Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Person.

Joy is seductive. Imagine always living in technicolor, swinging around lamp posts, stomping in puddles, jumping into piles of just-raked crackling aromatic leaves, feeling the presence of each microbe, bacterium, cell, parasite, organ, system as the body charts its daily schedule, interacts with every surface, feels every breeze, exists as one part of the continuum of reality, alive.
Imagine the first bite of chocolate mousse, the tang of hot cider after a winter walk, the smell of the paper of a new book, the feel of clean sheets, the satisfying crackle of a fountain pen on hot pressed paper, the soft spot just behind a cat's ears, walking unexpectedly past a rose bush in full bloom at dusk.

Pema Chodron, "The Places that Scare You," a book which I would like to hand out to everyone I know and love

this much rain has not fallen over a summer since that which I spent in Edinburgh, the summer that laundry never dried, endless pots of tea were steeped, and I purchased the umbrella that still serves today

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

it is us

Six word memoirs. Is the difficulty in the six words, or in the memoir? Is the memoir more approachable when it is someone else's?

Had a little lamb. Lost him.        a quite contrite Mary

Porridge, chairs, beds, bears; oh, shit.
        Goldilocks, the uncensored version

My mother didn't love me enough.
        Sigmund Freud

Evil stepmother, demanding dwarfs, handsome prince.
        Snow White
easily becomes
Evil stepmother, glass slippers, handsome prince.
in either of the above, "true love" may be substituted for "handsome prince"

Wrong turn; sorry about the calculations.
        Christopher Columbus

Why just one wife, not six?
        Henry VIII

Watched apples fall: gravity into Calculus.
        Isaac Newton

No! Not you! I love him!
        Viola, Twelfth Night

Saved that kid too many times.

Russia seemed so easy. My mistake.

God, I'll give back the apple.

Intense man; mad wife in attic.
        Jane Eyre

Printer, diplomat, scientist, author, lover, repeat.
        Benjamin Franklin

Don't get caught. Destroy this message.
        Richard Nixon

Six words is just sufficient to show how little we ever know of a person, to illuminate the cliche and leave open a wide field of supposition. Did they care a whit about the Nobel prize, the knighting, circumnavigating the globe, mapping the heavens, balancing ledgers, changing the boundaries of the civilized world, shooting a lion, or penning a major component of literature, philosophy, or music?

What does the bare platform of six words allow for the reason to get up in the morning, the stripe of sunlight across the carpet, the saunter of a cat across a parlor whilst tea is being poured?

Six words leaves out too much motivation, the hour hand suddenly leaping forward in the absence of the reassuring clicking progression of seconds. He lived miserably, but discovered the elemental make up of the atmosphere. Was a mediocre surgeon, a baker of burnt bread, a sloppy workman, an illiterate bore, but an amazing lover. Could read in twelve languages, design aeronautic instruments, but regretted stealing his sister's allowance his entire life.

Guerrilla freedom fighter, secret butterfly collector.

Decorated General; always lost the map.

Not much to say, but beautiful.

Dammit, no sugar in my coffee.
Dammit, No water in my whiskey.

Speechless with awe at life's bounty.

Actually, I take it all back.

Reconsider, reflect, count each word, calculate.

Was that the epitaph on a life fully lived, to be parsed down to a cliche concentrate, a pastiche of all that once mattered? Concentrate on what might have been, leave out what actually occurred, leave out the mundane, the repetitive, the second, tenth, fifty-third attempts, and instead record

Opened hearts solidified by heavy eating.

Perfectly manicured lawns, striped in sunlight.

I loved him, and he left.

Decoded Church secrets; burnt at stake.

Created secret decoder ring, lost key.

Heard voices of God, electroshock therapy.

Repaired cars with hope and spit.

Censored world-wide, partial translations available.

Thought revolutionary thoughts, lacked revolutionary will.

Calculated the odds, and stayed home.

Rewrote the ending, lost both copies.

Upon reconsideration, would alter battle plans.

Didn't mean what I said, ever.

Compiling the August retreat Reading List, which is currently bulging with Rilke and with Buddhism. Contemplating several weeks of caffeine-free vegetarian sobriety, which terrifies. Is a detoxed me, still me?

from sun to rains and back again

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Rather than allowing the mind to swoop and swerve and dash and dally with all the lovely addictive words contained within Webster's; rather than meandering into the territory of those persons adored as founts of new vocabulary words; rather than becoming endlessly lost in the forest of text that is the hallowed hunting and haunting grounds of semiotics and semantics passionistas everywhere; instead allow the mind to refocus on the threads and twirls of those two words and the cousins by proximity.

