Thursday, December 20, 2007

When you gather them all up...

Here is Mary Woodward (her photographer friend Susan behind the camera) at the birthday party of a venerable lesbian poet in New York this past fall.
"My friend Mary," says I.
"My friend Lillian," says she.

Now, Brenda Conlan, gee I haven't seen her in forever. She's the only person I know who writes a Christmas letter that doesn't make me grind my teeth.

I've missed Sharon Harper this year. Maybe it was her, maybe it was me. But I feel impoverished by it. She lives in a house I've never seen. And I've totally lost track of the people who are important in her life.

Oh, and I finally "found" Martha McLean again! The woman has been a writing fool -- her serialized community portrait of lesbians in Asheville, NC in the '70s is a rolicking read: Sheville.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Port-of-Entry Review

This is Austin.

He carefully inspects everything that comes into the household--sort of like those canaries they keep in the bottom of mining shafts.

The amaryllis, he says, could be dangerous.

* * *

I don't know who was more appalled by the scope of my shopping trips this past weekend--him or me. Leaving the checkout line at one of my many stops, I noticed that my receipt said I'd bought 60 items. (I ended up with a fistful of receipts. I shudder to think what the total number of items added up to over the course of the weekend!)

But such a huge influx of STUFF was enough to make me toss and turn Sunday night. As I was laying there in the dark, I tried to name / list the 60. I made it to fifty-something. To defend myself, this was a trip to one of those 10-acre box stores, so my haul was partly made up of recurring grocery items--cottage cheese, Canola oil, 2 jars of spaghetti sauce, a bunch of bananas, a green pepper, etc.--but still-- 60 things! Including the miraculous budding amaryllis in red foil. Austin said it could stay, though he's keeping a close eye on it just in case.

Monday, December 3, 2007

O Tannenbaum

i found some really gorgeous ornaments on sale... so i bought them. when i got home and looked around, it occurred to me that i could use the coat rack! (no, i don't like Christmas as much as i do Halloween...)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Seeing what is there...

The other day, I realized that I have never lived this close to a street sign before. It's right next to my mailbox on the sidewalk just beyond my front door. It's actually quite appealing--on an aesthetic level.

Is it a message from the universe? And if so, what?!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shadow Play - Gloria & the African Violet

Grown from a single leaf...

April 7, 2006 to November 8, 2007.

For my birthday a friend brought me a tray of African Violet leaves nestled in styrofoam cups full of dirt. She had given me cuttings from her splendid collection. It was one of those real gifts--like donating blood or giving up a weekend.

This week, one of them bloomed! My first! At last!!

(So the gestation period was, evidently, about18 months?!)

What is the botanical term -- there are three stalks just for flowers, with three buds per stalk.

Helplessness - a haiku

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

brain dump ... some writerly inspiration and beauty i gathered in October 2003

Flying Over the Nebraska of My Life
by Marge Piercy

So much of our lives dissolves.
What did I do the day before
I met you? You remember
what I was wearing that holiday.
What did I wear the next morning?
What did I write the day my mother died?

I fly at night over the plains.
There is a cluster of lights,
a starfish shape glittering. Then
darkness and darkness.
Then another clump bearing
long daisy petals of roadway.

Then nothing again. How much
of my living has fled like water
into sand. The sand is not
even damp to the hand.
Tears and wine and sparkling
water all vanish the same.

I know looking out the plane's
dirty window that there are houses,
barns, roads, trees, stores
distinct in that darkness I once
drove through. I knew them and will
never know them again.

The plane is flying from lighted
place to lighted place, but
our arc is from the dark into
brightness then back into darkness.
I want to possess my own life like a
necklace, pearl by pearl of light.

John Berryman said,
"The artist is extremely lucky who is
presented with the worst possible ordeal
which will not actually kill him.
At that point, he's in business."

Poem: "Advice to Young Writers,"
by Ron Padgett, from You Never Know
(Coffee House Press).

Advice to Young Writers

One of the things I've repeated to writing
students is that they should write when they don't
feel like writing, just sit down and start,
and when it doesn't go very well, to press on then,
to get to that one thing you'd otherwise
never find. What I forgot to mention was
that this is just a writing technique, that
you could also be out mowing the lawn, where,
if you bring your mind to it, you'll also eventually
come to something unexpected ("The robin he
hunts and pecks"), or watching the "Farm News"
on which a large man is referring to the "Greater
Massachussetts area." It's alright, students, not
to write. Do whatever you want. As long as you find
that unexpected something, or even if you don't.

