Observations about momentum

Last night I crossed a finish line. Not THE Finish Line ... it's only one for the tournament, and I have to complete all the events if I want a medal.

Last night, at 9:30, I finished the draft of that paper. It wan't due until midnight, but even I have learned that it isn't creative procrastination to push any writing into the late night. I'm too freaking old for that. Might as well try to write with a broken finger - and a really bad head cold - in the rain - without an umbrella. I've tried it lately so I know.

But I did it. I got that draft written, and I'm glad I had all 13 of those books here during the process because then I could pick the most useful half a dozen. Now "Jane Austen's Miniatures" has been duly dropped into the course "drop box" and sent on time for full points for the rough draft - all 3400 words of it. (And I don't think it's all that rough even if it is just a smidge too long.)

Left in this quarter: final draft of this Lit essay, first draft and then final draft with documentation of the third and final PLA essay for the quarter, and a smidge more online course work, and then I'm done.

So now I'm thinking about it. Glad I had too many books for research. Not all that glad that I waited so long to get busy. Glad about the quality of work I was doing yesterday, though. So ... were did that quality come from?

The week showed me:

--it's not about the course work for me. The course work is rich fodder, and satisfying bonus, and intrinsic reward, but really, it's about the writing.

--it is insanely hard to write when I have no forward momentum and it is very hard to build this momentum (hence the advice of See, Mosley, Herring, and every other successful writer or writing teacher: WRITE EVERY DAY.)

--once built, the momentum is energizing in every way. During a momentum phase (like yesterday's 12-hour shift made necessary by some truly stellar procrastination), it is not hard to take short burst activity breaks and recover the flow upon returning to the work. It was also oddly possible to be creative in the kitchen at dinner last night. (Broiled fresh tuna and fresh blanched asparagus with Dijon/Herbs de Provence/lemon butter, fresh sliced tomatoes, and sourdough toasted with that same butter.) And I didn't even want to over eat.

Now, I do know that being an enthusiast is not very workable in the long run. It is too feast-or-famine. We cannot rely on moody enthusiasm if we really want to get somewhere over time. I do know that.

But momentum is necessary to the process. No use trying to work without it - that's the part I hadn't realized until I found this kind of energy yesterday. I now see that I was assuming that I should get along without this sense of empowering outer force - like walking in the same direction as the wind. I thought that to get it, I had to start in the emotional jumping-off place where things are too unreliable for real life. I didn't know I could get momentum by sheer effort of forward movement. Yesterday felt like making a stiff wind and then walking with it rather than against it.

On Wednesday of this week, while still in the throes of frustration and pressure, I flounced into the library to pick up a book from the holds shelf. While I was there, I took the chance to moan to the ever-encouraging Mario. "I can't make it work. I have no idea what's wrong with me." He did what he always does when I talk about writing with him. He said exactly the right thing. "That's when you get to the good stuff," he said - looking knowingly certain of himself. He only looks like that when he's right. I swear, the man's a veritable momentum magneto. Mario the Momentum Magneto.

I was being pushed through the bottleneck, from inertia into momentum by deadlines. The pressure built and built because my PLA writing was getting very unwieldy and dull. I could not make myself move. It was wretched. And then one small pin prick from behind and I was through.

I asked my instructor online, "Will the sky fall in if we're late?" There was something very bracing in his English Teacher reply. (Shades of Mrs. Finster! Leave a comment if you knew her.) He said ... and I quote ... "The sky will not fall, but I subtract points for late work. For the draft, for each day late, I'll subtract 1 point, up to 3 points total. For the final essay, for each day late I'll subtract 3 points, up to a total of 9 points."

All at once, I knew I could do it. I woke up yesterday writing the crazy thing in my head, I started at about 9 in the morning, I took frequent enough breaks, I did my in town errands in the middle of the day, I cooked a rather creative and very yummy dinner, and I finished that draft at 9:30 last night.

Today I think I'll clean my office and get all the laundry caught up -- and then I might just set up all the formatting and necessary paperwork for my last PLA essay. Marvelous stuff, momentum.

(Footnote: The Great Husband has now read my draft and says it only needs a little polishing here and there. Now I know it's good!)


Good afternoon

That's all. Just good afternoon.

I'll think about it later

So ... at the very last moment possible (since it's due today), I now set things up so that I can write my term paper for the online version of

LIT 382 E: 19th-Century Literature & Culture, Secrets and Lies.

