Welcoming August 2015

Welcoming August

Below – The Gladiolus (“Sword Lily”), the flower associated with August.

Greeting August – Origins

In the words of one historian, “This month was originally named Sextilis in Latin, because it was the sixth month in the original ten-month Roman calendar under Romulus in 753 BC, when March was the first month of the year…In 8 BC it was renamed in honor of Augustus. According to a Senatus consultum quoted by Macrobius, he chose this month because it was the time of several of his great triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt.”

Below – “August,” from the “Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” (1412-1416).


Greeting August with Art – Claude Monet: “Wheatstacks (end of summer)”


Greeting August with Poetry: Dana Gioia

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion.
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.”

Below – Ray Strong: “California Hill”


Greeting August with Art – Frank Weston Benson: “Sunlight”

Greeting August with Prose: Sydney Smith

Heat, ma’am! it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.

Below – Gregory Jacobsen: “Sweating Man Head”


On this Date – Part I of IV: Mother Jones

Born 1 August 1837 – Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, American schoolteacher, labor and community organizer, and co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World.

In 1902, Mother Jones was called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing workers and their families against mine owners. She would be just as dangerous today, since her edgy eloquence might help awaken Americans to the fact that they are in thrall to McWorld – a trance-like condition in which they have been tricked into believing that buying things is synonymous with having a happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life – and that this state of affairs allows the greedy few to exploit the impoverished many.

Some quotes from Mother Jones:

“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”
“I believe that no man who holds a leader’s position should ever accept favors from either side. He is then committed to show favors. A leader must stand alone.”
“I learned in the early part of my career that labor must bear the cross for others’ sins, must be the vicarious sufferer for the wrongs that others do.”
“I’m not a humanitarian; I’m a hell-raiser.”
“If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout Freedom for the working class!”
“Injustice boils in men’s hearts as does steel in its cauldron, ready to pour forth, white hot, in the fullness of time.”
“My address is like my shoes. It travels with me. I abide where there is a fight against wrong.”
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
“Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”
“The miners lost because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.”

Greeting August with Art – Vincent Van Gogh: “Wheatfield”

Greeting August with Poetry: William Carlos Williams

In summer, the song sings itself.


Greeting August with Art – Sharon Cummings: “Summer Love”

On this Date – Part II of IV: Gerry Garcia

“Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.” – Jerry Garcia, American guitarist, singer, and songwriter best known for his association with the Grateful Dead, who was born on 1 August 1942.

Greeting August with Art – Daniel Garber: “Goat Hill”


Greeting August with Poetry: Elizabeth Maua Taylor

August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away.

Below – Sandy Bostelman: “Crimson Sunset”

Greeting August with Song – Carole King

Greeting August with Art – Robert Lewis Reid: “Summer Breezes”

Greeting August with Poetry: R. Combe Miller

Fairest of the months!
Ripe summer’s queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear.”

Below – Aine, Celtic Summer Goddess of Love, Light, and Fertility

Greeting August with Art – Frank Weston Benson: “Grand River”

Greeting August with Poetry: William Shakespeare

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Greeting August with Prose: Joseph Wood Krutch

August creates as she slumbers, replete and satisfied.

Below – Bernard Meninsky: “Sleeping Woman in a Landscape”

Sleeping Woman in a Landscape circa 1945-50 by Bernard Meninsky 1891-1950

Greeting August with Poetry: Thomas Gunn

How sociable the garden was.
We ate and talked in given light.
The children put their toys to grass
All the warm wakeful August night

Below – Anne F. Marshall: “Night Garden”

Greeting August with Art – Edward Hopper: “Summertime”

Greeting August with Prose: Jane Austen

What dreadful hot weather we have!
It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.

Below – John White Alexander: “Repose”

Greeting August with Art – John Singer Sargent: “St. Martin’s Summer”

Greeting August with Poetry: Li Po

Gently I stir a white feather fan,
With open shirt sitting in a green wood.
I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone;
A wind from the pine-tree trickles on my bare head.

Greeting August with Art – E. Charlton Fortune: “Summer Idyll”

On this Date – Part III of IV: Theodore Roethke

“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.” – Theodore Roethke, American poet and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the National Book Award for Poetry (twice), who died on 1 August 1963.

“Night Journey”

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

Greeting August with Art – Pablo Picasso: “Summer Landscape”

Greeting August with Poetry: Ernest J. Berry

mother’s parasol
I unfold the dust
of other summers

Greeting August with Art – Arthur Prince Spear: “Pot of Gold”

Greeting August with Prose: John Bohrn

Let me enjoy this late-summer day of my heart while the leaves are still green and I won’t look so close as to see that first tint of pale yellow slowly creep in. I will cease endless running and then look to the sky ask the sun to embrace me and then hope she won’t tell of tomorrows less long than today. Let me spend just this time in the slow-cooling glow of warm afternoon light and I’d think I will still have the strength for just one more last fling of my heart.

Below – Daniel Fishback: “Warm Summer Light”

Greeting August with Art – Andrew Drozdov: “Sketch with Boats”

Greeting August with Prose: Rachel Carson

One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space.

Below – Colin Barclay: “Night, The Sea”

Greeting August with Art – Thomas Eakins: “Oarsmen”

Greeting August with Prose: Henry David Thoreau

In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again bent down and broke their tender limbs.

Below – Sally Bassett: “Red Berries, Bending Bush”


Greeting August with Art – Toni Grote: “Beach Textures”


On this Date – Part IV of IV: Herman Melville

“Queequeg was a native of Kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville, novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, and author of “Moby-Dick,” the most brilliant and instructive work of fiction yet written by an American, who was born on 1 August 1819, stating a truth that every child knows and most adults have forgotten.

Anyone who wants to better understand what Henry James called the “complex fate” it is to be an American should read “Moby-Dick.” It’s all there: the promise and the peril, the wisdom and the ignorance, the good sense and the superstition, the pragmatism and the nihilism, the poetry and the madness, the love of life and the unholy war on nature, the feeling of seemingly limitless possibility and the sense of impending doom. The Pequod and its crew offer the attentive reader a series of profoundly edifying insights into the myths that inform and shape the paradox that is American national character.

Some quotes from Herman Melville:

“At sea a fellow comes out. Salt water is like wine, in that respect.”
“Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.”
“He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.”
“There are hardly five critics in America; and several of them are asleep.”
“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”
“There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.”
“In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.”
“There is one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.”

Below – Pen and ink drawing by Rockwell Kent for the 1930 edition of “Moby Dick”
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Greeting August with Art – Winslow Homer: “Boys in a Dory”

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Welcome, Lovely August

Below – Graham Gercken: “Summer Day – The Entrance”

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