Friday, April 18, 2014

Have You Prayed

have you prayed
on your knees
have you prayed
prostrate, laid
out for the lord?
no answers?
maybe you need
to bend
those knees
maybe the Lord
just waiting
for you
maybe the Lord
gets tired
of how straight
you stand
maybe the Lord
hears better
when you
bend those knees

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Pull of Water

Traditions. I wonder about the oddities—those venerable and inherited practices. Imagine adding religion to a polar swim?

The Telegraph U.K. headline: Russian Orthodox believers celebrate Epiphany by taking a dip into icy water.

The tradition isn't confined to Russia.

Up and down the Danube River priests throw a cross into the river and swimmers compete to be the first to reach the Holy Cross. This year over seventy "cross"inspired swims took place.

The concrete and pragmatic side of me wants to know if anyone ever suffers from hypothermia.

Water has a draw. A church in California baptizes people in the Pacific Ocean. Early this April the Pastor of the church and several congregants baptized three people in the Pacific near the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. Huge waves caught hold of the men and carried them away. Two men swam back to shore—the third perished. ( I wonder if he perished before or after the baptism?)

I read somewhere that in 1923 this area was where The Ten Commandments was filmed.

When I think of religion, water, baptism, I want to reread "The River" by Flannery O'Connor. It's a story that defies a summary, save to say that it requires reading and rereading.Grace is evident within the story.

Yes, it also is typical of O'Connor who insists that she needs to shout, to often use grotesque situations in order for people to hear.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unexpected


Ice and snow,
unwelcome guests
staying beyond
an appropriate time

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Flying or Grounded

The minister said, "If you wish, write out a prayer request on a sheet of origami paper."

Before Easter the origami squares turn into folded paper birds and the birds carrying their prayers decorate the sanctuary.

According to my understanding the prayers will be read at a service--perhaps the Easter service.

This isn't a new idea. Folded cranes carried messages of peace.

Is it the writing of the prayer or the folding of the paper that generates a feeling of well-being, a sense of meditation, a oneness with the universe? Perhaps it's the belief or hope that the prayer will fly-- will take wing.

Yet, how often the response to a prayer isn't what we expect or hope?

I wonder if when the answer isn't forthcoming we play the Emperor's new clothes game and say that our timetable isn't God's timetable or who are we to expect that we understand God's response--or lack of response. Yet, we learn from the unanswered or unexpected response.

Years ago I worked as a summer camp counselor. The last night of camp everyone made an origami boat. Just before total darkness obliterated the lake, yet with enough darkness to see the floating flotilla , we placed lit candles in each boat. Then small groups waded in a few feet and sent their boats on a first and last voyage.

Just before the first boats set sail the head counselor said,"Send your boat off with a thought, a prayer, a wish."

We stood on the shore and watched them bobble around until the candles went out and darkness covered the lake.

I was careful when I wrote my prayer request. No sense in writing out a request that isn't probable.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Undone

a stiff wind whips my hair,
disrupts the layered effect
and reveals gray roots

Sunday, April 13, 2014

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

I began to wonder why it is that we don't simply roll over and off the bed. At some point I learned not to turn over and keep turning until I landed on the floor. I expect most of us have that down pat.

Once raising the question I immediately sought some reliable statistics. Fortunately the Center for Disease Control keeps tabs on these numbers. Imagine—1.8 million people pay visits to the ER because they fell out of bed and 400,000 of those visits result in admissions. More startling—450 people die each year. If you're quite young or quite old there's more of a chance for a visit to the ER.

If you live in Russia icicles present a lethal problem—

You're safer on a roller coaster than in your bed. "In the U.S. people take about 900 million rides ..." According to a CBS report— about four people die a year.

There's a moral here—






Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blessings

this morning's sun
swaddled me
like a newborn
warming my bones
digging deep
wrapping me up
in light

Friday, April 11, 2014

Familiar

Tomorrow is our semi-annual trip to L.L.Bean—paying homage to boots made to last for decades, tee shirts that stay the same year after year, and demonstrations showing you how to fly fish. Two hours and ten minutes each way.

