Thursday, March 31, 2011

On my bike ride this morning I couldn't escape daisies... didn't want to escape them. In the middle of the ride, I thought I'd go home and write a poem about daisies, but before I got there, Wordsworth's poem kept coming to mind every time I came upon another field of flowers.
To the Daisy
by William Wordsworth

Bright Flower!! whose home is everywhere,
Bold in material Nature’s care,
And all the long year through the heir
Of joy or sorrow;
Methinks that there abides in thee
Some concord with humanity,
Given to no other flower I see
The forest thorough!

Is it that Man is soon deprest?
A thoughtless Thing! who, once unblest,
Does little on his memory rest,
Or on his reason,
And Thou would’st teach him how to find
A shelter under every wind,
A hope for times that are unkind
And every season?

Thou wander’st the wide world about,
Uncheck’d by pride or scrupulous doubt,
With friend to greet thee, or without,
Yet pleased and willing;
Meek, yielding to the occasion’s call,
And all things suffering from all,
Thy function apostolical
in Peace fulfilling.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


If you have been in love
And can arrange flowers
And like to smell a baby’s head
And pick up seashells at the beach
And wish you could fly
And long for the smell of damp earth in a dry season,
You can write poetry.
If you haven’t and don’t and can’t, you can’t.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

About the poem and the photographs. The photographs are from NOW... The poem is from Thursday, January 4, 1990. I was thumbing through my journal from that year and found it... was puzzled by it because I remember writing it, but I don't remember if there was an actual injury or if there was a metaphorical reason for writing it. I checked the photograph for that day, and found that it was no help. I was amused to calculate that I was fifty-four-years-old when I wrote it, and I apparently considered myself old then. Ah, to be fifty-four again! (Actually, no thanks!) Life is Good!

And about the photographs: My favorite tree in Balboa Park is showing off again. Life IS good. ...and, by the way, have you ever seen a more lascivious tree in your life?
Urgent Care

The gray-haired G.P. smiled and said,
“We’ve come to the age
When these things can’t be neglected,” meaning we,
He and I, are old.
“If your heart hurts, check it out,”
And he checked it out
With the help of a skinny boy of maybe twenty-five
Who came from Alaska
To be a medical technician in San Diego
And never went back since 1983.

Blood pressure 130 over 70, heart rate 64, temperature 98.6,
EKG perfect, breathing normal,
Breathing normal, breathing normal, normal.

“Well, it’s not your heart that hurts.
Maybe your rib bruised by a cough
Or you slept wrong
Or some other thing that you can’t even remember
Happened, happened.

Stand straight. Sit up straight. Don’t give in to it.
Walk the same as usual except pretend
You’re in the army.”

“It’s a worry, isn’t it,” the boy named Charley said...
“When the hurt is in the region of your heart.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The annual breakfast honoring the memory of Cesar Chavez at the Bayside Hilton was a huge success. Paul Chavez, son of the legendary organizer of farm laborers, was the featured speakers. The highlight of the program was participation by high school students. I was reassured that there is hope for us. Margaret and I walked across the new pedestrian bridge to get to the meeting. I couldn't resist getting another photograph.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

One of my favorite musical compositions is Sheherazade (Шехерезада) by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. I was reminded of it this afternoon as friends and I listened as Amir Abbas and three of his friends played Persian music at the Serra Mesa/Kearny Mesa library. Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous composition hints of Persia but is definitely more Russian than Iranian. The musicians this afternoon played real Persian music. They played a violin, keyboard, guitar, clarinet, a Persian stringed instrument, various drums; and Amir sang beautifully. The pieces ranged from reverent and soulful to joyous. Wonderful!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I got the first photograph just outside our front door. I got most of the others today down by the harbor... except, obviously, a digitized version of one of my paintings that I posted on yesterday's BLOG.A good friend has sent to me a proposal that’s going around the Internet promoting a 28th Amendment to the Constitution which would drastically change the American system of government by making radical changes in the legislative branch. Tenure in both House and Senate would be limited to 12 years and members would be paid reasonable salaries but no pay or pension after service except Social Security. Members would be provided no more or less health insurance than other Americans. There are other provisions and limitations.

  Although I haven’t considered them seriously, the ideas have floated around for a long time. Some of the ideas seem to make sense, but I have questions about others. Limiting tenure would not change the fact that an ordinary working citizen with moderate income and modest assets could hardly come up with the money necessary to run for office without selling his/her soul to wealthy individuals, corporations, or foundations who could finance the campaign. Also, I am not opposed to career politicians. Bob Filner in California’s 51st Congressional District is a good example of a bright, well-educated individual whose service to the country is informed both by his formal academic training in history and government and by his experience in the House of Representatives. What a shame it would be for him to be termed out and replaced by someone who would take years of on-the-job experience in Washington to come close to the effectiveness in office that is apparent in Congressman Filner's work. These bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, know-it-all Tea Party people are constantly demonstrating their woeful lack of information and sophistication about the world, about the United States, and even about their own districts. Their ignorance is embarrassing and ultimately dangerous to our democracy. Enthusiasm and good looks are not enough. Enthusiasm only compounds the damage done by ignorance. It's pretty clear that our present system isn't working as well as it might.
    My gut reaction to the proposal to strip senators and representatives of all the benefits they enjoy is that the suggestion is a move in the wrong direction.  Instead of taking something away from people doing a job, our rich country should be moving in a direction of taking care of everybody the way the system takes care of elected workers: insurance, pensions, health care... all the things "they" now have should be provided for all citizens.  That’s an idea that seems to be anathema to Tea Party folks. To do that, we would have to tax the hell out of the rich (personal incomes of rich individuals... I don't know enough about what it takes to make a successful corporation to make any kind of statement about corporate tax structures... but I do know that a personal income over a couple of million dollars a year for any private citizen simply isn't necessary for enjoyment of the good life and should not be exempt from heavy taxation. Ronald Reagan's trickle down economic theories obviously don’t accomplish what he thought they would accomplish. Very little trickles down. The Gipper was apparently a good man...sincere and honest, but sincerity and goodness and honesty are sometimes not enough. Much of the surplus wealth of individuals surges out of the country to off-shore investments and into in-country investments that are protected from taxes. Reagan was sincere in his belief that the wealthy would distribute their accumulated wealth by investing in projects that would put people to work. That happens sometimes, but excessive wealth does little except further embellish the good life for the very rich. The Buffett and Gates families are good examples of people who are realistic about their personal wealth. In my own city we have good examples of wealthy citizens who support the arts and I am grateful, but the vast majority of the poorest citizens of San Diego don’t receive much benefit from a gift to a museum or to the symphony. Public schools in the parts of the city where low-income families live are grossly underfunded. For lack of funds, arts programs in those schools are being dropped. Librarians and nurses are being cut from faculties. Music programs are eliminated because there is simply not enough money from taxes to keep them going.

