Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Pic of the Day


A Cadet from Texas A&M University
(Not from my university, but another Senior Military College)


By William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,

       Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

       For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

       I have not winced nor cried aloud,

Under the bludgeonings of chance

       My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

       Looms but the horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

       Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

       How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

       I am the captain of my soul.



About the Poem


Latin for "unconquered," the poem "Invictus" is a deeply descriptive and motivational work filled with vivid imagery. William Ernest Henley wrote this poem about stoicism, courage and refusing to accept defeat while enduring a severely testing time in hospital. He had contracted tuberculosis of the bone in his youth, and the lower part of one of his legs was amputated in his twenties. At one point, it was feared he might lose his other leg. He instead chose to travel to Edinburgh in August 1873 to enlist the services of the distinguished English surgeon Joseph Lister, who was able to save Henley's remaining leg after multiple surgical interventions on the foot. While recovering in the infirmary, he was moved to write the verses that became the poem "Invictus." The poem is most known for its themes of willpower and strength in the face of adversity. It evokes Victorian stoicism—the "stiff upper lip" of self-discipline and fortitude in adversity—much of which is drawn from the horrible fate assigned to many amputees of the day i.e., gangrene and death.


Written in 1875, but not published until thirteen years later, ‘Invictus’ was an immediately popular poem. Its uplifting and inspirational qualities saw it frequently appear in poetry anthologies, and it was often memorized and recited in schools up until the 1960s. With four stanzas and sixteen lines, each containing eight syllables, the poem has a rather uncomplicated structure. Each stanza takes considerable note of Henley's perseverance and fearlessness throughout his early life and over twenty months under Lister's care. In the second stanza, Henley refers to the strength that helped him through a childhood defined by his struggles with tuberculosis when he says, "I have not winced nor cried aloud." In the fourth stanza, Henley alludes to the fact that each individual's destiny is under the jurisdiction of themselves, not at the mercy of the obstacles they face, nor other worldly powers.


Those who have taken time to analyze "Invictus" have also taken notice of religious themes, or the lack thereof, that exists in this piece. There is agreement that much of the dark descriptions in the opening lines refer to Hell. Later, the fourth stanza of the poem alludes to a phrase from the King James Bible, which says in Matthew 7:14, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Notice how the first verse adopts a humanist position. Reference to a higher power amid suffering is vague—whatever gods may be—while the focus is on his ‘unconquerable soul.’ The famous line ‘My head is bloody, but unbowed’ suggests a noble bravery in the face of adversity, while the even more frequently quoted final two lines affirm the power of individuals to shape their own destiny, to accept responsibility and to choose how they will go forward in life. Despite Henley's evocative telling of perseverance and determination, worry was on his mind; in a letter to a close companion, Henley later confided, "I am afeard my marching days are over" when asked about the condition of his leg.


I chose this poem because I was thinking of the freshmen cadets (technically they are not yet cadets as that comes later in the semester after they have “earned” the honor of being a cadet) at the military college where I work. You can hear them training in the early morning hours just after dawn. The orders being yelled, the loud responses, and such that goes along with their first week here. It is a brutal week meant to introduce them to life as a cadet and the military lifestyle. It is also done to test their fortitude. In years past, it was even more brutal than it is today. All too often we see the new cadets on crutches or hobbling along from some overexerted injury. Some of the new cadets are homesick and a little lost. Some knew what to expect, while others didn’t think it would be so difficult. The perseverance is supposed to be part of the process. One of the most amazing aspects of the cadet experience, is they often come in as scrawny teenagers (some are a bit more fit, but not all), and by the end of the semester or sometimes it takes both semesters, they are at their peak fitness of their lives. The transformation is truly awe-inspiring. 



On a side note, I am enjoying the students being back and seeing them around campus and the town. Last year, we barely saw them. In the Fall, the students were quarantined to campus, and we were still mostly working from home. Then in the Spring, they were largely quarantined to their dorms, apart from some training, but even that was severely limited. Now, life has come back to our little town and our campus. Being a military college, you don’t always see the typical shirtless college guys throwing a Frisbee or tossing a football on the quad. Mostly the cadets are in their uniforms and the civilian students are fewer in number (and often not as fit). For one of the first times the other day, I saw a group out running, many of them shirtless. It was a sight to behold, but as the semester is beginning, they will be back in their uniforms full-time and that won’t be a sight we will often see.


