Thursday, January 31, 2013


Belonging and boundaries share commonalities. Groups, define themselves and within those definitions are the limits of the group. No group can be all things to all people. If I join a photography club I might find someone who loves opera, but the meetings will not be spent comparing two different performances of Aida.

Some groups define themselves by who is accepted and who is left out-- who is unacceptable to the group. And if you choose to be a member you agree to their boundaries. Mensa is open to " those individuals who have attained a score within the upper two percent of the general population on an approved intelligence test that has been properly administered and approved."

Some groups' mantra includes hateful rhetoric-- skinheads, white supremacy groups...

We are born into some groups-- you're a tribal member. Your lineage, the family tree tells a story and you are part of the story. Find a long lost cousin, or discover an ancestor you never knew of and the boundaries of the clan spread to include a new member. Everyone is different, but all share in the group. They all belong. And you can't eradicate yourself from that group. You just don't go to the tree and saw down a twig. Besides who are you without a beginning?

A friend of mine found a cousin, not a first or second, but one of those twice removed cousins. The two of them discovered a great- great aunt, probably also twice removed, who was "sorely poor". When she died her family could not afford a stone. A small marker indicated where she was buried-- in Ireland. Not only did the two cousins purchase a " proper stone", but they went to Ireland to meet the descendants and pay their respects at her graveside.

And if you belong to two groups with different ways it may present problems. Venn diagrams are a wonderful visual. They graphically show areas of similarity-- those places where we all recognize our shared space.

Suppose you were brought up as a Christian and then became a Jew or if you were a Jew and then became a Christian or you were a Moslem, or Hindu or ... and chose to accept another path.

A friend of mine, brought up as a Christian, sought a different path. She became a Sufi. She traded in her baseball cap, jeans and sweatshirt for a head scarf and a long modest skirt.

And if one straddles between different paths until one is chosen the question of belonging pushes to the front.

Upon leaving one faith group and entering another faith group means leaving the surety of belonging to enter into a foreign land where everyone else knows the language.

It's like moving to a small town where people trace back their history for generations and when someone says, "Remember when John Trumble nearly set the town on fire with those firecrackers?" --you wonder how many years it will take to no longer be the newcomers.

I wonder if my Sufi friend keeps a baseball cap in a drawer or if she's liberated herself from needing the cap.

To release the past without eradicating it or denying it is really the way to walk the path.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


also called Scorpion Weed,
Mouse-Ear Scorpion Grass,
Snake Grass

I'll call and ask you
about the weather,
the cost of eggs,
library hours,
the train schedule,
and out for lunch

I'll meet you at a diner
We'll sit by the window
and watch a creek
dig a convoluted path,
score a contour line
through Mouse Ear Scorpion Grass

I'll pick a bouquet
and set the flower heads on the table

We'll talk

First you pick a blue flower
Then I pick a flower

Each petal
releases a story
Each story
begins the next story

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

the Relationship Between Extract and Release

While exploring the relationship between words I asked, innocently, about the connection between release and extract. My question, stimulated by a Roget's thesaurus citation, brought forth a bevy of responses—on line. I ignored most of the sites‚ blithely skipping over those that concerned themselves with meat swelling and water-holding capacity. Since I am I partial vegetarian —no meat, but chicken and fish are acceptable—I no longer am concerned about meat swelling. Actually I don't believe I ever investigated that topic.

I started to read the information on a site concerning dental issues. Teeth extraction—to extract or not to extract. Extracting releases blood—you may bleed a copious amount. One site even indicated that death by bleeding is a risk. I didn't stay on the site long enough to determine where the information originated.

That immediately set-up a panic reaction. Not that I am planning on having an extraction. Perhaps it's best not to look up relationships between words because these odd bedfellows rear up and spread anxiety.

I did , however, type in "how many people bled to death after a tooth extraction?"
After reading one article in a suspect newspaper and one article in a less suspect journal...

I did what any sensible person might do—I began to read about " the various relationships between the extract-release volume and the protein and fat contents of fresh beef...." and so on.

Relationships are tricky.Rogets Thesaurus may lead one down perilous, exposed,and vulnerable paths.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Release of Self

Until I read this morning's paper I knew nothing about rattlesnake roundups. It seems that I've missed, by two days, Whigham, Georgia's Annual Rattlesnake Roundup.

But I'm not too late for the roundup in Sweetwater, Texas. They bill their event as the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup. If you don't care too much for snakes you can sample the dishes at the Chili and Brisket cook-off.

For those who enjoy snakes there's a rattler weigh-in, a guided snake hunt, and a rattlesnake sighting bus tour. I think that's my level.

The snakes aren't returned to their homes after the roundup ends.No—many snakes are deep fried and eaten. Does the most dangerous North American snake, the Mojave Rattlesnake, taste the same as a Timber Rattlesnake?

While hiking in an area near Lake George in New York State, I passed a large rattler sunning himself two feet off the trail. Actually he was coiled on a sunny rock and I nearly collapsed from fright.

In a few churches in Appalachia venomous snake handling still survives —even after a number of deaths. West Virginia is the only state that hasn't banned the practice of snake handling.

The people who attend these services believe that the handling of the serpents is rooted in specific biblical passages. The words are interpreted literally and the handling of snakes is a sign of obedience.

Several years ago I read Salvation on Sand Mountain by New York Times reporter Dennis Covington. He gives an honest portrayal of both the practice and the people who partake in the handling. In fact he handled snakes on several occasions.

I'm sure that sociologists can find a number of reasons for this belief —a belief that took hold in rural Appalachia. Covington writes about this phenomenon and the people who practice handling venomous snakes. He writes with a non-judgmental voice and finds himself moved by the honesty and faith of the people he meets.

After attending a number of services, becoming friends with several handlers and pastors he wrote: "I knew then why the handlers took up serpents. There is power in the act of disappearing; there is victory in the loss of self."

The release of self to a belief is what Covington observed in those who did the actual handling of the snakes.

Later on he sees the experiences as "a sort of group hypnosis or group hysteria."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

To Release, to detach, to disconnect...

When you release something
you detach it,
you disconnect,
you fracture a connection.

Robert Pinsky wrote a poem titled: " Poem of Disconnected Parts" His was a political poem, but one could write a personal poem.Didn't I teeth into adulthood accepting the words —the personal is political.

So what are the disconnected parts?

We've become so used to horrific acts that we don't notice when the level is ratcheted up and up some more. We disconnect from the implications.

Some authors increase the intensity of violence with each book just to keep the thrill factor alive. And then the minutiae of the scene is described in graphic detail.

I'm often stunned when I see real time combat video. Do we become conditioned so that we aren't even aware of the reality being viewed?

Are we becoming detached—simply observers, not connected to real time?

People release their avatars into video games. Avatar relates to avatar. It's easy to create a persona, inhabit that facade—perhaps the line between the person and the image fade—disconnect, fracture.

My friend Annie loved to live on the edge, or even with one foot hanging over the edge. She used to say that the high she achieved needed to be fed. The more she moved over the edge the further away she was from the shore.

