Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our Year

Still, there is hope this fading year
that next year will be our year

for a winter hike to the island quarry.
After the holidays, I'd propose.

In January, when dormant hardwoods
clatter in the wind and only a stray spruce

or cardinal lives for color. At such times
the quarry sleeps ice-locked

beneath sifting skins of snow. If it's safe
and thick enough, I'll take you out

across the ice to that spot
we swam those summers ago.

We'll walk again on water, solid now
beneath our feet. And I'll scrape clean

a snow-window for staring down
the frozen mirror of the deep.

Maybe only sealed off fissures.
Or rising bubbles captured in blue.

At least we'll see two bundled faces
looking back. And even so close to longest

night, surely some remnant sun will flash
above the trees and find us there—

parchment-lit, in the open—and stir us
in a winter way we've never known.

Then let the sun flash on across our quarry.
Love, let it glitter in the quarry stone.

Charles Douthat

Monday, July 25, 2011

From Maj. Sullivan Ballou to his wife

July the 14th, 1861

Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


From here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Extract from The Anatomy of a Miracle

Just because it was such fun to read:

"It is obvious that no one will set soaring records in an airliner without power, but experience shows that a total loss of thrust is not necessarily catastrophic. There was the 1982 case, for instance, of a British Airways Boeing 747 that flew through a volcanic plume one night over Indonesia and suffered compressor stalls, surges, and the loss of all four engines at 37,000 feet. The ensuing glide (with engines harmlessly belching fire) was written up afterward as a “near-death” experience for the passengers, during which the airplane “plummeted.” But “near death” is a relative concept, and in fact the crew had more than 20 minutes of available gliding time, during which they figured they could reach a certain airport about 100 miles distant. The pilots were hardly relaxed. They were issuing Mayday calls to Jakarta Control, flying the airplane, handling the depressurization of the cabin, and struggling with procedures to re-start the engines. Nonetheless, in the midst of the glide, and with appropriate British aplomb, the captain announced to the cabin, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are all doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” The captain’s name was Eric Moody, to give credit where it is due. A few people were indeed in distress, but perhaps because this was a flight from England to New Zealand, most of the passengers seem to have matched the captain’s calm. One, an aging British woman traveling with her aged mother, turned back to a Jane Austen novel at the first sign of trouble. Apparently, she just was not going to stand for this nonsense. And sure enough, as the airplane descended below 12,000 feet, the crew was able to re-start the engines."

From here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Birthday month


Warning: There isn't going to be any coherence in this post.

There are only 6-7 girls in the bible study group but 5 of us are born in July - amazing eh? My birthday isn't till next week but this week was a nice half way point so we celebrated five of our birthdays with a lovely cake baked by the 6th girl.

Went to see Hf and her two lovely girls last Friday night - good gracious - you really don't have to teach children how to be manipulative. The two year old tried to con me of my iPhone by distracting me with her dad's HTC! Hf is going to have her hands full when this one enters the teen years....

This year seems full of visiting people with new babies and it's interesting how being pregnant and having hormones flood your system can really bring out the worst in you. But it's been a relief to see that all of the girls went back to their normal selves a couple of months after birth otherwise some of the husbands involved might collapse. Patience is finite after all.


Bone deep tired from work and injury and working during injury and etc.But unfortunately, sometime in June, a bunch of co-workers up and left. It's common in my industry but it means that taking a break is going to be very difficult to arrange.

So for friends who seem to have been left out cold - sorry! Weekends - I've been hunkered down in bed or at home working and weekdays I'm so tired at the end of the day I don't even reply text messages or read, I just listen to some music and loll about.

Having said that I've started reading two books and I'm frustrated that I can't seem to find the time to keep reading. Fortunately one of them is a biography composed of snippets and memories from the author's life so it's easy to pick up where I left off as it doesn't follow a definite narrative; I've all but given on books that have a distinct narrative arc. By the time I find time to get to the next chapter, I'd have forgotten what went on before!

The last book I read was the Bill Bryson book on Shakespeare - it was nice but it led me to picking up Othello which is the second book. I've faithfully read at least one Shakespearean play every year (sometimes more) for the last 5 years and I hope this year won't be the exception :(

On the subject of reading, I scanned through this interview with Chen Show Mao and was very pleased to see that the man seems to read widely.