About the Poet


William Ernest Henley (1849 - 1903) was an English editor, poet, and playwright. Diagnosed as a child with tuberculosis of the bone, the disease plagued him throughout his life and caused the amputation of a leg when he was not yet twenty. A big, burly man with a gregarious disposition and a keen eye for literary talent, William was well liked and much admired for his own body of work. One of his closest friends was Robert Louis Stevenson, who used William as the inspiration for his Treasure Island character, Long John Silver. This poem, in turn, has inspired thousands around the world.


Monday, August 30, 2021

Pic of the Day

Weekend Recap

My heart goes out to those who are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Hurricanes can be so devastating, and the loss of electricity at this time of year for those in the hurricane’s path can be deadly. With a lack of air conditioning, the heat and the humidity can be overwhelming in a hurricane’s aftermath, not to mention the massive number of bugs that are pushed ashore from storms like these. In the days after Katrina, the love bugs were so numerous that you couldn’t always see more than twenty feet in front of you. The love bugs are the harmless ones. The mosquitoes and gnats and all the other creepy crawlies will be everywhere. They are mostly a nuisance, the devastation that comes from wind, flooding, and tornadoes is much worse. So, the people in the path of Hurricane Ida are in my prayers.

I had a really bad migraine day yesterday. I’m hoping to wake up this morning with less pain than yesterday. It was one of the worst migraines I’ve had in years. At times, the pain brought tears to my eyes. Thankfully, I go for my next Botox treatment on Thursday. I’m hoping I will see improvement because I think the last treatment has worn off. I’m not looking forward to the procedure, but I am looking forward to the effects of it. I really hope it helps. Migraines with the addition of the trigeminal neuralgia pain can be overwhelming at times, and I need some relief.

I had short periods when I was able to be slightly productive. I made the brown sugar pecan pound cake I spoke of the other day. I made one on Saturday, but it did not turn out as well as I expected. Putting the pecans on top as the recipe called for, caused me to mistakenly believe it was completely done (the toothpick did come out clean). As it cooled, I realized that it was not done in the middle, so yesterday, when I had a short time with tolerable pain, I made another one. It turned out much better partly because I cooked it longer, but also because I mixed all of the pecans in the batter. It’s almost too sweet for my tastes, but it was good. I wouldn’t have made another yesterday, except that I’d promised my friend and neighbor that I’d give her half the cake when it was made. I was embarrassed and wouldn’t give her part of the failed cake. I didn’t want to admit defeat, so I made another one.

It wasn’t the greatest of weekends, but I hope the week will be better. Work should not be too bad this week (fingers crossed/knock on wood). I’m off work Thursday for my Botox treatment, and I’m taking a vacation day Friday so I can be refreshed and have plenty of time to get ready for the Pride Ball in Burlington that night. Sunday will be the annual Vermont Pride Parade down Church Street in Burlington. It most likely won’t be a big parade. They never are. They only last about 20-30 minutes, but they are fun. So, I have that to look forward to this weekend.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Pic of the Day

Sixteen Years Ago...

It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.

— Exodus 13:9


The verse above is one of the many memorials in the Bible. This one marks Passover when the Angel of Death struck Egypt but spared the Hebrews. We have a lot of memorials in our lives. Today is one of those days I will never forget. Sixteen years ago, I was living in southern Mississippi. On this day in 2005, tragedy struck the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and the area in and around New Orleans, Louisiana. It was the day a devastating hurricane named Katrina hit. Nearly 2000 people died, and the numbers are still questionable because 135 people remain categorized as missing in Louisiana.


It is a day that lives vividly in my mind. At the time, I was living with a friend of mine. I had moved in with her about a year before because her husband was moving to Florida and did not want her living there alone as she finished graduate school. The rent was much more affordable than the apartment I was living in before, so I moved. What I did not know at the time was that just as I was moving my stuff, her husband decided he wanted a divorce along with moving away. After that, several other tragedies struck my friend, and she began to spiral into alcoholism. I was sort of caught up in all of it, trying to keep her from self-destructing. I was unsuccessful, and the events of this day sixteen years ago tipped her over the edge.


When I woke up on August 29, 2005, my friend decided we were going to brunch. At the time, we did not realize just how bad the hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico would be. In the years I lived in the South, I lived through numerous hurricanes, and never once had I been forced to evacuate. So, we went to brunch, where she proceeded to drink way too much. I drove her home, where she subsequently passed out in her bedroom, and I began to watch the Weather Channel with greater apprehension as it became more apparent just how devastating this hurricane was expected to be. I tried to wake her but to no avail.


Finally, she woke from her drunken stupor, realized just how much jeopardy we were in, and we made the decision to evacuate. Not many people in our town were evacuating because we were about an hour from the Gulf Coast. However, it was a good thing we did. I wanted to go east into Alabama to stay with my parents, where I believed we would be safest (and I would have been correct), but she wanted to drive west to try to get out of the way of the storm. Most hurricanes do turn to the east as a matter of course once they make landfall. So, we got in my car and drove west. The first hotel we found was in Tyler, Texas, which was roughly six hours and 400 miles away. We checked into the hotel and watched the news. 


Sadly, it was Fox News because it was the only news channel on the cable system in Tyler. We watched as the levees broke in New Orleans. The major news channels mostly covered New Orleans and did not tell us much about what was going on in Mississippi. While fewer people died in Mississippi than in New Orleans, two entire towns in Mississippi, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, were destroyed. All of the other Mississippi Gulf Coast towns suffered significant damage as well. We stayed in Tyler for nearly a week before it was deemed safe to return to Mississippi.


When we reached Vicksburg, Mississippi, we ran into someone from Oak Grove, the town we lived in, and asked how things were there. We found out that it was pretty devastated. While some areas were spared significant damage, others faced major damage, and electricity, cell service, and water had still not yet been restored to major parts of Mississippi south of Interstate-20. The woman we talked to did have news of the street where we lived. She said that the house at the 90-degree curve in the street was covered in trees. We lived in that house. We prayed she was wrong, but when we arrived back at the house, we found that nearly every tree in our yard and the neighbor’s yard had fallen on our house. More than a dozen pine trees lay on top of the house, and a few the wind had picked up, and they looked like Katrina threw them into the house like a javelin. Water soaked the house, and everything was damp. 


The house was essentially unlivable. My parents drove from Alabama the next day with some of my dad’s friends, a few trailers, chainsaws, and gallons of gasoline to get my stuff out of the house. We had to cut away our way through the trees to be able to move things out. Luckily, I did not have a lot of stuff in the house. What I did have was my furniture and a lot of books and clothing. The books and clothing were largely destroyed by damp and mildew by then. The heat was unbearable. We got back home in Alabama and rented a storage room to store all my possessions. The storage facility owners refused to charge us because they knew I was a refugee from Katrina. In the next week or so, I was able to get a room in the dorms at my college, so I had a place to stay. A lot of people fled to our town. The population where I lived tripled in size overnight. At twenty-seven years old, I had little choice but to move into the dorms. I had not lived in a dorm since I’d been a sophomore in undergrad.


I largely recovered and found a new apartment for the next semester. My friend, however, continued to spiral out of control. Her drinking got worse, and she became self-destructive. She was able to repair the house and sell it, but her mental health continued to suffer greatly. She ended up moving back to Florida with her parents. I lost contact with her because she became somewhat abusive to her friends as she began drinking more and more. It was an unfortunate situation, and she could not understand that she needed help. While Katrina turned my world upside down for a few months, I was able to turn things back around and get on with my life. She was unable to do so. A few years ago, I think I saw her in the Atlanta airport as I was traveling back to Alabama from Vermont. She did not see me, and I was in a hurry to catch my plane. I was unable to ask how she was doing, but she did not look good.


I can’t help but think about the turmoil caused by Katrina for me and the thousands of others because of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina sixteen years ago. I realize this is not my usual Sunday post, but I wrote this to say that we can make it through, even though things can sometimes look bleak and insurmountable. I have had some great sadness in my life, but I have survived. I have had chronic pain, but I am surviving. No matter what we are going through, we need to remember that God is with us. God will take care of us if we just let Him.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Pic of the Day

Cooking vs. Baking

I can cook most anything. Sometimes, I use a recipe, but sometimes I don’t. However, baking is a different story. Other than cookies, I’ve never been much of a baker. I can make a very tasty coconut custard pie, but I inevitably overfill the pie crust and it overflows when cooking and causes a hell of a mess. Before i go further, let me explain what I think of as the difference between cooking and baking. For me, cooking usually refers to a savory dish that you eat as part of a meal, whereas baking is sweets or desserts made in the oven, such as cookies, cakes, or pies. For a more detailed and precise definition of the two, see this article about “Cooking vs Baking.” Cooking is an art, while baking is more of a science. With cooking, you can experiment with the ingredients to make the dish a creation of your own, and the variations can be endless. Baking, however, requires exact measurements. The order in which ingredients are added is also often a factor in baking. While I can follow a recipe just fine, I’ve often not been very successful with more elaborate cakes. Cookies and pies, I’ve pretty much mastered. The exception is pound cakes.


