Jan. 4, 2009

Sunday Morning

by Tom Sexton

Come down and do your crossword. I worry
when you stay in bed. Last night's early frost
killed the sweet peas but not our patch of berries.
Seven across just might be Limberlost.
The morning paper says a man with Alzheimer's
has wandered off to find his long dead wife.
He told an aide he knows just where to find her.
All he has with him is a butter knife.
Hurry down. I want to see you grimace
when you might be stumped. Five down is breath.
The day is quickly turning cold and grim.
Do you remember a Mary Elizabeth?
The raspberries in your white bowl
are bright and firm and very, very cold.

"Sunday Morning" by Tom Sexton, from A Clock with No Hands. © Adastra Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the ornithologist James Bond, (books by this author) born on this day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1900). He was the leading expert on birds of the Caribbean, and his book Birds of the West Indies (1936) is still in print today.

The novelist Ian Fleming was an enthusiastic bird-watcher, and he was living in Jamaica and came across a copy of Birds of the West Indies. Fleming was writing a thriller and decided to use the name James Bond for the protagonist, agent 007. That thriller was Casino Royale (1953), the first of Fleming's 12 James Bond novels.

It's the birthday of Louis Braille, born in Coupvray, France (1809). When he was three years old, he was blinded in an accident. He invented a system of six raised dots that could be read by fingers, so that blind people could read easily. His idea didn't catch on during his lifetime, but it eventually became a worldwide phenomenon.

It's the birthday of Jacob Grimm, born in Hanau, Germany (1785), one of the men responsible for collecting fairy tales like "Little Red Riding Hood," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Snow White," "Rapunzel," and "Hansel and Grethel." He and his younger brother, Wilhelm, collected more than 200 German folk tales and published Grimm's Fairy Tales in 1812.

Lots of people thought the stories weren't appropriate for children. There was violence, grief, an old woman who ate kids, abandoned children, and young women chopping off pieces of their feet to fit in slippers. But the book was still a big success, and it changed the way scholars collected folklore — trying to present straightforward narratives as people told them, instead of taking the basic story and turning it into a sophisticated literary piece.

In "Hansel and Grethel," Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote: "The old woman had only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the little house of bread in order to entice them there. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that was a feast day with her."

It's the birthday of artist, writer, and diplomat Dominique Vivant-Denon, (books by this author) born in the Alsace, France (1747). He traveled in Egypt with Napoleon's expedition against the British, and he wrote a book about it, Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt (1802). It went through 40 editions, and was translated into all the European languages. He was the first modern European who had really traveled all around Egypt, through the deserts and mountains, and he drew everything and wrote about it all.

"It is hard to decide what is more astonishing," he wrote about the Pyramids, "the tyrannical dementia that dared order their building, or the stupid obedience of the people who agreed to help build such things."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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