Stopping by Woods one Snowy Day in Westport

I love the controversial – yes it is – Frost Poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” So simple, yet . . . well, forget the various interpretations. I love the poem simply for the visual images it evokes. And I like watching a woods fill up with snow. So when we got a nice gentle snow the other day I hitched up my 4-cylinder pony and headed for the woods. Not easy to find what I wanted. Too many of our woods are new and filled with brush – not what I imagine Frost seeing. I wanted something with some variety, not too much brush, and a scattering of old and new – plus a few evergreens. The snow was perfect. The third woods I found was just what I wanted.

One suggetsion – this is intended as contemplative, so you might try sticking with this video the second minute – after the poem has left the screen.

Oh – the camera was the little – very inexpensive – Flip. If you don’t know about this little gem, here’s a quick intro.

Hey Joe & Palin, my dog has written a book too – but then, she’s cute and knows English!


Here’s Palin’s response, after Matt Lauer asked her when she knew the election was lost:

“I had great faith that, you know, perhaps when that voter entered that voting booth and closed that curtain that what would kick in for them was, perhaps, a bold step that would have to be taken in casting a vote for us, but having to put a lot of faith in that commitment we tried to articulate that we were the true change agent that would progress this nation.”

I missed that one. Discovered it in this wonderful update by Timothy Egan – Typing Without a Clue – in the NYT today on Joe the non-plumber and Sarah the PalinDrone and their publishing venture. It begins:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate.

Bravo! Well put! And there’s more, much more.

i like this, but . . .

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.

Writing is hard, even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.”

. . . well, it’s not that hard! I found writing a novel great fun. (Yeah, I know, I didn’t publish it and it probably isn’t publishable, but I did write it and I did have fun and some of my family seemed to like it. 😉 Oh yes, and for 10 years I did write every day for a living and after that I published many articles in high-circulation magazines, so I think I can call myself a writer. But I do share Egan’s frustration with how notoriety seems to be the main credential for too many non-writing “authors” today. One big exception is Obama, as he notes, and one of my other heroes, Teddy Roosevelt. (BTW – I voted for Obama because he can think – not because he is black and not because he is a liberal.)

The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.

Our next president is a writer, which may do something to elevate standards in the book industry. The last time a true writer occupied the White House was a hundred years ago, with Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote 13 books before his 40th birthday.

Oh yes – about the headline – Eliza has written a book on her experiences as a pet therapy dog and she writes very well – though she gets some help from Bren – and a few people actually asked for – and bought – copies of it. But she hasn’t gotten a big advance from a publisher yet, though Bren is still trying to give her some help on that task as well. Anyway, I get the feeling she contributes more to our society than Joe or that Alaskan mangler of the English language.

Time to go to sea ;-) (Melville, Kristoferson, Cash)

The weather here is depressingly damp and drizzly and being November, when we get a spell like this it always brings to mind this portion of the opening of Moby Dick:

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

I especially love that image of knocking people’s hat’s off! For me it’s a great example of where the whole equals more than sum of its part – what poetry and literature should do, expressing the inexpressable. Sometimes I think it’s accidental. Kris kristoferson wrote these lyrics:

And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’,
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down.

I think that his intention with the last line was to say that he – the singer/poet – is coming down from a high – a sort of mental, emotional let down that sets in during the classic “morning after.” But for me that line always evoked something else – for once, when a college student in Virginia, I wandered about the streets of a small city on a Sunday morning such as he describes and I felt a special isolation and loneliness – so what was coming down was not me, per se, but “Sunday morning” itself. Now how does Sunday morning come down? Well, in the way he describes throughout his song. (Lyrics)

I think Johnny Cash does an excellent job with it here and though Ic ould not embed this version, I like it better for its simplicity. The version embedded below is good, too, but the images are an overload for me – i’d rather have them playing in my mind than on the screen. Try both. See what you think.

Or try the duet version with both Cash and Kristoferson: