Friday, November 21, 2014

Talking Turkey

Several folks asked me to let them know what I thought of the In the Kingdom of Ice. I blogged about it here earlier this week. 

Becky hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today over at Tapestry of Words. Stop by for lots of pre-Thanksgiving lyricism. 

I'm looking toward Thanksgiving and lots of cooking and lots of eating and lots of hugs. But all that turkey talk can be stressful on the body. Here is one of my favorite, fast ways to recover, even in the middle of baking pumpkin pie. 

Take a simple ten-minute break and restore your mind, your body and your spirit! 

Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet in line with your hip sockets about 12-16 inches from your buttocks, hands on your front hips. There is no work here, no pressing, just letting your bones sink down into the floor. Ten minutes. That's all. Your spine will begin to relax. Your nervous system will calm.

Just be still. Be conscious of God's presence. Let gravity and stillness work to restore balance and peace. Be grateful, breathe, listen.
Liz Koch in the constructive rest position, for releasing and renewing the psoas muscle
Liz Koch in Constructive Rest Position

And now, poetry. This is the last stanza of John Greenleaf Whittier's "The Pumpkin." Read the entire poem here.

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter! 
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine, 
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine! 
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express, 
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less, 
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below, 
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow, 
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky 
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

Enjoy your week. Enjoy your family. Carry a grateful heart with you through every moment. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In the Kingdom of Ice--Reprise

Reprise, because I talked about this book in my last post. But at that point, I had just picked up the book. Now that the reading is done, I must tell you about this adventure.
USS Jeanette in Le Havre, France
I began slowly, reading in my free moments, relishing the deftness of Hampton Sides as he introduced the remarkable characters behind the USS Jeanette expedition to the Arctic Circle. George Washington DeLong, our captain, and his wife Emma; James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald and financier of the expedition; John Muir, environmentalist; August Petermann, noted German mapmaker and geographer.

He sets us firmly in the culture of a nation only a decade out of the Civil War, bursting with new technology, giant steam engines, prototypes of Edison's arc lamps and Bell's telephone, delighted with new tastes like Heinz ketchup and the strange new fruit called a banana, filled with a generation of young men men longing to prove themselves like their fathers and brothers had in the war.

By the end of the first section, we have a clear understanding of the current knowledge, or lack thereof, concerning the north pole and the arctic sea. From the mind-boggling assumptions of Symmes Hole to the concept of a warm, open polar sea.

By the time the expedition begins, as a reader, I am fully invested in the cast of characters, and even though I know something of the outcome, I'm committed for the ride.

Then I began finding time to read that wasn't free. I read over meals, between yoga classes, carried the book with me in the car when I left the house in hopes of catching a few moments to follow this incredible sea journey. It's a remarkable telling. Without ever dipping into subjectivity, Sides manages to make me feel like I'm in the heads of these characters. And I read desperately to understand the end, the struggle for survival, the international search and rescue of the men who survived.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book from Ian Frazier says: Read this book in two ways--fast, for the hair-raising excitement of what happens to the brave men of the Jeanette, and then slowly, to take in the clarity of the writing and the unshowy elegance of the structure. He's right! I was aware of the structure throughout, aware of the finesse and elegance of this telling, but I was reading fast. Now it's time to go back and look a little more closely at the technique.

A beautiful book, beautifully written. Read it.

Drawing of the Jeannette cairn in Siberia

Friday, November 7, 2014

In the Kingdom of Ice

I picked up a copy of Booktalk in the library this week and found the blurb for Hampton Sides' new book, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. And, hooray, my library had a copy in, so I grabbed it off the shelf and tucked it under my arm, slightly surprised that everyone else in the library that day weren't flocking to read another gruesome story of icy death. I can't wait to sit down and read.

The front pages of the book include this poem, "The Sinking of the Jeannette" by Joachim Ringelnatz.

In the kingdom of ice, far from the world,
    lamentations rise from the ship,
As she battles the slabs and the growling swirls,
    and writhes in their throttling grip.
The crusted floes crack in fits and in sprees,
    and in fury flog her planked hide,
Spent sailors fall upon supplicant knees,
    yearning for kith and hearthside.
The hungry ice clutches more tightly,
    to check the flight of its prey,
The captain's command rings forthrightly,
    "All hands quit while ye may!"
See how the rough men pine and weep,
    as she falters and slips,
High in the masts, the haunted winds whine,
    a dirge to the truest of ships
That bore them so long, yet now in the murk,
    the proud boat twists to her bed,
And when the day hath ended its work,
    Northern Lights paint her grave purple-red.

Ringelnatz was the pen name for German writer, Hans Böttiche.

Here is a humorous poem written by Ringelnatz in German.

Die Ameisen

In Hamburg lebten zwei Ameisen
die wollten nach Australien reisen.
Bei Altona auf der Chaussee
Da taten ihnen die Beine weh.
Und da verzichteten sie weise
Dann auf den letzten Teil der Reise.

Translated as a limerick:

The Ants

There once were two ants in Westphalia
Who wanted to go to Australia.
But cursing their feet
In a Belgian street
They gave up the trip as a failya.

This one reminds me of "The Ant Explorer," posted here

Explore more Poetry Friday with Diane at Random Noodling.