Monday, January 28, 2008

Flora in Winter Exhibit and Penjing

Sunday it snowed and the sky had an anemic gray look. We headed to a botanical center to see their winter flower show and to hear Todd Hansen speak of Penjing.

As soon as I entered the hallway winter left my consciousness. White blanketed the fields outside. Inside— flower arrangements and colour. According to people who know, some of these were Ikebana arrangements. Because my knowledge of flowers is confined to recognizing a few varieties and my sense of flower arrangement means cutting off the ends of the stems, filling a tall vase with tepid water and putting the flowers in the water-filled vase, I simply enjoyed the aesthetics.

A number of people set up tripods and photographed the flowers—with and without bounce flash. I took photo after photo— attempting to capture the magic. The brighter the color the more I responded.

I like the idea of learning about something new and Penjng was new.

"Penjing is the Chinese art of creating a miniature landscape in a container." And when creating these art works the artists is involved in a "state of active meditation." So much is stylized , yet there is harmony and balance.There is also confinement.

Click the title and be transported to a Penjing site

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Flower Power

Sometimes I need to see colours. I'm not daydreaming about spring, nor am I seeing the winter as dreary. But the winter months tend to be reserved, not given to flamboyant finery.

I needed to see some plants that showed off their colours—swaggered. So I visited a Garden Center and spent several hours roaming around taking photographs. No one asked why I was hunched over a plant or why I moved some plants to a better location. New Englanders mind their own business.

One woman wandered about looking at plants, stopped and said, "This is like a field trip." I told her about the small fish pond. "I don't like fish," she said. Because I didn't want to extend the conversation, I hesitated to ask her if she didn't like fish as pets or if she abhorred the thought of eating fish— and did that mean all fish.

A number of years ago I traveled to the west coast and visited Mt. Rainier. We hiked through an alpine field blanketed with wildflowers—magenta paintbrush, broadleaf lupines,heather, elephant head, yellow monkeyflower ...

~Iris Murdoch said " People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us."

And that's how I felt wandering through the greenhouses—mad with joy.


Tight quarters. This hive reminds me of apartments, tenements, overcrowding, and too few homes for too many people. How do we, as a nation, spend so much money on fighting a war and among other things adding to the displacement of people?

We applaud the work of Habitat for Humanity and our government can’t figure out how to assure that people have adequate housing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Time and a Counter

The one who forces time is forced back by time, but the one who yields to time finds time standing at one's side. —Talmud

—a more scientific explanation or let's say that the first is a poetical way of determining time—

I've just added a counter to the site, but...
“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

Albert Einstein

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Medias Res...

Within the simple is the complex. So often I get tangled in words and miss the gist of what I really want to say. Today, once again, I wondered if I have both the capacity and the gift to write an extended piece. But how do I know if I don’t discipline myself to sit down and write. Perhaps tether would be a more apt word.

Perhaps the age of immediate gratification has rubbed off on me. An extended piece can’t fit into that category. And is a story percolating within ready to jump out and produce words and sentences and paragraphs or is there a dearth of ideas?

I’m not adverse to revision. In fact I welcome the work. It is the hardscrabble scratching of my pen that deters me. Suppose I discover that I can only write the barest of settings, the shadows of plot, the flimsiest of characters? Then what? Then I’ll write a bon mot or a pithy sentence.

Today, while drinking a cup of coffee, and wondering about our closet and the ice dams and the damage two weeks ago and the insurance, I let my mind wander and think about the story line. Notice I said the— which means that I must have an itch of an idea.

Somewhere I read that a writer knows the ending when they start to write. You write toward that ending. Everything points in that direction. But, and here’s the rub, I’m not certain about my ending. Toni Morrison said that she knew the ending of Beloved the moment she began to write. It’s like setting out on a trip and having a destination. The middle is all about getting to that place. Sure sometimes people set out without a destination and that amounts to a lot of wandering about. The main character’s peregrinations across the landscape may offer some amusing escapades but the reader looks for some connection, some movement. No one, especially the modern reader wants to be at a standstill.

Before I begin I need to know my ending. And an ending is always in medias res—just as the beginning. The ending can’t truly be the finale—another story begins to form the moment the writer stops writing.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

Waiting is an art, which is often learned while practicing waiting. Almost a month ago we, along with scads of others in our small part of the universe, experienced ice dams and then because of all the intangibles, like the next door neighbor in our attached condominium heating up his loft, fell victim to the ice melting and then refreezing. When that happens it sets off a chain reaction and the ice lifts the roof shingles and the melting ice trickles in or in our case poured into the closet in the study.

