Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30: Busyness, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

It has been a busy day.  Really busy.  Church in the morning.  Recording with my band in the afternoon.  School work tonight.  Grading.  Lesson planning.  E-mailing.  By the time I climb into bed tonight, I am going to be one tired little saint.

One of the tasks that preoccupied this day was a little writing project.  An editor with whom I've worked contacted me last night and asked if I would write a 150-word Christmas memory for an article he's writing for a magazine.  The catch:  it's due by December 1 at midnight.  First, I panicked.  Then, I did what any red-blooded poet would do.  I e-mailed my editor back and told him, "No problem."

Well, I got 'er done.  Just sent it to the editor.  We'll see if he likes it.  In the mean time, I'm back to my other work.  The good thing about all this busyness is that I've had no time to be sad today.  This week is going to be a battle.  The whole English Department is going to be in a state of mourning, culminating in the funeral mass on Saturday.  With final exams a week away, I'll have plenty of busyness to distract me.

Today's Classic Saint Marty is from two years ago.  Coincidentally, I was dealing with another crisis at the time.

November 30, 2012:  Bad News, "A Cry Like a Bell," a Poem

A good poem on a bad day
The reason I'm in a bad mood today/tonight/the rest of the weekend/possibly until New Year's Day:  my wife got fired from her job today.  She's taking it much better than I am at the moment.  I've been angry all afternoon long.  Right now, I'm in bed, in my pajamas, typing this post and trying to avoid interaction  with any person.  In the mood I'm in, it's best if I just pretend that I've suddenly developed a case of acute onset muteness.

I have been posting poems on Friday evenings for the past few weeks.  Despite my foul mood, I will not disappoint any of my disciples who have tuned in for a poetry fix.  This poem is by Madeleine L'Engle (yes, she of A Wrinkle in Time fame) and comes from her collection of verse titled A Cry Like a Bell.  It's a Christmas poem, because I'm trying to rekindle my yuletide spirit.  While I don't think L'Engle is a great poet, she has her moments.  The poem below is one of those moments.

Saint Marty is going to have some liquor spiked with eggnog now.

The Bethlehem explosion

And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee . . . to be taxed, with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  Luke 2:1, 4-5

The chemistry lab at school

was in an old greenhouse
surrounded by ancient live oaks
garnished with Spanish moss.

The experiment I remember best
was pouring a quart of clear fluid
into a glass jar, and dropping into it,
grain by grain, salt-sized crystals,
until they layered
like white sand on the floor of the jar.

One more grain--and suddenly--
water and crystal burst
into a living, moving pattern,
a silent, quietly violent explosion.
The teacher told us that only when
we supersaturated the solution,
would come the precipitation.

The little town
was like the glass jar in our lab.
One by one they came, grain by grain,
all those of the house of David,
like grains of sand to be counted.

The inn was full.  When Joseph knocked,
his wife was already in labour; there was no room
even for compassion.  Until the barn was offered.
That was the precipitating factor.  A child was born,
and the pattern changed forever, the cosmos
shaken with that silent explosion.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29: Her Old Web, Joy Harjo, "Perhaps the World Ends Here," New Cartoon

In the days that followed, he was very happy.  He grew to a great size.  He no longer worried about being killed, for he know that Mr. Zuckerman would keep him as long as he lived.  Wilbur often thought of Charlotte.  A few strands of her old web still hung in the doorway.  Every day Wilbur would stand and look at the torn, empty web, and a lump would come to his throat.  No one had ever had such a friend--so affectionate, so loyal, and so skillful.

Overcoming grief is a gradual process.  Wilbur learns this fact.  He returns from the Fair brokenhearted, and, over the months that follow, he gradually adjusts to the rhythms of barn life without his friend, Charlotte.  Eventually, he is able to experience happiness again.  It takes time, like all healing.

Today, for the first time since Thanksgiving night, I have not felt overwhelming sadness all day.  It overcame me at times, but I was able to have extended moments of grace, where I had pleasant, happy memories of my friend, Ray.  And that's the way that he would want it.  I know that for a fact.  Ray was not a maudlin person.  He always looked for the humor in any situation.

For example, earlier this fall, I was sitting next to him at a poetry reading.  He was speaking to me about his weeping feet.  That is a medical term.  It means his feet were swollen and, basically, leaking blood.  It's very serious, but he laughed and said, "I thought it was stigmata, but then I remembered that starts at the opposite end."  I laughed and said, "Saint Ray of the Weeping Feet."  "You bet your ass," he said.

That was Ray.  In the days and weeks to come, those happy memories will replace the sorrow of his absence.  Healing will take place.  That's what Ray would want, too.  The quicker the better.

I have a sort-of Thanksgiving poem from Joy Harjo tonight.  It's a poem about love and grief, pain and healing.  She gets it right.  Those big things of life really do start in small places like the kitchen table.

So Saint Marty will meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes.  Get out the cheesecake, and we'll have a Golden Girls moment.

Perhaps the World Ends Here

by:  Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Confessions of Saint Marty

November 28: Another Poem of Thanks, Sharon Olds, "First Thanksgiving"

I found a Thanksgiving poem by one of my favorite poets--Sharon Olds.  It's a poem I may have read before, but I just don't remember ever having read it.  It's beautiful, but, again, tinged with sadness and nostalgia.  I can't get away from it.

That's OK, though.  I am naturally of a serious mind.  Don't get me wrong.  I have a sense of humor, but the poetry to which I'm usually drawn is laced with a strong thread of pain/darkness.

Saint Marty promises to try to be happier tomorrow.

First Thanksgiving

by:  Sharon Olds

When she comes back, from college, I will see
the skin of her upper arms, cool,
matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old
soupy chest against her breasts,
I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,
her sleep like an untamed, good object,
like a soul in a body. She came into my life the
second great arrival, after him, fresh
from the other world—which lay, from within him,
within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,
week after week, the moon rising,
and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,
in a slow blur, around our planet.
Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has
had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,
and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult
to have her in that room again,
behind that door! As a child, I caught
bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,
looked into their wild faces,
listened to them sing, then tossed them back
into the air—I remember the moment the
arc of my toss swerved, and they entered
the corrected curve of their departure.

