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More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

———

November

By Thomas Hood

Hood-t

Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

No sun -- no moon! 
No morn -- no noon -- 
No dawn -- no dusk -- no proper time of day.
 
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, 
No comfortable feel in any member -- 
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, 
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -- 
November!

———

Who Has Seen the Wind?

By Christina Rossetti

Rossetti C

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

———

Justice

By Langston Hughes

Hughes-L

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

--------

Hope is the Thing With Feathers

By Emily Dickinson

Dickinson E

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet — never — in extremity,
It asked a crumb — of me.

———

The Ploughman’s Life

By Robert Burns

Burns R

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

As I was a-wand’ring ae morning in spring,
I heard a young ploughman sae sweetly to sing;
And as he was singin’, thir words he did say, –
There’s nae life like the ploughman’s in the month o’ sweet May.

The lav’rock* in the morning she’ll rise frae her nest,
And mount i’ the air wi’ the dew on her breast,
And wi’ the merry ploughman she’ll whistle and sing,
And at night she’ll return to her nest back again.

*Skylark.

 

Thank You, Jesus

Last week, I stopped at a local antique store to look at some very cool brass number plates with — well, this requires some background.

In the 1960s, the University of Georgia renovated Sanford Stadium, and most of the seating was replaced. Apparently, a fellow who worked on the project was enterprising enough to unscrew the number plates from the old seats and save them. God knows how many brass plates the guy snatched up. Hundreds, maybe thousands.

I have no idea how the seats were numbered back then (although I probably should, since I was a student at UGA in the 1960s), but the plate numbers seem to go no higher than 30. Maybe that was the maximum length of a single row.

Decades later, as a retiree, the man decided to start selling the plates. Every month or so, he would deburr and polish up a bunch and take them to the antique store, where he had them for sale on a revolving rack. His price: a modest $3.50 per plate.

The number plates were a hit, and sales were steady enough to keep the guy busy polishing and restocking.

He died last year, and his widow is handling the project now.

The plates are oval and two inches long. They are handsome, downright elegant little things. I carry one on the keychain to my RV.

Keys

I chose the number 26 because my birthday is January 26, and 26 is how many times I’ve been to Grand Canyon.

So, why did I go to the antique store last week to look at number plates? Because I just made reservations for a trip to Grand Canyon in September. When I return, I’ll need a 27 plate to replace the 26.

Okay, all that may be interesting, but it isn’t the reason I sat down to write this post. I sat down to write about Sadie, the antique store’s resident cat.

Sadie has been the store cat for eight years. To my eye, she is a rather homely, scruffy little thing with a drab gray coat — but then, I’m a dog person.

For a long time, a hand-lettered sign reading “DON’T LET THE CAT OUT” greeted you at the entrance. We regulars learned to enter the store quickly and shut the door before Sadie could zip past us. At times, it was a challenge. She always seemed to be looming near the entrance.

The sign notwithstanding, Sadie managed to get out regularly. To everyone’s relief, she never wandered far. And, when the spirit moved her, she simply followed a customer back inside the shop. Ultimately, the staff relaxed and took down the sign.

Last week, when I arrived at the store and got out of the car, I saw Sadie in the distance, approaching at a trot.

When I opened the front door, she was only a few yards behind me, closing fast. I stuck my head inside and said, “Hey, is it okay to let the cat in?”

The woman behind the counter looked out the window, whooped, and yelled, “Sadie’s back! Sadie’s back! Thank you, Jesus! Yes, please let her in!”

I stepped aside. Sadie sashayed into the store and went behind the counter to check her food bowl.

The woman scooped up the cat, hugged her to her bosom, and administered joyous kisses.

“She’s been missing for five days!” she said. “We thought she was gone for good — run over — killed by dogs — stolen! This is wonderful! Oh, thank you, Jesus!”

I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.

“I’ve got to call Donna,” she suddenly announced, dropping the cat and picking up her cell phone. “Donna owns the shop. She’ll be so happy.”

Moments later, Donna answered, and her face appeared on the phone. “Donna!” the lady yelled, “Sadie’s back! She’s home!”

“WHAT!” Donna screamed. “Oh, thank God! Thank God!”

“This man saw her outside and let her back in!” said the other lady.

“What man?”

The lady aimed the phone at me.

“Hey, that’s Rocky!” said Donna. “I know Rocky! He’s my Grand Canyon guy! Rocky, bless you for bringing Sadie back!”

