Category Archives: Language

On birthdays, memories, and top 5 lists

This past week I celebrated another birthday.  It was a milestone, being number 55. This year events coincided that made the day just a day.   My wife recently had back surgery and is recovering at home (doing well, but still has pain).  My eldest son is busy with work projects and a new baby.  My youngest son lives elsewhere and had to work (though he did call and we had a great conversation).  Good friends had other family obligations or were traveling.  I worked all day.  In fact, this is one memory of my birthday that will go down as being one of the most unremarkable.  For that alone, I will probably always remember it.

I will count the small kindnesses/gestures along the way:  The balloons shared by coworkers who recently turned 55 this month and like to tease each other about who is older.  We now have a special club – and I will always get used balloons because of it.  The blueberry pie made for me by a family friend who was looking in on my wife as she recuperates.  The phone call from my youngest son to wish me a happy birthday. The adorable phone call from my parents singing “happy birthday” in different keys.  Note:  My parents are career musicians and are never off-key.  Greetings shared on social media (FB) from friends and family – far and wide- hoping that I had the greatest day – the best day.   Yet, it was just a day, and I guess there is nothing wrong with that.

I reflected on past birthdays  and wondered what made a day the best day – the greatest day.  I’m not sure I have the answer, but I did dredge up some good memories of birthdays.

  1.  On my eleventh birthday, I received my first vinyl album as a gift from my parents.  It was Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles.  I had recently been introduced to their non-mop-top music by a school friend, and was immediately smitten with the lyrical genius of John Lennon on I am the Walrus.  It would be the first of many vinyl albums I would receive on my birthdays/Christmases.
  2.  On my 13th birthday, I had a sleepover party with 8 friends. I think this was my first and only sleepover birthday party. We ate hotdogs and hamburgers, played badminton, wiffle-ball and touch football, then roamed around the neighborhood after dark – playing  ghost in the graveyard.
  3. On my 27th birthday, I received my PhD.
  4. For my 40th birthday,  my wife purchased third base line tickets to a AAA baseball game in our city.  We went with some dear friends (one each of our children share a birthday) we had recently reconnected with.
  5.  On my 50th birthday, I was traveling in Germany with my eldest son and my father.  We were in Nuremburg on that day and visited Coburg Castle.  Facebook likes to remind me of that day every year and I smile.

There are memories of other birthdays,  but all the things that make days special are there in that list: meaningful gifts and gestures, landmark events, good food and fellowship, and exciting adventures in new places.

They are still just days – though,  and I hope you have a great one.

 

 

 

mottled

The once-blossoms from pear trees
pushed along in eddies of air,
gather in piles on pavement,

Teardrops darken the soil
where they impact – craters form
and moisture seeps away,

While blackbird nests dot between branches,
the sky torn with their cries;

lined-through words leave only
articles and prepositions,
no substance or action –
and scuttles the memory for lies.

Ireland, here or there

I recently traveled to Ireland with my son, and we experienced the wonderful scenery, the friendly people, the history, and the delicious food and drink that this island has to offer.  We flew into Dublin – and after an exciting time on Saint Patrick’s Day – we set off by rail to the western, more wild part of the country.  The scenes from the train changed from urban to countryside, as we made our way to Cork.  All the little village stops along the way were quaint and the conductor would announce the stop in both English and Gaelic, concluding with a thank you:

Thank you for riding Iarnród Éireann. (Thank you for riding Irish Rail).

20190318_093701.jpg

To my ears, it sounded like he said, “Thank you for riding, here or there.

This thought resonated throughout the journey as we went by bus or shuttle to remote locations or simply walked through villages and towns in which we spent the night. There is something exciting and wonderful about rambling through the country-side and discovering new places.  Whether it was the colorful row how houses above Cobh harbor or the barren stones and sea/landscape of the Burren, forests near Killarney or the city street, Ireland offered what seemed like all possible combinations.  And these were accessible from points A and B or C or…Z

Just by what seemed a random direction, any number of beautiful sights and experiences could be found by wandering.

It is no wonder then, that the Irish poets and storytellers, or those that emigrated over the last couple of centuries, spoke and sang so fondly of this beautiful country.  It stands in stark contrast to the tragic history of conquest, famine, civil war and unrest that has plagued the people of Ireland over the centuries.  Both sadness and beauty erupting from the same surroundings is remarkable, and dare I say, poetic.  The countryside simply cries and laughs and inhales – everywhere you look.

Here or there.

 

A response to poetry

Dear poet, I have so enjoyed your poem:

the one about the tree branches
that hang over the river -sometimes dipping into the water.

Yesterday, I read it several times slowly to myself and then once out loud –
when no one was within earshot of my voice.

I liked the sounds that it made and the confines of its place. This contributed to the imagery you’ve drawn and I felt I was moving there, then gone.  The lyrical qualities appeal to me, especially the internal rhymes that feature throughout the piece.

Upon revisiting the words the next day, the meaning
or at least what I thought) was clear.
The branch is not sufficient in its purpose to simply reflect
from the stream.

The eddies created are themselves rhythmic and gleam.

Thank you poet for allowing your words to spill and flow,
so that trees from the riverside can touch them and grow.
****
 

Devolving Winter

I lingered to watch the snowfall settle
upon an outside marble pedestal –
building layer-on-layer of snowflake and ice,
fractal and spacious, this echelon

drawn as a disk – its depth elevated
by landing these crystal forms intercalated
a structure withstanding the bitter wind,
conformed to the table’s circular whim.

Skimming this image, one wonders of words
that fall into place, or alight just like birds,
landing on branches selected ahead,
braving the wind and the ice also there.

Where, after the storm and the cold disappears,
the warming sun scratches, begins to shear
the sides of the snow-layered platter –
the melt dripping over the edge.

Alleged fair weather sets in
and devolves the lattice: winter’s has-been.
Leftover water pools in the center,
the plinth just a basis for puddles.

Then subtle, come birds, that alight like the words
that bathe in remnant splashes
and wing away the last fluency
of winter’s framework and brashness.