This Land is YOUR Land

We don't forget whom we mourn on Memorial Day as much as we do why.

Yes, let's all remind ourselves that this Memorial Day Weekend, while occasion for backyard barbecues and festivities, was wrought to mark the somber occasion of those heroes who charged into battle, who laid down their lives to ensure the light of liberty would endure.

This is the meme that surfaces for a breath every year, filling timelines with lines like "Our day at the beach is thanks to their day at the beach," over top a photo from Normandy, or a little boy dressed in his father's Marine uniform, lying prone against brilliant emerald grass, a tombstone in the blurry background.

Yes, people--men, women, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, some little more than children, others career-long servants--these and many more died for our country.

That's a harder and harder thing to remind ourselves of. This age of modern warfare, evidenced by the shrinking numbers of American fatalities from battle, makes it less likely for any of us to know someone who paid the ultimate price. Ironically, as our killing machines become more and more precise, we the defended have a harder time finding some appropriate measure of gravity for what's going on.

But I don't mean to focus so much on the somber tolling this weekend brings about.


Annie Elizabeth | One Month

She is the last and the first and so much more. Annie Elizabeth turned a month old this week, and already we cannot believe this kiddo has given us the time of our lives.

Talk about the fastest month in a while.

The two weeks I stayed home on paternity leave went by quickly, and then time slowed down a little bit when I got back to the office. Even so, before we could barely blink, Annie is a month old.

Already gone: the tiny-baby days, the ones in which our daughter is too small for her skin, all wrinkles and warmth and the world's most delicious smell. I wanted to slow that down this time, to linger, but nothing can stop it from escaping before your eyes.

She's gained two pounds almost, straightened out her breached posture, filled in a little around her face. Her skin has smoothed out, her eyes opening wider and wider. She tastes the air.

For each of our first two children, I produced a video each month for their first year of life, marking time with snippets from our iPhones and cameras. Eventually we realized these films were documentaries--better than what any baby book might take down--and so for Annie, who we think will be our third and final kiddo, I begin again.

Here's her first month:


Fourth Symphony

It's April, and it isn't like I can go the entire month without posting something poetry-related. 

Here's a poem I wrote in July 2006 about Beethoven, who in turn wrote his Fourth Symphony in 1806 while essentially on a vacation, taking a break as it were from writing what would become his famous Fifth Symphony. (You know, "da - da - da - DAHHH!") I've always enjoyed thinking about artists and their personal lives, and in this instance, I've set the poem from the perspective of someone else living in Count von Oppersdorff's castle that summer.

"Fourth Symphony"
(No. 50)

Her brother was a count,
her sisters betrothed to greatness, yet
here she was falling in love

with the summer tenant, a messy
man muttering about in the halls
who spoke too loudly, sang little songs
at the wrong moments, could not decide
what to eat for breakfast.

she thought, were all like this—
all little men until they waved their arms
and conducted spells of music out of the air.

She knew he had cursed her with his love
late one warm evening in the parlor, playing the piano,
singing her name over and over,
as if saying it could make him hear it—
could make him believe in its consonance.

They were engaged.
In her letters, she wrote of fantastic evenings,
light and airy as the notes floating from his room,
enchanting the Hungarian countryside.
For him, though, the ghost of another love—
her very cousin—shadowed him at night,
when they would stroll through the garden.

That year, fall came early. Beethoven
finished his short symphony and left for Silesia,
the young girl not wanting to hear
what he said to her anymore.