phanaerozoic

Musings about life on Earth in all its aspects…

Advent, Day 4 – December 4, 2021

Day 4 – Winter Wonderland California Pinot Noir and mild white Mature Cheddar

Day 4’s selection was a clear-headed, fruity California Pino Noir coupled with a mild, white “Mature Cheddar.” When I first began learning California red wines, after the generics, I tried the fruitier, less complex Pinot Noirs. I pretty quickly became able to identify the grape and found the varietal a good match for many dinners. Of course, I eventually moved on to the heartier versions that often were aged in oak barrels, the designated vineyard Pinots of Oregon and California, and even, finally, to French Burgundies. Today’s was a simple, light, but true to the varietal, Pinot Noir, and was well matched by the quiet and quite mild white cheddar. A pleasant encounter.

It was a cooler day today, high of about 56 with a breeze from the south, so a little chill in the air. Pat and I walked, and she was able to walk her full 1/4 mile using her walker today without having to stop and rest at all. We shuffled through leaves and enjoyed the neighborhood Christmas decorations, many lights beginning to turn on in the last half-hour before sunset. Our walks these days are but dim reminders of our dog-walking, hiking, backpacking, and marathoning days, but we still enjoy them. The wine and cheese pairing for today would have made a great carry-along snack for one of those more robust walks.

A good day all-around for reminiscing about those many other halcyon days we shared through the years.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 4 December 2021.

Advent, 2021 – December 3, 2021

Day 3 – Winter White California Chardonnay and Gouda with Red Pesto

Day 3 revealed the wine choice from the Advent Wine Calendar was “Winter White” – a California Chardonnay – the first varietal of the series. No oak, as you might expect, but a refreshing nose, a hint of sweetness, some fruity side notes, and a definitely attractive and expected Chardonnay taste. My favorite of the wines so far. And the cheese was impressive as well: Gouda, this time with Red Pesto added. Red pesto, which features sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red pepper in most of its incarnations, is less assertive than basil or parsley pesto, and was delightfully tangy with a lingering touch of sun-dried tomato, and garlic, and olive oil. This was an inspired pairing, one I might not have thought of, but one that worked quite well and had me smacking my lips.

“My Favorite Adventure,” a song written for Pat and Roy Beckemeyer by Kelley Hunt and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, sung with her own piano accompaniment by Kelley Hunt.

Here’s an mp3 file of the beautiful song written by Kelly Hunt and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. In 2011, the Kansas governor disbanded the Kansas Arts Council which had sponsored the Kansas Poet Laureate program, and Caryn, who was then Poet Laureate of Kansas, was suddenly left without funding and with no direction as to her status. She took the problem in hand and began to brainstorm ways of funding the program until a new sponsoring organization could be found. She offered “premiums” for donations, including writing poems, doing readings, and writing (along with Kelley Hunt) songs. Since 2011 was the year of our 50th anniversary, I donated $1,000.00 and asked Caryn and Kelly to write us a song. I sent them a brief account of how Pat and I had met and some of the experiences we had shared. Later that year, Kelley played piano and sang the song in person at a poetry reading in Lawrence, Kansas, surprising Pat. She also provided us with a CD and a copy of the song lyrics.

I had promised a couple of days ago to recount here in this blog series the story of how Pat and I met. That story is still in the offing. This song hints at that story, without giving the details. Intrigued? Tune in to the remainder of my posts and watch for that story to appear.

~Roy Beckemeyer, December 3, 2021

Advent 2021 – December 2, 2021

Day 2 – “Merry Red” and Gouda Cheese

Today we went from fall weather to nearly summery – 75 degrees and sunny. If it wasn’t for the leafless and loosely leafed trees and the fall colors, you could totally convince yourself it was early spring. From the case of Advent wines, Day 2 produced “Merry Red,” a somewhat innocuous dry California red of indeterminate and unstated variety, likely a central valley blend. An inconspicuous and simple but nicely colored red, suitable for a burger lunch on a day like this. But it also complimented fairly well the excellent gouda cheese sample. Classic gouda flavor and a firmer cheese than the Edam of yesterday, it did not overpower but did outshine the wine. I found myself wishing I had a slightly more generous helping of cheese.

From a google search – photo of a 70s era “Home Wine Making Kit” from Sears.

