Feb. 3, 2001
Poem: "Cold Poem," by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive (Little, Brown and Company).
Close to the edge. Almost
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.
I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handsful of grain.
Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe
that is what it means, the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.
In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.
On this day in 1959, a small airplane crashed outside Ames, Iowa, killing all persons on board. The pilot was Roger Peterson of Clear Lake, and his passengers were rock-and-roll stars Buddy Holly, J.P. "the Big Bopper" Richardson, and Ritchie Valens.
It's the birthday of French social philosopher Simone Weil, born in Paris (1909). Her writings include Waiting for God (1959), The Need for Roots (1955), and three volumes of Notebooks (1951-56). She died in England, during World War Two, of tuberculosis brought on by self-imposed starvation in sympathy with the French Resistance.
It's the birthday of writer James Michener, who was born in New York City but was abandoned at birth (1907). He was raised by a poor Quaker family in Pennsylvania, and went to Swarthmore College, where he was valedictorian in 1929. He enlisted in the Navy during World War Two, and, as a naval records-keeper, he spent months traveling from one Pacific island to another, writing fictional sketches based on what he'd seen in his travels. The manuscript became Tales of the South Pacific (1947), and it won him a Pulitzer prize.
It's the birthday of artist Norman Rockwell, born in New York City (1894). He quit high school at 16 and studied art full time at the National Academy of Design. When he was 18, he began earning money for his drawings, and within a year frequently had his illustrations in Boy's Life magazine. His first Saturday Evening Post cover came out on May 20, 1916; it was the first of 317 covers he would do for them.
It's the birthday of Gertrude Stein, born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (1874). At 27, she moved to Paris to be with her brother Leo, who helped her get started as an art collector, and introduced her to her lifelong companion, Alice B. Toklas. They opened their home at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris to the art worlda 'salon' and gathering place for 'lost generation' artists of all sorts. Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson and F. Scott Fitzgerald were regulars; Matisse and Picasso did her portraits. Her first book was Three Lives (1909); her best known work is The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). She also wrote two operasFour Saints in Three Acts (1934), and The Mother of Us All (1947), as well as The Making of Americans (1925), a 900-page novel without dialogue or action.
It's the birthday of newspaperman Horace Greeley, born in Amherst, New Hampshire (1811). He started The New York Tribune when he was 30, and served as editor until he died. He's famous for his saying, "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®