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Average Weather

December 29, 2009

Last year at this time, we were enjoying profoundly cold weather in which ice grew everywhere like a new form of life. This morning before sunrise, the cars were frost-free.

That pretty much sums up our weather. The average weather never occurs.

“Average” is an interesting and occasionally useful idea, but how much of our actual experience is assisted by it?

A Prius pulls silently from the curb, catching you off-guard, and you say, “Whoa, what was that?” Another small car, even newer, can be heard two blocks away, and you realize, “Wait, he actually bought it that way?”

One person enters the library in boots, gloves, hat, and scarf, followed shortly by someone in shirt sleeves and no socks.

The human experience is broad. We do, after all, range nearly from pole to pole over the Earth.

We can feel cold at 50 degrees and warm at zero. Our lives are full of particular details that we often gloss over as our minds normalize the experience toward expectations constructed of ideas such as “average.”

We can be saved from such reflexes, and one way is through poetry—reading or writing or both, your choice.

One of my current favorite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest who lived and died during Queen Victoria’s reign and wrote poems like no other Victorian poet but who remained unpublished until the 20th century.

For Hopkins, evidence of God’s nature was to be found in the finest details of our experience of the natural world. His wonderful poem “Pied Beauty” begins:

“Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim …”

The world is varied and changing, and therein lies its beauty.

The library has an impressive poetry collection, from fat collections of historical verse to slim volumes of modern poets. We have books by all the poets who have visited us during the years we had our poetry festival (Poetry on a Platter).

And we have most of the books by poet Mark Irwin, who will be at the library this Sunday for both a workshop and a reading in celebration of his new book of poems, “Tall If.”

The reading is at 3:00 p.m. and is free and open to all. The workshop, “Poetry and Memorability,” is at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the first twelve people who sign up. Register at the library. The cost is $35, which includes a copy of Mark’s new book. The money goes to the library.

Mark currently teaches at the University of Southern California. His workshop at the last poetry festival was very well-received, so I think a poet will not want to miss this.

These are interesting times, worth looking at carefully and in new ways. A time for poetry.

Happy New Year!


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