Jul. 6, 2006

Summer Kitchen

by Donald Hall

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Poem: "Summer Kitchen" by Donald Hall from The Painted Bed. © Houghton Mifflin Company. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Summer Kitchen

In June's high light she stood at the sink
    With a glass of wine,
And listened for the bobolink,
And crushed garlic in late sunshine.

I watched her cooking, from my chair.
    She pressed her lips
Together, reached for kitchenware,
And tasted sauce from her fingertips.

"It's ready now. Come on," she said.
    "You light the candle."
We ate, and talked, and went to bed,
And slept. It was a miracle.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of one of the most influential and controversial philosophers of the twentieth century, Peter Singer, (books by this author) born in Melbourne, Australia (1946). His book Animal Liberation (1975) is generally credited with starting the animal rights movement.

Singer generated enormous controversy with his book Rethinking Life and Death (1994). He had previously argued that animals should have the same right to be treated humanely because they could suffer. In his new book, he argued that some humans were so severely disabled that their suffering would outweigh their happiness later in life, and therefore it would be ethical for their parents to euthanize them.

On this day in 1862, Samuel Clemens first started publishing stories for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada. The paper gave him his first full-time writing job, and it was the place where he first used the name Mark Twain. (books by this author)

It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Eleanor Clark, (books by this author) born in Los Angeles, California (1913). She went to college at Vassar, and while she was there she founded a literary magazine with three classmates who would go on to become well-known writers: Elizabeth Bishop, Muriel Rukeyser, and Mary McCarthy. After Clark graduated, she worked a series of freelance editing and translating jobs before publishing her first novel in 1946.

One of Clark's best-known books is a nonfiction volume on oysters: The Oysters of Locmariaquer, in which Clark wrote about the oyster industry in a small region in northwest France. It won the National Book Award in 1965.

Clark wrote, "If you don't love life you can't enjoy an oyster; there is a shock of freshness to it and intimations of the ages of man, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes. [They] shiver you for a split second."

It's the birthday of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, born just outside of Mexico City (1907). She said, "My painting carries with it the message of pain. Painting completed my life. I believe that work is the best thing."

It was on this day in 1957 that two teenagers named John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met at a church dance in Liverpool, England.

The biggest event in John Lennon's neighborhood every summer was a party and dance held by St. Peter's parish church. There was a carnival and a parade with decorated floats, and that event was held on this day in 1957. John Lennon, with a little maneuvering, had gotten The Quarrymen a place in the parade, playing their music from atop one of the floats, and they also had an invitation to play at the dance afterwards.

The float The Quarrymen played on brought up the rear of the parade, and they attracted a large group of teenagers. One of the teenagers was a kid from a different high school named Paul McCartney. He had hoped to pick up girls at the church dance, and so he had ridden his bicycle over from his neighborhood.

In the audience, Paul McCartney was impressed by John's singing, and by the way John seemed to be challenging everyone in the room to a fight. After the performance, Paul went over to meet this guy. Paul and John were introduced, but they didn't hit it off until Paul mentioned that he played guitar, and he knew how to tune one. None of the other boys had learned how to do that yet. They'd all been forced to ask local musicians to tune their guitars for them.

John was even more impressed that Paul knew the lyrics of recent rock and roll songs. John could never remember lyrics, which was why he often made up new ones while he was singing. Paul volunteered to write out the lyrics for the song "Be Bop a Lula" for John, and the two became fast friends. By 1959, they were calling themselves The Beatles.

On this day in 1535, Sir Thomas More was executed for treason, as a result of his refusal to recognize King Henry VIII as the head of the Church. He was convicted of high treason on July 1, 1535. Five days later, on this day in 1535, he was led to the scaffold on Tower Hill. His executioners asked him if he had any final words, and he took the time to say that he did not blame them for their actions and he looked forward to the day when they could all meet in heaven. With that, he was beheaded. His head was later displayed on the London Bridge, but his daughter retrieved it and it was buried with her.

More was named a saint by the Catholic Church in 1935, and in the year 2000, he was declared the patron saint of politicians.

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