Friday, May 30, 2008

Of Unicorns

Once I collected unicorns—not because I became enraptured when unicorns became a fad, but because I loved these lines from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

Jim: What kind of thing is this one supposed to be?
Laura: Haven't you noticed the single horn on its forehead?
Jim: A unicorn, huh?
Laura: Mmmm-hmmm.
Jim: Unicorns, aren't they extinct in the modern world?
Laura: I know!
Jim: Poor little fellow, he must feel sorta lonesome.

After viewing the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters in New York, I purchased a needlepoint canvas of the 'Unicorn in Captivity'. It hangs in my living room and reminds me of the year I worked on that piece. My father had been diagnosed with lung cancer and I travelled down to Florida a number of times: after his lung was removed; when we celebrated Thanksgiving two weeks after the holiday because he was home and recuperating, and then when it seemed that remission was a possibility and later on when my mother moved a bed into the small room with a large window facing the outside world.

Each time I went down I brought the needlepoint—for all the long waits. My father always wanted to see my progress. I slowed down and engaged in magical thinking. If I didn't complete the piece he'd live. The last time I visited he asked to see the unicorn. "I hope you'll finish this soon," he said. He died a week after I left and I finished the unicorn.

Ready to Water

We're purchasing a new hose. Last year we capitulated and opted for a hose that could be "hidden away from unsightly clutter" in a gray plastic "easy to roll-up" hose storage container.

Whoever wrote the verbiage on the cardboard packaging never attempted to rewind the flat hose. Because the unit was free standing the only way to get enough leverage was to stand on some part of the unit with one foot and then —exert enormous pressure with one hand on the unit to keep it from toppling over while at the same time straining to turn the crank and stuff the hose inside the unit.

There's a time to admit that you've lost the battle to hide your hose. We will now go and purchase a fifty foot hose and give up on hiding it —forget about looks and let it splay out across the grass, hopefully in a fairly neat stack of loops.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Peregrinations of a Reader

If I read something that grabs my attention I'm off and running to find out more information—to be subsumed by the latest item to attract me. A New York Times columnist wrote about lost prairie lands and the reclamation of 40, 000 acres by the Nature Conservancy. Readers commented on the article and many spoke about growing up in Kansas or North Dakota or Oklahoma—and the big sky. One woman had recently been East and wrote that she couldn't wait to get away from the claustrophobic feeling engendered by the Eastern landscape. I've seen the big sky in New Mexico and Arizona and yearn to see the expanse in the Dakotas. I want to hear the wind blow in Kansas.

Then I browse through an article about the Kurds and their state of being stateless. What do I know about these people who live in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran?

I happen upon a book by a teacher who went to Alaska to teach in a very rural setting—higher wages and adventure drew him to this outpost . We're not talking about a job in Anchorage. He went to a tiny village on an island in the Bering Sea. He learns something I had to learn when I taught in an urban school in the midst of a big city. You need to understand the culture to create common ground.

And what did I know of Wang Pang? After a visit to Tibet she said, "My mind changed there. I shed all desire for material things. "

I have a short list for my summer's reading—but it will grow and grow .

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The Photographer

Freezes action—

A shut door
A half eaten sandwich
A conversation, with the next word unsaid
Half an explanation
Tomorrow never
to arrive with the newspaper

A landscape blind
to the catastrophe arriving
after the town turns out the last light

A man leaning against a pole
unaware of the blue car ready to jump the curb

Dependent on a piece of glass
The fish eye lens distorts the edges
The telephoto pulls the mountain into view

Explain to the viewers—
This is how it looked before the dust
buried the crops, before the earthquake
buried the people, before the snow melted,
You are seeing a piece of history
captured, manipulated, enhanced

The photographer documents the strike, the landslide,
the first day of school—
The children with distended stomachs,
The plight of refugees fleeing
The demarcation line
The portraits of leaders, tyrants, serial killers,
The marching band playing the national anthem
Before the football teams take the field

The lens stops the years
For a moment you’re ten
Then sixteen wearing a corsage for a junior prom
Here’s a class photo
Remember that person on your left?
He died in Korea, Vietnam, —Iraq

The photographer pauses, distills the moment,
Adds a viewpoint to a perishable reality—
And it haunts the soul

2008 ©

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's All About Perspective

When the green appears I know that winter is losing its grip. It can't hold on indefinitely—everything changes. Staid colors retreat when the first green makes its statement— alter, convert, shift perceptions— to create another reality. It's spring.

Spring is a reminder. Everything is both cyclical and changes. Last year's iris comes up—but with a slight variation, perhaps the way it bends, or where it faces. There are surprises.

What changes will I make—this spring?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Missing Pieces

Missing pieces—but the face is still recognizable.

The news with so many incomplete facts, conflicting opinions and holes often leaves me confused. In Sunday’s paper two columnists wrote opinion pieces on Israel’s sixtieth birthday. One writer saw the plight of the Palestinian who can’t go home and one celebrated the return of the Jews to their homeland. In between their respective views are facts that remain shrouded in rhetoric and terrorists, retaliations and control. How does one begin to unravel the skein of events and accusations? Missing pieces.

Missing pieces. In a family, words left unsaid or words said in anger often lead to empty places. If the space created by a lack of words or discordant words extends over time, a small crack expands into a crevasse and that widens into a chasm. Days roll into weeks and months and even years. Soon years become decades. In some families only the family album shows a complete picture. The children in the photo don’t know that the family album will end with pages and pages of emptiness. Do they wonder how it all happened? Does anyone really know the story?

Writers suggest, intimate, but only rarely spell out in specific detail everything about the story. The reader is not a passive couch potato. Readers actively engage the story. Here missing pieces work.

We all have missing pieces.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Popcorn Cob Gets Me Thinking

Prior to buying three cobs of corn at an organic taste feast I was unaware of this treat.

Which makes me aware of how many exotic delicacies ( and I'm not including this popcorn) I am either unaware of or refused to consider as eatable—for me. If something quivers on a plate I'm suspect. If the colour looks suspicious or the form doesn't resemble a familiar animal I'm apt to politely refuse. I am not adventurous—as far as food is concerned.

Then there's the piled high— too full —high carbohydrate dinners served in restaurants. How many doggie bags return home to either a reheat in the microwave or an eventual toss in the disposal or garbage?

"We'll share that dish," I say to the waitress.
"Is that all you want?"
Shame doesn't work. I know the size of the dishes.

And then I go down to Cambridge and see homeless people holding signs—"Please help. I'm homeless and hungry."

According to the latest statistic over 35 million people in the United States are food insecure. Doesn't that sound like a government way of describing being hungry?

And what about hunger and famine in the world? We are spending over $4000 per second in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Cameroon, 24 people have been killed in food riots since February, while in Haiti, protesters chanting, "We're hungry" forced the prime minister to resign this month.

In the past month, there have been food riots in Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Madagascar."