Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is the time of year when gifts beyond the pale of necessity and even lavishness appear. I recall a seven foot stuffed giraffe selling for close to one thousand dollars. 

All the catalogs haven't been sent, the weekend newspaper inserts are not yet stuffed into the paper, and Montblanc may have trumped all the wildly " you don't really need this " gift ideas.

They have created a software program to analyze your writing " and create a bespoke fountain pen nib--made to suit one's individual writing speed, angle, pressure and more." That individualized service costs $850. Of course that doesn't include the fountain pen. Nib and pen will you cost $2000.

Makes me want to use a dollar Bic pen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pens and Lines

Did you ever write in-between the ruled lines? Or write vertically?

A friend once bought me a Fisher Space Pen that wrote underwater or with its point facing the ceiling. It was purported to be used in outer space—the writing implement of the astronauts. Probably also used by deep sea divers.

For my birthday I received a pen promising to write for seven years —" write two meters a day for seven years" Two meters equal to 78.74016 inches or 6.56168 feet. I gather I could write the average height of a basketball player 365 days for seven years—give or take a week. That's a daunting challenge. And what about handwriting differences? A simple hand vs script with flourishes vs block printing. There's more: crimped writing or sprawled writing.

Remember when you tried to write with the "other" hand?

My fifth grade teacher, an imposing no nonsense shrieking fixture, once accused me of writing on my hand. I tried to explain that the squiggly lines happened when I put my hand down on the paper. After she made me hold up my hand she uttered, "Young ladies do not draw on their hands."

My mistake was asking her, politely, if boys were allowed to draw on their hands. My feminist leanings showed up early. That comment resulted in my writing: I will not draw on my hands 150 times and I will not be impolite 175 times. She placed me in a seat where she could make certain that I didn't write "I" 150 times and then move onto the next word. "That," she said,"would defeat the learning."

Did you ever have a ball point pen leak as you were holding it?

Did you ever keep a five year journal? Starting January 1st I'll be using my Seven Year Pen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Know More Than a Name

Several times in the past month a young man comes into the coffee house and orders a coffee. His gait is ungainly compared to others his age. 

He sits at a table for two and often takes out a smart phone and is either looking at something or absorbed by the phone.

Last week his mother came in with a friend. They sat at a separate table. The young man pointed to the woman and then to himself. Tracy , who was recently hired, said, " She's your mother." The young man laughed.

Today I was reading when I noted that Tracy and the young man, who is always impeccably dressed, were engaged in signing. Every once in awhile he laughed. 

After he left I went over to talk to Tracy. In our brief conversation I learned that she had worked with a blind-deaf population for several years and then in an  alternative high school. 

"But now," she said, " I'm thinking of a career change. I want to do equine therapy."

I'm reminded again, and again and again, about how little we know about people. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Something of Value

The library is a treasure trove of possibilities. Last week when roaming through the stacks I found two titles I didn't know I needed. One, a series of yoga exercises and the other titled Praying for Strangers. The first book, filled with positions or postures or moves that didn't ask me to twist into a pretzel -- while inhaling and exhaling-- was a remarkable find. I know the music now begins and I tout out the book and ask you to send in money for your own copy-- refund guaranteed.

But it isn't t about the book. It's about finding something when you're not seeking anything specific.

I've not started the second book, but expect that I'll find something of value. When I randomly opened the book I found two quotes that resonated.

From the Talmud: He who prays for his neighbors will be heard for himself.

From the writings of Oswald Chambers: Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On Those Rare Days

When there's a window of warmth and people look half dressed for spring and half for late fall

When a welcoming silence settles in a room and joins a larger silence

When words gain substance and people hear the fullness of language

On those rare days ...I'll brew a cup of tea and sit quietly and listen.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Day After

Consume. Consume. Consume

The Thursday newspaper weighed more than any daily needs to weigh-- pages and pages of inserted ads bulked the paper. 

Stores strived to open before turkey meals were digested. By offering " incredible" deals they anticipated throngs lining up outside. One radio station reported that a woman used pepper spray on people in front of her to either move them along or rid the line of their presence.

Today is the biggest shopping day of the year. It's as if a flood gate is opened.

And what is it that people are celebrating? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

As I ate my untraditional fish dinner I thought about previous dinners.

