Sunday, September 30, 2012

And Brilliance Comes

 
“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile.”
~William Cullen Bryant

"Upstairs in the drawing-room there was a small bright fire of logs, yet the sunshine that flooded in through the open windows had real warmth in it. It was perfect: she felt suspended between summer and winter, savouring the best of them both. She unwrapped the chrysanthemums and arranged them in a square glass jar, between herself and the light, so that the sun shone through them. They were the big mop-headed kind, burgundy colored, with curled petals; their beauty was noble, architectural; and as for their scent, she thought as she buried her nose in the nearest of them, it was a pure distillation of her mood, quintessence of all that she found gay and intoxicating and astringent about the weather, the circumstances, her own age and the season of the year. Oh, yes, October certainly suited her best. For the ancients, as she had inescapably learnt at school, it had been the eighth month, nowadays, officially, it was the tenth: but for her it was always the first, the real New Year. That laborious affair in January was nothing but a name..."
~ Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther


Here as summer fades again, melting readily into the autumn radiance, we feel a brilliance hardly to be expressed, and yet, yearning for description.  A surge and poignancy of light and sunshine and clear cerulean sky; a swirl of summer magic that catches the attention and dances in the imagination like so many fairies.  Somehow this waning glory is able to burn the beauty of summer onto my mind better than all the blazing heat of the sun.
'In the village store someone
says, "I heard the geese go over," and
there is a moment of silence.
Why this is so moving, I do not know.
But all of us feel it.'
~ Gladys Taber
And then a shower of leaves, rustling and swirling on the air, turns my head and captures my attention with a thrilling, sparkling, sort of wonder.  Combines roll through the fields, leaving them open and fragrant with corn-dust.  Fields crackle and rustle; stalk-choppers go by.  The season of gathering has come again.
Birds and butterflies are gathering, readying themselves for long migration; fluttering little flocks stop on nearby gardens and slopes, and we are cheered by their preparatory chatter.  Stately trees shake blushing foliage, letting fall the loosened and dried.  All manner of animals are out a-gathering; and we too busy ourselves with drying, canning, storing.

Also I am gathering up my thoughts, feelings, and aspirations.  Not in a tidy New-Year-resolution way (although Mrs. Miniver does call Autumn the beginning of her year); no, it's more of a settling of routine and priorities, a rousing of the poetic joy I find in all the various beauties in life... and the autumnal restlessness of spirit.  "When autumn came, he knew that part at least of his heart would think more kindly of journeying, as it always did at that season."  ~ The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
This last makes me want to wander into forests alone, ankle deep in leaves and imagination, watch birds in the sky, and experience life as an adventure.

Autumn makes me quote poetry, extensively... "Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun."  Our friend Jodi happily posted the whole of Keat's masterpiece here.
"Oh suns and skies and clouds of June, and flowers of June together
Ye cannot rival for one hour October's bright blue weather!"  Happily quoted in unison with Katie (very happy news at her blog!) who also posted this favorite autumn poem of ours.  (Etc.)
“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.”
~ John Donne
It also inspires me to write poetry, for autumn is of my very heart and soul, holding as it does, such an abundance of both happiness and melancholy.
This, that I posted a while ago, is one of my favorites.
And now for the latest.  Not entirely an autumnal poem, but inspired by and written during.

"Scan the ancient sky and understand where I belong"

Laughing with the summer light
And dancing with the trees
Running on the fallen logs
And leaping in the breeze

Rolling through the drying brush
And chasing grassy scents
Waking up before the dawn
In rain-invaded tents

Taking in the shifting clouds
 And relishing the rain
Strain to hear the five-mile-distant
Whistle of the train

Scaling trees and hiding in them
Feel their ridgy bark
Resting back in curves of leafy bough,
Until it's dark

Wood duck calls and water ripples
Willows dip their fronds
Laying still among the rushes
Spying on the ponds

Many-textured barefoot scamper
Hurdle ditch and shadow
Print the mud beside the creek
And flop back in the meadow

Snug between the fragrant stacks
In straw up to your knees
Watching now blue diamond-skies
And passing geese in V's

Flannel shirts and Wellingtons
The north-wind's bracing air
Finding later, leaves and oats
From climbing, in my hair

Climbing higher, branch to branch
A fortress in a tree
Shelter and adventure, both
My favorite place to be

Leaves stained firey, bright and brittle
Drifting as the forest weeps
Cast about by autumn drizzle
Blown in fairy heaps

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Saturday, September 22, 2012

22nd

Today is a most happy occasion, wherein the autumnal equinox coincides with the birthdays of our dear Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.  I have had that birthday on my calendar ever since I got it in January, so this is a big day.  Mostly we bake ~Molasses cookies for the equinox, ~Seed-Cake (for the first time this year) for the Hobbits' birthday, ~Pie, for both. 
Also tea.  Must have tea.
And cozy meals, and mushroom eggs for breakfast.
And purple and pumpkin-y and autumnal clothes.
Happy Birthday my dear hobbits!
***
"Bilbo and Frodo happened to have the same birthday, September 22nd.  'You had better come and live here, Frodo my lad,' said Bilbo one day; 'and then we can celebrate our birthday-parties comfortably together.' --The Fellowship
 
~unsweetened rooibos tea and fresh Seed-Cake!
{tomato and mozzarella with olive oil and basil, & sweet cold kombucha}
" 'Come along in and have some tea!' he[Bilbo] managed to say after taking a deep breath.