A different first Thanksgiving

November 28: All the Rest of His Days, Phone Call, Fairy Tale Failure

Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his triumph and miracle of the web.  Life in the barn was very good--night and day, winter and summer, spring and fall, dull days and bright days.  It was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.

There's a sense of both incredible happiness and melancholy is this paragraph.  It starts out with the statement that Mr. Zuckerman cared for Wilbur "all the rest of his days"--which gives the impression that Wilbur has already gone to that big pigpen in the sky.  The rest of the paragraph has the tone and feel of To Kill a Mockingbird or the film Stand By Me.  Reflective.  Nostalgic.  Tinged with sadness.

That pretty much describes my day.  Last night, after I wrote my posts about the passing of my friend and colleague Ray, I was climbing into bed for the night when the phone rang.  It was for my wife.  Her friend, Vickie, who has been battling cancer for the past few months, passed away last night.  After my wife hung up the phone, I looked at her and said, "This night really sucks."

I spent the day recording Christmas music with my band.  It was a pleasant, happy distraction.  We played "White Christmas" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."  We laughed and ate homemade oatmeal cookies.  It was a hopeful couple of hours, planning the musical arrangements and imagining the final results.  I was able to get out of my head for a little while.

Of course, now, sitting in my living room, listening to Eydie Gorme sing "White Christmas," I'm right back to my darker reflections.  Christmas music sort of enhances my mood.  Most of the great Christmas songs, sacred and secular, have elements of both happiness and sadness.  Think about it.  "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know."  Or "O come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel."  So much longing and want.

That's where I am right now.  Full of all of these complex feelings.  I'm going to try to write a happy fairy tale, but I think I'm going to fail.

Once upon a time, a kindly king lived in a land of perpetual winter.  The king was beloved by all of his subjects.  The peasants.  Knights.  Friars at the monastery.  Nuns at the convent.  Cooks and farmers.  Fisherman and blacksmiths.  Everyone loved the king.

One evening, the king died unexpectedly, and the whole kingdom went into mourning.  Everything was draped in black.  Houses.  Churches.  Schools.  Cottages.  All the clocks in the land were stopped.  Church bells tolled and tolled day and night.

From heaven, the king looked down on his kingdom, shook his head, and said to Saint Peter, "Jesus, they need to lighten up."

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Words to live by

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27: A Poem for Ray, Walt Whitman, "Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night"

I know I said I was going to use poems of thanks and gratitude this week, but I'm going to step away from that tonight.

I just posted about the death of my friend, Ray.  I took a class in American Literature from him many years ago.  We covered many authors, including Walt Whitman.  Ray loved Whitman's Civil War poems.  One of his favorites was the one below, a poem about love and bravery and loss.

Saint Marty includes it tonight in his honor.

Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night

by:  Walt Whitman

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return’d with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground,
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle,
Till late in the night reliev’d to the place at last again I made my way,
Found you in death so cold dear comrade, found your body son of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Bared your face in the starlight, curious the scene, cool blew the moderate night-wind,
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battle-field spreading,
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet there in the fragrant silent night,
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh, long, long I gazed,
Then on the earth partially reclining sat by your side leaning my chin in my hands,
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you dearest comrade—not a tear, not a word,
Vigil of silence, love and death, vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole,
Vigil final for you brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living, I think we shall surely meet again,)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear’d,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop’d well his form,
Folded the blanket well, tucking it carefully over head and carefully under feet,
And there and then and bathed by the rising sun, my son in his grave, in his rude-dug grave I deposited,
Ending my vigil strange with that, vigil of night and battle-field dim,
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding,)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain, vigil I never forget, how as day brighten’d,
I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

Vigil wondrous, vigil sweet

November 27: Treasure Her Memory, Sad News on Thanksgiving, Ray Ventre

"Joy!  Aranea!  Nellie!" he began.  "Welcome to the barn cellar.  You have chosen a hallowed doorway from which to string your webs.  I think it is only fair to tell you that I was devoted to your mother.  I owe my very life to her.  She was brilliant, beautiful, and loyal to the end.  I shall always treasure her memory.  To you, her daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever."

Charlotte was devoted to Wilbur her whole life.  At the end of the book, Wilbur pledges to treasure her friendship, her loyalty, and her memory.  He has spent the whole of winter mourning her death and protecting her egg sac.  Her children.  Wilbur learned about devotion and selflessness from Charlotte.  Now, he must carry on her legacy.

On this Thanksgiving, I was planning to write a traditional Thanksgiving post, reflecting on all the blessings in my life.  However, as I opened my laptop, I found several e-mails waiting for me.  They contained very sad news.  Ray Ventre, the Head of the English Department and a good friend of more than 25 years, passed away yesterday.

Very few things leave me speechless.  This news does.  Ray was, very simply, one of the best people I've ever known.  Always joking, he was a joy to be around all the time.  He was compassionate, fair, honest, faith-filled, hard-working, and loyal.  I knew that he'd been struggling with health issues for some time, but the news of his death still hit me like...Like when a tornado rips through a neighborhood and levels everything.  Nothing left standing.  That's it.  Absolute devastation.

He leaves behind two beautiful daughters and a whole lot of people whose lives he touched and changed in profound ways.  There will never be a more dedicated department head, teacher, mentor, and friend like him.  Ray was one of a kind.

Ray and I shared the same birthday.  October 5.  Every year, we had a competition to see who could find the funniest cards.  Most years, he won.  This year, however, I found a card that made him laugh so hard that he cried.  I saw him in the hall of the English Department a couple of days later, and he just shook his head and said, "You win this year."

That's the way Saint Marty will choose to remember his friend, Ray Ventre, this Thanksgiving.  Laughing himself to tears.

Godspeed, my friend

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26: Days Before Christmas, Turkey Trot, Survival

...A couple days before Christmas, Andy [E. B. White] took Roger for a ramble--carrying their skates--down Charles Street and to the iced-over lake in the Public Garden, where they found mittened children and overcoated men already skating...