We will take lunch and eat in the car after securing a parking spot. This is a routine and we know it—down pat. On the way up we'll stop at Starbucks.

I'll bring several items to return.

We'll walk through the archery and hunting section. I once taught with a speech therapist whose son could hit the bulls eye ten times—I think in a row.

The store will be filled with people wearing L.L.Bean gear. My attire—jeans and a three quarter Saturday tee. I think of it as a uniform.

Everyone will be helpful. And I will carry around my purchases in a large canvas bag.

Before we head home we'll eat some more of our car picnic gourmet food and remark about how everything is as it should be —the same.

Let the French and Italian designers toy around with change.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Whose Side Are You On?"

The newspaper usually tells a story with a particular slant. This necessitates reading two or three papers--across the continuum of liberal to conservative.

Or if you prefer digested news there's commercial television offering up sound bites with a slant.

Today I read several accounts of a rescinded honorary degree, initially proffered to a woman who has been a vigorous and outspoken critic of the treatment of women by fundamentalist Muslim countries.

It seems that she has made some rather harsh statements about the entire religion. Those statements brought about the wrath of several groups and they requested that the university rescind the invitation. The university complied.

Now several newspapers take umbrage with the position taken by the university. One editorial expresses chagrin with the refusal to allow for free speech on campus.

Another paper applauds the university's stand. But I don't know what she said and why--
now I may have to wait until she writes an essay about the experience.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Revelation

When Oxford American and The Nation arrived on the same day, I turned to the table of contents for both magazines. Of course I'm always drawn to the type of story in Oxford American.

In the spring issue: a story about Florida's Burmese Python hunt. While I'm not a snake enthusiast, I am intrigued with those who hunt snakes. A number of years ago while hiking in the Adirondacks, I walked right past a timber rattlesnake sunning on a rock.

The article, long form journalism, explored everything from conjecture on how a species of snake not indigenous to the area is now —along with the alligator—on the top of the feeding chart. While they are not being blamed, save by a few, for the decline in raccoon, possum, and bobcat population, they are changing the balance of power.

And who hunts the python during the Python Challenge? A cross section.

These pythons refuse to remain in the Everglades—they are heading for the Keys. And these aren't garter snake size. August of 2012 researchers "captured a 17 foot-7 inch, 165 pound female carrying 87 fertilized eggs."


When a hunter was asked if the snake bites, he replied, " It will definitely bite. It will only hurt for a few minutes, but the pride of catching a Florida python will last forever."

Steve Featherstone, the author of the article, never did catch a python—but he was close.

Where else would I find a long essay on Flannery O'Connor's book A Prayer Journal? The journal was written before O'Connor's short stories were published.

Jamie Quatro writes, "The journal's movement is spirit to flesh; the fiction, flesh to revelation."

It's time to reread O'Connor—my favorite writer.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Directions for Spring Cleaning

My mother took down the kitchen curtains every spring.
Removed the plain dark blue slipcovers.
Put on the flowered slipcovers.
Washed the venetian blinds and the living room drapes.
Dismantled the refrigerator.

Used elbow grease and ammonia to clean the stove.
And rested.

I take my golf clubs upstairs.
Wash each club face with a wire brush.
Take a handful of tees.
Choose golf balls.
Select a pair of shoes.
Check my cleats.
Find a hat.
Ready.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Just Breathe

To forget the self is to be enlightened by all myriad things.
—Zen Master Dōgen

The question is not how do I see this mountain, how do I hear the forest speaking—the question is how do I simply allow myself to experience everything that surrounds me without allowing the intrusion of self.

Years ago I climbed Mt Katahdin. At some point during the ascent I forgot about how tired my legs felt. When we reached the Knives' Edge I realized that I hadn't expected a trail that in some places was only three feet wide with a thousand foot drop on both sides.

This is a mile long stretch. People warned us not to look down.