One time my turkey sat in its pan in the oven behaving reasonably well-- that is browning and cooking before it caught on fire. The smoke alarm sounded and smoke ascended from the oven door. The turkey was rescued, the windows opened, the alarm disconnected until the air cleared and save for a smoky skin the turkey survived the ordeal.

Over time we've narrowed down the meal. Initially that meant chicken with the fixings, then chicken in a pot cooking away while we went for a walk around my favorite pond. Eventual the chicken gave way to fish--more authentic that way.

We've driven in a snowstorm to get to a Thanksgiving dinner, flown to Colorado, cooked up sweet potato casserole for sixteen,  and consumed enough for a week of meals.

When my father was sick, and it didn't seem as if he'd win against the cancer invading his body, my mother had a Thanksgiving dinner the week  after Thanksgiving to accommodate his medical appointments.

My mother wasn't a great cook or even a good cook --plain cooking was her forte. She ordered a pre-cooked and cut turkey. By some miraculous and inventive manner the cut pieces all fit together and the turkey appeared whole. I referred to it as a Lego Turkey.

We speared our pieces. My father's favorite vegetables were peas and carrots- so that's what accompanied the turkey. I cooked baked potatoes , another favorite. For dessert we bought an apple pie-- not one of those flat topped pies, but one with mounds of apples. My father loved his pie served with a slice of American Cheese.

As I ate my fish dinner and it's varied accouterments I also thought about the myriad number of blessings in my life.

Love is the first.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On the Making of an Apple Pie

Some people are at home with flour, Vanilla Extract, pie plates and all the other paraphernalia necessary for creating a delectable pie. I am a novice. My meager pie credentials pale compared to accomplished bakers, but compared to my mother I am in the advanced class.

My mother didn't bake, didn't care about baking and believed that what came in a box or in cellophane wrapping was an adequate accompaniment to a cup of coffee at the end of a meal. She always kept a box of chocolate cookies or Oreos in the refrigerator.

Living in the Bronx in a small apartment meant always being aware of the possibility of roaches. We never had any because everything on a shelf was in a tin. My father's cereal and my Rice Krispies were safe in their respective tins. My mother's tins ranged from a stock plain gun metal color to containers that once held products. My favorite was a Premium Saltine Cracker container, but I often wished my mother had the tin with a picture of Elvis.

My grandmother baked, but her repertoire was definitely Old World with honey cake a perennial favorite.

If something didn't fit into a containers it went in the fridge.

Not growing up in a kitchen where at the age of three I sat on a stool and helped mix ingredients or spooned cookies onto a cookie sheet put me behind schedule in terms of acquired baking skills.

So when we decided to make an apple pie for Thanksgiving I turned to my Moosewood Cookbook for a recipe. I felt that making a crust was out of the question so I sought another type of "foundation".

Yesterday we purchased organic wheat flour, unbleached white flour,rolled oats, Vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon, nuts, celery seed-- all in small quantities from a health food store. Then we bought apples and a lemon from the produce store. if it hadn't been raining so hard the apples would have been bought at the apple orchard. We also bought local eggs.

" How much white unbleached flour do you need?"

" A cup." Actually all I needed was two tablespoons, but I thought this might be the beginning of my engagement with baking.

According to the directions thirty minutes of preparation and the pie was ready for the oven. Two of us were working, one coring and paring apples, the other parsing out ingredients like a chemist. Forty- five minutes later our pie was ready for the oven. Cleanup took almost the entire baking time. The pie looks perfect with only a few apple edges singed.

^Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Act of Seeing

Read the same story, but come to different conclusions about why the characters did what they did under trying circumstances. Who is to say which response captures the mind of another.

Read a story in the newspaper and wonder why someone committed an act of treachery or what inspired someone to act beyond what is expected. We can read the words and make inferences.

We bring our own knapsacks filled with our particular ways of seeing the world. My lens is not your lens. Words and actions refracted through my lens will differ from the lens of someone else -- even if the difference is quite small.

My vision
Your vision
My lens
Your lens

A more complete story.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Felicity and Antarctica

Felicity Aston is " preparing for a historic solo crossing of Antarctica on skis. She aims to become the first person to cross Antarctica alone using only muscle power."

Didn't Borge Ousland do that in 1996?
Perhaps she's the first woman-- if she succeeds.

As of this morning the weather was delaying her start. As soon as possible she'll be off and reporting her progress. Perhaps I'll follow along since she's promised to give daily reports.

