the mist

The mist is rising off the lake, ghostly white
The sky is the palest blue, the softest pink,
The mist becomes clouds of lavender floating just beyond my touch
Through the trees, the sun is dawning, the night fades, and it is morn
And I descend the path to the lake, as the birds begin to wake
And I feel a peace within me, knowing the world is still asleep
For the moment this place is mine, and mine alone
If one does not include my crowded thoughts

water-lake-2

Those who were close to him called him Paul. French poet Ambroise Paul Toussaint Jules Valéry, (1871-1945) said,” A poem is never finished just abandoned.” I suppose that is true, that we are never really happy with the result. It is only weariness or time that moves on to the next thought. Perhaps I shall return as Robert Frost suggested, perhaps not.

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Butterfly Jokes

butterflies-wide

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I cannot fly

but I can see

I  cannot be a butterfly,

But if I eat

a caterpillar, or two, or three

Will I, can I, would I

have butterflies in my stomach?

Would I feel light, would it be right

Would I be airy, like a fairy

Or just sick to my stomach?

One of the first jokes I learned as child goes like this:

Q: Why did the little boy go to the kitchen window and throw the butter out?

A: He wanted to see the butter fly.

Wittengenstein  speaks to the nonsensical attempt to understand purely mental concepts like color.  Green, blue, red, and yellow are purely mental constructs. We cannot represent them as absolutes, but rather as categories that only can be understood over a broad range. Or not at all  if one is blind.

Humor is our acknowledgement of the futility of imposing absolutes to any word. Paradoxes are punny and puns are paradoxical. We see both, understand that both cannot be true and yet they are.

Two more butterfly jokes:

Q: Why wouldn’t the butterfly go to the dance? A: It was a moth ball.

Q: Who is the king of the insects? A: The Monarch!

Ruff words

Oh, to listen, to hear, I think it queer I speak and no one hears. It is no better than to talk to my dog, but at least he’ll sit and stay, even if he knows not why. Then again, he must think me strange, that I cannot talk as he. To me, his growl seems quite rough, his language quite complex, yet quite simple, if only I would take the time to listen and hear.

dog-labrador

Just like us, dogs talk through body signals and barks and emotion rises or falls with pitch or volume. Like us, love is expressed best in a look, a lick, a nuzzle when we need it most.

Bring in the wine

Oz had a glass of wine, which got him thinking about the Oscars, translation, understanding, and Chinese poetry.

Go figure.

Lost in Translation, one of my favorite movies, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Insert Oscar shout out here for female writer-directors. The 2003 Indie movie stars Bill Murray as an aging actor Bob Harris, who befriends college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo hotel. The romantic comedy-drama plays out on many levels while the couple film a Japanese whiskey commercial.

Bring in the Wine, eighth century Chinese poet, Cen Can (aka Cen Shen and Cen Jiuzhou) commiseration about getting old and getting drunk with old friends. The Chinese characters are 將進酒 Jiāng Jìn Jiǔ, which must have been a mouthful if one was already drunk. Kind of like saying, “rubber baby buggy bumpers,” which makes no sense, but it is still fun to say.

You know, we are not so different, Japanese, American, Chinese, then and now… A little whiskey, some wine makes it easier to get along. And the hell with getting lost.

You can check out my translation here.

wine-cellar

Not yet

It is not yet
Spring
Again
And so
The turtle is still submerged
The snake has not stuck out his head
The birds still fret and know
It is not time to make a nest
No
It is not spring
And yet
One notices
The days are getting longer
The wind is from the south
The cat is at the window
Watching
The squirrels begin to play
Along the fence as if to say
Begone you winter day
And though
The trees are brown and bare
I know it in my bones and heart
I know it as
I walk by my closet
And leave my coat inside

squirrel-nuts

What will the New Year bring?

What will the New Year bring?
Hopefully boundless joy, loving family and friends, few cares and an abundance of God’s blessings, then it helps to have a nut or two to tide you through the winter days, an adventure that lets you venture somewhere you’ve never gone before, and, at the end of the day, a thought to keep you warm in bed, may there be peace on earth.

 

I heard the bells

winter-2

Christmas Day, 1863, Washington, D.C.

 

Outside his window on Christmas Day, 1863, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow heard the Christmas bells and the carolers singing “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men”.

That cold December day he was in Washington, D.C. called to the bedside of his son who, less than a month earlier, had been wounded in the shoulder at the battle of Mine Run Campaign, the follow up to the Battle of Gettysburg, and an unsuccessful attempt by Union forces to defeat the Army of the Potomac near Chancellorsville.

 

The north wind blew fierce that day in fitful gushes that banged the shutters on the windows that were not secured. The carolers, attempting to dispel the gloom, pulled tight their winter coats and scarves, their voices accompanied by sleigh-bells from horses making their way to their appointed destinations, and in the air one smelled a mixture of sweet egg-nog and the stench of death.

Worried, disconsolate, and inspired, he wrote these words:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

vermont-farm

Wassail

Cheers!

If I said, “Wassup!” you’d know what I meant, but what about “Wassail!”

Wassail has its roots in ancient Norse, it rhymes with lass and hail and means “be hale” or “be of good health”.

The word entered the English lexicon in the 5th century with the Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, who came to help the British Celts fight the Picts. Horsa died fighting and Hengist stayed. The story goes that Hengist’s daughter Rowen offered British King Vortigern a golden cup filled with wine, saying,

“Lord King, Wassail!”

The word was new to Vortigern, the wine was pleasing, and so too was Rowen. They marry and the next thing you know, Hengist is the very first king of England, or at least of Kent, where the Saxons and their cousins the Angles settled down and became English.

By the time the Normans arrived centuries later, Englishmen were wassailing each other with a cup of wine. The habit was hard to break. Time changes words and their meaning and wassail was remembered as the spicy hot wine and not the salutation.

Sometimes a glass of wassail will start you thinking. What do other countries use for toasts?

In France they say, Bonne sante. The French being the French and very idiosyncratic don’t pronounce the first e and accent the second “e” to make the long eeee sound.

In Spain and the Spanish speaking countries of the western hemisphere, they say “Brindar.” Literally, meaning “offer” but that doesn’t express the thought, which is a hope that the recipient of the toast may receive all that is good and necessary. Brevity, the mark of a good toast and good sense.

“Expresar un bien deseado a alguien o algo a la vez que se levanta la copa con vino o licor antes de beber.”

In Russian, they say “Prosit!” but they say it Cyrillic, просит, which is hard to say, and means nothing more than, I beg or pray.

In German, they also say, “Prosit” or “Ein Prosit” which translates as “Cheers!”

But they made it into a song, which everyone sings at Oktoberfest and when wishing one a schönes Neues Jahr:

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.

Cheers, my friends, it all means the same, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

forest-couple-1280

Whose woods are these

stressless recliners, fairy tales can come true

I dare not leave these woods quite yet, something lurks up above, something lingers behind a tree, waiting just for me

… in these woods, lovely, dark, and deep.

I cannot sleep for from the distance in the woods comes a sound, “Who?” it calls mocking me. I dare not answer, my knees are knocking, teeth chattering. Am I scared?

You bet.

Then, I hear a branch crack, needles crunch, and I have got a hunch from the woods there comes for me a dark and hairy beast. Should I run, should I grab a great big stick, or, should I fall and make a tiny little ball? Then, I manage in a tiny voice to call out, father-mother are you there?

Silence, says my father, go to sleep.

forest-sun