After ten minutes I stopped thinking and simply walked and listened to my breath—in and out. When I stopped worrying about falling, tripping on a rock or pebble, I noticed the shades of rocks, the way the some rocks seemed to pierce the sky.

My breath and my steps—one in unison.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Riddle

The door to the invisible must be visible.
—Rene Daumal


Like a koan
inscrutable

meditating
on a paradox

a secret
sleight of hand

concealed
yet a pinhole
into a mystery

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Too Early to Worry

It's the season. Time to make certain my Red Sox decal is carefully placed on my car. Time to remember that it's a long season and I shouldn't be worrying--yet. Time to wonder if we made a mistake getting rid of last year's catcher.

It's the season when my desire to see the Yankees flounder comes to the fore. Yet, I grew up several subway stops away from Yankee Stadium. I sat in the bleachers, ate pink cotton candy, Hygrades all-beef hot dogs, and drank cola.

I listened to my father's retelling of Jackie Robinson's exploits and of how the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series.

Even when my father was ill we still talked about baseball. " Did you know," he said, "that the 1955 World Series was the best."

We spoke about the Red Sox. " Someday," he said, " they'll win one."

Friday, April 04, 2014

On This Site a New Luxury Highrise

the apartment
contains detritus,
relics of a family-
fragments, a kitchen
shelf with a cracked cup,
leftovers still in the freezer,
one slipper, newspapers
stuffed around windows




Thursday, April 03, 2014

A Photograph

a portal
yet not reality
an opening
for questions
for chance
a frame
for a story

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Optical Device

Roland Barthes wrestles with the medium of photography in his book Camera Lucida. His perspective-- as the spectator, viewer, even an interpreter.

What other medium captures a moment, stops time in its tracks? Barthes writes that the photographer has found the right moment- the kairos. That moment can't be replicated. Even the next frame freezes a different moment.

When I found a photo of my grandmother as a young woman I, too, entered a different time frame. That photograph stopped the future. I met her in that space as if the future was yet unwritten.

"Time," Barthes writes, "eliminates the emotion of loss..."

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Taxes

April presents itself as a month of promises-- warmth, a gateway to summer, and taxes. Some people prefer to barricade themselves in a room and tackle reams of paper, a computer tax program, sharp pencil, yellow pad, and the belief in their ability to wend their way through the tax code-- not me.

I want to collect all my papers and carry them to a guru who, I hope, will tackle the numbers and find that the government owes me money. When I owe the government money I want to squeal, unfair.

Owing money makes me think that I'll throw over my inherited belief in the Democratic party and become one of those Republicans who wants to squirrel away all of his money-- preferably away from the tentacles of the Federal government.

This feeling of becoming the other only lasts for a few minutes. So I stomp, emit a few curse words, and remind myself that thinking that the vacation will be paid for by a nice juicy return is not the best way to approach taxes.

But just for a few minutes I want to complain and whine. I have a right to my disappointment and I don't want to be confronted with logic. I want to suck my thumb and wonder why my guru couldn't perform numerical prestidigitation with my papers.


Just for this evening I don't want to be reasonable, magnanimous, or even a card carrying third generation Democrat.


Monday, March 31, 2014

fritter away time

exhaust minutes
with endless loops
of miscellany
while the wash piles up
and the news turns old

spend hours over tea
reading fortunes
in tea leaves

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Today Morphed into Tomorrow

Recently I've found myself surrounded by articles, even books, about time. When I picked up a book at the library I didn't realize that the teenage protagonist was engrossed with time—as a metaphysical phenomenon.

When I went down to the basement to bring the shredder upstairs I found myself actively engaged in contemplating the act of shredding time—old statements.

"How many years should I keep my Visa statements?"
"How about other financial records?"

"Seven years, that's what I heard from a reputable accountant."

So I began to shred time—stopping occasionally to read the cost of an item. I purchased a Palm pilot eighteen years ago and thought, at the time, of how I stood on a cutting edge. Since that time the edge has moved rapidly.

Years divided into thin strips stuffed into plastic bags —plastic bags which will last for decades.

