I got to thinking about how influenced we are by our reference points. For instance, I have known children who have only been used as pawns, or beaten, or otherwise treated very badly by adults - and so how do these children use such reference points? They shy away from the adult line down the lane. Why wouldn't they? It makes perfect sense. There are no kind, dependable, loving adults in the reference points these kids can use.
Or women who seem never to have known honorable men. Women whose mothers had no use except "using" the stunningly dishonorable men who find such women like yellow jackets find the fried chicken in a picnic. It's like such lousy (or worse, pathetic) men can smell the situation from across the forest. Be fried chicken, the yellow jackets will find you. Be a woman who has no use for a good, kind man, and the lousy ones find you. And the growing girls and boys who watch this? What are their reference points? Opportunism. Self-protection. Lots of danger signals. Greasy, weirdly attractive, symbiotic relationships. (from natureking: These are a Vespid wasp and are a member of the hornet family (vespula hymenoptera). They can be very aggressive when disturbed.)
Reference points. It's the point of this John Mayer song, played for me by my then-teenage son a few years ago ... when he started to see the effects of some really bad information some of his peers were using as reference points. It's the reason children don't seem to learn what we think we're teaching them. They're not looking at the driving manual - they're using the reference points.
Things I have more of than I used to:
- number of pounds I carry on my 5'9" frame
- adult "children"
- accredited credits on my transcript
- really good friends
- really good teachers
- pieces of decent writing done by me
- moments of bliss
Things I have less of than I used to:
- worries about stuff that's not really my business or my responsibility (things like any group's "agenda," or anyone else's errors, bad judgment or outright evil - my own crap fills my carry-on and I don't need anyone else's to pay attention to)
- shame (because shame's just pride in dramatic clothes but penitence is freeing)
- well-polished surfaces in the living room
- pairs of jeans
There's only one thing on there that desperately needs to change. I need a couple more pairs of jeans.
(Neruda wrote this with line breaks - in translation, here is the poem without line breaks, written here for you to see while you listen to Philip Levine read it. The bolded font is where my voice breaks when I read it aloud. The beauty of these thoughts! Oh, Neruda! I want to greet you in heaven someday.)
In the salt mines I saw the salt in this shaker. I know you won't believe me. But there it sings. The salt sings. The skin of the salt mines sings with a mouth choking on dirt. Alone, when I heard the voice of salt, I trembled in the empty desert near Antafagusta. The whole salted plain shouts out in its cracked voice a pitiful song. Then in its caverns, jewels of rock salt, a mountain of light buried under earth, transparent cathedral, crystal of the sea, oblivion of the waves. And now, on each table of the world, your agile essence, salt, spreading a vital luster on our food. Preserver of the ancient stores in the holds of ships. You were the explorer of the seas, matter foretold in the secret half-open trails of foam. Dust of water, the tongue receives through you a kiss from the marine night. Taste melds your oceanity into each rich morsel. And thus the least wave of the salt shaker teaches us not merely domestic purity, but also the essential flavor of the infinite.
Two things to bring home with me.
One is a book of poetry and one is a poem of a book. Neruda, quite simply, makes me swoon. My Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies teacher, the incomparable Simeon Dreyfuss, used one of Neruda's poems in our course, and my love affair with the poet began. I'm seriously considering learning Spanish so that I don't have to read him in translation.
The other - Kristeva - is a book I have checked out from the library and realize I need to own. I found her by way of my Creative Nonfiction teacher, the incomparable Perrin Kerns, when I was having my end of the quarter personal conference with her. "What you're saying sounds like Julia Kristeva's "Stabat Mater." Have you ever seen it?" I went to the library on the way to my car, and brought it home with me. The whole volume is something I must have here with me every day.
In Perrin's office, the books are double-deep in the shelves. She's a lit and writing teacher, after all. I laughed when I saw those shelves. The school year is ended, but the learning is not. My interior shelves are starting to be double-deep with some very wondrous things.
In two weeks, I turn 50 years old. I suppose it's natural to turn around and look and take stock and wonder at things when a person is half a century old. It might even be necessary. There needs to be fifty years worth of proof or else no one would believe it of themselves - to be fifty! How is that possible? It turns the brain poetic to turn fifty. It makes a person say things like, "Yesterday - yeah ... it was just yesterday," and mean that it was more than three decades ago. And then the brain freezes for a second, like a wild animal that's just heard a sound that might be a threat, and the brain listens, and the brain wonders how it is possible to even remember something that happened decades ago. Scent the wind, listen again ... okay, okay ... yeah, I'm still okay ...
