1976

September 5th 2015 Whale Watch 043-BIn my next few blogs, I have decided to spend some time looking at different years in my life, in no particular order.

When I look back, there is one thing I can truly say about my life and that is It has been anything but typical and rarely boring. I remember as a very young boy telling myself that if what the adults were telling me was true—that time will fly by and that I should enjoy each day to its fullest—then one thing I was sure of was I never wanted to be bored. The year 1976 was an interesting one.

In May 1976 the top three billboard songs, in descending order, were “Silly Love Songs” by Wings, which Paul McCartney wrote in response to John Lennon’s remark that all Paul wrote was silly love songs. “Welcome Back” by John Sebastian was second, and clocking in at number 3 was “Shop Around” by Captain and Tennille. I like numbers one and two. At number 8 was “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon, which I heard for the first time as I walked into a bar called The Last Hurrah, the first bar I ever went into in Boston. The piano player broke into the song just as I entered, right on cue. I knew then my life was taking another wild turn. I still love that song and it’s still true for me.

The bicentennial celebration for America was also in 1976 as the occupation by immigrants had begun 200 years earlier.  I feel sure that Native Americans did not find this a time of great joy. As a relatively new arrival in Boston, dividing my time between Boston and Baltimore, this was the only time I went to the Hatch Shell celebration on the Esplanade with an estimated 400,000 people in attendance as Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops. It was the only time I saw Arthur Fiedler and the last time I went to a 4th of July celebration on the Esplanade. It was, to say the least, an absolute zoo. At the end of the concert, total chaos broke out, and I and the slight-of-build theology student I was with were almost trampled. I have always suspected that it was she who saved us since she was studying to be a minister and likely said a few choice words to the powers above. I said a few also, but they were more likely heard down below.

In January 1976, a movement called the Clamshell Alliance, whose immediate objective was to prevent a nuclear power plant from being built in Seabrook, New Hampshire, was just gaining some momentum in New England. In the podcast that follows the blog “Rainy Days and Remembering Daniel Berrigan,” I talked about my early involvement in the anti-nuclear movement.  I was actually scheduled to be more a part of the occupation of the proposed site but had to go back to Baltimore. Shortly after that, I returned to Boston and went to work in a gourmet cheese store. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

I will have more thoughts on some of this along with some rock and roll history and an answer to this trivia question: In what movie released in 2015 did Rick Springfield play lead guitar for Meryl Streep? I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

This Way To The Podcast On The Shores Of Rambling Harbor

 

Sweet Light and a Poet’s Pen

May 30th 2016 Memorial Day Wal along the Highlands Beach Winthro 011 Two Seagull worked-resized-CThere is a period just after dawn and again just before sunset that photographers and painters refer to as sweet light. It is a time when the light from the sun has been refracted into a smooth golden or reddish glow. It flatters life forms and landscapes as well. For me, there is also a sweet light of the mind, and it happens just before dawn when the world is quiet. It also happens as we grow old and lose ourselves in the sweet light of reflection.

There are writers who can with their words bend the bleakness of pen and paper and turn words into sweet light. It seems to me that poets especially have this gift. One of those was Emily Dickinson who wrote of her fears and loneliness with words that drew the reader into her room. I think some of the saddest words I’ll ever read were, “This is my letter to the world that never wrote to me.”

It seems to me that unimaginable pain and sorrow molds the poet’s heart like a blacksmith pounding his anvil with his ball-peen hammer, forging a piece of steel. He strikes it again and again as sparks fly, sweat rolling down his muscled arms and furrowed brow until after a while the steel begins to bend until it no longer bears any resemblance to what it once was. I think life does that to people. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes not, the difference being in what we have learned from the pounding.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” starts with the beautiful images of children playing by the sea and ends with the poet lying by his love in her tomb by the sounding sea.

John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem “In School-days” reminisces about a time when a young girl won a spelling bee over him and now as an old man he remembers those days and sees the forever childlike face of the girl that long ago had died, the young girl who had run up to him saying she was sorry she had spelled the word because “you see, I love you,” and then Whittier wrote the poem.

