‘A Ruin, Only in Reverse’

The Ziolkowski monument to Crazy Horse in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Last June, I drove from Seattle to Omaha with my son Eamon and my daughter-in-law Sakura. Our first day took us into western Montana. The second day saw us get to western South Dakota after a stop at the Little Big Horn. And the third day we started out with a quick blast through the Black Hills. We stopped in Deadwood, then headed to the Crazy Horse monument. That’s the picture above. If you pay a little extra when you visit the memorial, you can take a bus ride right up close to where the work on the monument is going on.

I had been to Crazy Horse once before, back in 1988, with my dad, when we were on our way to the Little Big Horn. Back then, you had to take the artists’ word that something would emerge from the mountain they were blasting away. At the visitors center, we paid a dollar for a chunk of granite from the rubble, faced with mica and shot through with what look like nodules of pyrite. The rock’s here on the dining room table as I write this. Twenty-three years later, something dramatic has been brought out of the mountain, and the scene around the area has changed, too. The site is now approached on a route that’s turned into a major highway, and the turnoff is controlled by the kind of traffic signal you see on expressways in San Jose. There’s an entrance plaza with maybe six lanes, just like going into a stadium parking lot. After that, there’s plenty of parking, a museum, shops, and beyond that, the mountain. Lots of people were visiting the early June day we stopped, though I wouldn’t say the place was overrun.

A few days ago, I came across Ian Frazier’s account of his visit to Crazy Horse, probably within a year or so of when we were there. Here’s what he saw, as recounted in his book “Great Plains“:

“In the Black Hills, near the town of Custer, South Dakota, sculptors are carving a statue of Crazy Horse from a six-hundred-foot-high mountain of granite. The rock, called Thunderhead Mountain, is near Mt. Rushmore. The man who began the statue was a Boston-born sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski, and he became inspired to the work after receiving a letter from Henry Standing Bear, a Sioux chief, in 1939. Standing Bear asked Ziolkowski if he would be interested in carving a memorial to Crazy Horse as a way of honoring heroes of the Indian people. The idea so appealed to Ziolkowski that he decided to make the largest statue in the world: Crazy Horse, on horseback, with his left arm outstretched and pointing. From Crazy Horse’s shoulder to the tip of his index finger would be 263 feet. A forty-four-foot stone feather would rise above his head. Ziolkowski worked on the statue from 1947 until his death in 1982. As the project progressed, he added an Indian museum and a university and medical school for Indians to his plans for the grounds around the statue. Since his death, his wife and children have carried on the work.

“The Black Hills, sacred to generations of Sioux and Cheyenne, are now filled with T-shirt stores, reptile gardens, talking wood carvings, wax museums, gravity mystery areas (‘See and feel COSMOS–the only gravity mystery area that is family approved’), etc. Before I went there, I thought the Crazy Horse monument would be just another attraction. But it is wonderful. In all his years of blasting, bulldozing, and chipping, Ziolkowski removed over eight million tons of rock. You can just begin to tell. There is an outline of the planned sculpture on the mountain, and parts of the arm and the rider’s head are beginning to emerge. The rest of the figure still waits within Thunderhead Mountain–Ziolkowski’s descendants will doubtless be working away in the year 2150. This makes the statue in its present state an unusual attraction, one which draws a million visitors annually: it is a ruin, only in reverse. Instead of looking at it and imagining what it used to be, people stand at the observation deck and say, ‘Boy, that’s really going to be great someday.’ The gift shop is extensive and prosperous, buses with ‘Crazy Horse’ in the destination window bring tourists from nearby Rapid City; Indian chants play on speakers in the Indian museum; Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, local residents, and American Indians get in free. The Crazy Horse monument is the one place on the plains where I saw lots of Indians smiling.”

If you happen to go to the monument in the fall, there’s a walk to Korczak Ziokowski’s tomb every year on October 20, the anniversary of his death. Also interred there: his daughter Anne, who died last year just a few week’s before we visited. Her obituary, brief as it is, speaks volumes about the family’s commitment to the Black Hills.

Black Hills Crazy Horse monument in closeup.

