Feb. 28, 2002
Run before Dawn
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Poem: "Run Before Dawn," by William Stafford from An Oregon Message (Harper and Row).
Run Before Dawn
Most mornings I get away, slip out
the door before light, set forth on the dim gray
road, letting my feet find a cadence
that softly carries me on. Nobody
is up-all alone my journey begins.
Some days it's escape: the city is burning
behind me, cars have stalled in their tracks,
and everybody is fleeing like me but some other direction.
My stride is for life, a far place.
Other days it is hunting: maybe some game will cross
my path and my stride will follow for hours, matching
all turns. My breathing has caught the right beat
for endurance; familiar trancelike scenes glide by.
And sometimes it's a dream of motion, streetlights coming near,
passing, shadows that lean before me, lengthened
then fading, and a sound from a tree: a soul, or an owl.
These journeys are quiet. They mark my days with adventure
too precious for anyone else to share, little gems
of darkness, the world going by, and my breath, and the road.
It's the birthday of the English poet and
critic Sir Stephen Spender,
born in London (1909). At Oxford he struck up friendships with W.H. Auden, Cecil
Day-Lewis and Christopher Isherwood. His collections include Vienna (1934),
The Still Centre (1939), and Collected Poems (1955).
It's the birthday of novelist Donald Coldsmith, born in Iola, Kansas (1926). He practiced medicine for many years, and wrote a newspaper column. He then retired and wrote a series of novels set in the west in the 17th and 18th centuries during the age of Spanish exploration. Some of his works include Daughter of the Eagle, Thunderstick, Bearer of the Pipe.
It's the birthday of historian Dee Brown,
born in Alberta, Louisiana (1908). He was a librarian at the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign when he started writing a book about the West: Bury
My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (1970).
It's the birthday of novelist and playwright
Ben Hecht, born in
New York City (1894), but raised in Racine, Wisconsin. He got a job as a columnist
for the Chicago Daily News when he was just a teenager. In his late twenties,
he headed out to Hollywood and wrote screenplays, often in collaboration with
Charles MacArthur. Their 1928 stage play, The Front Page, was filmed
three times. His other screenplays include Gunga Din (1938), Wuthering
Heights (1939), Spellbound (1945) and Notorious (1946).
It's the birthday of illustrator John
Tenniel, born in London (1820), best known for his illustrations for
Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through
the Looking Glass (1872).
It's the birthday of essayist Michel
de Montaigne, born at Périgord, in Bordeaux, France (1533). The
son of a wealthy Catholic landowner, he studied law at the University of Toulouse,
and practiced in Bordeaux. After his father's death, Montaigne retired to the
family chateau and devoted himself to writing and study, remaining aloof from
the political and religious quarrels of France. His first book of Essays was
published in 1580, and contained the essay, "On Friendship."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®