Saturday, August 26, 2006



I can't imagine packing ever being a relaxing event. I find it rife with questions. How hot? How cold? Do I take ,or leave, how many socks, do I need calamine lotion, thirty sunscreen, my rain pants? and on and on it goes. Several years ago I created a packing list and that list multiplied until every small probability had an item. The list reminds me of a Biblical begat list.

The calamine lotion begat the bug spray begat the wide brimmed hat begat the long sleeve shirt begat the long pants, and on and on. The list extended itself onto a second page and then into two columns on each page which turned into three columns and then four. How many books? A book for each mood. Quiet books, contemplative books, summer mysteries, tomes for the end of the summer and beginning of fall, books for a course, books for a book club.

I sit here wondering if I remembered everything. I sit here thinking the car looks as if we were leaving on an expedition. What can I remove from the list? Instead I add a warmer jacket and two more books—slim books, quick reads.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When September Rolls Around

I know when September begins to press its days into the calendar by the racks of new note books stacked in the stores. Each pristine notebook promises a clean slate. It also begins a new year. After teaching for many years I know with a certainty that the year begins in September. I like the concept of new beginnings. August adjusts herself each evening and dusk quickens into darkness. Suddenly one day it's dark at eight and then before eight.

Without any prior warning, or like someone programmed by years of school, I am excited by the clean slate. Each year I wander down the aisles of stationery stores looking for the penultimate notebook. This year I purchased three notebooks. One I'll use for a workshop class I teach. The light notebook fits into my bag and I'll use it to take notes in a class on Contemporary Art. The third notebook remains without a specific assignment.

My mother said anticipation ranks up there with one of the wonders. She always defined the word with a positive spin. She likened the feeling to the waiting that precedes a new experience.

September is the time for resolutions, goals, possibilities. For the next few days I'll contemplate my realistic and the far-fetched goals.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I Can't Believe

I can't believe that the Yankees swept the Red Sox. It isn't easy to lose five straight games. It's as if the house of cards came tumbling down and all is in disarray. How did this happen?

I can't believe that reaching the post season is almost doomed. Did Red Sox Nation, players and fans alike, fear success? Perhaps dreaming about the big one for eighty-one years lent a stability, an adhesive to New England fans. Maybe winning gave us nothing to hope for—a second win could never match the euphoria of the first win in eighty-one years.

Perhaps the loss to the Yankees, the humiliating defeat, the disintegration of the team before our eyes is a wake-up call, a clarion cry to arms. Ah! Arms. We needed arms in the bullpen. Our bullpen limped, sputtered, pleaded—"Not another hit, not another run." I cajoled the television, crossed my fingers, offered advice, but all to no avail.

I can't believe I care so much. Is it regional pride? No. After all I was born fifteen blocks away from Yankee Stadium, but my father was a Dodger fan and I grew up loving the Dodgers. I still retain some of my New York accent. Why not change allegiance. I earned my stripes living in a three room apartment, sharing a bedroom with my grandmother, my parents on a pullout couch in the living room. New York graffiti, subways, the 42nd Street library, uptown, downtown runs through my veins.

I can't believe I am thinking this way. The five game sweep may be a wake-up call, a summon to arms.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Peripatatic Mind

After spending four hours editing stories for an anthology, playing nine holes of golf and then back for two more hours of editing, my mind leapfrogs from topic to topic. Suppose I owned a lob wedge? Suppose I had a better short game? Today I used my new five wood and I think I'm in love. Tikkun arrived with its special High Holy Days insert. It will soon be time to look back over the past year and take stock. Do I need to repair some relationships, honor the earth, show more compassion, turn toward or turn away—do I take care of myself?

Too many conflicts around the world.The newspapers expend columns on conflicts all over the world. Twirl the globe and chances are you're looking at a spot on the map that harbors a war. We went to see World Trade Center Saturday night. Excellent movie, not sensational—it's important to remember the goodness of people, the bravery, and heroics as well as the horrific devastation.

The summer is a great time for reading mysteries. After a visit to Kate's Mystery Bookstore I returned home with seven used mystery books. By the time the summer ends maybe I'll be able to understand some of what happens on CSI.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Time Never Stays in Place

Clock Provided By A Time Traveler

Summer is moving on and it's getting darker earlier. Stop.


While editing some short stories my mind triggered back to the longer sentences prevalent in 19th century literature. Some of those writers were magicians capable of tossing off a sentence that meandered from semi-colon to semi-colon and managed to drag itself over a page—never losing the thread. I must admit I'm more at home with leaner language, but sometimes I enjoy the pace of longer sentences.

All this lead me to return to the novels that had been fostered on me when I attended Junior High School and High School. Returning to the Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick, I found myself totally engaged, enraptured with language.

There are writers today who aren't parsimonious about language, who engage in editing and honing their work until every paragraph, sentence, and word, speaks volumes.

My favorite writers seem to find quirky niches—aeries where they look out upon the universe.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Humbling. Addictive.

How did I become so enamored with attacking a small white ball with a metal stick? Once upon a time I thought golf was ridiculous, an absurdity, a pursuit of pretentious proportions. Now I watch the flight of my drives as if I had unleashed a miracle—a drive that went 165 yards! That , for me, is a dramatic dynamic drive.

I listen to my partner practicing her putting on our rug and know that ultimately the game comes down to the short game, but I love the long balls—even sporadically hit long balls.

I'm not a natural athlete so taking up a sport doesn't come easily. So after many years the euphoria when I finally scored a 99 is overwhelming. And tomorrow holds the promise of possibility. Even in a poorly played game there's one hole, or even one shot that is a vision of what is possible. That's what keeps me coming back—intermittent reinforcement.

An Only Connect

Several comments ago I mentioned an incident involving getting my oars tangled in lily pods. A week later I'm invited to go out an a friend's boat. The first thing I spot, even before we leave the pier—lily pods. Isn't it amazing how life is replete with coincidences and "only connects" ?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Things I Don't Understand

Sometimes reading the newspaper requires fortitude—there's so much I don't understand. On the front page another shooting, civil wars, skirmishes that result in the loss of life, photographs of devastation, politicians posturing, conservatives battling with liberals, name calling... And I know that for every incident pundits explain underlying causes, ways to ameliorate the situation or how to quash the opposition.

That's what I don't fathom. How did we get to the place where my opinion, my land, my religion, my skin, my ethics transcends your right to exist? Yes, I know that students of history can trace the beginnings or attempt to place a thumbprint on the start.

It's 96 degrees and there are several men who work for a landscaping company weeding the lawns in this development. They wear long sleeve shirts and do back breaking work. Our governor vetoed a minimum wage raise. He said,"It's not good for business." The legislature disagreed and overrode his veto.

It's 96 degrees and I'm at our air conditioned library. Two young women with their toddlers spent the afternoon in the children's library. One of the women said to the librarian," You can't breath in my house." My next door neighbor runs her air conditioned twenty-four hours a day. I know what it's like to live in a hot apartment. I grew up in the Bronx and I recall some dog days of summer when the buildings leaning one against the other even kept the breeze from entering the neighborhood.
The newspaper chronicles inequalities.