Drip, drip, drip

Chilly, wet, foggy, drippy, sodden last day of October. By the time the weekend is over, hardly any of the gorgeous color will be left because the wind and rain will have swept it all away.

This time, it means business. You can tell.

Even if you're not from here, you can tell. I passed by a conversation yesterday in which a young guy - twenty-something, I'd say - was saying, "And I gotta get out of here. I need some sun." But the sun was just here. It's not February. This has only just started, this gray and white sort of gloom. The damp is only just now getting a good foothold on the days.

Perfect weather, in other words.

THIS is why I live here. THIS is my kind of weather. The coiled, crouching, vigilant readiness of summer has finally understood what the autumn was saying, and is willing now to put some music on to play and curl up with a good book and some richly flavored tea. It is 10:00 in the morning, and no brighter than it was at about eight, or at about four yesterday afternoon.

You can tell that it's day, though. The sky's white and not black.

This is reading weather. Writing weather. Thinking weather. (Complaining husband weather. It used to worry me. But now I think it's funny that the guy who grew up here is personally offended at the gloom every winter.) Everything drips and rarely freezes, and nothing dries or warms up all the way if it's too far from the fire. Candles are lit every evening. Halloween trick-or-treat ghosties and ghoulies will have rain gear covering their costumes this year. Sometimes they don't, but this year they will.

It feels good. I don't know if my ancestors were rose bushes or moles, but this feels good.


Who's with me?

The time change this weekend could be good for your heart. Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday. In Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, Swedish researchers report they found fewer heart attacks the Monday after clocks were turned back an hour. They examined 20 years of records. The researchers said that moving the clocks ahead appeared to have the opposite effect. (NPR's Morning Edition)
So ... is THAT enough proof for you? Will you join my club now?

For years, I have advocated this idea - but nobody wants to join me. See, I love the "fall back" of the clocks at this time of the year, and I utterly loathe that whole "spring forward" thing that happens just when the whole earth is accelerating already right before summer's energies.

So I've been thinking that what we can do is just keep "falling back" - over and over - until the clock meets up with itself again, and then maybe we can stop changing them at all. How's that for a plan? An extra hour of nighttime for the next twelve years ... or would it be 24?

Well, anyway, here comes "fall back." Switch your clocks this weekend. And then this next spring, let's do it that way again. C'mon. Please?


My apologies to the trees

It is good that online classes are offered in an age of paper recycling.

I'm just sayin'.


We'll write it

My husband and I are listening to the news this evening ... and we just heard it again. "Worse than ever." In the privacy of our home, we laugh at this silliness. Out loud! And we've just decided we're going to write the compendium of modern Western doofiness. We're going to call it Everything Is Always Worse Than Ever.

Done! (sort of)

Well, I do not know how it's possible, but I am so far behind schedule it will be a miracle to hand things in today like I am supposed to ... and yet I am entirely pleased with myself because I have just put a conclusion on my first essay.

For my essay demonstrating my competency for ED109, Library Procedures, my Table of Contents looks like this:

The Dewey Decimal System
The Library of Congress and Universities

Electronic Databases and the Catalog

Formats, Genres, and Choices

Handling and Circulating Materials

Copyrights,Copy Machines, Bibliographies, and Ownership
Library Types, Library Functions, and MARC

And my conclusion is as follows:

Libraries of written materials seem to have been a part of human culture for as long as written language has been. People build libraries so that collections of knowledge, shared experience, and literary expression can be preserved, and the act of organizing and cataloguing human knowledge and expression seems to be an intrinsic part of all human communities.

In our modern time, libraries have moved from using card catalogues as a way to list and find the holdings into using ever-expanding computerized databases, from separate and independent entities into branches of cooperative components in large districts, and, in the case of community libraries, from places where a legendary hush was enforced by strict librarians into active and busy gathering places for a vast array of interactions.

