Friday, February 27, 2009

Views of Mount Hood

Last week, in Portland, the view from my hotel room balcony was amazing.  Every morning there was a wonderful sunrise.  Each evening, there was an equally beautiful sunset.  To my left was Mount St. Helens.  Directly in front of me was Mount Hood.  Off somewhere between the two was Mount Adams, and others.  Some days were very hazy and I couldn't even see the mountains at all until the haze "burned" off.  This series of pictures focuses on Mount Hood.  The first is a sunrise, believe it or not.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Airport Art.

My colleagues and I were treated to a cross-country art show during our recent travel from Manchester, NH to Chicago to Portland to Washington, D.C. and back to Manchester, NH. We noticed that at each airport there were interesting sculptures tucked into various nooks and crannies for the rushing travelers to enjoy, if only periferally.

Unfortunately, by the time we were awake enough to realize the particular treats before us (we were up at 3 a.m.), my camera was out of reach, so I missed taking pictures until I went back to the Portland Airport on Friday. What you see here, then, is just some of the dozen+ works of art we saw in four different airports last week.

Love is Not All

Today is the birthday of one of my all-time favorite American poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay. She was born in 1892 in a lovely town on the Maine coast, Rockland, and grew up in a rather liberated household of women (her mother and two sisters). She came to notice as a poet at 20 when she entered a poetry contest and wrote what was generally considered the best poem, even though it only received 4th place. The poem, Renascance, has in its closing lines these beautiful lines:

I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;

God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide;

Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.

Vincent, as she liked to be called, was considered a free spirit. In her 20s she left rural Maine and went to live in Greenwich Village, New York City. You couldn't get farther away in lifestyle than these two places! Her independence, and her openness about relationships, made her a favorite for many years. Her skill as a writer brought her both popular and critical recognition, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Frost Award for her lifetime contribution to American poetry. Her best known poem is probably First Fig:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!
Perhaps my favorite of her poems is The Philosopher:

And what are you that, wanting you,
I should be kept awake
As many nights as there are days
With weeping for your sake?

And what are you that, missing you,
As many days as crawl
I should be listening to the wind
And looking at the wall?

I know a man that's a braver man
And twenty men as kind,
And what are you, that you should be
The one man in my mind?

Yet women's ways are witless ways,
As any sage will tell,—
And what am I, that I should love
So wisely and so well?

My favorite sonnet is a little cynical at first, but comes 'round in the end:

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

West With the Night

"If a man [or woman] has any greatness in him, it comes to light not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work." ~ Beryl Markham in West with the Night

If you've never read Beryl's book, I highly recommend that you run to your nearest book vender (whatever that might mean...library, bookstore, internet, kindle) and get it. It is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. But then I love to fly, and Beryl Markham was a flyer, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, making the trip on September 4-5, 1936.

Born in England, Beryl grew up in Kenya where she was the first woman to earn a commercial pilot's license. She was also well-known as a bush pilot and often flew with Denys Finch-Hatton, beloved friend of my other favorite Kenyan writer Karen Blixon. West With the Night is her memoirs of her life in Kenya and the Atlantic flight, published in 1942 to great acclaim.

I think about her often when I am flying. I would so love to have flown back in those early days, when there was nothing between you and the clouds but the wind rushing through your hair. Flying the way she did in Africa, skimming the grasslands, with herds of zebra, antelope, giraffe, elephants grazing and running below you...I can think of nothing better.

Photos from Wikipedia and Encylopedia Britanica

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray,

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose blossom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems were made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

­~ Joyce Kilmer

Photo: a knobby tree across the street from my hotel in downtown Portland

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cascades in the Distance

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

I am in Portland, OR this week for admin- istrative meetings with principals and superintendents across the country. It's been good so far. I've seen a lot of old friends, including former students from my first days of teaching. One of them was the presenter at the last break-out I attended. It was really good. I kept being so pleased to know what she's doing with her life!

The pictures are of the view of the Cascades I have from my hotel room window. The last is Mt. Hood...lost in the clouds... We flew by it on our way in. I wish I'd taken a'll probably never be as clear from here as it was from there...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fly Like an Eagle

I had hoped to have a report of my day at the Merrimack River Eagle Festival, but will have to content myself with sharing other people's pictures. For now. I got side-tracked by my superintendent and his wife, so will have to try to go another day.