This little red wine did take me back to a Christmas in the early 1970s, when Pat bought me a “Home Wine Making Kit” from Sears. That simple little one-gallon kitchen winery started me on a hobby that eventually led to having Zinfandel grapes shipped from Napa Valley to Kansas and a cellar full of everything from cherry wine to a pretty fair oak-aged Zin. After a while my job left me with more spare cash and fewer hours, and I moved from making to buying and cellaring good to great wines. I suppose the lesson is: Be careful with DIY gift kits – they can lead a certain kind of giftee to a long and deep involvement with some esoteric pursuit.

~Roy J Beckemeyer, December 2, 2021

Advent 2021 – December 1, 2021

My 80th birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year (the 12th time it has done so; we were married on Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd, 1961, and Thanksgiving has fallen on our anniversary eight more times since). My daughter, Lori, aided and abetted by grandson Hank, succeeded in finally figuring out how to get me the ALDI’s Wine and Cheese Advent Calendars, a gift she has wanted to give me for some time. Kansas supermarkets cannot currently sell wine and spirits, so our ALDI stores are small and do not have the Advent wine calendar at all. Hank was able to score one of each in Kansas City MIssouri. I had never heard of them at all but was delighted with the gift. There are 24 single-serving bottles of wine and the same number of single servings of cheese. Their calendar states they are to be opened and consumed beginning December 1st, and concluding December 24th. (Advent for Catholics actually began on Sunday the 28th of November.)

This, then, is the first of 24 notes I will provide on successive days between now and Christmas, with comments on the wine and cheese and thoughts on pretty much whatever comes to mind as I partake in this Advent Season 2021.

Day 1 – A Brut Rosé sparkling wine and Edam Cheese.

A December day more like fall than winter, and a fitting sparkling rose-tinged wine. The bubbles of a dry rosé always seemed to me to add something akin to a bit of acidity. In any event, they provide a sort of sharpness to the impact on my tongue, something more feel than taste, but that provides almost a synonym for acidity. A bite, perhaps. Then follow that with the creamy melting flow of edam as different a mouth feel as one could imagine from the bubbly. Quite an enjoyable way to begin a contemplation of the countdown to Christmas Day.

Today Pat and I finished up addressing some Christmas cards that I had painted with different winter snowfall scenes. Some gifts for our great-grandsons and others arrived by mail. Grandson John Honas finished putting up our outside Christmas decorations Sunday. So Christmas is approaching once again. This season is always special, not only for all the tradition and religious and familial meaning, but because it is the season in which Pat and I met. An interesting tale involving skating parties and mistaken identities that I will recount at some time in the next 23 days.

~Roy Beckemeyer, Dec. 1, 2021.

My library of books related to Charles Darwin

I became interested in Charles Darwin when I began to read about biology and ecology in the 1970’s.  Our family vacations for many years consisted in backpacking trips in the Rocky Mountains, and I read widely about alpine ecology so that I would know what I was seeing around me.  As I got into biology, it seemed that I should read The Origin of Species; I guess I thought that it was a book that all biologists had to read as part of their education.  I also picked up a copy of The Voyage of the Beagle, and a couple of biographies of Darwin.  My serious interest began when my wife bought me the first four volumes of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin as a Christmas present in 1990 when we were living in Seattle at the beginning of the Boeing 777 development program.  His letters really brought him to life.  I soon found a nice set of Works of Darwin at the premier natural history book store in the northwest, Flora and Fauna Books in Seattle.  In 1998 my wife and I were lucky enough to get to go on a trip to Antarctica, and traveled out of Ushuaia, Argentina, through the Beagle Channel.  Hope that some day we also get to the Galapagos Islands. 

I have added notes to some of the bibliography entries below for the benefit of anyone interested in reading about Darwin.