Through all these changes, the foundation of an alpha-numeric cataloguing system has remained in place. Other building stones in the library’s foundation include openness to ideas and expression, a commitment to the preservation of records of the human experience in all its variety, and provision for intercultural interaction. Libraries may use the simple Dewey Decimal system for organizing holdings into ten broad categories of global knowledge, with a separate place for fiction and biographical work, or they may use the more item-specific Library of Congress system. They may be large or small, they may serve a tiny elementary school far from any urban center, or they may serve a university with dozens of departments and thousands of students. Regardless of the size or purpose, a list of things is a catalog. The things named in the catalog are a collection. And the collection housed together makes a library. Modern technology, such as electronic databases and the internet now make it possible for the libraries themselves to be a collection, more deep and wide than any known in human history.

And now I have a half an hour to shower, dress, and get to work at the library! (I wonder if I have any ironed shirts ...) (And I've just seen some awkward phrasing that needs to be fixed. heck!)

Basic research

Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.

Wernher von Braun
US (German-born) rocket engineer (1912 - 1977)
(Me too ... and yesterday, my instructor told me I was "waaaaaay overthinking this." I don't know how that could possibly be true. It's certainly never been true of me before! Overthinking? Me???)



Hmmm.... yyyeeesss.... I can see that a few things are going to have to change around here ...

For one, I need a new CALENDAR SYSTEM! (stem ... tem ...) (that was an echo)

My Calendar System is very important to me. In my whole life, I need flexibility within framework. In my schedule, I need stuff in colored handwriting inside equidistant, parallel, linear squares.

The schedule has now risen to Urgent status. Bits and pieces of my life are starting to fall off the edges, and I recognize the signs. Forgetting things - especially forgetting on the way to doing, but being so distracted that the doing doesn't get done - this is Detail Overload. I recognize it from other, earlier times.

An erasable wall calendar with lots of weeks viewable at once? I think so. On my desk under my keyboard, or on the wall? Hm. Both, I think. No. Just one on the wall. Or the side of the fridge, as long as I'm in the kitchen with all this guff. And not erasable. That's too flimsy. I can't have things getting smudged off my life. It needs to be more deliberate than that.

This is the calendar from my purse. See the last week of the month? The one coming up? Well, what that says is that I have to be away from the house on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and the next page would show the weekly Saturday due date of "peer review" for these essays we're writing. Translation: First full essay due Tuesday, First draft of second essay also due Tuesday, Reading and reviewing the essays of two other students due Saturday, and Wednesday is the only day I'll have at home to do any of it. I have a whole bunch of framework coming to me from outside my student pursuits, so that is the place I have to start. Some stuff is just Life the Way It Is.

But I am starting to see that some other, more arbitrary framework needs to be in place too. Some of this needs to be personal. Just for me. If at home, I like to take tea at 4:00, for instance. Stuff like that.

Isn't this set pretty? A friend said thank you to me yesterday by giving me this cup, saucer, and plate. (Ironically, the thank you was for my tutoring and mentoring help during my friend's academic work.) I am utterly charmed by them. I've never seen a cup shaped like that before. And now I have porcelain things to use for tea, and I want to use them.

It seems silly, I know. But I think that this time around, everything about school and calendars and responsibility and learning is all turning out to be different.

In my olden days of unaccredited student life, my "education" was all about a system outside of myself. In order to get that degree (useful to me in peripheral lessons learned along the way, but decidedly not useful in any ordinary way), I had to please others. I had to fit myself to a rigid system.

There were equidistant, parallel, linear squares during those four years of school, but there was no mulitcolored handwriting in the squares. Independent thought most definitely not encouraged. Ownership of one's own learning not allowed.

And, back then, when I was still so unformed and newly adult, it is not likely that I would have known what to write in the squares. My own handwriting was not yet saying anything of note. I was still too young.

But it's different now. This is three decades, not three seasons after high school. This time around, the education is about the education. There is Marylhurst University, for one thing. That's entirely different. It isn't a system made of equidistant, parallel, linear squares. This process - the way the school is designed - is something more along the lines of Art. Education as an Art - not education as a skills set.

I attend school this time at a place where things mean things. Leaning into the resistance of students conditioned by conformity in the workplace, the faculty are determined about this. Things can be interpreted, and it is possible to have a different interpretation and still be "correct." It is also possible to learn to interpret. Art isn't without its own vocabulary and rules and methods, but Art is also organic. Fluid. Changing. Recognizable only in motion. Identifiable only in relationship.

