Tag Archives: tale-telling

O summer, my summer, o captain my captain

On Sunday night I had a long, long phone call with my dearest Kimbo; there was much to talk about, and we talked about it until our phones were magma-hot and our batteries were threatening self-combustion. [“Hey!” they said to us, in their tiny lithium ion-based voices. “Get the lead out. We’re supposed to operate at room temperature.”]  Among other topics, Kimbo and I discussed the painfulness of the weekend’s-end in the summertime. In the summertime, Monday morning dawns in my heart as cold and hard-scrabble as a mining town, I’ll tell you what. This summer is not yet greatly advanced; and yet I feel that I have been more wildly appreciative of it thus far than any summer in my recent memory. I have latched on hard and fast to every happy summer moment. I’m pretty much like a hummingbird who has flung itself into a barrel of molasses. Note: as I wrote that sentence, I re-remembered something that I once saw in the Nature Walk at the Field Museum [my favorite thing in the ENTIRE CITY OF CHICAGO AND ITS OUTLYING AREAS], which indicated that the human equivalent of a hummingbird’s sugar intake would come out to something like 4 gallons of ice cream every day, or “diabetes.” Then I googled “hummingbirds”. Then I went on “hummingbirds.net”. From their FAQ page:

Q: Do hummingbirds migrate on the backs of geese?
A: In a word, no.

Well! Bob’s your uncle.


On Saturday I was walking with my friend Margaret down Damen Avenue, and telling her a tale, and we came to the intersection where we had decided to part. “O no! I am not done tale-telling,” said I, and we walked on, and on, until we came to where Margaret was going, which was a place called Sprout Home. For Margaret was plant-buying, which is a serious business indeed.

Imagine that you have been walking and walking and walking, and tale-telling, and that it is easily 80,000 degrees outside. Imagine that you walk into Sprout Home, and that it is very dear, if hip, with small potted plants and infectious hip hop music, the sort that makes you want to dance in the store, more and more until the fact that you are not dancing becomes physically uncomfortable; and then you walk outside, and there, by God, you are confronted with an absolute riot of plant life, flowers and leaves and everything beautiful and good and colorful and green, right in the middle of the city–if you turned your head you would see a McDonald’s across the street–and you wish that you could just put your face into the leaves and cry for joy, were it not for the bumblebees, who are pollinating left, right, and center, and might mistake your eyeball for a stamen. That is what happened to me.

ME: If I do not buy a plant right now I might as well FLING MYSELF INTO A BARREL OF MOLASSES.

I seized a salesperson, and she was incredibly kind, and had clearly sprung from the forehead of some gardening god at her birth, ala Athena. I explained that my bedroom, which is north-facing, gets very little direct sunlight, and thusly my plant could not require a great deal of it.

SALESPERSON: Here. This one is impossible to kill.
ME: Hot dog!

“This one” was a small potted plant called a philodendron, which sort of looks like this:

Over the course of the weekend, I would have the following conversation with my roommate–who is much more well-versed in plant life than myself–upwards of 5 times:

ME: How do you pronounce this again?
JESSICA: Phi-lo-den-dron.
ME: Philly dee do?
JESSICA: Philodendron.
ME: Pancake.

Jessica is getting her PhD in sociology. Last week she attended a seminar on statistics called:

Applied Longitudinal Analysis

Though it might as well have been called

Why I Will Never Be the Recipient of a PhD

She showed me the booklet the instructor–whose name was GARRETT FITZMAURICE–gave the attendees to work with as he lectured. Sample sentence:

“The inclusion of random slopes of random trajectories induces a random effects covariance structure for Yi1…, Yini, where the variances and correlations are a function of the times of measurement.” 

She understands what this means.

When I try to think about what this means, I hear the sound that a choo-choo makes reverberating in my head!


Anyway: summer. In summer I learn things. So do you. Perhaps because I’m not consistently contemplating my body temperature; perhaps because everything in the universe seems to move itself aside, graciously, to allow you room to think things through under a big green tree.  I was at the Printer’s Row Book Fair on Sunday afternoon, and I did not buy a single book. I wandered from tent to tent, and ran my fingers down book-bindings, and looked and looked, but did not buy. And then I left. I think I learned that I do not have to buy a book. I do not have to throw two dollars at a Grace Paley novel I may not read; why hurry to obtain? Why not wait a little, until I really want it?

This morning, a man I work with–an older gentleman, who fills me with delight–said to me, when I bemoaned the back and forth of the weather, the hot and cold, my inability to dress myself of a morning, to make a decision:

“Whether it’s cold or whether it’s hot, we’ll always have weather, whether or not.”

[Let the record state that I chose this poem before he said that to me.]


Winter Spring

A script of trees before the hill
Spells cold, with laden serifs; all the walls
Are battlemented still;
But winter spring in winnowing the air
Of chill, and crawls
Wet-sparkling on the gutters;
Walls wince, and there’s the steal of waters.

Now all this proud royaume
Is Veniced. Through the drift’s mined dome
One sees the rowdy rusted grass,
And we’re amazed as windows stricken bright.
This too-soon spring will pass
Perhaps tonight,
And doubtless it is dangerous to love
This somersault of seasons;
But I am weary of
The winter way of loving things for reasons.

Richard Wilbur



Filed under Poetry, Richard Wilbur