  1. Anonymous.  2002.  A selection of rare and magnificent natural history, scientific and medical books including a significant collection of Darwin related materials…  Catalogue 1327.  Maggs Bros. Ltd. London.
  2. Barrett, P. H.  1977.  The Collected Papers of Charles Darwin.  Two Volumes in One.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago, Illinois.  [Paperback]
  3. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 1.  Diary of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Edited by Nora Barlow.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.   [One of the great accounts of natural history exploration of all time.  All ecotourists should read this, especially those who are about to travel by boat.]
  4. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 2.  Journal of Researches.  Part One.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  5. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 3.  Journal of Researches.  Part Two.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  6. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 4.  The Zoology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Part I: Fossil Mammalia.  Part II: Mammalia.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  7. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 5.  The Zoology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Part III: Birds.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  8. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 6.  The Zoology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Part IV: Fish. Part V: Reptiles.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  9. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 7.  The Geology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Part I: Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  10. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 8.  The Geology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Part II: Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  11. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 9.  The Geology of the Voyage of H. M. S. Beagle.  Part III: Geological Observations on South America.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.   [Darwin’s geological observations were as important to his development as a thinker as his biological ones.]
  12. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1987.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 10.  The Foundations of The Origin of Species.  Two Essays Written in 1842 and 1844.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  13. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 11.  A Monograph of the Sub-Class Cirripedia: Vol. I. The Lepadidae.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  14. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 12.  A Monograph of the Sub-Class Cirripedia: Vol. II. The Balanidae. Part One.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  15. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 13.  A Monograph of the Sub-Class Cirripedia: Vol. II. The Balanidae. Part Two.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  16. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 14.  Monographs of the Fossil Lepadidae and the Fossil Balanidae.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.   [Darwin was also an accomplished taxonomist.  Lots of detailed microscopy and dissection work went into these treatises.]
  17. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 15.  On The Origin Of Species.  1859.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.   [Not an easy read – none of Darwin’s scientific works are – but should be read by everyone with an interest in science.  His concepts provide the underpinning for all of biology.]
  18. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 16.  On The Origin Of Species.  1876.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  19. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 17.  The Various Contrivances By Which Orchids Are Fertilized By Insects.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  20. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 18.  The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  21. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 19.  Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.  Volume I.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  22. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1988.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 20.  Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.  Volume II.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  23. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 21.  The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  24. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 22.  The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Part Two.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  25. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 23.  The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  26. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 24.  Insectivorous Plants.  Revised by Francis Darwin.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  27. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 25.  The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  28. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 26.  The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species.  Preface by Francis Darwin.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  29. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 27.  The Power of Movement in Plants.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  30. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 28.  The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.   [Notice the breadth of topics covered by this true Renaissance man; any of these works would be a major contribution – taken together they are astounding.]
  31. Barrett, P. H., & R. B. Freeman (Editors).  1989.  The Works of Charles Darwin.  Vol. 29.  Erasmus Darwin by Ernest Krause with a Preliminary Notice by Charles Darwin.  The Autobiography of Charles Darwin edited by Nora Barlow.  Consolidated Index compiled by Richard Raper.  New York University Press.  Washington Square.  New York.
  32. Bowlby, J.  1990.  Charles Darwin: A New Life.  W. W. Norton & Company.  New York.
  33. Browne, J.  1995.  Charles Darwin: Voyaging. [Vol. I of a Biography].  Alfred A. Knopf.  New York.
  34. Browne, J.  2002.  Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. [Vol. II of a Biography].  Alfred A. Knopf.  New York.  [Perhaps the definitive biography of the man.  Certainly a powerful and readable set of books.  Highly recommended.]