My relationship to this pursuit of my own education is that of the adventurer. I have set off to find King Solomon's Mines, and then to return home and write the book. I am not a fool - I will take a guide. I will pack supplies, and I know I have to pay for these things. But I am also not merely on an adventure all my own. For me, the "meaning" of this Art is found in the communication of the ideas. I want to return with artifacts.

art - craft - the made thing
fac - to make or to do - facilitate - facsimile
In archaeology, an artifact or artefact is any object made or modified by a human culture, and often one later recovered by some archaeological endeavor.

The questions tumble into my head. Is it character influencing story? Or story influencing character? What do we humans do for each other? With each other? Because of each other? Why?

Obviously, I need a few equidistant, parallel, linear squares. This pursuit needs maps and timelines and nomenclature and tabbed file folders. But what I really need right now is a way to keep track of all these pens in so many different colors. I need to be able to fill in the squares. Literally, on a calendar. And theoretically - at school. And I need to be able to do this without forgetting to put the wet, clean towels into the dryer.


And on an entirely practical note ...

It keeps crossing my path lately. And it's making me slightly nuts!

If you've ever wondered, here's the answer.


These three words are NOT the same thing.





NOT the same thing.

Things are ELUSIVE when they get away from you. They elude you.

Things are ILLUSIVE when they trick you. Illusive means the same thing as: "deceiving by false show; deceitful; deceptive; false; illusory; unreal."

Things are ALLUSIVE when they are implied. We allude to things - we make reference to them.

I'm just sayin.

Wheel spinning

Tonight, at 6:30, The St. Andrew's Academy Choir will sing an Evensong service for us. They're on their way through town, and in the time-honored tradition of youth choirs, they called to ask, "Can we sing for you? Can we sleep in your parish hall on the floor?" Yes to both questions. It's been a long time since I've heard kids sing in a choir. I'm looking forward to it.

Then, next weekend, the Oregon Chorale will come on Sunday evening. This is the second year for this event, and I hope we do it every year. We have a very acoustically live place, and it's not every choir director who would know what to do with it. The brick walls and the high, Gothic ceiling, the lack of carpet or cushions in the nave, and the wood of pews and glass of clerestory ... the vault of the room ... it's designed on purpose for sound to travel in the old fashioned way. Bounce, not microphones. When the Oregon chorale came last year, I heard what might have been the most perfect use of those acoustics - not commanded or tamed, but used as a means to the most beautiful music possible. It was rather amazing.

Autumn is the time for hearing this sort of music, I think. At the end of the summer, as the season turned, we asked St. Michael and All Angels to accompany us into the coming darkness. The time of waiting for The Baby has not yet come. This is the time in between. The battle is pitched, and the struggle engaged. Every year this is true. This year, the whole of the world wonders at the fight. Banks and financiers ... political powers and those who want them ... Speculation and greed, and both the innocent and the guilty are crushed in the path of it. Is this a struggle of rich vs. poor? Is it black vs. white? The powerful vs. the helpless? Is this the time for "some new messiah?"

This is the fall of the year. The music holds French horns and cellos. The song rises into the smoke-darkened rafters and the prayer soaks into the brick. The story seems to taunt us in the fall. What is my name? What is my name? We are being asked to spin straw into gold and we need its name. We need to be able to speak the silly absurdity, Rumpelstiltskin.But how to do it? We aren't archangels. We're just people.

We are just people, but we can speak the name. We know the archangels win the war. In the fall, we brush the dust of battle off our shoulders and we bow our heads and weep at the sounds of the fallen, but we know the archangels win the war. We hear the music of it. We catch the echoes. And when we laugh at Rumpelstiltskin, the straw on the wheel turns gold once more.


The moment's breath

I worked at the tiny little North Bonneville branch of the library yesterday. It's only about 5 miles down the river, past Bridge of the Gods, around the curve in the highway, past the Bonneville Dam, and turn left into the tiny little town. Across the causeway from the post office, in the same building as the town hall, tucked into the back of the small building, is the library. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 1 to 5 in the afternoon.