When the writer releases words into a void they, too, move away from the shore—disconnected from the unseen reader or even wondering if there is a reader.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mother to Daughter

At the end of every seven years
thou shalt make a release

Deuteronomy 15:1 KJV

You thinking of the debts not paid
Dragging them behind you
Packing them up every time you move
Rehearsing each mistake
Listening to the clatter
Rubbing the calloused spots
Ain't they heavy
Just put them down

I'm telling you
To kick them aside
Shake yourself loose
You and me got a lot
to talk about

Friday, January 25, 2013

Release From Debt

At the end of every seven years
thou shalt make a release

Deuteronomy 15:1 KJV

At the end — the utmost end
the place you can't go any further,
the sacred end, at the fullness
of seven rotations of a single year
prepare, get ready to open your hand
to fling away—perhaps to forget
or even to forgive debts owed

Thou shalt make a release
of what was taken away
and can't be retrieved

Then shake
the bitter remains away
and stand naked
and loosen the grip
of memory

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the Release of Statistics...

Last night our local meteorologist said " ... a wind chill factor of minus twenty tomorrow morning." This morning our sturdy outdoor thermometer seemed stuck on an abysmally low number. I imagine that at 5:00a.m it was below zero.

That's enough. Release me from this cold weather—now.

As soon as I wrote that I thought of the homeless—just in this area of New England. Where did they sleep last night?

Most people are homeless because of a myriad of reasons.It's an epidemic that doesn't only affect single people or couples—entire families are homeless.People sleep in cars, on the street, huddled under layers,in shelters, or in church basements.

The longer you're homeless the more difficult it is to pull out of that condition—no address,unsure of a place to clean-up, too many hours spent surviving.

The Coalition for the Homeless reported that :
During the course of each year, more than 110,000 different homeless New Yorkers, including more than 40,000 children, sleep at least one night in the municipal shelter system.

That same organization also reports that
1,065,794 homeless kids were enrolled in schools in the 2010-2011 school year, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year and 57 percent since the start of the recession in 2007.

It was cold here. I put on a heavy sweater and turned up the heat. The cold seeped under the front door so I put a snake draft dodger against the door.

In December a number of communities hold memorial services for the homeless who died that year and lived in their community.Each name is read aloud. Sometimes there's someone to speak about that person.

A recent report released by HUD highlighted the epidemic:
Because no beds were available for them, homeless families with children were turned away by emergency shelters in 64percent of the (25) survey cities; and shelters in 60 percent of the cities had to turn away unaccompanied individuals.

I can't imagine sleeping with rolled newspapers as a pillow or wearing layers of everything I owned. I can't imagine sleeping under a plastic tarp hoping it will act as a barrier to keep dry, to moderate the wind.

I can't imagine being homeless, but I also know many of the people who are homeless couldn't imagine being homeless.

Somethings amiss.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hold On

To be saved
To be liberated
To be released

I want to be saved from my penchant for collecting stories from the newspaper that I think will be of interest—at some time. These are the quirky stories—people who do odd and unusual things, strange happenings, and tales of records.

Not ordinary records, but ones that few of us tackle. That brings me to the Guinness Book of World Records. Christine Walton sports a finger nail 10 feet 2inches. That's even difficult to visualize. My question: how long are the other finger nails?

Speaking of long—Ram Singh Chauhan has the world's longest mustache— 14 feet.

Instead of clipping these stories and placing them in a folder, I'm scanning them. My computer files bear names such as—Stories about Extinct Animals, Tales of Hair, Pitting Oneself against the Elements, and one labeled Are These Really True?

I want to be liberated from falling for a sports team and being deflated when they lose a chance to advance toward the pinnacle in their sport. Perhaps I can develop a carefree attitude without being drawn into believing that they have a chance. But spring will come and I'll once more drag out my Red Sox magnet, affix it to my car, and begin to hope.

I don't want to be released from a belief that prayers are answered—even when the answer may not come at the time I expect or even be the form I expect. Perhaps extra time is needed so that a clouded vision gains clarity, perhaps there are things I've overlooked . Perhaps it's the conversation of prayer that can't be hurried.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Encounter

The Lord sits with me out in front watching
a sweet darkness begin in the fields.
Jack Gilbert

It's late and snow falls
adding height to a wood railing
Light from indoors illuminates
the whiteness outside while
I brew tea indoors

Snow, loosened from the sky
drifts down covering bare branches
White envelopes a bird feeder,
cloaks a rock, swathes a holly bush

I open the door and watch the snow
swirl and descend until it rests
on my outstretched hand
for just a moment, then loses
its shape and melts

Releasing any attempt
to catch and hold a snowflake
I inhale the cold air
and watch the snow descend
on some bare spots

Monday, January 21, 2013

In Passing

She was caught unawares in the midst
of an afternoon maj Jong game,
released from a hand she played

Attached to tubes and the hum of machines,
unaware of the afternoon news
or what happened in the half-finished book
she left on her kitchen table

I talked to her
letting my words flow
Her hand resting in my hand
"I love you," I said

Did I imagine
her fingers moving
in response?

In death my mother
released the props,
Maj Jong tiles, a collection of thimbles,
a pin cushion, her tea cups and saucers,
a half-finished book.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

When Snow Reports Are Released...


Without careful reading I can easily fall into the trap ensnaring those who don't check every word. The Wall Street Journal printed a list of the snowiest cities in the United States. The list came from a reputable source. What is considered a city? According to Wiki " it takes 50,000- 100,000 people to make a city. Anything less is a town, and anything more is a metropolitan area."

New York State is the winner. Syracuse accumulates 103 inches, Buffalo 95 inches, and Albany 62 inches. Just because the total population fits into a definition doesn't really mean that a prize is merited.

The Wall Street Journal writer, who obviously has not listened to the 11:00 news, reports, "New York's fifth- largest city gets the most snow in the U.S. with 103 inches per year, according to Accuweather. "

Perhaps if he said that among cities Syracuse gets the most snow-- or even that these snow totals only apply to cities, not towns, not hamlets, not to places off the beaten path.

I do listen to the news and gape at snow piled up to the chimneys, snow covered roadways, and snow high enough to bury tractors.

NBC News released a different type of list from Jonathan Erdman a Meteorologist. He looked at the past thirty years. ( I like looking at the past-- a historical foundation). The meteorologists expanded their definition of a city to include places that had a population of at least 1,000 people. If you unfortunately live in an unincorporated town you're out of luck. Of course I could wonder about how they define town and hamlet. But I like the expansion. This is now an honor worth attaining.

New York doesn't get left out: sixth on the list is Boonville, New York in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. Their annual average snowfall of 193.7 inches makes Syracuse look like a sunbelt city.

South Dakota—and I've been listening to snow reports long enough to know that they get buried in snow. Lead, S.D. located in the Black Hills checks in at 204. 4 inches. And their snowy months are March and April. I imagine by that time you're tired of making snow angels.

Truckee, California in the Sierra Nevada area often sees 202.6 inches. When Cheryl Strayer walked the Pacific Coast Trail she was unable to hike this part of the trail because of the unusually late snows.

