Friday, February 29, 2008

We Are The Holler People

They're filming an Appalachian horror movie in Pittsburgh, starting soon, David M. Brown of the Pitsburgh Tribune-Review notes: Film's casting call wants that 'inbred' look (February 26, 2008). I'm pleased Hillbilly Savants blog called this to my attention. Here on Droop Mountain, we believe it's always worthwhile to frighten the tourists.

A movie about to be filmed in Pittsburgh is casting Gothic characters -- including an albino-like girl and deformed people -- to depict West Virginia mountain people. "'Regular-looking" children need not apply. That's the gist of an open casting call for paid extras for "Shelter," a horror film starring Julianne Moore that will begin shooting in Pittsburgh in March.

The casting call scheduled for Sunday invites "men and women of all races, 18 or older," to try out as extras, according to the announcement from Downtown-based Donna Belajac Casting. But the extras wanted for the West Virginia scenes evoke images of "Deliverance" and "The Hills Have Eyes."

"It's the way it was described in the script," Belajac said Monday. "Some of these 'holler' people -- because they are insular and clannish, and they don't leave their area -- there is literally inbreeding, and the people there often have a different kind of look. That's what we're trying to get."

....Appalachia as a setting in a horror flick is an old motif, but such an open appeal for stereotypical mountain people is unusual...

The announcement -- which was sent out in a news release and posted on the casting company's Web site -- asked for people with the following attributes: "Extraordinarily tall or short. Unusual body shapes, even physical abnormalities as long as there is normal mobility. Unusual facial features, especially eyes." The announcement requests "a 9-12-year-old Caucasian girl with an other-worldly look to her....Could be an albino or something along those lines -- she's someone who is visually different and therefore has a closer contact to the gods and to magic. 'Regular-looking' children should not attend this open call.'"

Asked if she felt the characterization might be offensive to West Virginians, Belajac said: "We tried to word it in a way that's not offensive. I hope it's not an offensive thing. It's not meant to be a generalization about everyone in West Virginia. That's why we put that it's in a 'holler' in the mountains."

Here's where my head went with all the talk of "holler people." Mistah Kurtz--he dead. A penny for the Old Guy.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us--if at all--not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men....

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley....

T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men, 1925

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Knitwear Patchworks

I was really intrigued by this Interview with Katherine Soucie of Sans Soucie. The designer uses hosiery discarded by department stores and textile factories as a "raw material" for clothing. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Many department stores end up with bags of unsellable opened packages of nylon hosiery which they either toss away or try to donate to non-profit organizations, or if they're lucky someone will take them off their hands. But who would do that and why would they?

Back in 2002, while in the Textile Arts Program at Capilano College in North Vancouver, BC, Katherine Soucie was working on a project learning screen printing, "we were supposed to apply different printing processes and surface design techniques. At that point in time I was really into finding and working with materials that were discarded in the [textile] industry and that no one else was printing on," says Soucie. That led her to experiment with nylon hosiery to re-invent a strong and long-lasting material which was the beginning of her popular Polymer Series. This project won her two scholarships which allowed her to launch her business "Sans Soucie," French for 'without a care.'

Imagine pantyhose transformed into snag-free and long lasting form-fitting tops, skirts, and dresses. Soucie has achieved this by dyeing, cutting, and silk-screening regular grade nylon hosiery. Soucie's hosiery garments are machine washable, more abrasion-resistant and less likely to ruin or run.

You can see some of her knitwear designs at the San Soucie Etsy shop. Even when I was young and skinny, these dresses and blouses wouldn't have suited me, but I'm fascinated by the way she puts seams where seams "don't belong" on knitwear. Imagine nylon stocking tubes cut flat, then seamed together. Cut out garments from the resulting flat fabric using the seams as design elements. It shouldn't work, but the garments appear very wearable.

I've been saving knit fabric scraps for years hoping there was something useful to be done with them. I think I will "create" some knit patchwork fabric and see what I can do with it. A small project, such as underwear, seems feasible.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Taking Arms Against Gravity

There's more than one reason I reacted strongly to the Hummer of a House guest essay on Via Negativa. For almost a hundred years, our house and its successive human occupants have prevailed in the twin battles against entropy and gravity. We always understood that gravity and entropy would eventually win out, but recent developments have left us suspecting that this was not such a distant reality as we had assumed.