In the passage above from Michael Sims' book The Story of Charlotte's Web, E. B. White takes his new stepson skating.  White wasn't a very athletic guy, but he often went skating as a kid on the river and lake close to his childhood home.  He wasn't Scott Hamilton, but he could stay vertical on a pair of blades, which is better than I could do.

I've never been very athletic.  The only sport in which I participated in high school was Cross Country, and I wasn't that great.  In fact, the second day of practice, I bruised my heel bone, and I couldn't run for about a month-and-a-half.  By the time I went to team practice again, half the season was already over.  I think I ran in a total of three meets.  I eventually got a junior varsity letter, but I think it was because the coach had a couple extras.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to be running in the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.  I registered for the 5K race this year, and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to finish it.  I kind of had an accident at work last week.  I fell off a chair and smashed my chest against my desk.  I don't think I broke a rib, but I certainly bruised something.  It's been sore ever since.

I haven't tried to run since my little accident, so I'm not even sure I'm going to survive tomorrow morning.  My goal isn't to win or place.  My goal is survival.  If I finish and don't collapse, I will count that as a success.

And then I will go to Burger King for breakfast with my family.  It's our little Thanksgiving Day tradition.  Run my ass off and then eat some greasy fast food with my kids and wife.

Say a prayer for Saint Marty tomorrow.  He's going to need a little extra help.

Or a lot of extra help...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25: Suffering and Art, Ha Jin, "Missed Time"

Got another poem of gratitude for you guys this evening.  It's about happiness and art.  It's about how some of the best art comes out of suffering and grief.  The best poems I know are all about wounds and healing.  Ha Jin knows this fact.  I know this fact.

I'm not writing a poem tonight.  I'm not talking about any kind of pain or hurt.  Yes, I'm tired.  Yes, I don't want to go to work tomorrow.  But, that's not pain.  That's irritation.

Marty is a happy saint tonight.

Missed Time

by:  Ha Jin

My notebook has remained blank for months
thanks to the light you shower
around me. I have no use
for my pen, which lies
languorously without grief.

Nothing is better than to live
a storyless life that needs
no writing for meaning—
when I am gone, let others say
they lost a happy man,
though no one can tell how happy I was.
Other happy saints

November 25: Naturally Patient, Pushcart Prize, Prayer for Discernment

Charlotte was naturally patient.  She knew from experience that if she waited long enough, a fly would come to her web; and she felt sure that if she thought long enough about Wilbur's problem, an idea would come to her mind.

Charlotte knows all about making difficult decisions.  For half the book, she's trying to figure out how to save Wilbur's life.  For the other half, she's choosing words to spin into her web.  Whether or not to go to the Fair with Wilbur.  Where to create her egg sac and lay her eggs.  Of course, all of Charlotte's decisions are exactly right.  She never makes a misstep.

Last year, I received a Pushcart Prize nomination.  This year, as Poetry Editor of the university's literary magazine, I am in the position of having to select two poets to be nominated for this year's Pushcart Prizes.  It was not an easy decision.  In fact, it was kind of agonizing.

Yes, I have made my decision.  I consulted with a colleague from the university.  I considered suggestions from the grad students who sift through all the poetry submissions every week.  I asked my wife (who is my best and toughest editor/critic).  In the end, after several hours, I chose two poems/poets who, literally, took my breath away with their work.

I always pray for discernment when I have tough decisions to make.  I prayed a lot tonight.  Tomorrow, I will probably rethink and regret, but it is over and done.  My choices have been submitted.  Now, I have to move on.  I will have more tough choices to make tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  That's what life is all about.  Tough choices.

Tonight, though, I have already made my tough decision.  The only other decisions to make is what I should pack for my lunch tomorrow.  What I should wear to work.  Whether to eat Doritos or Cheetos.  When I should go to bed.

If you're interested, Saint Marty's choices are:  chicken sandwich, jeans and a polo, Doritos, and 11 p.m. (after Dancing with the Stars.)

Pushcart or Cheetos?

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24: Poems of Thanksgiving, Mark Doty, "Brian Age Seven"

I have decided to focus on poems of thanks this week, in honor of the American holiday of Thanksgiving being celebrated this Thursday.

I don't think I say "thanks" enough in my life.  There's so much for which I am grateful.  For example, I am grateful for the Christmas essay I finished this weekend.  I know that I had a little divine help with that one.  I am grateful for my job.  I am surrounded by good people who like me.  I am grateful that I have two, healthy, happy kids.  I am grateful for my wife, who supports me in all of my crazy jobs and obsessions.  I am grateful for my life.  I have a home that's warm, cars that run (for the moment), and almost enough money to pay my bills.

So, the first poem this week is by Mark Doty.

And Saint Marty gives thanks for it.

Brian Age Seven

by:  Mark Doty

Grateful for their tour
of the pharmacy,
the first-grade class
has drawn these pictures,
each self-portrait taped
to the window-glass,
faces wide to the street,
round and available,
with parallel lines for hair.
I like this one best: Brian,
whose attenuated name
fills a quarter of the frame,
stretched beside impossible
legs descending from the ball
of his torso, two long arms
springing from that same
central sphere. He breathes here,
on his page. It isn’t craft
that makes this figure come alive;
Brian draws just balls and lines,
in wobbly crayon strokes.
Why do some marks
seem to thrill with life,
possess a portion
of the nervous energy
in their maker’s hand?
That big curve of a smile
reaches nearly to the rim
of his face; he holds
a towering ice cream,
brown spheres teetering
on their cone,
a soda fountain gift
half the length of him
—as if it were the flag
of his own country held high
by the unadorned black line
of his arm. Such naked support
for so much delight! Artless boy,
he’s found a system of beauty:
he shows us pleasure
and what pleasure resists.
The ice cream is delicious.
He’s frail beside his relentless standard.

