Tag Archives: death

The Listeners

For the Halloween season, have one of my favorite poems. I do not like to be scared, but there is something in mystery and a chilling thrill that I have always loved. This piece walks that line as well as anything I have ever read. Enjoy!

Picture by Patrick Garrington on Public Domain Pictures http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=34018&picture=church-door

Picture by Patrick Garrington on Public Domain Pictures

The Listeners
by Walter de la Mare (1873–1956)

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.
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Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

Source unknown. If you know where it is from, please inform me.

P.S. This is my 100th blog post! Blue Blistering Barnacles!


St. Crispin’s Day

Today I learned that this day celebrates two saints: St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, who were apparently twins from the 3rd Century. They are patron saints of cobblers and those who work with leather. They were martyred for their faith, but I was relieved to learn that their deaths had nothing to do with shoes or hide. They were cobblers. And now, have some Shakespeare!

Westmoreland: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

Henry V: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act 4, scene 3


Rewriting Tolkien

There are allowances to be made for adaptations. One cannot translate a story from one medium to another with absolute fidelity, and sometimes changes are necessary. Some changes even improve how the story is expressed in the new form. I easily accepted most of the changes made for Peter Jackson’s original “Lord of the Rings” films because the tone and overall theme matched well with the books, and for the most part the plot, characters and places seemed like themselves. There were, of course, a few things that bothered me, but they did not overpower what I felt was right about the films.

Then came the first Hobbit movie. The beginning thrilled me. It seemed to have its own flavor, and one that meshed well with the book on which it was based. As the movie progressed, however, it moved farther and farther away from the source material, not only in plot, but in feel. Some changes I could forgive as easily as I did with LotR, but the gestalt was disappointing.

Today, I watched the trailer for The Desolation of Smaug. Before I say more, take the time to watch it yourself.

It is beautiful, and it resembles Tolkien’s The Hobbit as much as I resemble a pumpkin. I know I take Tolkien too seriously, but his writing is one of my greatest literary pleasures, and I was hoping to have the joy of a good adaptation of Bilbo’s story on top of what I feel was a good adaptation of Lord of the Rings.

It is time, now, to lay that hope to rest. “Lay her i’ the earth: And from her fair and unpolluted flesh May violets spring!” -Hamlet, Act V scene 1


Phoenix

Be-kind-rewrite’s Inspiration Monday nudged my muse in a terribly melodramatic way. Apologies in advance for the levels of angst, but the prompt was “can’t stop crying” so it was bound to be either angsty or filled with onions.

In the Center is a thing that weeps. In the darkness surrounding her now, her feathers and her tears are light. Her children return when their fires burn out. It’s over their corpses she weeps, folding them beneath her wings like eggs.
And there, against the mother flame, their life returns only for them to leave again; flying off into the void, bringing heat and light, but leaving her in the Center with her tears.
We have light and life because she can’t stop crying. Yet I have to wonder if one day we will learn the meaning of life without pain.
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He is Risen!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Some beauty in celebration of the day of liberation.

Glory to the Lamb of God!

Blessings upon us all.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

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Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

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Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

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Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare


Decade

I am not good at record-keeping. That statement will make family and friends laugh because it is a huge understatement. Because of this, I am not sure what year the following image was taken. I know I was in college, and it was before my senior year, which means I was between 20 and 23. I will make a wild guess and say 21.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

I loathe pictures of myself. For every one that looks like me, there are fifty in which I look like someone else or like a marshmallow with hair. No one in my immediate family is photogenic, though my father is better than the rest of us. The only reason this picture exists is because a professor required it. I was taking a basic photography class, and in his wisdom our prof required us to have at least one self-portrait per roll of film.

Yes. Film. That camera in my hands? That’s my baby. I haven’t used it in too long, something I intend to remedy, but it gives me a feeling of control I have never felt from using a digital camera. The image was taken with silver film, developed and printed by me.

So, why am I posting this? I turned 31 in February, marking around a decade since this picture was taken. This got me to thinking about the passage of time and what that means, and made me want to take another picture of myself now. And so I did. This time I used my father’s digital Nikon. I dressed, as closely as I could, in the same way. Here is the image in black and white, for comparison, and in color as it was originally.

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

Image by Jubilare

The shirt in the first picture has gone through a metamorphosis. It is now part of a quilted prayer-rug a good friend made for me.

The moonstone necklace around my neck now has a crack from side to side. Why? It was run over by a car on a gravel road in the Smoky Mountains.

The coat. Ah, the coat. That is my magic coat. It belonged to my father, and he gave it to me when I was in high-school. It is never too warm, but always warm enough, even when I was in Salzburg, Austria, on a snowy New Years Eve and someone poured vodka all over me. All that has changed about it, since the first picture, is that my cat, Geoffrey, managed to bite all the way through one sleeve. It’s thick leather, too, which makes me wonder about the strength of Geoffrey’s jaw.