Our thoughts have turned from "repair and remodel" to "build from scratch." Because the Internet hosts a wealth of "how-to" information on subjects ranging from Linux to knitting, I thought I'd check out "do-it-yourself" resources on home building. Most of what I found was advertising. Still, there are always a few interesting links.

  • Building a Home in Hundreds of Not So Easy Steps. (Winner of my "Truth in Titling A Web Site" Award). This is the story of a very small, very interesting house designed and built by the owner.
  • Make Your Own House. There's a little bit of information about many different things, from why it makes financial sense to build your own modest house, to how to lay floors and build stairs.
  • You Can Build Your Own Home: I Did and So Can You! When this guy says "build your own home" he means hire a bunch of different contractors to do different jobs. Most "build it yourself" Websites are aimed at people who will not be laying block or raising their own roofs. I found this site useful because it has information on buying construction materials.

These links are mostly "theory" as opposed to "practice" house building. They offer interesting reads, but limited practical advice.

  • Living Small--an article about a man who lives in a 100-square foot house. It's an interesting reflection on how much space a person needs, but not terribly helpful in a practical sense.
  • The Small House Society: a cooperatively managed organization dedicated to the promotion of smaller housing alternatives which can be more affordable and ecological. Lots of links, many of them to commercial but "ecologically sound" products.
  • Low Impact Living. This site is all about buying new stuff, although it is environmentally friendly stuff.
  • Building A Log Cabin. This is an interesting blog, but these people are actually taking pictures while some guys they hired build their (huge, fancy) log cabin.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Does Your Footprint Cast a Shadow?

It's taken me a couple of weeks to work out my response to Dave's guest-blogger, Chris Bolgiano, and her post, My Best Friend is Building a Hummer of a House. Dave often discusses land-use issues at Via Negativa, and I think he's mostly in agreement with Ms. Bolgiano, a nature writer living and working in the Blue Ridge.

I find some aspects of the essay disturbing, and it's taken me this long to work out why. Here's a much-condensed excerpt:

Our best friends Philly and Jake retired last year and built their dream house a short walk over the ridge from where my husband and I live amid a hundred acres of Appalachian Mountain forest....Now, their dream has become my nightmare. It began with their plans for a 4,000-square-foot house....

...In a footprint eight times larger than the standard quarter-acre suburban yard, nothing above microscopic level was left alive....Fallen trees sprawled across the property boundary and their wilting canopies sagged into our creek, where they would, in a sudden storm, divert the flow and erode the stream banks. I knew this to be a violation of a local erosion ordinance.

Talking to my husband later, tears sprang to my eyes. "If it was anybody else, we would turn them in just like we did those other two neighbors when they threatened the creeks." One case involved a careless logger and the other a careless house-grader...

...Ethical questions about who is responsible for protecting the environment faded in the harsh light of being a snitch. Who am I to criticize, anyway? We sent our share of sediment to the beleaguered Chesapeake Bay when we built our quarter-acre pond. Our ecological footprint here casts a shadow even at high noon on a clear day.

Scales of space and time determine what is sustainable. Extrapolated to each of the world's six billion plus human beings, the scale of even my (minimally) more modest materialism would crash the earth's ecosystems sooner rather than later, according to climatologists....

Well, I'm hoping for another twenty good years of living next door to Philly and Jake before the world collapses or I take the ultimate "Back to the Land" trip....For me, friendship trumps ideology. And if environmentalism is a religion--if the Creation is sacred--then I want to be a "hate the sin but love the sinner" kind of believer, not a "if thine eye offend thee pluck it out" kind. All I can do is ride herd on my own damage to the earth.

The author's friends seem to have more money than sense, but that is usually a self-correcting condition. I know of several people who came to regret sinking money into large, splendid houses. Those great rooms can seem impersonal, like living in a hotel, and such spaces must be heated, cleaned, and maintained at substantial cost. Similar houses are being built here, most of them seldom-occupied vacation homes.

What disturbs me is the distinction Ms. Bolgiano draws between her "careless" neighbors, who do manual labor, and her college buddies, people she thought were just like her. I'm reminded of Captain Brierly in Lord Jim, who is shaken to the core by the cowardly actions of an officer whom he knew as "one of us." His first mate says of Brierly, "Neither you nor I, sir, had ever thought so much of ourselves."

