Sunshine almost always makes me happy, but not today.
Sparrows flutter about the backyard, a blue jay lights upon a deck chair nearby and is soon joined by its mate who passes a worm beak to beak. Honeysuckle blooms; its smell is sweet. The big oak tree shades the yard and the squirrels have not yet descended from their nest above, but I see them watching and waiting for me to leave.
I am sad and know not why. It wearies me the whole day long.
The online dictionary defines moodiness as being “contented one moment, then sad the next, then angry, then joyous, then irritable.” Here I am in Oz, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining down it swarm rays on my face, and still, I am sad.
It’s a bit irrational, but don’t worry, like the weather in Oz, moods change.
I find sometimes sunshine can’t make me happy
The sun shines and the weather’s kind,
but I am sad and know not why,
it wearies me, you say, it wearies you
all day long from dawn til dusk and dusk til dawn
this restlessness that can’t be stilled.
It wears like a rock within a shoe
and can’t be shook.
To learn how it came to be
such a want-wit sadness makes,
and I know it can’t be helped,
it takes too much
to know thyself.
Apologies to John Denver
“… you just can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans,” said Isaac Asimov, I, Robot. Except, thank goodness, the fact that we can eat hamburgers; that alone, my friend, might be the only difference.
Robots are in the workplace, we just haven’t noticed.
Ray Kroc knew this when he pitched his multi-mixer to the MacDonald’s brothers in the 1950’s. Now, one multi-tasker bot from Momentum Machines can patty, flip, and serve 400 made-to-order burgers in an hour, and could soon replace an entire McDonalds crew.
Needed restaurant “generalist” to supervise the machine. No education required.
March 31st, the course of the sun has run halfway through Aries, the sign of the ram. It is Kansas and so it is the South Wind, not the West that warms the earth. The farmers give thanks for the sometimes-gentle rain that falls from the heavens above, and curse instead when it hails.
The earth, which a few weeks ago, was brown and grey is now green and lush, and the morning’s silence is broken by the Robins’ song.
What follows is a modern translation of Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
English did not become modern until William Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible, a fact that will surprise many “modern” high school English students.
When April with its sweet showers
Hath pierced the drought of March to its root,
And bathed every vein in such liquor
By which virtue engenders the flower;
When the West Wind also with his sweet breath,
Has inspired In every woodland and field
The tender crops, and the young sun
Has half its course within the sign of Aries run,
And small fowls make melody,
That sleep all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them in their hearts),
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,
And pilgrims to seek strange shores,
To distant shrines, known in sundry lands;
And specially from every shire’s end
Of England to Canterbury wend their way,
The holy blessed martyr to seek
Who helped them when they were sick.
When I was a little boy the joke was told,
Q: Why did Peter throw the butter out the window?
A: To see the butterfly.
It is a joke that works in English but not in French, since butterfly in French is papillon.
Language barriers are large but none so great as that observed by the Welsh and English cleric Matthew Henry, There are none so deaf and none so blind, as they who refuse to see and will not listen.
Quand avril avec ses douces douches
La sécheresse de mars à sa racine a percé ,
Et a baigné toutes les veines dans une telle liqueur
Par quoi la vertu engendre la fleur;
Quand le Vent de l’Ouest aussi avec son doux souffle,
A inspiré dans tous les bois et champs
Les plantes tendres et le jeune soleil
A couru la moitié du cours en Bélier,
Et les petites volailles chante la mélodie,
Qui dormir toute la nuit avec l’œil ouvert
(Donc la nature les pique dans leurs coeurs),
Ensuite, les gens souhaitaient faire des pèlerinages,
Et les pèlerins cherchent des rivages étranges,
Aux sanctuaires lointains, connus dans les terres diverses;
Et surtout depuis la fin de chaque cours
De l’Angleterre à Canterbury se promène,
Le saint béni martyr à chercher
Qui les a aidés quand ils étaient malades.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 25 October 1400) is the grand daddy of English literature. Thank God he wrote in the vernacular and not in Latin as had been the custom. English is the most polyglot of languages. Sprinkled throughout Chaucer’s English, one observes bits of French, German, and Latin.
If one looks at the words of Chaucer and then listens to the sound, much of the meaning will become clear.
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
Alas, it was St. Thomas Beckett, murdered by followers of the king, who was the “holy blissful martyr” the pilgrims sought to seek. His shrine in Canterbury stood until 1538, when, on orders from King Henry VIII, it and Beckett’s bones were destroyed, and Henry ordered that all mention of his name be obliterated.
Even the most literal of translations can be deceiving. Lovers, poets, and politicians know this for that is why words matter. This is a good thing for it means that Google Translate will forever require human intervention.
