Carl Sandburg and cats

date-night-web

The phenomenon of catering to pets is not a new occurrence adopted by twenty-first century pet owners. Ever since the relationship between humans and animals began there has always been a desire to pamper their domesticated friends. And though there are many varieties from which to choose… starting with four-legged to two-legged with wings… to those with fins and others with scales.. it appears that the cat has gained its place within the high rankings of favoritism.

Let us go back a mere 10,000 years ago, to the Fertile Crescent where the first wild cats are known to have roamed. But like most humans that came in from their Nomadic lifestyle, a yearning to have a pet must have been prevalent. In ancient Egypt cats were worshiped, mummified, and kept on leashes. (Hmmm, now that may be taking things a bit far for your liking.) Well, it appears that back in the Roman Days, say around 31 BC, cats also came in from the cold and were introduced to Roman life.

Cats were said to have traveled on the Mayflower, gaining access to America from Europe, leading up centuries later, to 1885, where they showed off their fur at the first cat show in Madison Square Garden. By World War I they had taken control of many a household, domesticating their owners… as they so like to do.

Therefore, it should not surprise you that the affection for the feline has not changed, although their culinary tastes may have been altered. One has only to stroll a cart down the grocery store aisle or pet-supermarket (as they are now called) to see that our cats consume meals that would get many human salivary glands going. A cat’s dinner sounds like the menu from a gourmet restaurant:  Tasty Pairings shredded meat topped with diced veggies, Natural Balance tuna and pumpkin in broth, salmon, tuna and crab in gravy, and chicken in creamy crab sauce.

So, the next time you look in the refrigerator and say there is nothing to eat, you are probably searching in the wrong place; check the kitchen pantry for the cat food, there you’ll find a feast-a-waiting!  (But you may have to arm-wrestle the cat for it!)

carl-sandburgToday’s post brings to you the esteemed thinker: Carl August Sandburg (1878 – 1967) American poet, historian, novelist, and folklorist. Born in Galesburg, Illinois of Swedish parents, he was a poor boy. Having left school at thirteen to help support the family, he worked washing dishes and laying bricks.  At seventeen he served in the army during the Spanish American War. When he returned he worked his way through a small college, Lombard, where he became recognized for his writing talents. There he met and married Lillian Steichen (whom he called Paula), sister of the photographer Edward Steichen. It was their move to Chicago that propelled his career becoming recognized as a member of the Chicago literary renaissance, which included Ben Hecht, Theodore Dreiser, and Sherwood Anderson. During his writing career, Sandburg won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln: The War Years and one for his collection The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg.

I now bring to you a most famous poem titled Fog, originally published in 1916 in his collection of poetry.  Although is a very short poem by most standards, it has been analyzed in a multitude of studies, however if you were to ask out feline friends they would most likely say, “it is a poem that subtly brings the cat ever more close to the heart.”

“The fog comes

on little cat feet.

 

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.”

 

First image: Thought Bubbles- Nanette L. Avery

Second image: Carl Sandburg, World-Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna. 1955.

 

Esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke

sea

Water is life. Without it we would perish. Our planet, the Earth, is exceptional for seventy- percent is covered by water, yet much of it is not potable being as the oceans and seas are too saline for humans to consume, but perfect for the countless animals and plants that coexist in its realm; from microscopic plankton to the giant blue whale; they can thrive within its boundaries. Though not all is salty; fresh water exists in all states of matter from foggy vapors to sheets of ice to running streams…

We turn on spigots when we are thirsty, purchase bottles of it to carry about, catch it when it is scarce, and pay homage to it for its return through prayers. We even go out of our way to vacation near it, live by it, or build pools to swim in it. We use it to clean, to soak, to wash, to nourish our plants. But with seemingly an abundant supply of this miracle substance, there are many who are not as lucky and its scarcity has sent generations of people in search or even war over it; while others have to build and secure methods in order for water to reach their lands and homes. Our love affair with water however is fickle and though we are ecstatic with its arrival during droughts, there are times when we curse its presence…like during floods.

Yet, no one can resist the beauty of water; it takes a multitude of forms and allows our senses to go through as many sensations and emotions as there are ways. The oceans’ shores are mesmerizing with their soothing churn of the tide… where eyes gaze out onto a distant horizon line and then our curiosity leaps over and steps beyond. The thunder of the river foams as though boiling in anger, crashing and cascading over rocks pounding and pummeling all in its path. The misty rain can be as gentle as an atomizer or as harsh as a hailstorm of pebbles. It can put one to sleep or wake us out of a sound dream.