Thanks for ice cream

November 24: Radio Recording, Snow Again, "Web" Dip

I recorded my Christmas essay at the radio station this afternoon.  I'd practiced reading it several times, so I knew the places where I needed to slow down, take my time, over-enunciate.  I sat down in the recording booth, took a deep breath, and did it.  One take.  No mistakes.  Hans, the guy from the radio station who is in charge of these little recording sessions, hit a button when I was done, smiled at me, and said, "You suck."  I have been known as one-take Marty for a while.

In a few minutes, I'm taking my six-year-old son to religion class.  It's supposed to snow tonight (there're all kinds of snow advisories in place), so I'm expecting my car to be a snow sculpture by the time the prayer service starts at the end of the night. I'm not looking forward to moving snow tomorrow morning.  I'm hoping, somehow, the snow skips over my little city in the Upper Peninsula.  It can go east, west, north, or south.  I don't care.  If I don't have to blow snow at 5 a.m., I will be a happy saint.

That being said, I have a feeling that I will be shoveling in the morning.  Of course, I'm going to have to ask the question:

Will we buried in snow tomorrow morning?

And the answer, for better or worse, from the book of Charlotte:

"I haven't the faintest idea," said Mr. Arable.  "Tell us."

Well, there you go.  A definitive "who knows?"

Saint Marty loves living with uncertainty.

It's an ugly map

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23: An Apology, Mission Accomplished, Vickie

Allow me to apologize for my blogging absence these last two days.  I had to take a little vacation from Saint Marty in order to finish my annual Christmas essay.  Perhaps I wasn't missed.  Perhaps nobody was worried.  If you were concerned about me, I apologize.  If you weren't concerned, screw you.

Just kidding.

My Christmas essay is done.  I finished it last night around midnight.  I'm so relieved.  Last Sunday, I was in a panic because I had exactly two paragraphs written.  Tonight, after I'm done typing this post, I'm going to have one of my "special" hot chocolates (Kahlua and Swiss Miss) to celebrate.  And tomorrow afternoon, I will be going to the radio station to record it.  Then it will be out of my hair.  Figuratively, of course.  I don't have much hair to be out of, if you catch my drift.

Tonight's happiness is a little bittersweet for me, however.  The Book of Common Prayer says, "In the midst of life, we are in death."  My wife just spoke with a friend of hers on the phone.  Vickie has been very ill for quite some time.  About two months ago, she announced she was cancer-free.  This evening, after a trip to the hospital, Vickie was told she has two or three days left to live.  The cancer has returned and metastasized.

I don't know Vickie.  I've only spoken with her on the phone a couple of times in passing.  She has been calling my wife almost every day now.  Vickie is very frightened.  She told my wife this evening that she doesn't want to go to sleep because she might not wake up.  Vickie's also been talking about things on her bucket list she's not going to be able to do.  Like ride a roller coaster at an amusement park.  Or pet a pig.

Vickie has no family.  She's been a ward of the state since she was 18 years old.  There's nobody close to her to mourn her passing, except her nurses.  The people closest to her are phone contacts, like my wife.  Tonight, when she was saying goodbye to my wife, Vickie said, "Promise that you'll pet a pig for me."

Saint Marty's asking you to pray for Vickie tonight.  Pray for her peace and happiness.

This one's for Vickie

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20: Deep in the Dung, E. B. White, Low Self Esteem

So Charlotte sang a lullaby, while crickets chirped in the grass and the barn grew dark.  This was the song she sang.

"Sleep, sleep, my love, my only,
Deep, deep, in the dung and the dark;
Be not afraid and be not lonely!
This is the hour when frogs and thrushes
Praise the world from the woods and the rushes.
Rest from care, my one and only,
Deep in the dung and the dark!"

I have always loved this passage.  The lullaby is so beautifully melancholy.  I can almost hear Charlotte singing it in a minor key, softly as dusk falls in the Zuckerman barn.  It captures the whole tone of the book.  An elegy to the power of love and friendship.

E. B. White is an incredible writer.  Not only is his prose fantastic, but his poetry is also pretty damn good, as well.  Over this past year of Charlotte's Web, I've been confronted by that fact over and over.  The book is genius in its simplicity.  Yet, there are moments like the one above, where White weaves in a complex, emotional depth.

When I read great authors like E. B. White, it makes me want to write.  Then, when I start writing, I kind of go into a tailspin of despair because I am not E. B. White or Robert Frost or William Faulkner.  It becomes an exercise in low self-esteem.

I'm going to be working on my Christmas essay again when I'm done with this post.  I am still struggling with it.  I can't seem to find the right voice.  I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but I'll know it when I find it.  It will just feel right.  I'm hoping tonight will be the night.

Wish Saint Marty luck.

A good affirmation

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19: The Judges' Booth, Being Observed, Nerves

"Attention please!" [the voice on the loud speaker] said.  "Will Mr. Homer Zuckerman bring his famous pig to the judges' booth in front of the grandstand.  A special award will be made there in twenty minutes.  Everyone is invited to attend.  Crate your pig, please, Mr. Zuckerman, and report to the judges' booth promptly!"

That announcement begins Wilbur's hour of triumph.  His fifteen minutes of fame that will save his life.  Charlotte's trick has worked, and Wilbur is no longer in danger of being turned into Christmas dinner.  Of course, Wilbur did lose the initial judging.  Uncle, the pig in the pen beside him, has won the blue ribbon.  So, the moment is a mixture of defeat and victory.

I hate being judged about anything.  My job performance.  My writing.  My piano playing.  It's not a pleasant thing to feel as though my every move is under scrutiny.  Unfortunately, in the work world and academic world, judgement is an inherent part of the whole process.

Tonight, I'm being observed by another English Department faculty member.  He's a really nice guy, and he's stopped by my office a couple of times to assure me that this is not going to be a stressful experience.  In fact, in our first conversation, he said, "I could write your evaluation right now, but I guess we should go through with the formalities."

I am, however, very nervous.  I will be breathing easier in about an hour-and-a-half.  That's when the movie will start, the observation will be over, and I will be able to sit back and relax a little bit.  Until then, I'm in survival mode.  I have to perform well, not look nervous, and present an engaging lesson.  No problem.

Excuse Saint Marty now.  He has to go to the restroom and throw up.