Thoughts on the movie La La Land – It was La La Land until there was Moonlight.
There are dreamers and doers and if I could be but one, I suppose I’d rather dream of things to be when I leave Oz. To go some day to some place I long to go, might just spoil the dream.
Far away, there is a cabin on the lake I long to go. I will someday but will it be too late?
Loin, il y a une cabane sur le lac que j’ai envie d’y aller. Je vais un jour, mais sera-t-il trop tard?
“[W]enn wir gelernt haben, die Bäume anzuhören, dann gewinnt gerade die Kürze und Schnelligkeit und Kinderhast unserer Gedanken eine Freudigkeit ohnegleichen.” Hermann Hesse
“[W]hen we have learned to listen to trees, the brevity, rapidity, and childishness of our thoughts gain unrivaled joy.”
Such a lovely thought by Hermann Hesse, I think, that a tree speaks, but of what?
A tree, as Hermann Hesse says, knows nothing of its ancestors and nothing of its progeny. It stands alone, a giant like Beethoven and Nietzsche, towering over the earth, its branches rustling in the wind, and its roots, intertwined, rooted in infinity.
There is a recent theory that that trees mysteriously communicate with each other, and, if that is right, then Hesse is wrong in thinking trees are solitary creatures whose selfish existence is solely lived for themselves. The theory goes that trees in the forest share with each other carbon and other elements. Diversity is therefore important for it allows one species to give to another species when it is in need. The forest is its brother’s keeper. The tree dependent on the health of the forest for its survival.
That too is a lovely thought.
“Ein Baum spricht,“ a tree speaks, Hesse says.
There is an ancient Elm tree that stands alone in the city where I live. It is a remnant of the many grand trees that once lined the block. Its thick branches droop. When a great wind storm comes, old branches break off and fall to the ground. Each spring thousands of tiny flowers appear, then seeds which cover the sidewalks and street, and having nowhere to take root, are washed away.
Is it sad to be the last tree?
There is an oak tree in my back yard that is at least 100 years old. It is home to a family of squirrels that feed from the seed and peanuts I provide. The squirrels run and play on its grey bark. From time to time they just cling to the bark watching me watch them. The oak tree was here before my house was built. It has seen three families come. It will be here when I am gone.
Who has not gone into the woods to find an ancient tree whose bark is gnarled and face like, whose branches reach out to the sky in supplication to God above. A tree that has stood the test of time, the bitter cold and heat, the drought and rain, and through it all has not complained.
Was sagen die Bäume?
This begs the question, of what does a tree think?
It stands and watches, much like God, of the comings and goings of life. It is home to the birds and squirrels that nest in its branches. It gives food to the deer that feed below. Its broken branches provide firewood for the traveler who wanders by and needs warmth. It is a repository of time.
Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Persevere, for who knows what tomorrow brings?
“[Und] wenn wir gelernt haben, die Bäume anzuhören, dann gewinnt gerade die Kürze und Schnelligkeit und Kinderhast unserer Gedanken eine Freudigkeit ohnegleichen.”
Three thoughts came to me – a poem, some verse, and an axiom.
Is it possible?
To step outside one’s self
Sans eyes, ears, touch, mouth
And be someone or something else
A leaf fluttering high above in a tree
Water flowing below over a rock
A bird in flight
Looking down at me
I ask myself,
But who then is there to reply?
To exist is nothing. To be happy we must struggle against the odds – to “pull our cart out of the mud,” and move forward while others remain impassively stuck and railing against the mindless elements that have placed them where they are. Move on. For it is only from a distance that we can see truly who we are. The only remaining question is whether we shall do this with the help of friends or by ourselves.
No matter how bad it is it can always be worse, said the cynic. And Pandora replied, you dope, there is always hope.
[I’ll get back to World War I in a bit. War is hell and I need a break.]
You may not be an angel
Cause angels are so few
But until the day that one comes along
I’ll string along with youI looking for an angel
To sing my love song to
And until the day that one comes along
I’ll sing my song to youFor every little fault that you have
Say I’ve got three or four…
“I’ll String Along with You” by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, 1934
The man from Oz was leaving Kansas by way of highway 54, heading towards the Lake of the Ozarks for a much need rest, and, along the way was Iola and the Iola Theatre.
Oz got to thinking. Thoughts of his recent trip to Belgium and France and the battlefields of Flanders put aside for the moment.
Perfection doesn’t exist, Oz thinks. It is an ideal, not a reality. Michael Jordan was a good basketball player, but not perfect. Others have come along after him, and still more. Last year, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors had a good season, but not good enough. Still, the search for perfection goes on. But, life is a moving, breathing thing, constantly changing. So, achieving perfection is like achieving the speed of light. The closer one gets, the harder it gets to close the gap.
