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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ampliative Induction

One of my favorite poets is Masaoka Shiki. Here is a doodle of him in my current journal:
He wrote this poem, translated by San Francisco Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, with guidance from Morita Yasuyo and Kodama Sanhide, for the 1976 book, One Hundred More Poems From The Japanese:
A little over 10 years later, we had a big winter and the Sierra snowline dropped to about 1600 feet above sea-level. We built two little sleds and the kids painted them blue.  We packed them into the VW Bus and drove to the lower slopes. After sledding, we hiked into the trees and there it was. I took a photo and wish I could find it, but can't. It was a maple leaf embedded in the snow. I composed a poem in my mind and included it in a group of submissions to a magazine --it was not among those selected. I post it here:
Yes, I felt a jostle over a span of 100 years!
What is this all leading up to? I'm not sure, but along the way --entering the century's closing decade, we had two more cold winters --both of which caused creeks to freeze in this valley. I opened another journal and found this:
For those, like me, who have trouble deciphering my script, I will describe it as an ice-bound rock. The poem, as I recall, was an  effort to use the tremendous operations of nature --the language of the universe-- as a metaphor. William Blake opined, "To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower." You see? Ampliative induction: A glimpse of immensity from a detail. He was a poet. So was Masaoka Shiki.

I am a gardener, but still I try. April is National Poetry Month.

You try too.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

How The Weather Is

Among the most perplexing enigmas is how the weather is. In this valley, gardeners, ranchers, farmers and city departments of public works have been plagued by drought, not 3 or 4 years of drought as California has conservatively complained to the world --in fear of inciting panic-- but 8 or 9 years. I don't know why we did that.

I don't know so many things.

But I do know the drought is over. In evidence, here is a photo Norma took yesterday on our way home from the market --a distance of four miles from our house on a road nobody much knew about 10 years ago. The tall grass was typical of springtime back then, and contained all sorts of little grazing animals one couldn't see until they ate their ways out --mice, bunnies, cattle, giraffes, dinosaurs. It has returned, but the animals have moved on.
Will they return? Perhaps not. Another mile brings us to a new sign.
This is the survival bellow of the California range. Pastures are being sold for housing tracts and industrial parks. Understandable after protracted drought, even if the grass is green again, the damage has been done. Party balloons have, for 9 years, had to be trucked pre-inflated from factories, and sky-divers were flown out-of-state to jump where there was enough air to open a parachute. But I have seen encouraging signs of reconstruction along with  zoning changes. Tomorrow, I shall take Norma to photo a gardeners' supply that sells decoys to lure the prairie animals back to this region. It's only a few miles away and quite promising.

Now it is tomorrow, and we set off our quest:
Our search led through several new housing tracts, then into fields again. We emerged onto a main road and found the place, got out and approached a well-secured fence, heard heavy footfalls running toward us from within. I was not entirely surprised.
"Help me with the gate," said T.Rex. "We can't seem to manage it alone. But jump back into your car or I might eat you. No offense."

"I understand, Instinct and all that...no problem. Here, I think that's got it."
"Yay! Thanks so much! Now, if you'll give me some help with directions, I'll lead the other animals home."

"Of course, follow the realtors' signs and arrows on the fence and look both ways before crossing the road."

I have no idea how my post about weather has run to setting the dinosaurs free, but we have the rest of the day ahead to consider it in the privacy of our thoughts and tomorrow is Easter. Your regular pastor will return after finding a pest control company equal to fortifying the manse against thunderous infestations. Hope everyone had a meaningful Good Friday and, so far, an equally meaningful Not Bad Saturday.  Go in peace.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Miss Dickinson And The Paper Chase

I have written and read poems, analyzed them, parsed them out for meter and meaning long enough to know when I am in one. Emily Dickinson was 16 years old in this tintype --I believe it is the only photo ever taken of her. In 1846, a photoportrait exposure consumed several minutes, yet, some measure of her mischief comes through.
This brings us to the paper chase. During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson wrote thousands of poems, many hundreds of which she sewed into booklets and tucked under her bed. If you wish to see how she really punctuated --mainly with dashes for stops combined with continuities and capitalizations suggesting topical allusions-- you must find a book like this one.
It is 770 pages long. 

That's a lot of paper. When I was 18, a couple years older than Miss Dickinson was in her tintype, I bought a record of two songs written by the admirable Jimmy Webb. Side A was a popular puzzle, sung by the incomparable Richard Harris, but it was side B that got me going on the enigma of Emily Dickinson. A paper chase is a game of hide and seek conducted with paper scraps left as markers  by the "fox" for the "hounds".  I learned that from a lovely friend from New Zealand that same year, 1968. Here is the song, sung and declaimed by a true dramatic artist: Harris,Paper Chase;
It begins and ends with an harpsichord, but the chase continues even now --all these years later. I hope, yes the thing with feathers, that this chase has no foreseeable end.