  35. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1985.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 1.  1821-1836.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.  [Note that the Darwin Correspondence Project is available online at: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/ ]
  36. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1986.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 2.  1837-1843.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  37. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1987.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 3.  1844-1846.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  38. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1988.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 4.  1847-1850.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  39. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1989.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 5.  1851-1855.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  40. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1990.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 6.  1856-1857.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  41. Burkhardt, F., & S. Smith.  1991.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 7.  1858-1859. Supplement 1821-1857. Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  42. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, J. Browne, & M. Richmond.  1993.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 8.  1860.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  43. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, J. Harvey, & M. Richmond.  1994.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 9.  1861.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  44. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, J. Harvey, & J. R. Topham.  1997.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 10.  1862.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  45. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, S. A. Dean,  J. R. Topham, & S. Wilmot.  1999.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 11.  1863.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  46. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, S. A. Dean,  P. S. White, & S. Wilmot.  2001.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 12.  1864.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.   [A monumental work that contributes so much to understanding and appreciating Darwin and his mind.]
  47. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, S. A. Dean, S. Evans, S. Innes, A. M. Pearn, A. Sclater, P. White, and S. Wilmot.  2002.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 13. 1865.  Supplement To The Correspondence 1822-1864.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  48. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, S. A. Dean, S. Evans, S. Innes, A. M. Pearn, A. Sclater, P. White, and S. Wilmot.  2004.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 14. 1866.   Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  49. Burkhardt, F., D. M. Porter, S. A. Dean, S. Evans, S. Innes, A. M. Pearn, A. Sclater, P. White, and S. Wilmot.  2005.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 15. 1867.   Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  50. Burkhardt, F., J. A. Secord, S. A. Dean, S. Evans, S. Innes, A. M. Pearn, and P. White.  2008.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 16. Part I. January – June 1868.   Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  51. Burkhardt, F., J. A. Secord, S. A. Dean, S. Evans, S. Innes, A. M. Pearn, and P. White.  2008.  The Correspondence of Charles Darwin.  Volume 16. Part II. July-December 1868.   Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England.
  52. Clark, R. W.  1984.  The Survival of Charles Darwin: A Biography of a Man and an Idea.  Random House.  New York.
  53. Darwin, C.  [For Darwin’s various publications, see Barrett, P. H., and R. B. Freeman, The Works of Charles Darwin, above].
  54. Darwin, C.  1959.  The Voyage of the Beagle.  J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.  London.  [No. 104.  Everyman’s Library Series.]
  55. Dennett, D. C.  1995.  Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.  Simon & Schuster.  New York.
  56. Desmond, A., & J. Moore.  1991.  Darwin: The Life Of A Tormented Evolutionist.  Warner Books.  New York.  
  57. DiGregorio, M. A.  1984.   T. H. Huxley’s Place in Natural Science.  Yale University Press.  New Haven, Connecticut.
  58. Freeman, R. B.  1978.  Charles Darwin: A Companion.  Dawson.  Folkestone, Kent, England. [Richard Keynes]
  59. Gallant, R. A.  1972.  Charles Darwin: The Making of a Scientist.  Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Garden City, New York. 
  60. Keynes, R.  2001.  Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, his Daughter and Human Evolution.  Fourth Estate.  London, England.  [Randal Keynes]
  61. Keynes, R. Darwin (Editor).  1988.  Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England. [Richard Keynes]
  62. Keynes, R.  2000.  Charles Darwin’s Zoology Notes & Specimen Lists from H.M.S. Beagle.  Cambridge University Press.  Cambridge, England. [Richard Keynes]
  63. Keynes, R.  2002.  Fossils, Finches and Fuegians: Charles Darwin’s Adventures and Discoveries on the Beagle, 1832-1836.  HarperCollins Publishers. London, England. [Richard Keynes]
  64. Lyell, C.  1990.  Principles of Geology.  First Edition.  Volume I.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago, Illinois.  [Facsimile Edition of 1830 First Edition]
  65. Lyell, C.  1991.  Principles of Geology.  First Edition.  Volume II.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago, Illinois.  [Facsimile Edition of 1831 First Edition]
  66. Lyell, C.  1991.  Principles of Geology.  First Edition.  Volume III.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago, Illinois.  [Facsimile Edition of 1833 First Edition]  [Lyell was Darwin’s mentor, and his Geology provided Darwin’s inspiration.  Interesting reading both in itself and for the insight it can provide into Darwin’s work.]
  67. Marks, R. L.  1991.  Three Men of the Beagle.  Alfred A. Knopf.  New York.  [A well-written and extremely approachable book about the Beagle voyage.  Sheds light on how Europeans thought of other cultures.  Highly recommended.]
  68. Morehead, A.  1969.  Darwin and the Beagle.  Harper & Rowe, Publishers.  New York.
  69. Morris, S., L. Wilson, & D. Kohn.  1998.  Charles Darwin at Down House.  English Heritage.
  70. Stevens, L. Robert.  1978.  Charles Darwin.  Twayne Publishers.  Boston, Massachusetts.
  71. Wheeler, W. M., & T. Barbour (Editors).  1933.  The Lamarck Manuscripts at Harvard.  Harvard University Press.  Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  72. White, M., & J. Gribbin.  1995.  Darwin: A Life In Science.  A Dutton Book.  Penguin Books.  New York.