Felicity's not a newcomer to the Antarctica:

"At 23:09 on 29th December 2009, Felicity stood at the Geographic South Pole having successfully led the largest and most international women's team ever to make the 900km ski journey. Her 8-woman team involved members from the Commonwealth countries of Cyprus, Ghana, India, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand, Jamaica and the UK - many of whom had little or no previous expedition experience."

I do find Antarctica fascinating. And if I lack the prowess, strength, fortitude, and courage to even harbor a thought about partaking in anything resembling a walk there, I am a loyal reader.

Borge Ousland offers trips to Patagonia and the North Pole .You'll need a sleeping bag that works at minus 40 degrees Celsius.

I have gone on Ranger led hikes, but I expect that doesn't count. The temperature was hot, but not the heat that attracts real adventurers.

Both Felicity and Borge wrote books about their exploits-- good reading during the winter.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Topic a Day

Without really thinking, or thinking too much, I elected to write a blog a day for the month of November. Some days what to say eludes me. Now I could pretend this is a diary and write of my days, but that supposes a day composed of fascinating tidbits.

Perhaps snippets of a day. Yesterday when the road I'd normally take was closed, I had no idea of an alternate route. Disclaimer: ask me about longitude and latitude and I can give you a fairly cogent response, but don't request directions to someplace fifteen minutes away unless you enjoy the longest route.

Given the circumstances I chose to follow another car. We drove through some rather bucolic scenery, several large fields, huge houses, and I believe a horse. I never wavered and we emerged at a spot that worked for my final destination.

So, does this show me as an intrepid adventurer, someone unafraid of the unknown? Am I now ready to take off on one of the extreme trips I read about when my psyche yearns for exploits into the unknown?

Will I eventually run across the Sahara with the rest of those people intent on experiencing life to the fullest? Perhaps I'll settle for mountain climbing up sheer faces of ice or will I petition to winter over on the South Pole. I expect I'll continue to read of those exploits while seated at a coffee shop drinking iced decaf--no sweetener, no space.

As for finding a topic-- some days it's a struggle.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Unvarnished Truth

)Her story...

Her story appeared on the front page of the daily newspaper although she preferred seeing it elsewhere. The front page is so blatant, so in front of your face. Although when she asked what section people read first, the front page didn't garner the largest readership.

" Comics, I always start with the funnies. Ever since my father taught me to read Little Orphan Annie I've followed the strips."

"Sports, it's the reason I still buy the paper. The front page is depressing and the same: killing, war, fire, greed, and an occasional burst of glee."

" The puzzle. I used to do it with a pencil, but I graduated to a pen."

" Book reviews."
" Arts"
" The ads."

Her story appeared on the front page. She realized that to start on the first page required grit, stamina for the real, the unvarnished, the underbelly.

She didn't need to worry about what people might say.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Word's Meaning

" I have something
unexpected to tell you."
-- Ludmila Ulitskaya

If you read the epigram expect revelations, but no unseemly facts seep onto the page. Unexpected means a day close to the end of November with temperatures beyond the expected even though the sun sets way too early giving the day a surrealistic aura.

And each aura color, a rainbow of shades and mutations, signifies part of your puzzle. Each shape, unlike any other, carved and burnished in time.

Unexpected means finding a black tea laced with chocolate or eating a kumquat's skin and finding it sweet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Act of Imagination

"By digesting the past,
rather than pretending to lose it,
one can transform it."
-- Aviva Zornberg

The past, a canker sore massaged with the tongue, raw and bothersome or turned on spindle, examined and unwound.

The past stuck in a drawer and locked with a cruciform key.

The past, expunged, deleted, as if one could erase all traces.

Or setting the past on a linen napkin, displaying it on a crystal dish, holding it up to the light to watch light refract off cut facets.

Or cutting it into bite sized pieces, slivers of taffy to chew and draw out, stretching each strand until gossamer thin.

Or placing the past in a kaleidoscope and turning and turning the barrel to view.

Then, perhaps, transformation begins.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Aesthetic Delight

A line of text is like a silhouette on the horizon.
Closer inspection reveals the detail, the trees, bushes, rocks; details that, though only vaguely perceivable from afar, create both rhythm and variation. The beauty of this landscape is born of both regularity and variety.
By Ludwig Übele

The Jewish sopherim, or scribes, carefully and laboriously copied Scripture. They took their task quite seriously—so intently that any error invalidated the entire manuscript.

