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Summer is over, and the garden which has cheered us all season looks depressingly bedraggled. Whether it’s the vegetable patch or the flower bed, it’s mostly gone. It’s weedy, overgrown, messy and, furthermore, someone is going to have to cut it back, pull out the withered vines, clean it up. But there are still morning glories. Morning GloriesIn the low morning sunlight they look like scraps torn from the sky. Others can rave about their hardy mums – you can have them by the bushel at the supermarket – but the morning glory can’t be sold or bought or cut or carried away. Its glorious shades of blue are evanescent and the flower itself is gone before the day is done.


Take a Break, Read Some Keats

As you probably know, Greece is close to defaulting on its debts, the Euro nations can’t agree on a coherent fiscal policy, the European banking system appears more fragile every morning, the Palestinians have reasons to ask the UN to recognize them as a nation, the Israelis have reasons to occupy ever more of the land the Palestinians regard as their nation, Egypt is having trouble being re-born as a democracy, the US stock market plunged 300 points the other day, unemployment remains high, the recession my repeat itself or, avoiding that calamity, this one may last for years, Congress remains deadlocked, and a recent study reveals that men who take care of their children suffer a decline in testosterone. But you know all that.

On the other hand, if you live in a city, you probably don’t know that this is the season when early morning mists blanket the landscape. You could say it’s the season of mists. In fact, John Keats wrote a poem about this season and it begins Season of mists…  To put you in the mood, here’s a photo of a misty morning landscape provided by the writer Francesca Forrest.Misty morning landscape

Keats’s poem, “Ode to Autumn,” is a complex and linguistically rich poem. Today’s common reader may be put off by the dense, gorgeous language. But you’re not a common reader…



Nasturtiums If you keep looking for solace as summer ends (as we do), now’s the time to be grateful for nasturtiums. These are the most rewarding flowers. They seed easily, require no fertilizer, and given sun and water they’ll blossom through late summer and into chilly fall in dazzling bursts of color. In addition to presenting a brilliant appearance, nasturtiums are edible, both flowers and leaves, having a fine peppery taste taken whole or chopped in salads, soups, and butters. And if you work indoors at, say, writing grumpy political articles or reviews of overlooked movies, a small bunch of these blossoms will light up your desk or widow sill.

Two Sequels from Four Movies

Maybe you recall the movie Before Sunrise and its follow-up, Before Sunset, or perhaps you’ve seen L’Auberge Espagnole along with it’s sequel, Russian Dolls. Before Sunset posterThese aren’t new films. The earliest, Before Sunrise, was made in 1995 and the  most recent, Russian Dolls, came out in 2005. They’re not  deep, heavy-weight films. But they’re interesting movies with remarkably authentic, likeable characters and real conversations — a rarity in movies — and they offer us the special pleasure of  seeing fictional people blunder and develop over time. Each of these films was an acclaimed critical success. If you haven’t seen them, you may have four movies to enjoy.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset focus exclusively on two characters: Jesse L Auberge Espagnole poster(Ethan Hawke) and Cèline (French/American actress Julie Delpy.) In Before Sunrise, this pair of twenty-something travelers meet on a train and end up together in Vienna where they spend the night talking, getting to know the city and each other until they part at sunrise. That’s it, they talk and get to know each other and promise to meet again in six months. These are two very engaging and intelligent young people who are open to experience and who hook up the way young people do. That they are interested in each other’s ideas  (Not exclusively, of course. This is an imitation of real life.)  places this movie above just about every other twenty-something flick.

But Jesse and Cèline don’t get together six months later. The sequel, Before Sunset, was filmed nine years later, and the story takes place after the same lapse of time.  Celine attends a book store reading by Jesse, now a successful novelist who is in Paris to promote his book. Jesse has a plane to catch and the couple have only “until sunset” to talk, to catch up on each other’s life. They’re the same talkative, engaging, interested and interesting people they were nine years earlier, but they’ve matured. Or, to put it another way, life has knocked them down a few times. Jesse is unhappily married and has a son he loves; Cèline, an environmental activist, is unsatisfyingly involved with a photojournalist. Happy marriages are not easy to come by, but maybe this thirty-something pair has a future. Or maybe not.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are narrow aperture films that focus wholly on two characters. Furthermore, Before Sunset plays out in real time, giving the viewer an even more closely framed cinematic experience. On the other hand, L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls are sprawling stories with a jumbled multitude of characters, and Russian Dolls spreads out geographically, too, taking place in Paris, London, St Petersburg and Moscow. (more…)

Robin's eggsAlmost everybody knows what the American robin looks like. Robins are as familiar as pigeons and far more colorful.  People who don’t give a damn about birds can spot a robin in the city park or the suburban front lawn. Robins also have a nice burbling and trilling song, though a lot of people who recognize the bird wouldn’t be able to identify the song. Western robins are pale and drab compared to the richly colored Eastern robins and, in general, robins can be found, sometimes sparingly, throughout the United States all year round.

Children, some children, still listen to the story of how the robin got its red breast. Actually, there are a couple of stories about that. One story says that a robin, seeing Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns, tried to pull the the thorns away and accidently pierced its own breast; hence the blood red breast. The more familiar story is that the robin, seeing two near-frozen wanderers who slept by a flickering fire, fanned the flames to keep the fire alive and thereby saved their lives — and the robin has had a fire-red breast ever since. OK, the robin’s breast is more orange than red, but these are stories with a nice moral at the end.

Robins aren’t sophisticated about real estate when it comes to building nests. They can build well, but they have no sense of location, location, location. They’ll build a nest just about anywhere, even five feet off the ground in a back yard patrolled by a cat. Or in the crotch of a branch that swings in a breeze and tosses wildly in a gusty rainstorm. Robin’s eggs are a beautiful shade of blue and, in fact, the color is known as robin’s-egg-blue. The photo above shows a clutch of robin’s eggs in a nest built between three outdoor lamps projecting over a backyard patio. As we said, robins are not sophisticated about location.

Just some flowers, damnit!We’re putting these flowers here just because we need a break from this all this heavy thinking. Besides, we like the way they look. The flower is called called foxglove and it belongs to a larger family called digitalis. You may have heard of digitalis as a medication for certain heart problems, specifically atrial fibrillation, a rapid and irregular heartbeat.  An extract from the foxglove plant was used as a remedy that disorder as far back as the late 18th century.  The name digitalis is appropriate, for the elongated bell shaped flower do fit neatly, glove like, over your finger tips — over your digits.  Get it? As for the name foxglove; well, there are lots of theories about that name but no one theory is agreed upon. And, anyway, we said we were posting this photo to escape heavy thinking.

More Notes

Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.