Tributes to Charles Darwin’s Humanity

Today, February 12, 2020, is the 211th birthday of Charles Darwin. It was purely fortuitous that it is also the day that I read Albert Goldbarth‘s poem, “Prosopagnosia,” (pp. 25-26 in his 2017 book, The Loves and Wars of Relative Scale, Lost Horse Press). In the final stanza of this brilliant poem (google the title if you don’t know the word), Goldbarth celebrates Darwin’s human-ness while simultaneously acknowledging the way the scientist Darwin could shun human contact by enveloping himself in his work. Recounting Darwin’s grief at losing his ten-year-old daughter, Annie, Goldbarth speculates that Darwin might have assuaged his profound sorrow in the same way: “I think it was the worms / that calmed him. One night when the house was still, / he padded down to the billiard room where the worm pots were / and by the light of the paraffin lamp he watched them…” One of the reasons this poem resonated so deeply with me is that I had once managed to celebrate Darwin’s humanity in a similar way but in the relatively dry prose of a scientific paper.

I have long admired Darwin’s work and read much of his correspondence (Cambridge University Press), and many biographies, attempting to better understand the man behind the science. One of those books was Randal Keynes‘, Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter And Human Evolution (Fourth Estate, London, 2001). Keynes chronicled the interactions of Darwin’s family life, including the tragic loss of his daughter, and his scientific work during the time he was formulating and documenting The Origin of Species. In 2011, not too long after I had read Keynes’ volume, Michael S. Engel and I reported a study of the Palaeozoic insects of Alabama (Roy J Beckemeyer and Michael S Engel, 2011, “Upper Carboniferous insects from the Pottsville Formation of northern Alabama (Insecta: Ephemeropterida, Palaeodictyopterida, Odonatoptera)” Scientific Paper, University of Kansas Natural History Museum 44: 1-19). One of the fossils we described was this finely preserved pair of forewings of an insect that we determined belonged in the extinct insect order SYNTONOPTERODEA Laurentiaux, 1953:

We decided that this insect, the first new genus and species described in our paper, would be named in recognition of Darwin’s daughter. The name we assigned was Anniedarwinia alabamensis. Here is our statement on the etymology of the genus name:

“The new genus-group name honors Charles Darwin’s humanity by remembering his second child … Anne Elizabeth “Annie” Darwin (1841-1851). Darwin nursed his ten-year-old daughter through the final stages of her illness. Her death broke her father’s heart: ‘We have lost the joy of our household, and the solace of our old age: she must have known how we loved her; oh that she could know how deeply, how tenderly we do still…’ (Charles Darwin, 30 April, 1851: Keynes, 2001).”

So Albert Goldbarth’s poem brought me full circle, here on Charles Darwin’s birthday, back to thinking of how Darwin had nursed his child through all the stages of her illness, watching her weaken and fade, how this distraught father had struggled through debilitating grief to write the book that changed the way we understand the mechanisms of life on our world.

 

Roy Beckemeyer, 12 February 2020

 

Writing Exercises – An Example from Archives of The Wayward Poets

I have belonged to a poetry writing group, The Wayward Poets, since around 2010. It was formed by Virginia Hays and some other students of the late Helen Throckmorton’s poetry classes for senior citizens at LifeVentures, and named, I believe, by Glen Fisher. The group, with various members over the years, still meets weekly.

In addition to bringing either new poems of ours or works from our archives to share with one another, we usually do a writing exercise. In its most common form, we each contribute one or two words and are then tasked with writing a poem or paragraph of creative writing that incorporates each of the words. We then each read our composition.

Here’s an example, from 14 January 2016.

Words: Roy: shoal, theme; Susan: room, starlight; Pat B: intrepid, tremulous; Pat L: revoke, tyrant; Dixie: chip, pop; Joyce: swirl, spite.

My poem:

“The theme
is starlight,” she laughed,
“the ceiling is
scattered with
diamond chips
and swirls of galaxies.”
The room fizzed
like pop, and,
in spite of himself,
he smiled, imagined
himself intrepid,
facing her tyrant father,
saying “I revoke
your parent’s license,
sir!” No more
tremulous tiptoeing
when he went
to her door to pick her up.
He left his fear
in the shoals, grasped her hand,
and took sail for
the deep waters
of young love.

 

Posted 28 May, 2019 by Roy Beckemeyer

Happy Birthday, Miles

Miles Davis (May 26, 1926-Sept. 28, 1991).

