Thursday, February 28, 2013

the logical way to do things: because I love writing

I'm saying a kind of good-bye, again.  Always again.  I'm not going far and I'll be checking in the last day of each month to keep myself honest and on itinerary.  But I'm taking a kind of sabbatical from writing here so that I can write behind closed doors for a while.   No matter how many times I decide I can't both write and live my life.  No matter how many times I decide it's a waste of time.  No matter what, I keep finding ways to keep writing.  Now I want to bring all those ways of writing into one way.  And as much as the ImagiBicy has been a useful vehicle, there are roads it can't take me on, things I can't write about here so out in the open.

I hope I can face my fear of fire.  But I've been reading that old poet-prophet Isaiah and he's told me there's a way to dwell with the fire, to get it to light my view of the far-off land.  And my friend Stobrod has reminded me it may be worthwhile to go at every story as if all within earshot had been recently set afire.

 I've been carrying water to put out fires long enough.

The logical way to do things now is get to chopping wood.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I love kimchee

But not always.  In fact, usually, I cannot make myself eat it.  Even out of curiosity.

But I am finishing my second jar within a week's span and about to open the third.

I love it because it is red.  And is not bland.  Unlike most other things that I can bear to eat this past week (broth, potato soup, tisane, applesauce, yogurt), kimchee bites back.  And I get to eat it with a fork. Unlike most other things (broth, potato soup, tisane, applesauce, yogurt).  Also it cauterizes as it goes down.  Which has to be an advantage.  At least it puts my throat to sleep long enough for me to get some sleep.

I like to think it's doing me some good. 

I love it, the kimchee and also how the body tells you what it needs when you really need it.  I'm sure I would love it if my body and I were always on such good speaking terms.  But usually, when the body is not lurching from breath to breath, my body and I act more like busy spouses -- sleeping in the same room, sharing the same tube of toothpaste, but not engaging much in newsy chat.  Something about the moment of crisis that helps communication skills.  So I love it that my body can assess its needs for Vitamins A, B, C and on past zebra and tell me in no uncertain terms, Kimchee!  Now!  I love that my body talks to me.

But I wouldn't mind a little less love, a little less kimchee and a chance to live my old lifestyle of late nights and lungs I never think about and meals based on something more toothsome than the body's need, the color red and the ability to go down hot and easy.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

my 12++ funny valentines

sing it, Ella!  
. . . pretty please? 

You're my funny valentine
Because, I love #1 Ella Fitzgerald, I love her voice, her elegant phrasing, her power,
and #2 this song particularly
for its #3 tender swooping croon 
and #4 its happy wordplay 
which depends for part of its punch on #5 its satisfying, insistent and frequent rhyme,

Sweet comic valentine
and I do love rhyme though it is so outre of me to say so, though maybe so outre it's time for it to be retro and come back again bigger and badder than ever, not as some irritating cliche that jingle-jangles at the end of the line.  

Not rhyme as cliche, so trite and slight.

You make me smile with my heart
But rhyme as a kind of life-affirming lub-dub of the human heart, the joke with its answering laughter,  the mirroring expressions of good conversation, call and right-back-atcha, dancing together rather than just one individual shaking alone 

Because I have a theory about rhyme
Your looks are laughable

that it's a persevering echo, a hopeful amplification of  the universal day and night and day, a cerebro-aural celebration of the regular return of the seasons and everything else that's good. 

I think there's something to the coincidental loss that we incurred when we turned away from rhyme at the same time we turned away from dancing as a social and communal recreation, at the same time we turned away from gathering around to sing together, at the same time we, most of us, more of us than ever before in the history of the world, left our bodies in gray cubicles and began to take up full time residence inside our minds.

Which were not the same kinds of minds we had when we had sky above us most hours of the day, but were now only our best, gray, thin and sickly approximations of a mind, divorced more and more from our blood.  

Yet you're my favorite work of art
At the same time TV came in, with its reruns and repetitive commercials and plotlines (a poorman's approximation of real rhyme) and our towns began to glow with an eerie blue light in summer evenings as the porches emptied and the fireflies and crickets did what nocturnal insects do undisturbed now by laughing calling children who were no longer running through the now too-quiet shadows and the untrampled and cool dark grass.

 okay, it's true, I love #6 theories.

Is your figure less than Greek?
Though I realize loving theories argues against my polemic above in favor of living in the body more. 

Just like my writing here instead of working outside in today's unseasonable sunshine could be seen as a betrayal of all I claim to hold most dear.  