Not sure if I'm the pot or the kettle

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18: Languishing, Sister, Prayer for Health

"Maybe," said Charlotte quietly.  "However, I have a feeling I'm not going to see the results of last night's efforts.  I don't feel good at all.  I think I'm languishing, to tell you the truth."

Charlotte isn't just languishing at this point in the book.  She's a couple of days away from dying.  She has created her egg sac and secured Wilbur's safety.  Basically, she has expended the last ounce of her energy.  In a couple of pages, she's too weak to even move any of her legs.

I have a sister right now who's languishing.  She was just admitted into the hospital this afternoon.  Tomorrow, she will be undergoing surgery for a seroma of soft tissue and bone.  I'm not exactly sure what that exactly means.  I know it's a serious, life-threatening infection.  My sister had back surgery last month.  Her surgical wound is not healing.  It's sort of festering.  The infection might have reached her spine.

I am so tired of this year.  So much has gone wrong in 2014.  My jobs.  My brother's death.  Two sisters with terrible health issues.  Money issues--always.  As this year winds down, it seems to be going out with a huge thunderclap instead of a whisper.

A Capuchin monk named Solanus Casey (who's on his way to canonization), once said, "In the crosses of life that come to us, Jesus offers us opportunities to help Him redeem the world.  Let us profit by His generosity."  I suppose that's a comforting thought, that all the storms of life are opportunities of redemption.  When you are out in the boat in the storm, however, it's sometimes difficult to see the shore.  At the moment, I'm looking for the shore.  For my opportunity to redeem the world in my sister's situation.

My sister's worried about a lot of things right now.  Her health.  Her job (and whether she's going to have a job to return to--she's already taken a great deal of time off for surgeries and recuperation this summer).  She has many crosses.  I'm asking you to pray for her.  Please.  Pray that she finds her opportunity for redemption, whatever form it may take.  She is suffering a great deal, physically and mentally.  Tomorrow, she goes into surgery again.

Saint Marty is a little tired of crosses at the moment.  A little salvation would be nice.

This is what I'm looking for

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17: Too Much in My Head, Essay, "Web" Dip

I'm still struggling with my Christmas essay.  I know what my problem is:  I'm over-thinking everything.  I'm trying to throw everything AND the kitchen sink into it.  Irving Berlin.  Bing Crosby.  Marcel Proust.  Merriam-Webster.  Baked ham.  Death.  World War II.  It's just a mess.

When I get too much in my head, I can't write.  I have about five or six pages of false starts and mind vomit in my journal.  I keep waiting for that moment when I know I've finally found my voice.  It feels like I'm almost there.  Like a breakthrough is within my grasp. 

Which brings me to a little announcement:  until I've finished my Christmas essay, I'm only going to be posting once a day.  The Poet of the Week will return next Monday.  Stick with me guys.  I have to concentrate on another writing project for a little while.  I will be back in full Saint Marty mode in seven days.

My Web dip question this evening is pretty simple:

Am I going to be able to finish my Christmas essay by next Monday?

And the answer from E. B. White:

"It is true," said the old sheep.  "Go to the Fair, Templeton.  You will find that the conditions at a fair will surpass your wildest dreams.  Buckets with sour mast sticking to them, tin cans containing particles of tuna fish, greasy paper bags stuffed with rotten..."

So, whatever I write is going to surpass my wildest dreams.  I like that answer.

Saint Marty's ready to dream big.

Looking for my breakthrough

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16: Christmas Essay, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I don't have much time tonight.  For five hours this afternoon, I was in a recording studio, putting together a Christmas album with my band.  It's the first time I've done a project like this.  I did learn one thing:  I am not meant to be a professional musician.  I can't stand the two hours of work for three minutes of music.

I am going to work on my Christmas essay after I'm done typing this post.  I've been really struggling with this essay.  I can't seem to get the right tone or format.  I know it will eventually fall together, but I'm at the panic phase right now.

I need to practice my deep breathing.  And relax.  And pray for a little Christmas inspiration.

Today's Classic Saint Marty first aired two years ago, and--no surprise--it's about writing my annual Christmas essay.

November 16, 2012: A Visitation, Bell Tolled One, P.O.E.T.S. Day

Scrooge lay in this state until the chimes had gone three quarters more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned him of a visitation when the bell tolled one.  He resolved to lie awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was perhaps the wisest resolution in his power.

Scrooge is awaiting the appearance of the first of the yuletide spirits.  He's not sure what he's in for.  Marley's Ghost was not a pleasant apparition, wrapped in chains and bellowing at the top of his vapory lungs.  This second ghost could be anything, and Scrooge is a little terrified, I think.

Today is P.O.E.T.S Day.  Some time in these next 24 hours, I vow to post a new, original poem.  The problem is that I'm sort of like Scrooge right now.  I'm waiting for my poem to appear.  I have no idea what shape or form it's going to take.  It could be a sonnet or haiku.  It could be free verse or iambic pentameter.  It could come screaming into my head, fully formed, or it could approach like a mouse, nibbling away until it is revealed or trapped.

Scrooge isn't sure the next spirit is even going to show up.  I, on the other hand, will post whatever crap I'm able to get down on paper.  Even if it's a bad poem, it will appear on this blog.  It's that threat that keeps me focused.  I do not want to be embarrassed by whatever I come up with.

I have another writing project to complete this weekend, as well. It's my annual Christmas essay.  I've already got a strong start, but I haven't had a chance to return to it in the last day or so.  I have to record this essay for the local Public Radio station soon, so I must get it done.  The goal I have set for myself:  Sunday night it will be finished.

For now, though, Saint Marty is all about poetry.  He wonders if posting a poem by Robert Frost would be cheating.  Something obscure, not having to do with snowy woods or broken walls or forking roads.

I didn't write this.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15: My Masterpiece, Christmas Essay, Maya Angelou, "On the Pulse of Morning," New Cartoon

"I'll tell you in the morning," [Charlotte] said.  "When the first light comes into the sky and the sparrows stir and the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the highway, you look up here and I'll show you something.  I will show you my masterpiece."

