Apr. 25, 2002


by Donald Hall

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Poem: "Affirmation," by Donald Hall from The Painted Bird (Houghton Mifflin).


To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything

In the Roman Catholic Church, today is an annual festival known as the Major Rogation, when seeds and fields are blessed and prayers are said for a successful growing season. The festival coincides with the feast day of Saint Mark. The Major Rogation was established by Pope Gregory the First in the sixth century, and was intended to replace a pagan Roman festival called the Robigalia, at which animal sacrifices were made to insure healthy crops.

It's the birthday of conservative journalist and writer Dinesh D'Souza, born in Bombay, India (1961). As a student at Dartmouth College, he served as editor of the conservative Dartmouth Review, then went on to write for a number of national conservative publications, and to serve as managing editor of Policy Review. He also served for a time as a domestic policy advisor in the Reagan Administration. His books include Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (1991) and The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno-Affluence (2001).

On this date in 1953, the British scientific journal Nature published a single-page article by American scientist James Watson and British geneticist Francis Crick in which they proposed a chemical structure for deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. The structure they proposed was the double helix. Their findings revolutionized the study of genetics, and eventually led to a Nobel Prize in Physiology, which was shared by Watson and Crick in 1962.

On this date in 1926, Arturo Toscanini conducted the first performance of Puccini's last opera, Turandot. The composer had died in November 1924, and his unfinished opera was entrusted by Toscanini to another composer, Franco Alfano, who completed it from Puccini's sketches. But when Toscanini conducted the premier, he stopped the music in the middle of the third act and told the audience, "At this point the Maestro laid down his pen." The curtain then came down in total silence.

It's the birthday of popular children's author Maud Hart Lovelace, born in Mankato, Minnesota (1892). She's best known for the ten books in the "Betsy-Tacy" series, about a girl named Betsy Ray growing up in a small town called Deep Valley. The books were based very closely on Lovelace's own childhood in Mankato. The first book, Betsy-Tacy, came out in 1940; the last, Betsy's Wedding, in 1955. The books have never been out of print.

It's the birthday of writer Howard Garis, born in Binghamton, New York (1873). He started working as a reporter for the Newark Evening News in 1896. After he'd been there a couple of years, he approached the editor with a little children's bedtime story he'd written about a rabbit named Uncle Wiggily.

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