Aug. 6, 2010
You get down on your knees in the dark earth—alone
for hours in hot sun, yanking weed roots, staking trellises,
burning your shoulders, swatting gnats; you strain your muscled
midwestern neck and back, callous your pianist's hands.
You cut roses back so they won't fruit, rip out and replace
spent annuals. You fill your garden dense with roots and vines.
And when a humble sprout climbs like a worm up out of death,
you are there to bless it, in your green patch, all spring and summer long,
hose like a scepter, a reliquary vessel; you hum
through the dreamy wilderness—no one to judge, absolve,
or be absolved—purified by labor, confessed by its whisperings, connected
to its innocence. So when you heft a woody, brushy tangle, or stumble
inside grimy, spent by earth, I see all the sacraments in place—
and the redeemed world never smelled so sweet.
It was on this day in 1964 during a speech in Congress that Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska said, "All Vietnam is not worth the life of a single American boy."
Senator Gruening gave an impassioned plea before the House on this day, urging them to oppose further escalation. But the next day, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing expanded military action in Vietnam. Ernest Gruening was one of only two senators to oppose the resolution; the other one was Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon.
There are a few recently written biographies about Gruening, including Robert David Johnson's Ernest Gruening and the American Dissenting Tradition (1998) and Clause Naske's Ernest Gruening: Alaska's Greatest Governor (2004).
It's the birthday of the man who wrote the famous words "Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all" and also "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die." That's poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, (books by this author) born on this day in Lincolnshire, England (1809).
He's one of the greatest poets in the English language. He's the one who wrote "The Lady of Shalott," that mesmerizing melodramatic ballad based on King Arthur legends, which begins:
"On either side the river lie / Long fields of barley and of rye, / That clothe the wold and meet the sky; / And thro' the field the road runs by / To many-tower'd Camelot;"
He's the author of "Tears, idle tears" and "Crossing the Bar" and "Break, break, break." Many consider his masterpiece to be the poem "In Memoriam A.H.H.," an elegy for his best friend, Arthur Hallam, whom he'd known since college days. The men were soon to be brothers-in-law, since Hallam was engaged to Tennyson's sister. But Hallam died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage in 1833. Tennyson outlived him by nearly 60 years; he was grief-stricken for decades, and suicidal for long stretches.
He published "In Memoriam A.H.H." in 1850; it was 17 years after he'd begun working on the poem. In it he writes about how his friend's death, and his own grief, affected his belief in a Christian God. He wrote, "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds."
It's the birthday of the man who discovered penicillin, the Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming, born in Lochfield in Ayr, Scotland (1881).
Sir Alexander Fleming once said, "A good gulp of hot whiskey at bedtime — it's not very scientific, but it helps."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®