First of All Martyrs, King of All Birds

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give him a treat.
—"The Wren"

Of course, in Ireland and like parts, the "king of all birds" was singled out for some rough treatment the day after Christmas. A somewhat sanitized version of the song, on The Chieftain's "Bells of Dublin" album, alludes to the death of the wren, but doesn't explain how it came to expire. Liam Clancy's much earlier recording of a traditional number, "The Wran Song," doesn't leave much doubt about what had happened to the bird: "I met a wren upon the wall/Up with me wattle and knocked him down." In fact, if you're inclined to explore further the Irish (and fellow Celts') Christmastime wren customs, here's a book for you, "Hunting the Wren: Transformation of Bird to Symbol."

A brief passage on the traditions of the wren hunt: "Typically, on the appointed 'wren day' a group of boys and men went out armed with sticks, beating the hednges from both sides and throwing clubs or other objects at the wren whenever it appeared. Eyewitnesses described the hunting of the wren in Ireland in the 1840s:

For some weeks preceding Christmas, crowds of village boys may be seen peering into hedges in search of the tiny wren; and when one is discovered the whole assemble and give eager chase to, until they have slain the little bird. In the hunt the utmost excitement prevails, shouting, screeching, and rushing; all sorts of missiles are flung at the puny mark and not infrequently they light upon the head of some less innocent being. From bush to bush, from hedge to hedge is the wren pursued and bagged with as much pride and pleasure as the cock of the woods by more ambitious sportsmen."

And why is the wren "the king"? According to the book above, the appellation goes back to a fable apparently current in several cultures and in Greece and Roman tradition ascribed to Aesop: various birds vied with the eagle for the title of the king of birds. One by one, the eagle out-soared them. But the wren–the wren concealed itself in the eagle's feathers, and as it sensed the eagle was tiring, flew up and away, farther than the eagle could reach.

But enough of the wren. I really want to talk about December 26, also known as Boxing Day (what's that about? Here's a rather tart view from early 19th century London) and St. Stephen's Day. The latter is of special note for me, since my dad's first name, and mine, are Stephen. A few years ago, my friend Pete offered up a find from an encyclopedia on Roman Catholicism on the life and times of St. Stephen, who is remembered as the first Christian martyr. The capsule version of his trouble is recounted in the New Testament book of Acts. Therein, it's recorded that locals in the Greater Holy Land area didn't appreciate everything Stephen, whom Jesus's apostles had appointed a deacon and put in charge of distributing alms to poorer members of the community, had to say on theological matters. He was accused of blasphemy, hauled before the Local Religious Tribunal, and tried. During the trial, he continued to outrage his accusers, whereupon, according to Acts 8:

"…They were cut to the heart: and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they, crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge: And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord…."

A few years ago, I was in Paris and after wandering through the Latin Quarter and up toward the Pantheon, landed in front of a church where the denouement of this story is depicted above the entrance. I only slowly put the name of the church, St. Etienne du Mont, together with the story of St. Stephen (Stephen=Etienne en français). I stand by my earlier description of the scene (picture below): "Immediately above the doorway … Stephen is about to earn his way onto the church calendar despite the presence of an angel who, though appearing benificent, doesn't seem the least inclined to stay the hands of a bunch of guys who look not at all hesitant to cast the first stone." One detail of this image I didn't notice before: The sculpture was done in 1863, a good 240 years after the church was dedicated.

CIMG4422.jpg

Boxing Day: A Critique

While perusing the Grand World Treasury of Digital Distractions for “information” about the various observances that take place December 26–including England’s Boxing Day–I happened across the following. It’s from the December 31, 1825, number of The Portfolio, a London magazine “Comprising the Wonders of Art and Nature, Extraordinary Particulars Connected with Poetry, Painting, Music, HIstory, Voyages & Travels.”

