Mar. 29, 2008

Snow, Aldo

by Kate DiCamillo

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man's overcoat and
the black dog's fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. "Snow, Aldo," he said to the dog,
"snow." And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

"Snow, Aldo" by Kate DiCamillo. © Kate DiCamillo. Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.

It's the birthday of comic actor and writer Eric Idle, (books by this author) born in South Shields, Durham, England (1943) — who performed at Cambridge in the "Footlights Review" with John Cleese and other future members of Monty Python's Flying Circus. On the Python show, Idle's most memorable roles are creepy old men, annoying talk show hosts, and fussy old women.

It's the birthday of poet R.S. Thomas, (books by this author) born in Cardiff, Wales (1913). He became an ordained priest in 1937, and published more than 20 books of poetry from 1946 until his death in the year 2000. Along with Dylan Thomas, he's considered one of the best Welsh poets of the 20th century.

R.S. Thomas called the Welsh, "an impotent people ... sick with inbreeding / worrying the carcass of an old song."

It's the birthday of novelist and screenplay writer Judith Guest, (books by this author) born in Detroit, Michigan (1936). Her first novel, Ordinary People (1976) — about a teenage boy in the aftermath of a suicide attempt — was a big success from the moment it was published, though it had been rejected for publication twice, and the third publisher waited eight months after receiving the manuscript to decide to go through with it. It was the first unsolicited manuscript that Viking Press had accepted in 26 years.

She started writing it as a short story but was not ready to be finished with the characters, so she worked on what happened before the story started and then what happened after it. Soon it was 200 pages long. She said, "I wrote it because I wanted to explore the anatomy of depression — how it works and why it happens to people; how you can go from being down but able to handle it to being so down that you don't even want to handle it, and then taking a radical step with your life — trying to commit suicide — and failing at that, coming back to the world and having to 'act normal' when, in fact, you have been forever changed." It took her three years to write, and in order to concentrate on finishing the book, she quit her job teaching elementary school.

She once said, "Living the blessed life is the luck of the draw. We don't get control over the cards we're dealt, but we do have control over how we face the odds, how we play them. Some people with awful cards are successful because of how they deal with them, and that seems courageous to me."

It's the birthday of politician and poet Eugene McCarthy, (books by this author) born in Watkins, Minnesota (1921). He's the Democratic senator from Minnesota who ran for president in 1968 and then a few more times. When he decided to run against Lyndon Johnson for the presidency in 1968, it was almost unheard of for any politician to run against a sitting president of his own party. But McCarthy had decided that someone had to challenge the policy on the war in Vietnam. Johnson was considered unbeatable, but hundreds of students canvassed door-to-door for McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary, and McCarthy came close to winning more votes. Johnson announced he would not run for re-election.

After his retirement from the Senate, McCarthy wrote several books about politics in America as well as many collections of poetry, including Ground Fog and Night (1979) and Other Things and the Aardvark (1970).

McCarthy said, "Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important."

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




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