I have been craving a good pound cake for a few days now, and I plan to make one. But, what kind should I make? My mother is a master at cake making, and while measurements have to be exact during baking, my grandmama could make most of her cakes with her eyes closed. Also, pound cakes are usually a pretty simple recipe with only four ingredients and one measurement: a pound each of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs. But there are many variations of the pound cake: classic, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, etc. I love a good buttery pound cake, but my favorite is a brown sugar pound cake, so that s what I plan to make, a Brown Sugar Pecan Pound Cake. I doubt I’ll have the energy to make one after work tonight, and I probably won’t make one tomorrow night. However, this weekend is supposed to be cool (our high Saturday is 65) and rainy, so what better day to make a cake and have the oven on for over an hour. 


This recipe is a Southern twist on a classic. I’ve never made this particular recipe. It comes from dinnerthendessert.com,which claimed that this Brown Sugar Pecan Pound Cake is rich, moist and full of pecan crunch and takes just over an hour to cook. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Brown Sugar Pecan Pound Cake


Prep Time: 10 min 

Cook Time: 1 hr 

Serves: 12 Servings



·      3/4 cup Unsalted Butter

·      1 cup Brown Sugar, (packed)

·      1/2 cup Sugar

·      3 large Eggs

·      1 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

·      1/2 cup Whole Milk

·      1 1/2 cups Flour

·      1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

·      1/4 teaspoon Salt

·      1 cup Chopped Pecans


Preparation Steps 

1.     Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray.

2.     In a stand mixer on medium high speed, add together the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

3.     Add in the eggs one at a time until fully combined, then add in the vanilla.

4.     Add in the milk and flour, baking powder and salt (alternate them in thirds) until just combined.

5.     Add in all but a handful of the chopped pecans and stir.

6.     Pour batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle on the rest of the pecans.

7.     Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Pic of the Day

Three Poems by Timothy Liu

Blind Date

By Timothy Liu


He slept with his back

towards me, a ladder
I’d learn to climb

even if it took till dawn—

we who wanted to live
past the expiration

date that was printed

on the condom wrapper
neither of us had

wanted to tear open—


Do Not Disturb

By Timothy Liu


Offshore salt lapping up against a lighthouse flashing red,
my husband next to me in a waterbed by the sea

with “Do Not Disturb” signs hung on every door—

my lover on the other side of the ocean, unable to tell
if the fog will roll out as the day’s first headlights

make their way down a coastal road as he texts me

a face I cannot touch, a mystical rose that keeps its own
scent. What good would it do to say I miss him

when saying nothing makes me miss him all the more?


I Need Your Body Near Me

By Timothy Liu


An ocean is nothing, there is no separation
between two lovers. And I knew just what

it took: six hours, two meals with a movie
in between, blinders over eyes, plugs in ears

as I tried to get some sleep. When I awoke,
I knew I’d crossed more than a time zone

for my body was always nearer to yours
than anyone else’s still sleeping in your bed—


About the Poet


Timothy Liu (Liu Ti Mo) was born in 1965 in San Jose, California, to parents from the Chinese mainland. He studied at Brigham Young University, the University of Houston, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.


He is the author of Luminous Debris: New & Selected Legerdemain 1992-2017 (Barrow Street Books, 2018); Kingdom Come: A Fantasia (Talisman House, 2017); Don't Go Back To Sleep (Saturnalia, 2014); Polytheogamy (Saturnalia, 2009); Bending the Mind Around the Dream’s Blown Fuse (Talisman House, 2009); For Dust Thou Art (Southern Illinois University Press, 2005); Of Thee I Sing (University of Georgia Press, 2004), selected by Publishers Weekly as a 2004 Book-of-the-Year; Hard Evidence (Talisman House, 2001); Say Goodnight (Copper Canyon Press, 1998); Burnt Offerings (Copper Canyon Press, 1995); and Vox Angelica (Alice James Books, 1992), which won the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Award.


About Liu's work, the poet Fanny Howe has said, "Timothy Liu writes out of an angry materialism, ill-fitting body, disappointment at every turn. He takes on his point of view wholeheartedly and compresses the consequences into phrases that echo and mimic each other, thereby increasing the sensation of claustrophobia and fever."