Hancock, Michigan-- way up there in Michigan has a annual snowfall of 211.7 inches.

Crested Butte, Colorado has a population-- give or take a few for births, deaths, and those who move about from place to place of 1,487. Their yearly snow averages 215.8 inches.

First on the list: Valdez, Alaska walks away with the prize. Their average annual snowfall is 326.3 inches. Plow operators must do well. Do you get your pathways plowed or do you just get used to higher and higher elevations?

But the results of all these lists still doesn't answer the question about the snowiest places in the United States.

After scouting around I found a list of the Heaviest Yearly Snowfalls. Again I stopped—are distinctions being made between light fluffy snow and that wet dense stuff? But there comes a time when being bogged down in minutia presents more of an impediment to knowledge than simply moving on even though you know that some words still present problems.

Now I admit to sheer delight when I realized that I had visited some of the places mentioned — during the summer months.

Mt Rainier, Paradise Station. We hiked through wild flowers until we came to a large field of snow and ice.

Crater Lake Park Headquarters, Oregon. The year we traveled to Crater Lake, the road leading into the park opened the second week in July—one week before we arrived. I have a photo with snow in the background.

The snow award goes to Mount Baker downhill ski area " for receiving the world's record for receiving the most snow in a single year when 1140 inches landed between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 1999."

My own award goes to a ten foot snow mound formed by New York City plows and left in place.

We ran up and down the mound, named it Mt. Lane using the first letters of our given names—Linda, Annie, Nina and Ellen—and played King of the Mountain. Then we slid down the sides on cardboard sleds pretending we were intrepid Antarctic explorers.

The following day the plow returned and scooped up the snow and removed it from the street.

I recall Mt Lane as a grand mound that we all scaled—it will never be a small hump of melting snow covered with black exhaust from cars.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Up Ahead

To release, to absolve
To forget,
To reclaim a lineage

To know that there's a place
waiting down this path
past the thistles growing
along the road's edge
past the burrs
that hitch to my pants

To reclaim a lineage

Reconciling rants,
walking up a mountain trail
with a bandana hanging
from a pocket, leap frogging
rocks, swimming in a lake
still cold from melting snow

To pardon
the past
To reclaim a lineage

To loosen the stories,
untie their strings
and let go

Friday, January 18, 2013

Don't Release Those Snakes

According to one newspaper “700 Python hunters have slithered down to Florida” to take part in the Burmese Python hunt. This snake is not native to the Everglades and considered an invasive pest—large pest. Not only can they grow to seventeen feet or more— a snake in the wild might lay fifty eggs —perhaps more. That’s a lot of population growth,

Over the past few years the python population has undergone a rapid jump in numbers—no natural enemies. They may not have any enemies, but they are busy eating some of the local denizens— rabbits, foxes, raccoons, opossums and bobcats.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that more than 1,000 people from more than 30 states have registered to compete in the month long “Python Challenge.” They just keep comin’.
There’s money to be made —kill the longest python and you’re $1000 richer or catch the greatest number of pythons and your bank account goes up by $1,500.

Most of those who signed up for the month long challenge need to take part in an online training program and then attend an open house where they learn about pythons.

As a participant you must kill the python in a humane manner and before you receive marching orders you sign a liability waiver.

I once signed such a waiver when I rode a mule down into a canyon. Signing the waiver kept me up half the night—did they expect me to break a bone or die on the way down?

In December a seventeen-foot python, obviously bothered by the unusually cold weather in the Everglades attempted to join a family from Arkansas who were in a picnic area. Rangers responded and the snake was humanely killed.  

How did Florida get into this predicament? People bought Burmese Pythons as pets and then when they began to grow too big and too strong they released them into the wild.

And then there’s a warning from amateur herpetologists—if you get to the point where you can’t take care of the snake because he’s over 100 pounds and fifteen feet long don’t release him into the closest park. Call a zoo.

I’ve just requested Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive from my library. I remember reading about a large python having it out with a Bengal tiger—who won?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Release the String...

"Release the string gradually."

That's the next to the last instruction for flying a kite.

My first kite, a store bought model with a tail made out of a strip of my mother's worn sheet, never flew higher than an elm tree before it tangled itself up in limbs.

"That", said my cousin Bobby, "is a kite eating tree."

When you're eight and your older more worldly cousin is ten, you take her words seriously.

"Why didn't you tell me?"
" You wouldn't have believed me."

I once flew a handmade Delta kite on Wingaersheek Beach where low tide is truly low and the shallow water goes on and on stretching itself to the horizon. That kite flew high and out over the water.

I released the string gradually until the wind picked up and the spool turned on its own letting out all my cord—every inch of cord—and the kite still tugged. Like Icarus the kite ignored my tugs and flew toward the sun. Like Icarus the kite kept climbing, now vertically, until the string snapped and the kite spun out of control and dove into a calm blue sea.

"Kite eating sea." I murmured to myself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Release of Jack Gilbert's Complete Poems

March 13, 2012 Knopf released Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems. Over the course of his life Gilbert wrote five small books of poetry all contained within 380 pages.

Fourteen years had elapsed between his first published book and his second book. In an October 26, 2012 review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, David Orr wrote, Gilbert " believes that poetry is worthy of devotion, that it ought to be subordinated to the things that clutter up day-to-day life."

Gilbert died mid-November 2012. His last days spent in a nursing home.

Alzheimer disease slowly diminishing his capacity to think and speak.

The previous month he attended a book release celebration at Pegasus Books in downtown Berkley and according to an article in the Los Angeles Times "the place was packed and the honoree beamed and even applauded."

The book's initial printing sold out in two weeks and it spent thirty weeks on the Poetry Foundation's list of bestselling contemporary poetry books. At the present time Amazon has sold out and promises delivery in late February.

I read about the Feminist Writer's Workshop in a now defunct feminist newspaper at a time when so many of us were sprouting wings—albeit small ones, at first. My poetry—filled hardback notebooks and a three-ring looseleaf binder. Short poems, often filled with the pinch of being in a relationship that felt wrong. It was the era of the personal is political.

With some trepidation about my ability to write a decent poem or even struggle with stopping long enough to edit and edit again, I sent off my registration fee. Two weeks with other women who wrote—women who called themselves writers felt both frightening and an opening, a beginning.

Twenty five women gathered together—to write, to talk politics, to breathe. Morning workshops, afternoon workshops, evenings spent reading our work to one another. We came from all over—the west coast, the south, New England, Italy and Germany.

A woman from Utah and a woman from New York City fell in love. A woman from Louisiana and the woman from Germany talked about getting together in Greece. I went swimming in a lake until the sun disappeared—swallowed up by the water.

We ate vegetarian food from large family platters.

We took early morning walks to places to find berries. We wrote about wars and babies, about love and loss. We wrote about berries and pies—our grandmothers. We identified ourselves by our name, daughter of, granddaughter of. We spoke about our last names.
Two women decided to change their last name to one they chose.