Perhaps she intends her readers to have mixed reactions to her essay, or perhaps my perspective is to blame. The social dynamics of the Blue Ridge are different from those here on the Allegheny Front. The Blue Ridge is more hard pressed by development, more regulated by land-use ordinances and more heavily-populated. In both places, though, people who consider themselves "environmentalists" condemn people who behave differently from them. Here, a neighbor's well-maintained trailer is the ski chalet owner's eyesore, but that trailer (bought second-hand and placed where the family's old house used to be) is less wasteful of resources than the trophy-house. The loggers I know are intensely concerned with forest preservation because it is their livelihood, their home, and their recreation.

I wish Ms. Bolgiano were more friendly with her logging neighbors--she's already had indifferent success in preaching to the choir of college-educated environmentalist believers. I wish environmentalism were just plain common sense rather than religion--it's too easy to set religion aside when it becomes inconvenient. And I wish she hadn't started me trying to visualize an "ecological footprint that casts a shadow even at high noon on a clear day."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Take It Further Challenge, February

The Take It Further Challenge for February is "What are you old enough to remember?"

Who else knows how to pack the wood on a wood stove that so that it will burn evenly long enough for a cake a rise? That's right as a country girl I was taught to cook on a wood stove. Now I have a gas stove and a microwave oven. In winter the warmest room in the house was the kitchen and we had hot water bottles to take bed now we have electric blankets, which to be honest I never turn on because I don't like them - much to my husband's dismay.

I remember washing that involved a copper and hand wringers then in my teens I had a really modern invention--a twin tub washer! Automatic washing machines were the height of luxury. I also remember out door toilets and how in winter had to grab an umbrella to dash down the path to visit it.

So this month stop and think what are you old enough to remember. You do not have to declare your age--but simply what you are old enough to remember.

One thing I'm old enough to remember is when most women made many of their own clothes at home. That's certainly how I became interested in the fiber arts--watching and eventually helping my mom and grandma darn socks, embroider dish towels, knit mittens, crochet pillowcase edgings, and run up dresses on the magical sewing machine.

For February's challenge, I decided I would return to my roots, and make a practical garment. While I've knitted dozens of pairs of socks, I haven't ever made a pair of the sort of fine-gauge knit trouser socks I remember ladies knitting when I was little.

As it happens, I have a big cone of fine-gauge machine-knitting wool. (Princess helpfully provides scale in this photo.) Holding two strands at once, this yarn gives a gauge similar to fingering weight yarn--about 10 stitches/inch on 000 double-pointed needles. This is a type of sock knitting unfamiliar to the nouveau knitters of Ravelry, Knitty, and other hip, fashion-forward Internet watering holes.

Fortunately, for fingering weight wool I can turn to my knitting inheritance, in this case, the 1947 Columbia Knitting Manual (a bargain at 75 cents!). This sock pattern is working very well. I tried half-a-dozen different stitch patterns for "textural interest," but had to give them up. I couldn't manage twist-stitches or cables with such fine yarn held double. This plain broad rib promises to make a smooth and comfortable sock, and that is what I'm old enough to remember.

Columbia Minerva sock pattern,

I'd hoped to have more sock progress to display at the end of February, but the unraveling and reknitting really ate into my project time, and small stitches such as these make for leisurely completion.

State of the Forest Report, West Virginia

The Pocahontas Times features an encouraging article this week: "West Virginia Forests Growing." Here are some highlights quoted from the article, which will disappear into their archive next week. The article is a summary of the National Forest Service's report, "The Mountain State's Forests: Trends In the Resource." The Times' link to the pdf version of the report doesn't work, but I tracked it down. You can download it here.

...The most recent report, complied by the U.S. Forest Service and West Virginia Division of Forestry, shows a significant increase in forested lands since the post-World War II timber boom and a corresponding increase in the volume of timber in the state's forests.

Today, forests cover 12 million acres of West Virginia. That's up from 9.9 million acres at the end of the 1940s.

The increase occurred due to more fields and pasture lands growing up at a rate that outpaced road building, mining and development for other nonforest uses across the state, according to the report.

A slight decrease in forest lands--about 100,000 acres--occurred between 1989 and 2000, may indicate that the area of forest land has peaked, notes the report. However, with 78 percent of its area in forest, West Virginia remains the third most heavily forested state in the nation....

