Monday, July 27, 2009

summer sustenance

Green-Striped Melons
by Jane Hirshfield

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

Some people
are like this as well--
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

"the uses / And uselessness of hope"

'Tis Yet to Come

by Willard Spiegelman

The night is clear; the air is full of fall.
The trees begin to think of changing shape,
Of losing leaves, of stripping down to bare
Essentials. No need to strut autumnal
Beauty when everyone already knows
What lies in store for all of us. The oaks,
The maples, lindens, and the rest have been
Through this before, and yet for you and me
Each season brings the sense of something new.
"Hope springs eternal," as the poet said.
It springs through summer, autumn too, and then
Hope falls eternal, failing every time
To bring whatever once we thought it could.
Our equilibrium demands that we
At least attempt to think that seasons come
And go with energetic forcefulness.
We can't believe in random change, in change
With nothing other than itself in mind.
Our god is teleology, our creed
The sense that progress moves in only one
Direction; good will triumph after all.

What pattern can we find in autumn's change?
From summer's green to stubble fields, Keats knew
That harvest takes us all in by the time
We have sown and reaped and gleaned—that harvest
Reaps the reapers too. We are taken in,
Feeling we might last another season
Or even several more, until we think,
Like autumn's bees, warm days will never cease.
Homer had it right: the generations
Of men are like the leaves that fly about
And then descend, obliterating, then
Obliterated. Triumph? What folly.

Day breaks, but night falls, like the autumn leaves
That mark our universal downward path.
Descent is our design as well as our
Direction. Now the drop in temperature,
The trees' divestiture of foliage,
Demand that we encapsulate ourselves
In woolens, sweaters, proper covering
For self-protection. All to no avail:
The warmth in which we reinvest ourselves
Each winter cannot keep us safe or sound
Or insulate us from the final fall
We've been foredoomed to take, if not in fall
Then in whatever season falls on us.

The trees don't really change their shapes. They just
Reveal to us their skeletons as they
Disrobe. They neither strut nor think of what
They have to do. We watch in disbelief,
And shock, and awe, and even something like
Gratitude for what they have to teach us
About the uses and the uselessness
Of hope. It springs; it falls; it comes and goes.
We ourselves do not. Having come, we go
And having gone, do not return. The spring
Will do its best to cover up our fall.
The day will hide our having been at all,
And our evaporation not be felt
Or known by those who spring up in our place.

We move, indeed, in one direction. This
Focuses our thoughts when all around we
See how nature wants to move in circles,
Contriving repetition. And, alert
To seasons and their unabating joys,
We finally give up and then give in
To linearity, knowing that we
Too shall pass. This grants us final comfort,
A clarity that brightens and redeems
Us as we fall into our final change.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

one memory

(poem in progress)

You Ask for One Memory of You

After a night of shiraz and smokes

and people I hardly know,

you walk me home

through the thinnest hours

before dawn and snow,

so cold

our teeth might freeze to our lips

if we dare smile.

On the icy sidewalk

outside my apartment

we shake hands

through thick mittens.

That is as close

as we ever get

—wool on wool—

and it is enough.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

poetry in black stones

Black Islands

by Martin Espada

for Darío

At Isla Negra,
between Neruda's tomb
and the anchor in the garden,
a man with stonecutter's hands
lifted up his boy of five
so the boy's eyes could search mine.
The boy's eyes were black olives.
Son, the father said, this is a poet,
like Pablo Neruda
The boy's eyes were black glass.
My son is called Darío,
for the poet of Nicaragua
the father said.
The boy's eyes were black stones.
The boy said nothing,
searching my face for poetry,
searching my eyes for his own eyes.
The boy's eyes were black islands.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

dark summer jewels

By Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

Blackberry Eating
by Galway Kinnell

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry -- eating in late September.


The Place I Want To Get Back To

by Mary Oliver

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring to me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The NiverMoores tempt the wrath of Mt. Greylock?

This is a trip that started weeks ago. We had not been backpacking together in 7 years (!!), so Mt. Greylock was our destination. It was the weekend of our fourth wedding anniversary. The weather was perfect, and we were only miles from the trailhead. Perfect weather, love, and soon...trail! Until...the car conked out. Would. Not. Start. We were too far from the campsite to rationalize hiking up the much longer, more strenuous trail, so we called a tow truck, settling in for what would be 5 hours of waiting. Luckily, I had my knitting.