We are supposed to "Cite at least four secondary sources" and "Cite at least one of your colleagues' posts from the discussion board."

The paper is supposed to be 2000 - 2500 words, which is 8-10 pages, double-spaced

...which is a four or five single-spaced pages

...which, I know full well, is one good session's personal journal entry -- it's not a text book -- it's a smallish paper that merely needs to be well-written.

So I'm all set up now. And later, after the quarter is over, it might be a good idea to make some time to wonder - consciously - what it says that I've got a lot of online resources available and still thought this would be a good selection of books to have on hand - just in case - because, well, four secondary sources obviously have to be drawn from no fewer than thirteen possible books, right?
(My return to school has made my avoidance and procrastination techniques reach the realms of high art!)


Good morning

That's all. Just good morning.


PAX, Heroes

I've already posted - because the wave of emotion precedes the event for me. Always. Every event.

Today I will say only,

Rest eternal grant them, O Lord.
May light perpetual shine upon them.


Let's call this an improvement - shall we?

Or ... progress. We can call it progress. After laying pipe, hearing the pump run too often, shutting off water using the new valves (which were the point of the project), digging up pipe, discovering an oddity that made a bit of pipe a bit too porous (sponge instead of tube - not good for carrying water without wasting it), ripping out and replacing pipe, and then laying drainage rock and cinder blocks ... we now proceed to BarkTime. Yay, BarkTime! I always like it when those guys fill things in - it is much more comforting to me than the digging things up part of the project.

On this Memorial Day: For him, for them, for her - O hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in peril

I don't know what to do about war - neither do you - neither does anyone. It has always torn apart our planet, and maybe it always will. There are those who say that it would all calm down if all would lay down their swords and guns - but that only works where there are no aggressors to breach the deal and kill others in their sleep.

A great and jagged fissure opens in my chest when I think of it. My father-in-law survived WWII, most of it in the belly of what would have been an incinerating coffin if his ship had been hit. His father before him, too. And his father. This is the stuff of family legend, and we have the photos of roads in Europe being built by WWI forces - none of the men are named. Great grandpa took pictures - he didn't introduce himself.

And Bill. One of the most gentle and brave souls God ever made - who saw his first day of action on the blood-drenched beaches of Normandy and came home to his war bride and his career as a high school music teacher. This too is the stuff of legend.


see ...

my daughter is a soldier now. My niece is a sailor. Their husbands wear military uniforms too, and this is not yet the stuff of legend. These are their lives, and this is my motherhood. My body feels cracked open - a deep rock crevasse, hotter near the center of my earth, has split me in two with the power of an earthquake. I admire them. I am afraid. I honor them. I weep and pray. They signed up as volunteers. I did not. They work. My core is exposed.

One thing I know. The noble work they do is not sullied by sometimes ignoble causes - or by misguided leaders. Our kids are willing to look at things you and I would rather not see, and then come home and keep to themselves what you and I would rather not hear. They do this in service of their country, and we - you and I - are part of the country they serve. How is it possible that I can be so proud of them and wish so much that they were not made of such stuff as this? (I think it is possible the same way a rock can split in two, the bottom of the fissure be too deep to fathom and the top be a place where wildflowers smile at the sun all day.)

I pray God I will not be putting flowers on their graves at any Memorial Day in my lifetime. And I offer my prayers for them and I honor their service.


(And you really have to watch out for the trained ones)

When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.

Edward R Murrow


Dance with me!

Happy happy happy me.

If you want to get your degree, and you're old - like me - a couple of decades past the conventional college crowd - then enroll at Marylhurst, and earn some PLA credits. You know more than you think you do, and a lot of what you know is taught in a college course somewhere, so write your essay and get the credit for what you know. It's hard work, but it feels grrrreat to get an evaluator's opinion of your expertise in the subject matter.

And then ... if you're a writer - like me - and you haven't had any confidence in your skills or believed the people who told you you were any good - if you soak up compliments about your writing like they were some kind of hyper-potent vitamin C and you've always had a bad case of rickets ... then WRITE for PLA credits! Can there BE anything better on the PLANET than having an evaluator not only recommend credits for your learning but also say, "your excellent examples clearly demonstrate the theory you have used throughout your essay. I enjoyed when and how you have learned about listening skills and found myself smiling as I read your descriptions."