There's nothing frenetic or usually even busy about working at North Bonneville. I take a lunch. And a book of my own to read. I mosey through the duties of the library worker, and chat with the occasional patron, and say, "yes, I can put that on hold for you." It makes for a quiet afternoon.

Yesterday a telltale stack of books about salmon came back to be checked in. The books were carried in by a mom and two sons, and ... well, "it takes one to know one." They were obviously homeschoolers. I asked. She said yes. I twinkled at her and checked in the books. Homeschoolers are really fun library patrons. Their appetite for books is voracious and their appreciation is palpable. And they find the really good stuff, so the library worker who processes the books gets to see all of these interesting volumes on their way to and from the various branches in the district.

After I locked up at five, I said good night to the city hall workers, and then I got into my car in the crisply blowing chill and sun of autumn, and I drove home in one, long, quavering, happy, contented sigh. I love where I live. Right now, everything has a kind of burnished shimmer as the brightest green recedes to give way to the darkest evergreens and all the strong bones of the land are laid bare for the winter rains again.

(Click on the pictures for links to more of them.)

On days like yesterday, it feels like I can breathe in the colors and hear the sunlight. There is no permanent hold on days like this. It's like a family table at dinner, or Christmas morning, or the first successful ride on a two-wheeler. No recording or picture album can capture such a day. Not really. Only mementos can be taken from days like this - mementos. Bits of things to help us remember.

Such times cannot be captured, but they can be inhaled.

I remember sitting on the couch in our little apartment, holding our third and youngest child. He was a very small baby, and I knew he would not stay that way for long. I closed my eyes that day and inhaled the moment. I tried to memorize it. I pressed it into my soul so that the image and impression might stay there. The moment is gone now, and has been for twenty years. But when I close my eyes and breathe slowly, I can remember it.

We cannot hold the days that pass, but we can breathe them in.


Relationship issues

I have relationship trouble. I just wasn't ready. I mean, c'mon. Why does it have to be so serious? I thought we were just dating. I don't even know her yet. There hasn't been enough time. I've gotten burned before, okay? I have commitment issues.

Somehow, somewhere along the last few years, I've turned into a guy who just stands on the corner, watching all the girls go by. Pick and choose, fantasize and talk to my buddies ... compare this one with that one, and maybe whistle every once in awhile at a real hottie who turns and waves and winks. But commitment? Nah. I've done commitment. I know all about commitment, man. And it's a whole lot of trouble.

But there she goes again. I can see my real, solid, accredited degree. She has been walking past me here on the corner for years. I've flirted with her, and whistled. I've compared notes with the other guys, and made the case that she's the prettiest. She's the curviest. She's the one I want. Why ... if I had a chance to talk to her, she'd fall madly in love with me. I know she would. We're made for each other. It's obvious. Look at her, man! She's gorgeous! The rest of those girls are dogs compared to her. Admit it.

Last summer, the chick came over here to talk to me. She's been watching me watching her, and she finally got tired of all the flirting and she just sashayed on over here in all her cuteness and dressed in that dress, and she talked to me! Right to my face!

I took the inquiry class, LRN 150. I talked to her. She flirted shamelessly. She liked me. I could tell.

I like her too.

We started dating.

Or ... I thought we were just dating. But ... she wants a commitment!

It doesn't work without the commitment. That's what she has been telling me all week. Okay, all month. She's been telling me all month that this isn't going to work without a real commitment from me. She says I'm not there for her. That I'm just phoning it in. But I'm here. See? Me. Here. In this chair, in front of the computer. What does she want from me? She says my body is here but that I'm not. Not really.

It's not very attractive when such a pretty girl turns into such a nag, you know that? Not attractive at all. She used to make more of an effort.

Okay, okay ... she's not really nagging. She's right. I know she's right. She's really here, and I'm not. Not really. She wants daily, ongoing, committed, and focused attention. She wants me to mean it. Every day. Either we have a relationship or we don't. She's right.

I'm sorry.