Monks or clergymen at their desks in monastery scriptoriums copied Scripture. An individual monk might need ten months to complete the task.

I imagine that when the creators of illuminated manuscripts picked up their quills, or later, iron pens and dipped into the black ink they, too, thought, of the beauty of the line and the sanctity of the words.

I love books that take care to meld the type of font with what is being written. It’s an aesthetic pleasure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ink and Paper

Several weeks ago while roaming around Staples in search of clear packing tape, I found myself in an aisle stocked with yellow lined pads. I stared at a pack of three legal sized pads and then at a portfolio intended for holding a pad and providing a firm writing surface.

When I graduated from high school my parents, knowing that I loved writing letters, bought me a brown writing case. One side had a small blotter—the assumption that all letter writers, or at least the ones using this case, would use an ink pen was obvious. The other side provided places for stamps, address book, pen, and stationery. An additional pocket allowed me to store letters. A zipper around three sides secured everything inside. This was not a case intended for yellow pads.

At one time I corresponded with at least a dozen people. I kept a record of when I received a letter and when I wrote back-- my little black book.

After college the number increased. Some people were twice a year correspondents, while others were once a month and two were several times a month. My side pocket often bulged with letters. One friend kept a copy of all letters she sent out. I relied on my memory--no sense in saying the same things twice.

Later on there was Irene who owned a women's bookstore in Ithica, New York and Jean who ran the book department of a department store in Chicago. And someone I met at a writing conference who lived at a rather run down Hotel in Manhattan until she moved to California-- address unknown. She once sent me a funny and poignant letter about eating a pizza in her room as she watched the peeling plaster fall.

There were letters and postcards from Anna as she traveled around Europe. She wrote in the smallest of script so that her travelogs fit on a postcard. My friend Miriam, who once called me in the middle of the night to talk about cows, disguised herself and traveled in Switzerland and Italy. Her husband worked for the government.

There was Linda who lived in Rome and taught Italians English. We met at another writing conference. Another correspondent lived in Shreveport, La and worked in a print shop. Eventually she moved to Somerville and after a winter here moved back, " Your winter," she said," settled in my bones."

Over time attrition set in and the numbers dwindled to fewer letters and more emails or Facebook accounts. Instead of sitting down with a cup of coffee and visiting with someone by penning a letter letters morphed into quick bytes.

I still have one letter writing friend who eschews emails and social media. Our correspondence isn't frequent, but when I sit down and write the very act of writing has an organic richness.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Don’t we all sift what ever we read, hear, or see through our own lens? To put on someone else’s glasses means being willing to see as someone else sees —and then our own view may change. Or if not change we may hold our interpretation up to the light to gain additional clarity.

Clarity. Not obscure. Not hidden in the conundrum of language. Not buried beneath layers of the past.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Only Connect"

When the weather turns and the reality of winter approaching is no longer an avoidable event, I find myself foraging for books in libraries. I’m setting up provisions for less daylight. It’s never too early to start the process—lest one be caught unprepared.

My last two unplanned library excursions were typical of my eclectic tastes. Several weeks ago I read The Sisters of Sinai By Janet Soskice, the fascinating story of Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, —two Presbyterian Scotswomen. Educated by a father who believed that girls deserved the same education as boys—these Victorian women learned several languages including Ancient languages.

Loving to travel and having the wealth to do so they are credited with the discovery of a palimpsest containing the Gospels—written in Syriac, “ a dialect of the Aramaic Jesus spoke”. Eventually this document was shown to have preserved a translation from the second century B.C.E.

Their story, their erudition, and the difficulties they encountered when dealing with some male Biblical scholars, although not all, makes for a swashbuckling tale.

While in Cairo they bought, at an open-air market, some rather old Hebrew documents. In time they traced the papers to the Cairo Geniza. Back in Cambridge they brought these documents to Solomon Schechter, a Hebrew Scholar.

There I am in the library looking on the new nonfiction shelves and I read this title: Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole.

The first lines of their book: “When the self-taught Scottish scholar of Arabic and Syriac Agnes Lewis and her no-less-learned twin sister, Margaret Gibson, hurried down a street or a hallway, they moved as a friend later described them —“like ships in full sail.”

