Oct. 9, 2002

By the Round Pond

by Wendy Cope

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Poem: "By the Round Pond," by Wendy Cope from If I Don't Know (Faber & Faber).

By the Round Pond

You watch yourself. You watch the watcher too-
A ghostly figure on the garden wall.
And one of you is her, and one is you,
If either one of you exists at all.

How strange to be the one behind a face,
To have a name and know that it is yours,
To be in this particular green place,
To see a snail advance, to see it pause.

You sit quite still and wonder when you'll go.
It could be now. Or now. Or now. You stay.
Who's making up the plot? You'll never know.
Minute after minute swims away.

It's the birthday of Brazilian writer Mario de Andrade, born in Sao Paulo (1893). He attempted to write in a colloquial Brazilian speech style rather than "correct" Portuguese.

It's the birthday of musician John Lennon, born in Liverpool, England (1940). He gained fame with his group The Beatles.

On this day in 1965, the Beatles hit song "Yesterday" topped music charts for 4 weeks.

It's the birthday of Australian writer and the first female president of Smith College Jill Ker Conway born in Hillston, New South Wales, Australia (1934). Her father was a sheep rancher, her mother a nurse, and Conway and her brothers were brought up in almost total isolation on Coorain, their 32,000-acre tract of land (Jill was seven before she first saw another female child). Her book The Road From Coorain was about this experience. By age 7, Conway already had become one of her father's main station hands. With her two brothers away at boarding school, she checked fences, prodded sheep from one paddock to another. Jill was educated at the all-female Abbotsleigh School and the University of Sydney, where she took an honors degree in history. She then spent ten years as the president of Smith College, the first woman to hold that position. She is the author of When Memory Speaks and other books. She said: "You never know what you'll want to write until it starts writing itself in your head."

It's the birthday of historian, journalist, author, and editor Bruce Catton, born in Petosky, Michigan (1899). Catton served in the navy and worked for newspapers and the federal government when at the age of fifty-one, he published his first Civil War Book, Mr. Lincoln's Army. He's best known for his two Civil War trilogies -- The Army of the Potomac and The Centennial History of the Civil War. In an address to the Society of American Historians, Catton had this to say about writing history: "Good history is literature."

In 1888 on this day, the Washington Monument was opened to the public. In 1848, at a Fourth of July ceremony, the cornerstone of the monument was laid. Lack of funds and continued interruptions delayed completion until its completion and dedication on February 21, 1885. The 555-foot structure opened officially to the public on October 9, 1888. By the day of the grand opening, the monument was outfitted with a steam-powered elevator that took 10 or 12 minutes for the trip up and down. There was also enough money to quickly gather a staff of 11. When it opened, it was the tallest building in the world. Once it opened, attendance soared. In the first nine months there were over 600,000 visitors. Immediately following the opening several bizarre requests were made. One woman wanted to be married in the elevator while suspended in the middle of the monument. One congressman asked for permission to allow one of his constituents to scatter his wife's ashes from the monument's window.

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