A Brief for the Defense
By Jack Gilbert
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Another from this week's Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "In a landscape of more contemporary suffering...Gilbert still insists on hope," writes Mary Karr. The poem is from Gilbert's 2005 volume Refusing Heaven.
Having spent Saturday with my parents, we spent Sunday with apaulled's parents, visiting Catoctin Mountain National Park and nearby Thurmont. We met at the visitor center, which has a small nature center, then drove up to the parking lot for the hikes to the summit overlooks, one of which faces the Blue Ridge Mountains. From there we went to Emmitsburg's Grotto of Lourdes, which was darker and quieter than in previous years because it was late in the afternoon and the leaves were mostly gone from the beautiful oaks that surround it, but it's still a pretty walk and this time we met the Grotto chaplain and a deacon. As the sun was setting, we drove back to Thurmont, where we had dinner at the Cozy restaurant, which also has a Camp David museum and shop.
Here are Daniel and Adam at the Hog Rock overlook.
And here is Adam swinging on a vine in the woods during the hike to the latter.
This tufted titmouse was flitting back and forth between a tree and the bird feeder behind the visitor center.
The Emmitsburg Grotto of Lourdes was still decorated with flowers brought for All Saints Day.
People had left rosaries on this statue of a pilgrim visiting the shrine.
The colors at the chapel in the woods weren't as dramatic as they've been earlier in the fall, but it was still very pretty.
The front of the Cozy has a caboose with holiday decorations, leading to a private room where there was a wedding Sunday night.
I missed most of today's football games, which was not a big deal since the Redskins had the week off anyway. We did watch some of the Giants-Eagles game at night which was terrific the whole second half, but that wasn't till after younger son had practiced the violin, older son had finished his science homework, and we all watched last week's Sarah Jane Adventures, which I thought was terrific even though there was almost no Sarah Jane in it -- I love Clyde, I love his mother, I love that my kids will watch a show with me about parents who just don't get it. (I think Sarah Jane is even sillier about security than the Doctor and Jack, but at least it's a standard problem among that crowd!) We also watched the new Simpsons and a couple of episodes of Futurama because everyone wanted to see the Bender folk music episode and the kids wanted to see the Harlem Globetrotters save the universe.