May 2, 2002
Working in the Rain
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Poem: "Working in the Rain," by Robert Morgan from Topsoil Road (Louisiana State University Press).
Working in the Rain
My father loved more than anything to
work outside in wet weather. Beginning
at daylight he'd go out in dripping brush
to mow or pull weeds for hog and chickens.
First his shoulders got damp and the drops from
his hat ran down his back. When even his
armpits were soaked he came in to dry out
by the fire, make coffee, read a little.
But if the rain continued he'd soon be
restless, and go out to sharpen tools in
the shed or carry wood in from the pile,
then open up a puddle to the drain,
working by steps back into the downpour.
I thought he sought the privacy of rain,
the one time no one was likely to be
out and he was left to the intimacy
of drops touching every leaf and tree in
the woods and the easy muttering of
drip and runoff, the shine of pools behind
grass dams. He could not resist the long
ritual, the companionship and freedom
of falling weather, or even the cold
drenching, the heavy soak and chill of clothes
and sobbing of fingers and sacrifice
of shoes that earned a baking by the fire
and washed fatigue after the wandering
and loneliness in the country of rain.
It's the birthday of the Indian film director Satyajit Ray, born in Calcutta (1921). He's the director of many films, including Pather Panchali (1955). None of them were very popular in India, but they define Indian cinema for much of the rest of the world.
It's the birthday of author W.J.
(Wilbur Joseph) Cash, born in Gaffney, South Carolina (1900), best known
for The Mind of the South (1941). He married just before the book came
out, and won a Guggenheim Fellowship just after. Then he went to Mexico, intending
to write a novel. But, while there, he committed suicide.
It's the birthday of lyricist
Lorenz Hart, born in New York City (1895). He grew up in a German-speaking
family, and worked for a while for the Schubert organization, translating German
plays. When he was 23, he met composer Richard Rodgers, who was then just 16;
within weeks they had written 15 songs. They were partners for 25 years, and
had a string of successful Broadway shows. Hart was known for eccentric rhyming,
as in a song called "Any Old Place With You," which had the line,
"I'd go to hell for ya - or Philadelphia!" He also wrote "You
Took Advantage of Me" (1928), "My Romance" (1935), "Bewitched,
Bothered and Bewildered" (1940), and "My Funny Valentine" (1937).
Hart split with Rodgers in 1942, because he thought a musical about cowboys
was too corny to be a hit. Rodgers turned to Oscar Hammerstein II instead, and
they created Oklahoma!
It's the birthday of playwright Jerome
K. Jerome, born in Walsall, England (1859). He's best known for his
book Three Men in a Boat (1889). It's still in print today. Jerome K.
Jerome, who said: "It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one
has plenty of work to do."
On this day in 1803, James
Monroe and Robert Livingston signed a treaty in Paris for the Louisiana Purchase.
They bought it for 15 million dollars from Napoleon, who needed the money because
he was facing war against England.
It's the birthday of Catherine
II of Russia, known as Catherine the Great, born in Stettin, Prussia
(1729). Six months after her husband became czar, he was deposed in a military
coup led by one of Catherine's many lovers. She was declared empress, and ruled
for 34 years. She said: "I am an aristocrat. It is my profession."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®