Sunday, October 29, 2006


Today I am thankful for peppermint tea and those few clocks that we own that set themselves. Hope everyone enjoyed their extra hour of sleep last night. I know I did.

What goes perfectly with poetry?

Why, tea, of course! And here is a site you might find fun to window-shop.
There is a large variety of all things tea-related. There is even an eponymous tea offered (haven't tried it, though). My favorite item? It might just be the bee-skep honey pot.
(writen by Moon Rani)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wallace Stevens: Sea surface full of clouds

I came across this poem this morning, here, while I wandered around some writing and reading blogs. Maybe it snagged me because my husband and I have been watching "Brideshead Revisited." The last two episodes we watched took place on the ship, and the sea was a powerful influence on the development and dissolution of relationships.
Thank you, Bloglily, for sharing this poem.

Sea Surface Full Of Clouds

Wallace Stevens


In that November off Tehuantepec,
The slopping of the sea grew still one night
And in the morning summer hued the deck

And made one think of rosy chocolate
And gilt umbrellas. Paradisal green
Gave suavity to the perplexed machine

Of ocean, which like limpid water lay.
Who, then, in that ambrosial latitude
Out of the light evolved the morning blooms,

Who, then, evolved the sea-blooms from the clouds
Diffusing balm in that Pacific calm?
C’était mon enfant, mon bijou, mon âme.

The sea-clouds whitened far below the calm
And moved, as blooms move, in the swimming green
And in its watery radiance, while the hue

Of heaven in an antique reflection rolled
Round those flotillas. And sometimes the sea
Poured brilliant iris on the glistening blue.


In that November off Tehuantepec
The slopping of the sea grew still one night.
At breakfast jelly yellow streaked the deck

And made one think of chop-house chocolate
And sham umbrellas. And a sham-like green
Capped summer-seeming on the tense machine

Of ocean, which in sinister flatness lay.
Who, then, beheld the rising of the clouds
That strode submerged in that malevolent sheen,

Who saw the mortal massives of the blooms
Of water moving on the water-floor?
C’était mon frère du ciel, ma vie, mon or.

The gongs rang loudly as the windy booms
Hoo-hooed it in the darkened ocean-blooms.
The gongs grew still. And then blue heaven spread

Its crystalline pendentives on the sea
And the macabre of the water-glooms
In an enormous undulation fled.


In that November off Tehuantepec,
The slopping of the sea grew still one night
And a pale silver patterned on the deck

And made one think of porcelain chocolate
And pied umbrellas. An uncertain green,
Piano-polished, held the tranced machine

Of ocean, as a prelude holds and holds,
Who, seeing silver petals of white blooms
Unfolding in the water, feeling sure

Of the milk within the saltiest spurge, heard, then,
The sea unfolding in the sunken clouds?
Oh! C’était mon extase et mon amour.

So deeply sunken were they that the shrouds,
The shrouding shadows, made the petals black
Until the rolling heaven made them blue,

A blue beyond the rainy hyacinth,
And smiting the crevasses of the leaves
Deluged the ocean with a sapphire blue.


In that November off Tehuantepec
The night-long slopping of the sea grew still.
A mallow morning dozed upon the deck

And made one think of musky chocolate
And frail umbrellas. A too-fluent green
Suggested malice in the dry machine

Of ocean, pondering dank stratagem.
Who then beheld the figures of the clouds
Like blooms secluded in the thick marine?

Like blooms? Like damasks that were shaken off
From the loosed girdles in the spangling must.
C’était ma foi, la nonchalance divine.

The nakedness would rise and suddenly turn
Salt masks of beard and mouths of bellowing,
Would—But more suddenly the heaven rolled

Its bluest sea-clouds in the thinking green,
And the nakedness became the broadest blooms,
Mile-mallows that a mallow sun cajoled.


In that November off Tehuantepec
Night stilled the slopping of the sea.
The day came, bowing and voluble, upon the deck,

Good clown… One thought of Chinese chocolate
And large umbrellas. And a motley green
Followed the drift of the obese machine

Of ocean, perfected in indolence.
What pistache one, ingenious and droll,
Beheld the sovereign clouds as jugglery

And the sea as turquoise-turbaned Sambo, neat
At tossing saucers—cloudy-conjuring sea?
C’était mon esprit bâtard, l’ignominie.