The marathon writing session across the past two days feel exactly like a lover's quarrel. I have no idea why I have been so stubbornly clinging to my freedom - because I don't even want freedom any more. I don't want to stand on the corner and watch all the other girls go by. I want this. Here. I want this degree. I do. She wins. I give up. I'm sorry. I was wrong. And I am paying the price today, too. My shoulder is killing me - apparently, fighting with the woman makes me cramp up. And my eyes aren't functioning properly. Too much time spent with a refresh rate all at once, in a fevered effort to make up for previous neglect.

But she's too good a woman to buy it. I brought flowers. I tried to make up for my asinine behavior by making a grand gesture. (Asinine: 1. utterly stupid or silly; 2. Of, relating to, or resembling an ass.) She has sweetly put my flowers into a vase, and she is not nagging at all. But she doesn't buy it. She doesn't want flowers and candy and grand gestures. She wants love.

She'll make a man of me yet.


First full draft

See these beautiful squares? They're Jello! The directions for making this dessert with jello and sweetened condensed milk can be found here, at justJENN. I might even try this dessert someday - it's very pretty.

But today? The effort of yesterday and today? Writing my first full draft of my first PLA essay? Ugh.

This has been like stacking jello while it melts and sticks to everything and the layers blend together and blob about in a slowly moving, sticky flow. I think I'm done with the first full draft. And, of course, it's too long and needs lots of tightening and brightening.

But still. Sticky or not, layers running into each other or not, the first full draft is done. I don't remember the last time I wrote 26 pages about anything. I think it feels good to be this far along. I just need to rinse the red and blue off my fingers. I feel sticky.



Chi. Life force. Vitality. Energy. Also Anglicized as Qi. Say "chee," not "chai" - which rhymes with "eye" and is a drink from India, not a noun from China. Qi is energy flow. It is breath - spirit - the part of you that is not merely a part or piece, but is you as a living, breathing, thinking, willing, feeling, acting human person.

When I first proposed going to school this year for real, someone told me I wouldn't be able to blog so much anymore. I'd be too busy. But I knew I had the time built in for doing both school and personal writing as well as blogging and all the other things I do. I no longer have kids at home and I have cleared out my life in a lot of other ways for the express purpose of having room for school. I chose the void. I made the void first, and then I then enrolled so school to fill it.

I planned to organize my Qi.

This is logical, right? If you want to put something into a closet, then it's best to clear a spot in the closet first. Yes, it is also possible to cram things in, and cram things in, and make the closet so full the door won't close properly. I have tried living that way.

But it is better to clear a spot first. Make some space. Corral the little stuff into boxes and make dividers on the shelves. If you do this, you'll be able to find what you put behind the door. "Even a small closet is packed with storage opportunities; it just requires you to be clever in finding them." That's what the people at BH&G say about closet organizing. And even my small life was packed with opportunity. There was enough room. I just needed to be clever. Logical. Sensible. Done. and. done.

Then I actually started school and discovered that I'm not forty-eight years old. It might say so on my birth certificate. I might have had forty-eight birthdays. But it turns out that I am really only fourteen!

Some vicious and mischievous faeries came in the night, and took away all the abilities of age and experience and sprinkled me with Distracterdust and Squirmglitter. I see me doing these things, and I wonder who I am. Sit back down, for crying out loud! Just get your work done! This is the time. This is the space. You are on a schedule. Here is your box, all ready and labeled. Fill it!

But Qi, it turns out, cannot be made to stay in a place measureable in cubic feet. Qi is not solid or quantifiable, and it cannot be put into a box with a lid. It seems that all my Qi has scattered to the four winds rather than be put in a box with square corners. It just won't go. Won't stay. Unless I am engaged in a task I can do with half my brain tied behind my back, I am just soooo lame! I don't even want to begin to think about getting anywhere near the barest edges of beginning to pay attention to school work.

Or ... I didn't want to.

This week I began to write for school. And now I can settle down once more.

It has turned out that the act of writing is my flow. Words are my Qi. Composition is my breath and the wind in my sails. (Oh, this feels good!) Our first full draft is due soon, and as I began to write it this week, I also began to see it, laid out before me, making a path on the water, causing me to stop and draw in my breath, and gaze at the glory and shimmer of the full moon. (That picture is a poster from starstore.com.)