This feels really really good! C'mon! DANCE WITH ME!

Marylhurst's Wordle

Here is a large window into why I love Marylhurst - why my online and on campus classes have been so rewarding and satisfying - why I wish someone would leave me a lot of money so I could pay for full time school until I've taken everything but the business classes. (Not even Marylhurst can make me enjoy accounting, but they can't make things fall up or the world spin backwards either.)

One of my instructors, Melanie Booth, has a blog. You can see video of a PLA student there ... you can follow Melanie's reasoning on yoga-mind for a life metaphor and technique ... you can even find links to student blogs (like mine!). Melanie and her project partner entered mission statement words into Wordle. Here, as a great visual for my current school experience, is the result. (click on it - I can't figure out how to make it bigger)
Wordle: Marylhurst Mission draft


Shoes for orphans, please

At Nazareth House, they're gathering up shoes for the orphans. You can click on the picture to go to their blog and see more details, pictures of the work in Sierra Leone, and links to video. The bottom line is this. There are orphans who need shoes. Walmart is getting rid of inventory for a dollar a pair (ironic, don't you think?). If everyone who reads this blog went to Walmart or some other vendor and purchased some of these rubber clog type shoes or flipflops or any other durable and waterproof children's shoes, and then sent them to Nazareth House by August 1 so they could be shipped overseas, together we could do a lot of good. So ... a $5 latte today? Or five pairs of shoes for small people who have no parents? Hmmm.... you decide.

Deadline for Shoe Collection for children of Sierra Leone
August 1, 2009

Let's see if we can raise at least 5000 pairs of shoes...

Nazareth House/One Love
Attn. Maria Stianchie
402 W White Bear Road
Summit Hill, PA 18250

Take a tasty time out for this timely tome

It would be easy to say that Kerr leapt on Childs' coattails. After all, "The Galloping Gourmet" appeared on U.S. television in 1969, six years after "The French Chef." But it would be glib and plain wrong to say so. Not only had Graham Kerr been cooking since he was a wee one in the English hotel kitchens owned by his parents compared to Julia who began at a doddering 36, but his first televised cooking demo aired back in 1960 in New Zealand ("That doesn't count," Child teased him). True enough, Child was a pioneer in the United States and unquestionably deserves her iconic status as queen of small screen cuisine, but Kerr set a few firsts himself.

Viewers in the U.S. had been well prepped, of course, by "The French Chef," but the style of "The Galloping Gourmet" was a world apart. The show opened with the snappily-dressed, British dandy of a ball of energy leaping over a tall kitchen chair while holding a full glass of wine, setting the tone for the rest of the episode and raising the bar for almost every cooking show that followed.

What fun!

If you love cookery ... or if you enjoy quirky glimpses into modern sociology as it happens ... or if you think Julia Child was really really funny (and the Galloping Gourmet a bit smutty) ...

take 7 minutes and 19 seconds to listen to the author of Watching What We Eat talk about it with Renee Montagne, and listen to the clips. It'll put a smile on your face and something interesting into a pan for dinner too, I betcha.

Here's to the cooks! Cheers!

Just a few questions

Wondered recently in this household:

What is it going to do to our cultural perceptions and assumptions that most of the critical, analytical and "thoughtful" books written lately about world events have been written by reporters? These people are good at research and synthesis ... but they are not academics, and the background they bring does not include the depth of perspective seen in less immediate days. It will be interesting to watch. (My prediction: within the next twenty years, there will be a reaction, and more young people will start to study older material again. It will occur to someone that our modern questions might have been asked and answered before today's crisis.)

Why do goats sound as if they're being skinned alive when someone walks by without feeding them -- even after they've BEEN fed already, and very recently.

It's hard enough to keep deer out of the garden. If we plant tomatoes far enough away from the house that they won't have the big digger machine threatening them, what will we do about elk? (ELK!)

Where can I find pictures of fit and healthy women in their fifties? Not just head shots, either. What does a really fit and healthy woman's body look like at midlife, if she's not a marathoner or fitness champion?

Why can't the husband find lighter (as in, weighing less in sheer pounds and ounces) books for nighttime reading? The wife resents the two-handed book reading.


I was only gone for three hours ...!





Once, I went to Seattle for a day and a night, and when I came home, there was no floor in the living room. They had pulled it out of the house. Yes, really.