Poem: "The day my mother died,"
by Marge Piercy, from
Colors Passing Through Us

The day my mother died

I seldom have premonitions of death.
That day opened like any
ordinary can of tomatoes.

The alarm drilled into my ear.
The cats stirred and one leapt off.
The scent of coffee slipped into my head

like a lover into my arms and I sighed,
drew the curtains and examined
the face of the day.

I remember no dreams of loss.
No dark angel rustled ominous wings
or whispered gravely.

I was caught by surprise
like the trout that takes the fly
and I gasped in the fatal air.

You were gone suddenly as a sound
fading in the coil of the ear
no trace, no print, no ash

just the emptiness of stilled air.
My hunger feeds on itself.
My hands are stretched out

to grasp and find only their
own weight bearing them down
toward the dark cold earth.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I have to admit it -- I really love Halloween. I suspect that it is my favorite holiday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Space Shuttle Launch

My brother has a cubicle in a building near the launch pads on the Cape. He emailed me Tuesday morning & mentioned that the shuttle was going up! I watched it live via the internet, in the corner of my computer screen.

A little later he said, "This is an old picture out my window but you can see pad A off to the right. I went outside because I wanted to hear and feel the noise. Way cool." No kidding. !!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How do i get to less...

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
William Morris 'The Beauty of Life' 1880

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

5 - 7 - 5

Watch people walk past--
a steady trickle of water
from the fountain.

What color are the
marigold leaves now turning
after the first frost?

Feel that?! ...that's a breeze.
...Now? October sun. ...And that?!
One last sprig of thyme.

Shoot. I did it a-
gain. Hand me the eraser...
I'm back to square one.

Perform miracles:
Stand up, walk to the sink, fill
a glass, take a drink.

Friday, October 5, 2007

One word.

asdf jkl;
Typing class in 11th grade. Horrors.
Remember carbon paper?!
I don't miss those days at all.
But I miss the sound the keys made,
the ding of the bell,
the slide of the return lever.

I would watch a test pattern.

I barely recognize them... they were in black and white.

Sometimes you need to experiment...

Sometimes you just need to test things... experiment, etc...

The proper Tool for the Job

You are what you make: stars and beetles

FreeWill Astrology

"If one theorized about the nature of the Creator from a study of creation," said British geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, "it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles." He drew that inference from the facts that one-fourth of all animal species are beetles and that in the Milky Way Galaxy alone there are a trillion stars for every person on earth. What about you? What could we conclude about the nature of your mission here on the planet if we took an inventory of what you create? What are the experiences, products, artifacts, words, feelings, and impressions that you regularly spawn, and what do they say about you? It's an excellent time to meditate on this subject.


This oracle is coming to you live from your repressed memory of paradise, reminding you that all of creation loves you very much.

Even now, secret allies are cooking up mysteries that will excite you and incite you for years to come.

Even now, the earth and sun are collaborating to make sure you have all you need to make your next move.

But here's the loaded question: Are you willing to start loving life back with an equal intensity? The adoration it offers you has not exactly been unrequited, but there is room for you to be more demonstrative.

Half of the art of really living is about being improvisationally receptive to life's elaborate scheme to shower you with blessings. The other half is about learning to be a co-conspirator who assists life in doling out blessings-to help everyone else get exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.

The living language is like a cow-path: it is the creation of the cows
themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to
their whims or their needs. From daily use, the path undergoes change. A cow
is under no obligation to stay. -E.B. White, writer (1899-1985)

I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.
-Antonio Porchia, writer (1886-1968)

Friday, September 28, 2007

I am Standing on Holy Ground.

I really like the FreeWill Astrology guy. He throws out such useful challenges:

Your first assignment is to practice feeling that everywhere you go you are standing on holy ground. Capitalize that phrase in your imagination -- "I AM STANDING ON HOLY GROUND" -- as you move through the world. Your second assignment, which may at first seem unrelated, is to kick your evil twin's ass. Do it tenderly and compassionately, with full awareness that both you and your evil twin are standing on holy ground. But don't stop kicking until you convince your evil twin to take greater responsibility for his or her personal share of the world's darkness.