To trounce, to thrash or punish. Origin unknown. No origin can ever truly be so obscure as to provide nary a hint of its parentage or lineage. A peek at the labors of Mr. Johnson or a delve into the depths of the sacred Oxford English might provide a smidgen of DNA evidence, the concept of paternity, the dropped fingerprint waiting by the scene indicating the presence of something else. And thus would go the entire evening, lost to the pleasures of letterforms and the puzzling options of language use chosen by the compilers. It would provide neither character nor plot, would preclude any forlorn hope of dialogue or development, and thus would the sunset descend upon another day lost in the web of obscurity.

How lovely when amazing artist's books are issued in trade editions; especially when one knows the artist, and / or friends own the high-end version.
Very well done: ABC3D
And hooray for Johnny! Over 10 years and three children in the making, Pictorial Webster's gets a wider audience. Pre-order through Amazon today!

the days of summer when cool lingering mornings give way to sultry afternoons and unceasing evenings of brilliant clouds

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

two parts

Fiona's Life
        as dictated by Katie
        transcribed by Pippi

There once was a little girl named Fiona and she was nine years old. She lived on the beach in a little house and her house was brown. Also her house was a little far away from the ocean but she could see the ocean from her bedroom window, even though her house was one storey tall.

She had a garden and she had pink, purple, red, white, blue and turquoise flowers that grew behind her house. There was sand in front of her house. She had lots of tall trees that were good for climbing.

Fiona had a pet seahorse named Alfred who was 4 inches tall and ate seaweed that was green. Fiona got the seaweed for him from the ocean. Alfred could not talk but made mumbling noises
when he just wanted to talk. Fiona had no parents because they were washed away by a big wave when they were next to the sea shore and the big wave came, so she lived all alone, except for Alfred. She's happy that she doesn't have any parents to boss her around, but she misses them. She was four years old when they washed away, and she took care of herself. Her parents taught her how to do that, and how to escape from a fire, and how to protect herself from hurricanes, and how to kayak.

Her house has a lot of furniture like comfy couches, chairs, a desk, and an ottoman (the little thing for your feet). She has notebooks that she writes and draws in. She writes stories about little girls like her and draws pictures of her seahorse.

Fiona has a little tiny turquoise boat for kayaking in the ocean. She takes her notebook with her on the ocean and studies the ocean. Sometimes she does it while it's raining, with a pinkish-purplish umbrella. She sees clownfish that are five inches long that are orange and black striped. She sees lobsters, and sometimes she sees little dwarf sharks that can fit in her hand. There are seagulls and whales and stingrays and jellyfish and dolphins and seals. The dolphins and seals are her favorites. Fiona never learned how to swim: her parents were about to teach her and then the wave got them. So she doesn't swim.

She had a weathervane shaped like a cat on top of her house, that tells her when storms are coming. There haven't been any storms since the hurricane that got her parents.

Fiona found her seahorse Alfred on the seashore, and it was almost dying, but she got it in time. It looked like an Alfred seahorse she [already] had. so she name it Alfred, too. The first Alfred died, on its own, like people do.

Fiona doesn't go to school, because there aren't any. She eats seaweed and drinks water from her well (since saltwater gives a tummy ache). The boats on the ocean are too far away for her to see.

She isn't lonely since she has seal friends. They play tag, with Fiona in her kayak and the seals swimming. When the seals tag her they slap the boat with a fin, and Fiona taps the seals with a newspaper when she paddles up next to them.

Fiona is not a girly-girl. She wears kind of torn up clothes, but not too bad, and she wears her mother's old clothes. She has five matching outfits that are torn up, and one little sweater. She goes barefoot, but is really careful where she walks. Sometimes she cuts her foot on a rock, which hurts, but doesn't really hurt. There isn't any trash [on the beach], and she picks up any trash that washes up.

People walk on the beach sometimes, when they drive to the beach to visit. None of them are her friends: they might make friends for the day but not forever. She doesn't tell anyone that she lives there because it is her own secret and she doesn't share her kayak with anyone.