But today I was only gone for three hours. Three. I just got home.

Car to the right of the picture: my car.

Ditch across the middle: between my car and the door into the house. Deep ditch.

Ditch made by large machine in background.

This means that tomorrow morning, on the way to church, I will need to walk through ridiculous ground all the way around the house to get to my car.

I'm wearing flats.

The same only different

I should have kept these notices throughout the years. There are some things in life that are the same only different - a phrase that normally makes me twitch a bit. But think about it. We had bookshelves made of planks and cinder blocks -- we had those things in twelve addresses during the first fifteen years of married life. And if you saw a picture of those shelves, you'd be able to tell where we were and what we were doing if you read the spines of the books.

We had a couch too. A goldish sort of yellow/brown couch. It is a very solid and good quality couch, and we hefted it in and out of moving trucks over and over and over. We've got it in an attic awaiting new fabric because the old fabric kind of came to pieces at the seams, but still. Pictures of that couch will show you babies at different stages, and various living rooms, and backgrounds of artwork - home made and otherwise. Here, for instance. That's baby number two threatening to make his appearance and his parents resigned to waiting for him until he got good and ready. (Good old couch. Even with that weighted front side, I didn't sink too far in for getting up again to chase my 18 month old. -- Wait. That was the kid who didn't need any chasing. Oooh, yeah! She used to stop at the threshold of the front door in that apartment in California, edge her pudgy little toes to the outside of the metal strip, and bend waaaay over to peer out. But it was an edge. She never fell off and she never went across it. Then this next kid came along and we bought a gate.)

So here is what I should have saved. This was in my inbox today. These are the books that will have my name on them at the library today, and I will bring them home tonight. Don't you think these lists of library holds say an awful lot about a person? I'm a far cry from What to Expect When You're Expecting, or Your Two and Three Year Old.

HOLD PICKUP NOTICE -- Material you requested is available.

***You'll now find items on the hold shelf by the first four letters of your
last name + the last four digits of your library card number.***

Contact library staff if you need more information. Please do not reply to
email notices. You can view or update your holds from the catalog at
http://catalog.fvrl.org/ or http://www.ci.camas.wa.us/library/.

1 What every BODY is saying : an ex-FBI agent's guide to speed reading
people / Joe Navarro, with Marvin Karlins.
Navarro, Joe, 1953-
call number:153.69 NAVARRO copy:1
Pickup by:5/25/2009
hold pickup library:Stevenson Community Library

2 The lively art of writing / by Lucile Vaughan Payne.
Payne, Lucile Vaughan.
call number:808.042 PAYNE copy:1
Pickup by:5/25/2009
hold pickup library:Stevenson Community Library

3 The craft of research / Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M.
Booth, Wayne C.
call number:001.42 BOOTH copy:1
Pickup by:5/25/2009
hold pickup library:Stevenson Community Library

4 The company we keep : an ethics of fiction / Wayne C. Booth.
Booth, Wayne C.
call number:174.98 BOOTH copy:1
Pickup by:5/25/2009
hold pickup library:Stevenson Community Library

5 Jane Austen for dummies / by Joan Klingel Ray.
Ray, Joan Klingel.
call number:823.7 RAY copy:1
Pickup by:5/25/2009
hold pickup library:Stevenson Community Library

6 Homosexuality and the politics of truth / Jeffrey Satinover.
Satinover, Jeffrey, 1947-
call number:306.766 SATINOV copy:1
Pickup by:5/25/2009
hold pickup library:Stevenson Community Library


Enough, Part II

As I mentioned, the theme of "what will suffice" has been cropping up everywhere in my life lately. In the arena of writing, all the greats have hammered away (does one "hammer" in an arena?) at the concept of finding what will suffice. In poetry, especially, this is necessary. Here is William Safire's rollicking advice for writers:

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

(Anne Fadiman has a whole essay about footnotes and plagiarism that reads like this, by the way. Thirty-eight footnotes in nine pages of an essay about writers using other writers' material. It's in Ex Libris. She called it "Nothing New Under the Sun," and she even footnoted the title!)

"What will suffice." Writers who are any good know what will suffice. And after these writers write, they re-write. Don't you think that says something? Virtuosos practice and have coaches. They hone in on the good, and practice only that. Sculptors take away all of the marble that is not the statue - and know what of the marble is the statue. And writers put thousands and thousands of words on pages (or screens), and then remove what is not the writing. They hone in on the word - the message - the intention and the delivery of the intention - and then take out everything that is not the word. And none of it is in the first pass. The first draft is shapeless marble. The first sightreading session is only an approach and an introduction.

