Off a Side Road Near Staunton
By Stanley Plumly
Some nothing afternoon, no one anywhere,
an early autumn stillness in the air,
the kind of empty day you fill by taking in
the full size of the valley and its layers leading
slowly to the Blue Ridge, the quality of the country,
if you stand here long enough, you could stay
for, step into, the way a landscape, even on a wall,
pulls you in, one field at a time, pasture and fall
meadow, high above the harvest, perfect
to the tree line, then spirit clouds and intermittent
sunlight smoky rain riding the tops of the mountains,
though you could walk until it's dark and not reach those rains --
you could walk the rest of the day into the picture
and not know why, at any given moment, you're there.
"I was coming back from a reading in southern Virginia, mid-October, driving along a major north-south highway. Looking to my right at the start in the change of color in the great hardwoods of the Shenandoah, my eye followed the ridge of the Blue Ridge itself. I had to stop. And at the first turn-off to a side road, I did," writes Plumly (who taught poetry at the University of Maryland while I was in grad school there) in Poet's Choice. "I had long since got out of the car and walked a bit toward what was beginning to resemble a serious landscape in a painting, one of those that can go either way: trite or something discovered...looking at it all, standing there a while, I saw it as a picture that might pull you in and give you permission to disappear, so that someone seeing it -- this landscape -- on a wall might pick you out as a small figure, so small as to be ambiguous, barely visible in a field at evening. When I got home, I more or less wrote the poem as it stands: a 14-liner in couplets."
We spent a nice morning and afternoon with my in-laws: breakfast, visit to the Utz Factory Store where we picked up organic pretzels and chips, lunch which consisted of leftovers from Christmas including meatballs, chicken, cheeses, bread, lingonberries, jello, cake, cookies, etc., visit to Boyds Bear Country in Getysburg which in addition to the Boyds and Gund stuffed animal collections now has a Thomas Kinkade gallery and a Jim Shore gallery (I love the Heartwood Creek Halloween figures -- we got a big yellow cat in a witch hat who looks a lot like Rosie, on sale for under $10), then drove home through fog that was at times very thick...it was unseasonably warm and it was drizzling, which fell on the remaining inches of snow and turned the whole world white. Our cats survived our absence -- barely, according to them, though my mother fed them both days we were gone -- and we are about half-unpacked, meaning they have mostly-empty luggage to sit in.
This is Boyds Bears' miniature representation of their own factory -- bears making bears.
My kids and Paul's mother rested by the fireplace...
...and later, the four of us and Paul's father sat down together.
The Christmas tree visible in the previous photo is three stories high and covered with stuffed animals instead of ornaments.
Here's a view of the tree from the upper level.
There were plenty of other holiday decorations...
...though I tend to appreciate the Halloween items much more than the Christmas ones.
I said I'd talk about Doctor Who's "The End of Time, Part One," which I am very grateful to BBC America for airing so soon after it aired in the U.K. without any substantive cuts that I noticed. I really feel like it would be more fair to wait until "The End of Time, Part Two" -- although I also remember how utterly brilliant I thought the first three episodes of "Children of Earth" were until I'd seen the fourth and fifth, so maybe I should catalogue what I really appreciate about this part in case it all goes to hell in the next one (which knowing this franchise is all too likely). I was predisposed to like it from the first seconds for labeling commercial Christmas a pagan rite to banish the cold and dark, and I am glad that it's set right at this very moment politically and economically. And someone must tell me the name of the briefly-glimpsed church with the wall with the long list of what appear to be the names of Great War veterans who died defending Britain. As for the rest...I adore Wilf, I think he'd have made a divine companion for a post-Donna Doctor (wouldn't have let him get away with self-aggrandizing or self-pity), I love the TARDIS-in-stained-glass, I love the legend of the sainted physician who banished a demon even though I totally don't trust that woman who appears to Wilf and only Wilf. In general I appreciated the visual imagery of the episode, even the Time Lords in the Imperial Senate on Coruscant at the close.
But as long as I'm talking about things that reminded me a lot of other franchises -- and I am the first to admit that I have never seen Doctors 1-3 or 5-7 except a very small handful of episodes, so it's possible that George Lucas, J.K. Rowling, the producers of Heroes, et al have all stolen from Doctor Who rather than vice versa -- I felt like I was watching a giant tribute to other franchises rather than anything that felt intrinsically Whovian to me. The Master coming back by way of a Horcrux is an entertaining curiosity, but really not convincing, and though I'm glad Lucy's hatred and resentment went beyond a spur-of-the-moment decision to shoot him, that wasn't very convincing either...what turned her from the bitter nihilist into someone akin to Martha Jones, preparing in case the end of the world should be nigh? I snickered at the Master's Gollum-speech when he was hungry and driven crazy by the drums, and I put up with his Elle Bishop lightning-hands, and I waited for him to snap off that naughty collar, but as much as I enjoy John Simm's performance (I love how he looks with the Billy Idol hair, suddenly quite a bit younger than the Doctor, though he has that moving scene talking about how they grew up together), he's not so much a character as a pastiche.
You know, like Barack Obama -- does he really inspire such confidence among the British working class? I had no idea! I mean, I knew people were very relieved we didn't elect an heir to George Bush, but it seems a bit un-British to me to be counting on the U.S. President to end a recession affecting Europe, Maybe I'm simply unaware of how disaffected people have become with Britain's own politicians. Having Obama around made it very timely but there's something un-sporting about having him get taken over so easily by an evil alien who speaks with a non-US accent. There have been all these mythological British Prime Ministers in the franchise since I've been watching, so how come our actual president gets used as a puppet prop when the fictional nefarious Joshua Naismith is portrayed initially as more interesting (and just what future is he fighting anyway)?
I know people laugh about Good Queen Bess no longer being a virgin once the Doctor got done with her, and they owed us an explanation for why she hated the Doctor after "The Shakespeare Code," but it seemed like a cheap shot of the same sort and very typical of the way the show treats women who haven't been singled out as so completely extraordinary that they deserve better (and give me a break, virgin or not, Elizabeth I is way more crush-worthy than Madame de Pompadour). We get to see Lucy as an accessory for all of two minutes before she's dead, we get to see Abigail Naismith achieve her dreams only because Daddy is looking out for her, we get to see Donna start to burn up...with all the women deferring to powerful men, I keep wondering how Margaret Thatcher ever got elected. I find myself hoping that the adorable cactus woman will save the day, since I am pretty sure they won't let Donna save the universe again and survive the experience -- that would make her completely the Doctor's equal and RTD doesn't seem capable of imagining a woman could be that.
Hmm, I said I was going to catalogue things I liked and I seem to be doing a piss-poor job of that. Okay, I did laugh at "The Master Race" even if it was the cheapest joke imaginable. And Timothy Dalton just ROCKS (I always picture him not as James Bond, but as Philip II of France in The Lion in Winter, telling Henry II to go to hell, which probably makes him ideal casting as an ominous Time Lord). So if the Time Lords come back, does that mean the Daleks come back? Will one of them try to make alien species keep their mending devices safe at home so they can't turn humans into little boys with gas-mask faces or Masters? I just hope the Doctor is crying over Adelaide and not himself, because my sympathy for his plight got used up a couple of seasons ago. And I'm thinking he may want to blow up Gallifrey again by the time this is all over.