And we wrote and wrote and wrote. We discarded the male list of must read poets and we sought women poets. We had been taught in English courses by male teachers who held up a male dominated list of writers for us to praise, revere, and emulate.Now we found new poets, new prose writers— women who eschewed the old ways.

A woman who played the violin with the Metropolitan Opera practiced in her room and we sat outside and listened. A woman from Utah wrote about running a cattle ranch. She introduced us to women who rode horses, lassoed horses—"drank with the guys."

We drank Grand Marnier liqueur out of plastic glasses and read our poetry. We created a syllabus of women poets and read poems from an anthology of women poets. We discussed whether to spell women as womyn—all the while continuing to write and craft words.

I met a woman who worked for a small press and she asked me to submit some poems to the press for a possible chapbook. "About twenty poems."

I came home as a womyn who still wrote small poems, but I began to work on finding the emotional truth of a poem.

My twenty poems became a chapbook—no release party. I took ten copies down to Grolier Poetry Book Shop where I often shopped for poetry books. Louise Solano, the owner at the time, took five books on consignment and placed them on a table where all manner of new poetry books were showcased.

I asked five friends to stop in there and purchase a book—which they did. Within a week the books sold. I'm certain that Louise knew exactly how the five flew out of her store. She sent me a check—never cashed.

Many people write poetry and a few—very few—really attain that level of poetry that Emily Dickinson refers to in her definition of poetry," If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that it is poetry."

Many of Jack Gilbert's poems fit Dickinson's definition of poetry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Found Release

I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and for the space of three days I was transported to the Pacific Crest Trail. This isn't the usual memoir about someone who loves to explore, has the requisite skill set, and then sets out. Cheryl knows nothing about backpacking nor does she know too much about how to select adequate boots for a 1,100 mile trek.

In August the Vail Daily reported that Jim Ellison, a former twenty-year marine, had cycled 71,000 miles and planned to continue until all the U.S. troops are brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

On January 10, 2013 a writer, Paul Salopek, began a long walk that will take him from a small Ethiopian village in Africa—through the Middle East, then across Asia—to Alaska, down the western United States—then through Central America. He'll end up in Chile. The total miles— over 21,000.

According to newspaper reports he's replicating our ancestors who made the migration over a 50,000 year span of time. One of his sponsors, National Geographic, dubbed the expedition: Out of Eden. He'll write one long article for them a year and every 100 miles he'll write an update. Paul is not someone for whom writing is a secondary activity—he's a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

He told the Associated Press that "Often the places that we fly over or drive through, they aren't just untold stories, but they are also the connective tissues between the stories of the day."

Paul Salopek has specific plans—walk with local people, learn new languages. He hopes that people will want to read his long pieces. We live in a society filled with people who read their information in small bites. Paul's stories will be long-form journalism and the story will unfold slowly—episode by episode.

Cheryl had no sponsor. She had a friend. Before leaving on her trip Cheryl made up boxes with supplies for each leg of the trip—a clean shirt, new socks, supplies for her feet, a twenty-dollar bill, and always a book. Lisa sent each of these boxes ahead to the drop off points.

Paul is following the migration trail for an estimated 30 million steps over seven years. According to the December 2, 2012 Harvard Gazette Paul's project was "Incubated at Harvard where he was the inaugural visiting Nieman Fellow."

"This walk" he said,"is about the poetry of hidden connections that I missed as a writer and foreign correspondent."

In order to keep his stories coming every 100 miles all the latest technology will be employed—everything from video cameras to satellite phone. He'll use web posts and blogging to tell his stories.

Cheryl's mother dies of lung cancer and Cheryl's world falls apart. She drops out of college, her marriage disintegrates, and indiscriminate sex and heroin can't pull her out of the place of deep sadness.

Four years after her mother's death she sees a pamphlet about the Pacific Crest trail. At the age of twenty-six she's working as a waitress, still at odds with life and she concludes that she needs to do something. That something is to hike the trial—alone from the Mojave Desert to Washington State.

It's 1995. She sets out with a backpack so heavy that she can barely lift its weight and dubs it the Monster. Along the way she loses toe nails and chafes her body raw where the backpack straps rub against her skin.

Despite the weight the box that Lisa sends ahead always contains a book. When she finishes pages she tears them out and burns them to lighten the load.

Her accommodation— a small tent. Her security system: a large loud whistle and a Swiss Army knife. Along the way she encounters unbelievable physical difficulties, hunger, and other hikers. Only once is she really terrified of two hunters she meets who have strayed off their trail.

When she arrives at her final destination she's different—internally and externally. She doesn't write her story upon her arrival in Portland—in fact the story isn't written until she's forty—married with two children. There was no blog, no web presence while on the trail.

When Cheryl reaches the end of her trek she sits by a river and writes:

On the other side of the river, I let myself think
And something inside of me released

Monday, January 14, 2013

To Release Something, To Cast-Off

To cast-off, discard, throwaway. To abandon.

I can recite a litany of discarded projects.

~selecting and reading twenty-six mystery writers alphabetically.

~sketching an object in the kitchen every day for a month—someone suggested the prompt as a way to enhance the way we look at commonplace objects

~drawing one hundred faces—based on the book 100 Girls on Cheap paper by Tina Berning
Where do I put this?

~watching a child lose her way without stopping to uproot all the tangles on the route back

To release: cast-off, discard, abandon

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Release that Aroma and Taste

An article in the Journal of Sensory Studies titled " The Influence of the Color of the Cup on Consumers Perceptions of a Hot Beverage," investigates how color influences how you view what you eat or drink. The authors, Betina Piqueas-Fiszman and Charles Spence, asked fifty-seven people to participate in the study.

They served hot cocoa in ceramic cups, an orange cup, cream cup, red cup , and white cup. Each cup contained the same cocoa beverage—unknown to the participants.

I've always thought of orange as a rather unexciting color-- one that doesn't create a strong emotional reaction. It's rather bland, not sensual, not exciting like the color red which stimulates the imagination.

I can understand cream as being quiet and serene—not a color to excite anyone. Isn't it the color that Interior decorators use for living rooms so that they can add colorful accents? I've walked into cream colored rooms and felt sleepy.

Red gives an immediate thrill. We associate so many things with red— passion, romance, and danger. A holiday is enveloped in red. Red roses and love are chain linked.

White is pure, but also the color I associate with bone china teacups. Perhaps a teacup is too genteel for cocoa.

Did they ask the participants if the cup color helped release that deep chocolate aroma?

Did they offer one color first? Did everyone try all four cups? How was the order of cups arranged?

I've eaten on deep blue plates and everything looks suspect.

I've sat in my car, balanced a red plate on my lap and munched away on a veggie burger and fries.

My grandmother loved purple and despite her daughter-in-laws raised eyebrows when she bought an entire purple outfit the family buried her in her brightest purple dress.

As for the results of the survey: participants overwhelmingly thought that the orange and cream cups of cocoa tasted better and released the delightful essence of cocao.

Dance the orange. Who can forget it?. . .
nearly self-drowned in its own sweetness,
yet it overcomes. You have possessed it;
become its own luscious completeness.

