Jun. 21, 2006


by Ron Padgett

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Poem: "Hug" by Ron Padgett from You Never Know. © Coffee House Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


The older I get, the more I like hugging, When I was little the
people hugging me were much larger. In their grasp I was a rag
doll. In adolescence, my body was too tense to relax for a hug.
Later, after the loss of virginity—which was anything but a
loss—the extreme proximity of the other person, the smell of
hair, the warmth of the skin, the sound of breathing in the
dark—these were mysterious and delectable. This hug had
two primary components: the anticipation of sex and the plea-
sure of intimacy, which itself is a combination of trust and
affection. It was this latter combination that came to character-
ize the hugging I have experienced only in recent years, a hug-
ging that knows no distinctions of gender or age. When this
kind of hug is mutual, for a moment the world is perfect the
way it is, and the tears we shed for it are perfect too. I guess it
is an embrace.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is the Summer Solstice and the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. For those of us in the north, today will be the longest day of the year and tonight will be the shortest night.

The reason it has been getting warmer and warmer for those of us in the north is not that we're any closer to the sun. In fact, the entire earth is about three million miles farther from the sun at this time of the year. The difference in the temperature is due to the fact that our planet is tilted on its axis, and at this time of year, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, receiving more direct radiation for longer periods of time each day.

It is that slight tilt, only 23 and 1/2 degrees, that makes the difference between winter and summer. As the northern hemisphere begins to tilt toward the sun, the temperature rises enough that we can take off our jackets, hats, and mittens, but more importantly the rise in temperature allows most of the plants we eat to germinate. Wheat and many other plants require an average temperature of at least 40° F to grow. Corn needs a temperature of 50° F, and rice needs a temperature of 68° F.

It's the birthday of naturalist and writer Donald Culross Peattie, (books by this author) born in Chicago (1898). He's best known for his two books about the natural history of American trees: A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America (1950) and A Natural History of Western Trees (1948).

It's the birthday of cartoonist and children's book author and illustrator Berke(ley) Breathed, (books by this author) born in Encino, California (1957). He drew the comic strip Bloom County, with Milo Bloom, Bill the Cat, and Opus the penguin. Breathed won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1987. He published a number of collections of Bloom County, including Penguin Dreams and Stranger Things (1985), Bloom County Babylon (1986), and Classics of Western Literature: Bloom County 1986-1989 (1990). Then, in 1989, Breathed decided to terminate the strip.

It's the birthday of novelist Ian McEwan, (books by this author) born in Aldershot, England (1948). The author of Amsterdam (1999) and Atonement (2002), he's still one of the few literary fiction writers who doesn't shy away from violence and suspense in his work. He said, "I want something to happen in my stories, and I want to sort of push them to the edge. ... Most threats in life come from the unpredictable, random, cruel behavior of other people.

It's the birthday of Jean-Paul Sartre, (books by this author) born in Paris (1905). When Sartre was offered the Nobel Prize in 1964, he refused it, saying he didn't want to be made into an "institution."

It's the birthday of author Mary McCarthy, (books by this author) born in Seattle, Washington (1912). McCarthy published several novels, including The Group (1963), about a group of Vassar students, but she had a hard time making things up, so most of her novels are autobiographical. She said, "What I really do is take real plums and put them into an imaginary cake." Most critics believe that her best book is the memoir Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957).

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




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