The New Year
By Edward Thomas
He was the one man I met up in the woods
That stormy New Year's morning; and at first sight,
Fifty yards off, I could not tell how much
Of the strange tripod was a man. His body,
Bowed horizontal, was supported equally
By legs at one end, by a rake at the other:
Thus he rested, far less like a man than
His wheel-barrow in profile was like a pig.
But when I saw it was an old man bent,
At the same moment came into my mind
The games at which boys bend thus, High-cockolorum,
Or Fly-the-garter, and Leap-frog. At the sound
Of footsteps he began to straighten himself;
His head rolled under his cape like a tortoise's;
He took an unlit pipe out of his mouth
Politely ere I wished him "A Happy New Year,"
And with his head cast upward sideways muttered --
So far as I could hear through the trees' roar --
"Happy New Year, and may it come fastish, too,"
While I strode by and he turned to raking leaves.
From Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World by Robert Pinsky, who writes, "The turn of a new year, along with giddy celebrations and improving resolutions, brings with it a focus on how time rushes along, compressing childhood and age like the barrels of a telescope." Edward Thomas, an English poet who died at war in 1917 when he was under 40, "describes a New Year's Day encounter that includes many of these elements: giddiness and the grotesque, childhood and old age, convention and idiosyncrasy, the outlandish and the familiar...the country encounter, the mild drollery of 'far less like a man than/His wheel-barrow in profile was like a pig,' the lucid presentation of weather and natural setting, all recall [Thomas's friend Robert] Frost. So, too, does the resumption of a chore at the end of the poem."
It was a dazzlingly beautiful warm afternoon in DC, so after Daniel got back from Robotics Club (meeting weekends through the spring competition) and Adam got back from Hebrew school (meeting biweekly until his Bar Mitzvah in 2009), we went to the last day of the United States Botanic Garden's holiday exhibit, which includes model trains, electric lights, a large Christmas tree and a miniature replica of major downtown buildings like the Capitol, Library of Congress, Supreme Court, Smithsonian Castle and Washington Monument, handmade entirely from plant materials like resin, leaves, bark and gourds.
The Washington Monument...
...and the Supreme Court (with the back of the US Capitol behind it).
This is the Smithsonian Castle...
...and a close-up of its rose window.
And here is the Jefferson Memorial, surrounded by blossoms like in the spring...
...and a close-up of the "engraving" over the entrance.
We also walked through the World Deserts, Hawaii, Garden Primeval, Orchid Room, Medicinal Plants and How Plants Work...I'm a bit allergic to some of the orchids, but the colors were glorious, and there were lots of herbs and peppers in the medicinal exhibit so it smelled great. We had parked behind the Natural History museum, so we walked most of the stretch of the National Mall at sunset while the clouds were turning pink behind the Native American, Air & Space and Hirshhorn museums...they were already dark by the time we reached the Castle. Then we came home, watched the Chargers beat the Titans and put on Bob Roberts, figuring our kids should be exposed to that movie we once thought was an exaggerated farce and now find a chilling prognostication. It's so much fun to see everyone who's in the bit parts in that film (Alan Rickman, James Spader, John Cusack, Jack Black, Kelly Willis, David Strathairn, Peter Gallagher, et al) and I adore Tim Robbins.
I feel almost guilty having such lovely weather here when so much of the US is getting socked in with snow or gone with the wind! Stay safe and warm!