Oh, I am so glad I never stopped writing. Yes, I stopped sending things out for publication. Yes, I neglected my journal for any kind of record-keeping purposes. But I never really stopped writing.

Writing has become one of the things I can do with half my brain tied behind my back. (Just write. Just write.) There is a gentle, persistent, and slightly amused voice in the background, coming to me from no direction in particular and from every direction at once. Just write, it says. You do not need to organize this because you have made an open space for it instead. You do not need to count it or stack it or label it. This is your life. You enter it. This is your Qi. Just write.

So that's what I'm doing.


Water and breath. Life's energy. Flow. Qi.


More wretched

“Anger is a strong fire, consuming all things in its path.

It wastes the body and corrupts the soul.

If it were possible for an angry man to see his face at the time of his anger, he would need no further admonition, for nothing is less pleasing than an angry countenance.

Anger is an intoxicant and more wretched than a demon.”

Saint John Chrysostom


I can smell it from here

That picture is from English4Today.com, and I love it! If you put the dude kind of flung down onto a couch, and then put him in motion - the "can't sit still for more than five minutes" sort of motion that always drove me nuts with my own kids - THEN you'd have a picture of me and my studying day.


But I'm almost there. I can smell it from here. I swear I can. It's not just the scent of the chicken-apple sausage and butternut squash lasagna I made for dinner. (Apparently, trying to "study" turns me into a creative cook, as well as an obsessive ferret-outer of deep piles of long-neglected items, and a suddenly compulsive journaler as well.) Oh. Wait. Where was I?

Oh, yeah. School. It's going to be Week 3 now, and we're supposed to be ready to start our first drafts. I spent a lot of the day popping back off the couch to do a thousand silly things, but at least I kept flinging myself back down onto the thing to keep catching up and getting a handle on this project. Little bits and pieces of the Scent of Schooling are starting to waft my way, and now I think it just might be possible to succeed at this. Maybe. We'll see. I just need to go put the wash into the dryer now, though. And don't the plants need watering?


If you go back, you have to go back

Fair warning:
If you "go back to school" as an adult, fully growed and all ... there's something you should know. Actually, there are a few things you should know. At Marylhurst, they'll tell you these things:

1. You'll be able to do this.

2. You know more than you think you do.

3. You have a lot of skills, built over a life of real living, and these skills will help you in any academic pursuits. These skills were not available to you when you were younger. (It gives a whole new meaning to the word "seniors," though ...)


Fine and good and true and thank goodness! Those things are certainly true.

But here's what they won't tell you. Or, to be fair, I haven't heard it yet. I bet it's included in the course LAC 301.
Academic Learning: Discovery and Practice
This course introduces students to the culture of Marylhurst University and to the significance of the University's focus on outcome-based, liberal arts and adult learning. Students consider and apply different perspectives about learning as they plan for and reflect on their educational goals.

Everyone has to take that course "within the first two terms following admission." It's the course that introduces the unique Marylhurst system and culture, and I am looking forward to it. Maybe that's the course where you find out what I'm discovering.

What I'm discovering is this:

1. When I was younger, I was too inexperienced with life to guess accurately at how big a mountain might be before I started up its side. I'm older now. I can see what it is I am intending to do. Ignorance, it turns out, was bliss!

2. When I was younger, I could push through, pull an all-nighter, make it happen, scramble and convince myself that "I work better under pressure." This is like everything else that is true in youth. It's not that those things were good, it's that I had a vigorous, brief, and rapid recovery time no matter how stupidly I acted. Now, though, when I'm stupid, I can't recover. So ... I can't afford to be stupid.

And worst of all,
3. You have to go back to go back!

All those nightmares of not knowing what I was doing, or not being able to find my schedule, or not having my books when I got there ... all those classes I skated through instead of paying attention ... every unresolved issue, guilt trip, insecurity, and gap and hole in self-confidence ... it's all still there!