I have never felt in step with the world. While friends of mine from high school were making their mark achieving the “most likely to achieve” status, I found it difficult to even achieve at not achieving, always falling some place between greatness and absolute failure, a kind of wasteland of what most people call a life of accomplishment. But all of that is based on the yardstick that society has placed on life, not mine. My touchstone says I have made some wonderful friends and I have been loved and it was good.

 

 

FROM A WINDOW

May 30th 2016 Memorial Day Wal along the Highlands Beach Winthro 026.JPGLooking out my window on a cold damp day in March, I’m watching a family of squirrels chase each other up and around the trees that soon will be in full bloom, cocooning my little place on the edge of the woods.  The branches are close enough that if I could jump like the squirrels, I would leap from my window to a branch. Until the trees become full, I can see across the large field that leads into the salt marsh and wildlife preserve, which in the summer is all but hidden. I like both views.

I have been reading about Connie Picciotto, an activist who led a 24-hour vigil against nuclear proliferation from a makeshift camp in Lafayette Square next to the White House for 32 years, thought to be the longest-running protest in Washington. In a 2013 profile in The Washington Post, Ms. Picciotto said she spent more than 30 years of her life outside the White House “to stop the world from being destroyed.” Connie pledged to continue the vigil after her tents had been removed from the park, but she will not be keeping that watch any longer. Connie died January 25, 2016, at a housing facility operated by N Street Village, a nonprofit that supports homeless women in Washington. She was believed to be 80.

I remember being in Lafayette Square on a cold damp December day in 1972, listening to Joan Baez and Holly Near speak and sing. Those of you who know those names might think, wow, what a crowd, but it was a pretty small gathering, and all of us sat around and talked. Across the street, President Richard Nixon was looking out his window after he had just authorized Operation Linebacker as the U.S. dropped at least 20,000 tons of explosives on North Vietnam, mostly Hanoi, and more than 1,000 Vietnamese civilians died. At least 30 U.S. airmen were killed and more than 20 went missing in action, while others were captured after ejecting over North Vietnam. So a group of us stood in this small square on a cold, damp December in Washington, D.C., in 1972, keeping a vigil of peace. By the heat of August 1973, the war was over for America, and after all the killing we left Vietnam.

When I was in prison (my reason for being there can be found here starting with the page Mountaintop Days) ,I remember looking out a cell window past a barbed wire fence into a wooded area and saw a deer way out there, and at that moment I promised myself I would never forget what it felt like not to be free. When I was released from prison, a dog ran up to me in the parking lot, and we ran together in a straight line (I had been doing circle walking in the compound for almost two years), and it felt so good that I promised myself I would never forget how it feels to be free.

I really don’t like cold, damp December days in Washington,I’m not a fan of prison windows, and I’ve seen enough of Lafayette Square to last me the rest of my life, but if Donald Trump becomes president I fear I’ll be visiting again.

 

Seagulls, Cormorants, and Dan

first pictures Nahant Jenny Ari and me 041 Breakers CROPED.JPGI have just passed through another decade of life like a freight train passing up a hobo. At this writing, I am moving head first through another Memorial Day weekend, one that would have been my 27th wedding anniversary except that heaven had other plans for my wife. The weather that both my wife and I loved has finally arrived on the shores of Rambling Harbor. In other words, it’s a hot one!

I seem to thrive when it’s hot, hot, hot, perhaps a product of spending the first years of my life in the south, or maybe not, but whatever the reasons, I like it hot. It’s not that I don’t feel the heat. Sophie Tucker said that she had been rich and poor and rich was better. To paraphrase, I’ve been hot and cold and hot is better. I become more reflective in the summer.

