Friday, September 11, 2015

Always on my mind

One of the lasting impressions the events of 14 years ago have left me with is how fragile life is and how uncertain it can be. Despite an occasional close call, due almost entirely to my own stupidity, I had taken for granted that there would always be a tomorrow and it would be pretty much like today. If I had failed to kiss my wife and children good-bye as I hurried out of the house in the morning, I could always tell them I love them when I got home. On September 11, 2001, the possibility that someday there might not be a me to go home, or a wife or a child at home, sank in. Ever since, I've been doing my best to remember how short a time we have to be here and how much we can do to make that time better for those we love and others who need our help. If that's not the way we live, then it seems to me those who caused so much devastation 14 years ago have won. I don't think any of us want that.

Sky-blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense)
Sky-blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense)
Photo by J. Harrington

Yesterday I did get some photos of what I thought were New England asters. Today I think they're sky-blue asters. I'll probably think the same thing tomorrow unless someone points me toward a better alternative. Here's a couple of photos. Note that I'm still having fun with focus and depth of field. Come to think of it, I sometimes experience those same challenges in life. Don't you?

Sky-blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense)
Sky-blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense)
Photo by J. Harrington

Enjoy your weekend. Give those you love a hug and a kiss if they're close, a call if they're far away, and a moment's reflection if they're gone. They'll do the same for you, won't they?

The Names - Poem by Billy Collins


Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.

A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,

And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,

I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,

Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place

As droplets fell through the dark.

Names printed on the ceiling of the night.

Names slipping around a watery bend.

Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot

Among thousands of flowers

Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,

And each had a name --

Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.

Names written in the air

And stitched into the cloth of the day.

A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.

Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows

And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.

I say the syllables as I turn a corner --

Kelly and Lee,

Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.

When I peer into the woods,

I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden

As in a puzzle concocted for children.

Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,

Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.

Names written in the pale sky.

Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.

Names silent in stone

Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.

A boy on a lake lifts his oars.

A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,

And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --

Vanacore and Wallace,

(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)

Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.

Names etched on the head of a pin.

One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.

Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,

The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.

Alphabet of names in a green field.

Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat

Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.

Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.

So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

*This poem is dedicated to the victims of September 11 and to their survivors.

Billy Collins

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