I tried to explain that I had nothing to do with it, but they were too excited to hear me.

For several minutes, the two of them reveled in this wonderful turn of events, their elation bringing them close to tears. Meanwhile, Sadie had curled up on a pet pad behind the counter for a snooze.

Soon, the adrenaline subsided, and the phone call ended. The woman composed herself and collapsed with a sigh into her chair. She sat there, looking at Sadie with a contented smile.

With normalcy restored, I turned my attention to the brass number plates dangling from the rack on the counter. The stock was low. They were out of 27s. Bummer.

I told the counter lady why I wanted a 27.

She said not to worry, the widow lady does “special requests” all the time. The store will ask her to polish up a 27 for me and drop it off the next time she restocks.

Two days later, the store called and said my number plate was ready.

Thank you, Jesus.

Sadie

Sadie the store cat. Note that she has been ear-tipped, which usually identifies a feral cat that has been caught, sterilized, and released.

 

Dinosaur

Pro-now

Shoot people

My state

 

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

The ancient Mayan and Aztec societies of Mexico/Central America used cocoa beans as currency. Cultivation of the beans was controlled to maintain its value as money, and the practice endured for centuries. In Nicaragua in the 1800s, about 100 cocoa beans would buy you a serviceable slave.

In the early 1960s, at age 14, singer-songwriter Billy Joel dropped out of high school and began performing with various bands in New York City. In 1970, before his career took off, he landed a gig in a TV commercial for Bachman Pretzels. Joel played piano in the background while Chubby Checker sang “There’s a new twist in Bachman!” to the tune of his hit song “The Twist.”

All 10 of the highest mountain peaks in the United States are in Alaska. Of the 50 highest U.S. peaks, 14 are in Alaska, 28 are in Colorado, seven are in California, and one is in Washington.

The only known warm-blooded fish is the opah or moonfish. The ability to regulate their bodies at a favorable temperature (about nine degrees warmer than the environment) makes them active predators that can chase down squid and other agile prey.

Opah

In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes had a telephone installed in the Telegraph Room adjacent to his office. His successors used a telephone located in a foyer just outside the Oval Office. In 1929, Herbert Hoover became the first President to have a phone on his desk.

The Serengeti or Serengeti Plain is a 12,000-square-mile ecosystem in west-central Africa noted for being a relatively undisturbed animal habitat. It is home to over two million wildebeest, half a million gazelles, 5,000 elephants, 4,000 hyenas, and 3,000 lions.

In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin began developing an internet search engine called BackRub. In 1997, they changed the name to Google, a word inspired by the term Googol, which is a name given in the late 1930s to the number 10¹ºº. The term came from the nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner, who was asked for a word to describe an enormous number.

Griffey mania was rampant in 1989 as 19-year-old Ken Griffey, Jr. began his rookie season with the Seattle Mariners. Simultaneously, a marketing firm unveiled the Ken Griffey, Jr. Milk Chocolate Bar, over a million of which were sold in the first year. Ironically, Griffey was allergic to chocolate.

01162321.JPG

The Library of Congress was founded in 1800 inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Today, it occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill, plus massive storage facilities in Maryland and Virginia. The LOC houses about 186 million books, maps, films, sound recordings, etc. on 830 miles of shelves. It is the world’s largest library.

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a 5th-Century bishop and missionary who is credited with converting Ireland from a Celtic pagan religion to Christianity.

According to Patrick, he was born in Britain and kidnapped by Irish pirates at age 16. He was held in slavery for six years, but escaped and returned to Britain, where he was reunited with his family and became a cleric. Later, after a falling-out with the family, he returned to Ireland.

Baseball great Babe Ruth came up with a novel way to keep cool during the hot summer months: he chilled cabbage leaves in a cooler of ice and put a leaf or two under his baseball cap. The leaves would last a couple of innings before he had to replace them.

Until 2017, the last word in the Oxford English Dictionary was zythum, defined as an unfermented malt beer made in ancient Egypt. The new last word is zyzzyva, a genus of South American weevils. Actually, the word zyzzyva dates back to 1922, so Oxford seems to have dropped the ball here.

Zyzzyva

 

Seal of Approval

On the website of the magazine Psychology Today, I found a pretty good definition of psychoanalysis. It’s a bit intricate, but you can handle it.

Freud pioneered the idea that unconscious forces influence overt behavior and personality. He believed that childhood events and unconscious conflict, often pertaining to sexual urges and aggression, shape a person’s experience in adulthood.

Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis created the framework for psychoanalytic therapy, a deep, individualized form of talk therapy. Psychoanalytic therapy encompasses an open conversation that aims to uncover ideas and memories long buried in the unconscious mind.

Psychoanalysts employ specific techniques, such as spontaneous word association, dream analysis, and transference analysis. Identifying patterns in the client’s speech and reactions can help the individual better understand their thoughts, behaviors, and relationships as a prelude to changing what is dysfunctional.

As the final sentence explains, the goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to help the patient understand the subconscious causes of dysfunctional behaviors in hopes of changing them.

A few decades ago, I spent a year in psychoanalysis. I met regularly with a psychiatrist, and we explored what makes me tick.

It was a unique and, in many ways, strange experience. All that effort and professional firepower focused solely on me, my thoughts, my beliefs. Having my innermost self under a microscope was surreal and a little spooky.

How I ended up seeing a shrink is an interesting story.

Deanna and I got divorced in 1989. I’ve mentioned the split occasionally on this blog, including here and here, but never in much detail.

I don’t intend to elaborate now, except to say that, when she handed me the divorce papers, a part of me was surprised, but another was not. There had been signs.

She and I began to have disagreements, but all along, I thought they were transient and fixable. I never believed they were significant enough to end the marriage.

Deanna saw it otherwise. It’s a fact that the only person you can understand with even remote accuracy is yourself. And even that is an iffy proposition.

Several years before the divorce, she expressed an interest in seeing a therapist. I took it as a positive thing. If issues are bugging you, it’s good to try to understand and deal with them. She ended up going to a psychiatrist affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.

Immediately, the doctor proposed seeing both of us, in separate sessions, to facilitate Deanna’s analysis. She said sessions with both marital partners is always advisable.

To be clear, I’m a believer. Freud had some nutty ideas, but his central belief that (1) experiences in childhood affect behaviors in adulthood, and (2) it pays to understand them — that makes sense to me. I certainly don’t object to the concept of therapy.

Nevertheless, I was hesitant. I felt no need to undergo analysis. I was confident no sinister, malignant demons lurked inside me. All my demons are minor and benign.

Further, there was the cost. For one patient, $70 or $80 per session was brutal. For two, it would be crippling.

On the other hand, two facts were clear. First, the doctor might be right that understanding me would help her understand Deanna. And second, if I declined, I would be seen as an obstacle and a villain.

I agreed to undergo analysis.

The sessions were casual and calm. No couch was involved. The doctor and I got along well, and, session by session, she went about the task of sizing me up.

At the same time, I got to know the doctor and her methods. Often, I could see where she was taking the conversation.

For example, she showed interest in how my dad was affected by his World War II experiences. (He was a bomber pilot, was shot down, became a POW.)

After the war, Dad suffered significant anxiety and flashback problems. He struggled with PTSD for many years until, late in life, he finally fought it to a truce.

The doctor wanted to understand how Dad’s condition affected the rest of the family, and me in particular, which I freely admit it did. It was the topic we spent the most time talking about.

In those days, Deanna was a stay-at-home mom. My modest salary sustained us. Under those circumstances, the cost of therapy was a significant financial burden.

To her credit, the doctor arranged a generous payment schedule that I could manage.

And ultimately, also to her credit, she announced that she had seen enough. She said continuing my therapy sessions was not worth the time and expense. We were done.

In effect, she concluded I was acceptably normal and stable and did not require her services. It was a veritable thumbs-up for my mental health, a seal of approval from a professional. I was shrink-certified.

I wasn’t surprised. And it was supremely satisfying.

Mic drop

I don’t recall how long Deanna continued therapy. I never learned anything about her sessions, whether they were fruitful, or how they ended. I never asked.

But I well remember sending checks to the doctor every month, slowly paying down the tab.

Then one day, long after Deanna’s therapy ended, a letter arrived from the doctor.

She informed me that a fire had swept through her office building, and many financial records had been destroyed, mine among them.

She and her accountant decided to declare my debt absolved. Roughly $1,000 was being forgiven and, I assume, written off on her taxes.

I mean no disrespect to Freud or his disciples, but that gesture did more for my mental health than all of the therapy sessions combined.

Lucy

Freud-S

 

One For the Team

I’m a fan of science fiction because the genre places no boundaries on the imagination of the writer. Virtually any scenario, from the mundane to the improbable to the bizarre, can be explored. The short story below nicely illustrates the point.