Charlotte does some pretty amazing things.  She creates webs that sparkle with dew and mystify human beings.  Single-handedly, she saves her friend's life.  And, in the end, she chooses to die alone, content with the knowledge that she has made a huge difference in the world.  Her masterpiece?  An egg sac, containing 514 eggs.  Her lasting legacy.

It is the time of year where I once again must write my Christmas essay for the local National Public Radio station.  I know my subject.  I've even done the necessary research.  I know what I want to say.  It's a matter now of figuring out how I want to say it.  And I sort of have that figured out, as well.  Now comes the fun part:  writing it.  That's what I'm going to be doing this evening.

I'm not sure I'm working on my masterpiece.  Every time I sit down to write something--a blog post, poem, short story, essay--I always have this feeling that it's going to be the last thing I'm ever going to write.  It's crazy.  I wait to see if I've hit the bottom of my well.  I fully expect to send down my bucket one day and come up dry.  Not tonight, though.

My favorite Maya Angelou poem--her masterpiece among lots of masterpieces--is the poem she read at President Clinton's first inauguration.  I was a grad student at the time, and I remember crowding around a TV screen in the basement of the university library, watching and listening to Dr. Angelou read her poem.  Some of the people standing next to me were crying.  Some of the people on the television were crying.  It was an incredible moment.  We were all united.  Part of something huge.  A fellow traveler on a road of hope.  I will never forget it.  When she was done reading, I actually thought to myself, "I will do that some day."

Of course, that's like me thinking, "I will win the Nobel Prize in Literature" or "I will suddenly grow wings and fly to Crete."  A dream.  A hope.  That's what writing is about.  Every time I sit down to put my thoughts on paper, it's an act of hope.  For something better.

And Saint Marty is full of hope tonight.

On the Pulse of Morning

by:  Maya Angelou

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers- desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours- your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14: A Good Life, Maya Angelou, "The Lesson"

You know, for all the complaining I do on this blog, I have a pretty good life.  My kids are both healthy.  I make almost enough money to pay my bills.  My wife's job is going well.  I'm going to teach a graduate poetry seminar next semester at the university.  I went to see a play with my daughter tonight.  Tomorrow morning, I'm going to McDonald's for breakfast with my family.

Yes, crappy things happen.  My brother's 17-year-old dog fractured her pelvis tonight.  The vet said if she doesn't get up and move tomorrow morning, it's over for her.  Crappy.  We got over three feet of snow this week.  Crappy.  There's another snow storm on the way.  Crappy.

There's no way to avoid the crap in life.  However, the crap reminds us that we're alive.  That life really is good, despite the struggle and pain.

That's the lesson Saint Marty has for you tonight.

The Lesson

by:  Maya Angelou

I keep on dying again.
Veins collapse, opening like the
Small fists of sleeping
Memory of old tombs,
Rotting flesh and worms do
Not convince me against
The challenge. The years
And cold defeat live deep in
Lines along my face.
They dull my eyes, yet
I keep on dying,
Because I love to live.

Everybody paying attention now?

November 14: Overeating, Hunger, Winter's Fairy Tale

...As a result of overeating, Templeton grew bigger and fatter than any rat you ever saw.  He was gigantic.  He was as big as a young woodchuck.

Templeton eats at the end of Charlotte's Web.  Winter sets in.  Snow comes.  The rat moves into the barn, makes a nest near the grain bin, and gorges himself daily on Wilbur's food.  As a result, he puts on weight.  A lot of weight.

Winter does that to people, too.  Especially in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The weather turns cold.  Winter storms arrive.  Suddenly, all Yoopers want to do is burrow into the couch with a bag of Cheetos and eat.  I'm not sure if it's a self preservation thing or a hibernation thing.  We can't go outside for extended periods of time.  So, we stay indoors and put on weight.

For instance, at this moment, I'm craving pretzels and peanut butter.  I don't know why.  I'm not a big fan of either of those food items.  However, the idea of taking a pretzel, digging it into a jar of peanut butter, and eating it--that just sounds like an excellent thing to do this evening.  I am thwarted in this enterprise by three things.  One, I have no pretzels.  Two, I have no peanut butter.  Three, I'm too lazy to get in a car and go to a store.  Therefore, I am about to ransack the kitchen for a substitute snack.

Once upon a time, a pretzel maker named Werner lived in a small village on the outskirts of an immense forest.  Everyone in the village bought pretzels from Werner.  They were known as the kingdom's best pretzels.

On long winter nights, Werner would go to bed with a bag of fresh-baked pretzels and a pot of homemade peanut butter.  Werner would eat and eat until all the pretzels were gone and the pot was empty.  Werner grew very large.

Soon, Werner was eating his entire stock of pretzels every day.  By mid-January, he ran out of money.  Then he ran out of pretzel ingredients.  Then he ran out of pretzels and developed a nut allergy.

Werner never made another pretzel.  Instead, he gathered thistles and made thistle jam.  Nobody bought his new jam, and, eventually, he lost his cottage because of back taxes.  Werner died broke and hungry and cold.

Moral of the story:  never eat pretzels and peanut butter in bed.

And Saint Marty lived hungrily ever after.

Anybody else hungry?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

November 13: Poem for Dave, Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise"

Tonight, after receiving the news of my friend's death, I thought of Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise."

On the day that Angelou died, I was driving home from work, listening to a tribute on National Public Radio.  The segment ended with Dr. Angelou reciting this poem.  As her voice filled my car, I was overcome.  I started sobbing.  Eventually, I had to pull over to the side of the road until I collected myself.

I will never forget that afternoon, and Angelou saying those last lines of her poem, like a victory chant, with joy and determination.  I rise.

Saint Marty dedicates this poem tonight to Dave.

Still I Rise

by:  Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Amen, Dr. Angelou

November 13: Good-bye, a Friend, Bad News

"Good-bye!" [Charlotte] whispered.  Then she summoned all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him.

Reading Charlotte's Web as a child was one of my first experiences with death.  The sentence above sent me into paroxysms of grief.  It really felt as if I had lost a family member.  The book itself has taught generations of children the hard lessons of life and love and friendship and loss.