I couldn’t pass up this book.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No Ruler

What does it mean when people search for the source?

Do they need to discover the beginning? Is it a seed for further exploration? Is it an informant? Is it someone who initiates something? Is it the place we can find the validity of information?

According to the dictionary the use of the word dates back to 1346.1

A recent book looks at early explorers who sought to find the terminus of the Nile River. Brave men, foolish men--romanticists, money hungry men, curiosity seekers, all needing to know the beginning and the end. The Nile kept itself under wraps, thwarting those who attempted to navigate the entire length until 2004 when two Americans made the complete descent from its "source as the Blue Nile in Ethiopia to the shores of Alexandria-- where it spills into the Mediterranean Sea.

Pasquale Scaturro and Gordan Brown reached the mouth of the Nile on April 28, 2004, 114 days after launching their epic 3,250 mile journey."2

Usually instead of finding the end we attempt to find the beginning, the source. How did the earth begin? Am I a person of faith who believes that God set the entire cosmos in motion? And if there was nothing before, what then is nothing?

My friend Barbara became infatuated with the Mississippi River when she first came into contact with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We sat in the lobby of our apartment building pretending that the stairway up four flights of stairs and then to the roof was the Mississippi River. Using a ruler as a paddle we navigated our way up the stairs. Mrs. Weinstein in apartment 3B, ever vigilant for possible invaders from other planets, intercepted us, interrogated us and when satisfied that we were not threatening allowed us to proceed.

When my mother found some tar on my shoes she put an end to the river trip. Barbara, smitten with the stories of river travel, told me that someday she'd travel the entire river.

We had our East River and Hudson River, but they paled compared to the stories and history tacked on to the Mississippi.

Many years later I received a postcard from Lake Itaska, Minnesota:
Finally made it to the source of the Mississippi. No Mrs. Weinstein

1 Old French sourse " a rising, beginning, fountainhead of a river or stream, " fem. noun taken from pp. of sourdre " to rise, spring up" from Latin " to rise" ( see surge). Wordbook Dictionary


Friday, November 11, 2011


Each day more daylight disappears, carved away until the dark assumes so much time. Perhaps I'm more aware of the dark because it means adapting to another schedule. Keeping pace with the clock can be jarring.

Once I lived in a house also occupied by a grandfather's clock that ponderously intoned the hour with a punctual regularity. I waited for a chance to grab hold of the weights and alter its rhythm, but it seemed foolish to argue with an inanimate object.

Years ago I visited a clock museum where every hour dozens of large and small clocks shouted out the hour with bells, chimes, short melodies.

"Suppose " I asked "one clock was twenty seconds off."

"Oh," said the gentleman whose job it was to maintain the clocks, " I'd feel that I failed if I couldn't get them all together."

My watch keeps approximate time, usually within a minute or two. That way I think I'm not being controlled by time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
~Pablo Picasso

Find scraps of paper, torn receipts, movie stubs, half-completed lists, the napkin someone used to add the bill, and any textured paper. Scour sidewalks for torn lottery tickets. Don't neglect the Sunday paper or the catalogs that help the Postal Service survive. Emails and text messages can't be snipped and added, but old letters will work.
These are the detritus.

Find a sturdy support and begin gluing layer upon layer. Don't neglect composition, design, color, but don't let those take over. You're looking for the soul of the construction.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

On Reading The Newspaper

Really reading the newspaper is an act of daring—you may be required to respond.

The inequality between those who have and those who teeter on the rungs of poverty grows each day.

" Poverty has deepened in Boston's poorest neighborhoods." Boston Globe 11/9/2011

Private Properties

"Mansion in San Francisco Sells for $33 million"
"A Second S.F. Mansion Sells for $29.5 million"

If you are looking for a home with an indoor pool: there's one available in Austin, Texas for $4 million. The property taxes are $36,000.
-- Wall Street Journal 11/4/2011

How many people are homeless? How many people live in crowded substandard housing?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Nomenclature of Reality

If language creates reality then without language we live in an amorphous state. But does language create reality or does language describe reality? I rather think that it works both ways. We can with our words construct possibilities, existential conundrums, or use our words to hold off or draw near to people. The words we use help define us or assist others in defining us. Is that our reality?

It’s quite changeable since we often act like chameleons. Philosophers write about language and reality. They write about visible language.

