Yesterday I posted poems about spring by two poets — one English, one American — whose birthdays fell on March 26. As it happens, yesterday was also the anniversary of the arrival in Washington, DC of three thousand Japanese cherry trees — a gift from the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki — in 1912. First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two of the trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912. The rest of the trees were eventually planted around the Tidal Basin and in other parts of the city. The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935, and it became an annual event that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
Many of Tokyo’s cherry trees were destroyed in allied bombing raids during World War II. After the war ended, cuttings were taken from the Japanese cherry trees in Washington and sent to Tokyo to replace the trees that had been lost.
It’s the birthday of Alfred Edward Housman, born in England in 1859, and Robert Frost, born in California in 1874. In addition to sharing a birthday, they also share the distinction of having written some exceptionally lovely poems about springtime, and heaven knows we all need a little spring right about now.
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
by A. E. Houseman (1859-1936)
Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
by Robert Frost (1874-1963)
From The Duffel Blog.
LACKLAND AFB, Texas – An experimental program to train housecats for military working roles will be scrapped, defense officials have told Duffel Blog. The $93 million initiative, which sought to utilize the feline’s stealth, agility and nine lives in espionage and counterespionage operations, was ultimately derailed by an inconspicuous, yet utterly intriguing, empty cardboard box.
“Training dogs, now that’s one thing. Cats are – well, cats are an entirely different animal,” admits lead handler, Master Sgt. Felicia Keys. “Dogs have discipline – you can teach a dog to ignore tennis balls, Frisbees, squeaky toys. A cat is going to do whatever the hell it wants.”
“Observe,” she says as she gestures to a video monitor showing a low-light training simulation from the adjacent room, where a military working cat (MWC) is being evaluated. The room has been outfitted to replicate an office filled with sensitive and classified materials posing a grave threat to national security.
Kitten First Class Nermal, a gray, mackerel tabby, has been assigned to stop a known hostile from stealing documents and embedding an improvised explosive device within a computer. Instead, Nermal can be seen batting a ball of yarn around for forty-five seconds before becoming bored and then discovering an unassuming but fascinating box. The infiltrator successfully plants the bomb and makes off with the data. A flashing red siren activates.
“End scenario!” yells Keys, exasperatedly rubbing her temples, eyes furiously squeezed shut. Taking a deep breath, she flicks a switch and a bright, white light floods the simulation room. Nermal exchanges a contemptuous glare with the role player, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Arbuckle.
“Every. Single. Goddamn. Cat,” Keys murmurs, clicking through dozens of still captures featuring MWCs in the same box, all exhibiting the same, disdainful scowl.
Keys absentmindedly fast-forwards through footage of Sr. Kitten Chopsticks, a lanky Siamese, chasing a laser dot for eleven minutes while Arbuckle again successfully gathers intelligence. Chopsticks then defiantly knocks a ceramic mug off of a desk, tripping an alarm.
The lead handler buries her face into her arms on the desktop, muttering incomprehensibly.
“I should have just been a drill instructor,” she laments.
At press time, defense officials had abandoned a similar venture to utilize children in tactical applications when subjects repeatedly displayed a proclivity to turn cardboard boxes into fortresses or rocket ships.