Gentle river, gentle river
Swift as glides thy stream along,
Many a bold Canadian voyageur,
Bravely swelled the gay chanson
Thus of old our valiant fathers,
Many a lagging year agone
Gliding oer the rippling waters,
Taught to banish care in song.
Now the sun’s behind the willows,
Now he gleams along the lake,
Hark across the bounding billows
Liquid songs the echoes wake.
Rise Apollo up before us,
E’ne the lark’s begun her lay
Let us all in deafning chorus
Praise the glorious king of day.
Thus we lead a life of pleasure,
Thus we while the hours away,
Thus we revel beyond measure,
Gaily live we while we may.
– Henry David Thoreau
What I’m reading: I read very little this week. Best of intentions and all, but time slipped away. I did start perusing An Innocent Abroad, compiled travel wisdom by Don George and published by Lonely Planet. But, not enough to actually call it reading.
What I’m listening to: Die Winterreise by Franz Schubert. I learned of this song cycle five or ten years ago, and I listen to it every winter. It’s 24 pieces, poetry set to music, following a man’s journey into the snow to rid himself of his departed, lost love. Quintessentially German.
What I’m spending time on: The Witcher on Netflix, starring Henry Cavill. I hadn’t followed the phenomenon that is The Witcher, from a fantasy franchise based on the series of books from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. But the show has garnered some attention, and I wanted to see what it was all about. A man fighting monsters in a world with wizards, elves, and dragons.
What I’ve shared:
The week that was, Dec. 20th. More work; started making end-of-year plans; brainstorming goals for 2020. The next ten days will be pretty crammed full. But I had some good highlights this week.
What I’m reading: Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler. Oddly enough, I first started reading this a year ago, December 2018. I did not finish it, but something made me pick it up this week. I have the Kindle edition, and with reading on my iPad I sometimes find it less intrusive when I don’t continue reading. The unfinished book stays on my nightstand, screaming at me to pick it up again. The iPad doesn’t say much at all. But led to Jack Gilbert while reading this, so I’m curious to see what other gems may come out of it.
What I’m listening to: Not impeachment proceedings, and only some Christmas music. This week I bounced mostly from podcasts to trying to pick the next audiobook I want to dive into. I’ve got several in the queue, but I haven’t been quite ready to pull the trigger on one. I’m hoping inspiration strikes.
What I’m spending time with: This week it’s a quote – “If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.” I hadn’t read Jack Gilbert before. I may have read that bit in Light the Dark last year, but I didn’t feel it like I feel it now. Another quote which has some meaning to me comes from another Jack, this one named Kerouac. “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”
Other things of interest this week:
“If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.” – Jack Gilbert
In Light the Dark, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Big Magic) wrote about finding the work of poet Jack Gilbert (no relation). Shortly after reading this over the past few days I came across a quote by Benjamin Franklin which stated, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” And the two seemed to complement each other.
Elizabeth writes, “Live bravely when you’re young, we say. And maybe again when you retire, if you play your cards right. Jack Gilbert refused that argument: No, I’m just going to live that way every single day of my life, thanks.”
What would that look like? To live bravely throughout our days? For Jack Gilbert, who worked at steel mills before becoming a poet, that looked like a Pulitzer nomination for his first book. Then, accepting relative obscurity, he went to live and travel in Europe and Asia. He published five collections in five decades, and two novels. But he stayed away from mainstream literature and academia.
But he lived truthfully, to himself, and to others. He experienced life and sampled all it had to offer. Fellow poet and lover Linda Gregg said of him, “”All Jack ever wanted to know was that he was awake—that the trees in bloom were almond trees—and to walk down the road to get breakfast. He never cared if he was poor or had to sleep on a park bench.”
Life is different for all of us, but bravely living it will leave a mark on those around us regardless of who we are or where we come from.
In other words, do something worth writing.
