A day of nothing memorable but many small & large joys. Most of all, a heartfelt conversation with an old friend who is wise, insightful, funny, kind, & who knows me, so what she says is always valuable. Didn't recognize one of my child students, who I hadn't seen in a few years & who is now 17 years old; now I remember the baby face behind the almost adult face. Karate practice: polish polish polish. Time to read & think. A pasta dish full of fresh vegetables to go home to, unless Johnny ate it all, but I'm betting he didn't. The sun is out. A different bike route to the west side, with different pleasures. Nothing special & all of it's special.
Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
~ Mary Shelley
I was looking for something for Memorial Day but this spoke to me. I've been feeling unsteady. Like I've lost the thread. But I was given an assignment that I hope will serve as a purpose that will steady me in the weeks ahead.
And here ya got yer typical inconsiderate police car parked square in the middle of the sidewalk. I could barely get around it, & what if you were using a wheelchair or walker. As usual, the cops have no interest in anyone but themselves.
Last week it was a bike sting, stopping people who rolled through a light a second before it changed at a corner with no turning traffic or pedestrians, & handing out $190 tickets. If they had been doing it at a dangerous intersection, I would have cheered, but this was set up to shoot fish in a barrel. Legal, maybe; fair, no.
I've been translating up a storm, mostly from Norwegian into English but also the other way round, in an attempt to improve my grasp of the nuance of words (as well as the straight meaning, a lot of the time). It certainly makes me aware of my limitations: is the best translation for "disappear" in this context (a Chekhovian poem by Maureen Owen called "Whenever I snow") forsvinner or blir borte? I have to understand the poem for a clue to the better choice. I have to understand every word & its etymology & every use it's been put to. You must know everything!
Walked around with Steve this afternoon ~ watched the orientation film at the Tenement Museum & managed not to buy more postcards: not till I send some of the hundreds I already have. Took him to Economy Candy for old-timey New York, and the new Essex Market to see the gentrification of Delancey Street. Later we'll have Greek dinner & pie. A nice leisurely warm summer day.
I'd wanted to go here for a long time, although I figured out later that it was actually the Wyckoff House in Brooklyn, the city's oldest home, that I'd set as a destination. No matter, the Queens County Farm Museum was fascinating. It's the oldest farm in NY State, established 325 years ago in 1697. It's an hour and a half away by subway & bus, almost to the Queens/Nassau County border.
It's a working farm of 40-odd acres, with cows, pigs, alpacas, chickens, goats, dirt roads, a barn. We took a ride in a hay wagon; so corny it's great, we agreed. Being there took me far from the urban world & half a century (or perhaps 3 centuries) back in time. I didn't grow up on a farm but they were all around & I didn't realize how much agriculture determined the rhythms of my days. And then I wanted to get back to the familiarity of concrete.
I was a block away from my office, leaving for the day. Wait! I forgot something & turned around. My phone rang. I ignored it. In front of my door, I see The Man from Advanced. That was who had just called. He came in to do his business. Oh! A lot of books, he said, admiringly. Do you want a book? I said inanely. Sure! What do you like to read? Books with a message, he said. And I found just the thing: something about conversations between Einstein & God, although that's not exactly it. I don't know why I had it, & it was in the giveaway pile, so I was delighted. This made my day, he said.
Wonderful program at the Norwegian Seamen's Church last night to celebrate Norwegian Independence Day. A lineup of excellent musicians, especially a string quartet from Norway of high school students, and the woman pictured here, who played the Norwegian pipes. They differ from Scottish in the reed (I think that's what she explained), making the sound similar but mellower. Steve enjoyed the salmon open-face sandwich & the marzipan cake, & I met some of my teacher's newer students, & said hi to a few people I've met at other times. Veldig gøy!
Gratulerer (congratulations) to Norway on Constitution Day. Their democratic constitution is the second oldest after the United States (1814 vs. 1776). Hipp hipp hurra! I'm headed over to the Norwegian church to watch a barnetog (children's parade, lit. children's train), sing & whatever else is in store. Fireworks? Not that I've heard.
