Jul. 2, 2012

New England Weather

by Archibald MacLeish

Hay-time when the Boston forecast
calls for haying weather, hot and fair,
Conway people stick to garden chores
and nod toward nightfall at the cemetery:

that's where Sumner Boyden's lying now
and Sumner always told the town, if Boston
promised shine you'd better count on showers
'long toward evening with your hay crop lost.

He meant, no man can tell the weather
anywhere but where he's from:
you have to have the whole of it together,
bred in your bones—the way the wind-shifts come,

how dust feels on a hayfork handle
days when there'll be thunder up for sure,
and how the swallows skim, the cattle stand,
when blue stays blue and even clover cures.

He knew the Conway signs and when the Boston
forecast didn't, team went back to stalls
and chances were, by half-past four at most
we'd hear the thunder up toward Shelburne Falls.

It wasn't luck. New England weather
breeds New Englanders: that changing sky
is part of being born and drawing breath
and dying, maybe, where you're meant to die.

"New England Weather" by Archibald MacLeish, from Collected Poems: 1917-1982. © Houghton Mifflin, 1985. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was 75 years ago today, in 1937, that Amelia Earhart was last heard from, somewhere over the Pacific. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, had set off in May from Miami to fly around the world in a Lockheed Electra. She said, "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it."

They had completed all but about 7,000 miles of the trip when they landed in New Guinea. Maps of this part of the Pacific were inaccurate, and U.S. Coast Guard ships were in place to help guide them to their next stop, the tiny Howland Island. The weather was cloudy and rainy when they left New Guinea. At 7:42 a.m., Earhart communicated to the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca: "We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." Her last transmission, about an hour later, was "We are running north and south."

Franklin Roosevelt sent nine ships and 66 aircraft to search for the downed plane, to no avail.

This month, 75 years after Earhart's disappearance, a new search team will use robotic submarines to comb the area where they think the Electra went down.

Today is the birthday of Hermann Hesse (books by this author), born in Calw, Germany, in 1877. In 1911, he took a trip to India and started studying Eastern religions, and ancient Hindu and Chinese cultures. His travels inspired his novel Siddhartha, about the early life of Gautama Buddha. It became popular among the counterculture movement of the 1960s, more than 40 years after it was published.

He said: "The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment, every sin already carries grace in it."

Today is the birthday of the folk singer-songwriter Greg Brown, born in Fairfield, Iowa (1949). His father was a Pentecostal preacher and his mother was an English teacher who played electric guitar. Young Greg learned to sing and play a variety of musical instruments as a kid in southeastern Iowa. "I think I'm part of the last generation of songwriters that are really influenced by where they grew up," he said, "because things these days are becoming more and more homogenized [...] My family comes from an area with lots of rich music [...] hill music that was surrounded by storytelling, so it seemed natural to me."

He got his first professional gig at the age of 18, organizing hootenannies — gatherings of folk singers — in New York City. His songs have been covered by Willie Nelson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Carlos Santana, among others, and he's recorded two dozen albums himself. In 1986, he released Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Blake's collection of poems set to music.

Fifty years ago today, in 1962, the first Walmart store opened for business in Rogers, Arkansas. It was called "Walmart Discount City." Founder Sam Walton was frugal in his personal life, and he carried that practice over to his business model. He hired as few employees as he could, paid them as little as he could, and fought to keep unions out of Walmart. He presented it as his way of making sure working-class consumers could get goods at a reasonable price.

Walton placed his first several stores in rural areas to avoid competition with K-Mart and Sears. Within five years, he had opened 24 stores throughout Arkansas. It is now the world's largest corporation, with annual revenues higher than Switzerland's GDP.

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




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