Now I understand that there are two melodies playing,
one below the other, one easier to hear, the other
lower, steady, perhaps more faithful for being less heard
yet always present.
When all other things seem lively and real,
this one fades. Yet the notes of it
touch as gently as fingertips, as the sound
of the names laid over each child at birth.
I want to stay in that music without striving or cover.
If the truth of our lives is what it is playing,
the telling is so soft
that this mortal time, this irrevocable change,
becomes beautiful. I stop and stop again
to hear the second music.
I hear the children in the yard, a train, then birds.
All this is in it and will be gone. I set my ear to it as I would to a heart.
“The Second Music” by Annie Lighthart from Iron String © Airlie Press, 2015. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
It's the birthday of advertising exec-turned-writer Ilene Beckerman (books by this author), born in Manhattan (1935). She didn't begin her writing career until the age of 60, and even then, she became a published author almost by accident. She had written and illustrated a book for her five children, something to remember her by. She said: "My purpose was to say things to my children one doesn't have the time to say. I wanted them to know I wasn't always their mother. I was a girl, I had best friends, we did stupid things together. I was on a bus with my friend once eating dog bones so people would look at us. I wanted them to know."
She took the book she'd written down to the ad agency she owned, to use the machines there to make a dozen photocopies. She put the copies in big red binders, covered the illustrations she had sketched with plastic sheet protectors, and handed them out to her children and a few close friends. She was done, or thought she was. Then, the cousin of a friend got ahold of one of the binders and sent it over to Algonquin Books. Pretty soon, the publisher was calling her about publishing her book. Beckerman said that they offered her "an advance that had a comma in it. I think I fainted."
The book came out in 1995, and was called Love, Loss, and What I Wore. It's the story of her life growing up in Manhattan in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, accompanied by drawings of the clothes that she was wearing during that time. She insists that clothing plays an integral part in many women's memories, that they can recall important events or distinct spans of their lives by what they were wearing at the time. When the book came out, bookstores were not sure whether to market it as memoir or fashion. It has now sold more than 100,000 copies.
Beckerman insists that clothes are the least important part of her book, which she considered a memoir. The book contains advice and aphorisms from her grandmother, who raised her, such as, "If you have to stand on your head to make somebody happy, all you can expect is a big headache."
It's the birthday of psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson (books by this author), born in Frankfurt, Germany (1902). He argued that the human life cycle could be understood as a series of eight developmental stages. He said each stage has its own "crisis" that must be overcome before moving on to the next stage. For adolescents, the crisis is figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life — and that's where the term "identity crisis" comes from.
It's the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa (books by this author), born in Kashiwabara, Japan (1763). He's one of the masters of the Japanese form of poetry called haiku, which uses 17 syllables broken into three distinct units. He spent most of his adult life traveling around Japan, writing haiku, keeping a travel diary, and visiting shrines and temples across the country. By the end of his life, he had written more than 20,000 haiku celebrating the small wonders of everyday life.