Apr. 20, 2005

Wherever We Travel

by Linda Pastan

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Poem: "Wherever We Travel," by Linda Pastan from The Last Uncle (W.W. Norton).

Wherever We Travel

Wherever we travel
it seems to take the same
few hours to get there.

The plane rises over clouds
into an unmarked sky,
comes down through clouds

to what we have to believe
is a different place. But here
are the same green road signs

the numbered highways
of home, with cars going
back and forth to houses

with chimneys and windows
identical to the ones we thought
we had left behind.

The radio blares familiar
radio music. Soon we will knock
on a door and someone will greet us,

will pull us into a room
we have never seen
but already know by heart.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Ian Watson, born in St. Albans, England (1943), whose books explore not just distant times and lands, but also the nature of being and reality, and the entire relationship of man to the universe. One of Watson's most popular works is The Black River/Yaleen trilogy (1986), made up of The Book of the River, The Books of the Stars, and The Book of Being. The books take place in a world divided by a river populated on one side by a female-dominated society and on the other a male-dominated society.

It's the birthday of musician (Ernest) (Anthony) Tito Puente, born in New York, New York (1923). His parents were both Puerto Rican immigrants; his father was a gambler who often left the family short of money. His specialty was the mambo, and he soon became known as the Mambo King. During his career, Puente garnered five Grammys, and made one hundred eighteen records and CDs.

It's the birthday of artist Joan Miró, born in Barcelona, Spain (1893).

It's the birthday of actor Harold Lloyd, born in Burchard, Nebraska (1893), who was one of the most successful comedic actors of the early days of film. After spending several years with theatrical repertory companies, Lloyd went to Hollywood in 1912. Lloyd came upon the idea of a new character: an ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary situations, a character Lloyd once described as, "quiet, normal, boyish, clean, sympathetic, not impossible to romance." When he added a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses to his costume, they became his trademark and Lloyd became the highest-paid screen actor in the nineteen twenties. His career spanned thirty-four years and he made nearly five hundred films, including The Freshman (1925), Speedy (1928), and Movie Crazy (1932). He was also known as "the screen's most daring comedian" because he performed all his own stunts, including his most famous one in the 1923 film Safety Last, which required him to climb up the face of a fourteen-story building and dangle from the hands of a giant clock.

It's the birthday of psychiatrist Philippe Pinel, born in France (1745). Considered one of the founders of the field of psychiatry, Pinel at first studied mathematics and theology, and then internal medicine. From the beginning, his methods deviated from what was normal at the time. In 1792, he became the chief physician at a Paris asylum for the incurably insane. As was standard practice at the time, patients were chained to the walls—some for more than thirty years—and treated like animals. For an admission fee, the public was allowed to come in and watch them. Pinel put a stop to such inhuman practices, as well as such treatments as bleeding, purging, and blistering, and instituted a therapy that included discussion of personal difficulties, close contact with the patients, and a program of supervised, purposeful activities. He believed that the insane were not possessed by demons, the popular theory of mental illness, but that they were under social and psychological stresses, and had possibly suffered physiological damage. He was the first to distinguish various types of psychoses and to classify various types of mental diseases.

It's the birthday of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, born in A.D. 121. He is not as well known for his leadership abilities as he is for his deeply philosophical nature. He was a kind and tolerant ruler who freed many slaves and tried his best to rid Rome of corruption. But Aurelius is best known for the writings he left behind. They were diaries and reflections he wrote every day, and were not meant for publication, but were his own personal insights into the stresses of ruler-ship and of everyday life, and fears about his own personal inadequacies. His writings, now known as the Meditations, also mark his beliefs in the doctrines of Stoicism: that we must get through the problems of our lives with patience and endurance, drawing on our own inner resources to see us through. He believed that most of life was predestined, but that much of it could be improved by our own discipline and will power. He wrote: "If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you might be bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with your present activity according to nature…you will be happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this."

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




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