Friday, May 31, 2013

With a Stack of Books...

When the thermometer flirts with 97 degrees and the humidity soars to oppressive and the pundits say, "bad air alert", I listen. We did get up early and walk our usual two miles up and down small hills—thereafter short walks—from the car to the library, from the car to the coffee house, from the car to an ice cream shop and a delectable frozen mint patty yogurt in a cup. On a day like today a cone spells drips.

Because this is the second day of a heat wave and tomorrow will also be hot, I went to two libraries and checked out four books—that doesn't include the books at home. No one wants to run out of something to read.

It's an eclectic collection of books—some I had never heard of, but something about the book piqued my interest. I opened Ilan Stavan's book, Singer's Typewriter And Mine: Reflections on Jewish Culture and read a small essay on Where the Wild Things Are. Stavans hooked me with his adroit explanation of Sendak's theme.

Then I selected a mystery—"dark, atmospheric, and compelling", a memoir written by a writer and a book of poetry. Oddly a renewal arrived from Poetry magazine today:
Let us remember...that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.— Christain Wiman, Editor

With a selection of books, a pen and paper, and something cold to drink —a spritzer or iced decaf tomorrow's temperature is merely an excuse to read away the day.

Release means to liberate, to deliver, to escape, to loosen. My stack of books releases me, liberates me from the strain of thinking what can I do in this heat—besides fret.

It's a gift.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Bird Stays a Bird

When I read that scientists wanted to leave the archaeopteryx on the "bird branch of the evolutionary family tree," instead of agreeing with Chinese scientists who wanted to move it to "birdlike dinosaurs," I was delighted.

Their findings were released in The Journal Nature last Thursday.

After all I had read a number of books about dinosaurs as a youngster, even owned a plastic model of the archaeopteryx. We all know how difficult it is to flow with change.

It's a balance.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writing Reviews

Years ago my son wrote music reviews for his high school newspaper. One day Fed Ex delivered large and heavy box filled with the hopes and dreams of musicians. These were complementary copies — released, but not to be sold—or given away. They were solely for reviews.

I'm not certain who David contacted to receive this box, but I think he was also writing a column for a very small local paper. Perhaps no one knew how small this local paper was or perhaps any reviews were welcome.

For days an odd assortment of music blared from his room. Eventually he selected several singers and bands and wrote reviews,

"Anyone really good?"
"A few. One woman sings a great jazz riff."

I've never wanted to write a column reviewing anything, but I'd love to receive a box of books to look over— no strings attached. And if I found something that sung I'd write a review here

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wild Turkeys Take Over

Last week a rafter of turkeys showed up on our front lawn. The uproar of their arrival sent me to the door in time to see two agitated toms bristling at one another— accompanied by a cacophony of shrill sounds. Feathers, airborne at first, settled on the grass marking it as turkey territory. Perhaps this is mating season and they were in a tizzy over a female turkey.

In time someone won or peace declared and the toms, with their feathers on display, headed into the woods.

Since that day I seem to see or read about wild turkeys. Today while waiting to see the doctor for my annual physical I picked up a magazine and opened it to an article about using all parts of a wild turkey. A photo of turkey legs was prominently displayed.

I found out that Wild Turkeys are promiscuous — not like Canadian Geese who mate for life.

Usually I bring a book to read, but I'm in the middle of a thriller and didn't want my blood pressure to be high.

When I arrived home I checked out some information about the birds and discovered that some communities had trouble with the turkeys becoming aggressive. One woman in a town not far from my home writes about a turkey stalking her and several people in another town wrote of turkey attacks.

Years ago the wild turkey population was abysmally low, but then they were reintroduced to areas where they originally felt quite of home. I do wonder if the wild life enthusiasts who released the birds ever imagined stalking or nipping birds.

In some areas of the country people go on turkey shoots, but I expect that won't work here. I wonder if my neighbor's cats are up to the task of keeping our rafter of turkeys in line.

Monday, May 27, 2013


If there was no poetry
on any day in the world, poetry
would be invented that day. For there,
would be an intolerable hunger.
—Muriel Rukeyser

I love reading fiction, especially when I fall into the story and the characters become as real as people I know. When a writer tells a story that captivates my imagination I'm drawn along as if we're tethered together. A good story doesn't release its hold until the last page—and then it lingers in my mind.

