Thursday

Feb. 9, 2012

February ground

by Marge Piercy

Three feet of snow in twenty-four hours
on top of seven inches. Not really
credible here. On the fourth day
we found the car under a six
foot drift and dug it out.

At first we could not open doors.
The post office shut for two days.
Our road had vanished into a field.
We felt the sky had finally
fallen and drowned us.

Six weeks: now patches of ground
emerge from white fortresses.
How beautiful is the dirt
I took for granted. Extraordinary
the wild green of grass islands.

Having the world snatched
from us makes us grateful even
for fence posts, for wheelbarrow
rising, for the stalwart spears
of daffodil uncovered.

Everything revealed is magical,
splendid in its ordinary shining.
The sun gives birth to rosebushes,
the myrtle, a snow shovel fallen,
overcome on the field of battle.

"February ground" by Marge Piercy, from The Crooked Inheritance. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this day in 1964, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, as teenage girls screamed hysterically in the audience and 73 million people watched from home — a record for American television at the time. Their appearance on the show is considered the beginning of the "British Invasion" of music in the United States. The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the following two Sundays in a row, as well. On this first time, exactly 47 years ago today, they sang "All My Loving," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and finally "I Want to Hold Your Hand" — which had just hit No. 1 on the charts.

It was on this day in 1870 that the U.S. National Weather Service was established.

At first it was called the Weather Bureau and it was part of the War Department because, it was said, "military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations." It became a civilian agency 20 years later, under the Department of Agriculture, and then was switched to the Commerce Department in 1940. These days, the National Weather Service is based out of Silver Spring, Maryland. It plays a very big role in making sure that American air travel is safe, providing up-to-minute weather updates to air traffic controller centers across the nation.

It's the birthday of theoretical physicist Brian Greene (books by this author), born in New York City (1963), the son of a vaudeville performer. He's best known for his work on string theory, sometimes called a step on the road to the "theory of everything" — all of the particles and basic forces of nature. He's a professor at Columbia and has tried to explain theoretical physics to the general public in number of books, including The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (1999), and a book about parallel universes and the deep laws of the cosmos, The Hidden Reality (2011).

It's the birthday of Alice Walker (books by this author), born in Eatonton, Georgia (1944). She was the youngest of eight children, the daughter of poor sharecroppers. Walker graduated first in her high school class and won a scholarship to Spelman College (1961). She transferred to Sarah Lawrence after two years, and a short story she wrote there was sent to Langston Hughes, who became an early champion of her writing. In 1968, she published her first collection of poetry, Once, and her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1970, about a family of poor sharecroppers in the 1920s. Throughout the '60s and '70s, Alice Walker had a modest following, but it wasn't until her third novel, The Color Purple (1982), won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award that her work reached a much larger audience. She once wrote, "Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence."

It's the birthday of Irish playwright and novelist Brendan Behan (books by this author), born in Dublin (1923). He grew up in one of the poorest sections of Dublin. His father took part in the Irish rebellion in the early 1920s, and when Brendan was born, his father was being held in a British prison. When Brendan was nine years old, he joined a youth organization that had ties to the IRA. He later called the group "the Republican Boy Scouts." He rose through the ranks of the IRA, and by the time he was 16 he was being sent on missions to bomb British targets.

He spent most of the 1940s in prison. First he was thrown in jail for carrying a suitcase full of homemade explosives through the streets of Liverpool. After he got out, he was arrested for the attempted murder of two policemen. It was during his second stay in prison that he began to write. He wrote his first play, The Quare Fellow (1956), about the execution of a convict in a Dublin prison. When he got out of prison, it became a big hit in London and then New York. He followed that up with the novel Borstal Boy (1958) and The Hostage (1958), in which he wrote:

"Never throw stones at your mother,
You'll be sorry for it when she's dead,
Never throw stones at your mother,
Throw bricks at your father instead."

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

 









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