How much did I really live in Maine? I had jobs but they tended to be under the radar, like tooling leather belts & selling them at crafts fairs, or taking care of the 93-year-old mother of a man I met when I went to Bill Cohen's family's bakery to ask for a job. He said, I've got a job for you, follow me! And we jumped in our cars & drove to his big house in Brewer (twin city to Bangor), presided over by his wife, Sandy, the most generous person I've ever met. She saved us over & over with meals & showers & advice, all thrown out so generously that we never felt burdened.
But I didn't know where the Margaret Chase Smith federal building was in Bangor, & I don't know if it was even built when I lived in Bangor. (Yup, 1968.) I don't remember if I ever had a Maine drivers license, although I probably did. I recently found my ID from the U of Maine, so apparently I was a college student.
Nonetheless, I lived lightly there ~ intentionally (I guess I knew I was passing through) & because I was young. I guess I was really year-round "summer people" for the three years I spent in Vacationland. ("Summer people" ~ & some aren't, we used to say.) I do know a slightly racist joke about Lewiston, which always seemed not funny at all but a sign that I knew the joke & therefore the town. For a minute I was from Maine.
Entirely back, having gone to 3 poetry events since Wednesday: a wonderful reading by Maureen Owen & Susie Timmons, a memorial for poet & teacher Bernadette Mayer, & a another memorial for poet & publisher Bob Hershon.
The one for Bernadette went on nonstop for 3 and 1/2 hours, but was totally worth it for the very last performer, the formidable 83-year-old Ed Sanders, who sang, heartbreakingly, "How Sweet I Roamed from Field to Field," a Blake poem, and Tuli's beautiful "Morning, Morning," getting stronger as he got through them. No ego, he gave us the songs & stepped off.
The event honoring Bob was briefer, & was more for the new issue of Hanging Loose & his last book, Unveiling, with wonderful art by his daughter, Lizzie. I read a couple of his poems, including his wonderful "Derek Jeter," where he names me to be his baseball executor & telepathically tell him what's going on. I gave a copy of that poem to Jeter & he signed the book, when I was introduced by mutual friends. I don't know if he read it.
I went to Maine for a week to help clean out a hoarder house, where my friend's ex died. It was harrowing. A wonderful company called Want It Gone carted out 117 yards of junk (many truckloads) on top of a few dumpsters Janet & her son, Wyatt, has filled earlier. It was exhausting. Apparently it's not uncommon for people who are paranoid? mentally ill? to hoard water, & even though there are 2 wells, a pond & a creek on the property, Neil had filled hundreds of cartons & bottles with water, which I spent 3 days emptying & tossing.
Usually, no matter what, vacation or funeral, I write here & accomplish a few tasks. This week I did almost none of them. I had no extra energy even though we took time off almost every day, going to Schoodic (the most beautiful spot in Maine) and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland (possibly my second favorite spot in Maine), and seeing old friends.
But now I'm back & reassembling myself out of the Maine of the decades I've been involved there & New York, people who changed too much, & to some extent, maybe, people who didn't change enough. Any wonder that I'm sleepy every minute?
Today's post is where I catch up from taking a week off, which I may or may not explain later on. But this photo is Maine at its best. There's the dramatic rocky coast, of course, but this is the gentler, blue-skyed Maine, full of comfortable utilitarian houses & pleasant harbors. This photo makes me remember that it was pretty great, the 3 years I lived there in the '70s. Pretty great too that I still have roots & memories & friends, even though so much time has passed.
Going to Maine tomorrow for a week. Haven't been there in a really long time, 10 years? 20? Strange, given that after I lived there from 1973-76, I went up at least a couple of times a year for decades. But Janet moved away & other friends drifted away or died, & I started going to the Adirondacks, which is as wild & half the distance from here. Or no particular reason, things go one way & then another. I'm looking forward to driving up to Schoodic Point, my favorite spot on the coast of Maine, & seeing my old haunts & some old friends. Laughing with Janet.
I might be posting & I might not.
Snow on water: silence upon silence.
~ Jules Renard (1864-1910)
It's May 1 & I have officially given up hoping that it still might snow in New York City. Yesterday was cold & dismal but it only got down to 52°. Cold enough to be mad at the landlord for not supplying the legally required heat, but a long way from snow.