And so, water holds great power over humanity, although most do not think much about it taking its existence for granted that it will always there, available, and clean…yet like all things in nature, the Earth is in a constant flux; changing ever so slightly as with erosion or with one grand natural disaster, as in an earthquake. Nevertheless, what does not change is the simple fact about water… we are beholden to it…

rupert brooke Today’s blog introduces a man who is not known today by many readers yet in his lifetime he held the title of being a literary national hero even though he died at the young the age of twenty- seven. I present to you the esteemed thinker: Rupert Brooke (1887-1915 ). English born poet, scholar, dramatist, literary critic, travel writer, political activist and soldier, his work exemplified patriotism and lyrical genius. Also known for his good looks and sentimental poetry, he made influential friends in both literary and political circles; an illustrious line-up of names such as Winston Churchill, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Yeats, who once described him as “the handsomest man in England”. Brooke lived during a grey period in England’s history, the start of World War I after which he earned notoriety as ‘one of the famous War Poets of the First World War’.

His quite famous work “The Soldier” is one that will most likely ring a bell to those who read poetry…Here are just a few lines to rouse your memory …
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;…

I now bring you the words of Rupert Brooke, extracted from a letter he sent to the Westminster Gazette in 1913 about his trip to Niagara Falls.

“…. He who sees them instantly forgets humanity. They are not very high, but they are overpowering. They are divided by an island into two parts, the Canadian and the American.

Half a mile or so above the Falls, on either side, the water of the great stream begins to run more swiftly and in confusion. It descends with ever-growing speed. It begins chattering and leaping, breaking into a thousand ripples, throwing up joyful fingers of spray. Sometimes it is divided by islands and rocks, sometimes the eye can see nothing but a waste of laughing, springing, foamy waves, turning, crossing, even seeming to stand for an instant erect, but always borne impetuously forward like a crowd of triumphant feasters. Sit close down by it, and you see a fragment of the torrent against the sky, mottled, steely, and foaming, leaping onward in far-flung criss-cross strands of water. Perpetually the eye is on the point of descrying a pattern in this weaving, and perpetually it is cheated by change. In one place part of the flood plunges over a ledge a few feet high and a quarter of a mile or so long, in a uniform and stable curve. It gives an impression of almost military concerted movement, grown suddenly out of confusion. But it is swiftly lost again in the multitudinous tossing merriment. Here and there a rock close to the surface is marked by a white wave that faces backwards and seems to be rushing madly up-stream, but is really stationary in the headlong charge. But for these signs of reluctance, the waters seem to fling themselves on with some foreknowledge of their fate, in an ever wilder frenzy…

But there they change. As they turn to the sheer descent, the white and blue and slate color, in the heart of the Canadian Falls at least, blend and deepen to a rich, wonderful, luminous green. On the edge of disaster the river seems to gather herself, to pause, to lift a head noble in ruin, and then, with a slow grandeur, to plunge into the eternal thunder and white chaos below… “

Benjamin Franklin and advice

Advice

As long as there have been generations advice has been passed from elder to child and those who bestowed such information were looked upon as sage-like and wise. Older individuals were assumed to have accrued knowledge and wisdom from their own personal trials and tribulations. It became a perfectly natural set of circumstances that parceling out answers to a child’s question or giving advice was the job of a parent and grandparent; a responsibility they inherited from the previous generation of elders…

However, that was once the course of action taken from the beginning of time until we have turned over the pages of the calendar to the present. Alas, today, finding and retrieving information, getting an answer to a question, seeking advice, these missions have all has been usurped and supplanted by the internet.

We live in an age where there is not only a demand but an expectation for instantaneous results; where retrieval is met with little patience for wait time. Just a “google away” one can eliminate the “middle man; no longer does a child have to wait for a parent to come home from work or interrupt their reading of the newspaper to get an answer. Now they are able to bypass this hierarchal position that has been “outsourced” by the internet.

So unfortunate does it appear to be for parents who yearn to be adviser and confidant… however, before one laments take heed… for in fact it is the child who we should be sad for. The internet may be able to answer with lightning speed, but it remains to be a rather cold and unaffectionate replacement for these sages.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Benjamin Franklin (170Benjamin franklin6-1790), one of America’s “Founding Fathers”. The list of his accolades are so numerous that it shall be limited here to statesman, philosopher, inventor, publisher, scientist, and sage.  Barely rivaled, his illustrious career and writings make him a favored celebrity in America’s lively history.  Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his father, Josiah, had come to the British colony and set up shop as a candle maker, while his mother, Abiah Folger, took care of the home and ten children. His parents could not afford to get him an education, so Benjamin had only two years of formal schooling, however, his curiosity and thirst for learning kept him reading anything he could get his hands on, culminating in a most illustrious life.