I’m considering what to call this weekly post. I used to post a poem a month, and the reading/book list every month. When I switched to daily, I left off the poetry – more or less. I still try and post my monthly books lists. But as to Friday, and what I’ve been spending time with…
What I’m reading: Draft No. 4 by John McPhee. I purchased this sometime in the past six months. Not sure it was included on a monthly list. Trying to focus more on getting books read, posts published, decluttering, organizing, etc. I’m liking this book so far. It’s giving me a little insight into forming story, at least from McPhee’s perspective. You can learn more about McPhee and read some of his writing over at the New Yorker website. Coincidently, I was subscribed to the New Yorker around 2013-2015. I may have read some of his writing before and not even known it.
What I’m listening to: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. Something Wicked has led me down a deep dive of sorts, including checking out From the Dust Returned from the library, and watching a bit of The Ray Bradbury Theater on Prime Video. Halloween Tree, read by Bronson Pinchot, is a history of Samhain, just in time for the Halloween season.
What I’m spending time with: Halloween Horror Nights. I’ve gone nearly every year for the past 26 years. My mother took me when I was a child, and I have fond memories of it. I still enjoy the spectacle and design of Horror Nights, though I no longer feel frightened in their scary attractions. This year includes houses on Universal Monsters, House of a Thousand Corpses, Stranger Things, Jordan Peele’s Us, and Ghostbusters, as well as non-licensed houses. I know some of the actors as well from working around the area.
◊ Also on Universal’s monster franchise, I received this article from Hollywood Reporter this week, speculating how Invisible Man and Dark Army will usher in a potential new wave of horror genre goodness.
◊ This old Thrillist article on why Netflix sometimes has terrible movies in your suggestions. (I’m cleaning out my reading list – finally – and this has been in there since 2016.)
◊ YouTube video of Tao Chi Kai massage on busy street in UK. I like massage and chiropractic videos, and routinely do adjustments to myself. There’s also a link in the video notes for Tiger Balm.
◊ One more YouTube channel to check out: And You Films. Their most popular videos are Diary of a Wimpy Alien and you can start with episode 1. I’ve been friends with this group for fifteen years, and they are nearing 100K subscribers. Follow them if you’re interested in updates.
Some of the things that caught my interest this week:
- Brain Pickings – My Heart. The openness and closedness of a heart is one of those things I’ve pondered for several years. Long before the emotional breakdown in 2016. This children’s poem beautifully covers the spectrum of heart acrobatics in a sparse way.
- A throwback to The OC. In this interview with Olivia Wilde she chats about the perceptions of including a queer character on the early 2000s pop culture juggernaut. (I still own the series on DVD).
- Pollution is a problem in our National Parks. I’ve only recently begun exploring the outdoors – last three or so years. So the National Parks have grown in my purview, and I even entertained becoming a park ranger for a time. Caring for our natural resources, and the places we’ve set aside to visit the wilds, is of crucial importance.
- Booming Broadway. The NYTimes reports, spoiler alert, another record year for performances on the Great White Way.
First things first. I love journals. Have since at least 1990. I had just turned 7, and what I had asked for from my dad was a notebook/journal. I know this because I still have it. (Somewhere, possibly in storage. I swear I’ve seen it recently…) It is a faded green color, with an image of rough seas. A sail boat rides the swells. I can’t recall what the style of the picture is named, but you’d know it if you saw it.
From that point on, I’ve always written stuff. Nothing coherent. A few short stories, maybe a hundred or so poems. But, I jot notes down all the time. Song lyrics. Words I want to know more about, or topics. Quotes that inspire, motivate, or enlighten me.
I heard that Charles Dickens burned his notebooks and letters annually. I wonder what is lost or gained when we let go of those thoughts written down for later investigation.
I just finished writing about a life post-poetry, and was in Target browsing the meager book section. A book section with some shelf space devoted to books of poetry. Poetry! (Also, the Spanish language Cat in the Hat, which I very nearly purchased because… why not?)
Given my meager Spanish, I doubt I could even understand it…
So, poetry. At Target. And thus I’m reminded of the growing poetry sections at Barnes & Noble. That poetry is still relevant has never been in question. But that poetry is seeing new consumption, that is the wonderful element to the story.