You Are Old, Father William

A little inspired needle felting from some recent bed-time reading:

Rabbit and Caterpillar

‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said,
‘And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?’

‘In my youth,’ Father William replied to his son,
‘I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.’

‘You are old,’ said the youth, ‘as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door –
Pray, what is the reason of that?’

‘In my youth,’ said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
‘I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment – one shilling the box –
Allow me to sell you a couple?’

‘You are old,’ said the youth, ‘and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak –
Pray how did you manage to do it?’

‘In my youth,’ said his father, ‘I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.’

‘You are old,’ said the youth, ‘one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose –
What made you so awfully clever?’

‘I have answered three questions, and that is enough,’
Said his father; ‘don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!’

In case you couldn’t guess, that was from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Now, if I could just figure out how to make a wee little hookah…

Rabbit and Caterpillar

Billions and Billions

I know he didn’t actually say that, but it is a phrase attributed to Carl Sagan and it seemed an appropriate tie-in to my weekend project.

First things first, though. Virginia has finished another cardigan. This one is the Indigo Playmate cardigan by Wendy Bernard (from her book Custom Knits). She knit this using Classic Elite’s Kumara.

Indigo Playmate Cardigan

Indigo Playmate Cardigan

Which, leads me to my weekend project (and to the numerical reference). Notice the ground in the background of those two photos? The majority of leaves from our 20+ trees are down, and though the quantity isn’t exactly uncountable, there is a goodly amount to be raked.

But, why the Carl Sagan reference? Today is the first annual Carl Sagan Day, and I felt it would be good to give recognition to someone who played a small (but integral) part in forming some of my healthy skepticism.

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

— Excerpt from a Parade magazine article, “In the Valley of the Shadow.”

Jug of Punch

Bottling Day

Last week it was a Buddhist meditation, this week a traditional Irish pub song—what can I say, I’m a complex (and complicated) individual. I’m bottling beer today, (the 5 gallons of dry Irish stout is technically not punch, but the sentiment is still the same) so it’s only appropriate that I be listening to this.

One evening in the month of June
As I was sitting in my room
A small bird sat on an ivy bunch
And the song he sang was “The Jug Of Punch.”

What more diversion can a man desire?
Than to sit him down by an alehouse fire
Upon his knee a pretty wench
And upon the table a jug of punch.

Let the doctors come with all their art
They’ll make no impression upon my heart
Even a cripple forgets his hunch
When he’s snug outside of a jug of punch.

And if I get drunk, well, me money’s me own
And them don’t like me they can leave me alone
I’ll chune me fiddle and I’ll rosin me bow
And I’ll be welcome wherever I go.

And when I’m dead and in my grave
No costly tombstone will I crave
Just lay me down in my native peat
With a jug of punch at my head and feet.

The Clancy Brothers do a fine rendition of this song.

Touching the Earth

The following are from a trip we took yesterday to visit Virginia’s brother and wife, with a side trip to Jay Cooke State Park. Fresh in my mind were some meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh, which we had read a few days earlier (excerpt follows the photos).

Fall Leaves

Rock and River

Birch Bark

St. Louis River

Rock and Root

The day has now ended.
Our lives are shorter.
Now we look carefully.
What have we done?

Noble Sangha, with all our heart,
let us be diligent,
engaging in the practice.
Let us live deeply,
free from afflictions,
aware of impermanence
so that life does not
drift away without meaning.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, “Gatha on Impermanence,” from Touching the Earth: Intimate Conversations with the Buddha.

View the rest of the photos from our excursion here.