(Rats. I think I missed the Shakespeare for last year; I can't seem to recall reading any play!)

But I have managed to read my way through several articles by William Langewiesche - even though I still don't know how to pronounce his name. I like the writing style. it's so different from my own and so masculine in a Hemingway-esque manner. I started with this one and then googled up more. Now I want to get my hands on his books too. The one on aviation and also the one on the outlaw sea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What you don't know

There are people and then there are people with secrets.

In her book "Slow Motion", Dani Shapiro wrote about hers - the descent into alcohol and drug addiction, the affair with a married man, her spiral into destruction. Only now, encased in a book, they were no longer secrets, except from her son.

Abraham fathered two children, Cain murdered Abel, David murdered Bathsheba's hapless husband and this was after he slept and impregnated her and failed to get her to sleep with her husband.

Don't tell me everyone has secrets.

There are secrets and then there are secrets.

There is the secret guilt of mothers when they leave their children to go back to work. There is the ordinary workday secret feeling of inadequacy when faced with the unknown. There is the stirring of attraction when you meet a sweet new guy at work or the catch a glimpse of the secretary's legs.

Then there are secrets that involve drug addiction, affairs and death. Secrets that involve living for years with only a hazy sense of being and control. Secrets that give you pause when you answer routine questionnaires about your life.

The dirty secret about secrets is that they aren't.

Somebody always knows. You'll always want to share - if only so that you won't be so alone. There are always scars: the smell of sadness, the keloids on your elbow, the nervous tick, the disappearances.

To hell with honesty. There are some things you just don't tell your children.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

the undoing

Last week had such emotional highs and lows and so many headaches. As in real throbbing there are lights flashing around my brain type headaches. I was eating painkillers like some children eat sweets and even so it was barely enough to get through the week.

There's a current shortage of people in the workplace so I'm here there and everywhere and mainly very tired. The back is better, yes, for which I'm grateful because I could not survive this with an achy back. It would be - cue weak laughter - the proverbial straw that.... yes yes. Hardy harharhar.

Some people need sleep and rest like plants need water. What is it like to have boundless energy and to be able to work on 3-4 hours sleep? What is like to have that kind of adrenaline, the kind that keeps you going? I really don't know. All I know is that I end up facing this wall and then there are no more 'doings' until rest is had.

After sleep, one feels exactly like a plant from one of those videos of the desert after rain, when this dried up shrivelled husk of a thing that can't possibly be alive suddenly goes all green and succulent and puts out leaves! And flowers! and there're bees and things buzzing about in happiness.

All this verbiage to say, Monday to Saturday - run run run about. Sunday - total collapse until evening time when sad to say, more work had to get done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I've read somewhere that in terms of history, the US considers WWII to be a 'good' war. They didn't start it, they were attacked first, they were fighting against a definitely evil dictator so no moral ambiguity, they won ...

Anyway, we won yesterday. What did we win? Sorry, that's not going up here. But suffice it to say that it was a good fight and we won well and cleanly so I'm very proud and thrilled and writing it down here and in my personal diary so that I'll always remember this moment.

I helped. And justice was served :)

It feels good.

And now, back to work.

Monday, July 4, 2011

only when the moon is blue

One of my friends, the Jester, once said that all his blogposts seem maudlin and glum - obviously because he only blogged when he needed to vent about something.

I'm not sure it's a bad thing exactly. The Jester and I have been friends for quite sometime now and glum as his blogposts sometimes can be, they've helped me to keep track of his state of mind and heart. Besides, once in a blue moon, he does write something cheerier :)

Anyway, Monday was crummy, the week looks to be crummy and I'm in need of prayer and hand holding and very possibly many packets of tissues. Good gracious I didn't know I was so fragile until I encountered a rude and obnoxious client yesterday. Almost wound up in a puddle of tears and self recrimination in the most absurd manner. Almost!

On a brighter note, Mr D played the Grieg Nocturne again last night and it was even lovelier than the first time; he was too nervous that time and it showed. I'm sure it's going to be beautiful at the wedding.

He really ought to play it at the Catholic ceremony and not the banquet though. At the banquet I'm sure some folks who don't care for music are just going to eat and chat through it, clanking the cutlery and all :(