Liu’s honors and awards include a Pushcart Prize and the Open Book Beyond Margins Award. He is also the editor of Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, (Talisman House, 2000).


He has served as a core faculty member at Bennington College’s Writing Seminars and is currently an associate professor at William Paterson University. He lives in Manhattan.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Pic of the Day


It looks like today might be a very wet day in Vermont. According to what Tropical Storm Henri does overnight and what I wake up to this morning, we could get a lot of rain. In my life, I’ve been through a lot of tropical storms and a few hurricanes (Opal [1995] and Katrina [2005] being the most memorable), but I thought once I moved to Vermont, the most I could expect was the remnants of tropical weather. We’ll see what today brings. It looks like most of it will be in southern Vermont. Central and northern Vermont are expecting to get very little, if any. However, you never really know. Tropical weather systems, no matter how strong or weak, can be very unpredictable. Henri has basically changed course every hour, but as of last night, it looked like the storm would turn east and go across Massachusetts.


The thing about storms like Henri, I really wish I could stay home and not have to get out in it, but if it’s not too bad, I know the museum will be open, and I’ll have to go into work. Thank goodness for umbrellas.

Early Morning Update: It looks like Vermont will be spared from Henri. NJ, NY, RI, and CT will most likely continue to take the brunt of the storm today. It is tracking East heading out into the Atlantic, but it appears to be slow moving. Vermont could see some rain this evening, but nothing close to what was originally predicted.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Pic of the Day


Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 
Philippians 4:8

Ever heard of the saying "You are what you eat?" Well, the same is true with our thoughts; we become what we think. It’s the power of positive thinking. Fixing our thoughts on the positive allows our outlook to be positive, even if we are surrounded by negativity.  Paul is trying to show us that we can rise above behaviors we detest. It all starts with thoughts, which lead to actions, and eventually become habits.


If we let the negativity int his world, especially the negativity that is often aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, then we will become consumed by it. We can’t let other’s negative attitudes bring us down. If we stay positive then the negative naysayers cannot have a hold on us. We have to live by example and that means having an attitude that is positive and encouraging.


The easiest thing we can do is to smile at another person. I know it’s not always easy to smile, but we can still try to make an effort. Smiles and positivity can be contagious, and in the present, we need something that contagious that is positive. Too much suffering is occurring because of hate, fear, and negativity. The best thing we can do is to live and lead by example.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Pics of the Day

These three images are from Bear Pond, an "infamous book" of nude photography by Bruce Weber and poetry by Reynolds Price, published by Little, Brown and Company in 1990. The book currently sells for anywhere between $200 and $900.

Moment of Zen: LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History

A signed copy of the Bruce Weber photograph above, titled Tara and her pal Chris, San Onofre, CA, just sold at Swann Auction Galleries for $4,500. Bruce Weber (born March 29, 1946) is a fashion photographer. He is most widely known for his ad campaigns for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Pirelli, Abercrombie & Fitch, Revlon, and Gianni Versace, as well as his work for VogueGQVanity FairElleLifeInterview, and Rolling Stone magazines. 


The auction “LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History” was the gallery’s third annual auction dedicated to the art, material culture, and history of the LGBTQ+ community. The auction brought to market both familiar artists as well as fresh, unusual, and infrequently seen material. Among the art highlights are several original works by Tom of Finland, including two preparatory drawings and a completed, color pencil work, “Home—Secured.” It also included four oil paintings by Hugh Steers—two canvases and two works on paper. Other art and photography included are works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Nan Goldin, Patrick Angus, Lowell Nesbit, Robert Bliss, Nicole Eisenman, Robert Loughlin, Paul Cadmus, Jean Cocteau, Avel de Knight, Pavel Tchelitchew, Duncan Grant and others.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Pic of the Day

Weekend Plans

Earlier this week, I ordered my new microwave from Best Buy. (By the way, why is this guy’s microwave so high up? To me, that’s too high to be useful, but I digress.) when I ordered my microwave, I swear I ordered the stainless steel one. Well, Best Buy sent me a notification yesterday that my microwave was ready to be picked up at their Lebanon, NH store. I chose that store instead of the one in Williston, VT (near Burlington) because I wanted to go to King Arthur Baking in Norwich, VT, which is right over the border from Hanover and Lebanon, NH. However, when I looked at the email, it showed that the microwave they had for me to pick up was a black one. I went back and looked at my order and it showed I’d ordered the black on, but I sweat I’d ordered the stainless steel one.

I knew I had to go to Burlington this weekend to buy a gift for my coworker who's leaving, so I was going to have to drive down to Lebanon one day and then drive up to Burlington the other day. I live almost exactly between the two towns and both are roughly 45 minutes away. Knowing that, I looked to see if the Williston Best Buy had the stainless steel microwave I wanted. They’d been out of it when I ordered the one from the Lebanon store. Luckily, they did have one, so I canceled the order in Lebanon and bought the one available in Williston instead. Now, I really only have to go to Burlington this weekend. If I’m up to driving up there, I may go tonight. If I do go tonight, I’ll probably drive down to King Arthur Baking tomorrow get more of the English Muffin Mix so I can make some more English muffins. If I go to Williston tonight and King Arthur Baking tomorrow, then I can have Sunday as a day of rest.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Pic of the Day


I’m sorry everyone. I really have nothing to say today. With all of the rain and now with the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred coming through today, I’ve had a continuous headache for several days. So being creative or having something to say is just not in me right now. I hope all of you are doing well. Maybe this headache will get better, and I can go back to my regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Pic of the Day

Off Day

We had a storm front come through yesterday, and it seemed to cause my nerve pain to act up. So, I had a headache all day yesterday and didn’t feel like writing a post. I still have a headache this morning, but hopefully, it will go away in a little bit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Pics of the Day: Black Cats Edition

Black Cat

Black Cat

By Rainer Maria Rilke - 1875-1926


A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place

your sight can knock on, echoing; but here

within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze

will be absorbed and utterly disappear:


just as a raving madman, when nothing else

can ease him, charges into his dark night

howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels

the rage being taken in and pacified.


She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen

into her, so that, like an audience,

she can look them over, menacing and sullen,

and curl to sleep with them. But all at once


as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;

and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,

inside the golden amber of her eyeballs

suspended, like a prehistoric fly.



About This Poem


Have you ever feared a black cat crossing your path? This is from ancient superstitions where people thought this meant bad luck. For many cultures and historical settings, black cats were actually meant for positive things. So, to try and dispel these myths about black cats, National Black Cat Appreciation Day was created to be celebrated on August 17 every year. Today, pop culture loves black cats. There’s the sarcastic Thackery Binx in Hocus Pocus, Salem, in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Pyewacket in the classic Bell, Book, and Candle, and we can’t forget the classic cartoon black cat, Luna in Sailor Moon. Black cats are seen as loyal companions, and this is what they were seen as for a lot of cultures in history too.


So, who’s to blame for this negative black cat spin? Superstition! But mostly because during the Middle Ages, people (mainly the Catholic Church) saw witches as shape-shifting black cats and the damage was done. From then on, black cats were seen as evil entities for years and years to follow. The Rilke poem “Black Cat” follows in this vein. The poem was originally published in Rilke’s 1923 collection Duino Elegies. Rilke began writing this collection in 1912, but it remained unfinished for a decade before being completed and published.


So why this poem today? Since 2011, cat lovers around the world have celebrated Black Cat Appreciation Day on August 17th. It is a day to celebrate and appreciate the black cats in your life. Today, I celebrate my little companion, Isabella, a beautiful, sleek black cat. Black Cat Appreciation Day was created by a man named Wayne H. Morris, in honor of his late sister, June, who passed away at age 33, a few years before the first official Black Cat Appreciation Day. This date was chosen as a memorial of June’s passing. June deeply loved her own black cat, Sinbad, who lived to be 20 years old. Sadly, Sinbad was reunited with June two months after her passing.


Black cats are often the least adopted and most overlooked cats in animal shelters, resulting in many of these wonderful animals being euthanized when they can’t find a loving home. Because they are less likely to be adopted from shelters, they need a special holiday in their honor to bring awareness to this issue, and to encourage people to adopt these amazing animals. Black cats are often misunderstood and overlooked because of their coat color and the superstitions surrounding them. Also, many shelters will not allow adoptions of black cats in October because people adopt them for Halloween and then discard them afterward. The life of a black cat in shelters can be very sad because there are several stupid and silly reasons why people looking to adopt a cat are less likely to adopt black cats.


