bike: 22 minutes
run: 3.1 miles
2 degrees / feels like -10
Very cold and icy outside. It looks warm, with the bright sun, but it’s not. Finished another episode of Dickinson. On the advice of Higginson, Emily reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and has some wild fantasy about meeting him in New York City at a hospital, where he’s a nurse. Louisa May Alcott’s there too. As she pretends to be a dying soldier’s sister, and then gets drunk at a bar with Whitman, Emily reflects on the need for connecting with the world in order to write about it. These experiences are seductive but also excessive (and reckless?), suggesting that living life fully (feeling all its pain, all of its pleasure — Billy Eichner as Walt Whitman says) has its problems too. When I finished that episode, I started the next. So far, this one includes: Lavinia taking a vow of silence in solidarity with all the dead soldiers; the whole family, except for Austin, attending a local quilt show (with “Quilted” by Shiloh Rafe playing in the background), with Emily’s mom donating then demanding back her mother’s (or grandmother’s?) quilt; Emily receiving an affirming letter from Higginson reassuring her that her poetry was not dead, but alive; and the beginnings of a plan for celebrating Edward’s birthday: an old-fashioned family sing-a-long. I wonder what will happen next?
Listened to a playlist (Lizzo, Harry Styles, Ke$ha, Justin Timberlake) a I ran on the treadmill. I can’t remember exactly what I thought about, just that I was happy. About 10 or so minutes in, I glanced down to my right, and noticed something hanging off the bar of the treadmill. A spider? It looked like a spider to me but, with my vision, and the low light, and the fact that I was moving, I couldn’t tell. I didn’t stop to check. Instead, I tried keep an eye on it and stick closer to the other side of the treadmill. I had some irrational fear that it might jump on me. I tried to convince myself that this was a friendly spider that was joining me on my run. And I thought I should find a spider poem to post on here once I finished my run. When I stopped, I checked. No spider; a small bit of fuzz and a hairball dangling down from the bar. Of course.
When I thought about posting a spider poem, I thought about 2 things: first, a Virginia Woolf (very) short story I had read for a class a few years ago that I thought was about a spider — it wasn’t; it’s about a moth, The Death of the Moth. And, second, a poem by Robert Frost. I’m almost positive that this was the first poem I ever memorized and recited in an english class (actually, one of the only that I ever recited in a class). I can’t remember if it was in elementary or middle school.
Design/ Robert Frost
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.
The line that made me certain that this was the poem I had memorized was the one with the heal-all in it. I remember the awkwardness of that word and not knowing what a heal-all was. Pretty sure I didn’t look it up. I did today: (from wikipedia) “Prunella vulgaris, the common self-heal, heal-all, woundwort, heart-of-the-earth, carpenter’s herb, brownwort or blue curls, is a herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.” It’s invasive, and very hard to get out of your backyard once it takes root. Of course, “looking it up” back in 1986 or so wouldn’t have involved google or wikipedia but the library and a librarian.
I can’t imagine I understood this poem at all as I memorized and then recited it. I have a vague memory that I picked it because it was the shortest option. Did my teacher tell me anything about the poem? Now I can tell it’s a sonnet with a classic sonnet rhyme scheme in the first 8 lines (ABBAABBA), then a variation in the last 6 (ACAACC). Supposedly it’s in iambic pentameter — I say supposedly because I always struggle to hear meter. Here’s a recording of the poem.