I love non-fiction, especially when I travel to strange and exotic places, look within someone's life, share their story. And when writers explore ideas I listen carefully—exploring new paradigms.

But poetry distills experiences, pares lines to only include the necessary, the exact word or metaphor. A good poem bores into my soul, focuses on the line, the stanza, each word. Nothing is extra. Nothing is wasted.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Concert

I am listening to the Memorial Day Concert in the background. My words are inadequate—perhaps words should fail us whenever the immensity of how much has been sacrificed by the men and women of our services.

I am overwhelmed by how many have lost their lives, how many have returned scarred—both scars that are visible and those that are invisible.

Perhaps someday we will be released from the need to construct memorials to those who died, no longer see men and women return home maimed—both inside and outside. Until that day Memorial Day needs to be a reminder to all of us—of how many have sacrificed for the rest of us.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


So many genres—science fiction, romance, mystery, self-help, travel, religious, science, history, poetry, journals, diaries, biographies, autobiographies, graphic books, fantasy, dystopian, cookbooks, drama and probably some I've missed.

Then there's horror or thriller or combinations of those genres. I rarely read any books that might be considered horror books, but I read a review of a recent book by Joe Hill and found myself intrigued. Hill's father is Stephen King—the King in the thriller book category. Yet, I've never read any of his books.

I guess it's the same as a father and son business—but they don't collaborate, at least not yet.

When Hill's book was released reviewers couldn't help but mention his father. From what I understand Hill is no longer reticent about the mention of his famous father—especially because his own work and his own writing stands on its own.

I think following in the same or similar footprints of a parent can be daunting. How often you may keep comparing yourself to the other.

In order to understand some of his characters Hill quotes Gerard Manley Hopkins use of the word inscape. Part of the definition of what Hopkins meant by inscape includes the understanding that every single thing in our universe has a distinctive design and that design "constitutes individual identity". And that identity is not static.

We are each able to recognize that distinctiveness.

Perhaps I am drawn to the fantasy, the fusion of the real world and another dimension within our world or the storytelling, but on a rainy, dank day a long book seems like a perfect anecdote to the weather.

Friday, May 24, 2013


To change your language,
you must change your life.
--Derek Walcott

Interesting to realize how interconnected the how we live with our words and language. Knowing arcane words or memorizing lists of words won't make them our words, the language of our life.

That language is earned by our day by day walk. I can't simply add words to my language unless I have experienced the working out of that word.

If I say prisoner, then I need to have some experience with what it means to be imprisoned and then what it means to discover the means of release.

Language is so complex, so demanding, so compelling, so able to identify us.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Holy Reprieve

I'll discharge myself from obligations:
like cleaning up piles of books to read,
articles to scan and save for future use,
clothes not quite ready for the laundry

I'll vent remembering how I missed
taking photos of angry wild turkeys
rioting outside my front door

but to absolve myself of all forgotten missteps
to acquit all stumbles and stubbed toes
suffered when walking into closed doors

to gain a reprieve, a respite, a dispensation
when there's no reason for such grace
broadens the definition of release

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


According to an Associated Press item, "...a lightning-fast pigeon became the most expensive racing bird when his Belgian breeder sold it for $400,000 to a Chinese businessman."

When I grew up in the Bronx you often saw pigeon coops on the roofs of apartment buildings. Races weren't as organized and expensive—sometimes all you won was bragging rights.

Today, according to an article in The New York Times, Pigeon racers " spend as much as $10,000 in entry fees..." That doesn't include the upkeep, medication, travel to race venues, vitamins. To aficionados pigeon racing is more exacting and complicated than horse racing.

As a youngster I recall going up to the roof of one building and watching two men taking care of their coop. One of the men introduced me to Millie and Moshe who looked like the pigeons we saw on the street. "Millie and Moshe can find their way back home from Coney Island—even further."

"Last week we released them from our friend's roof in Bensonhurst and then raced them home to the Bronx. Moshe beat us."

In 2013 The Gulf Coast Homing Club will host the American Racing Pigeon Union Convention—which will include two races. According to their literature "These are the two most prestigious races in the country!"