Rainer Maria Rilke "The Sonnets to Orpheus"

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Release a Word into the World

Words, like fashion, suddenly appear everywhere. Two years ago I watched a young woman take out a fur lined hat complete with serious earmuffs and a strap, or perhaps tie to keep it on — a hat for the arctic, for an expedition. A large, cumbersome, and unnecessary covering for a balmy 40 degree day. Then I noticed similar hats at L.L. Bean and at a local clothing store. How did this become a fad or a fashion statement?

Words gain a footing and then go viral or at least start appearing in newspapers, magazines, newscasts and then ordinary people sprinkle the word in conversations. In time the word, if it is new or formed out of several words or changes its form, appears in the Urban Dictionary and then in more conventional dictionaries.

It as if the word is released into the atmosphere and is picked up by people and passed from person to person.

Several days ago I heard a photographer speak about shooting an iconic photo. "That's what you aim for," he told a rapt audience, "iconic photos."

Today I picked up the Wall Street Journal and read a story about new headphones. The company referred to their headphones as iconic.

Seated at a coffee shop the man in a nearby table took a bite of his sandwich and said to his table mate, "This is an iconic humus sandwich—just enough bite and surrounded by the right combo of cut up salad."

Webster jumps from icon to iconicity—perhaps it's not the newest edition. We understand the word to mean awesome, one of a kind, something to be revered. Perhaps having the characteristics of an icon.

My edition, albeit an older edition of Roget's Thesaurus, doesn't even list iconic.

A friend of mine once referred to her signature meal. Different time, different word. Today that same meal becomes iconic.

So many questions. How do we select what is iconic? Does something become iconic for a short while and then lose out to something else? Or is it like icons—painted they remain icons, but has the word taken on so many variations that the original religious painting loses out to the graphic icons associated with computers.

That brings me to a look inward. The word is out there—released into the world, ready for use. Do I have anything iconic? Have I accomplished anything iconic? Have I created anything iconic?

My meals are usually basic. My clothes are basic—light in the spring, dour in the winter. My reading is eclectic. Have I written an iconic poem —for me? That's it,you identify what is iconic. What a relief. But this is not always the case.

After five years the "International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature" declared that The Natural History Museum's Archaeopteryx was to be designated as a primary reference specimen "of this iconic bird".

And in July of this year the Children's Museum of Indianapolis asked people to identify their favorite toy growing up. Over 24,000 people thought about the question and responded— the winner G.I. Joe. After they tallied the votes a list was created of the top twenty "Iconic toys." I must admit surprise when I saw that Barbie only attained fourth place. But looking at the list made me realize why I have difficulty with the word—my choice did make the list, but eighteenth.

I found the Magna Carta referred to as an iconic document.

On July 1, 2011 The Boston Globe writing about the Declaration of Independence said, " several weeks before the signing of the now-iconic handwritten copy on parchment..."

And just recently the headline from the Daily Brew Saskatchewan drops iconic wheat sheaf logo, declaring we're just wheat.

I've read about so many iconic symbols, monuments, animals—sayings, that I think that by next year the word will need to be replaced by something more iconic. It will lose its salt. Then another word—released into the world will take hold of our imaginations.

I think that I shall be a contrarian and check into the Oxford English Dictionary's campaign to save abandoned archaic or dropped words.

Tomorrow I'll check their site—Save the Words— and adopt a word and release it into the world.

The site is no longer operating. I'll have to seek out an endangered word.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Google the words release your potential and enter into a world of possibilities ranging from spiritual to spasticity to weight loss to financial prowess to numerology to business ventures to releasing your conscious and subconscious mind power to mystic powers to whatever else one conjures up to help you realize your goal or uncover the goals you're capable of achieving.

Self-help books and programs convince us that we can realize our potential or perhaps they release us to enter into a conversation with our innermost desires. And those desires may not be for mystic powers or more money in stocks or even a deeper spiritual path.

They may be how to decorate a four foot high wedding cake or how to brew beer or how to read tea leaves. Yes, Reading Tea Leaves, according to Amazon is "the oldest book on the subject in English" and is written by a Highland Seer for the Highland Scots.

If you desire to realize a life long dream to build a ladder bookshelf there are a number of how-to articles purporting to take you by the hand and help you turn a dream into reality.

Roaming in a good bookstore, a favorite activity, means wandering in all the aisles—even the self-help book and the how-to book aisle. Yet often the how-to books sit smugly in other aisles—art books, music, dance,writing and reference. Diet and exercise books, cookbooks—take up shelves and shelves of space.

On one day I discovered books on how-to make rag rugs, create mixed media murals, play the harmonica. One book promised that learning to play will open up a new world for me. There's even an Idiot's Guide to Playing the Harmonica. I found a book on belly dancing, but passed that one because you really need long hair to toss your hair the way belly dancers do and my hair is too short to toss.

Yoga to the Rescue: Remedies for Real Girls even has an IPhone app and a free button when purchased.

I looked through thirty-four writing books—some merely by checking the title—and found that if I wanted to write a novel in a year there were authors who would sculpt my week to make each week count in the trudge to completion. How-to books on writing science-fiction, horror, mysteries, short-stories, creative non-fiction, playwriting, writing for television, essays, poetry, and flash fiction fill shelf after shelf.

Weeks could be spent checking out the creation of characters, plots that move, triggers, events, scenes, conflicts and chapters that strive to remind me of the importance of place. ( This is being written at the Boston Bean Coffee House. It's 11:15 and soon the lunch crowd will begin arriving and I'll move from my window table for four to a smaller darker table).

Roget's Thesaurus citation 558.3 NEWS lists the following words message, advice, release, petit bleu, dispatch, communication.

These books and articles all purport to send a message—to communicate—to dispatch a petit bleu, to advise on how you can release your potential to accomplish the tasks within their books or articles.

I bought a book called Memento:My Life in Stories. The heavy paper well suited for old fashioned ink pens. Each page contains a question or statement.

I did quite well when asked to describe my childhood home, but faltered when the next four pages asked me to describe situations with my siblings. Only children can't make up siblings or adopt siblings from friends.

Only two possibilities—cross out the question and reword it so that it's applicable, but I don't like the idea of crossing out so I will have to reword the question. Of course I now question the authenticity and commitment to the task by the author. According to some data at the time of my birth only children represented 10% of children under 18, today that percent is 20% or 14 million.

When an author eliminates 10% of the population I feel "other" —left out. Perhaps I'll skip those pages and go on with the rest of the book.

How to writing books also include books of prompts. I couldn't stay away from a large format book titled 642 Things to Write About. It joins the book I purchased the previous year 642 Things to Draw. Both books have been called inspirational—imagine sketching the sound of girlish laughter?

I even found a book called One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber. She focuses on one word for the year. She says, "The surprising thing is that when we decide to focus on one word for the year...God takes part in the choosing. That's why the word is perfect for us." This may not be a traditional how-to book, but it sounds like it fits into a similar category.

So my journey isn't unique — but what I learn will be unique for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Many Will Be Released?

An American journalist is missing in Syria.