 Because I do love #7 the individuality of the body, the whorls of thumbprints

And I do love #8 sunshine.
Is your mouth a little weak?
When you open it to speak . . .
And not only that, I love #9 all excuses to celebrate, to make joy and take joy, to dance a little and laugh a lot and tell people you love them, because how often do we get permission to do that and why would we think we need permission?
and what's more I love #10 all the paraphernalia of celebration: doilies, especially the intricate ones, 
and pink paper and bows of red ribbon
. . . Are you smart?

and also I love #11 puns.  
(Yes, I know punning is a degraded form of humor, 
but hey! even it was said of Shakespeare 
that he'd sacrifice a whole scene for a really clever quibble.)

(and really clever in my book
is all in the eyes of the beholder) 
Don't change a hare for me . . .

Which is just another way to say,
I really love #12  Valentine's Day.
Despite all the obligatory cards and bad chocolate.
Despite all the surrounding romantic angst.

I think I have always loved Valentine's Day because it was never primarily for me about coupling up but more about familial love.  Because my mom always made this a day to celebrate her love for us, my dad and me and my brothers and sisters.

And when I say always, I mean of course, at least once or twice, when I remember coming into dinner on Valentine's Day and finding some funny toy on each plate and, I think, heart-shaped pancakes at breakfast.


. . . Not if you care for me
But maybe it was more than once or twice.  Maybe it was actually always.  The way my grandmas always sent funny valentines with sparkle on them and their curly handwriting inside always saying how much they loved me and how wonderful it was to have someone like me always in their hearts.

Because that's another thing  I love:
I love + the way, if you do it right, 
your kids remember you always 
doing wonderful and loving things 
as if you always did them.

Even if it was really only once.
Stay, little valentine, stay
But somehow that once became a part of the fabric of everyday and a piece of the love you had amongst you. 

 Because most of all, despite the usual grousing and laundry,  
I love ++ my resident funny valentines, 
pictured here.  

Each day is Valentine's Day

Though by resident I really mean the ones who live, wherever they really are, all of them, always in my heart.

And now I really am going outside to work in the sunshine.  
Which I love.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I loved these books

and you gotta love that there are always more great books . . .


Gaviotas: a village to reinvent the world, Alan Weisman.
If I read only one book this year, this is the one I would have wanted to read.  Deserves to be set to music.  Demands to be put into practice, 231 pages.

Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: the story of the village of Le Chambon, and how goodness happened there, Phillip Paul Haillie.
Inspiring story of true community and ordinary courage under extraordinary duress, WWII in southern France, 304 pages.

Thud!, Terry Pratchett.
This may look like light-hearted skullduggery in the fantastical vein, but functions also as a resonating meditation on courage, fatherhood, civil justice and democracy.  Pratchett is almost always amusing: this title stands out as something more than just fun.  Speculative fiction at its finest, doing what fantasy does best, 373 pages.

The Connected Child: bring hope and healing to your adoptive family, Karyn Purvis.
 An unexpected bout of pneumonia provided a bounty of downtime to read all the books on adopting an older child I could get my hands on.  Several are useful:  Nurturing Adoptions: creating resilience after neglect and trauma and Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents both by Deborah D. Gray and Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by Gregory C Keck and Regina Kupecky.  But I liked best this hopeful book by Karyn Purvis.  Useful for all parenting,  I think, 288 pages.

The Book of Isaiah, Isaiah, translated from the Hebrew by King James' committee of scholars.
Poetry from an ancient day speaks to today's concerns about social justice and environmental hope.  Gorgeous words, gorgeous ideas, plus some great, dramatically satisfying, humorously anti-heroic moments in the historical subplot.  


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

anonymous valentiner strikes again

There is a reason the Dog thinks I love her. It is my overactive sense of responsibility. 

If Dog thinks, that is, which frankly I doubt.  Is too happy to.  

And I don't believe the Dog loves me in return.  Is incapable of it probably. But she comes when I call when she won't come to anyone else. 

Usually. If she's not too interested in whatever smelly smell she's chasing. If there aren't interesting visitors she'd rather jump up on. But that's because, unlike the rest of the household, I have read the dog-training books and so make my voice sound delighted and full of promise.  And I always have a doggy cookie for her.  And then she goes to her place when I tell her, especially if I walk her over there, pointing and saying "Place.  Place."  Simple words being best for a simple mind like hers.  Sometimes she even sits and stays. For a while. For as long as her scattered doggy mind can remember that's what she's doing. Then she comes over and puts her damp nose softly on my ankle and prostrates herself at my feet.  

I think she thinks she's obedient, if she thinks at all. But then I'm not much of a dog-person.  Sometimes though I worry that Someone Else may think she thinks not much worse than I do. Or maybe thinks she thinks somewhat better.   