Changing tenure of federal senators and representatives isn’t going to change any of the things that need changing in California.

Friday, March 25, 2011

It sounds a bit like jingoism to say it, like an advertisement for some product that makes good music or produces good food or reproduces elegant images; but what I’m thinking about today is much too beautiful and good to reduce to terms that are used in describing products that can be bought. The gift in my thoughts today is Daughter Nancy, who was born (respect and love hold me back from saying how many years ago) long enough ago that Margaret’s and my lives have been enriched way beyond the possibility of counting.

Today is Nancy’s birthday. The protea is just about the most outrageously beautiful flower I know, so this one is my photo du jour and a gift to Nancy. I did the two paintings posted on the BLOG today when Nancy was in college, so I’d better not say how long ago that was. We lived in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and I was becoming acquainted with Color Field painters like Kenneth Noland, who died last year at age 85, and Sam Gilliam, who is 78 now and still working. Gilliam became one of the best known Washington Color School painters and is often referred to as a lyrical abstractionist. I like that description of him. If Sam is a lyrical abstractionist, Nancy is a lyrical reality.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ANOTHER conversation with myselfHILLSIDE IN SPRINGTIME

Looking out over the hillside in midwinter,
I could just barely believe the brown and gray trees
Would ever become green again.
It happens the same very year...
The loss of hope that the earth will become soft again,
And thick, hot life as we know it in summer will resume.

These cycles of death and life, cold and hot,
Gray drab and brilliant, dazzling color
Are the most common and endearing characteristics
Of this uncommon satellite inconspicuously fixed
In its orbit around the Father sun
That rules its collection of maiden planets.


Do animals going into their winter sleep
Know they will wake in springtime,
Or do they go into that deep darkness
The way we slip into sleep,
Welcoming it with no fear
Of being lost in it forever.

The natural cycles, the ones keyed to sun and moon,
Are the ones that our blood speaks to us about
As it courses through our veins.
Whatever changes they bring
Are the changes we can trust
To be not more than we can bear.


When the first warm days of spring come
And the earth still cool, welcomes us barefoot
To tread the soft, damp trail through the garden,
We marry with nature again and promise
Hangs heavy all around that life is good
And all things reproduce themselves and endure.

Perhaps persist is more accurate then endure.
There is a pushiness to this verdant invasion
That rushes across the land each spring.
There are explanations we are expected to accept
Without question about the tilting of the earth
In its eternal dance with the sun.


The people who live in tropics
Are treated always to the lush green throb
Of life without interruption,
But what they miss is the annual surprise
Of forsythia and lilac followed by the glorious green explosion
That begins at the bottom and sweeps up the mountainside.

If this mountain in May is the color of life,
What is this brown and gray?
Is it any wonder Monet
Preferred the green and purple
Throb of springtime
To the static cold color of winter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'LL CALL THIS ONE NORTH PARK. The blooming cactus is in The Davids' yard. I can't look at this photograph and not think Christmas. The super-sized drawings are big changeable banners on the side of the multi-story parking structure on 30th Street. The boxes with locks hang on the east side of the North Park Theater. I have no idea what their purpose is... but they have a certain aesthetic appeal when they're made into a photograph. Click on the image to see it bigger and you'll see what I mean... especially the box and the lock on the left in relation to the others... remembering that relationship is what it's all about, whatever it is. This is North Park. I'll focus on the cat and the fiddle. Hey Diddle Diddle
It’s absurd to suggest
A cow could jump over the moon...
I’ve seen dogs laugh
and know a lot about spoons...
not a thing about a cat and a fiddle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There was nothing I could do about it. There was no other way I could read what Gretel Kovach wrote that Cpl. Clancy Cheek said but to see it as pure poetry. Off out there in Helmand Province in Afghanistan the words right out of Cpl. Cheek’s mouth arrange themselves in the kinds of line breaks and rhythm that great poets strive to make when they labor over an idea they believe can be made into a poem. Cpl. Cheek’s mind was responding to his heart and to remembering his friend Cpl. Alec Catherwood. That’s how poetry happens.

Not just about Motorcycles

“It’s a way to get away
...from everything.
When you’re riding and you look up the sky,
There’s nothing between you and it.

It feels like you’re floating along.
There’s nothing that can bother you.”

--Clancy Cheek

Read about Cpl. Clancy (middle name Colt, “like a young horse”) Cheek’s remembrance of his friend, Alec Catherwood in Gretel Kovach’s piece in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune. Kovach is embedded with Camp Pendleton-based Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan.