Jun. 27, 2010
Early Sunday Morning
I used to mock my father and his chums
for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot,
but now I'm one of those chumps.
No one cares about my old humiliations,
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.
It's like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up
early enough to see her disappearing
around the corner of your dream
on someone else's motorcycle,
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.
And so now I'm sitting in a dimly lit
café full of early- morning risers,
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter.
In the summer of 1869, John Muir (books by this author) signed up to help drive a flock of 2,500 sheep through the Sierras to Yosemite National Park. His journal of that summer was published in 1911 as My First Summer in the Sierra. On this day in 1869, John Muir wrote in his journal: "The beaked hazel is common on cool slopes up toward the summit of the Pilot Peak Ridge. There is something peculiarly attractive in the hazel, like the oaks and heaths of the cool countries of our forefathers, and through them our love for these plants has, I suppose, been transmitted."
In 1890, 30-year-old Anton Chekhov (books by this author) set off on a three-month, 6,000-mile overland journey to Sakhalin Island, one of Russia's remote penal colonies in Siberia. He wanted to see and experience for himself the life of prisoners there, and it became the subject of his only nonfiction book, The Island of Sakhalin, first published in 1893 and 1894. His journey took him up the north-flowing Amur River. On this day in 1890, Chekhov sent a letter to his friend and publisher Alexei Suvorin.
He wrote: "The Amur is a very fine river; I have gained more from it than I could have expected, and I have been wishing for a long time to share my transports with you, but the rascally steamer has been rocking all the seven days I have been on it, and prevents me writing properly. Moreover, I am quite incapable of describing anything so beautiful as the shores of the Amur; I am at a complete loss before them, and recognize my bankruptcy. How is one to describe them? ... Rocks, crags, forests, thousands of ducks, herons and all sorts of beaked gentry, and absolute wilderness. ... Truly I have seen such riches and had so much enjoyment that death would have no terrors now. The people on the Amur are original, their life is interesting, unlike ours. ... The lowest convict breathes more freely on the Amur than the highest general in Russia. ... Today I changed into the steamer Muravyov, which they say does not rock; maybe I shall write."
It's the birthday of poet Lucille Clifton, (books by this author) born in Depew, New York (1936), who died earlier this year at the age of 73. Her final volume of poetry was Voices (2008). Her first book, Good Times (1969),was called one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times. The year it came out, Clifton had six children under the age of 10.
It's the birthday of novelist Alice McDermott, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York (1953). She grew up on Long Island. She's the author of numerous books about working-class Irish Catholics in the suburbs around New York City.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®