"Getting ready for the big day?" the check-out lady at the Dollar Store asks me, running my doilies and pink paper over her scanner.  All day she's breathing the sad familiar smell of cheap plastic but still she smiles up at me with her tired face and her unnaturally lustrous hair.  "What do you usually do to celebrate?"

I don't usually celebrate really.  And besides today I feel oppressed by the ugliness of everything.  Also I am tired and embarrassed suddenly.  So I mumble how my friend and I are making anonymous valentines. On a whim that seemed a good idea when we first thought it.  Because who says you have to have little children to give you permission for this kind of thing.  It is an idea that delights the lady at the check-out.

"Do you know May Day?"  she asks, as if by logical extension.  I do.  Her face is like a flower opening suddenly, "Dancing around the maypole with the streamers.  I was even May Queen.  My mom said, 'You know what that's all about, don't you?'  Do you know?"

"What?" I ask,  because though I do know the roots of most holidays, often in embarrassing detail, one whole subsection of those useless bits of information I have such a natural affinity for, I have also an uncontrollable, almost unforgivable curiosity always about what goes on inside other people's view-finders.  I settle in, preparing myself to hear someone's mother's phallic and/or neo-pagan etymology of the flowery first of May.

"Well, my mom said it's all about putting little baskets of flowers on people's front steps.  Without them knowing.  Have you heard of May baskets?"  I have.  She barely stops for breath, "I'm going to do that this year.  But I'm putting them in little flower planters.  So they don't die.  Because no one is home during the day, of course, and they would just wilt before anyone got back from work."

This is kind of a sad thought.  All the empty streets of empty houses in all our towns across the nation.  So I don't know why I feel so much more hopeful walking back out to my car. 

I will tell my friend about May Day in the Dollar Store later that evening when we sit together and make our valentines for people whose names we don't know, people we call The Gray House that Paints White Ankles on Their Trees, or The Stone Mossy Place, or The Halloween People, or The Little Falling Down Place with the Big Electric Wire What's With That?, people whose houses we've been walking past most Saturdays for more years than we care to say.

I will tell my friend how when I got back into the car the radio was up in arms about some bulldozed wetland habitat somewhere in California, a scrubby marshy woodland razed down by the Corps of Engineers for flood control and also to discourage drug deals and other "lewd behavior."  The radio reporter is walking through the bare moonscape, where no lewdness now can hide itself, with a couple from the Audubon who say usually there would be the mating call of the California thrasher belling from every direction.  In the absence of any bird call they activate instead an app on one of their phones.  The mating call of the California thrasher.  "Imagine hundreds of birds all calling this time of year."

Not only the California Thrasher pairing up.
Also the Spotted Owl coupling.
Also another bird whose name I have already forgotten, as all birds' names may be forgotten someday if we keep things up.

But NPR does not leave us comfortless.  There is, it appears, a fecund albatross called Wisdom, 62 years old, twice as old as the average bird of her kind, the oldest free-flying banded bird.   She has just hatched a healthy chick. The plummy voice of NPR weighs in, "So many of us were introduced to the albatross by the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and think of it figuratively as the thing that hangs around your neck.  Tell us something wonderful about albatrosses." 

"Well," says the researcher who is from the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and begins and ends by saying Aloha! (a word my daughter in Hawaii has taught me means more than hello, means breath and presence, compassion, mercy, affection, peace and love.  Though knowing etymologies like I do I could make a case that Hello also means more, or did once, or maybe could once more.) "Well," says the researcher, "they are pretty amazing and interesting," because in addition to mating for life, coming back each year together to the same nest, "they take care of their chicks, the male and the female both take turns feeding it."

As if that were enough to be considered wonderful.

I have read the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, of course, having an affinity for things like this, and I can tell you that before the albatross was something hung around our necks, it was a bird of good omen, a sign of hope that the ship would come home to land at last. And even shot and killed and carried like a penance-cross, the albatross is meant to function as a call to love, a warning of what we stand to lose.

"Wisdom's latest offspring," NPR calls the new-hatched chick. And when I turn off the radio my mind keeps pecking at the echoes.  Refuge.  Midway.  Maypole.  Flood control.  Bird call.  Lewd behavior.  Wisdom's baby chick. 
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all.

How Dog answers my call.
More times than not.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I do not love potato roasties

Besides, they turned out too salty.
But even if they had been perfect, as nearly perfect as they were when I made them last time with frost-sweetened brussel sprouts and dill-salmon scrambled eggs.
Except I overcooked them that time.
Even if they had been that  good but even better.
Still I do not really love them.
Not love them love them.

