New kitchen gloves

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Ignore the dirty sink.

Tiny messages from N. A strange cousin (elderly) has a facebook page. He looks like a combination of Cousin It and the Gordon’s fishstick sea captain. She’s writing a paper on someone I’ve never heard of. S@ul W1ll1@ms. To tell you the truth, he reminds me of Sun R@. Do you remember him?

Also reminds me of a very old black man who hung around my campus — it was part of his nine campus pilgrimage, he said. He dressed in shaman-like robes and carried a staff and had a long grizzled beard. I can’t remember his name, now. I do remember having a long conversation with him outside the Store 24. He was similarly mystical.

I keep thinking about John Updike. Here’s a paragraph from an early story, “A Sense of Shelter,” reprinted in Wednesday’s New York Times:

Snow fell against the high school all day, wet big-flake snow that did not accumulate well. Sharpening two pencils, William looked down on a parking lot that was a blackboard in reverse; car tires had cut smooth arcs of black into the white, and wherever a school bus had backed around, it had left an autocratic signature of two V’s

Click back, and back, and back.

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January

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The days are short
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor
And parkas pile up
Near the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees’ black lace.

The sky is low
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

-John Updike

The news

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I’ve slipped back into the daily grind.
M has homework and this and that.
I’m exploring The Minimalist cooks at home which I think is every bit as wonderful as those reviews say. Anything, anything to make cooking dinner every night possible. I made vinegar chicken last night, and think I’ll make curry in a hurry tonight. The good thing is that the recipes have interchangeable parts, so if you don’t have this you can make do with that. I like the way they’re written, too. Last night, I was told to put a skillet over the flame. “Add the oil and wait a minute.” Those are directions I can follow.
And I’ve got several knitting projects in the works.

There are troubling signs of spring around, but I’m just going to ignore them until I’m good and ready.

Which at this point, I am not.

Three books

I read three books on my trip, all of them quite good.

The White Tiger. My book group picked this. It’s good — about a poor man from the rural part of India and his journey out of poverty, and his struggle to remain a human being — or maybe what are the requirements for being a human being, that you need to be far enough above the muck for you to be able to afford to be a human being.

Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book is a sort of imagined history of an actual Jewish prayer book which survived the war in Sarajevo. She’s amazing, and it’s amazing. A readable, interesting story of a book, and of a history of intolerance and various people’s small stands against intolerance. But also a compelling read.

Lauren Groff’s Monsters of Templeton. A lighter book than the ones above, but also good. A girl comes home to her small upstate New York town (AKA Cooperstown) and solves a historical mystery as a means to finding out who her father is. Somewhat magical.

The last two are similarly about missing fathers, mothers and daughters and historical puzzles trapped in books.

Anyway. Good reading.

Now I’m rereading Geraldine Brooks’ March, which I’ve read before, although maybe not quite all of it.

And strangely enough, in the car with L we were listening to Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, which also deals with book-binding, mysteries about parents, and mysteries about books. I think I have to find a copy and finish that, too —

Maine in January

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So. I’ve been to Maine.

I flew to New Hampshire, where I was met by my college housemate L (plus various of her relatives). We drove through the night to Maine, and then got up the next morning to go skiing.

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It was great.

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My ostensible reason for going was to see N, and I did. She seems great — very caught up in school, busy with hockey and likes her classes and busy and happy — so that’s good. (You can see her above checking for messages from the friends I’ve dragged her away from. Behind her is L’s son.) And it was fun skiing with her (although it was very cold) and also having two hour long drives with her.

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It was also great to hang out with L. I’ve known her since college. We lived together for two years, and after college rode our bikes halfway across the country. I see her every summer for a day or so, but it was great to have two days to hang out with her.

We have a longstanding plan to hike the Appalachian Trail once we’re 50, which is, ahem, very close. We’re going to do a week a year. This is probably the most painful way to do it, because it most likely takes a week or two to get in shape. We’ll be halfway in shape when we stop.

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Anyway. Now I’m back, but I’m trying to figure out a way to move to Maine. It’s very nice there. I’d be happy to move to the town we were in, except what would I do?

I’ll have to think about this. It’s definitely my sort of place, though.

Hmmmm.

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Here’s a picture of me signing the guestbook for the yurt we skiied to. (ha.)

(Click back for earlier entry today.)

Poem again

You may have already seen this. Here’s Elizabeth Alexander’s poem with the intended linebreaks. Better, I think, but I liked it to begin with. I got it here.

PRAISE SONG FOR THE DAY: A POEM FOR BARACK OBAMA’S PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009.