The beach I live near is not on a map. As a truck-driving friend (who knows New England like the back of his hand) once said, “Rambling Harbor! Rambling Harbor!! You can’t find Rambling Harbor if you don’t know where it is.” I like it that way. On the hottest weekend days, the main part of the beach, which has sand for castle building and where families and individuals gather for the day, is never crowded. There is also an isolated place that’s about a half-hour’s climb over rocks of varying sizes where you can be totally alone, and it feels like the edge of the earth. This area is under at least 20 feet water at high tide, so it is necessary to plan one’s trip accordingly or be ready to swim to shore. I have made friends with a few favorite boulders, seagulls, and cormorants. One large rock even has the feel of a reclining chair. But I’m not a sitter, I’m a roamer and a climber-over-rocks, dodging waves and looking for little life forms hidden in the shallow pools left by the ebbing tide.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were considered to be transcendentalists. Transcendentalism is a $50 word for a life philosophy that says people and nature are inherently good and that self-reliance and intuition are the most important attributes. Once upon a time, I lived that life in the mountains of West Virginia, a story I tell on this website on the page Mountaintop Days. I have to admit, though, that as more and more decades have passed through this body, my mountaintop days will likely never come again. With a bad back and bad knees that some days rebel against even getting out of bed much less climbing over rocks, it’s not always an easy trip up and down the smooth part of my beach, never mind the boulders.

In a world that seems to be excelling in the loss of all rational thought, as we plunder the earth, rape the mountains, and pollute the sea, as more and more inhabitants of this earth disappear that were here long before humans and more and more humans seem to care less and less, my slow pilgrimage across the rocks and boulders to spend a few hours at the edge of the earth visited only by gulls and cormorants becomes even more important to me.

There will be more thoughts about this as well as some rock and roll history on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Join me there.This way to the shores of Rambling Harbor podcast

 

 

The Poet, Not the Politician. Please Pass the Idiom.

Connors and Brooksby farms S3ptember 2015 020 goatMy mother regularly used the expression you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, an expression I’m sure most of us have heard in one form or another. Its general meaning is that you can’t make something good out of something bad.

I’ve been thinking about idioms lately and where that particular one originated and discovered there’s a lot of conjecturing as to just where it did begin. The range is someplace between the devil and the deep blue sea, from the dying words of Hamlet to the Reverend Jonathan Swift in 1801, but an English satirist named Stephen Gosson seems to have made a like statement centuries earlier in The Ephemerides of Phialo in 1579. But one thing I do know for certain is that my mother used it time and time again. Usually, when I wanted something better than what I had.

I have also decided that you cannot make a political essayist out of a poet, at least not a happy poet. I have spent the last few months primarily writing about politics and particularly about my disdain for and fear of Donald Trump who might possibly become president of our country. To be perfectly clear about this, I have in no way tried to make a silk purse out of him and would never insult a pig by any comparison.

In my attempt to convey how I feel about this demon who struts and frets his hour upon the stage, I have all but lost track of who I am. I am a person with a proclivity for poetry, prose, poems, promulgation, and apparently alliteration, and that seems to make me happy as a clam. (If you’re wondering why clams are happy, this may shed some light on that. The original version is “as happy as a clam at high water.” Hide tide is when clams are free from predators.)

My politics are similar to my religion. I consider myself a spiritual person but almost never go to church, but I pay attention and I do pray. I consider myself a political person but never campaign for anyone, but I pay attention and I do vote.

In last week’s podcast, I had a meltdown. As I said then, I was sick of self-obsessing about Donald Trump, and it was true then and it rings truer now. I also realize that mostly I am preaching to the choir because most of my readers already agree with me and the ones who don’t have left me high and dry. (The phrase “preaching to the choir” probably had its origin as “preaching to the converted,” first cited in the works of John Stuart Mill. He used the phrase in An Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy, 1867.)

Now as we approach the eleventh hour of the political process, I have decided to let sleeping dogs lie and return to the poetry, prose, music-loving, storytelling person I am and have my blogs and podcast be what I have always intended them to be, informative and fun. I hope and pray and will vote that Donald Trump is here today and gone tomorrow.

On the shores of Rambling Harbor, there will be a few more idle thoughts on one thing or another and some rock and roll history, but of course, that’s not carved in stone. I hope you’ll join me there.This way to the shores of Rambling Harbor

Copyright © 2016 Daniel (Dan) Sanders. All rights