Apparently those things live in a closet somewhere in a person's psyche, and when you open the door marked "GOING BACK TO SCHOOL," they all fall out on your head. No. Wait. It's not a cupboard or a closet. It's an attic. Up there, in your head, all that stuff has been sitting for all these years, and the bat guano has been piling up on top of the mess. That's it exactly. Ashleigh Brilliant has brilliantly described my dilemma. The part of my life where I live - where I have been living for the past couple of decades and then some - the part everyone else sees, down here in the first couple of floors of my house - that part is fine. But it's complicated. It's a juggling act I've learned to do, but it's still juggling. And now I want to organize the attic? What was I thinking?

This picture here - to the right - see the red circle? It shows the "entry point" for the bats. More pictures here, and note: no belfry, but lots of bats. Good picture of the academic mind gone to ruin, if you ask me.

I have now spent nearly all of "Week Two" of this online course doing a 48 year old woman's version of "but I don't want to." And "I'll do it later." And "I don't know how." And "I need more feedback." And about a dozen other things that are just too perfectly parodies of my younger self whining and whingeing away. I can't possibly pretend that I don't know what is going on. I'm avoiding. I'm just plain, old, ordinary, unromantically, simply avoiding.

But I'm too old to avoid, and there are too many years of not avoiding for avoiding to feel even marginally like relief or any sort of solution. I'm too old for this, and here I am doing it anyway. Sheesh!

The thing is ... I want that attic space for something besides discarded stuff that should've been taken to the dump, languishing under a layer of bat guano. I want it for living space.

I want not only to clean and organize, but to decorate as well. These are pictures of a really beautiful attic - they're from DesignSponge - which is a site full of pictures of lovely interior spaces where the inhabitant can relax in the freedom of order. Designed order. Thoughtful order.

That's what I want in my interior. Thoughtful order. I want to be able to go up there and relax and enjoy the fruit of my labor - I'll put the fruit in a pretty bowl and set it on a pretty table lit by the afternoon sun slanting through the windows in the dormers. I like the view from up there.

Going to school at my age is a decision to move all the way up into my attic, and own the whole of my space. This is a decision to live in all the rooms of my life. I wonder if that's what all the dreams of stairs have been about ...


What I need

As I begin work on PLA essays, I can see a theme developing, and it's a Go Find the Book theme. If I don't fix this little issue, my next few years are going to become increasingly inconvenient and annoying and interrupted and impractical. (I'm sure I can avoid today's work by thinking of about fifty adjectives, but you get the idea.)

You see the problem here, right?

It's the stack of books I'm intending to use in one of my essays. And those are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head, that I know I can use, and that I could easily find on the shelves I (mostly) already arranged. Obviously, my "system" isn't one. Or, it's a system, but it's equivalent to having all the necessary components for lunch in the house, but the lunch meat is in the freezer, and the bread is only heels unless I want to get more out of the freezer, and the soup is in cans in the other room, and the chips are still with the picnic stuff from last weekend. Yeah, I've got the stuff. But find it? Avoid spending my whole morning looking for various things?

Note to self: Get a shelving arrangement next to my desk here in the kitchen, and don't do it "later" once my little office gets built. First, put up shelves.


Such productive procrastinating!

So ... assignment I barely understand and don't think I'm prepared for due today ...

So far I've

showered and dressed

formulated verbiage for a report I need to give next week

listened to the news

blogged a bit ... to clear my mind ... you know ...

made two appointments, one for hair and one for acupuncture

had breakfast


and now I think I'm out of other things to do.

I think I'd better open this thing and get busy.

Don't you?

Think I'd better?

Okay ...

here I go ...

That's "volume" .. not "volume"

Raz, N et al. in Neurobiology of Aging

Shown in red, the frontal lobe houses the "executive system" of the brain; it decreases in volume as we age. This region helps the brain decide which tasks to focus on and when to suppress irrelevant information.
It decreases in SIZE ... it doesn't make sound. Or, not that I know of anyway. This photo and caption are from an NPR report on the myth of "multi-tasking." We humans don't pay attention to more than one thing at a time. We just switch around more or less quickly, depending on experience and practice and intention, etc. And, over time, the part of the brain that does all that switching shrinks!

I think this is why my own ability to really focus on my school work - to get in there and grab it and wrestle it and get some degree of mastery fairly quickly - well ... where did my brain go??? It's not that I can't multi-task. It's that I can't focus on even the measly little one task.