The ring on my finger in the first image, though identical to the one in the other two, is not the same ring. The one I currently have is, if I am counting right, number 3. The first one was lost whilst gardening, and has never been found. The second one split, my active hands being tough on silver. The third, though scratched, is in good shape.

And then, of course, there is me. The creases between my eyes are deeper, but I had that long before I turned 21. The eyebrows drawn together in thought is an expression everyone who has met me will recognize. We even have pictures of baby-me with that expression.

I had glasses at 21, too, but I must have been experimenting with contacts when I took the first image. Contacts and I don’t get along. The rings, evident in all the pictures, have left a good callous on my hand. I worry, with the surgery ahead of me, that I will no longer be allowed to wear the ring on my right.

There is silver in my hair now! Just a few strands, so far. I like them.

I am a happier person now, than I was then. Depression has been my shadow for a long, long time, but it used to jerk me around a lot more. Time has softened that cycle, at least for now. I’ve grown and changed in thoughts, in faith, in experience. I still have respect for that 21-year-old who was me. She had come a long way from the 11-year-old me. Though I have changed a lot, she and I still have the same foundation, and pretty much the same orientation in the world. The biggest difference is what I have learned about myself and about the world that she did not know.

Most of all, I am struck by the complete strangeness and unpredictability of life. I mean, shirt-to-prayer-rug? Necklace run over by a car? And finding myself fighting cancer is far from the strangest thing that has happened between then and now.

My strongest feeling as I look at these images and think about the time in between?

It’s not nostalgia, or regret, or triumph. It’s simply awe. Awe that I have been alive for ten years since that time, and that so much has happened and not happened.


Crossroads

Parallel lyrics from Les Misérables, the Musical.
Valjean’s “What Have I Done” and Javert’s “Soliloquy”
by Herbert Kretzmer.

Yes, there are spoilers here if you don’t know the basic plot.

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Valjean/Javert
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What have I done?/Who is this man?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?/What sort of devil is he?
Become a thief in the night,/To have me caught in a trap
Become a dog on the run/And choose to let me go free?
And have I fallen so far,/It was his hour at last
And is the hour so late/To put a seal on my fate,
That nothing remains,/Wipe out the past,
But the cry of my hate,/And wash me clean off the slate.
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,/
All it would take was a flick of his knife.
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?/
Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!
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If there’s another way to go/
Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief.
I missed it twenty long years ago./
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
My life was a war that could never be won./
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked.
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean/
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face.
When they chained me and left me for dead,/
There is nothing on earth that we share.
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread./
It is either Valjean or Javert!
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Yet why did I allow that man/How can I now allow this man
To touch my soul and teach me love?/To hold dominion over me?
He treated me like any other./This desperate man that I have hunted,
He gave me his trust./He gave me my life.
He called me brother./He gave me freedom.
My life he claims for God above!/I should have perished by his hand.
Can such things be?/It was his right.
For I had come to hate the world,/I was my right to die as well.
This world that always hated me/Instead I live – but live in hell.
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Take an eye for an eye!/And my thoughts fly apart.
Turn your heart into stone!/Can this man be believed?
This is all I have lived for!/Shall his sins be forgiven?
This is all I have known!/Shall his crimes be reprieved?

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One word from him and I’d be back/
And must I now begin to doubt,
Beneath the lash, upon the rack./
Who never doubted all these years?
Instead he offers me my freedom./
My heart is stone and still it trembles.
I feel my shame inside me like a knife./
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
He told me that I have a soul,/
Is he from heaven or from hell?
How does he know?/And does he know
What spirit comes to move my life?/
That, granting me my life today,
Is there another way to go?/
This man has killed me even so?
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I am reaching, but I fall,/I am reaching, but I fall,
And the night is closing in/And the stars are black and cold,
And I stare into the void,/As I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin./Of a world that cannot hold.
I’ll escape now from that world,/I’ll escape now from that world,
From the world of Jean Valjean./From the world of Jean Valjean!
Jean Valjean is nothing now./There is nowhere I can turn.
Another story must begin!/There is no way to go on.


Christmas Song 2012

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

[Thanks to Deanna for introducing me to this one!]

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Balulalow

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

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This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild.
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind.

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Lat us rejoyis and be blyth
And with the Hyrdis go full swyth
To see what God in his grace hath done
Throu Christ to bring us to his throne.

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My saull and life stand up and see
Wha lyis in ane cribbe of tree.
What Babe is that, sa gude and fair?
It is Christ, God’s Son and Heir.

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O my deir hart, yung Jesus sweit,
Prepair thy creddill in my spreit!
And I sall rock thee in my hart
And never mair fra thee depart.

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O I sall praise thee evermoir
With sangis sweit unto thy gloir.
The kneis of my hart sall I bow
And sing that rycht Balulalow.

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I come from hevin heich to tell
The best nowells that e’er befell.
To you thir tythings trew I bring
And I will of them say and sing:

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This day to you is born ane child
Of Mary meik and Virgin mild!
That blissit bairn bening and kind
Sall you rejoyce baith hart and mind!