- - - -

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change," said psychologist Carl Rogers. I suggest you make that your guiding principle in the coming weeks. You're overdue for a purge of bad habits and a surge of fresh approaches, but that won't happen unless you can conjure up a relaxed acceptance towards those bad habits -- as well as a big dose of self-forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Office Politics

Left: Our Unit Director--a woman who is an athlete and amazing cook--won the contest with her lovely and apparently tasty tower of miniature creme puffs. These attractive, high maintenance nuggets probably have a fancy French name I have since made a point to forget.

In the middle of a very busy stressful week, our boss and the marketing person in another area of the business, asked if we all didn't want to participate in a Dessert Contest.

I was annoyed. Very annoyed.

For one thing, a couple of the people I work with are dieting. Since I am the token vegetarian in the organization, I am left out or forgotten on a regular basis and know what a rude thing this is. I also know how it feels to smile and pretend it doesn't matter, etc., etc..

For another thing--it feels like vaguely insulting. We work very hard, and are not well paid. Asking us to make and bring food, and making it part of esprit d'corps, seems
just plain Scrooge-like. Is my boss' boss, the V.P. going to shop and give up an evening to bake?! (Or will he make his wife do it?!) 30 years after the feminist revolution I smell something in the kitchen, and it isn't all sweetness.

Here's to a fluffy, delicious, indigestible double standard. The leader of our unit won the contest for us. Congratulations! (Sort-of).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Repeat the important things...

Coming Home
by Mary Oliver

When we are driving in the dark,
on the long road to Provincetown,
when we are weary,
when the buildings and the scrub pines lose their familiar look,
I imagine us rising from the speeding car.
I imagine us seeing everything from another place--
the top of one of the pale dunes, or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea.
And what we see is a world that cannot cherish us,
but which we cherish.
And what we see is our life moving like that
along the dark edges of everything,
headlights sweeping the blackness,
believing in a thousand fragile and unprovable things.
Looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.

Friday, August 31, 2007

...that is why they call it "practice"

I am one of those people who have a meditation/ spirituality quote routed to my email Inbox every day. But there is something gently ironic about my sense that recently, they are piling up on me. There are too many of them. They are making me feel badly. I can't seem to hang onto them, much less profit by their wisdom.

This morning as I worried about which ones to delete, and which ones to file, and which ones to save (and if so, save where?!), it occurred to me that I was acting/ feeling/ behaving in just the sorts of ways they warn us about. After all, one of the central beliefs/ goals is about not hanging onto things. Including pithy, uplifting, prayerful messages?!

I now feel myself taking a deep breath. Now I feel the air on my nostrils as I slowly release it.

Enlightenment--that magnificent escape from anguish and ignorance--never happens by accident. It results from the brave and sometimes lonely battle of one person against his own weaknesses.

-Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, "Landscapes of Wonder"

Whatever attitudes we habitually use toward ourselves, we will use on others, and whatever attitudes we habitually use toward others, we will use on ourselves. The situation is comparable to our serving food to ourselves and to other people from the same bowl. Everyone ends up eating the same thing--we must examine carefully what we are dishing out.

-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness"

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child--our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, "Miracle of Mindfulness"

...I promise not to burn out...

so that I can continue to be of help to myself and others in working for the healing of the world. I will take care of myself, nurture myself with good friends, good food, and enough rest, and try to touch the sources of compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in each moment of every day.

Mushim Ikeda

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

About half an hour ago, as I was heading out the door for some fresh air, a cricket caught my eye. He or she was ambling along the hallway in the building where I work, carrying a small bug (Lunch?! I didn't know they ate other bugs, but this didn't look like taxi service). The cricket was moving purposefully. But trekking across a vast, shiny tile walkway, he or she was definitely not in his or her natural habitat. I knelt and against the struggling creature's will, scooped it up and transported it outside, depositing it in a nearby planter.

When I came back half an hour later and opened the door to come back into the building, I glanced down and there was a cricket, zooming over the threshold, determined to get into the building! Now you tell me...