BOXING DAY

At length the long-anticipated and wished-for day arrives; all classes from the merchants clerk down to the parish Geoffrey Muffincap, are on the tip-toe of expectation. Many and various are the ways of soliciting a Cristmas [sic] gift. The clerk, with respectful demeanour and simpering face, pays his principal the compliments of the season, and the hint is taken; the shopman solicits a holiday, in full expectation of the usual gift accompanying the consent; the beadle, dustmen, watchmen, milkmen, pot-boys &c. all ask in plain terms for a Christmas-box, and will not easily take a refusal; crowds of little boys are seen thronging the streets at an early hour with rolleu papers in their hands, these are specimens of their talent in penmanship, which they attempt to exhibit in every house in their respective parishes; four or five of these candidates for a “box” are seen collected together to watch the success of one, who, bolder than the rest, has ventured first to try his luck. Woe to the tradesman who gives his mite: a hundred applications are sure to succeed a successful one, and what with their hindering the usual business of their shop, and their importunities to shew their “pieces” the poor man has no peace of his life. The money obtained in this way is generally expended the same evening at some of the theatres. It is truly amusing to trace the progress of boxing-day with the generality of those who go from ddorto door collecting this customary largess.— To illustrate this I subjoin a short journal of the day’s proceeding written by one of these gentry and forwarded to his father in the country.

BOXING-DAY

“Got up at 7 o clock—quite dark—struck a light, and cleaned my master’s shoes; while I was about it, thought I might as well clean mistress’s and little master’s—mistress gave me 5s. last year. Mary, the maid, offered to take mistress’s shoes up to her—would not let her—told her they were not finished, meant to take them up myself. Breakfasted at half past eight—could not eat muchwent up stairs to ask the governor for a day’s holiday, he grumbled, but gave me leave to go—put his hand in his waistcoat pocket—expected 5s. at least—all expectation,—he drew out his hand and with it his pen knife. I looked very foolish and felt my face as hot as fire—wished him a merry Christmas; thanked me, gave me half-a-crown, and said times were very bad—thanked him and went to fetch my mistress’s shoes up; she gave me nothing; she may do them herself another time.—Dressed myself and went out a boxing—first to Mr. Scragg’s the butcher—he told me master had not yet paid his Christmas bill—no go—went next to the bakers; got 6s. collected altogether £2. 12s.—called on Sam Groomly—went together to Pimlico, I stood treat at dinner; parted from him; and at about a quarter past four got to my dear Sally’s to tea—took her and her sister to the Olympic—a very fine place—saw them home, and promised Sal to go and see her on twelfth day night. Got back to my lodging about half past twelve with 3s. 2½d. in my pocket—spent a great deal: but Christmas is but once a year.”

This, like many other of our ancient customs, is much abused, and is made the vehicle for much annoyance; yet at the same time so much has been done towards depriving the lower classes of their amusements, that we cannot wonder at their making the most of those that remain.

J.W.F.B.

Family History Files: Tim Hogan

A long-ago teacher of mine–G.E. Smith, who taught English, literature, and a lot more at Crete-Monee High School in the 1960s and '70s–became interested in his family ancestry late in life. It wasn't an easy thing. I don't know a lot of his personal story, but I do know that his mother left his biological father very early in his life, back in the mid-'20s, and that he was raised by a stepfather he remembered as generous if not saintly.

Also late in life, he brought out a book of poems he had written as a much younger man. He hadn't intended to, he said, but when he started into the family history business, his work took on a different meaning: "It wasn't until I began to think, as a genealogist, about how anything written by ancient relatives–even in signature–was (or could have been) so extraordinarily precious that I decided to consider publishing. I realized that I, too, someday, would likely be a long-ago ancient relative to someone who was pursuing my family history."

That line about the actual words of a forebear being "so extraordinarily precious" stuck in my head. I've listened to perhaps hundreds of hours of stories about my dad's family and my mom's, and recently I was struck with a little sense of urgency about setting down at least the basic outlines of what I've heard. So far, that's mostly involved cemetery visits and creating the beginnings of a family tree (through the very expensive and sometimes-worth-it Ancestry.com). There's a bit of an addictive thrill in tracking down someone you've been hearing about your whole life in a century-old census record: Wow–there they are, just like Mom and Dad said, in Warren, Minnesota, or on South Yale Avenue in Chicago. But records only take you so far, and they don't really give a voice to the people listed on the census rolls or on the draft records or on Ellis Island arrival manifests.