The sovereign clouds came clustering. The conch
Of loyal conjuration trumped. The wind
Of green blooms turning crisped the motley hue

To clearing opalescence. Then the sea
And heaven rolled as one and from the two
Came fresh transfigurings of freshest blue.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Practical reading

Although I have not dived into any pleasure-reading since my last experience (see previous post), I am reading two books in a series which I wish to recommend. I work as a nanny. I returned to work last year after having been away from childcare for a number of years. Infants and toddlers have made up the bulk of my young charges, and my current job gives me fulltime care of a boy who is just over one year old. However, he also has two schoolage siblings, and I shall care for them on occasion, as well. Realizing my skills needed sharpening, I turned to some tried-and-true sources.
The Gesell Institute of Human Development has a book series from the late 1970s-mid1980s that draws portraits of children one year at a time. They are written by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. assisted by one of several coauthors such as Frances L. Ilg, M.D. and Carol Chase Haber, M.A. The titles go according to year, so there is Your Three-Year-Old, Your Six-Year-Old and so on. Each book gives excellent sketches of children covering their physical, mental and emotional characteristics. It gives practical hints according to age, too. Arming myself with such information helps me to, say, brush off the comment of one of my charges in a recent episode. She learned that my car was being repaired, and asked, "Oh, did your car break down?" I knew I was being setup by a creature who fancies herself crafty but who is both transparent and obvious, and who is in an age when she delights in saying things that are inappropriate.
"Yes, it did," I said.
"Oh, good!"she crowed, "I'm so glad!"
As her nanny, I could ignore her and deprive her of the attention she hoped her rudeness would garner.
[But if I'd been her mother, I would have taken her aside for a quick and firm reminder that we don't celebrate other people's misfortunes.]
Arming myself with information from these books allows me to detach from situations better, to take things less personally, understanding that so much of behavior reflects development. It also allows me to handle things in ways that actually work. Lots of power struggles can be avoided this way, as can some of the daily melodrama of childrearing. I like knowing which events and behaviors are important and which just ways to get reactions from adults, attempts at manipulation, testing of boundaries and so on.
I have read complaints on that this series is dated. It is true that some of the information is out of date; do not believe the statistics cited, for example, because they are old. Some of the examples used are no longer as common as they were at the time. But the basic information about how a child functions is solid, useful and trustworthy.
Another book I like is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Marsh. It's full of practical ideas for doing just what it says. Then I can avoid falling into traps such as asking a child, "Is it okay if Nanny changes your diaper? Please, Sweetie, please?" It is much more effective, for another example, to say firmly to a two-year old, "No hit," and not (as one mother I knew did), "Please don't hit Mommy, okay, Honey, because it hurts Mommy's feelings a lot and then she gets very sad." Age-appropriate boundaries are useful; so is knowing what appeals to a child at which age.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Animal talk

An animal-lover since I was a tot who doted on a Chihuahua named Bambi, I thought If Only They Could Talk, The Mircles of Spring Farm, by Bonnie Jones Reynolds and Dawn E. Hayman was perfect for a late summer reading choice. It was among the bargain books I purchased from Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller. Owing to one pitfall of mail-ordering books, my choice did not suit at all. So many titles in the catalogue are unfamiliar that one must rely on the thumbnail sketches given. Sometimes one finds little treasures this way. Sometimes the books prove disappointing because the synopses were too short to give full and clear descriptions.
Thus it was with If Only... The book cover says it is "An inspiring true story about listening to the animals we love." I took that to mean discerning their behavior and sounds. Somehow I imagined it might tell stories about sick, disabled, unwanted and/or deformed animals that were taken in and which went on to live happy lives with the authors.
However, I was wrong. The authors believe they can communicate with animals telepathically; one says she receives messages from animals that died recently. If that concept appeals to you, I recommend this book. If you are skeptical, as I am, then you'll want to keep looking for another animal book. As for my copy, it is headed - - mostly unread - - for the next charity booksale.