Frantically we watched the brownish wet spots increase their territorial expansion like a marauding army. I took photos of the onslaught marveling at the tenacity of the water’s invasion. The rug in the closet took on water and the wet spot spread like an inkblot outside the closet. We sopped up water with old towels and then threw them in the dryer.

It doesn’t take too long before a rhythm is established.

In the morning we began our persistent phone calls. Even though I knew that other souls were reporting their bouts with water, I wanted an immediate redress of the situation. The management company sent two men to hammer down the ice dams, but they didn’t go far enough and the water continued with a fury. What had been a quick moving rivulet became a raging stream seeking a path and our closet wall filled that need.

A day later a more experienced contingent of intrepid ice men arrived and hacked away all the ice dams. The water abated and then stopped. By this time we established a contact with our insurance agent. “Go ahead,” she said, “get the water retraction done.”

Even the sound of those words is ominous. We waited for the extractors. They tore out the walls of the closet leaving it bare and cold looking. They left a behemoth dehumidifier and three stacked fans. For three days the fans created a symphonic cacophony. Their sound — relentless and strident. No — insistent and maddening.

We waited for the insurance adjustor and then began the wait for the key man to inspect the work. The first appointment he forgot, but offered copious apologies.

Then began the task of getting the closet put back together. This company said they did both. “I don’t have a plasterer on my crew,” said the key man. He subcontracted the work. The plasterers were to come Thursday afternoon at 1:00. They called at 2:00 pm and said, “We’re running late so we’ll there tomorrow at 12:00.” What’s another day. So we waited for the fellow who was supposed to put back the insulation and hypervac before the plasterers did their work. He didn't show.

I’m practicing patience.

Friday the fellow installing the insulation arrived and put that in. We were on our way. Two hours later the plasterers arrived, went upstairs, looked at the closet and said, “This is textured and we left our sponge at home.” I gave them directions to the hardware store. They left and never returned. Destination unknown —disappeared to foreign places.
Missing persons!

We called the key man. He called them. “We couldn’t find a sponge,” they said.

So it’s Saturday. They are upstairs putting up the board. Soon they’ll start plastering. Monday we call the key man and begin the wait for someone to put back the closet.

This is all a waiting game. Did I mention that they also need to check the basement—there’s small water stain.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Best?

I'm not sure how this rates across the country, but since 1960 Mr. Bartley has been selling burgers —often named after politicians, Boston sports figures or Harvard faculty. In keeping with the times you can now order a turkey burger or a veggie burger with the same toppings. This is serious eating—elbow to elbow—delectable if you love burgers.

The sign makes me contemplate my own list of Best—perhaps not in America—but in my own emporium of cooking delights.

My list includes the candy store in the Bronx that sold the longest saltiest pretzels. When you used that pretzel to scoop up ice cream it tasted like manna from heaven.

And pickles. Not the type of pickles that come in a a glass jar, but pickles that you find in large containers on the Lower East Side. Most of the pickle places have closed up, but a few remain. Guss' Pickles still sells half sours. And they still mix corriander, mustard seed, bay leaves, peppercorns, red peppers and garlic for their pickles.

Then there are the best roasted chestnuts. I bought them from a stand in front of the old Museum of Modern Art . There are still chestnut stands and they are in the same neighborhood.

My favorite best was a roasted marshmallow dipped in jelly or sometimes a fig or prune dipped in jelly. The only place to get these delectable treats was in the Bronx.

I'm certain that I must have some sophisticated choices. Yes, my absolutely best meal is at Thurstons Lobster Pound in Bernard, ME. 

Nothing tops a succulent lobster caught in the waters off the coast of Me and prepared outdoors—"in the rough". That is the best.

Monday, January 07, 2008

One Way

One way. What an intriguing statement. How many demagogues, leaders— political or religious—and ordinary people believe that there is one way and that is their way? Don't deviate from the one true path, the one agenda or chaos will follow.

I pick up the newspaper and read about factions who argue that their way is absolute. There is no room, no sliver of possibility to exist with the other.

And exit. Tom Stoppard said, "Every exit is an entrance somewhere else." Suppose we looked upon exits as entrances into possibilities. I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna turning everything into gum drops and cotton candy. Yes, there are exits that carry painful memories and locked doors.

Yet—to exit, to take leave of, to move on, carries with it a narrative that may include new discoveries. Imbedded within an exit is an entrance. I left and you entered. 

The greatest anguish is to be caught in the place where there is no exit. Jean Paul Sartre explores the fate of those for whom there is no exit. And even when presented with the open door the characters can not leave.

One way to exit. On a practical concrete level — exits from the theatre — one way prevents pandemonium. The notion of One way in interactions, in dialogue, in a social context may lead to pandemonium.