Monday, July 14, 2014

If the Rich Can Survive Dust-Storms Thanks to Their Red-and-Gold Liveried Postilions, Then You Are Playing with an Alphabet Here: Nothing You Invent Can Be a Plenipotentiary, Turn Itself Inside-Out, Radiate Iron Spokes at the Mini-Landscape, and So Side with a Population of Bears, Who Knows?

Earthgirl and I gave ourselves a weekend, a drive Saturday southwest to below Charlottesville to hike to the top Crabtree Falls then a good dinner and sleep in Staunton (pronounced STAN-ton, don't you know), then yesterday drove the entire Skyline Drive south-to-north, stopping to hike the Rose River Loop. The video above is Earthgirl's photos of the Rose River Loop hike. Look for the bear - we saw two, only one stayed around long enough to be photoed. Oh heck, because I love you, here's a  mini-movie of the bear:

Crabtree Falls was OK, very crowded, full of fools, uphill immediately which is - for me - the worst a hike can start - no chance to warm up, to find the breathing rhythm, for old knees and ankles to loosen before work. Rose River Loop was wonderful, a hard hike with a payoff. It's the typical Shenandoah National Park hike: straight downhill on side trails off the Skyline Drive/Appalachian Trail spine through gorges and hollows and then straight uphill back in a loop. The Hog Camp Branch uphill of the loop was longer, steeper than Crabtree Falls uphill but not nearly as hard. We picked up the latest book of circuit hikes in Shenandoah at the Visitor Center at Big Meadows. Our $15 pass for entering Skyline Drive yesterday is good through next Sunday, so....


John Ashbery

My sister and I don’t seem to get along too well anymore. 
She always has to have everything new in her house. Cherished ideals 
don’t suit her teal, rust and eggshell color scheme. 
Of course, I was a buyer when she was still on the street 
peddling the Communist youth weekly. I have a degree 
in marketing. Her boyfriend thinks I’m old-fashioned. 
Well, I guess I do have an old-fashioned mentality. 
What kind of a mentality 
causes men to commit suicide in their air-conditioned glass boxes? 
It has been a life of adjustments. I adjusted to the postwar boom 
though it broke up my family. Some took their honor to the mountains, 
to live on wood and water. But the investment years 
wrought havoc with the landscape. Everything is modular now, even the trees. 
Under the dizzying parabolas of the railroad bridge, where the thud 
of laundry mallets used to resound, the swiftly flowing 
current is like green cream, like baize unfit for fulling. 
So old are the ways, 
for lunch one might select a large smelly radish. 
In the streets, as always, there is a smell of frying fish 
no one notices. The rain cannot make up its mind. 
Other people like it other ways. 
I need to interact with postal employees, civil servants, that sort of thing. 
Just being asleep isn’t enough. 
I must cry out against injustice in whatever position 
sleep overtakes me. Only then will I have understood what the world 
and servants mean by self-abolishment, the key, it is said, 
to success. To stand and contemplate the sea 
is to comprehend part of the package. What we need, therefore, 
is market gardens bringing a sense of time with them, 
of this time, honed to razor-sharpness. Yet the whole 
scheme is invisible to any shareholder, and so the feeling 
lessens, the idea that a composite portrait 
may not be so important after all takes over like the shoulder 
of a mill-wheel, slogging patiently under water, then back 
to the zenith, where the watchword presumably is. 
In schools they teach things like plus and minus 
but not in the gorge, not in boiling mud. 
Area residents were jolted to find what in essence 
was a large swamp, pythons and all, in their communal front yard. 
To me, this is insensate. I cannot stand the wind at my back 
making of me nothing, to be handed 
over, in turn, to this 
man, this man. For though he weathered patiently 
the name, the one that occurs to all of us, he went out 
and came in, not in the best interests of abundance; 
not, it seems, being anything but about to fall. 
Here’s a paradox for you: if the men are segregated 
then why are the women not? 
If the rich can survive dust-storms thanks to their red-and-gold liveried 
postilions, then you are playing with an alphabet here: nothing 
you invent can be a plenipotentiary, 
turn itself inside-out, radiate 
iron spokes at the mini-landscape, and so side with a population 
of bears, who knows? Who knows how much there can be 
of any one thing if another one stops existing? And the word you give to this 
man, this man, is cold, 
fossil fuel. 
One snorts in the laundry, another 
is broken beside the bed. A third is suspended 
in a baobab for all the sins 
no one ever knew, for sins of omission are like pearls 
next to the sin of not knowing, and being excused 
for it. So it all comes round 
to individual responsibility and awareness, 
that circus of dusty dramas, denuded forests and car dealerships, a place 
where anything can and does happen, and hours and hours go by.


  1. Congrats on bear sighting. I've only seen one in the wild, and my camera inexplicably refused to take a picture when I pressed the shutter button. Then the dog started barking, bear ran up the mountain, and I was left with 'coulda shoulda'.

    P.S. Thanks for the link!

  2. Robert Frost

    The Bear

    The bear puts both arms around the tree above her
    And draws it down as if it were a lover
    And its chokecherries lips to kiss good-by,
    Then lets it snap back upright in the sky.
    Her next step rocks a boulder on the wall
    (She's making her cross-country in the fall).
    Her great weight creaks the barbed wire in its staples
    As she flings over and off down through the maples,
    Leaving on one wire tooth a lock of hair.
    Such is the uncaged progress of the bear.
    The world has room to make a bear feel free;
    The universe seems cramped to you and me.
    Man acts more like the poor bear in a cage,
    That all day fights a nervous inward rage,
    His mood rejecting all his mind suggests.
    He paces back and forth and never rests
    The me-nail click and shuffle of his feet,
    The telescope at one end of his beat,
    And at the other end the microscope,
    Two instruments of nearly equal hope,
    And in conjunction giving quite a spread.
    Or if he rests from scientific tread,
    'Tis only to sit back and sway his head
    Through ninety-odd degrees of arc, it seems,
    Between two metaphysical extremes.
    He sits back on his fundamental butt
    With lifted snout and eyes (if any) shut
    (He almost looks religious but he's not),
    And back and forth he sways from cheek to cheek,
    At one extreme agreeing with one Greek
    At the other agreeing with another Greek
    Which may be thought, but only so to speak.
    A baggy figure, equally pathetic
    When sedentary and when peripatetic.

    i was surprised to hear this poem read aloud by a computer-generated voice at

    and also surprised that it was not so bad, really

  3. Thanks for the link.

    Again, cool bear capture!

    You know, the usmt gacked a couple of potentially game-tieing sitters v. Germany also (wondo + dempsey).

  4. I need to interact with postal employees, civil servants, that sort of thing.

    i did that today - a package weighing 2 lb 6 oz that would cost $12.78 to mail to washington state only costs $3.65 if the media mail rate applies

  5. Ashberry is very good, but I can never get past my resentment of the fact that every time I see his name I have a brief moment of exhilaration before realizing, no, it's Ashberry, not Berryman. Love the bear. And The Bears.