That said, until the day the perfect image of a 1930’s theater comes along, I’ll pick the Iola Theater. It’s got its faults, but so do I.
And what do we know about Iola?
It has a facebook page which you should check out. Their Facebook page touts this classic image of the Grand Opening.
The Kelley Theatre in Iola was appended to and located just south of the Hotel Kelley (demolished in 1972) off Iola’s main square. The theater got a facelift and on May 19, 1934, the grand opening featured “20 Million Sweathearts” starring Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers. Sadly, the Art Deco marquee is gone, replace one that doesn’t do the theater justice.
Keep in mind, 1934 was the heart of the Great Depression. Twenty two percent unemployment was the norm. Bing Crosby had a #1 hit song with “Buddy Can you Spare me a Dime.”
“20 Million Sweethearts” featured Dick and Ginger in a sweet duet singing the upbeat and still popular song “I’ll String Along with You”. And if you like Dick and Ginger, check out the Mills Brothers singing along with Dick in “Out for No Good.”
“Movies are for feeling good,” says Oz.
[First in a series of posts about the Battle of the Somme.
This is the Somme river valley. The word “Somme” is likely derived from Latin and French, “sommeil” suggesting a nap, a doze, or quick sleep. Others say it is Celtic and means “tranquil”. It was neither for the soldiers who fought and died.
The battle for the pillbox at Tyne Cot has significance for all of us. First, it was part of the “War to End All Wars”, a misnomer. Second, it is a reminder of the fragility of life. Third, for myself and my two brothers-in-laws who went on this journey in September of 2016, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Somme Offensive, it was a connection with our grandfathers who fought and lived.]
Date, September 8, 2016.
If we had waited three weeks and a few days, it would have been the 99th anniversary of the successful Australian assault on the hill along the Passendaele-Broodseinde road where the Germans were dug in and waiting. The weather is beautiful, unlike 100 years ago, and the countryside is serene and tranquil.
The view is of Fields of Flanders in the rolling chalk upland hills with Belgian villages here and there. The beauty is somber. In 1917, the second year of the Battle of the Somme, September rains and constant shelling by Allied and German howitzers have made the landscape a muddy morass and hellish scene. The entrenched Germans are ready with machine guns, barbed wire, deep dugouts, and pillboxes.
The name “Tyne Cot” was provided by the British Northumberland Fusiliers.
Far from home, far from their families, opposite the Germans, the Fusiliers are said to have seen a resemblance between the German concrete pill boxes and the Fusilliers’ own stone cottages near Tyneside (Tyne cots) in Northumberland, England’s northernmost county.
On 4 October 1917, the hill and the bunker where Tyne Cot Cemetery CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) is now located was captured by the 3rd Australian Division. New Zealanders, in support of Australians and advancing through mud that day, were caught in uncut German barbed wire and slaughtered. Elsewhere other British and Commonwealth soldiers attacked German lines.
After taking the hill, the pillbox where the cross stands was used as a medical dressing station for wounded. A cemetery for the 343 dead Australian soldiers was begun two days later.
The inscription reads, “This was the Tyne Cot Blockhouse captured by the 3rd Australian Division 4th October 1917.
On 13 April 1918, the Germans recaptured the hillside and it was finally liberated by Belgian forces five months later.
After the Armistice the cemetery was expanded to consolidate the graves of other battle sites around Passendaele and now contains over 11,500 graves of Commonwealth and British soldiers. Four German soldiers are buried here. The memorial wall contains the names of almost 35,000 soldiers who have no known grave.
The city towers of Ypres are visible in the distance. The blood red poppies that are ever present in the green fields are a reminder of the lives lost.
On the first day of the battle, British soldiers kicked soccer balls towards the German lines across “no man’s land,” in a belief the battle would be quick and simple.
It was neither.
In all, for the six miles that British soldiers advanced during the offensive, they lost more than 400,000 and both sides saw 1.3 million casualties. Intending to relieve the French who held out against a German offensive at Verdun, there too were a million casualties. This was bloodletting on a massive scale.
And what are we left with?
The days are gone by when, for dynastic ends, small armies of professional soldiers went to war to conquer a city, or a province, and then sought winter quarters or made peace. The wars of today call whole nations to arms…. The entire financial resources of the State are appropriated to a military purpose….
— Moltke the Elder, writing in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870
The first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1 1916, was the bloodiest day ever in British Army history.
Exhausted when the winter snows finally came, both sides hunkered down and repeated the bloodshed in 1917, when Tyne Cot was captured by the Australians, and in 1918 when it was recaptured by the Germans, until the Armistice came on November 11, 1918.