Pocahontas County, which contains much of the Monongahela National Forest, as well as Seneca and Cal Price State Forests, is between 80 and 89 percent forested....

West Virginia's forests are becoming older and bigger. Stands of trees suitable for sawlogs have increased in acreage since the last forest inventory of the state....

During the last 50 years in West Virginia, the growth of trees has outpaced removals. Between 1989 and 2000, the net growth of trees averaged 430 million cubic feet, while removals averaged 248 million cubic feet, the report states. Those numbers translate to a net increase of 182 million cubic feet of wood on West Virginia's timberlands....

Hardwoods make up 94 percent of the total volume of forests in the state. West Virginia ranks second in the nation in hardwood sawlog volume--only Pennsylvania has more.

The 2000 inventory found that West Virginia's forests contain a rich mix of more than 100 different tree species. Just 15 of these species account for 84 percent of the total volume. Yellow poplar leads in volume, followed by white oak, red maple, chestnut oak and northern red oak.

Between 1989 and 2000, red maples and sugar maples saw the biggest gains of any tree species, at 27 percent.

However, oaks, which make up about half of the valuable hardwood timber logged in the state, have declined in the last 50 years, according to the report.

Some of that decline is attributed to the invasive gypsy moth caterpillar and over-browsing by deer. Selective harvesting of oak over other species is also a factor, according to the report....

Evaluations of forest conditions show that the health of West Virginia's forests is good despite concerns related to introduced forest insects and diseases such as the gypsy moth and beech bark disease, the report states....

Friday, February 22, 2008

"I Like a Sentence To Be Interesting"

Book Cover: The Gathering

I was intrigued by a Washington Post book review/author profile for The Gathering. Bob Thompson's review, Anne Enright, 'Gathering' A Following: Man Booker Prize Winner Is On the Bright Side of Bleak (February 16, 2008) made me at least as curious about Anne Enright's thoughts on writing as I am about her novel.

One of the ways life has changed for Irish writer Anne Enright, who beat long odds last fall to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, is that loads of people now want to talk to her about her work -- specifically her winning novel, "The Gathering."

....A short woman of 45 with close-cropped dark hair, she is scrunched down in a chair in the offices of her American publisher, Grove/Atlantic. She's here as part of an extended post-Booker victory lap....The Booker goes to what its judges decide is the year's best novel by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland (Americans are not eligible). It can be transformative for a writer like Enright, whose work has tended to generate more praise than revenue.

It sounds like a fascinating book, one I'd like to read, but the words that really piqued my curiosity were these:

....[T]he upside of breaking down and recovering is that "you make your decisions. Are you going to live? How are you going to live?" In Enright's case, part of the answer was: "You're not going to waste your time working in television anymore. You're going to write your books. Even if they're no good, you're going to write them anyway."

....What's next? Enright, who says the post-Booker fuss has left her somewhat scattered, isn't sure she wants to say.

"I have sort of gone through two novels since 'The Gathering,'" she explains, meaning that she's walked through two ideas in her head to see if they might fly. In the past, she couldn't do this, and she still doesn't know if the process will really work, "because actually what happens is I write a sentence and then the sentence requires another sentence."

"And I like a sentence to be interesting. And I like a surprise. I like to go somewhere new."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Freecycle, the Low-Tech Way

In general, Pocahontas County is not a great place to find treasures in the trash. When people here turn loose of something, it's usually completely worn out. However, there are a few spots where folks can place things that are "still good" for others to inspect and possibly adopt. Last week, a few old skirts joined my collection of wool plaid fabrics, and a nice but stained denim dress provided me several pretty pieces of machine embroidery to embellish some future project.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Naked In The Woods

You may notice, from my posts here, that I've recently been catching up on my news feeds after an absence of several days. Here's an intriguing new book that goes on my "must read" list: Naked in the Woods: Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery by Jim Motavalli. Carolyn See's Washington Post review, Into the Wild and Woolly (February 15, 2008), is a bit ambivalent about it, but her reviewer's reservations only make me more curious.

When you review a book every week for more than a couple of decades, you're bound to run into a wacky one or two, but "Naked in the Woods" stands in a class by itself. The subject matter is wacky -- no other word for it; the scholarship, though extensive, is deeply uneven and strange; and the structure and organization make the book seem put together in a funhouse hall of mirrors.