I imagine my family is like most in that whatever words were ever written down have mostly fallen victim to fastidious housecleaning, negligence, dismissiveness, or lack of interest. You know: "Who'd ever be interested in that?" or, "Does anyone want this old stuff?" (I think pictures are the occasional exception to this rule. Plenty get thrown away, but the images have an intrinsic interest for a lot of people when they can't readily identify the subjects of the photos.) Chance, mostly, and, less often, selection determine what survives. My dad has a collection of letters his father wrote to his mother during their courtship and early in their marriage, a century and more ago. I believe they are numbered and I remember hearing that after my grandfather, Sjur Brekke, died, in their 26th year of marriage, my grandmother continued to read those letters for years afterward. There used to be another set of letters, too–my grandmother's letters to my grandfather. But at some point she destroyed them. The story I've heard is that she considered them too personal for others to read. Wouldn't we Brekke descendants love to get a look at those.

Over to my mom's side of the family: They were Irish and stereotypically more voluble than my dad's Norwegian clan. But not much has survived (that I know about) beyond the oral tradition. One rather amazing exception: my mom's grandfather.

Timhogan-twins10061933I don't know a lot about him, but Timothy Jeremiah Hogan was born in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1864 (I'll let him tell that story), lived as a child on the Great Plains (ditto), raised a family, including my grandfather Edward Hogan, in central and northern Illinois. He was a railroad man, working for one of the roads back there (on the Wabash, I believe, but don't know for sure). He was said to have spent a lot of time riding alone in the caboose and taught himself to play the guitar. He was losing his hearing at the end of his life, was described as taciturn and short with most of his grandchildren, and was reportedly heartbroken when a favorite grandson drowned in the summer of 1939. He died himself a month later.

Another thing about Tim Hogan: He had a typewriter, and he used it. He composed poems on the typewriter, and song lyrics. Here's one of his poems, about two of my mom's brothers (that's them in the picture at right) shortly after their first birthday:

October 7th.1934.
AN ODE TO OUR LITTLE
TWIN BOYS TOM, AND ED
*********************
Early in the morning
When they open up their eyes
Laying in their tiney little beds
Rolling over, over
Both the same size
Cunning little round bald heads.
You couldent help but love them
With their smileing eyes of blue
Remember it was GRAND DAD told you so,
Charming little twinners,
Only new beginers
You can almost see them grow.

Tim wrote letters, too. We only have a handful of them, but below are a couple that he produced in 1936 when he was trying to do a little biographical/genealogical research of his own. The first (click pages for larger images; full text is after the jump) is to the clerk of LaSalle County, and he's hoping to find records of his family's residence from around the time of his birth.

timhogan_1.jpeg timhogan_2.jpeg

The second letter is to the Railroad Retirement Board. He doesn't explicitly mention it here, but I recall a couple of my mom's aunts, Tim's daughters Catherine and Betty, saying he was trying to establish his date of birth in relation to a pension that might be due.

timhogan_3.jpeg

One question I have about these: Did he send them? As he says, he's earnestly interested in getting answers. So my guess is that these are copies of versions he sent. I haven't found any records in the sparse collection of family documents to suggest what answers he might have gotten. The full text of the letters is available through the link below. If the lines break in an odd way, it's because I tried to stick to how he broke the lines, starting nearly each new line with a capital letter. I've also tried to copy his punctuation and spelling.

Continue reading “Family History Files: Tim Hogan”

Family History Files: Tim Hogan

A long-ago teacher of mine–G.E. Smith, who taught English, literature, and a lot more at Crete-Monee High School in the 1960s and '70s–became interested in his family ancestry late in life. It wasn't an easy thing. I don't know a lot of his personal story, but I do know that his mother left his biological father very early in his life, back in the mid-'20s, and that he was raised by a stepfather he remembered as generous if not saintly.

Also late in life, he brought out a book of poems he had written as a much younger man. He hadn't intended to, he said, but when he started into the family history business, his work took on a different meaning: "It wasn't until I began to think, as a genealogist, about how anything written by ancient relatives–even in signature–was (or could have been) so extraordinarily precious that I decided to consider publishing. I realized that I, too, someday, would likely be a long-ago ancient relative to someone who was pursuing my family history."

That line about the actual words of a forebear being "so extraordinarily precious" stuck in my head. I've listened to perhaps hundreds of hours of stories about my dad's family and my mom's, and recently I was struck with a little sense of urgency about setting down at least the basic outlines of what I've heard. So far, that's mostly involved cemetery visits and creating the beginnings of a family tree (through the very expensive and sometimes-worth-it Ancestry.com). There's a bit of an addictive thrill in tracking down someone you've been hearing about your whole life in a century-old census record: Wow–there they are, just like Mom and Dad said, in Warren, Minnesota, or on South Yale Avenue in Chicago. But records only take you so far, and they don't really give a voice to the people listed on the census rolls or on the draft records or on Ellis Island arrival manifests.

I imagine my family is like most in that whatever words were ever written down have mostly fallen victim to fastidious housecleaning, negligence, dismissiveness, or lack of interest. You know: "Who'd ever be interested in that?" or, "Does anyone want this old stuff?" (I think pictures are the occasional exception to this rule. Plenty get thrown away, but the images have an intrinsic interest for a lot of people when they can't readily identify the subjects of the photos.) Chance, mostly, and, less often, selection determine what survives. My dad has a collection of letters his father wrote to his mother during their courtship and early in their marriage, a century and more ago. I believe they are numbered and I remember hearing that after my grandfather, Sjur Brekke, died, in their 26th year of marriage, my grandmother continued to read those letters for years afterward. There used to be another set of letters, too–my grandmother's letters to my grandfather. But at some point she destroyed them. The story I've heard is that she considered them too personal for others to read. Wouldn't we Brekke descendants love to get a look at those.

Over to my mom's side of the family: They were Irish and stereotypically more voluble than my dad's Norwegian clan. But not much has survived (that I know about) beyond the oral tradition. One rather amazing exception: my mom's grandfather.

Timhogan-twins10061933I don't know a lot about him, but Timothy Jeremiah Hogan was born in Ottawa, Illinois, in 1864 (I'll let him tell that story), lived as a child on the Great Plains (ditto), raised a family, including my grandfather Edward Hogan, in central and northern Illinois. He was a railroad man, working for one of the roads back there (on the Wabash, I believe, but don't know for sure). He was said to have spent a lot of time riding alone in the caboose and taught himself to play the guitar. He was losing his hearing at the end of his life, was described as taciturn and short with most of his grandchildren, and was reportedly heartbroken when a favorite grandson drowned in the summer of 1939. He died himself a month later.

Another thing about Tim Hogan: He had a typewriter, and he used it. He composed poems on the typewriter, and song lyrics. Here's one of his poems, about two of my mom's brothers (that's them in the picture at right) shortly after their first birthday:

October 7th.1934.
AN ODE TO OUR LITTLE
TWIN BOYS TOM, AND ED
*********************
Early in the morning
When they open up their eyes
Laying in their tiney little beds
Rolling over, over
Both the same size
Cunning little round bald heads.
You couldent help but love them
With their smileing eyes of blue
Remember it was GRAND DAD told you so,
Charming little twinners,
Only new beginers
You can almost see them grow.

Tim wrote letters, too. We only have a handful of them, but below are a couple that he produced in 1936 when he was trying to do a little biographical/genealogical research of his own. The first (click pages for larger images; full text is after the jump) is to the clerk of LaSalle County, and he's hoping to find records of his family's residence from around the time of his birth.

timhogan_1.jpeg timhogan_2.jpeg

The second letter is to the Railroad Retirement Board. He doesn't explicitly mention it here, but I recall a couple of my mom's aunts, Tim's daughters Catherine and Betty, saying he was trying to establish his date of birth in relation to a pension that might be due.

timhogan_3.jpeg

One question I have about these: Did he send them? As he says, he's earnestly interested in getting answers. So my guess is that these are copies of versions he sent. I haven't found any records in the sparse collection of family documents to suggest what answers he might have gotten. The full text of the letters is available through the link below. If the lines break in an odd way, it's because I tried to stick to how he broke the lines, starting nearly each new line with a capital letter. I've also tried to copy his punctuation and spelling.

Continue reading “Family History Files: Tim Hogan”

Web Billiards: Alfred, Lord Tennyson Edition

Kate (the Redoubtable One) related the following:

A teacher colleague of hers, a published poet, has started a poetry blog. On said blog, her colleague had written a post on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” It’s a well-known and widely quoted work, and I’ll lay odds that you’ve encountered this conclusion somewhere before:

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Kate encountered one line she was wondering about: “… To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars. …” What exactly does “baths” mean in this context? Like so many of us do for so many hours of the day, she went looking for an answer online. One of the potential answers returned in her search was the following, on a site called Cruiser Log. I kind of think Odysseus would have taken this guy on as a crewman:

Title: To Sail Beyond The Sunset, And The Baths Of All The Western Stars (Or the other way, that’s cool too)

Home Port:Venice Beach, CA
Location Now:United States
Posted 15 August 2011 – 01:21 AM

I’m looking to crew on any boat going any place. Deliveries/passages/cruising/shakedowns/adventures/surveys/secret missions/artistic escapes/jail breaks are all copacetic.