When no one is on the beach she goes into her house, where she has seaweed for dinner. She never gets tired of seaweed, because sometimes it's salty and sometimes it's sweet. So that's the life of Fiona. Sometimes writers get carried away, so I stopped right there and that is the end.

        -- Katie

[transcription note: the labyrinthian minds of children are amazing; they notice everything; and it is all relayed in such a matter-of-fact tone; this is their only reality. Punctuation and spelling by the editor, who also supplied minor grammatical structure.]


Operational Report.

Force 8 Gale. Generally impedes progress.

I was trying to go there - just there, under that tree, across the way. You can see the tree so clearly, each branch delineated, each leaf and individual entity, the squirrels chasing up and down, the general feeling of permanence.

The force of gale 8 is, at this very moment, breaking twigs off of that very tree, and the squirrels have changed their mind about playing tag and to say that progress has generally been impeded would be the least descriptive way of stating that my umbrella is inside out, my hair is alternately plastered to my head or spinning wildly in a vortex, my hat disappeared ten minutes ago, and it is all I can do to hold onto this lamp post and hope for the best.

Have I mentioned that there is imminent danger of the electrical wires overhead ceasing to remain safely strung above, offering a perch in gentler times for all variety of bird life, from the humble sparrow to the feisty cardinal to the eloquent owl to the despised starling to the unappreciated grackle, all of which would be delightful to contemplate if it weren't for this force 8 gale that seems intent upon impeding my progress and potentially about to tear the power lines from their too-fragile connection to the lamp post?

Perhaps determining a course of action when the barometer is falling and all predictions warn: be ware! be ware!, shutter the house, batten the hatches, tie down small children, close up the barn! would have preferably led to a situation other than holding on to a lamp post fighting a gale while ill-advisedly journeying from here to there by way of somewhere else.

Remember the wisdom of limiting peripatetic adventures to weather conditions of force 7, which merely inconvenience, or the force 6 which merely causes difficulty with the use of one's umbrella (presumably a sturdy umbrella, taut oiled cotton over an engineered frame, a pole of polished mahogany, as the generic travel umbrella is useless at much over a force 4, the fabled moderate breeze); henceforth vow that gale 8 winds will be left to their own devices, that once umbrellas are used with difficulty and inconvenience is noted when walking into the wind, thence one will remain where one started, unimpeded stability.

Edward Lear by the light of the moon


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

away always away

On the lam. Running from the law. Backing away quietly.
Changing identity, forging papers, assuming aliases.

Dyeing hair, colored contacts, growing a beard, appearing in cross-dress clothing, wearing a wig, walking in shoes with lifts, acquiring a cane, faking a limp, borrowing a wheelchair, wearing a uniform, drawing a false tattoo: displaying the outward appearance of a rector, a UPS driver, a bohemian, a dancer, a clerk, a scholar.

Remembering that the shoes will give the game away. Rectors don't wear running shoes. Doctors don't wear Converse All Stars. UPS drivers don't wear footwear that isn't brown. Bohemians don't wear penny loafers. Dancers don't wear Teva sandals. Clerks don't wear wingtips. Scholars don't wear combat boots.

Remembering to find the car to fit the part. Rectors are rarely seen in BMW Z3 convertibles. Doctors seldom drive 1962 Chevy pick-ups. UPS drivers drive UPS trucks. Bohemians rarely are found behind the wheel of SUVs. Dancers seek out fuel efficient hatchbacks. Clerks buy used, featuring rust in wheel wells, flaking paint. Scholars can be identified by Volvo.

reading snippets here and there, without delving into any particular texts:

Interesting observations about social and domestic expectations parsed by socioeconomic and education levels.

I'm not sure that I agree with the author's conclusions (mellow out, post-grads!), but it is generally accurate that codes of behavior are adjusted and modified and reconsidered in the light of the rigors of other commitments (such as the intensity of graduate study focusing the mind).

Books Briefly Noted: Go Down Together by Jeff Guinn | June 22, 2009

Probably won't read the book, but enamored with the review:
[Clyde] Barrow’s real strength was as a driver who maneuvered through multiple states with reckless speed, and Guinn’s engaging book reads like a road story—two kids from the Dallas slums in a fast car, headed to nowhere good. The truest part of the legend of Bonnie and Clyde was their affection for one another. "

the ephemeral beauty of fresh raspberries