About three decades ago, someone wrote me a poem like that. He compared me to a trusting doe, getting up to meet the dawn and being fearless in vulnerability. I think he saw more of me than I knew about myself - it's true of all of us. The big, wide world - and the hunter's gun - it's so much more dangerous than we realize when we're young. But, it's also more glorious, and more enormous, and more amazing, and more beautiful.
That's what I think about as I approach this half-century mark. My world has gotten bigger and bigger. I love it more and more. But I own it less and less. My part is to be part of it now. I think that's funny - odd, I mean. It's an intriguing thought. The more I know about the dangers or the hugeness, the less I worry about the hunter's gun.
A few weeks ago, we had a house guest. He is a man who has seen his buddies die on the battlefield, and has come close to it himself, on too many occasions. He said something rather amazing. He said, "If this is all I ever have, it will be enough - because this is good."
What he said.
30 Days of Dads: Didactic Pirate, "What My Daughter Learned From BP" | DadCentric
Holy crap. ('scuze me) If they made a horror film of this, I'd be glued to the screen and have a month or so of bad dreams afterward! (But also one of the coolest things I've ever seen. This guy re-trained himself in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY I've used for teaching both adult and child dyslexics! WOW.)
The rest of the story is here.
Not yet 9 in the morning, and I've sent a few messages - complete with about twice as many typos. Message sent late yesterday - looked at it - saw the nearly drunk-sounding meter of the words. Wow. Really really tired. This would be a bad day to write anything important.
But there's no other way to sort the brain waves and get the whirling to calm down. It's a paper journal and ball point pen sort of day. Writing necessary to sanity and recovery. Writing without typos impossible. (Corrected about thirty so far in this message alone. Thank you, God, for spell check)
And I wonder what the effect would be of having the sun actually come out from behind the clouds. As a rule, I'm not in favor of such drastic measures. But criminy! It's supposed to be summer today, and it's making a poor showing of being spring. (I bet we're going to have a hinges of Hades sort of August this year.)
by W. B. Yeats
Once more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind,
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.
I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.
May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.
Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.
In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise,
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.
May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.
My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there's no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.
An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of Plenty's horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?
Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.
And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.
Writing for the high court majority was Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's most liberal member, joined by the court's four conservatives. If Congress had intended to authorize two members to act alone, he said, "it could have said so." Instead, Congress imposed a three-member minimum as a quorum. Allowing two members to run the agency because Congress and the White House can't agree on new members, he said, would be "letting the board create a tail that would not only wag the dog, but would continue to wag after the dog has died."Funny, right?
(see today's Morning Edition for the whole story)
"what i give to my clay is what it will give back to me. in my inner world of intentions, honesty is more powerful than intention. if i can quiet my mind long enough, this honesty will bring to light what i could not hear my subconscious telling me." cary weigandI want to try to do that. Right now. I want enough quiet in my wordy mind so that the truth of this kind of happy can float to the top and be spoken. (sigh ....) It's a conundrum I am discovering. Writerly honesty is just like honesty in clay, but the quiet for a writer has to result in words. Getting rid of thoughts in words so that the truth in words can bubble up - or, really, sprout - do that baby leaves thing, and then finally reach for the sun and turn into something identifiable - and then bloom and be its own fruiting thing. Wait. What? Words? Words in the way? Waaaah! ----start again.
One of those marvelous little miracles happened yesterday - for about the fifth or sixth time in as many weeks. It's like I've rounded a corner into some kind of Alice in Wonderland, decorated for a party Hogwarts great hall, fantastic little place in the middle of the woods, and all the stuff around me keeps surprising me by bursting open and spraying something wonderfully scented and laugh-out-loud adorable into the air. I laugh. I breathe it in. And then I just stand there - being happy. Eventually, my eyes open and focus and I walk around, and peer down at the funny little flowers, and then it happens again! Pop! This time, right in my face!
See, someone in our high school class started a Facebook page. Slowly, all the sweet, amazing kids I knew back then, with all our goofy memories and not a few pictures of that moment in time and place, it's all coming together at this page, and over and over, someone says, "hahaha! I remember that!" We're not kids anymore - but you'd never know we haven't talked to each other since then. We still know each other. We still love each other. And this is sweet and marvelous on its own, but yesterday, one of the buds popped in my face.
One of the Daves (we had several in our class - Davids and Johns and Steves took up a lot of hte roll call) - he called me. On the phone. And we talked and talked and talked ... and I discovered that I wasn't the only one noticing the oddball minutia of our fifth grade play about Elijah and our sixth grade teacher from Georgia ... and the Pleasantville community where we were kids once, kids, young and strong and happy and always a little bit confused.