His work in the sciences included shaping our understanding of electricity with inventions such as the lightening rod. As a statesman during the time when the United States was finding its own voice and independence, he was one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776).

And so, I bring you back to the early days when writing was the only way of communicating to those who were not in speaking distance. From his autobiography, Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1834) we will see that even such a great and wise man as he was took time to listen and reflect on his father’s advice.

“… I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, was a little skilled in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, that when he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and, on occasion, was very handy with other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true, he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate and the strictness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade: but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to, and who showed great respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent as to what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites…”

First image: Created / PublishedNew York : Published by S. Zickel, No. 19, Dey-Street, c1871.

Second image: Benjamin Franklin: reproduction (1913) by Charles Willson Peale, 1741-1827, artist

 

Esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden

NY public library

There is an adage that bears repeating, “the best things in life are free”; yet in spite of its hopeful message if you were to ask much of the population there would be a multitude of naysayers. After all, most of what folks are looking for can only be purchased. However there are many who would agree that Mother Nature does offer all her wonders, but often within her generosity are forces she possesses that can eradicate a home with an evening storm, capsize a way-faring vessel with a wave’s thirsty gulp, and destroy a city with a shrug of her fault line.

But to those who are willing to keep hoping and set skepticism aside, you have only to look within your neighborhoods. There are places where one can obtain knowledge, leisure, amusement, and harmony all for free. It is a location that welcomes you during the coldest of winter days and the hottest of summer afternoons. This place you say; all this for free? Upon which I remind you of the public library.

Today’s post brings to you the esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886), a prominent political figure and philanthropist. who was cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college. Born in New Lebanon, New York. His early education was sporadic due to chronic poor health that followed him into adult life where he attended Yale University and studied law at NYU.  Tilden_of_NY

A man of great principals, in 1848 he led the revolt of the Democratic party in New York State against the creation of five slave States. He opposed slavery and was an active supporter of the Union during the civil war.  Known as a reformer, he fought  against bribery and corruption, bringing down New York’s powerful and corrupt Tweed Ring that controlled and defrauded New York City for years.

Tilden was elected the 25th governor of New York. His popularity as a strong advocate against corruption won him the presidential nomination, becoming the Democratic candidate for president in the hotly disputed election of 1876. A look back in history would describe him as having been cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college.  However, Tilden’s acceptance of his defeat was most honorable and may have prevented the country civil unrest, even though he won the popular vote against Rutherford r B. Hayes.

Having never married he remained a bachelor and acquired considerable wealth. With no heirs, upon his death he left the majority of his estate in trust for the establishment of a free public library for New York City. This bequest eventually helped build the New York City Library in Manhattan.

I now bring you a Harper’s Weekly cartoon, originally printed in January 27, 1877 and drawn by the famous Thomas Nast.  Titled  “Compromise- Indeed” it conveys concerns the Electoral Commission Act passed by Congress to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876.

Tilden cartoon

 

First image: New York Public Library

 

Christopher Morley and portals

There are many thidoorwayngs that we do in our lives that may provoke one’s heart to beat a little faster. And though this activity may be as simple as turning the knob or pulling back on a handle, it is actually not the act, but rather the anticipation of what lies behind that stirs the thumping. Opening a door, a behavior that we do every day, is such an event that may cause your adrenaline to tingle and a lump in your throat to form.

From the very earliest time of your life to the present the door has made us grow limp at the knees. Take for example the first day of kindergarten, standing before the door that would suddenly escort you through a threshold that would forever leave you on one side and your mother on the other.

It was a door that stood between you and your first date, your prom, your visit to the doctor, the dentist, a driving test, and a job interview. A door, no matter what it may be made of…glass, paneled, steel, or wood, the door has the ability to cause us so much pain and so much happiness.
So the next time you come upon a door, I would venture to say, treat it kindly, for you may not know not what lies behind its portals.

Today’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: Christopher D. Morley, (1890-1957) American author, journalist, poet, and essayist. Born in Haverford, PA, Morley wrote for the New York Evening Post (1920-1923) and the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941), which he helped found. christopher morley 3

From his book, Mince Pie, I bring to you a snippet from “On Doors, ” a most profound look at a rather unassuming subject.