But because I had taken a picture of them.
And because it was late.
And because I had set out (in my near-sighted way) to focus up-close (in my near-sighted way) on what I loved.
For a whole month.
Which has sometimes been a generative exercise for me.
The month as a natural and also social convention.
And achievable.

Am I so empty that once I mention a few poems, the stars, the language of dance, then I am done?
Of course I am leaving unsaid the pre-mixed answers.
Of course I do love my family.
And God.
And freedom. 
And then?

A potato is not a bad thing to fill an emptiness.
But honestly I do not love them.
Potatoes.  Roasted or not.

And honesty is necessary.

You may not agree.
There are times I doubt it myself.
Honesty is mostly awkward and strange.
I am, at heart, almost always awkward and strange.
Even when I feel I am pulling off a successful appearance as someone at ease, at peace.
Even when I feel I am successfully putting someone else at ease.
Almost always there is an alien soul at my center.
Who cannot speak the language without watching her accent.
Who fits in nowhere.

And if I let myself tell lies, convenient or inconvenient, then this soul clamps her jaws and will not speak.
Will turn her head away and clench her eyes and will say nothing.

It is better to have silence than to have lies.
Lies and lesser truths.

If I love anything it is the moments that this soul speaks.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I love potato roasties

as many as look good,  wedged rather thin
tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika

spread on oiled cooking sheet

convection roast at 350 until crisp bubbles on outside, steaming and  fluffy on inside, smelling divine . . . about half an hour

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I really love this: Marquese Scott Nonstop

I love the language of dance, the body's grammar framed in the kind of artifice we require to recognize motion as art. The slow-motion agony of grace, the repetition of obsession played out in the open where everyone can see, the dancer's hands and elbows, knees and ankles calling out the plays for our own arms and legs,  and how they pull and squeeze the sinews of our hearts, the invisible fibers of our muscles firing almost imperceptibly, moving us who do not move much, nor near so well, nor anywhere near often enough.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

another thing I love: the pleiades

I love the Pleiades, that silvery rash on the winter sky that I always want to scratch.   

Lying on my back this evening in the pile of woodchips, stirrup hoe and hacket flung down beside me, sun just down, Orion raising his sketchy club far above my head, my eye keeps skating back to that blur of light that is the Seven Sisters, the Sailing Ones, the Full or Many, the Flock of Doves. 

It is the first of February and I've been working all afternoon weeding the south slope in short-sleeves.  Soon I will get too cold, lying here watching the sky.  The sky seems so still but all the time it's moving.  Soon it will be cold again, the rain will fall and everything will freeze again, even the ground. This sunny Saturday is only a kiss of comfort Oregon gives her children every year, halfway through the winter, before tucking us back down under the cloud cover and sending us off once more into the dark and wet weeks still up ahead.

Up above the Pleiades are there and not there when you try to look right at just one of them.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

one thing I love, or three: "I Wish in the City of your Heart"

I wish in the city of your heart
you would let me be the street
where you walk when you are most
yourself.  I imagine the houses:
It has been raining, but the rain
is done and the children kept home
have begun opening their doors.

I love this poem by Robley Wilson, though I have no desire to analyze it, or to spell out all the ways I love it and why.  If pressed I will say because it is like another poem I love, "The Open Shutter" translated from German by Kevin Perryman, written down first in German by Karl Krolow:

Someone pouring light
Out of the window.
The roses of air
And children
Playing in the street
Look up.
Pigeons nibble
At its sweetness.
Girls are beautiful
And men gentle
In this light.
But before the others say so
Someone shuts
The window again.

Except that this is the tragic moment -- a moment just as photographic, photographic meaning here light written down, just as photographic as the first -- but the moment of closing up and closing off, not of opening.  And so I cannot love this second poem exactly as I love the first poem.  Both poems though are stories I live.  And I do love them both.  So then I would have to explain that to understand either of these two and to understand my love for them, the key is a third poem, "Lindenbloom" by Amy Clampitt:

Before midsummer density
opaques with shade the checker-
tables underneath, in daylight
unleafing lindens burn
green-gold a day or two,
no more, with intimations
of an essence I saw once,
in what had been the pleasure-
garden of the popes
at Avignon, dishevel

into half (or possibly three-
quarters of) a million
hanging, intricately
tactile, blond bell-pulls
of bloom, the in-mid-air
resort of honeybees’
hirsute cotillion
teasing by the milligram
out of those necklaced
nectaries, aromas

so intensely subtle,
strollers passing under
looked up confused,
as though they’d just
heard voices, or
inhaled the ghost
of derelict splendor
and/or of seraphs shaken
into pollen dust
no transubstantiating
pope or antipope could sift
or quite precisely ponder.

And surely that must make everything utterly clear. 
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