If it's messy, that doesn't mean you're not doing it right. It only means you're not done yet.

Finding what will suffice is not the same thing as winning the lottery. Finding what will suffice is a whole lot more like work.


Finding what will suffice

In Words Overflown by Stars, Sydney Lea's essay is called "'I recognize thy glory': On the American Nature Essay and Lyric Poetry." His essay is indeed lyrical, and he is a great lover of the natural world. In fact, this is a good book - for anyone who enjoys poetry or essays, this whole book is worth a library visit and maybe a bookstore purchase. (Your affinity would be dependent on your desire to settle with concentrated attention into the studies being offered to you.)

The thing is, when one reads the essays of M.F.A. instructors, one ends up with about a zillion and a half various rabbit trails opening up, all calling out with their siren songs. (Nicely mangled metaphor, that one. Did you know rabbit trails had siren songs? yeesh) Come and follow me, they say. This path leads to more and more delight. Oh, yes, answers the chorus on the other side, that path is a good one, but look here. This is where you want to be. Come and explore. We want you with us.

(I should probably not read this stuff while the school quarter is in session.)

Toward the end of Lea's essay, there is a phrase in quotation marks. (Quotation marks are the reason God gave us Google.) This blissfully lush paragraph says,
Yes, "the mind in the act of finding what will suffice" may be as much the final subject of a nature essay as of a poem, but the essay can't just say any old thing that occurs to it. As Puritans like me are fond of claiming, it must "earn" its right to speak. It must establish its authority. The connections among its things and thoughts and emotions may and should be nonrational, but that's a long way from saying that its facts are finally irrelevant.
Indeed it is a long way. But wait. What was that first thing? "The mind in the act of finding what will suffice." Who wrote that sublime phrase? Flip pages. Flip more pages. Shut ears to the sirens on every page. (Wow, this is a really good essay!) (Hush up. Pay attention. Find what will suffice.) Dang. Apparently I am expected to know this.

Okay, fine. Google it is. "Finding what will suffice." Well, look at that. Another essay.

In the Winter, 2004, edition of The Antioch Review, Eleanor Berry wrote an essay entitled "Working Prosodies: Finding What Will Suffice." But the text is not here - not the whole thing, anyway. Oooh, yeah ... guess what I can do? I can get into Marylhurst's Shoen Library databases, and I can get that whole article and print it out for my own collection and have it for myself. That will suffice, for sure. (And another note weaves into the songs of all the sirens now in full chorus. Berry recommends a book on free verse poetry. She finds "the fullest and most satisfactory formulation" in Charles Hartman's Free Verse: An Essay on Parody. And there are many more recommendations in here too. The chorus rises to fever pitch as the list of this day's necessary writing taunts me from my wall.)

But I still cannot find the origin of "the mind finding what will suffice." It is a part of a poem. Who wrote it? AH! Here it is! (Thanks again, Google.) "Of Modern Poetry," by Wallace Stevens. Copy. Paste. Print. Tack to wall. This is very beautiful.

And I want a reminder. "What will suffice." Essays and poetry must be the result of successful hunts for it. But ... if the chorus of sirens could keep it down for just a moment, I think I hear something else in the woods. As the sun comes up and the trees begin to glow in that particular morning watery green, I think that I can hear the voice of the prophet, anwered by the Apostle who walks in conversation with him.

Find what will suffice. You do not need more or more than enough. You have enough. Find that. Use that. Be "the mind in the act of finding/ What will suffice."

More on this thought in the coming days.

The targeted marketing followup email you get if you order Pashtun language books for your daughter the soldier to take with her to Afghanistan

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These attractive, easy-to-use, photocopiable lotto boards provide a stimulating and meaningful way to develop reading, listening and speaking skills when teaching popular topics such as numbers, food, animals and clothes. Three versions of each board are provided - words only, words and pictures, and pictures only - allowing maximum flexibility, particularly in mixed ability classes. The unique call sheets enable you to follow the game closely and to select which team you want to win.

(I'm sure there are many Welsh speakers in Afghanistan. I'll order this right up!)


Let the Autodidactic Imbibing Begin (again)

Would it be better? Would it even be easier?