Miles Davis would have turned 93 today. He died 28 years ago. I can’t remember when I first heard him on the old console radio in the tiny unincorporated village in Illinois where I grew up. I had discovered jazz about the same time I discovered Elvis. I wasn’t musically sophisticated but had grown up with my mom listening to big band music and the popular music of the day, much of it set to the wondrous songs of the Great American Songbook. Jazz set something off in my head, though, the complexity of the rhythms, the unexpected directions, the strange departures from the melody line of those great old standards after the familiar opening measures.

I bought my first jazz album soon after I got my driver’s license, in 1957. I worked part-time at Piggly Wiggly, so had some loose change to spend, and could get to the other local towns where records were sold. There were never a lot of 33’s, especially jazz, but I can still remember finding Cookin’. Some of you will recall how it was. The 12” records in their colorful sleeves stacked at an angle on the counter, the way you had to pull them upright with one hand, page through them with the other. That album really stood out, the bold and thick black lines of the almost abstract drawing of a trumpeter’s face, his right cheek, his hand wrapped around the trumpet, fingering the keys. I know my hands were shaking when I found it. A real jazz album there in that dime store! You readers who grew up in the age of music sharing and the internet will never know how it was back then, how finding an album like that in backwater small town America was like finding buried treasure.

Miles Davis had been one of my first discoveries as I learned the names and sounds of jazz listening late into the night to my radio, turned down so it wouldn’t wake up my brother or sisters. His muted trumpet on ballads was lush and soul-stirring to a newly romantic teenager just beginning to think more seriously about girls. I almost wore that album out within a couple months of buying it. No big hi-fi system in our house, just a portable cube of a record player with a heavy arm and dull needle. But I learned every note, every beat of the songs, and to this day I can hum along with the soloists. Some of Miles’ most famous albums were still in the offing then: Kind of Blue in 1959, Sketches of Spain in 1960, Seven Steps to Heaven in 1963, In a Silent Way in 1969, Bitches Brew in 1970. But Cookin’ was the disc that hooked me.

I came of age in those years, graduated college, got married, joined the Air Force, became a father. And I did it all to the soundtrack of Miles and Cannnonball and Bruebeck and Jamal and Monk and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and Mingus. And it all started with that first LP.

So Happy Birthday, Miles. You had one helluva journey through life and music, and I was pleased to get to hear you as I went through mine. I still listen to you now, all these years later. I listened to Cookin’ again today. You never looked back with nostalgia on what you had accomplished, always looked ahead to what there was left to do. I kind of do that, too, like to try new things and keep learning. But I also like to go back to those days when everything you played was new and exciting. Thanks for the legacy.

—Roy Beckemeyer, May 26, 2019.

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Supplement:

Here’s a short review of Cookin’ I wrote and had posted on my old (now defunct) website, windsofkansas back in 2005:

COOKIN’ (Miles Davis).  Miles Davis – Trumpet; John Coltrane – Tenor Sax; Red Garland – Piano; Paul Chambers – Bass; Philly Joe Jones – Drums.  Prestige OJCCD-128-2 (P-7094).  Produced by Bob Weinstock, recorded in Hackensack, NJ, Oct. 26, 1956 by Rudy Van Gelder.

Tracks: 1. My Funny Valentine. 5:59; 2. Blues By Five. 9:59; 3. Airegin. 4:24; 4. Tune Up/When The Lights Are Low. 13:08.

My first jazz album, and one that I played over and over again.  It made My Funny Valentine one of my favorite songs, and Miles’ muted trumpet almost defines how this tune should be performed (…well, ok, Coltrane’s version in his album named My Funny Valentine is pretty good, too).  Red Garland’s intro is clean and precise and delicate, and Miles comes in mellow, his solo giving way to Garland.  Blues By Five opens with Garland riffing the melody and building into Miles’ open horn bouncing around the melodic line.  Coltrane’s solo roughs the tune up a bit and then Garland’s clean, short notes tinkle out, each distinct, none overlapping, almost as if he was using vibraphone mallets.  Paul Chambers takes a turn, Garland comping sparingly in the background.  The rhythm section joins together and trades back and forth with Jones solos until Red closes by revisiting the melody.  Airegin, a Sonny Rollins composition, is fast and Miles changes the pace to medium hot.  Coltrane keeps the pace and blows out a flurry of notes on his solo.  Tune Up/When Lights Are Low is really fast, a blowing session for the horns that gets your blood pressure back up a bit.