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Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org


Ann Voskamp Quote

At the suggestion of friends I have started reading One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. I find her style rather purple, yet emotionally resonant. By the beginning of chapter 2, this much is clear to me: This woman understands pain and knows death in many of its forms. I will share the quote that, this morning, resonated with me as something I have long known and am yet trying to understand.

It’s the in between that drives us mad.

It’s the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking, that’s lost all capacity to fully feel – this is the life in between that makes us the wild walking dead.


Requiescat in Pace, Anne Murphy Raplee

Cinderella had a fairy for a godmother. While that sounds very exciting, I would not trade with her. My godmother is a wit, a craftswoman, a goat-keeper and a dear soul. Today, that dear soul departed, and I cannot say how much she will be missed.

I call her my godmother, but I think I always considered her a grandmother. My biological grandmothers both died before I was born, one step-grandmother died shortly after my birth. Of the other two step-grandmothers, one was kind but quiet and the other was so different from me in personality that it was difficult for us to relate. I loved them, but Anne was closer to me.

In her kitchen was a wall of what looked like ancient and cruel devices of torture. I remember playing the “what does that one do” game quite often. She would tell my brother and I “that one is a corn-sheller” or perhaps “it’s a corer,” when we asked, but she seemed endlessly amused by our more gruesome assumptions. I was obsessed with her collapsible egg-baskets for a while, and her doll-houses, and various other strange and wonderful things to be found in her house and in Doc’s shed.

Doc was her husband. I know he had a name, but I never can remember it! He was always Doc Raplee, originally our veterinarian, and always our friend. Like my father, he was a tinkerer, and unlike my father, he was a tough, gruff old country vet, a complex mix of harsh and tender. Doc died a few years ago, but tragically he was faded in mind before that. Even from the little I know, Anne’s life was not an easy one. She was often happy when I knew her, but her path was rocky.

Anne knew how to knit, and made afghans for my brother and I. She even knitted us a town and a train! I found, yesterday, a pillow she made for me with a horse on it. In my jewelry box is the white-gold heart with her tooth mark and mine in it (we were both curious children, apparently). Her corned beef and cabbage were heavenly, and her conversation was even better.

I could tell a hundred tales. I think I will make notes for myself, lest I forget them some day. For weeks I have been trying to remember the name of her old disgruntled Scottie dog. It is at the tip of my mind, but I cannot grasp it. I do remember Meg, the only collie I have ever really liked. I remember the cow… Sweet Thang, if I remember right. There were burros: Murphy’s Burro, which is funny to those of us who know Murfreesboro, and Daisy. There were also goats. Tons of goats. Anne’s Siamese cats never liked me, but then I was a small child at the time.

Anne’s home had a pond, usually overgrown with weeds, that held, for me, and endless fascination. I think it was on the hills behind that I first discovered the beauty of bones. I spent hours upon ours scouring that hill for the smooth, intricate treasures picked clean by coyotes and vultures and bleached by sun and rain. Anne never complained, at least to me, that my bone-collecting was morbid or unclean. I also loved the hills for themselves, with their old cedars and smooth limestone boulders.

I loved that place so much that, in college, years ago, I wrote this. I was assigned to write about a place.

Cedar of Lebanon

            Step lightly, and watch your feet.  The cows have been here and goat pellets cling to the crevices in the slope.  Climb carefully from ridge to ridge on the fossil-encrusted limestone that peeks through the grass.  Never walk straight. Weave. Pause and run your fingers over all that is left of this seabed.  If you are lucky you will find a bone or two, picked clean by the coyotes and bleached by sun and rain. As you walk you will come to an old juniper whose roots are nestled in the smooth curve of one of the great boulders.  Its shedding bark splinters off the twisting trunk like strips of peeling wallpaper until it reaches the branches, heavy with fragrant spiny leaves and dusty berries.  Brace yourself, back against the trunk, foot pressed in the dip of the smooth stone and suck the air deep into your chest until it hurts.  Then just sit, be silent, and let your senses bloom like dandelions. Let your hungry eyes search the cirrus clouds sweeping the sky, and dwell on the dove gray stones and the burning fall colors.  Feel the sharp, resin-sweet air and the heat of the sun-warmed boulder beneath you. Taste the sun and the wind, and drink the blues and golds as wine. Crush the leaves of the juniper between your fingers and smell the age of their parent tree.  Remember if they prick you, they mean no real harm. Open your ears and listen as the trees sing and the birds rustle and the limestone wears away.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

I look on this passage now, and I know that it was not just the place itself that made me love it. It was the people there, who loved me. Anne, I am proud to have your name. I am glad to have known you so long, and to have been shaped by knowing you. I owe you much for the beauty, fascination, love and joy you brought to my life, though I know you would never call in the debt.

Goodbye, for now. We must all carry on in your absence. Know, however, that I intend to keep talking to you, when I need to, and I am determined to see you again, in time.


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