I won’t say more because this particular story is best read without the clutter of an introduction. Well, a short one is okay.

———

Cully

By Jack Egan
Published in Amazing Stories, January 1963

Above him eighty feet of torpid, black water hung like a shroud of Death, and still he heard his ragged breathing. And something else. Cully concentrated on that sound, and the rhythmic pulsing of his heart. Somehow he had to retain a hold on his sanity… or his soul.

After an hour of careful breathing and exploring of body sensations, Cully realized he could move. He flexed an arm; a mote of gold sand sifted upward in the dark water. It had a pleasant color, in contrast with the ominous shades of the sea.

In a few moments, he had struggled to a sitting position, delighting in the curtain of glittering metal grains whirling around him as he moved.

And the other sound. A humming in his mind; a distant burble of tiny voices of other minds. Words swirling in giddy patterns he couldn’t understand.

Shortly thereafter, Cully discovered why he still lived, breathed: a suit. A yellow, plastic, water-tight suit, with an orange-on-black shield on the left breast pocket, and a clear bubble-helmet. He felt weight on his back and examined it: two air tanks and their regulator, a radio, and… the box.

Suit, tanks, regulator; radio, black water, box; sand, sea, stillness.

Cully considered his world. It was small; it was conceivable; it was incomplete.

Where is it?

“Where is what?” He knew he had a voice — a means of communication between others of his kind, using low-frequency heat waves caused by agitation of air molecules. Why couldn’t he make it work?

Words. Thousands of them, at his beck and call. What were they? What did they mean? He shifted uncomfortably in the tight yellow suit, searching the near horizon for…

Where is it?

A vague calling came from beyond the black sea curtain. Objectively, because he could do nothing to stop them, he watched his feet pick up, move forward, put down; pick up, move forward, put down.

Funny. He had the feeling, the concept, that this action held meaning. It was supposed to cause some reaction, accomplish an act.

He wondered at the regular movement of his legs. One of them hurt. A hurt is a sensation of pain, caused by over-loading sensory-units in the body; a hurt is bad, because it indicates something is wrong.

Something certainly was wrong. Something stirred in Cully’s mind. He stopped and sat down on the sandy sea bottom, gracefully, like a ballet dancer. He examined his foot. There was a tiny hole in the yellow plastic fabric, and a thin string of red-black was oozing out. Blood. He knew.

He was bleeding. He could do nothing about it. He got up and resumed walking.

Where is it?

Cully lifted his head in annoyance at the sharp thought.

“Go away,” he said in a low, pleading voice. The sound made him feel better. He began muttering to himself.

“Water, black, s-sand, hurt. Pain. Radio tanks…”

It didn’t sound right. After a few minutes, he was quiet. The manythoughts were calling him. He must go to the manythoughts.

If his foot was bleeding, then something had happened; if something had happened, then his foot was bleeding.

“No!”

If something had happened, then maybe other things had happened — before that. But how could something happen in a world of flat gold sand and flaccid sea? Surely there was something wrong.

Wrong: the state of being not-right; something had happened that was not-right. Cully stared at the edges of the unmoving curtain before him.

Where is it?

It was a driving, promise-filled concept. No words; just the sense that something wonderful lay just beyond reach. But this voice was different from the manythoughts. It was directing his body; his mind was along for the ride.

The sameness of the sea and sand became unbearable. It was too-right, somehow. Cully felt anger, and kicked up eddies of dust. It changed the sameness a little. He kicked more up, until it swirled around him in a thick gold haze, blotting out the terrible emptiness of the sea.

He felt another weight at his side. He found a holster and gun. He recognized neither. Again he watched objectively as his hand pulled the black object out and handled it. His body was evidently familiar with it, though it was strange to his eyes.

His finger slipped automatically into the trigger sheaf. His legs were still working under two drives: the manythoughts’ urging, and something else, buried in him. A longing. Up-and-down, back-and-forth.

Where is it?

Anger, frustration flared in him. His hand shot out, gun at ready. He turned around slowly. Through the settling trail of suspended sand, nothing was visible.

Again he was moving. Something made his legs move. He walked on through the shrouds of Death until he felt a taut singing in his nerves. An irrational fear sprang out in him, cascading down his spine, and Cully shuddered. Ahead there was something. Two motives: get there because it (they?) calls; get there because you must.

Where is it?