I just found out an hour ago that Dave, a friend of mine who has been battling pancreatic cancer for a couple of years, passed away.  While I can't say that the news was a surprise, it certainly took the wind out of my sails.  I played in a band with Dave.  He gave my daughter piano lessons.  One summer, when the original drummer bailed on me, Dave showed up at the last minute to play the drums for a performance of the musical Nunsense which I directed.

In short, Dave has always been a generous, wonderful blessing in my life.  Musically, I've never met anyone like him.  He could play any instrument you put in his hand, from a mandolin to a flute.  He could play jazz, blues, classical, big band, church hymns.  Everything.  And he did it with humility.  He wasn't showy, despite all his talent.

I will miss Dave.  I'll miss the looks he gave me when I played wrong notes during a song.  I'll miss his lectures on chord progressions and transposition.  I'll miss his humor, when he would play "Amazing Grace" and segue seamlessly into "King of the Road."  He made music fun, and he made worship a joy.

Good-bye, my friend.

Saint Marty's heart is a little heartbroken tonight.

Gone too soon

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11: Early Summer Days, Wishful Thinking, Praying for the End of Snow

Early summer days are a jubilee time for birds.  In the fields, around the house, in the barn, in the woods, in the swamp--everywhere love and songs and nests and eggs...

I love those two sentences.  It makes me think of those spring mornings when there's a riot of bird song in the air.  When everything is green buds and blossoms.

Especially today, when the world is a riot of snow, I miss that jubilee time for birds.  I have spent exactly twenty hours shoveling and snowblowing today.  OK, I'm exaggerating, but, at 5 a.m. this morning, trying to dig my car out, I was ready to set my house on fire and buy a ticket to Aruba.  Or Phoenix.  Or Dayton.  Wherever snow is nonexistent.

There's about two feet of white piled in various locations on my property.   And it's still coming down.  I'm going to have to drag my ass out of bed at 5 a.m. again to contend with the damage the snow plows are going to inflict upon my driveway.  This morning, it was about two feet, thick and heavy.  I expect the same tomorrow morning.

This evening, I am praying for an end to this damn snow storm.  Twenty-four inches of snow at the beginning of November is too much.  A dusting, yes.  A light coating, maybe.  But two feet?!!!

Forgive Saint Marty.  He's feeling a little like Ralphie's old man from A Christmas Story.  Except his obscenities this evening went something like this:  "I hate f%$#ing winter!  I hate f *#$ing cold!  I hate f@$&ing people!"

Get the glue!!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10: Phenomenal Poet, Maya Angelou, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

This week's poet is the great Maya Angelou.

I have loved Angelou since she read her poem at Bill Clinton's first Inauguration.  I can still see her standing at the podium on that cold January morning, her breath fogging in the air.  All the faces upturned to the sunlight of her words.  Some people were weeping.  Others were smiling and nodding.

Maya Angelou knew how to stir people's souls.

Saint Marty bows before a phenomenal poet.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by:  Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The caged bird keeps singing...

November 10: The Weather Outside Is Frightful, Storm, "Web" Dip

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful."

Yes, it is.  Starting around noon, the day has slowly turned to crap.  Wind.  Snow.  Drifting.  More snow.  When I got home from work, I spent an hour snowblowing.  For my disciples from southern climates, that means that, for sixty minutes, I was pushing a snowblower up and down my driveway.  By the time I was done, I was head-to-foot ice and snow.  I looked like Big Hero 6.

And it isn't over yet.  The National Weather Service is now predicting between 24 and 36 inches by storm's end.  Three freakin' feet of snow!  That means that I will be up at 5 a.m. tomorrow, hip-deep in drifts, digging out my car.  I am already tired of winter, and it hasn't even started yet.

My daughter just found out she has no school tomorrow.  She let out an audible whoop and then started texting like crazy.  I'm sure the substance of her texts went something like, "Suck it!  I don't have school tomorrow."  We have mac and cheese, ramen noodles, hot dogs, and Doritos--all the supplies required for a snow day in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I'm a little jealous.

I wouldn't mind this storm if I could just stay...stay in bed.  That's the best part of a blizzard.  Letting everything go to crap outside while sucking down hot chocolate inside.  Unfortunately, I have to be on the road by about 7 a.m.  Which brings me to my Web dip question:

Are we actually going to get three feet of snow?

And the answer from Charlotte is:

"That remains to be seen.  But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately.  You're carrying on in a childish way.  Stop your crying!  I can't stand hysterics."

That remains to be seen?!!!  That's not very definitive.  That's like an answer I would give my daughter.  Her:  "Daddy, can I have an iPad for my birthday?"  Me:  "That remains to be seen."

Saint Marty's going to keep his fingers crossed.  Maybe his legs and toes, too.

Me, after snowblowing

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9: Winter Storm Warning, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

Yes, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for my piece of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan starting Monday night through Wednesday morning.  Depending on the source, we are going to be getting anywhere from six inches to two feet of snow.

This news depresses me more than a little bit.  I'm not ready for winter yet.  My mind has not made the adjustment from rain mode to snow mode.  Of course, I live in the U.P., so a snow storm at the beginning of November should not surprise me.  Actually, a snow storm at the beginning of September shouldn't surprise me.  I just am not looking forward to moving that much white rain.  Too much work.

Today's Classic Saint Marty first aired three years ago.  In 2011, I was yet again bitching about a winter storm warning.  Some things just don't change.

November 9, 2011:  Got to Be Kidding, Best Drink, Snowstorm

I just looked at the latest Blog of Note (BON).  It's another artist blog.  Looks like the artist/blogger just finished illustrating some kind of book.  My reaction when I looked at his blog:  you have got to be kidding.  Really, it seems like strong written content doesn't mean a hill of beans to the people of Blogger.  It's about art and food and fashion and baby pictures.  Don't worry about being a good writer.  The thing that bothered me the most about the latest BON was that there was no gushy post from the said blogger about how excited and surprised he was.  No welcome to all his new followers.  No thanks to the people of Blogger for giving him the honor.  Nothing.  Now, I know that being named a BON isn't exactly like winning an Oscar or a Pulitzer Prize, but I want to see some kind of reaction.  Anyway, I was just a little torqued this morning.