Writers know that a created character is known by her actions —and by what she says or what others say about her. Our words never disappear.

And the reality is created, the stage design—the play controlled by language. Words set things in motion, but so do actions.

But we aren’t alone. Speak and the words insist on interpretation, translation. And who does this act of translation—others? They hear the words and through their own lens interpret what they heard.

It is, a matter of semantics, he said.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Keeping the Points

When I was seven my mother bought me a pack of twenty-four Crayola Crayons. Before ever coloring with them I arranged the colors in order—best loved in the front row. My favorite color—magenta. I tried to color evenly so that no side of the crayon wore down first —turning the crayon like a spit. I recall sleeping with the box under my pillow.

Nina lived across the street and she knew how to color in the lines.First she outlined in black and then colored in the selected area. I preferred to eliminate the black. I didn't want to use up the crayon.

Now I own tubes of watercolors, colored pencils, oil pastels, assorted pens and inks and mix up new shades on a palette—sometimes successfully, but occasionally my colors take on the hue of a swamp. Magenta still rates high on my list.

Later on I'd own a box of sixty-four crayons, but the first box was magical. It opened up the world of possibilities. Colors didn't need to conform to what was real. You could construct your own imaginary world with its particular colors.

I had been to Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden with my mother and grandmother several weeks before getting the set of crayons. When my father brought home a roll of white paper I set to creating my own circus complete with a poster. Since I didn't want to use up any one crayon, I used all twenty-four.

What freedom. Aerialists walked on purple wires and green elephants pranced around while ochre tigers jumped through magenta hoops. My grandmother said, "Why not." My mother told my father that I had an eye for art.

My mother's friend Gus wondered if I had trouble seeing colors.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

It Really is About The Passage of Time

I notice the tightness of my jeans and wonder if there's a correlation with my desire , or should I say obsession, with chocolate chip frozen yogurt. Last year I abstained from the end of November to the first of May, or was it April. I shall do the same this year. I wonder if they'll miss me at my preferred ice cream shop.

And soon the ice coffee will morph into hot coffee, but it isn't coffee at all. I order decaf. A coffee shop in Cambridge keeps rice milk on hand and will create a decaf latte with rice milk or soy milk.

Another coffee cafe eschews coffee and serves " coffee alternatives" -- ersatz coffee for those who either snub caffeine or no longer can tolerate the buzz

Last night the clocks went backwards adding an hour to the day. I'm not sure what I did with the hour which is unfortunate because this gift only happens once a year.

One shouldn't misplace time.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Reality

If half of the whole watched what the other half ate, spent their money on --when they had extra money --then the world's axis would turn at a different rate.

People dressed in outlandish costumes find themselves spinning off the vertical pole and landing in awkward positions.

I cannot bend my body into yoga positions even though I know each stretch extends my flexibility for another year. I don't desire to stand on my head and watch the blood drain down to my shoe tops. Perhaps because I am still wearing my brown Oxford tie shoes for early winter.

Despite the snow and the dire consequences, the predictions about a long and tiresome night, the burial of fall, -- autumn has returned with its tease of a possible Indian Summer. Indian Summer with its promise of the future and a taste of spring even as we take out our wool socks and long heavy shirts. The accouterments of winter take up space.

While the axis turns at a different rate I'll yell out to those holding on to straps, "Don't fall, just keep watching. "

Friday, November 04, 2011

One in Fifteen

Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul.
~Emily Dickinson

You can't survive without hope. You wither and dry up or become brittle and unable to stand upright. But what happens when hope is pummeled over and over?.

Today I read that one in fifteen people in the United States are the poorest of the poor. How long does hope stay perched in their souls? Does hope erode when there isn't any time in the day left for dreaming of the future?

For too many people the future spreads out on a parched landscape. Isn't that what the Occupy movement is saying?

While we're figuring out the next tech gadget, the sleeker car, the better return on investments many people in this country see hope ground down to dust.

Too many closed doors. How do we live with that out of fifteen?

About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 percent of the US population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 percent or less of the official poverty level. Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty level. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $ 5,570 for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.

That 6.7 percent share is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has maintained such records..."
~ Boston Globe November 4, 2011

The Occupy movement holds up a mirror.

