Being too warm the old lady said to me
is better than being too cold I think now
in between is the best because you never
give it a thought but it goes by too fast
I remember the winter how cold it got
I could never get warm wherever I was
but I don’t remember the summer heat like that
only the long days the breathing of the trees
the evenings with the hens still talking in the lane
and the light getting longer in the valley
the sound of a bell from down there somewhere
I can sit here now still listening to it
“Remembering Summer” by W.S. Merwin from Garden Time. © Copper Canyon Press, 2016. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Today is Thanksgiving Day. Although the Thanksgiving festivities celebrated by the Pilgrims and a tribe of Wampanoag Indians happened in 1621, it wasn't until 1789 that the newly sworn-in President George Washington declared, in his first presidential proclamation, a day of national "thanksgiving and prayer" for that November.
The holiday fell out of custom, though, and by the mid-1800s only a handful of states officially celebrated Thanksgiving, on a date of their choice. It was the editor of a women's magazine, Sarah Josepha Hale, a widow and the author of the poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb," who campaigned for a return of the holiday. For 36 years, she wrote articles about the Plymouth colonists in her magazine, trying to revive interest in the subject, and editorials suggesting a national holiday. Hale wrote to four presidents about her idea — Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan — before her fifth letter got notice. In 1863, exactly 74 years after Washington had made his proclamation, President Lincoln issued his own, asking that citizens "in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise." He requested prayers especially for those widowed and orphaned by the ongoing Civil War, as well as gratitude for "fruitful fields," enlarging borders of settlements, abundant mines, and a burgeoning population.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who suggested, "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude."
It's the birthday of the publisher and editor of The Little Review magazine, Margaret Anderson (books by this author), born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1886). She grew up in the small town of Columbus, Indiana, but early on she decided that she didn't fit into small-town life at all. So she moved to Chicago, which was the artistic capital of the Midwest at the time. In order to create a circle of artistic friends, she decided to start a magazine devoted to the avant-garde. She said that her plan was to fill the magazine with "the best conversation the world has to offer."
She called her magazine The Little Review, and the first issue came out in March 1914. The magazine had a motto printed on the cover that said, "A Magazine of the Arts, Making No Compromise with the Public Taste." In 1918, the poet Ezra Pound showed Anderson the manuscript for a new novel called Ulysses by a man named James Joyce. When she read it, she wrote to Pound: "This is the most beautiful thing we'll ever have! We'll print it if it's the last effort of our lives." It took three years to serialize the whole novel, during which four complete issues of the magazine were confiscated and burned by the U.S. Post Office.
She was eventually convicted of obscenity charges for printing the novel. At the trial, the judge wouldn't let the offending material be read in her presence, because she was a woman, even though she had published it. But she said that the worst part of the experience was just the fact that all those issues of her magazine had been burned. She said: "The care we had taken to preserve Joyce's text intact. [...] The addressing, wrapping, stamping, mailing; the excitement of anticipating the world's response to the literary masterpiece of our generation ... and then a notice from the Post Office: BURNED."
She kept publishing The Little Review after that, but the issues appeared less and less frequently. Her last issue came out in 1929.
Margaret Anderson said: "I wasn't born to be a fighter. The causes I have fought for have invariably been causes that should have been gained by a delicate suggestion. Since they never were, I made myself into a fighter."
It's the birthday of the novelist Nuruddin Farah (books by this author), born in Baidoa, Somalia, in 1945. He went into self-imposed exile, but he kept writing about Somalia. He said, "I decided, sitting in a friend's apartment in Rome, if I couldn't go back home then I would systematically make the rest of Africa my country." He's published many novels, all in English, all about the country where he was born.
Farah is best known for his two trilogies. The first, "Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship," includes Sweet and Sour Milk (1979), Sardines (1981), and Close Sesame (1983). The "Blood in the Sun" trilogy includes Maps (1986), Gifts (1992), and Secrets (1998). His latest novel is called Hiding in Plain Sight (2014).
Nuruddin Farah said, "The only thing I can say is that I have tried my best to keep my country alive by writing about it."