If someone else could be your master, and guru-like, tell you the wisdoms of your life and the learnings of the ages and then point out your particular path?

"Just follow the yellow brick road." Something like that. And there's only one set of yellow bricks to chose from in this scenario. Would that be easier ... or, if it were easier, would that be better?

No guru appeareth. Besides ... I think I'm allergic. So ... sans Guru, and upon observing the increase of oxygen in my body caused by my encounter with Anne Fadiman, I now procede to Nick Hornby. Essays? I ask myself. Essays are my form? (And what will I do with that if it's true? And it appears to be true and how silly is it to still be asking but I can't help it and this feels like learning so I have to keep on.)

If you had a good time at the dance, was it the music

or the company

or the gossip you heard

or the dress you were wearing

or the boy you were with

or the fact that you'd been previously imprisoned in a coal cellar and only recently released?

No way to know unless you explore music
and groups
and stories
and clothes
and dates with boys
and freedom
I suppose.

Come here, Mr. Hornby, would you please? I want very much to have a conversation with you. This isn't a date. But we can order dinner if you want to.

Father Seraphim and his prayer beads

I met this man last week. My life will never be the same again. His whole life is a prayer. He breathes pure love, and he serves the world.
Nazareth House Apostolate is here ... and in Sierra Leone.
"After delivering medicines and supplies to Kamasorie Village, Sierra Leone. We were presented with a rooster, a hen and a goat."


Home. "I want to go home."

Home Is the Sailor

Home is the sailor, home from sea:

Her far-borne canvas furled

The ship pours shining on the quay

The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:

Fast in the boundless snare

All flesh lies taken at his will

And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,

The starlit wave is still:

Home is the sailor from the sea,

The hunter from the hill.

A.E. Housman

I saw that poem first in Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming. The children knew the truth of it when they had come home to the crusty, prickly, wounded grandmother whom they had never met before.

I know in my bones and cells and breath that I have come home when I drive into the wet, green canopy of fir and oak and alder and ferns in the Gorge. And I know it when I round the corner on the way to the beach - the first corner that opens to the horizon of sky and ocean. That is a homecoming.

It happens when I step into the nave of our parish, too. I think that must be because any place on earth that has held our tears and our joys, and witnessed our railings and pleadings and confessions, and heard our laughter becomes home to us. Perhaps our souls become part of these places as much as these places become part of our souls.

"Home" as an idea and as an ideal, and home where my house is or at the beach or at church ... those things make sense. There is a history there, and an investment of time and attention. There is a relationship. Home has to be earned. For grownups, at any rate, home has to be earned. Grownups are people who have had their homes torn and pulled up and re-planted, and grownups are people who have learned to be at home inside themselves. Grownups do not find home - they make it.


Usually, yeah. Usually, grownups have to build their homes.

This morning I am home from another state, a different city, an unfamiliar bed, a parish that had never seen my tears. This morning, in my own office, I have come home again ... and yet, just as an orphaned child miraculously adopted -- or like Oliver Twist!

Hm. Look at that. I've hated reading this novel for my Lit class. It is just too grueling to read about nineteenth century childhood - especially for the orphans, it was a nightmare. But now I have found out - just like Oliver - that I have had family all along. At my first Synod of the Province of Christ the King, I came home. The oceans of love that moved in tides and waves between clergy and clergy, clergy and people, people and people ... the clean and holy absence of any critical spirit or earnest judgementalism (or worse, preening name-dropping) ... the good solid and happy work being done ... I know these people. And they know me. And I am home.


On the road again

Headed out of town for a few days ... and because of this traveling mindset, I need: cash, a new article of clothing, a very eye-candy-rich and mildly interesting magazine (usually I end up with O Magazine, but not always), and hard candies in my purse. I wonder why those are the things I always want. When did I start this list? College? It's always the same list now, anyway.

The cat knows something is up and is being as big a pest as she can be. Cats are a lot like young children - no verbal ability, but an infinite capacity to act out any nervousness vibrating in the air. And I have the window wide open (which tempts the aformentioned feline to put her rump in my face as she walks across the desk to sit in the open window). The rain is making that sound I love. It sounds like surf. The creek flowing in the background blends in with the rain on the already soaked grass and leaves and driveway gravel. This is a very juicy day.

