Friday, August 28, 2009

In Search of El Dorado

The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Poetry". Follow link or banner to participating blogs.

Sunset reflected in parabolic mirrors.
courtesy of Theodosia Ferguson, Vital Systems

Our faith in gold, and pearl, and fountains
where youth and manhood are renewed
was lost in challenging these mountains
of pathless chasms, boulders strewed
to crush our spirits, slow our way,
ice by night and fire by day.

We thought we would have been, by now,
stretched languidly in fragrant grass.
Who could foresee this brooding brow
of overhanging cliff? We pass
against the precipice; the blood
of clinging fingers marks our way,
precarious, day after day
threatened by avalanche and flood.

Nor have we found the streets of gold,
but dust, and thorn, and flies that bite,
and eyes that circle us at night,
and we are growing old.

Bruised, we scientists retreat.
The stones of paradise have torn our feet.

Wind turbine at sunset.
courtesy of Theodosia Ferguson
, Vital Systems

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

F is for Family Fun

Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday Round 5 has progressed to the letter F.

They had gathered for the celebration of their Father/Grandfather/Great-grandfather's life. The day after that not-unjoyous sharing of memories, they proceeded to enjoy the rest of the family reunion. And what better way to have family fun than by going to nearby regional Tilden Park to ride the little train and the merry-go-round?

This is genuine scale-madel steam engine

From left to right:
Susan Shock, Charlie and Jon Andersen,
Anna, Kristin and Otto Smith.
Photo by Josie Andersen

Charlie shows son Jon the inside of the miniature cab.
Photo by Josie.

Otto and Kristin Smith enjoying the merry-go round.
Photo by Josie.

Otto reaches for a high-five with Charlie.
Photo by Josie.

Byron Shock
Photo by Josie

Anna Smith dances with her father
to the music of the merry-go-round.

Cousins enjoy the playground at Codornices Park.
Susan Shock on zip line.
Photo by Cedric Shock (Susan's husband).

Byron Shock on the concrete slide.
Photo from Susan and Cedric.

Anna swings!
From Susan and Cedric.

Brother and sister Loren Bishop and Josie Andersen
had not seen each other for two years.
Joyous reunion!

Link here for other blogs that participate in ABC Wednesday round 5.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

E is for Eulogy

Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday Round 5 features the letter E this week. Somehow, in two very busy weeks, I managed to mis C and D, but I think this entry is long enough (i.e. too long!) to make up for several missed weeks.

I wrote this down to read at the start of the celebration of Otto J. M. Smith’s life, held at the beautiful Alumni House on the University of California campus on the day that would have been Otto’s 92nd birthday. This was not a religious celebration. I read the following, then my oldest son, also named Otto, served as master of ceremonies, calling upon those who wished to take part. He also played piano accompaniment to violins or singers who didn’t wish to sing without accompaniment. I wanted this to be a happy celebration. It was, with much laughter and smiles as relatives, friends and colleagues shared anecdotes as well as heartfelt tributes to what he had contributed to their lives. The music was eclectic, some chosen just because my husband had enjoyed it, some chosen to express the feelings of the musicians.

Son Stanford sings Woodie Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land"

So here is my introduction:

Thank you all for coming to this celebration of the life of my brilliant, multi-faceted, compassionate husband. He was a dedicated teacher, a scientist, and (the title he most prized) a licensed professional engineer. He figured that engineers were the people who put ideas into practice. He considered himself a citizen of the United States and of the World and as part of the University of California. He wanted the best for all three of them, anxious to solve their problems and ready to criticize when he thought they were following misguided paths. He worried about Global Warming and promoted alternative energy systems. In the picture displayed here (to left of Stanford in above photo) that bit of shiny green under his hand is a prototype plug-in electric car that he is admiring. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

I know that some of you wish to celebrate his life with words, music or poetry. Remember, too, that this is a birthday party for what will be Otto’s 92nd birthday tomorrow. I know that he would want us to enjoy it. When we are done with our seated participation, there are light refreshments available and the patio, as well as this room has tables and chairs for us.

I feel e
xtremely privileged to have shared almost 71 years of Otto’s life, first as a friend at Stanford University then almost 68 years (as of September 3rd) as his wife. He was always my best friend. We shared ideals, aspirations, interests, were constantly delighted with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We laughed a lot, discussed a lot (sometimes heatedly), always knew that we each had married the right person. Otto had a constant thirst for knowledge, loved teaching, and at the university kept his office door open at all times. He enjoyed meeting old friends but also would engage total strangers in conversations about his concerns and enthusiasms. Traveling with Otto was always an adventure, and we did a lot of traveling.

Most of you know of his many honors and his numerous patents, but he also had a beautiful bass voice and joined choirs both here and in those countries where we might have been living for a few months or years. He enjoyed playing violin, viola and guitar. He was a life member of the California Writers' Club, and wrote not only technical papers but essays, travel stories and poetry.

Otto was always an honest person, and almost always a truthful one, but he also was a bit of a tease. At one time he had rescued a small albino possum whom we name
d Pogoette after Walt Kelly’s Pogo. Otto bought her a little red harness and a leash and would take her walking through the neighborhood. She would slurp up snails from the gardens that they passed, and many people would ask, “What is your little pet?” Otto would answer with a straight face, “She’s a tetraploid rat.” Most peoples would nod wisely.

I would like to read one of Otto’s poems to you. Coincidentally, just yesterday, long after I had decided on this poem, a blogger friend in Australia e-mailed me for permission to use it in her literary group. (Here I read the poem
Stonehenge, which I have previously shared with you.) A reflection of Otto’s joy in life is expressed in a song which he and I often sang in the car. Our car was always filled with song. The language of this song is German, but it means “Enjoy life while the lantern glows” and seems to me an expression of Otto’s ebullient spirit. I have asked my granddaughter Anna to sing it for you as the start of this celebration.

This photo shows that it was a joyous occasion
mixed with some tears as we realized
the magnitude of our loss.
In this photo:
Anna Smith and Kristin Smith, granddaughter and Daughter-in-law,
violinists; Alden Bryant, long-time friend who sang "Beloved Comrade";
Sterling Smith (standing) who played a Bach fragment on his tenor recorder.

The photos are by granddaughter Josie Andersen. For more links to ABC Wednesday, click on link or banner at the top of this post.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Verses for "America the Beautiful"

The Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week is "New." For other posts with a "new" theme, click on link above or on the banner.

Have you ever heard a familiar song and suddenly realized that there was a verse that should be there, but that it was missing? These two new verses for "America the Beautiful" are in response to just such a realization on my part.

I wrote the first of these two new verses when a friend pointed out that the original inhabitants of this land were NOT the pilgrims!

This photo of Navahos at Shiprock
was found in Google images.

O beautiful for tribes whose lore
Embraced the buffalo,
Who met the pilgrims at the shore
And gave them corn to grow.

Great spirit ease the pain
Of those displaced,
Their past erased
From hogan, woods, and plain.

"from sea to shining sea."
I photographed these Pacific waves
at our family reunion

And this was written in a burst of pure euphoria the day after Obama was elected as future president of this great land. I posted it on this blog at that time, so excuse me for running it by you once again.
O beautiful for rainbow race
for multicolored skin
for outside differences of face
Americans within.
America! America!
where every voice is heard.
We pledge to heed
each anxious need
with deed and work and word!