What an odd spring this has been. I keep getting friends returned to me - and my youth restored to me, but like a buried treasure that's been aging and turning into something it wasn't when I buried it. My daughter came home safe and sound. My daughter has been returned to me. My job at the library is becoming more sustaining to me - more responsible, more pay per hour. There is an incoming tide right now, and it's brimming over with these weird little bursts of happiness - it's a tide that brings a wild garden that bursts at random and makes me drunk and laughing.
And my husband - he does it too. If we ever went to a party where Helena Bonham Carter was one of the guests, I'd have to keep an eye on him. I don't think he'd go home with her ... I have a lot of faith - in laws about stalkers - and the caution of famous people - and my ability to watch two things at once while having a conversation.
But now... well, it's been brewing for awhile. But now - this Saturday morning shadow impromptu video of Michael Ruhlman doing his cookery magic? In his adorable Michael Ruhlman way? And edited with his perfectly dry editorial comments on top of the video? Oh, yeah. His wife is younger and cuter than I am - otherwise, she might have a real problem. If I ever left my husband ...
(from Utne online)
Maybe the future of the short story has nothing to do with e-readers or online distribution. Could vinyl be literature’s next frontier?That’s the premise behind Underwood: Stories in Sound, an English “journal” launched by Nathan Dunne that publishes contemporary short stories recorded on 33-rpm vinyl LPs. Dunne was looking for an antidote to the streamlined, glossy sound of podcasts and stories on mp3 and cherishes the “sense of occasion” offered by vinyl recordings. Ensuring that people would sit down, kick back and listen to the stories .... (read the rest)
I actually won!
Pioneer Woman's blog is one of my favorites, and I sometimes enter her giveaways at Pioneer Woman Cooks, and I did enter this time, and I won, I tell you! I really won!
The proof is here.
Just thought I'd tell everyone that.
See ... yesterday I had to take a test at the library, to see if I can graduate up a level in my employment there. One of the things I had to do was look things up in reference books. Remember reference books? They have pages and a binding and an index. You know the sort of thing. You can identify them in the library by the sticker. It says "Reference."
One of the things I had to find was an address for Andy Rooney. Well, I couldn't find it, and then wrote down a best guess, and then was telling someone about it after my test, and that person said, "He's dead! How are you supposed to provide an address for that?"
So, today, in speaking with the librarian (my boss, who will be hiring me at this new level!), I said that they need to revise their test down there at the head offices. Because Andy Rooney's dead, I said. Can't find an address for a dead man, I said.
BUT HE'S NOT!
I just looked it up! Librarian says, "No he's not. I watch him every week." I say, "Are you sure?" She says, "Yes. I'm pretty sure ..." So I look it up.
So, just for the record,
Andy Rooney is not dead.
He's old. He's really really old. He's 91.
But he's not dead.
Bernard Berenson US (Lithuanian-born) art critic (1865 - 1959)
And I hadn't thought about that before. When we're raising kids, people tell us to "be consistent" - but the idea is to be what children can trust. Can children trust an immovable, implacable force of nature? Well, sorta ... But what children really trust is trustworthiness. Love. Understanding. Firmness of purpose. --- I don't think I'll ever tell another young mother or father to "be consistent." It conveys a slightly shaded inaccuracy that I don't think I like any more.
And what about practice time with an exercise routine or a musical instrument? I had a student one time whose piano teacher had told her that
"practice does not make perfect - practice make permanent."
Becoming more and more inflexibly "consistent" might not be such a good goal. It might be better to develop. Grow. Learn. Change. Enjoy. Love. Release. Breathe.
Breathing would be good.
(Thoughts on a Saturday morning, with one now late paper left to finish, after handing in one really irritating paper on time, at the end of the quarter, after receiving a soldier in boots back from a war zone, and watching the Fellini-esque graduation celebration of our son the Evergreen State student (pictures coming soon), and driving back and forth to Olympia twice in one week, and learning that everything has accelerated all of a sudden and my bookmobile and other training will begin on Monday and I need to have a YA book pitch and a story time picture book to read and a finger play to demonstrate by then, and the cat's been bringing ticks in all week.)
I'll be back in a few days. I'll be the one with the slight twitch.
I've talked to all three of my kids. One keeps calling for Google information. ("So, I'm at this corner, and I can't find that place. Google it for me? Tell me how to get there.") One was on the instant messenger thingy. One called and said, "Are you busy in the middle of the day tomorrow? I was thinking you could meet me after my last final and we could go to lunch."
I think it's been about three years - maybe more than that - since I talked to all three kids on the same day when it wasn't Christmas or something. I remember this place. It's a little dizzying, but I did always like it here ...
The returning group (only a few of the battalion) was behind the curtain, and as music played the curtain lifted. We saw their boots first. A bit cheesy. I mean, they're soldiers - not rock stars. Shouldn't they have been marching or something?