I also found two manila envelopes of photos taken between 1987-1992. I had intended to put them in an album, but the project was only half completed. Looking at old pictures has a double sided edge. "Remember her?" "Who is that?"

People who teach memoir courses use photos to force memory into recall mode. But, in my time frame mode, I found myself asking questions of the subjects—even of the landscape.

Did a cow really escape in the labyrinth of red and orange sandstone hoodoos in Bryce Canyon? Or is that one of those tales?

Zen Buddhists say stay in the moment—but the moment passes too quickly. I read that if you snap your fingers for each moment you can account for every single moment.

The entire subject is rife with problems—when did something happen? Were you so busy moving on that you never saw that what happened passed? And since you can't go back to look at that moment from a different perspective, does that always mean that you are on a nomadic belt into the future?

About that cow...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Breathe

I just read a blog posting about slow reading and slow writing. This is not to infer that the people partaking in these experiments are plodders. It is a movement that suggests that we all need to slow down when it comes to writing, reading and thinking.

What does this mean? In writing I expect it means a return, or a heightened awareness of words, thoughts, and the trajectory of where a piece intends to go. I know I don't have a deadline, save what I've created for myself.

There's a difference between posting on a blog and writing short form or long form pieces. There's a difference between creating characters and allowing them to mature into three dimensionality rather than accepting pasteboard characters inhabiting a setting.

Perhaps sitting down and resting in a scene, exploring the boundaries of my story, asking questions, choosing the apt word, a verb that resonates, produces a story that invites slow reading.

As for reading—how often do I read a book at a pace that allows me to enter into the character's thinking or wander the layers of a story? Of course to do that the writer needs to create a story that includes those layers. I need to slow down enough to ask — how did the writer accomplish these levels of meaning? It's not only what did the writer mean, but let me unfold the how behind the what.

Stop. Breathe. Think. Write. Read what is written aloud. Breathe. Proceed.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Play of Words

Is it unintentional when we hide behind a metaphor, or create a symbol to disguise what we want to say?
Is the use of artifacts to distort history—the world's or our own— accidental?
Is it possible to dress up in finery to cover up shabbiness?

To use plain language, unadorned, not bolstered by figurative play may not afford enough covering. Do we really want to be understood or do we want the story to hide behind a vagueness, a veil?

I think that often the tale we tell is wrapped in a membranous covering that acts as a mask.

Who can chronicle memories without meandering, without indirect commentary?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Changing Times

I don't appreciate fine acting and good directing until I see poor acting and weak directing. That's the same way with books—

Some authors, and it doesn't matter the genre they select, create a piece of writing that is transformative. And it all seems effortless. Yet, I know that each word carries weight and each sentence moves along at a particular pace.

It's the same with some people. My grandmother didn't spend a lot of time thinking about how to be kind, she simply was kind. Every action was imbued with that quality. I'm certain that over her lifetime she brewed tea for hundreds of people—even the Fuller Brush man sat at her table drinking a cup of tea.

We do live in a different era and offering a stranger a cup of tea seems dangerous. What a loss.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Touch Isn't Enough

If my pen runs out of ink, I open up a bottle of ink and fill the pen. If my pencil point breaks or becomes dull, I use my pencil sharpener. If it's a mechanical pencil I either add more lead or press the end of the pencil to advance a piece of lead.

Simple, non-technical. If I am using a ball point pen and it runs out, I am faced with a choice--use a refill or if it's a cheap pen heave it into the closest wastebasket.


My ITouch requires me to push down on a small round indent that normally takes me back to my home page, but for an unexplained reason pushing the indent began to require Herculean strength. When I googled the problem I discovered a plethora of others who experienced the same dilemma.

You could use assistive technology that is built into the unit, but if you're out of warranty you can't get a new ITouch.

I must admit that after my initial sore thumb I approached the news with relative calm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cross the Jordan

Yes
Maybe
Perhaps
I don't know
Could be
At least a possibility
Why not
I'm an optimist
Refrain
from doubt
One step
or jump