Fast forward: After several rainy, humid weeks, the wet streak finally broke. Behold! There was sun! Sun! It was some kinda windy all weekend, but it made for great clouds.

From Greylock

We drove up to the Sperry Road lot (SKIPPING the visitor's center, the site of our last attempt's failure) and quickly hiked in to our site. We were there after maybe an hour or so, without incident. This was Zoe's first backpacking trip, and she handled it beautifully!

From Greylock

From Greylock

The camp sites were great! They were clean, verdant, and (best of all) secluded. We could hardly hear or see our neighbors. Perfect! They had compostable privies up the camp road, but one of them never seemed to have tp.

Munching on GORP (pepitas [pumpkin seeds], roasted almonds, sesame sticks, raisins, and dark chocolate peanut M&Ms), we set up the behemoth tent; and with the threat of rain not quite out of the question, Ryan set up an extra fly over the picnic table, even notching a branch for center support. Nice job!

From Greylock

From Greylock

Soon hungry hikers demanded dinner...Pindos Mountain Pasta: angel hair pasta with basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta (from Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'. YUM! I made three servings for my generally starving family, but it was WAY more than we could eat. I could have gone with two and still had leftovers. We decided that we made enough to feed four starving backpackers or, as Zoe said, “Five ravenous raccoons.”

With bellies too full for dessert and some daylight to spare, we hung the bear bag (Ryan's aim was very fine indeed!), and hiked up to Stony Ledge for sunset. The clouds were rolling through at quite a pace, but the near-full moon was often in sight. Unfortunately, I had to go easy taking photos, realizing one of my batteries was not fully charged. I knew there was something more to do before I left! Hmph.

From Greylock

We hiked back to our tent by moonlight. It wasn't late, so Ryan started a campfire and we settled in, reading and chatting. Zoe roasted marshmallows, too. It wasn’t long before we zonked out. The wind howled all night long, but it didn't rain.

After a warm breakfast of Freezerbag Cooking's rice pudding (made 1.5 servings) and coffee, we packed up a lunch and headed to Cataract Falls. Only a mile in, it was not a bad hike. I may have complained about all the recent rain, but they sure highlighted the falls! We stayed there for a couple hours, me taking photos, Z rambling around on the rocks. We enjoyed a lunch of LVB "Grunch," a tasty spread made from peanut butter, honey, vanilla, and graham crackers. We also gobbled some Gold Coins, flaky cheddar crackers that I know a certain girl will be asking for in the future! More GORP was consumed, too.

From Greylock

From Greylock

We hiked back to camp in the afternoon, Z telling us all about a story she had started writing, complete with character and setting details. WHAT an imagination! Knowing we would hike to Greylock's summit in the evening, decided to relax. We ALL fell asleep for a long summer's nap. I drifted off reading and watching the dappled sun on the sides of the tent. Decadent!

We awoke and decided supper was in order, so we would have plenty of time to make our way to the summit. We made burritos using another LVB recipe of Time-Traveler's Tamale, corn tortillas, and cheddar slices that melted on the hot tamale. Everyone ate a couple! Again too full for dessert, we decided to wait and enjoy it up at the summit.

We headed up the Hopper Trail and made good time to the intersection with the Overlook Trail.

From Greylock

What's this? Time to spare? We took the Overlook trail. Glad we did, because the view was lovely!

From Greylock

It was a tough hike up to the summit, but we made it in plenty of time to head up the tower for an amazing panoramic view.

From Greylock

We poked around, checking out some nifty stones.

From Greylock

But the wind was whipping. We took advantage of the empty Thunderhead Shelter (but sadly with windows busted out and firewood stolen), and enjoyed some of One Pan Wonders' Bailey's Mousse with some adaptations. They did not have vanilla mouse at the store, so I used dark chocolate mousse (oh, a tragic substitution indeed!), and we used an Irish cream syrup instead of Bailey's owing to the 10-year old among us. We brought graham crackers and dipped them in the mouse. Delicious!!! Another winner!

