Archive for April, 2013

National Poetry Month

April is our National Poetry Month and before it is quite over, I want to share one of my favorite poems. I first read this in 1963 when I was a freshman in college. It was in John Ciardi’s book How Does a Poem Mean?. I thought it was the most beautiful love poem I’d ever read.

Art  Autumn Reflections Armand Tatossian

Love Poem
(by John Frederick Nims)

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apoplectic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.

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This morning Alice, Stephen and I drove up north, toward Cleveland, to visit Alice and Barney. Alice is one of Paul’s sisters and part of the reason for our Alice’s name. She’s a retired first grade school teacher and Barney is her husband of nearly fifty years.

Alice also has a favorite hobby – Origami.

Today she entertained us with a box full of butterfly balls. Stephen adored them! The rest of us had lots of fun, too.

stephen  at alice nenis april 2013 the balls of butterflies

A butterfly ball is a ball made of paper which one can hold on the palm of one’s hand and hit from below so that it flies up and separates in lots of origami butterflies. When four adults and one child are doing this all together the results are spectacular! And then one has the fun of making them again. Alice “néni” (a Hungarian term that means something like Aunt, but is applied to any older woman to whom one feels close but also wishes to show respect) was the only person who could reconstruct them quickly, though my Alice was getting better at it as we played with these lovely toys.

My sil Alice also put another sort of origami butterfly inside each ball.

Stephen at Alice nenis april 2013 butterflystephen at alice nenis april 2013 closeup

Of course, origami butterfly balls were not the only entertainment. At the bottom of their garden was a large very muddy puddle which Alice néni rather easily persuaded Stephen to jump up and down in. Both two footed jumps and one footed were enjoyed. Many many times!

And inside, he had lots more fun with Alice and Barney’s large container of tennis ball sized multicolored plastic balls. They can be dumped out and repacked. And then dumped out and repacked. And then dumped out and……….

But you get the idea! And then bounced down the basement stairs and repacked there and brought up again. And then Alice showed Stephen her clothes chute just off the kitchen and he dropped plastic balls down that one by one to Barney who stood just beneath and egged him on with cries of , “More! More!”

Alice and Barney are really the perfect hosts who will do anything to please their guests, especially guests under the age of four or so.

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On Tuesday mornings I usually stay with Stephen while Alice volunteers at the school library. I enjoy the time playing trucks and music and trains with my sweet grandson. I also enjoy the fact that Alice is volunteering in the same library in the same school in which I volunteered when she and Em and Andy were students there. That is a lot of continuity which I find quite comforting in this funny world.

Andy one steam engine Alice is taking to her talk about being a mechanical engineer to Nathan's class april 2013

Tomorrow I’ll be staying longer because Alice will be giving a talk to Nathan’s second grade class about being a mechanical engineer which is what, among other things, she is. She did this last year too, and told me that in the beginning of the talk she asked everyone what they could find in their classroom that was made in a factory.

After some discussion they came to the conclusion that nothing in their classroom had been made in a factory and were rather surprised when Alice told them that there was almost nothing there which had not been made in a factory, like their clothes, desks, books, blackboards, lamps, windows, the paint on the walls and on and on…They were amazed! And then she talked more about what engineers do, and a bit about the manufacture of legos which she thought would interest them. Most of them seem to have ended up with the thought that engineers are people who make legos.

This year I think she will show them a video of a lego factory again, but she is also bringing in the steam engine in the photo above. It’s part of Andy’s collection of working model steam engines, and probably the prettiest if I may use that word to describe it. Some people collect porcelain or books or art. Andy has quite a number of Geiger counters, steam engines and old gas masks!

I learn a lot from my kids!!!

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I remember when I first began to wear glasses. I was in the third grade, I think, and really could not read anything on the blackboard from my desk. How exciting it was to get my first pair of glasses, which I now think must have looked fairly hideous with their blue and pink plaid frames. But I could see. How almost shockingly clear all the details of the world looked to me! And what a blessing it is that we can solve this problem so easily nowadays.

Nathan 2013 April new glasses he said I never knew the world could be so exact

My daughter Alice inherited my vision and we wear glasses with nearly identical prescriptions. And now my dear grandson Nathan discovered that he needed glasses. He was sitting at the kitchen table and asked his mother what time it was. She said, “the clock is right there,” and was very surprised to hear that he could not see it well enough to tell the time. In fact, he needed to get much closer before he could do that.

So off they went to the eye doctor and soon Nathan had his glasses. I completely understand the feeling that prompted his first remark that the world suddenly seemed “so….. exact”.

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Today will be better

It was certainly a tragic day in Boston, yesterday. And I didn’t have a great day either. After more than a week of tests I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is very small and everyone is hopeful. I’ll have surgery very soon and a new sort of radiation therapy called mammosite. I have mixed feelings about mentioning this here, but feel that I know some of you very well.

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Today I would say that the weather here in Ohio is better than it is in Venice, Florida. Here it is 57degrees and beautifully sunny. The sun is lighting up the blossoms on my spring witch hazel which is just outside my quilting/computer room window. In Venice, it’s 64degrees, a bit warmer, but raining and overcast.

quilt birds of a feather 2

The picture is from a birds of a feather quilt whose image I saved a long long time ago and before I really knew to save more information about its provenance. It’s here because I had to look through my fabric for my daughter Alice who needs some gray from my stash. It made me feel a bit inspired to begin one of my small quilt projects again.

I’m still trying to get things into more order after my dear son was here alone for a month! But he’ll have to help more. Half of my book room floor is covered with steam engine artifacts which he brought together there one Sunday when his steam mentor came over. But little by little it will all be done.

But when one is nearer 70 than any other age, things do slow down a bit. The whole morning was spent having a routine bone density test and a mammogram followed by grocery shopping and then I came home and took a good nap. I’m almost ready to move on to something other than the computer and reading the very nice book The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims. It’s a charming biography of sorts about the farmer/writer E.B. White. My mother bought me a copy of Charlotte’s Web when it first came out and I loved it with a passion. Who can ever forget the beginning when Fern asks her mother, “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

charlotte's web

charlotte's web story of

I was also fascinated by White Flower Farm and White’s great catalogs, and his wife Katharine’s Onward and Upward in the Garden. (And I have two books of his excellent essays.) But somehow, I just discovered this book which came out two years ago. Perhaps because I just ordered a child’s book about the illustrator Garth Williams. There doesn’t seem to be a book written for adults, which is a shame, really.

I’m a bit too easily distacted by things! But that makes life interesting.

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Peeked out my window this morning to see snow. Not heavy snow, but darling little flakes floating down. And nary a palm tree in sight.

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