Man of Many Words

Roget

Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), scientific writer, lecturer, and author of the Thesaurus, a project that he did not even begin to pursue seriously until his 70s. That ought to encourage the rest of us slowpokes. Roget was a lifelong and compulsive list-maker, a practice that apparently comforted him and helped sustain him through the terrible depressions that plagued him and his extended family, although he suffered tragedy enough throughout his life to justify serious despair. I love my Thesaurus and was inspired by this birthday to get on the library waiting list (speaking of lists) for a recent biography of Roget, Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists. Among Roget’s many other admirers is J.M. Barrie:

“The night nursery of the Darling family, which is the scene of our opening Act, is at the top of a rather depressed street in Bloomsbury. We have a right to place it where we will, and the reason Bloomsbury is chosen is that Mr. Roget once lived there. So did we in days when his Thesaurus was our only companion in London; and we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment. The Darlings therefore lived in Bloomsbury.” —Introduction to Act I of Peter Pan

Natsukashii: A Japanese word used to express the feeling described above. It is not yet in the Thesaurus.

CakeBalloonsMatilda

BirthdayYahrzeitSusan


A Little Light

LittleLight

Another verse from our dinner-table collection, from a longer poem by Matilda Betham-Edwards (1836-1919). I came across this verse long ago by chance, never having heard of its author, and recently learned that she was an extremely prolific writer of poetry, short stories, novels, and accounts of her travels in Europe and North Africa, unusual for a single woman of her day.


Wild

Woodpecker

When the news is truly terrible and you have sent off your donation and listened with awe and respect to those hastening selflessly to the rescue, and you are wondering what, what to do next, there can be a kind of hope in observing, after the overwhelming catastrophes of nature, its small surprises. Like the downy woodpecker that just showed up on our urban patio, and the juvenile Cooper’s hawk (!) on the telephone pole in the alley behind the house. Although the innocent grub and the songbird would undoubtedly regard these as catastrophes.

CoopersHawk

BirthdayMom’s and Aunt Bett’s “other” birthday



Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLKing

MLKingText

These are pages from a book created by my daughter for a second grade Saints, Heroes, and Heroines lesson block. Born in 1929, King would probably have thought it a fine birthday gift to see one of the fruits of his labors, an African-American in the White House. Happy birthday, Dr. King.

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can listen to Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech.

Green Lunch Part 2

(Continued from yesterday) We watched the children don cloth caps, masks, and aprons, help prepare and serve the food, and then clean up: scraping scraps into the compost bucket; rinsing plates, milk bottles, and chopsticks before they went off to be washed; crumpling aluminum foil and depositing it into the recycling bin. NO TRASH. Surely the schools of our nation’s capital city could do as well.

After lunch the children and teachers put on headscarves, took up mops and brooms, and went to do the daily post-lunch school cleaning. There’s your next proposal, Councilwoman Cheh!

JapaneseLunch2

Green Lunch Part 1

In a recent issue of our local DC paper, I read of an ambitious proposal by Councilwoman Mary Cheh to improve the DC school lunch program, with an emphasis on healthy local foods, recycling and composting. This reminded me of a visit to our son in Japan when he was teaching English in the local public school of a small mountain village. Our family spent a day at his school, which included sharing lunch in the cafeteria. (To be continued tomorrow.)

JapaneseLunch1

New Year’s Resolution: New Language

Today is the birthday of Haruki Murakami (1949), a Japanese novelist and translator whom my son admires, author of Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, among other works. In addition to writing novels he jogs and runs marathons. Maybe there is a connection between running long distances and writing surreal and humorous metaphysical short fiction.

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.” —Haruki Murakami

Baby Panda

PandaPizza

Another January zoo sketch. January is a great time to visit the zoo; it’s usually very quiet (unless there’s a new baby), yet the animals are lively. Here’s baby panda Tai-Shan (“Peaceful Mountain,” named by popular vote), who had been given a soccer ball but preferred to chew on an old pizza box. The Christmas morning cliche! By previous agreement between the U.S. and China, Tai-Shan, now four years old, is to be returned to China this year. There is a farewell party for him on January 30th. The zoo and zoo visitors will miss him.

Gorillas

Gorillas

Last January my daughter and I took our nature sketchbooks to the zoo, where we saw and sketched the new baby gorilla, Kibibi (“little lady” in Swahili). Mandara, the mother, was quite patient, but it must be extremely tiring to have a constant stream of giggling, pointing visitors so soon after giving birth. We didn’t even take her a casserole. Kibibi is a year old today, and the zoo is planning a celebration. I wonder what happens at a gorilla birthday party.

New Year’s Resolution: Teeth

ResolutionFloss

This one is in honor of our beloved, skillful, and funny dentist, to whom we have all been going for years and who has seen so many of our teeth emerge… and depart… It makes me think that every time we smile, speak, or share a crunchy meal (carrots! cookies! corn on the cob!) we ought to remember him with gratitude.

Plus he SINGS while he works.