It's hard to know how to approach this nonfiction account of Joe Knowles, Maine hunter, trapper and all-around woodsman, who, as part of a publicity stunt sponsored by the Boston Post in 1913, decided to go into Maine's Dead River wilderness clad only in an athletic supporter. With no tools or supplies of any kind, he promised to stay there for two solid months and then emerge "sufficiently clothed to walk the city streets." He was 43, out-of-shape, chubby. He planned to send the paper progress reports written with charcoal on birch bark. There is a photo of him, white, plump and madly naked, shaking hands with a group of journalists, woodsmen and well-wishers just before he goes in, looking as peculiar as can be.

Knowles stayed in the woods two months and came out on the Canadian side of the border wearing a bearskin shirt and deerskin leggings. He'd lost 30 pounds, he was tan and reeking, and for some reason America went wild about the man. He'd killed the bear, he said, by trapping it in a pit and clubbing it to death. He'd wrestled the deer in hand-to-hoof combat. He'd lived off berries and bugs and fish. He'd proven that a naked man could exist in the wilderness by his wits and skills.

This happened at about the time of Tarzan and Teddy Roosevelt and manly men everywhere, but the author suggests that the driving force behind the national celebration of Knowles was America's anxiety about the loss of the frontier, and who's to say no to that?

Knowles went on a national vaudeville tour afterward. He made fire onstage by rubbing two sticks together. But soon a reporter from a rival newspaper interviewed everyone he could get his hands on in the Maine wilderness and revealed that Knowles was a fraud, that he'd lived on baked beans and other canned goods and slept in a cozy cabin. Knowles hotly denied all this!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Which Dust Bowl Were You Talking About?

Sometimes I read something that makes me wonder if I live on the same planet as the writer. This Dust Bowl reverie, hot on the heels of yesterday's dust storm analysis, continues to stick in my mind. Wasn't It Great? Absolutely Not. But Oddly Enough, It's Comforting to Think About by Hank Stuever, (Washington Post, February 10, 2008) begins with a fantasy about modern day families made homeless by bad mortgages and jobless by a recession. Stuever imagines what long-term, wide-spread homelessness would be like. I'm surprised a resident of Our Nation's Capitol doesn't have a realistic mental picture of homelessness based on first-hand observation of people panhandling outside the Washington Post's downtown offices. Of course, it's been a long time since I worked in that part of town; perhaps those people have been driven from view of reporters and lawyers by now. The romantic nomads Stuever imagines are

...loosely based on the somewhat disputed back story of Florence Owens Thompson, who, in 1936 at the age of 32, was stranded with her children at a muddy fieldworker's encampment near San Luis Obispo, Calif., waiting for her male companion and son to return with parts for their broken car. She was photographed by Farm Security Administration photographer Dorothea Lange....

Here's a secret about loving the past too much: A longing to know what it felt like gives way to a slight sense of envy. In any exploration of the Great Depression -- whether taught by the history or humanities department, or across campus at the biz school, or thoughtfully curated at a museum -- the take-away is that it can never happen again, that there are federal safeguards in place, however flawed, that keep things from getting that bad.

We don't envy the suffering. What we marvel at is the togetherness. The idea (propaganda or otherwise) that people cooperated, persevered and figured out a way to cope. The business news in the last month has been about the hesitation of the consumer. It's about an economic pause, holding still, listening for trouble. In this century, when people have bought houses for no money, where the answer to any economic stumble is to buy more retail merchandise to put into those houses, wouldn't a little bit of Great Depression be just the medicine we need?

Wasn't it always?

Isn't that the voice of your own grandfather, in Heaven now and with full access to your credit report, clucking in disapproval?

My parents were adults when the banks failed in 1929, and they held onto farms through the bitter drought of the early 1930's. Family reminiscences inevitably got around to the Dust Bowl sooner or later, but no one ever gave me the impression it was something that "can never happen again, that there are federal safeguards in place...that keep things from getting that bad." My parents themselves grew up listening to first-hand accounts of hard times in Europe. My dad's granny was a child of six in Sligo during the famine of "Black '47." "Pick up that little potato," he would echo her to me in the fall garden. "You might be hungry some day and wish you had it." My mom's grandparents had Highland Clearance and Hapsburg Empire stories to let little girls know how lucky they are.