5 Stars – A nostalgic favorite of mine with the classical and lyrical version of a classy Rodgers and Hart song. Reviewed 9 November, 2005.”

 

Planes and Planets

Yesterday, on the morning of the last day of winter, March 19, 2019, around 6:30 a.m., the minuet of the planets was on impressive display across the southern sky. Venus, nearly due east, was just clear of the horizon, still inching its way toward the sun and a coming period when it would be lost in the dawn’s glow. Saturn was arcing up into the east by southeastern sky, halfway up into the line of trees along our street, and bright Jupiter was brilliant in the southeast, nearly clear of the highest branchlets of the tallest elm. Admiring the progression, I drew with my extended arm the arching path of the ecliptic across the sky and found on the western horizon the approaching moonset of morning.

I love seeing the morning sky unfold, the planets moving amongst the background of the Zodiac’s constellations, contemplating the way our Solar System is spread into a flattened oval racetrack of planets, nearly all spinning, like the Sun, counterclockwise (as viewed looking down from the earth’s north pole),  all coursing in a clockwise path around the Sun, this dance shaped by and in honor of the conservation of the angular momentum of some five billion years of glittering, whirling evolution.

~Roy Beckemeyer, 20 March, 2019

Skies Scattered with Stars

Living in a large, well-lit city means losing sight of the stupendous night sky. I think something fundamentally wrong with our worldview comes with that absence. We no longer see ourselves as part of something so much bigger than we and our dazzling civilization. We no longer see ourselves and all we have built as minuscule specks in the midst of a seemingly infinite world; we and our lives become all too important, become foremost in importance.

I grew up in a small town, back in the days when the dark was complete: black velvet, deep and light-absorbing, with stars that crystallized out of the depths of that absence of light, that sparked and glistened, that led you to believe you could never count them all. And in summer, our home galaxy arched up from the southern sky across the bowl of the heavens, waves of phosphorescence, stars and star systems dense with color and brightness. Small wonder that we spent so much time outdoors, our eyes directed skyward.

Back when our son and daughter were in elementary and high school, we spent most of our summer vacations backpacking in various mountain ranges in the western United States. We loved to hike above tree line, and camping up there always left us awestruck at the immensity of the sky, at the unparalleled clarity. The whole night sky took on a three-dimensional feel. Those vacations were healing for many reasons, the night sky one of them.

Our kids and their kids are now well along on their live’s trajectories. It has been many years since my wife and I experienced the night sky; with old age and infirmity and absent-mindedness we let things go, complained to one another about not having seen the stars for so long. The acceleration of our perception of time contributes to that feeling of something valuable escaping us, I believe, and we finally made our minds up to find a dark place and enjoy the sky, buoyed on by the prediction of clear skies (except for the smoke from the California fires), a recent new moon, and the waning days of the Perseid meteor showers.

We drove thirty miles out of town, found a place to park (too close to the highway, but traffic was sparse enough that it worked out), and reclined on a blanket beneath the starry night. It was good for our souls. We gasped to one another about how magnificently the Milky Way wound its bright swath across the sky, identified barely remembered constellations and planets (Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars were arrayed along the ecliptic like beads on a necklace), and felt how we are certainly all too finite (an idea acknowledged recently by an untimely death in the family), felt blessed that we could still take this all in through these old and less than perfect eyes.

Here are two less than wonderful images I took with my camera. Both show the southern sky, the Milky Way. In the first, Mars is the bright spot of red light to the left. Saturn is visible over toward the right, a little higher in the sky than Mars, and located just at the right edge of the brightest patch of galactic light. The second is cropped in on a tighter portion of the sky, Mars out of view, Saturn now the brightest object visible, and there are two faint meteor tracks visible well over to the right of Saturn and nearly directly above the telephone pole. These, of course, do not capture reality very well. I only hope that they inspire you to stay up late some night soon, drive out beyond the lights of your city, town, or homestead, park, find a grassy spot to loll on and recapture your childlike awe at the wonder of skies scattered with stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Roy Beckemeyer, August 12, 2018