When they finally released the rows of uniforms, we couldn't see her, couldn't see her, couldn't see her. And we're not exactly short, y'know? In fact, we did not see her until she stopped right in front of us (as we peered out into the room and stood on our toes and leaned one way and the other). Suddenly there she was. "Hey." Like she was meeting us for coffee or something.
She gave us the bags that weren't "very heavy" and went to get the heavier bag from the pile. May I just say? Body armor is reeeeeeallly heavy. She could hire herself out as a pack mule now. For long haul packing. She'd been up for forty hours already and when she called (far too bright and far too early) this morning, she said she only slept for four hours last night. Criminy! If a tour in Afghanistan can't wear her out, then I'm officially off the hook as the mom, right? There really was no way to keep up.
(What a relief. It's finally over.)
In this May 21, 2010 photo, from left, U.S. Army Sgt. Jacob Zimmerman, of Osh Kosh, Wis., Spc. Timmy Hartbeck of Manchester, Iowa, and Spc. Kevin O'Connor, of Hingam, Mass. wait for darkness to set in before heading out to set up an ambush for the Taliban, in the Shah Wali Kot district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province. Zimmerman, Hartbeck and O'Connor, are all member of 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company which suffered 12 casualties, including one Afghan interpreter, during its 12-month deployment with 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Twenty-two men in the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of 800 died in a yearlong Afghan tour ending this summer. Most were killed last year in the Arghandab, a gateway to the southern city of Kandahar. About 70 were injured, all but two in bomb blasts. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
There's lots more of this sort of thing -- just click on the picture for the rest of this particular article. A year ago, the group looked like this. There are a lot fewer of them now. They're on their way home. My daughter is on her way home. St. Michael, pray for them. St. Christopher, pray for them. Friends who read my blog, pray for them. We want them home now.
Spc. Troy O. Tom was the first. A 21-year-old Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, he smiled serenely through tough camp training and told friends he turned down scholarships to serve his country. On Aug. 18, an explosive on a footbridge killed him.
Within five minutes, Pfc. Jonathan C. Yanney, 20, of Litchfield, Minn., died the same way. Soldiers say he stopped, stooped to adjust his heavy backpack, and took his last step.
Fear of more attacks delayed the search for the bodies. The next day, a bomb struck a convoy. The shock wave thumped 1st Lt. Kyle Hovatter of Tallahassee, Fla. in the face - "like a ton of bricks," he said. Soldiers spotted a dozen muzzle flashes in the undergrowth. Sixteen Strykers unloaded 50-caliber machine gunfire and other ordnance. Helicopters flew low, unleashing at least 100 rockets.
The barrage subsided, and the Americans found Tom and Yanney.
A pattern was emerging.
On the coast, it rained, drumming a cheerless note in Clark’s journal: "rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning…a cool wet raney morning…eleven days rain, and the most disagreeable time I have experenced…." Still, as the expedition prepared to leave its winter headquarters at Fort Clatsop, on the southern (Oregon) side of the Columbia, on March 23, 1806, his tone was conciliatory: "at this place we had wintered and remained from the 7th of Decr. 1805 to this day and have lived as well as we had any right to expect…not withstanding the repeeted fall of rain…."
For some reason, though, every time we went, the many, many remote controls that lived on the table at the condo were always - always! - all screwy. At every vacation it was necessary to take about an hour to re-set everything so we could embark on our movie-watching marathon that was (still is) our couple's getaway. We're geeks, okay? It's what we do.
Well, our children do not believe that we old people have ever been able to tame the remote controls. In fact, they are sure we're of the Remote Boat generation, and have no clue about technology in general.
And why? Why are they so sure we're a dying breed? Because they (the little pills) can always do things with the remote that we can't do. We can do everything we want to do, but there's always some oddball command. One of the young giants will be home, and one of us (okay, it's usually the dad) will have the remote, and then the uppity youngster will say something like, "just go to the settings," and the dad will not know (nor wish to know, thank you very much) what the kid's talking about.
I've got news for those uppity infants. Yesterday, our ultra-fantasmagorical remote arrived via the UPS delivery guy. One remote for all our stuff - stereo, TiVo, DVD player, TV ... all of it on one remote. We hooked it up to the computer, and programmed it, and now we're USING it. See? We're not dead yet.
And I'm sure I can figure out how to turn off the TV when I go to work today. Just gimme a minute.
(bad word warning - it's Python, after all)
Well, I had no idea! Listen to these kids! We were never THIS good! Click on the picture, and then when you get to the site, there's a 50-minute program you can listen to. The link is under the picture on their page. And wow. Just wow. The sound of these voices makes me cry.