Sunday

Mar. 4, 2012

The Winter Wood Arrives

by Mary Oliver

I think
     I could have
          built a little house
               to live in


with the single cord—
     half seasoned, half not—
          trucked into the
               driveway and


tumbled down. But, instead,
     friends came
          and together we stacked it
               for the long, cold days


that are—
     maybe the only sure thing in the world—
          coming soon.
               How to keep warm


is always a problem,
     isn't it?
          Of course, there's love.
               And there's prayer.


I don't belittle them,
     and they have warmed me,
          but differently,
               from the heart outwards.


Imagine
     what swirls of frost will cling
          to the windows, what white lawns
               I will look out on


as I rise from morning prayers,
     as I remember love, that leaves yet never leaves,
          as I go out into the yard
               and bring the wood in


with struggling steps,
     with struggling thoughts,
          bundle by bundle,
               to be burned.

"The Winter Wood Arrives" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst. © Beacon Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Khaled Hosseini (books by this author), born in Kabul, Afghanistan (1965). His father was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry, and his mother was a high school teacher. The family was wealthy and the boy grew up in a big house, surrounded by servants. They came to this country after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, living in San Jose, California. The only work Hosseini's father could get was as a driving instructor, so the family had to learn to survive on public assistance.

Hosseini, who had wanted to be a writer since the age of 10, realized he would have to pursue a more lucrative profession, so he went to medical school instead. He was working as an internist at a hospital in Sunnyvale, California, when he read a story about the Taliban banning kite flying in Kabul, something he remembered doing with his brother and cousins as a young boy. He wrote a short story about it, which eventually became the novel The Kite Runner, and it was a huge best-seller in 2003.

His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), is an epic story about two Afghani women who are married to the same man.

Khaled Hosseini said: "There is a romantic notion to writing a novel, especially when you are starting it. You are embarking on this incredibly exciting journey, and you're going to write your first novel, you're going to write a book. Until you're about 50 pages into it, and that romance wears off, and then you're left with a very stark reality of having to write the rest of this thing. [...] A lot of 50-page unfinished novels are sitting in a lot of drawers across this country. Well, what it takes at that point is discipline ... You have to be more stubborn than the manuscript, and you have to punch in and punch out every day, regardless of whether it's going well, regardless of whether it's going badly. [...] It's largely an act of perseverance [...] The story really wants to defeat you, and you just have to be more mulish than the story."

John Adams was inaugurated on this date in 1797. He became the second president of the United States, succeeding George Washington in the first peaceful transfer of power between elected officials in modern times. His rival for the office had been Thomas Jefferson, and because Jefferson had received the second highest number of electoral votes, the Electoral College named him vice president.

The ceremony took place on a sunny day at Philadelphia's Congress Hall. George Washington entered the packed Chamber of the House of Representatives to applause, followed by the vice president, Thomas Jefferson. Adams was last, dressed in a suit of gray broadcloth. He must have looked frumpy next to the tall and elegant Jefferson, who was clad in a long blue frock coat, and the stately Washington, dressed in black velvet.

"A solemn scene it was indeed," Adams later wrote. "Methought I heard [Washington] think, 'Ay! I am fairly out and you are fairly in! See which of us will be the happiest!'"

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also inaugurated on this date, in 1933. By the time of his inauguration, the country had been mired in the Great Depression for more than three years. Roosevelt won in a landslide over Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover.

Most Americans didn't know the extent to which Roosevelt's paralytic illness had affected him, and he took great pains to keep it that way. In order for him to ascend the steps to the podium to take the oath of office, an elaborate series of wheelchair-accessible ramps was constructed and hidden behind barriers. He walked the last few yards leaning heavily on the arm of his son James, and he made it look easy even though it took great strength.

His inaugural address included the famous phrase "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

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

 









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