The mind-voice was excited, demanding. Something was out there, besides the sameness. Cully walked on, trailing gold. The death-curtain parted…

An undulating garden of blue-and-gold streamers suddenly drifted toward him on an unfelt current. Cully was held, entranced. They flowed before him, their colors dazzling, hypnotic.

Come closer, Earthling, the manythoughts spoke inside his head, soothingly.

Here it is! Cully’s mind shouted.

Cully’s mind was held, hypnotized, but his body moved of its own volition.

He moved again. His mind and the manythoughts’ spoke: fulfillment — almost. There was one action left that must be completed.

Cully’s arms moved. They detached the small black box from his pack. He moved on into the midst of the weaving, gold-laced plants.

Little spicules licked out from their flexing stalks and jabbed, unsensed, into Cully’s body to draw nourishment. From the manythoughts came the sense of complete fulfillment.

From Cully’s mind came further orders.

Lie down. It was a collective concept. Lie still. We are friends.

He could not understand. They were speaking words; words were beyond him. His head shook in despair. The voices were implanting an emotion of horror at what his hands were doing, but he had no control over his body. It was as if it were not his.

The black box was now lying in the sand among the streaming plants. Cully’s fingers reached out and caressed a small panel. A soundless ‘click’ ran through the murkiness.

The strangely beautiful, gold-laced blue plants began a writhing dance. Their spicules withdrew and jabbed, withdrew and jabbed. A rending, silent scream tore the quiet waters.

NO! they cried. It was a negative command, mixed in with the terrible screaming. Turn it off!

“Stop it, stop it!” Cully tried to say, but there were no words. He tried to cover his ears within the helmet, but the cries went on. Emotions roiled the water: pain, hurt, reproach. Cully sobbed.

Something was wrong here; something was killing the plants — the beautiful blue things! The plants were withering, dying. He looked up at them, stupefied, not understanding, tears streaming down his face. What did they want from him? What had he done…

Where is it?

A different direction materialized; a new concept of desire.

Cully’s body turned and crawled away from the wonderful, dying garden, oblivious to the pleadings floating, now weakly, in the torpid water. He scuffed up little motes of golden sand, leaving a low-lying scud along the bottom, back to the little black box in the garden. The plants, the box, all were forgotten by now.

Cully crawled on, not knowing why. A rise appeared; surprise caught Cully unaware. A change in the sameness!

Where is it?

Again the voice was insistent. His desire was close ahead; he did not look back at the black churning on the sea bottom. His legs worked, his chest heaved, words swirled in his mind. He topped the rise.

Below him, in the center of a shallow golden bowl, floated a long, shiny cylinder. Even from here he knew it was huge. He knew other things about it: how heavy it was; how it was; that it carried others of his kind. He had been in it before. And they were waiting for him. He lurched on.

“Captain! Here comes Cully!” the midshipman shouted from the airlock. “Look what they’ve done to him!”

The old man’s grey eyes took in the spectacle without visible emotion. He watched the pathetic, bleeding yellow plastic sack crawl up to the ship and look up. His hands reached down and lifted Cully up into the lock.

They took his suit off and stared with loathing at what had once been a man. A white scar zig-zagged across his forehead. The Captain bent close, in range of the dim blue eyes.

“It was a brave thing you did, Cully. The whole system will be grateful. Venus could never be colonized as long as those cannibals were there to eat men, and drive men mad.”

Cully fingered the scar on his forehead, and looked unseeing into the old man’s compassionate eyes.

“I’m sorry Cully. We all are. But there was no other way. Prefrontal lobotomy, destruction of your speech center… it was the only way you could get past the telepaths and destroy them. I’m sorry, Cully. The race of Man shall long honor your name.”

Cully smiled at the old man, the words churning in his brain; but he did not understand.

Where is it?

The emptiness was still there.

Cully

Original illustration from Amazing Stories by George Schelling.

———

“Cully” is a solid story, skillfully presented and wrapped up nicely at the end. But frankly, I am disturbed — no, appalled — by the idea that we would move in and wipe out a population to make way for our colonists. The thought is horrifying.

Oh, wait. That’s how the Americas got here.

 

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

— Seneca the Younger

###

There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.

— Jane Austen

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I have steadily endeavoured to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on every subject) as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it.

— Charles Darwin

###

People speak sometimes about the “bestial” cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts. No animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

« Portrait de Sénèque d'après l'antique » (le Pseudo-Sénèque), b

Seneca

Dostoyevsky F

Dostoyevsky