After licking our lips and our spoons, we headed back up to the summit to check out the fireworks. We layered in fleeces and raincoats, pulling up hoods, and burrowing hands deep into pockets. It was NOT feeling like July! Zoe and Ryan trekked back up the tower to see the light show from up there, but I stayed down to set up the tripod and get some photos. It was so windy that I had to hold the tripod, lest the whole rig go flying! Only got a few blurry photos before my battery conked out on me.

From Greylock

Plenty cold, we decided to begin the trek back down when the fireworks began to wane. Ah, it felt good to be out of the wind. The trail was slick, so it was slow going for a while. About a mile in, we crossed the newly paved road and decided that although it would be a touch longer, we'd take the road. With thankful knees and ankles, our pace picked up nicely.

Apparently, I was feeling a little overconfident once we hit the camp road, because one second I was walking, the next I was splayed on the ground! What?! I showed Ryan and Zoe my hands to prove I was trying fend off a bear, but for some reason they're not buying it. (Hmmmm....) We got back to camp in good time and hit the bags.

We woke to the morning sun for the best weather yet! After gobbling the rest of the rice pudding, we packed up camp and headed back out. I can't believe the things people lugged in. On our way out, we saw two guys trying to roll out a huge canopy, cooler, and other assorted stuff. They had to give up and leave most of it on the side of the road as they carried the canopy (yes it took both of them) back to their car.

Z was definitely tired and Ryan's knees were bugging him, so we voted to hike the paved road back to the parking lot. Unloading the gear, we talked about some day hike options. Lunch was on our minds, and Z was looking forward to LVB Fabulous Fry Brownies! As we drove out, the car began to act up again. Ugh! What was this? The wrath of Greylock once again?! Not wanting to tempt fate, we headed toward home. We found a nice park in Williamstown and ate lunch by a creek. I wanted to make Smokey Lentil Pate, but we ate it all on the last "trip" and I didn't have time to make it again. Z played for a while in the creek and at the playground before we drove our tired, dirty, happy bodies home.

All told, we hiked about 13 miles this weekend. My ankle fared very well, and I'm pleased! Zoe did a great job, and Ryan was a good sport, considering he took the bulk of the gear in an awful, borrowed pack. Must remedy that! We learned that most backpacking recipes make way more than we can least until we start putting in more miles.

For more photos from our weekend, click here

"small jewel shining in space"

Lonely Lake

by Joyce Kennedy

It was the name given it on our hiking map. Intrigued,
we followed a narrow, rising trail flecked with autumn,
aspen leaves beneath our feet, young trees leaning across
as if to guard the integrity of loneliness. At the end,
we found the lake, small jewel shining in space, not
obviously frequented, although there was a rickety
dock and on it, a battered rowboat and dented canoe.
No paddles. We sat, one in rowboat, one in canoe,
the loneliness of the lake pared down to bare essentials—
shore lined with thick, dark pine, intense and cloudless sky,
sun flaring on water's changing surface. A hawk dipped
down to startle the peace while two ducks rode the ripples
unperturbed. Stunned by beauty, we reached across—
boat to canoe, canoe to boat—to touch hands,
our own lonely selves connecting as lightly and effortlessly
as the dragonfly wing that earlier brushed against my face.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Weeks follow each other like books"

Under the Elm

by Pierre Martory
Translated from the French by John Ashbery

Under the elm for a long time
I've been waiting for you, O my soul.
Weeks follow each other like books
Perused, my thoughts elsewhere,
Full of music that's distracted too
Full of a deep buzzing where words images
Perceptions dwell in the jumble of memory
Of which our mind is composed.
And nothing comes to assert your coming
No other sign than smoke.
Is it you that we should have welcomed
When tenderness filled our hearts?
You that we should have discovered
On the shores of pity or of love?
I have not been taught to notice your presence
Even when reveille raises the limbs
Of a future happiness; even when
Tired of a long day I seek
Silence in the immense dark where I jettison
What differentiates the sun from death.
Hours accumulated, absurd riches,
I am ready to give up the trees and the cities
But I still hope to receive you, my soul,
Laden with my own eternity.
You who are me, who resembles nobody,
You that I must give back some day to who knows who.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Finished this last night. Each chapter is its own flavor, some appealing to me more than others. Overall, a good, interesting read about one of life's tastiest morsels!

View all my reviews.