This is very disturbing. Focus used to be my best thing! Is this a midlife thing? A post-surgical thing? A stayed-too-long-out-of-school thing?

I suspect it's a flab thing.


I suspect that the cure for this is to exercise. Exercise the core and get my shape back into shape. Exercise the brain and get the frontal lobe to start acting like it remembers what to do. If you're only as young as you think, then I must be about a hundred and five these days. My ability to think feels quite decrepit all of a sudden.

Zen Habits thinks I need to:
1. Get my rest
2. Make a plan
3. Eat light and healthy
4. Exercise
and 5. Take breaks and break up my environment



Um ... I just thought of something.

Those are the things I used to do! Back in college days. I knew to do those things. I did those things. I could concentrate like some kind of alien force. I was a concentrating queen back then - a Focus Goddess. I remember now. (I think that shrinking lobe just stretched a bit. Yawned maybe.)

I'm no spring chicken any more, that's for sure. But I'm not dead yet. I've just forgotten how to decide my own day instead of reacting to it. I've stopped designing a life -- because I got one! I worked like stink for those years, got what I wanted, and then just stopped making the magic.


Ready, brain? This isn't going to be easy, but it's time to bulk up. Get a bit of your power back. Remember the sheer glorious rush that comes from a mental mountain being moved - one boulder at a time.

What's that?

You can't?

Fiddlesticks. You're just stuck. Today's the day we start the unsticking. Wake up, brain. Let's go.


25 Years and Counting

Twenty-five years of marriage ... net result:

Conversation before husband goes to store:
"And we can have macaroni salad."
"Okay ... just a sec. We have relish. Um ... Yeah. We have mayonnaise. Just get the macaroni."

Conversation after husband goes to store:
"We got this because we needed it," ("it" is a pie), "and," (hand back into grocery bag) "I got mayonnaise because I don't trust you."

Hmph! I've put the extra mayo in the cupboard now. We already had mayo. I have no idea why he wouldn't trust me! Really. No idea at all.



The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery,
a metaphor for a proof,
a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths,
and oneself for an oracle,
is inborn in us.
Paul Valery
French critic & poet (1871 - 1945)


My brain hurts


Last week, the younger of the young giants said his brain felt exactly like his muscles and lungs feel after a run. He'd started school, and he was determined to pay attention all the way, all the time. He didn't want to miss anything. Ever. So his brain hurt.

Today I do more than sympathize with him. Today I have begun the serious work of participating in the online course work and discussion for LRN 305, and now my brain hurts. All I have to do is write, for pity's sake! I love to write. I love to think in writing. This fits me like a glove. This fits me like a personally tailored workout routine. This feels like a perfectly tailored workout routine, and I like it and I can do it ...

and my brain hurts.

(Golly, it's good to be back in school!)


"Only the mediocre are always at their best."
Jean Giraudoux
French diplomat, dramatist, & novelist (1882 - 1944)


Roast 'em

Fall vegetables for dinner tonight. Sprayed the pan, tossed the squash and sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper, put into oven. Nourishment. Pasta? Maybe. Wine. Dinner.

Home again

While I was out of town the last few days, this golden yellow color crept into my yard. That isn't sunlight on the leaves - it's the leaves themselves. It looks like autumn has started to flow in, like a kind of paint carried in the air and light, getting thicker with each application. Watching it happen makes my body feel a kind of sap rising up into my branches.

This is my season to get ready for "sugaring off" - as with a maple tree, my sap - the richest juices of my innermost self - the sweetness only available at the fall of the year, only ready for harvest in the dark and the cold - my best self begins to rise as the leaves fall to the ground.

It will take me a few days to return to my comparatively new rhythms of quiet and thought and words and ideas. I have been out in the cacophony of airport travel and conference attendance. So many words and so many different energies have covered me with a dense blanket of a summery heat, but now I'm home. And I feel the sap rising.

Here, in this house now empty during the daytime of the thoughts or music of anyone but me, the canopy of branches has opened to the crisp light and deep scents of the autumnal season, and I am ready. I feel it.