I still pick up the potatoes, even the little ones. They taste just fine.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dust Storms and Pestilence

Dust storm

Here's a disquieting article about previously unsuspected mode of disease transmission: Dust Storms Overseas Carry Contaminants to U.S.--Scientists Study Whether Diseases Are Also Transported by Doug Struck, Washington Post, February 6, 2008.

Now, with NASA satellites and sampling by researchers around the world, scientists know that great billowing clouds of dust waft over the oceans in the upper atmosphere, arriving in North America from deserts in Africa and Asia.

Researchers have also found that the dust clouds contain not only harmful minerals and industrial pollutants, but also living organisms: bacteria, fungus and viruses that may transmit diseases to humans. Some say an alarming increase in asthma in children in the Caribbean is the consequence of dust blown from Africa, and predict they will find similar connections in the Southeast and Northwest United States.

Scientists are beginning to look at these dust clouds as possible suspects in transcontinental movement of diseases such as influenza and SARS in humans, or foot-and-mouth disease in livestock. Until recently, epidemiologists had looked at people, animals and products as carriers of the diseases.

"We are just beginning to accumulate the evidence of airborne dust implications on human health," said William A. Sprigg, a climate expert at the University of Arizona. "Until now, it's been like the tree falling in the forest. Nobody heard, so nobody knew it was there."

The World Meteorological Organization, a science arm of the United Nations, is alarmed enough to set up a global warning system to track the moving clouds of dust and to alert those in the path. Sprigg is heading the project.

....Even natural minerals can be harmful to humans, and dust-borne particles have been linked to annual meningitis outbreaks in Africa and silicosis lung disease in Kazakhstan and North Africa. The Dust Bowl storms of the 1930s in the United States brought graphic descriptions of choking sediment getting into the lungs of people and felling livestock.

But the advent of satellite images gave scientists a sobering look at how even faraway storms can reach us.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Middle School Time Anomaly

Report from Middle School: Remember how it felt when you were a kid, watching the clock tick off the last half-hour of the school day? Those minutes were impossibly long. Adults told me then that time would pass faster for me as I got older. Years would go by in no time at all.

I believed them, until I started substitute teaching. That last half hour really does go on as if it will never end. If you want to make your days feel longer, by all means, go back to middle school.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm Ulysses!

Power outages are not helping my return to blogging normalcy, but this quiz Sherry found has inspired me to keep typing. Do you suppose we'll understand it all by and by?

You're Ulysses!
by James Joyce
Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but compared to what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people do understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Little More Spinning

Blue and pink handspun yarn on the woodpile

I've done a little more spinning of the troublesome local fleece, although I've accomplished very little else.

I've been substituting in a vacant teacher's position for the last few weeks. That means that I started teaching classes of middle school social studies and science, making my own lesson plans, grading papers and giving tests with no advance notice. Of course, I caught both the upper respiratory infections moving through the school the second day I worked, and that has not made me more efficient.

Now that I feel a little better, I've learned some of the school routines and gotten ahead of the kids in the textbooks. Perhaps I'll be able to re-establish my blogging routine. It's a pity I can't tell you the interesting Pocahontas County stories I hear at work every day, but I'm afraid that would be intrusive. Perhaps they'll make grist for the fiction mill someday.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The (Poetry) Feast of St. Brigid

Deborah Oak is again hosting a "virtual poetry reading" in honor of St. Brigid. Reya kindly pointed me to this year's bohemian coffee shop location. It must be the season, for I am once again reading John Donne. The strange mix of sacred and profane, beautiful and ghastly always sucks me right in. "Air and Angels" is from Donne's Songs and Sonnets.

by John Donne

TWICE or thrice had I loved thee,
    Before I knew thy face or name;
    So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft, and worshipp'd be.
    Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing did I see.
    But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
    More subtle than the parent is
Love must not be, but take a body too;
    And therefore what thou wert, and who,
        I bid Love ask, and now
That it assume thy body, I allow,
And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.

Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
    And so more steadily to have gone,
    With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw I had love's pinnacle overfraught;
    Thy every hair for love to work upon
Is much too much ; some fitter must be sought;
    For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scattering bright, can love inhere;
    Then as an angel face and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure doth wear,
    So thy love may be my love's sphere;
        Just such disparity
As is 'twixt air's and angels' purity,
'Twixt women's love, and men's, will ever be.