Random thoughts occur as I get myself ready to go. I'm glad luggage got wheels on it, for instance. Three decades ago, there was much schlepping of the stuff inside airports. And I didn't have to remember to pack my nail file in my checked luggage either. The bad airline food was free, and they still served Lilliputian bags of honey roasted peanuts. And I swear to you, the seats were larger and there was more leg room, and this is crazy-making because the people were (on average) smaller.

Air travel has lost nearly all its romance since the days of Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse and that other book ... um ... Vicki Barr. Yeah. Her name was Vicki Barr. The Airlines sent letters to the young ladies who qualified for training, telling them not to get permanent waves before they came. If they graduated and got hired, the airline would pay for the permanent waves. (It took me several years to figure out what a permanent wave was.) Cherry and Vicki were in a box of books a neighbor gave me once. Her daughters (they were really old - ten, maybe fifteen years older than I was) had outgrown them long before, and she was cleaning out her basement, and I was the beneficiary of her flurry of home organization in that already thoroughly organized house. I loved those books - and didn't realize that they were seriously outdated even then.

The romance is gone from the airports, planes, and stewardesses ... but that cannot be the sole reason I have only about an hour before I have to leave and I have not even opened a suitcase to pack yet. Maybe it's the rain.


Britain's Got an entire NATION of "Talent" apparently! (with an especially high concentration of it in Wales)

I don't know what to say. Susan Boyle. Shaheen Jafargholi. Hollie Steel. Paul Potts. And now Jamie Pugh, and more power to him, and look out Broadway. My freakineaken WORD!

Best Architecture EVER ... from "50 Strange Buildings"

Click on the picture. Go to the blog. (But sit down first - you're likely to be thrown a little off balance by some of the buildings.) It's a library -- made of books!! Ain't it great? It's in Kansas City, Missouri. "50 Strange Buildings" is found at Village of Joy.

Go ahead. Click on it. There's more where this one came from.

A tortured question

A have a torture problem. The number of stories in the news lately that use the word "torture" in them seems to show that most people do not flinch in their very souls every time the word is used. But I do. The word itself makes me hot on my chest and at the back of my neck and above my eyebrows, and then the scenes of movies I have foolishly watched or books I have idiotically read float in front of my eyes, and I can hear it all over again.

I see that woman spy - waterboarded in that movie "based on a true story" that I watched very late at night while I was babysitting - more than thirty years ago.

I see Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, tied to a chair and beaten. And I see - and worse, I hear - all the other fictional, utterly staged, completely made up, I know full well it's pretend - scenes from decades of an overactive imagination and a lifelong horror of powerless pain and uninhibited evil. Torture is, quite simply, the best way for men to be truly evil.

With a great inner effort - effort that feels like pushing away something very heavy before it can cover my mouth and nose - I move my eyes and head and upper body so that I can stop. I have to stop before I superimpose the image of my own daughter's face onto those other images. She deploys soon. It's getting harder to push the huge and heavy hand away from my face - and more necessary.

Today something has changed. Today I started listening to the debate and forcing myself to be a bit more dispassionate - a little more analytical - I started to wonder something. Is all of this talk - the hundreds of times every day when the news and analysis includes that horrid word - is it a sign that we are finally lancing the boil? Humans used to use torture and pain and force of every kind, and few folks thought anything odd about it. That was the way things were - the way the world worked. To show strength or moral rectitude or domination, or it was a useful way to get information or to punish crimes - sometimes somebody gets a bruise or a broken bone or a lopped off ear or tongue or a few lashes with a whip.

So I wonder today ... are we talking about it to get it into the light of day as a precursor to turning away from it? I hope so. It will be easier to keep out of my mind if I can relegate it to the movies. It would be a good thing for the stuff of nightmares to only be possible inside the mind.

The world will never be free of evil, I know. The world is not now free of the kind of madhouse in which people are chained to the walls. The world still contains places where (in the words of my doctor) women "do not have control over what happens to their bodies." I know that the evil will always be with us. But I also know that thumbscrews, Catherine wheels, the rack, and burnings at the stake are not quite as ordinary as they once were. Maybe in our own country, at least, we can finally admit that it is not possible to torture the world into being good.


One more (One Love)



Thrones, Dominations,

Princedoms, Powers,
and Virtues of the Heavens,

Cherubim and Seraphim,

and all ye Saints of God,

especially my patrons,




Vouchsafe to intercede for me.

