Las Vegas, NV
May 20, 2020
Garrison Keillor hits Las Vegas with a new solo show!
April 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor comes to the Rochester Civic Theatre for a night of stories, songs, poetry, and humor. Tickets $50 and up
February 19, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 2 of 2. Tickets $30+
February 18, 2020
Garrison Keillor with Heather Masse at the Dakota. Night 1 of 2. Tickets $30+
by Gary Johnson
A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels hovering overhead? Hark.
“December” by Gary Johnson. Used with permission of the poet.
It was on this date in 1674 that Father Jacques Marquette built a log cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan, near the mouth of the Chicago River. The French Jesuit had explored the area the year before, with explorer Louis Jolliet, and he returned with the intent of establishing a mission there. His journey had been going fairly smoothly, and hunting was good, but a snowstorm dumped a foot of snow overnight, and Marquette also suffered a recurrence of the dysentery that had plagued him on his previous journey. He and his companions built a crude cabin, intending to pass the winter there. It was an advantageous location; it was possible to move between the Great Lakes and the Chicago River (which eventually connected with the Illinois River, and thence to the Mississippi) by way of a short overland portage. For this reason, the Jesuits chose the site of Marquette’s little cabin to build the Mission of the Guardian Angel in 1696. The mission was largely abandoned in 1720 after repeated Native American raids, but in the 1780s, a man of African descent named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built a farm there. He was the first permanent resident of Chicago.
On this date in 1872, the ghost ship Mary Celeste was found floating, unmanned and abandoned, in the Atlantic. She was an American brigantine merchant ship, and she’d been at sea for about a month. When she was found, she was fully stocked with six months’ worth of food and supplies, she was completely seaworthy, and the weather was calm. She was flying no distress signal, and there were no signs of violence or mutiny, but all of her passengers and crew had vanished without a trace. The ship’s lifeboat was gone, which seemed to indicate that they had abandoned ship, but their personal possessions and valuables were untouched, so they must have left in a hurry. Also missing were the ship’s papers (with the exception of the logbook), her navigation equipment, and two pumps.
There are several theories about why the ship was abandoned. They run the gamut of plausibility and include sea monsters, alien abduction, tsunami, piracy, and mutiny. The most plausible scenario involves the Mary Celeste‘s cargo. She was carrying 1,700 barrels of raw alcohol, intended for sale in Italy. When she was eventually brought to port, it was discovered that nine of the barrels were empty. Many experts believe that the barrels leaked, causing a build-up of alcohol fumes that would have been easily ignited. Because alcohol burns at such a low temperature, even a large explosion could have left the ship and even the surrounding barrels undamaged; such an explosion would have spooked the captain and crew into abandoning ship. The lifeboat passengers probably drowned in bad weather, or died of starvation and thirst.
It’s the birthday of poet Rainer Maria Rilke, (books by this author) born in Prague in 1875. He was a delicate boy, born prematurely. The year before he was born, his mother had given birth to a girl who died after a week, and she wanted her son to fill that place. Rainer’s given name was René, and his mother dressed him in dresses, braided his hair, and generally treated him like a girl. Later, he wrote, “I think my mother played with me as though I were a big doll.” But his mother also encouraged him to read and write poetry and made him copy out verses before he even knew how to read.
At his father’s request, he went to military school, then to the university. He fell in love with an older married woman, and she introduced him to many of the intellectual and literary stars of the day. He lived in an artists colony, and then went to Paris and worked for Auguste Rodin, and was inspired by the sculptor’s commitment and discipline.
Rilke managed to live all over Europe for free, thanks to his wealthy connections and patrons. For a while, he lived in a castle in Italy, the home of a princess, and it was there that he took a walk along the cliffs and suddenly heard the voice of an angel say: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders?” This became the first line of the first of his “Duino Elegies,” his masterpiece. Another of his patrons, Werner Reinhart, let him live in his castle in Switzerland, and there Rilke composed his “Sonnets to Orpheus.” He died from leukemia in 1926, at the age of 51.
Whoever you are, go out into the evening,
leaving your room, of which you know each bit;
your house is the last before the infinite,
whoever you are.
Then with your eyes that wearily
scarce lift themselves from the worn-out door-stone
slowly you raise a shadowy black tree
and fix it on the sky: slender, alone.
And you have made the world (and it shall grow
and ripen as a word, unspoken, still).
When you have grasped its meaning with your will,
then tenderly your eyes will let it go.
(translated by C.F. MacIntyre)
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®