Thursday, November 03, 2011


What happens to memories? Do they take flight? What ones remain deeply embedded in the interior of our bodies? Etched, I imagine, in our sinews, ready to spring out whenever a string shows up. And each cord, tethered to the recollection tugs until it loosens the trace and fishtails to the surface.

Once a draught catches the tail the entire story emerges , slightly altered. Each telling deviating from the previous telling—the juncture of time and context add layers or shift the content.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

To Decipher

What is the difference between commentary and midrash? If I read a Biblical passage and then read a commentary the writer attempts to make sense of the passage through the lens of individual belief. In the midrash the same personal lens is used but then the writer allows himself the freedom to expand way beyond the words on the page.

I envision the writer of midrash attempting to uncoil the knots of a passage. Each word is rife with possible connotations, stepping off places for the beginning of a story. When I think of Lot's wife turning around and looking back I stop—mired in the past.

Unlike her husband, she needs to take one last look at the place she sat with the other women, where they spoke of sorrows and joys.

Haven't writers, intrigued with the complexity of a biblical character or text, written a modern day story that owes its impetus to that ancient text? Entire books like The Red Tent by Anita Dimant take a small incident and ask what is the full story, the before and after. Thomas Mann's trilogy on Joseph and his brothers explores the biblical Joseph in exquisite detail. Scholars note that Mann encountered midrashic stories in the work of Micha Joseph ben Gorion and that he made use of those stories when writing the trilogy.

And don't commentators often find within each verse a chance to see their particular view of the biblical text. Perhaps that is what makes the text so rich is the multitude of possible lenses for viewing.

Is commentary an explanation or an interpretation? Or are we talking about a critical explanation when we speak of biblical interpretation or exegesis?

Hermeneutics is the branch of theology that deals with exegesis. " Origin: from ancient Greek ( translator or interpreter). Term introduced by Aristotle c360B.C. in his text On Interpretation."

The question posed by some: Was Moses engaged in exegesis when he interpreted the Law for the people at Mt. Sinai?

The latitude for an interpreter widens and narrows depending upon the constraint of belief and the period in history.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Contemplating a Question

Do you think, a friend wrote, bears have begun to hibernate? I'm not certain of the answer, but expect that some threw in the towel earlier than others. I don't hibernate, but I do squirrel away cold weather schemes. My reading broadens, my visits to the library increase in intensity, and I take courses.

When I scan the books on my to read bookshelf I find a plethora of unconventional reads—for me. I'm engrossed reading The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock—a story about Mary Delany, a woman living in the mid seventeen hundreds who laboriously cuts out tissue papers and collages flowers —all botanically correct. The story slows down time and captivates me even though I only recognize, by name, a handful of flowers. I read the latin names, the specificity, the minutia, with an avid delight. The illustrations enthrall me with their details and perfection of form.

'Thin as a billowing white cotton nightgown, Mrs.Delany's Grand Magnolia lies back in its background...Mrs. Delany composed the work with...tissue-like paper... The realistic effect of rust on the colossal petals gives the mosaick...a bosomy sense of maturity."

The author, mesmerized by Mary Delany's illustrations and life, writes a book and sees similarities between her life and the life of the artist

I, too, create collages. They lack details, take broad strokes to find their stories. The instructor of a Collage class I'm taking offered us a hint for a subject—find a poem "to inspire you" and also think in terms of a structure or building. Galway Kinnell's poem "The avenue bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World" gave rise to my apartment building creation. Each window—a place for a person: a man playing the guitar, two people cooking, someone staring at the two people walking in front of the building. A nun in her habit waiting for a bus, a young man wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones. And a large store front window with a straw figure of Christ festooned with beads. I took that picture on the High Road to Taos. Toward the bottom of the collage a man with long hair, his back to the photographer, stares at the tableau.

Each black and white photo I took has a story, yet the stories are of my invention. The photos provide clues and I add the rest—my photo Midrash. I'm filling in the blanks—the before and after of the image.

My collages strain to have a meaning. During the process of selecting images or scraps of paper or odds and ends, I realize that the sorting and selecting, the elimination or holding on to constitute an intention.

It may be a playful study of shapes, an abstract dance of color, or a way to understand.

When do bears start to hibernate? Are we speaking about a Polar bear? Brown bear? Black bear, Koala, Grizzly, Red Panda,Kodiak bear, Sun bear, Moon bar, Andian bear?