The Muses Companion

The Muses Companion – January 20, 2024

Good day, readers. Today is January 20th, the 20th day of the year 2024, with 346 days remaining.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Steve Jobs

Today in Literary History:

On this day in 1930, Buzz Aldrin, an American astronaut and one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, was born. Although primarily known for his contributions to space exploration, Aldrin’s writings on his experiences, including the memoir Return to Earth, provide profound insights into the challenges and triumphs of space travel and its impact on human understanding.

Notable Birthdays:

David Lynch (born January 20, 1946), an American filmmaker known for his unique cinematic style that blends the surreal with the everyday, celebrates his birthday today. Lynch’s approach to storytelling, which often transcends traditional narrative forms, has been influential in both film and literary circles, inspiring discussions on the nature of reality and perception.

Today’s Readings:

From Return to Earth by Buzz Aldrin: “As I stood on the surface of the Moon I looked up and saw Earth, a small, blue, very delicate-looking object shining in the vast black sky. It was so small it could be blotted out with my thumb.”

Literary Fact of the Day:

On January 20, 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded. This organization has played a crucial role in many major legal battles that have been documented in countless legal texts, non-fiction books, and stories that explore the complexities of civil rights and liberties in America.

Poem of the Day:

“Questions of Travel” by Elizabeth Bishop:

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
—For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?

Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?

And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
—Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
—a pity not to have heard
the other, less expected, voice.
Suddenly, with a cocked ear, listening
to the metallic call of crickets: two clear, identical,
pure notes.
A pity not to have pondered, blurrily and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between that wooden sound and a hole in a post,
while leaning against a sandstone wall
or gathering wildflowers exactly like these,
fragile, papery, frosted—
as if the water were a ghost
only now showing its face in the form of a flower.

These thoughts are all too heavy, too confusing.
Too great a task,
I think, for us to think about packing and going home,
with our machines and our memories.

This reflective and exploratory poem captures the essence of travel, questioning the purpose and impact of experiencing new places and cultures, echoing the introspective journey Buzz Aldrin describes in his return to Earth.

Advice for Writers:

Inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s poetic exploration of travel and experience, consider how journeys—whether physical, emotional, or intellectual—can serve as powerful metaphors in your writing. Reflect on how the journey shapes the traveler, and use this as a narrative tool to delve deeper into the psyche of your characters.

Have an adventurous and contemplative day, dear readers. Until tomorrow, may your own explorations enrich your life and inspire your creativity.

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