I’ve sailed across the Pacific, in the Caribbean, and all over North America. I can stand watch, tie a bowline, converse pleasantly, get the job done, and grill. My (non-grill) cooking leaves much to be desired (but not my cleaning).

I sail for free, unless you are a commercial operation or a paid delivery. (Don’t ask me to crew for experience on a paid delivery, please.) I can’t contribute to food costs, generally.

I’m based in California. I’m 21. I’m blond. I can fly anywhere to meet you (miles, baby). I’m experienced, and free. I’m resourceful, and listen to how you want to run your boat, regardless of my previous experience. My schedule can be tossed overboard: your’s is what matters. Talk to me. …

Harry

‘Will Rogers Says’

We came across a copy of American HIstory magazine, not among the periodicals I have heretofore perused. Among the stories the editors tease on the cover: “First Twitter: Will Rogers tweeted 85 years ago.” (Really? I was thinking Samuel Pepys [Peeps] was the first Twitterer, but then I remembered he was really the first blogger.)

Anyway, the article is not yet online. It recounts how he began sending telegrams with brief observations to The New York Times in 1920 and how that turned into a daily feature in hundreds of American papers. The article has a couple of dozen of his brief messages, that were published under the headline “Will Rogers Says.” He’s fond of taking on the wealthy, the pompous, and the Republicans of his day (the closest voice I’ve heard in our day, though one much more self-consciously political, is Jim Hightower, the Texas guy). For instance, this came a couple months after the 1929 market crash:

Beverly Hills, Calif., Dec. 25, 1929–Passed the Potter’s Field yesterday and they was burying two staunch of Republicans, both of whom died of starvation, and the man in charge told me their last words were, “I still think America is fundamentally sound.”

And another, the day after FDR took office in 1933:

Santa Monica, Calif., March 5, 1933–America hasn’t been as happy in three years as they are today. No money, no banks, no work, no nothing, but they know they got a man in there who is wise to Congress, wise to our big bankers and wise to our so-called big men. The whole country is with him. Even if what he does is wrong they are with him. Just so as he does something. If he burned down the Capitol, we would cheer and say, “Well, we at least got a fire started anyhow.”

Guest Observation: Minorities, Majorities

From Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address:

“If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. …
“A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”

Guest Observation: The Salmon

Kate was tidying up around the house yesterday and found a folded sheet of paper under our bed amidst the great clumps of dog hair that had accumulated there (mute testimony to the incompleteness of my periodic vacuum-powered housecleaning). On the paper was the following poem about the salmon, and about other things too. Kate said the paper must have been mine, and it must have, given my sometimes-preoccupation with the fish in question. But I can’t remember how I came by this piece at all, and I don’t really remember having read the poem. David Whyte is a Scottish poet, I believe, whom I know for a book he wrote back in the ’90s called “The Heart Aroused.” It was a call for humanizing the workplace, for recognizing the role of creativity to excite individual passions, a recognition he argues leads to more satisfied employees and more successful employers.
Song for the Salmon
by David Whyte

For too many days now I have not written of the sea,
nor the rivers, nor the shifting currents
we find between the islands

For too many nights now I have not imagined the salmon
threading the dark streams of reflected stars,
nor have I dreamt of his longing
nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn

I have not given myself to the depth to which he goes,
to the cargoes of crystal water, cold with salt,
nor the enormous plains of ocean swaying beneath the moon.

I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
opening its white hands on the seashore,
nor the salted wind, whole and healthy
filling the chest with living air.

I have not heard those waves
fallen out of heaven onto earth,
nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
of a thousand miles of ocean
giving up its strength on the sand.

But now I have spoken of that great sea,
the ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
moves in the dark sky above
and I am ready like the young salmon
to leave his river, blessed with hunger
for a great journey on the drawing tide.