Aug. 9, 2013
How To Tell Your Mother There Will Be No Grandkids in Her Future
Don't enter conversations
about generations. Use the art
of misdirection. Tell her the rain
is falling. Tell her today
you saw a cardinal,
her favorite bird, and it was
feeding its young seeds.
No. Better not mention
the young. Tell her,
instead, the garden is coming in
thick this spring,
and the tulips have multiplied,
their buds like hands in prayer.
tell her about the work
crying in your briefcase.
Tell her you wish
you had three lives:
one for work, one for your dreams,
and one for her. That one
will have as many Siamese warriors
as she wants, swinging on a tree
as wide as an ocean,
its limbs twisting and turning.
In that life,
they listen, those warriors,
for the sound of her voice.
They wait for her to emerge
from the jeweled temple.
On this day in 1974, Richard Nixon officially resigned from the presidency. At 11:35 a.m., his resignation letter was delivered to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Gerald Ford took the oath of office. Then, at 12:05 p.m., Gerald Ford gave his first speech as president of the United States. He was the only president in U.S. history who was never elected president or vice president.
In his inaugural address on this day 39 years ago, Gerald Ford said: "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men.
On this day in 1854, Henry David Thoreau published Walden; or, Life in the Woods (books by this author). His friend Ralph Waldo Emerson said he saw a "tremble of great expectation" in Thoreau just before publication day. Thoreau's previous book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), sold fewer than 300 copies. On the day he got his 706 unsold copies back from the publisher, he wrote in his diary: "I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself ..." Walden didn't do much better. It took five years to sell off the first edition of 2,000 copies, and Thoreau did not live to see a second edition. He managed to arrange a nationwide lecture tour, but only one city made an offer, and so Thoreau kept his lectures to the Concord area. Since then, millions of copies of Walden have been sold.
It's the birthday of poet Philip Larkin (books by this author), born in Coventry, England (1922). He was a librarian for 30 years, and a lifelong stoic. He once said, "Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth." As a child he stammered, grew up in a house that friends or relatives never visited, had terrible eyesight and unaffectionate parents. Still, he had plenty of good friends, including Kingsley Amis and classmates from his days at Oxford, a group called "The Seven." They got together and listened to jazz, read their poetry to each other, drank lots of beer, and talked about big philosophical and aesthetic matters.
Larkin was known sometimes as "the hermit of Hull" because of his solitary nature. Hull was the town in England where he spent much of his life, and some summers ago Hull unveiled sculptures of toads, a pet subject of Larkin's. The toads were all around the town as part of an event called Larkin 25, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the poet's death.
Philip Larkin, who said: "I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any. After all, most people are unhappy, don't you think?"
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®