Thirty years ago, the American Bald Eagle population in Massachusetts was down to eight. Today, the count is 80 and growing. Just north of where I live, on what is called the North Shore (Newburyport along the Merrimack River), is a large population of eagles. Every year, the Massachusetts Audobon Society hosts a family friendly festival.

These pictures (from the MA Audobon site) show what I missed, but I am determined to catch some shots myself soon. Meanwhile, I am packing to make like an eagle and fly to Portland, Oregon for a week of meetings (I leave at 6 tomorrow morning). Hopefully I'll see something interesting while I'm there...something besides the inside of the hotel and meeting rooms =)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Beyond the Sunset

Tonight's view from my living room window was spec- tacular. I love winter sunsets for the coolness of their colors. I also like how the stark darkness of the leafless tree branches stand out silhouetted against the beautiful sky...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Harbinger of Spring?

I had lots of visitors to the bird feeder today. The tufted titmice are the most constant regulars, and they now come two at a time. Juncos and chickadees have been hanging around, but today I saw the first ones at the feeder. The cardinals sneak in when they think I'm not looking, and the squirrel came back, as bold as ever. Sigh.

I have to admit, it's a bit distracting having the birds this close to where I'm trying to work, but they also take me away in moments of stress, for which I am thankful =)

I always thought of robins as one of the first harbingers of spring. But as I've said before, I've seen and heard robins all winter long , so that's not necessarily so this year. When I got home this afternoon, I caught this robin preening on the rooftop. Notice how brilliantly blue the sky is! It's been frigid today (cold enough to freeze the insides of my nose!), but it's supposed to warm up into the 50s over the weekend. I do hope that means spring is on its way!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tail of Two Cardinals

So I keep trying to figure out what to do to make it easier for the shy cardinals to come to the feeder when I'm in my office, never mind while I'm sitting at my desk, just under the window. I keep catching them leaving as I'm coming back into the office or sitting on the corner of the roof a little ways away (see left) looking longingly at the feeder (bottom right). Finally, today, not once but twice, they came while I was at my desk.

First the female, then the male. I have a tail of a picture to prove that the male was there. He sat there for a couple of minutes and ate several seeds and even sang a few notes. The feeder is so close to where I sit that I could actually see him crunching the sunflower seeds and working the meat out of the husk. It was so cool! At first, I barely breathed, but slowly reached out for my camera and got a couple of shots. The angle I was shooting from, though, only yielded a tail. I simply must invest in a tripod!

I can't tell you, though, how exciting it is for me to finally have my own bird feeder with my own birds right in my own window! If only I could get beautiful pictures like all my blogging birder friends!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Dust of Snow

My brain is tired after a long 11 1/2 hour day in the office. I hit the ground running at 7 and didn't stop until I left at 6:30. I was battling a sore throat, as well, having spent an extended period of time outside for a graveside service on Saturday afternoon. I'm hoping my mind will win out over whatever is the matter. Meanwhile, I thought a little Frost might suffice:

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost (1923)
clr gif

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Not a Bowler

I'm not a bowler. Not of any kind. I don't bowl, although I'll go if that's what everyone else is doing. I'm just not that good at it (probably because I don't do it very often). I do remember a funny incident, though, when I was in high school and some of my classmates and I went bowling one Saturday night. One of the guys thought he was quite good and went into a fancy wind-up (I know, bowling is not pitching...just don't know what else to call what he did). He went into his release, but let go too late and swung himself onto the floor. We were unmerciful in our laughter =)

I have become a collector of bowls recently. I've found some beautiful bowls at Home Goods for next to nothing, literally, and since there's only one of me most of the time, been able to build a nice little collection for soups and salads.

The real bowling I meant to speak of tonight, though, was the Super Bowl. The truth is, I've watched many a Super Bowl, but have cared about very few of them. Football is not my favorite sport. I only learned it in the first place because I had a sophomore English class that was all boys my first year of teaching (in a boarding school in Michigan). I was desperate to find a way to reach them and discovered football worked. Every class period after a game, we'd talk about it first thing. That would buy me the rest of the class period for English! The weird thing was that every boy in the class liked a different team, none of them the Patriots!

All this to say that I'm doing lesson plans and editing my Alumni Newsletter tonight instead of watching the Super Bowl!