By Heather McHugh
Surfaces to scrape or wipe,
a screwdriver to be applied
to slime-encrusted soles, the spattered
hallways, wadded bedding -- and, in quantities astounding
(in the corners, under furniture, behind the curtains)
fluff and dander spread by curs the breeder called non-shedding.
It's a dog's life I myself must lead, day in, day out --
with never a Sunday edition --
while they lie around on their couches like poets,
and study the human condition.
"Here's a little bagatelle from among my more accessible pieces," writes McHugh in Poet's Choice. "I assume that the pronoun 'they' in the poem's penultimate line can comprehend all the co-habitants in a daily life's doghouse. There may be traces here of my recent reading of Voltaire (in small prescriptive gulps, for doses of ironic vivacity...in any case, here's my modest contribution to the literary lineage of such stories, a poem the subtitle of which could have been 'After the Fourth Heaven.'" The poem appears in Upgraded to Serious.
We spent Saturday on the Frederick Museums by Candlelight tour, when many of the museums and historic houses in Frederick County, Maryland open for free and offer refreshments and music as well as their usual exhibits. We started at the railroad museum in Brunswick, which was having its own Hometown Holidays celebration -- there were Irish dancers and ornament-making at the museum, though the main attraction there remains the massive model train layout illustrating a train's path from Union Station in DC through the suburbs and countryside to Brunswick. Then we drove to Burkittsville, where there was a string quartet and refreshments at the South Mountain Heritage Society, housed in a former church that was used as a hospital during the Civil War, now with exhibits on the war in the region and local commerce since the 1800s.
From there we drove to Gathland, where we stopped at the museum in the mansion -- which also had cider and cookies -- and at the arch. We visited Gath's tomb, which we had never done before, and learned that the mausoleum is empty since Gath died with very little money and was buried near his family in Philadelphia. Then we drove around South Mountain to see Dahlgren Chapel, which was closed by the time we got there, and stopped at the creamery to get butter and egg nog (of course we visited the calves and chickens in the barn while we were there). Finally, we went to the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum, which we had not visited before, an early Colonial German building with many fireplaces and a vaulted cellar, where there were people playing the harp and many crafts including candle-dipping, pomander-making, wreath-making, and cooking corn bread and cookies over an open hearth.
Inside were musicians, lots of sweets, and a small museum with information about Burkittsville and the Battle of Crampton's Gap. There were no photos of the Blair Witch, though there was an unofficial history of the the supernatural in the area!
A very small section of the massive model train layout at the Brunswick Railroad Museum, representing the station nearest where I live as it looked nearly a century ago.
George Townsend's empty tomb at Gathland, plus a stargate, err, arch that he had built on the burial ground. It has survived, though his barn and library are in ruins.
And here is the more famous arch on the property, which we rarely get to see with snow on the ground.
Dahlgren Chapel sits right near the summit of South Mountain near the turnoff to Washington Monument State Park.
It was chilly in the calf barn at the South Mountain Creamery, but the calves were two to a pen and keeping each other warm, and the chickens and turkeys were up in the rafters puffing together.
The "dueling harpists" at Schifferstadt were in the same room as the pomander-making, next door to a wood-burning fireplace, so it smelled really, really good in there.
Paul had left chicken paprikash cooking in the crock pot, so we had that when we got home. Then we watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, plus most of the extras on the DVD set -- Tom Felton's interviews with the cast are adorable and I want to be Jessie Cave and learn to train owls!