"Remarkable documentary about the power" ... of music

(I think I know what to get someone for his birthday this year.)

Morning Edition, May 4, 2009 - Until a video of "Stand by Me" had gone viral on YouTube, Roger Ridley had sung and played guitar anonymously on the streets of Santa Monica, Calif., for years. The video begins with Ridley and then mixes in 40 other musicians from around the world. It's part of a 10-song collection called Playing for Change: Songs Around the World.


A new fan for Marian McPartland

I have only listened to a few of these so far, but I think I'm becoming a devotee. Marian McPartland does a show for NPR called Piano Jazz. It's interview (artist to artist, my favorite kind), combined with studio session, combined with improv ... very very nice. Seems to feed my brain and my energies at the same time.

3-Day GPS

GPS - German Potato Salad. Three days in a row, and it just didn't get old. From here on out, this will often be the plan.

Made it Thursday night, and ate it with some VGH's (Very Good Hotdogs). VGH's being eaten in this house, courtesy of a couple of decades of professionally orchestrated whining about the stuff that goes into the cheap ones, the occasional informative How It's Made coming on the television, and the increase in the number of local Trader Joe's.

At it again Friday night, courtesy of the prayerbook feastday of Sts. Philip and James, making the meat contained therein part of our feast - a feast of steak, fresh fruit salad (with a dressing that turned out really well - mayonaisse and fig preserves, no extra salt or sugar necessary), fresh new asparagus, and that GPS with the addition of more water and salt, baked in the oven.

And this morning, we ate it again! We weren't even tired of it. Last night's oven baking produced a very wonderful brown crust at the edges, and so I thought I couldn't do better than to make an all-over crust. Add egg and flour, form pancakes, and fry those babies. Yum, yum and yum ... and no more leftovers languishing in the fridge. I know it doesn't look like much, but it's got a good quality bacon and apple cider vingar, sugar, and celery seeds in the dressing. Tangy, a touch sweet, and savory. And very nice fried!



Happy, happy, happy.

Nesty, nesty, nesty.

Writers, writing, written.




(It's the little things.)

Degrees of separation (Or, How I found this exquisite passage in the front of the book)

I am becoming an Essay Aficionado.

It's the fault and doing of Anne Fadiman, whose gently wry humor, enchantingly mystified experience of the world, and insanely huge vocabulary have given me a permanent desire to read more of her work. She's Husband-Interruption-Worthy. I shall own - in brand new copies I buy with real money at a retail store - everything she ever writes.

This permanent devotion to Anne Fadiman brought on by her triumphant resurrection of the "familiar essay" led me to find out what else she might have written. I found The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (currently in my pile, waiting to be read), and I found out that she had edited one of the annual volumes of The Best American Essays. Interesting! Okay, put that on hold ...

But that's from 2003. Who is writing essays now? Let's see ... The Best American Essays 2008 is edited by ... wow! Adam Gopnik! My Adam Gopnik? Scientist in the Crib Adam Gopnik? Oh. No, wait. That author was Allison Gopnik. Well, who's Adam Gopnik? Ooooohhh... Adam and Allison are a brother and sister (who have other equally eloquent and brilliant siblings and spouses). Okay, that makes sense. It runs in the family.

So, what about this Adam fellow, then? He's written this editor's Forward to this American Essays volume. Who is he?

Oooh. (blush!) I'm a philistine. A troglodyte. Resident, apparently, of the geography under a random rock. Adam Gopnik, I now find out, is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He is also the author of Paris to the Moon, Through the Children's Gate, and The King in the Window, and man, oh man, can the man write an essay! This is an excerpt from the Forward to The Best American Essays 2008, a volume Gopnik hopes contains "the breath of things as they are." He is talking about what an essay is ... and whether the form is currently valid, interesting, or worth the writing.
The ideal essay has facts and feelings, emotions and thoughts, an argument about and an anecdote from, parallel and then crisscrossing, all over it. It is a classical form for short-winded romantics, a way of turning a newborn feeling back into a series of pregnant sentences.
Have you ever tried on an article of clothing or held a tool in your hand that you instantly knew belonged to you - belonged to you in some essential way because it fit you as naturally as your own hands and hair? Some other being might have made this thing you now recognize as your own, but it is your own nonetheless. It suits you. You use it as you use your own hearing or opposable thumbs.

I have. I'm doing it now.