Aug. 12, 2008

Late Afternoon, St. John

by Linda Pastan

A little blue heron has landed
on the roof.
It is as if a small angel had parked
in our lives, shielding us
briefly with its wings.
In the cove the old turtle
surfaces again; shadows
of reef fish shiver by.
On the stones chameleons
go through their wheel of colors.
Rustle of coconut fronds
combing the soft air...glitter
of passing raindrops.
Let go. Let go.
Soon the sun will plunge
into the sea dragging its plumage
of pinks and purples.
I can almost taste
the oleander, smell
the salt on your skin.
Soon we will drown
in our five exploding senses.

"Late Afternoon, St. John" by Linda Pastan from Queen of a Rainy Country. © W. W. Norton & company, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Norris McWhirter, born in London (1925), who gave us the Guinness Book of World Records, in which we learn that the longest amount of time that someone has balanced on one foot is 76 hours and 40 minutes (at a stadium in Sri Lanka, May 22-25, 1997), and that the world's longest leg hair measured 5 inches (belonging to Wesley Pemberton of Tyler, Texas, on August 10, 2007).

Other feats recorded in this book include the farthest distance someone has walked while continuously balancing a milk bottle on the head— 80.96 miles, by Ashrita Furman of New York, which he did around a track field in Queens in April of 1998, over the course of 23 hours 35 minutes. Ashrita Furman (born Keith Furman) has broken more Guinness world records than any other person in the world, including "most underwater rope jumps in one hour" (738) and "most hop-scotch games in 24 hours" (434) and also "fastest pogo stick ascent of Canada's CN Tower" (57 minutes 51 seconds) (www.guinnessworldrecords.com). Furman meditates daily, is strictly vegan, and studies with a spiritual guru in order to reach new levels of self-transcendence, which help in his record-breaking trials.

An Indian man holds the record for most reader letters published in a single national paper in one year - he had 118 letters in the Dainik Jagran newspaper in 2001. The longest backward motorcycle ride record is 93.21 miles, recorded in Binzhou City, China, in October of 2006. Earlier in 2006, a man in New York City created a balloon dog sculpture in 6.5 seconds—also a Guinness world record.

It's the birthday of classics scholar Edith Hamilton, (books by this author) born in Dresden, Germany (1867). Her parents were both Americans, and she grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She started learning Latin and Greek when she was seven years old, and she went on to study classics in Europe at a time when women were not often admitted to universities. It wasn't until after her retirement that she began to publish books about Greek civilization like The Greek Way (1930). Academics hated the fact that she didn't use footnotes, but her books were incredibly popular. For many years, most American children first learned about Hercules and Medusa and Odysseus from her book Mythology (1942), which was an illustrated retelling of all the important Greek myths.

It's the birthday of poet Donald Justice, (books by this author) born in Miami, Florida (1925). He grew up in Florida during The Depression. He wrote poems with titles such as "Memory of a Porch," "Memories of the Depression Years," "Thinking About the Past," "The Miami of Other Days," "Nostalgia of the Lakefronts."

It's the birthday of mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh (1876). Shortly after she and her husband married, the stock market crashed in 1903, and they lost a lot of their assets. She began to write to bring in extra money. The first book she published, The Circular Staircase (1907), was a mystery novel and it became a big hit, eventually selling more than a million copies.

From this book comes the start of her role as the "mother" of the "Had-I-But-Known" school of mystery writing—in which the protagonist is largely clueless about something that most people would have picked up on, usually related to criminal activity. And this cluelessness allows the story to proceed at length. From her writing, also we get the cliché "the butler did it."

She said, "A little work, a little sleep, a little love and it's all over."

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




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