn't have much faith in the conversation, but I was okay with sitting on the jolly old elf's lap for a second with my brother and sisters. Might was well cover all the bases.

Last night, we attended the Christmas concert of the community band Angela plays in. Santa always makes an appearance during the intermission, talking to the kids and handing out candy canes.

So it was interesting to observe the reactions of the three kids we were with.

Julian, at 11, is well into the age of reason, and fully cognizant of where the presents come from. However, while he had no desire to talk to Santa, he did come down to the aisle to sneak a peek at Big Red Guy, and pick up a candy cane.

Caroline, who at a very pragmatic 5 you'd think would be in prime Santa territory, surprised us all by refusing to have anything to do with the process. She's not usually scared of anything, but she's developed an aversion to guys in red suits and stayed put in her seat.

It was Taylor, so intense and sensitive, who was more than ready to queue up with the other kids, sit on Santa's lap, tell him her request (a Dora vanity, I think), and gratefully accept the candy cane offered her. She even posed for pictures with Mr. Claus.

Julian has faith that his parents will fill his stocking on Christmas--he thinks he no longer needs Santa. Caroline must sense that Santa is not entirely who he says he is--she needs to hold back and assess the situation, but she knows that somehow there will be a package under the tree for her. Taylor is buying the whole deal--at three, she truly believes; her face as she talked to Santa was innocent and trusting.

Watching them, I realized I could connect with how each of them reacted to Santa--Julian's practicality; Caroline's reticence; Taylor's exuberance. It's representative of how individuals react to Christmas, isn't it? For some, it's a long to-do list; for others, it's something to avoid; for a few, it's a time to accept and rejoice.

As the band played the Hallelujah Chorus, and we rose to our feet, I could only hope that we could all be a little more Age Three at Christmas--accepting and rejoicing, exuberant and even innocent:

|: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! :|

|: For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! :|

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
|: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! :|

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
|: King of kings, and Lord of lords, :|
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
|: King of kings! and Lord of lords! :|
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

--by Georg Friedrich Handel

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

About John Milton

Today is John Milton's 400th birthday, and if most of the world does not know or care, it's slightly comforting that some do.

Because when you are an English major, John Milton is very important, and when you have a good teacher explaining him to you like Hermine van Nuis, he even becomes accessible.

There may be some who would read Paradise Lost outside of a classroom--I wouldn't be one of them. But when it's for class, and for a grade, and ultimately, for your degree--you crack open the book and start reading. And thank God for an instructor like Dr. van Nuis, who helps you make sense of it, by taking it all apart so it means something, then putting it back together, so it's poetry again.

How long did she lecture on just these opening lines?

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav'nly Muse,that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion Hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.

So there's the whole thing he's going to attempt--just the fall of man. Just a little light reading for the weekend.

I wonder what Milton would have thought of what we do here, online--blogging, Twittering, updating Facebook and MySpace? Would he embrace it, or be abhorred?

Milton was totally blind when he began writing "Paradise Lost". He was 50. I'm going to remember that the next time I'm casting about for something to write about, or lamenting my lost youth and all the words I did not write.

For this is our journey, too:

The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.

Happy Birthday, John Milton!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

About an ode to cell phone talking

(Apologies to John Keats)

O thou unravished bride of ringtones,
Thou foster-child of minutes lost,
Obsidian recorder of my spent time,
Flowery conversations less stately than this rhyme.
What mythical tale has come to thy ear,
Of husband or daughter or friend held dear,
In car or home or grey-walled cubicle?
What whacky people these? What friend gone nuts?
What errand gone mad? What struggle to escape?
What radio rhythm? What wild ecstasy?

Unheard conversations are sweet, but those heard
Drive you crazy. Therefore, keep thy conversations to thyself.
Not only to my ear, but to those
Fair friends, caught in cars or office near, who cannot leave
Thy voice; nor ever can that story be ended;
Bold talker, thou can never shut up
Though my hand hovers near your mouth;
Yet for this interruption I cannot grieve;
Volume cannot fade, for thou has not thy bliss
Forever wilt though talk, and me overhear!

O rectangle shape! Fair little keyboard!
If only men and women would text,
With quick fingers and quiet mien,
Thou silent form! Nothing teases us out of anger
As dost a hang-up. Dear reader, that's cold.
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of our communication,
So this, face to face, to thou I shall say,
"Shut up! or I shall throw that ******** phone into tomorrow" -- that is all
I need to say, or anyone needs to know.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

About thanking Bossy

Because I was thinkin' it would be nice to be on her blog, and I got an early Christmas present! Me, on her blog!

[Just added a snip of her main page (left) with COULD IT REALLY BE ME? featured.]

Also, I must quote my co-worker Amanda, who spotted me on Bossy, and send me an email about it, proclaiming, "You are a freakin' celebrity."

Does that make a Tuesday awesome, or what?

If you're not already reading Bossy, you should be, so start now:

Monday, December 1, 2008

About how Christmas comes

Christmas come quietly
Turn the calendar page.
Christmas come slowly
For children and their wishes.
Christmas come busy
Too much to be done.
Christmas come quickly
Full weeks fly by.
Christmas come softly
Carols on the stereo.
Christmas come tasty
Cookies in the oven.
Christmas come sadly
Missing you.
Christmas come anxious
Family dysfunction.
Christmas come tiny
Little kids' eyes.
Christmas come green
Tree twinkles in the window.
Christmas come bright
Lights on the houses.
Christmas come on TV
Grinch and Rudolph.
Christmas come presents
Did I choose right?
Christmas come stressed
Spent too much.
Christmas come empty
Lost the Christ.
Christmas come sweetly
Children being good.
Christmas come loudly
Noisy party.
Christmas come crowded
At the mall.
Christmas come peaceful
Midnight service.
Christmas come whatever
For whatever, Christmas comes.