The January 9, 2013 Washington Post headline— Syria releases 2,130 captives to rebels in exchange for 48 Iranian prisoners. The captives were mostly Syrian. The deal that was brokered is confusing and one wonders about allegiances between the combatants.

The American journalist is still missing.

Political prisoners, dissidents, people in the wrong place at the wrong time, people espousing contrary views in the arts—all may end up in confinement. For some it will be years before they get out, for others death will be the only release, and others will then be ordered to home confinement rather than a return to freedom.

One internet site listed the ten most famous political prisoners. Lists are ubiquitous—grocery lists, reminder lists, lists of what I want to do in the new year so finding a top ten wasn't unusual. Top ten best sellers, top ten on the music chart, top ten college football teams—now top ten political prisoners.

How would you list the names? Chronologically? Alphabetically? By order of importance? The two lists I looked at listed the names chronologically.

Antonio Gramsci : January 22, 1891—April 27, 1937— a leading Italian Marxist, an intellectual and a journalist.

The International Gramsci Society publishes an electronic journal where they attempt to keep alive his work and life. Rather then refer to him as a Marxist they refer to him as a Socialist.

In early photos his round glasses —not unlike those that gained popularity a dozen years ago— full bodied hair, well-defined lips and straight ahead stare emit both an intensity and sensitivity. According to his biography he not only was one of the founding members of the Italian Communist Party, but he also was its leader for a time. But what he is known for is his writings and his subsequent influence on a number of Marxists as well as Socialist.

In 1926, at the age of thirty-five, he was imprisoned by Mussolini and in 1927 he was condemned to a sentence of twenty years. He received permission to study—but not communist literature. He studied history, linguistics, and historiography. In 1927 he also received permission to write.

"During this time he completed thirty-two notebooks containing almost 3,000 pages. According to Burke, B. in an article in The Encyclopedia of Informal Education "these notebooks were smuggled out from his prison and published in Italian after the war..." Obviously the authorities did not know what he was writing.

Gramsci served eleven years, was never released and died in prison.

He was working on the development of a new Marxist theory "applicable to the conditions of advanced capitalism."

Some of the nine names were familiar— Bobby Sands, Nelson Mandela— others unknown or known so slightly. They all shared some commonality—what they said, did, espoused was out of kilter with the political leaders. They were all considered dangerous—possibly able to rouse others to their viewpoint.

Dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize and is under house arrest in China.

China has not released Liu, but they agreed in 2011 to allow his collected writings to be published in English for the first time.

The release of his writing may, hopefully, be a first step.

Burma released a number of political dissidents this fall—many still remain in prison.

No one knows the exact number of political prisoners worldwide—or what percentage of those are released, what percentage die in jail or what percentage are confined to their homes. The numbers change daily.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Do I Need to Release My Gene for Travel?

Am I provincial, territorial, unable to move beyond the physical boundaries I've so carefully constructed. As an adult I've lived in three states—all on the east coast—and for the last thirty years in the same house. I've traveled to the southwest and trekked along some of the same trails year after year, worn the same straw hat, or a twenty year old shapeless hiking hat.

I make my summer pilgrimage to the coast of Maine each summer, hike some of the same paths, sit at one particular place on the rocky shoreline. Looking straight ahead I watch waves break over large rocks. Some days the spindrift soars daring itself to reach higher and higher. I walk along the shore and take photos of cobbles or rock sculptures —high vertical stacks— stratified rocks with colored layers of quartz and feldspar.

A million years ago or at least so it seems, I traveled to Europe one summer—walked around Paris, carried a long loaf of bread and cheese, marveled at the architecture, ate fish and chips wrapped in a newspaper, saw the Mona Lisa, watched a bull fight, went to museums, churches, gaped at the flying buttresses, marveled at the size of the bathrooms in Monte Carlo, took a photo with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, bought books from stalls, learned to use a bidet, ate eggs cooked in olive oil, went to see Agatha Christie's Mousetrap in London, stood in the Sistine Chapel and felt the power imbued within Michelangelo's frescoes, ate spaghetti in Rome, found bedbugs in an inexpensive room in Rome, stayed in a hostel in Florence, heard Gregorian Chants in a church overlooking the Arno River, and drank dark beer in Munich.

But never went back.

So when I read of people traveling all over the world I begin to wonder about my willingness to stay within my comfort zone. Perhaps I need to release my innermost explorer and venture to try to expand my geographic wanderings.

Yesterday's newspaper contained an article about a British explorer—Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his most recent challenge. He and his five-member team will attempt to "cross Antarctica during the region's winter".

They'll begin on March 21st and travel 2,500 miles. The temperatures in Antarctica in the winter often reach minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They know that if the trip runs into trouble there will be no search and rescue.

The quote in the Boston Globe reflects Fienne's outlook, "Some people will say it is irresponsible to go unless you know everything, in which case the Americans would never have gotten to the moon. If humans are going for something new, then unfortunately there are bound to be some gray areas."

They'll not be going without specifically designed gear —heated clothing, many layers, helmets with a crevasse detection device, heated soles in their boots. Their web site indicates that a "two-man ski unit will lead the traverse while the rest of the team follows closely behind in Mobile Vehicle Landtrains.." especially equipped with fuel that won't freeze, cabooses with scientific and mechanical labs for running experiments, a heated area for living, eating and sleeping. And all the while communication will allow them to keep up with the outside world.

Yesterday I received an email, "The kids and I are heading to India at the end of January for five weeks. I am attending a Yoga course at an ashram in Rishikesh. I am going with a friend from here and her children."

I immediately looked up Rishikesh and discovered that it's located in the foothills of the Himalayas and has a population somewhere in the vicinity of 75,000 people. The Beatles visited there in 1966 and really put it on the map.According to what I found out it is "nicknamed" the world capital of Yoga as well being famous for rafting.

I'm not sure if she is going to take the Yoga Instructor course or simply improve her own yoga practice. All I could think of is how do you manage with three children ages 8—13, a husband who will visit at the beginning and end of the course and will be in New Zealand and Singapore in between those times?

How does one get to the point where they simply pick up and travel the world? Unafraid. Just get the shots and don't fret. Read the Lonely Planet and find out all the ins and outs, the dos and the don'ts. Rishikesh is New Age— so is Sedona, Arizona. If you get tired of Yoga you can learn to play the Sitar, try Laughing Yoga, or gong meditation, or get a massage. Lonely Planet lists attending a Rishikesh ashram as one of the Top Ten Iconic Travel Experiences.

I did find one iconic experience listed that fits into my geographic territory—Archeological Research Trip at Crow Canyon. But then again I'm not certain I want to spend my days on my knees brushing dirt aside with a toothbrush. The other trips they offer look interesting, but they are not iconic.

If I scratch hard enough I must have a gene for traveling to distant places—it's just a matter of finding it and releasing my potential for adventure. Would it be cathartic?

I'm in the midst of reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed— From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Cheryl goes on a solo eleven-hundred mile hike on the Pacific Coast Trail—and she'd never backpacked before the start of her hike.