'A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,' said Balin with the white beard.  'But I don't mind some cake--seed cake, if you have any.'

'Lots!'  Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel. " --The Hobbit

I'm quite happy with how they turned out!

Monday, September 17, 2012

For the People

Some of my Friday adventures, as largely concerning our Capitol building.
pen sketching in my adorable notebook
 
The Metro
metro map
 
 
 Then up an escalator to the platform where we waited for the train.
cuties
 

There I am, and there is comes, streaming up from the west.
I rode backward (it doesn't turn around, just switches directions) watching the land fall away on either side.  The cars swayed a little from side to side in a friendly fashion.  Every few minutes, it stopped for boarding.  Just at the right time, Aunt Karrie told me to stand and look back.  I saw old buildings, the old redskin stadium, and then--glorious!--the Capitol and the Washington Monument rising up from the trees.
can you see it?

Then we were underground.  Mostly it was dark outside the windows, with every few yards a white light against the dark.  When we would come to a stop along the way, there was a dim expanse with a platform and escalators. 
 
When we arrived at Union Station we rode the escalators up to street level where the ceilings were high, and there were dozens of shops along every spoke of the station.  We met Michal there--a very happy meeting; it has been quite a long time since I'd seen her!  She became our tour guide, and a wonderful one at that!
 

blurry, I know, but it captured the moment

Isn't it gorgeous?

We went to a lovely little snack shop where the others got coffee and yogurt cups, and I got a salad and a real old ginger beer.  The flavor was fabulous.  Michal said it was "a leisurely ten-minute walk to the capitol" and we could eat on the grounds. (I felt like pinching myself... did she really just say that?) 


The buildings along the way were magnificent to look at, and always in front of us, peaking over the trees, the dome of our country's capitol building.  As we walked along the sidewalk, Aunt Karrie leaned over to tell me that the man in front of us had said, in his deep African accent, "To  me, this is the most beautiful dome in the world."

we pause along the way by an enormous thing of flowers.
 

I never want to lose this wonder

We found a little spot on the grounds and ate our snack there.  The food was delicious and the view, thrilling.  I could not believe I was sitting under a tree on the capitol grounds, with the dome right over my left shoulder.  That left picture was my view.

I laid down there, just to savor the moment; there in the grass, listening to the sound of someone mowing the capitol lawn.  Then I sat up quickly and turned around because I couldn't keep my eyes off the beauty.  The sky was clear blue, the trees were bright in the sunshine, and a pleasant breeze played with our National flag.  The tall windows shone in the morning light, and the numerous pillars had a stolid beauty.


"A thoughtful mind, when it sees a Nation's flag, sees not the flag only, but the Nation itself; and whatever may be its symbols, its insignia, he reads chiefly in the flag the Government, the principles, the truths, the history which belongs to the Nation that sets it forth.” 
--Henry Ward Beecher
And there it is, rising behind me in all its beauty and all it stands for.
And what really gets me is that, in one real way... it's mine.
Of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Each stage of its construction and history...
The agony as people watched it burn.
Lincoln's hope for the country as the architects finished the new dome during the war...
It stands for America,
It stands for Liberty;
It stands for US.

We went into the visitor's center, which is below street level, where we saw the first of the statues.  Each state has two statues, representing important and deceased people from that state.  We were told that the hundred statues began to be too heavy for the statue-room, so some of them were moved to the visitor's center.  Helen Keller (on the left, from Alabama) was the only statue of a child.  On the right is Sakakawea from North Dakota.  The states can periodically change out their statue, and there might be one coming of Amelia Earhart soon! =)
My sticker for the tour!

First there was the introductory video to the capitol.  E Pluribus Unum.  Out of many, One.  The music was stirring, and the filming was breathtaking.  I didn't know America had places quite that beautiful.  There was a brief history of the United States, especially as it concerned the capitol.  The bit about Abraham Lincoln and the architects that continued their work despite the tumult of war, nearly made me cry.  That war, and that president, mean so much more to me now.
 
Then the tour began at the center of the building (that was up one floor from the visitor's center).  At the center of the building is a mighty pillared room with lovely chandeliers, statues, and native stone.
The starting point--the compass rose in the middle of the floor


I was thrilled to learn that this bust of Abraham Lincoln was done by Borglum, the man who carved Mount Rushmore!

We walked on through arches and past ornate pillars, some of which were carved with ears of corn.  We saw where the supreme court used to meet: all ancient tables, and whale-oil lamps.  There were no electric lights in that room; that's it on the top right.
On again, up a beautiful elevator, to the rotunda, where the beauty is almost unspeakable.  Painted ceilings, frescos, shining windows, and giant historic paintings.

The ceiling was painted over a year, on scaffolding like the Sistine chapel; the 360 degree fresco tells the story of America in gorgeous art.

I wonder if people ever outgrow gazing up in wonder every time they come through those arches.  I hope not.  I kept revolving, craning to stare at the enormous expanse of exquisite dome.


We went on to see more statues and pillars, truly architectural beauty that cannot be captured on camera.
And that's all for the capitol~ (See it yourself if you can!)
More to come... Library of Congress, Lincolm Memorial, Gettysburg.