  • They have long been associated with bad luck, misfortune, and witchcraft. Even in our modern times, there are still people who believe these silly superstitions. You would be surprised to learn how many people still believe that black cats bring bad luck or cause misfortune to anyone who crosses their path. Many religious people also fear them because of their association with witchcraft. These superstitions are not only silly and untrue but are also harmful to beautiful black cats who are in search of forever homes.


  • Another reason why people may be less inclined to want to adopt a black cat is that they consider dark solid coats to be “boring,” and prefer a flashier tabby, calico, or other uniquely marked cats. This is an unfair assessment, as black cats are beautiful creatures with luxurious black coats. They look like majestic miniature black panthers roaming around your home and are just as beautiful and charming as any other cat. Besides, black matches almost anything, so you will always look fashionable next to your black cat friend.


  • In our social media-obsessed world, some people also shy away from adopting black cats because they believe that they don’t show up as well in pictures. Many people today want pets that they feel they can show off on the internet. Black cats can be just as photogenic as any other cat. Just look at Isabella, she often is a great subject for pictures. With the proper lighting, background, and photography technique, your cat will look stunning on your Instagram feed!


  • Many prospective pet owners use the internet to find their new furry friends, so they are likely to overlook animals that are not photographed well. Because black cats are a bit harder to photograph than pets with lighter coat colors, they may be overlooked by prospective owners browsing online adoptable pet listings. It is important for shelters to photograph the adoptable pets in their best light to help them to find their forever homes.

Black cats are beautiful creatures that make a wonderful addition to any home. In some countries, including England, Scotland, and Japan, they are considered good luck. In Japan, it is believed that a single woman who owns a black cat will have many suitors. In England, they are commonly thought to bring good luck to anyone who crosses their path. In Scotland, it is said that a strange black cat arriving at your home will bring good fortune and prosperity.


Many cat owners (I would not be one of them) agree that their black cats are often the most affectionate and playful cats they’ve ever had. For me, Isabella is not very affectionate. She wants to be near me most of the time and sometimes wants to lay on me, but she never cuddles and hates to be held. Others claim black cats are known for their unique personalities and cuddly dispositions. Some researchers also claim that black cats are more resistant to disease. There is some research to suggest that at least two genes associated with melanism may also help them resist certain diseases.


So if you are looking to adopt a cat, consider a black cat. They need the love, and they will love you back. Isabella might not be the most affectionate, but she constantly shows her love and appreciation for me, and isn’t that what we all want from our pets, especially our cats who often seem so indifferent to their human companions. I have spent most of the pandemic working from home, and when I first started working from home, Isabella was never far away. I think she has probably gotten a little tired of me being home so much and she’s not as close by all the time these days, but I have returned to working at the museum five days a week, so she will have her alone time again. I’ve had cats in the past who show how mad they are at you for leaving them for any amount of time. Isabella has never been that way. Most of the time, she greets me at the door, and if she hears me in the stairway, and I don’t come into my apartment quick enough, she makes her impatience known. She is a wonderful little companion, and I feel so blessed to have her.


About the Poet


On December 4, 1875, Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague. His parents placed him in military school with the desire that he become an officer—a position Rilke was not inclined to hold. With the help of his uncle, who realized that Rilke was a highly gifted child, Rilke left the military academy and entered a German preparatory school. By the time he enrolled in Charles University in Prague in 1895, he knew that he would pursue a literary career: he had already published his first volume of poetry, Leben und Lieder, the previous year. At the turn of 1895-1896, Rilke published his second collection, Larenopfer (Sacrifice to the Lares). A third collection, Traumgekrönt (Dream-Crowned) followed in 1896. That same year, Rilke decided to leave the university for Munich, Germany, and later made his first trip to Italy.


In 1897, Rilke went to Russia, a trip that would prove to be a milestone in Rilke's life, and which marked the true beginning of his early serious works. While there the young poet met Tolstoy, whose influence is seen in Das Buch vom lieben Gott und anderes (Stories of God), and Leonid Pasternak, the nine-year-old Boris's father. At Worpswede, where Rilke lived for a time, he met and married Clara Westhoff, who had been a pupil of Rodin. In 1902 he became the friend, and for a time the secretary, of Rodin, and it was during his twelve-year Paris residence that Rilke enjoyed his greatest poetic activity. His first great work, Das Stunden Buch (The Book of Hours), appeared in 1905, followed in 1907 by Neue Gedichte (New Poems) and Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge). Rilke would continue to travel throughout his lifetime; to Italy, Spain, and Egypt among many other places, but Paris would serve as the geographic center of his life, where he first began to develop a new style of lyrical poetry, influenced by the visual arts.