Am I being prodded to move from my narrow comfortable spot by all these exploits to explore the universe? Am I depriving myself of inner discoveries? Or am I one of those people who vicariously experience the travels and exploits of others?

I do feel as if I will be supportive of the Antarctica trek by checking in on the journey and occasionally writing about their progress. I'll attempt to do another Yoga pose in my Gentle Yoga book for women and I'll vicariously hike the Pacific Coast Trail as well as increase my two mile walk each morning before breakfast.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Nolle Prosequi

nolle prosequi
1. an entry in the court record to the effect that the plaintiff or prosecutor will not proceed
1. drop prosecution of by entering a nolle prosequi in the court records

You're free. That charge dismissed. Perhaps you're guilty, but by the entering of a nolle prosequi you can move on with your life. You're released from the consequences of that charge. The question is how to move on.

Most of us don't have a nolle prosequi entered into the court record.

Growing up I lived in a three room apartment with my parents and grandmother. I shared the bedroom with my grandmother and my parents slept on a pullout sofa bed in the living room.

Given the tightness of space— play areas were limited, so when I received a pair of roller skates for my ninth birthday all I wanted to do was go outside and skate. Unfortunately the weather precluded going outside. It rained for two days and slick puddle filled sidewalks weren't conducive for outside activities.

My mother wasn't home when I arrived home from school and my grandmother was crocheting the pieces necessary to finish a tablecloth. Despite being able to crochet without looking at her needles she always seemed totally absorbed.

I put on my skates and began to skate around the bedroom, but a large dresser, a double bed and a twin bed, as well as a desk made travel difficult. The double bed faced a large mirror hanging over the dresser. I tried to see myself in the mirror, but only glimpsed a partial view— to my hips.

Without stopping to think I sat down on the bed, drew my legs up and spread out on top of the bedspread. Then I carefully stood up, still wearing my roller skates, so that the mirror reflected back my entire self—including the roller skates. If I thought at all it was that they were clean since I hadn't been outside. But I don't think I thought of anything save for looking at myself.

Once on top of the bed I tried some acrobatic moves— pretended I was in the roller derby, gave a couple of jumps, heard some slats hit the ground.

Unfortunately I didn't take off my skates when I lay supine on the floor attempting to put the slats back—something I had done before.

My father, who usually came home at 5:00 p.m. arrived home at 4:00. When he entered the bedroom my skate clad feet protruded from beneath the bed. I'd never seen my father lose his temper—he was a man of words, but that day he lost his temper.

The wrinkled bedspread proclaimed misuse like a herald announcing some proclamation. Once I wiggled out from under the bed I looked at my father who simply had said—get up, take off the skates. When he looked at the bedspread and spotted some grease from my skates he really lost his temper. I had never received a spanking—never had a hand laid on me, but knew about receiving lectures.

He skipped the lectures—told me to take off the skates and I received an old fashioned spanking. My mother arrived home in the middle of my humiliation. She ran into the bedroom where I was crying and yelling—far more than warranted and she immediately told my father to stop.

Nolle prosequi—My father stopped and began lecturing me. My mother looked at the bedspread and at me and said, " I'm glad you didn't fall off the bed and I know why you put your skates on, but this is a new bedspread."

My father stopped his lecture and asked me what consequence I'd suggest. I always hated that because I thought I'd probably pick something far more substantial.

"I guess I shouldn't take my skates outside for a month."

"How about a week?" said my father.

My mother wanted a day, but the week stood. And that was it—no chits, no reminders. They didn't carry this forward—it was released. No chit—no record kept.

To release someone from their act so that it doesn't become something brought up again and again isn't license to keep repeating the same act, but a reprieve, a pardon.

A fetter is something that restrains, confines, restricts, limits. To unfetter is to release someone from fetters—to allow them to move on without dragging the shackles of past actions and words.

Often people can't remove the fetters for another person—we all carry around those things that drag behind us or hang on our shoulders, or burrow into core.

Psalm 103:12
As far as the east is from the west, so hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Removed: ( withdraw, loose) —withdrawn, transfer—

There may be consequences to pay, but we are released from shackles—able to move on.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Wooden Maple Sap Buckets

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten...
Joel 2:25

How did I jump from release to restore? To release anyone or anything from something has the potential of restoring that person or thing to its previous state.

Once I lived near a ragged looking establishment billed as a place to find antiques or at least old items. Nothing was displayed— everything was stacked in piles that often tipped over. Once tipped they remained that way. The backyard, small, compact, devoid of plants and bushes, worn down to hard scrabble dirt, was a treasure trove of half-broken items.

Old wood sleds, butter churns with missing parts, hand-woven baskets with places where the strands hung listlessly over the side leaned against a listing wood fence.

One day I found two wooden maple sap buckets with wood staves and the metal hook still attached. The staves, no longer secure around the bucket, had slipped half way down. The wood, splintered and rough, made me think that the buckets—once crafted by a cooper—now resembled kindling wood.

"With a little work you could bring them back."

At first I didn't realize that the woman who lived in the house and owned all this watched me when I picked up one of the buckets.

Without any encouragement from me she outlined what I needed to do.

"First, get some Spic and Span and medium and super fine steel wool—not the kind you find in the grocery store. Go into the hardware store and get the proper grades. Mix up the Spic and Span and wash the buckets —first using the medium steel wool. Let the buckets dry away from the sun. When they're dry—wash them again with the super fine steel wool.

"Don't be impatient. Bringing something back takes time. You can't rush."

"Now go and buy polyurethane, Butcher's Wax and very fine grit sandpaper—the finest they sell. Remember you don't want the kind of wax that shines by itself.

When everything is bone dry and I mean completely dry you're ready. Apply one thin layer of polyurethane and then when the bucket is completely dry use the fine sandpaper over every crevice of the bucket. You repeat this four times. I usually do it five times, but four will do. Then you apply the Butcher's Wax. Polish or buff it and apply again."

"That's it." I said. It all sounded too laborious.

"No, once every six months run the shower until the bathroom steams up and take the bucket into the bathroom and let it absorb the steam for ten minutes. That'll keep the staves tight against the bucket sides."

"I'll sell you both for five dollars because it'll cost you a bit to fix them up."

I bought the maple buckets and they sat in my basement for a year. Then one hot steamy summer when I lived in Maryland I decided to at least wash them down with Spic and Span. Over the summer I worked on the buckets—meditatively rubbing them down, moving from one set of directions to the next. I watched the staves tighten themselves up against the sides, the dirt and splinters disappeared, the original color of the wood emerged, and then a smooth satan sheen covered the bucket.

When I moved to New England one bucket held kindling. The other still holds magazines, books, assorted notebooks, and an occasional letter or catalog. The staves, while a bit looser, still tighten up when I remember the steam shower.

I guess I released the buckets from their state of disarray when I restored them to, if not their original state, at least to a functional beauty. Release also means freed or liberated.

To restore means to rejuvenate, to repair, to redeem.

Sometimes we have to be released from something before we are restored. Sometimes the very act of restoration releases us from what has held us.