My wife and I went out on a date last night.  We traveled to a local micro-brewery, even though we're not beer drinkers.  I ordered a peppermint patty, which is a hot chocolate spiked with a healthy dose of peppermint schnapps.  Quite good.  We also ordered a heaping plate of every deep-fried appetizer on the menu:  waffle fries, mozzarella cheese sticks, mushrooms, and chicken fingers.  It was delicious, but I was paying for it for the rest of the evening and into the night, gastro-intestinally speaking.

There is a winter storm warning in effect for my little area of the world today.  Depending upon which weather report you believe, we could be in for anywhere from three to eleven inches of thick, white, heavy rain.  I was really hoping this little winter event was going to blow past us, either to the west or east.  No such luck.  I guess I better drag out the old snow boots.

Saint Marty is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weather day.

Not quite ready for this shit!

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8: Ten Below Zero, Galway Kinnell, "The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak," New Cartoon

After Christmas the thermometer dropped to ten below zero.  Cold settled on the world.  The pasture was bleak and frozen.  The cows stayed in the barn all the time now, except on sunny mornings when they went out and stood in the barnyard in the lee of the straw pile.  The sheep stayed near the barn, too, for protection.  When they were thirsty they ate snow.  The geese hung around the barnyard the way boys hang around a drug store, and Mr. Zuckerman fed them corn and turnips to keep them cheerful.

Yes, when the weather turns cold on the Zuckerman farm, the animals basically do what humans do:  nothing.  They stay inside, where it's warm and safe, venturing outside only when necessary.  To drink water or add to the fertilizer pile, if you know what I mean.

It's been pretty cold today.  Windy and snowy.  There's a couple of inches on the ground now, and there's a winter storm watch in effect for Monday night into Tuesday.  Six inches on the way.  I am not down with winter yet.  I'm still in autumn mode.  Give me piles of leaves, not snow.  At least until after Thanksgiving.

I spent the evening putting up Christmas decorations with my daughter.  Our tree is glowing in the corner of the living room, and our front porch is decked out with candy canes.  Tomorrow night, we will put the garland and decorations on the tree.  Soon, our neighbors will follow suit.  In a couple of weeks, there will be lights up and down our street.  But we were the first.  Not that it's a competition or anything.

I'm beginning to feel old.  I used to love the dark and cold of this time of year.  Not any more.  I prefer July with its mosquitoes and warmth.  I understand the old people who head south in November.  I hate to admit it, but I have reached middle age.  Actually, I surpassed middle age a couple of years ago.  I'm sliding toward old age.  I can barely stay awake for the ten o'clock news.

That's what today's poem from Galway Kinnell is about:  feeling your age.  Realizing you aren't as strong or healthy as you used to be.  You can't shovel snow as fast.  You can't stay up as late.  You look forward to naps.  And you worry about retirement accounts and Social Security.

Saint Marty even watched the Weather Channel for pleasure.

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak

by:  Galway Kinnell

The man splitting wood in the daybreak
looks strong, as though, if one weakened,
one could turn to him and he would help.
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel
through the air so hard the hard maple
leapt apart, as it's feared marriages will do
in countries reluctant to permit divorce,
and even willow, which, though stacked
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore,
to the married-until-death—sunders
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers,
but they help us only by the unperplexed
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones.
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated,
can't, even in spring, break through the hard earth.
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do.
We have to hold our children up to lean on them.
Everyone who could help goes or hasn't arrived.
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak,
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me.

Confessions of Saint Marty

November 7: Some Inspiration, Galway Kinnell, "How Could You Not"

It's a cold, snowy night.  My kids are spending the night at grandma's house.  The late news is on, and I'm tired.  Ready for bed.

I'm still feeling a little melancholy.  Not as bad as a few days ago.  Weekends always lift my spirits.  I have a lot to accomplish over the next couple of days.  I have to get my daughter her pointe shoes for ballet.  I have to put up my Christmas tree.  And I have to work on my annual Christmas essay.

So, I need some inspiration.  I'm going to read some good poets.  Watch a couple Christmas movies, probably It's A Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Maybe I'll even throw a little Kenny G on the CD player.

Saint Marty will start with the Galway Kinnell poem below.  It's a beautiful elegy for the great poet Jane Kenyon, late wife of Donald Hall.

How Could You Not

by:  Galway Kinnell

-- for Jane Kenyon

It is a day after many days of storms.
Having been washed and washed, the air glitters;
small heaped cumuli blow across the sky; a shower
visible against the firs douses the crocuses.
We knew it would happen one day this week.
Now, when I learn you have died, I go
to the open door and look across at New Hampshire
and see that there, too, the sun is bright
and clouds are making their shadowy ways along the horizon;
and I think: How could it not have been today?
In another room, Keri Te Kanawa is singing
the Laudate Dominum of Mozart, very faintly,
as if in the past, to those who once sat
in the steel seat of the old mowing machine,
cheerful descendent of the scythe of the grim reaper,
and drew the cutter bars little
reciprocating triangles through the grass
to make the stalks lie down in sunshine.
Could you have walked in the dark early this morning
and found yourself grown completely tired
of the successes and failures of medicine,
of your year of pain and despair remitted briefly
now and then by hope that had that leaden taste?
Did you glimpse in first light the world as you loved it
and see that, now, it was not wrong to die
and that, on dying, you would leave
your beloved in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did you loosen your hold a little?
How could you not already have felt blessed for good,
having these last days spoken your whole heart to him,
who spoke his whole heart to you, so that in the silence
he would not feel a single word was missing?
How could you not have slipped into a spell,
in full daylight, as he lay next to you,
with his arms around you, as they have been,
it must have seemed, all your life?
How could your cheek not press a moment to his cheek,
which presses itself to yours from now on?
How could you not rise and go, with all that light
at the window, those arms around you, and the sound,
coming or going, hard to say, of a single-engine
plane in the distance that no one else hears?