When World War I broke out, Rilke was obliged to leave France and during the war, he lived in Munich. In 1919, he went to Switzerland where he spent the last years of his life. It was here that he wrote his last two works, the Duino Elegies (1923) and the Sonnets to Orpheus (1923). He died of leukemia on December 29, 1926. At the time of his death, his work was intensely admired by many leading European artists but was almost unknown to the general reading public. His reputation has grown steadily since his death, and he has come to be universally regarded as a master of verse.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Pic of the Day

Busy Weekend

Do you ever have one of those weekends when you feel it never was? When you were so busy that you end up feeling like you never had a weekend at all? This weekend was one of those. On Saturday, I went to Burlington to get a few things that I can only get up there. The problem was that the one thing I needed was from Target, and they were out of stock of the item. Ugh! I did have some other stuff to get while I was in Target, but I could have probably gotten all of them closer to home and not have to spend the better part of my day going to Burlington. It’s about an hour's drive up there.

Also, while I was up that way, I went by Best Buy to look for a microwave. I’ve never had a microwave in the years I’ve lived in Vermont, and I recently bought a baker's rack and microwave stand for my kitchen. I’d never had a microwave up here because I tend to cook things on the stove or in the oven, but it would be very convenient to occasionally throw something in the microwave and get it done quicker. Plus, I miss popcorn. I have tried to make it on the stovetop, but it’s a bit of a pain. I think I know which one I want, so I will order it and have to go back and pick it up since they only had the display model in stock. After going to Best Buy, I then went to Walmart to get the rest of the items I needed. I don’t mind going to Target, but Walmart is really hell on earth. Honestly, there is a reason why there is a website called People of Walmart. It’s frightening. After all of that, I was exhausted.


Yesterday, I tried to find the item I had wanted at Target locally. Some places carry it on occasion, but not always. I had no luck. However, I did eat at this wonderful little restaurant in Barre (BARE-ee), Vermont, called The Quarry Kitchen & Spirits. If for any reason you ever find yourself in Barre, I’d suggest going there. I got the French dip sandwich (something that is really hard to find in Vermont), and it was delicious. I haven’t had one this good in years. It’s probably my favorite sandwich, so I will be going back to this restaurant.  Also, they had very good fried pickles.


The rest of my day was spent making English muffins. I mentioned a few months ago that the Vermont Bread Company went out of business, and I loved their English muffins. I have been trying to find a brand that I liked as much, but while I have found some that are decent substitutes, none were as good as the ones from Vermont Bread Company. I thought, “Why don’t I try to make my own?” I looked up a recipe and found one at King Arthur Flour and went down to Norwich, Vermont, to get all the ingredients and some English muffin rings. When I got there, I saw that they had a “White Whole Wheat English Muffin Mix.” It looked fairly simple to make, if not a little time-consuming, so I bought a box to try. However, I just hadn’t had the energy to make them until yesterday. 


I mixed the dough and let it rise for 90 minutes, and then, I was ready to make the muffins. I heated the skillet, greased the rings, set them on the skillet, and sprinkled in some semolina flour. Per the instructions, I put 1/3 cup of dough in each ring and spread out the dough. I had a hard time getting the right amount in each ring, so while they were in the first twelve minutes of cooking on one side, the dough rose much more than I anticipated. I then removed the rings and flipped over the English muffins to cook ten more minutes on the other side. They turned out beautiful but really big. I then put them on a rack to cool. When I finished cooking the twelve muffins the mix makes. I made four of them at a time, and four of them were big, four were too small, and the last four were huge. 

Two of the “big” ones were actually fairly perfect in size. (They were the ones I ate last night.) Once they cooled, I sliced one in half and popped it in the toaster. They didn’t have the nooks and crannies that most people think of when they think of English muffins. So, they looked dense, but they were still light. When they finished toasting, I put some butter on the two halves and some strawberry jam. The whole process took about three hours, so at first, I thought, I probably won’t be making these again. Then, I tasted them. OMG! They are so good. I would never have imagined they’d be this good. If you have three hours, like to cook, and are so inclined, I highly recommend making them. They were the best English muffins I have ever had, even if they were a bit misshapen (one even looks like a Mickey Mouse that a four-year-old would try to draw, LOL).


All in all, it was a very busy weekend. Now today, I have to go to work feeling like I never had a weekend. Maybe I’ll take a day off this week if I can.