It's a conundrum, but I think there's a promise implicit in Joel 2:25.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

My Silver Star

I am the recipient of a silver star. Not just a plain star, but one with a word on the back. On Epiphany Sunday the minister placed silver stars on the floor in the front of the church-- small ones for adults and large stars for children.

" You'll find a word on the back of each star. Don't peek under a number of stars to find the one -- just pick a star. Place the star where you'll see it throughout the year. Mediate on the word, look it up, see where it appears in scripture, see how it applies to you."

" God willing next year we will share some of what we learned during the year."

So I walked to the front of the church-- behind the others who were marching to the stars. When I arrived back at my seat I turned the star over to read my word-- release.

The star is on my computer table--silver side up, word down. Maybe that's not the best way. Maybe one week up and one week down.

My Roget's Thesaurus lists twenty-five different possible meanings for release and each of these probably has twenty to forty words. Imagine a riff on all the words under acquittal as one meaning of release.


v. t. 1. To free from blame or the imputation of a fault; to exculpate.
[imp. & p. p. Disculpated; p. pr. & vb. n. Disculpating.]

I almost fear you think I begged it, but I can disculpate myself.
-- Walpole.

A related word is absolution.

And to exculpate means to clear from a charge of guilt, free from blame, vindicate.

All that from the word release. It's hard to think that the word choice was arbitrary. I wonder if I was one pew back?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

How Does She Do It ?

A bookstore set up a display called " firsts". These were the first mysteries in a series. I spotted Ruth Rendell's first book in her mystery series starring Inspector Wexford.

According to her bio she gets up at 6:15, exercises and then begins writing and completes a book a year.

Her first book was published in 1964. You'd think she would run out of plot lines. In 2011 she wrote her last Inspector Wexford book, but didn't stop writing her thrillers or her books written under the name Barbara Vine.

She's 82 and still writing three hours a day. Her last book, written as Barbara Vine, was reviewed December 2012.

How does she do it?

She has two cats. Perhaps I should think about getting a cat.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Left Between the Pages

My local librarian always flips through returned books looking for anything left behind. "People leave all sorts of things in their books."

Obviously that's so. Yesterday I found a book entirely made up of found items readers left in books. The author is a used book dealer and he has a blog with 1000 posts--each post tells about found bookmarks. Often it's a small item.

Over the years he's discovered letters, poems, lists, even spells. He calls his blog Forgotten Bookmarks.

Prior to this book he collated the recipes he found and put together a book of Forgotten Recipes.

Years from now when the written word is totally subsumed by the electronic age what scraps of paper will we use for bookmarks? Will anyone find a love note tucked in a book?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Jimmy now James

I first met Jimmy when he worked in a local coffee shop. Over time I learned that he had dropped out of high school before receiving his degree. "It was brutal," he said when he spoke about his experiences as a gay student in high school.

No one paid any attention to his tattoos or earrings. He fit in and he made a perfect latte. Once we ended up at the same Christmas party and the same Gay Pride party.

Jimmy often spoke about taking the required tests to gain his high school diploma, but he never seemed to get around to taking the review courses. Often I asked him about his love life and for a long time there was no one—although he had many friends both straight and gay.

After a few years Jimmy left and took a job working at a Starbucks in the neighboring town. It appeared to be a perfect fit—more people his age. He did have to wear long sleeves to cover the tattoos—which didn't bother him even on hot days.

I liked the coffee at Starbucks and we went over quite often. I noted how Jimmy, who was now called James, expanded the number of friends in his new place of employment—he even had a boy friend and moved out of his parent's home.

Last summer when I went into Starbucks James spotted me and said, "I took my GED and passed my GED. I now have my high school diploma."

I wish I had simply responded with great. Instead I said, "It's about time." I quickly followed that with "fantastic. Congratulations." Because of my teaching background James often talked to me about completing high school.

Several months ago James left that Starbucks and moved to Somerville where he shared a apartment with two friends. He had a boyfriend and a new job.

Today when we went into the Starbucks there was a picture of James at the cash register—with a call for donations to help offset the medical expenses.

"What happened."
"He was attending a concert," said the young woman who took our order," and he had a seizure. By the time they got him to the hospital he was running an exceedingly high temperature. He's in critical condition."

So we took the paper with the address of where and how to send money—a small piece of paper probably less than a half inch wide.

How does this happen? Hopefully Jimmy, now James, will recover, will continue to wear his baseball cap, his earrings, get more tattoos, laugh with friends, share meals with his boyfriend,be in love, walk in gay pride parades, go to concerts, visit the Starbucks in the neighboring town.

Jimmy we're praying for you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Take a Deep Breath

I am drawn to things that say 642 writing prompts, 642 drawing prompts, write the story of your life with 320 prompts.

Last week when I meandered about in one of the few independent bookstores within an hour's ride from my home, I knew that I wanted to find something beyond the pale of ordinary.

While walking around the store and making my selections I happened upon the 642 writing prompts book. I read the introduction and the layout appealed to my sense of adventure—boxes for some short prompts, pages for longer prompts. I must admit that I didn't really read the prompts.

The first long prompt asked me to imagine that I was an astronaut and then to describe a perfect day. It's difficult to visualize myself as an astronaut when I don't like long plane rides. So I had to start off explaining that it was a stretch for me to imagine myself in that position. Once I accepted the challenge I envisioned taking a walk in space—securely tethered to the spaceship.

And that set me off to wondering about being tethered to anything—either floating in space or climbing up the side of a rock or on an ascent up a snow covered mountain with perilous crevasses, or attached to a safety line while on a roof.

And then there's the aerialist Dolly Jacobs who performs without a net— because "using a net is like drag racing at 20 miles per hour."

So there I was writing about my walk in space, looking down, experiencing vertigo, checking the tether, tugging it to make sure everything was secure when I stopped worrying and started to really look around.

By the time I began to enjoy my romp the page ended and if I turned the page I had to face the next prompt: "You've just received a ransom note."

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The First

Despite the weather and the snow we set out to take photos at the sculpture park. Of course that excursion required a bit of planning— flannel lined jeans, high enough boots to prevent the snow from creeping in, earmuffs, hat, scarf, heavy jacket, a thin pair of gloves, and a pair that are worn over the thin gloves. Then there's the camera and a plastic bag to put it in when you get home so that the camera can acclimate to the warmth.

By the time I dressed I could barely move or move in a side to side motion like a wind-up doll or a first grader dressed for the weather.

Save for my fingertips I was warm. But warmth is a matter of positive thinking. I thought I was warm, therefore I was warm. My fingers did not respond to positive thinking.

Then when I began to shoot I forgot whether taking snow pictures meant I needed more exposure or less exposure. I attempted to think about the snow and the snow's reflections.

Then I began to think of my reflections on this first day of the year. To reflect.

I recalled the list of people who had died this year. The people the newspaper listed in this morning's paper. Most of the names were ones I didn't know—but some I did. Most were well known, luminaries in their field or people that caught our attention.

It's good to stop at the end of the year and the beginning of another year and reflect on our own list—the one that never gets into the paper.