“…There are many kinds of doors. Revolving doors for hotels, shops and public buildings. These are typical of the brisk, bustling ways of modern life. Can you imagine John Milton or William Penn skipping through a revolving door? Then there are the curious little slatted doors that still swing outside denatured bar-rooms and extend only from shoulder to knee. There are trapdoors, sliding doors, double doors, stage doors, prison doors, glass doors. But the symbol and mystery of a door resides in its quality of concealment. A glass door is not a door at all, but a window. The meaning of a door is to hide what lies inside; to keep the heart in suspense.

Also, there are many ways of opening doors. There is the cheery push of elbow with which the waiter shoves open the kitchen door when he bears in your tray of supper. There is the suspicious and tentative withdrawal of a door before the unhappy book agent or peddler…
The opening and closing of doors is a part of the stern fluency of life. Life will not stay still and let us alone. We are continually opening doors with hope, closing them with despair. Life lasts not much longer than a pipe of tobacco, and destiny knocks us out like the ashes…”

First Image: 12th Century, French, limestone and oolitic

John Muir and summer

Sierra forest Lake_of_the_Lone_Indian_JMW

Summer… when fireflies come out at dusk and ice melts too fast in lemonade; ice cream tastes better even though it’s the same-old flavor. It has two weather patterns, hot and very hot, and when it rains it likes to pour. We complain in the summer because the steering wheel burns our hands and the sand burns our feet. The weeds grow thick and the air grows thick and everything feels sticky. The mosquitoes swarm and the flies love the picnics. It’s too crowded at the beach and the jellyfish fills in the empty spaces. Days are long, nights are short but then, without us noticing, when we turn the calendar over Labor Day comes and goes… we feel a sudden sense of remorse because summer is no longer there to complain about!

Today’s blog brings us the esteemed thinker: John Muir (1838-1914), one of the earliest preservationist in the United State. Naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service. muirHis foresight and influence to convince the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks was a testimony to his writing. John Muir’s illustrious words came from a lifetime of work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

I now bring you from his work of 1911, My First Summer in The Sierra; surely his personal reflections will remind you of the wonders that nature brings.

“… Warm, mellow summer. The glowing sunbeams make every nerve tingle. The new needles of the pines and firs are nearly full grown and shine gloriously… Summer is ripe. Flocks of seeds are already out of their cups and pods seeking their predestined places. Some will strike root and grow up beside their parents, others flying on the wings of the wind far from them, among strangers. Most of the young birds are full feathered and out of their nests, though still looked after by both father and mother, protected and fed and to some extent educated. How beautiful the home life of birds! No wonder we all love them…”

First image: Sierra Forest

4th of July

flag

All around the neighborhoods, in the cities, on the farmlands, in the mountains, along the grassy plains, and even rocking on the oceans and seashores. Americans are celebrating Independence Day…the Fourth of July. The skies are doused with the smells from smoky barbecues and diamond-studded sparklers…while the night skies will be ablaze with fireworks’ shows that dazzle, awe, and surprise… dogs will bark, some will hide, while children coax them out from beneath the bed with pieces of soggy hot dog buns. How lucky and grateful are we in the United States to be able to celebrate this historic occasion, while I lament that still others round the globe are unable to express freedom such as ours.

Today’s blog, in honor of the 4th of July, brings to you the words of the esteemed thinker: Edwin Percy Whipple (b. Massachusetts 1819-1886). Who? Oh, maybe you will recognize him by ‘E.P. Whipple’…is that better? Oh, still no recollection…well let me give you a bit of background about him. Of his time, he was considered a “compelling” speaker, lecturer, intellect, and literary critic; offering him an opportunity as the literary editor for the Boston Daily Globe. He was not stranger to the literary world having been the trustee of the Boston Public Library, 1868-1870. During the height of the lyceum movement*, he delivered as many as one thousand public lectures from Bangor to St. Louis.EP Whipple

From his essay The True Glory of a Nation, we take a moment to pause and read the words of Mr. Whipple…and though he may not be the most celebrated writer today, his thoughts regarding the people who “are” a nation indeed parallels the glory of why we “can” honor Independence Day.

“The true glory of a nation is an intelligent, honest, industrious people. The civilization of a people depends on their individual character; and a constitution which is not the outgrowth of this character is not worth the parchment on which it is written. You look in vain in the past for a single instance where the people have preserved their liberties after their individual character was lost. It is not in the magnificence of its palaces, not in the beautiful creations of art lavished on its public edifices, not in costly libraries and galleries of pictures, not in the number or wealth of its cities, that we find a nation’s glory. …The true glory of a nation is the living temple of a loyal, industrious, upright people…”

* Lyceum movement in the United States, especially in the northeast, was the beginning of adult education; organizations sponsored lectures and debates often on current interes