My year in contributions, 2019

‘Tis the season when we are beset by requests for contributions. What organizations are worthy of support? Consider this list as some recommendations from me.

These are the groups and projects to which I gave coin (generally tax-deductible), property, and/or effort in 2019.

On deck: 19

bookshelf December 2019 1/4bookshelf December 2019 2/4My to-read bookshelf has spilled out into an annex of three to-read crates. Free books rescued from work, possibly interesting reads from book exchange, a few things of Leta’s that I might pick up, a good-intentions attempt to review my college calculus text (what’s a Lagrange multiplier, again?) (water-damaged from a small basement flood some years ago), a couple of doorstops for a long train journey, some finds from the AAUW used book sale, time to read Pirsig again.

bookshelf December 2019 3/4bookshelf December 2019 4/4

An assignment

All you have to do is dream up something, anything, that’ll fit in this box, whether a big folded-up sheet, a tiny book, pieces of this or that, a sculpture—whatever—just something that can be produced in multiple form (edition to be determined) and enclosed within.

* * *
…this is extremely important—you will be asked to structure your contribution around a feeling, event, memory, person, imagining or notion that means the absolute most in the world to you… that for which you’d give or sacrifice anything to memorialize, keep alive or somehow make real, since

YOUR TIME ON EARTH IS LIMITED

and if there was one last piece of art you could make or leave behind, what would it be? What if the life you’ve lived so far would you want to make real for those who haven’t yet been born? Or, put another way, what of the art you love most has made your life worth living, and can you do it, too?

—Chris Ware, syllabus for “Comics, Emotional Directness & Self-Doubt,” taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, reprinted in Chris Ware, Monograph (2017), p. 274

A mystery: 19

This is from a Charles Mallison chapter of The Mansion. Page number is from the Library of America edition.

That was last spring, in June when he [Gavin Stevens] and Mother (they had lost Father at Saratoga though he had promised to reach Cambridge in time for the actual vows) came up to see me graduate in Ack. and I said, “What? No wedding bells yet?” and he said:

“Not mine anyway:” and I said:

“How are the voice lessons coming? Come on,” I said, “I’m a big boy now; I’m a Harvard A.M. too even if I wont have Heidelberg.” (chap. 9, p. 517)

The context and the capitalization hints that Ack. is a building on the Harvard campus, but I can find no appropriate edifice on today’s maps. Rather, I suspect that it is part of the ceremony of conferring Chick’s law degree. There is the legal practice of acknowledgement in the sense of making a declaration. Perhaps Charles must make a vow to become a (good?) lawyer?

Perhaps one of my lawyer friends can help me out.

Also, that stray colon at the end of Gavin’s “Not mine anyway:” bothers me.

Faulkner decoded: 3

Two unusual usages in The Mansion, as far as I can tell. Page numbers are from the Library of America edition.

So they would reach that side by side anyway—the vast dim home-made columned loom of her father’s dream, nightmare, monstrous hope or terrified placatement, whichever it was, whatever it had been… (chap. 15, p. 652)

It’s clear from context that placatement is a near-synonym for placation, but an entry for placatement does not appear in my dictionaries.

And:

He didn’t know why; he could not have said that, having had to do without privacy for thirty-eight years, he now wanted, intended to savor, every minuscule of it which freedom entitled him to… (chap. 17, p. 692)

Minuscule is certainly a legitimate noun, in the senses of “script” or “small letter.” But William Faulkner’s use of it to mean a tiny portion is perhaps unique, and quite tasty therefore.

Hapax legomena

Priceless coinage, the opening lines of “How now, sirrah? Oh, anyhow:”

Oh, sometimes I sit around and think, what would you do if you were up a dark alley and there was Caesar Borgia,
And he was coming torgia,
And brandished a poisoned poniard,
And looked at you like an angry fox looking at the plumpest rooster in a boniard?

—Ogden Nash

Canon

This book is the final chapter of, and the summation of, a work conceived and begun in 1925. Since the author likes to believe, hopes that his entire life’s work is a part of a living literature, and since “living” is motion, and “motion” is change and alteration and therefore the only alternative to motion is un-motion, stasis, death, there will be found discrepancies and contradictions in the thirty-four-year progress of this particular chronicle; the purpose of this note is simply to notify the reader that the author has already found more discrepancies and contradictions than he hopes the reader will—contradictions and discrepancies due to the fact that the author has learned, he believes, more about the human heart and its dilemma than he knew thirty-four years ago; and is sure that, having lived with them that long time, he knows the characters in this chronicle better than he did then.

W.F. [William Faulkner, preface to The Mansion (1959)]

A mystery: 18

notepad 1notepad 2In Leta’s (and by inheritance, Ann’s) effects I found a promotional notepad from the Southern Railway System, with a handy list of freight facilities on the inside cover. (Leta’s grandfather worked for a railroad.) Southern would have used that branding up until about 1980. A historian of the system might be able to pin down a date, given the list of facilities. It’s possible that 200-79 on the inside cover encodes a printing date. Yankee that I am, I used up the notepad.

notepad 3On the back of the backing is the real mystery: the inscription GLV 823. A vehicle license plate number, perhaps? But what state? Who made the hasty note, and why did they use the backing rather than a leaf from the pad? Does it capture a red light runner? A hit-and-run accident? The imagination trembles.

Walk among the Giants

Stephanie Mason led a small group through very changeable weather this morning. This is a regular loop for her, following the River Trail from the C&O Canal NHP visitor center and returning along the canal towpath. Because this stretch of floodplain has some majestic trees, among them 200-year-old sycamores, she has styled this trip Walk Among the Giants.

overwinteringStephanie pointed out some abundant drifts of the basal rosettes of Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea). I need learn that not all winter rosettes in the floodplain are Gill-over-the-Ground or Garlic Mustard.

scarce here 2scarce here 1We stopped for a Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii), an uncommon tree for the metro area.

At this point, my camera’s power gave out. But we did have some interesting discussions and opportunities for follow-up. I confessed a distaste for the messy suckerish habit of Box Elder (Acer negundo), yet Stephanie mentioned the tree’s food value for overwintering wildlife, and the rather attractive clusters of samaras persisting on the tree’s branches.

The question of where non-native invasive Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) came from came up (it’s native to Japan-Korea-China) and when it was introduced. Sources indicate that it was brought into North America in about 1890 as breeding stock for other blackberry cultivars.

It is used today by berry breeders to add specific genes to berry varieties or species. Wineberry is an example of one man’s flower being another man’s weed. Given containment, wineberry has desirable and useful qualities, but due to its invasive nature, it is considered a significant pest of agricultural and natural ecosystems.

We saw a good ten or twenty Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) feeding and loafing on the river.