Saturday, August 14, 2010


Every day I walked past this mailbox and wondered about the difficulties encountered by the mailperson. I gather that the mail is thrust inside and then the door left open as if the mailperson leaves a gentle reminder to the occupant. Yesterday, I noted that several sunflower stalks— cut down to a mere three inches— freed the mailbox of obstructions.

So many questions:
Did the mailperson request the removal of the sunflowers ?
Did the postmaster send an official letter warning of no delivery?
Did the occupant catch me taking photos?

Hidden from view.
I start reading a book and I am enthralled. The author unfolds new universes, untold pleasures, steamy scenes, settings I'll never see save on a page. I am introduced to a host of characters, even invited to sit in on their conversations. If the author is good what I don't see are the hidden rewrites, the seeking just the perfect word not a slovenly selection of any word. Sometimes I stop reading to catch my breath. Toni Morrison once said that she has rewriiten a sentence one hundred times.

Motives for doing something run the gamut from pure altruism to selfishness, from sloth to ambition, from pride to jealousy, from benign neglect to careful consideration, and the list grows. Sometimes you know the why and other times the real motive remains hidden under layers. Psychologists spend their lives helping people discover the why of their lives. They help peel back the hidden layers. It must be one of the reasons Self-Help books sell so well.

And who has not gone to the physician and been
blindsided, told about a hidden culrpit that stayed
hidden and then appears and disrupts life.

Hidden aspirations and dreams, dormant for years, may surface unexpectantly or may remain half-buried for years. Only after my father died did I learn of his desire to go to a rodeo. Instead, he followed the pursuits of cowboys in a stream of western movies.He cajoled my mother into every movie with a horse and a cowboy. I never understood this passion because my father was an elementary school principal and a vorciferous reader of history.

This hidden desire was once told to my mother—half in jest, but I expect he'd have loved the spectacle.

When I turned ten my aunt gave me a five year diary. I began every entry the same way— Dear Diary, and then told of my day. When I turned eleven I shared something with the diary , something that I hadn't told anyone else. I confessed my desire to become an actress. Now that the diary contained a secret it became easier to tell the diary other personal things like "I stepped on the line in Hopscotch and denied doing so." Now I no longer wanted to leave my diary in the open. It needed to be hidden.

Finding a hiding place in a three room apartment that houses four people wasn't easy. No dresser drawer could be considered safe, no closet, no shared desk. After consulting my friend Ellen whose apartment wasn't much bigger, I decided to hide the diary under my mattress. It was, I thought, hidden in a safe place. I had never seen my mother turn the mattress.

Two days later the diary reappeared on my desk with a note from my mother: When I turned the mattress I found your diary on the rug. Love, mom

Sunday, August 01, 2010


How did I find this book--A Brief History of the Dead ? I remember now. I needed another book for the Antarctica category in the Global Reading Challenge. Having just read a mystery I wanted a different genre. Google, that repository of myriad information, responded when I asked for a list of books that had Antarctica as a setting. A Brief History of the Dead , which I've just started, is set in two different locations, one of which is Antarctica and the other is the city of the dead. This is a place individuals go to after they have died. They remain there as long as they remain in someone's heart--as a living memory. Their sojourn in the city may be short or decades. God is not present in the city; however, there are places of worship similar to those on earth.

Since I put the book down earlier today my thoughts wander back to the mystery of leave-taking whether it's permanent or someone simply moving on. What happened to Helen who was the first teacher I met on my first job? Did she stay in the Bronx? She probably doesn't know that I once returned to that school and walked around the block recalling the day a riot broke out in the school yard. Helen, a parochial school graduate, simply closed her door and continued teaching geometry. She married the seventh grade social studies teacher who kept failing his PHD orals because he couldn't abide the nausea, wet hands, and sweating which accompanied him to the exam.

Where is Miriam? I met her my second stint teaching. She was afraid of spiders, called in the middle of the night to discuss cows, and often came to school high on pot. She was different, but her interests were contagious .One day she left for Europe. Periodically a postcard arrived with cryptic messages: "I'm disguised and traveling through Rumania."

It's like a revolving door. Yes, I know that there are people who hang around for decades. It's the others, the ones who depart leaving a trace and no forwarding address. One year I tried to get in touch with some people who left their trace. When I first moved to New England I answered a local ad for someone who wanted to play tennis late afternoons and also wasn't a bloodthirsty player. That's how I met Sandra. We discovered that we also loved writing. Her stories appeared in prestigious magazines. Over time I watched as alcohol ruined her life. She lost her job; her children left to live with her husband and she cut herself off from friends.I moved again and we lost touch. Two years ago I thought I'd use the Internet to find her—I did. I contacted her and her email back was terse:" I clean cheap motel rooms. Don't contact me again."

Joyce played Ashes in the fifth grade play. She's stuck in that year because her family moved past the Continental Divide.

All the people who take residence in my memory form a pattern and if you take one away I'll be a different person.


Then there are those whose departure alters the universe , alters your position in the universe. That phrase was written to me when my mother died, but I believe it applies to all the people in our life.