And "Two of the absolute best pigeon vets have expressed the desire to share their knowledge," —one is from South Africa and the other from Belgium.

Several breeders expect to auction twenty world class birds. Who knows how high the bids will go!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Handmaiden of Belief

Who recalls the first doubt
when everything felt lopsided,
when certainty disappeared
and the world took on a new facade

just a simple matter, merely a crack,
a separation a sliver wide,
where time eluded clocks
and doubt, a sleight of hand magician,
released a set of questions

Monday, May 20, 2013

Defining a Word

Some words appear in my mind, burrow down, and tease me to seek out their reality.

This morning I read an article about Annie Londonderry. In the late 1890s, she set out to bicycle around the world. While she didn't quite succeed, she did don pantaloons, pedal her bike thousands of miles, ride trains, avail herself of boat rides, and accomplish a daunting journey-- albeit slightly different then first envisioned.

The word that came to mind --audacious. Her trip -- an audacious journey at a time when most women didn't set out on such risky ventures.

Audacious—the dictionary definition doesn't do it justice. I envision someone standing on a precipice, balancing on her toes, arms straight out as if she's ready to fly or swimming through a city street length underwater cave without any breathing apparatus as definitions for audacious—or trekking through Death Valley or the Gobi Dessert in sandals or chewing on risks as if they were gum drops.

This past December Juliana Buhring became the first woman to cycle round the world. She covered 18,000 miles in 152 days on her solo road trip. That's a journey worthy of being dubbed an audacious feat.

The U.K. Telegram notes that according to the Guinness Book of world records:

"The rules say that a rider must travel the same distance as the circumference of the Earth – 24,900 miles – in one direction, starting and finishing in the same place. Travel by sea and air is allowed, but at least 18,000 miles of the route must be cycled."

Before they release their stamp of an authentic global circumference they will, with due diligence, verify those cycled miles.

My audacious pursuits are less fraught with perils.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Town's Release

Today a special town meeting drew 1300 people. A large developer bought a large property in town and their proposal called for the town to change the zoning. The change they wanted would severely impact our delightful downtown area.

They flooded us with sleek postcards, told half truths-- after all we're a small town.

What they didn't count on was the vigilance of so many people. A few of the environmental activists found out that the developers had demolished buildings without the proper permits, that the company had previously been sited for ignoring the environment.

People asked pertinent questions, probing, and persistent .We may not be an affluent community, but we're not pushovers.

The final tally -- a resounding refusal to buckle under. Now they can go back to the drawing board.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A 1075 foot Runway

A number of years ago I moved into the first completed condo unit in a new development. In early January we had a northeaster and the developers hired a number of people to help shovel out the roadway.

While removing the twelve inches of snow on and around my car a man, with a shovel, appeared and began to help me clear a pathway for my car to lurch its way over the unpaved roadway.

"I'm Sid," he said, "I own the runway down the street. If you want I can take you up in my plane and show you the sights."

Even if I wasn't leery of small planes and private runways it wasn't an invitation I'd accept from a total stranger. Besides who ever heard of a private runway in a residential neighborhood.

Several weeks later I went for a walk and passed a small sign— Sid's Airport. In order to see the runway I had to peer through dense bushes. There, down a steep incline, I spotted a wind sock and a long turf runway. From the top of the incline the runway appeared fairly narrow, but long.

I know that Sid did fly his plane from that location because periodically neighbors worried about the close proximity to other houses. Sid had constructed the runway in 1954 and he didn't have close neighbors.

Sid grew old and rarely flew the plane. When he died the house either passed on to his son or to someone else with a fervor for flying. A glider or ultralight replaced the single engine plane.

Today when I walked past Sid's Airport I noted another change— the sign and bushes are both gone. A small child's swing set and outdoor pool occupy a concrete slab. The wind sock remains—a reminder.

So I'll release the memory of a free spirit creating his own private turf runway and instead wonder about how this new family will use the 1075 foot grassy field.

Perhaps I missed an opportunity.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Newspaper's Role

Almost every other day since the Marathon bombing The Boston Globe carries a story about the victims. And each time I read one of the accounts my eyes tear up. So many lives disrupted, so many people needing to heal—physically and emotionally. So many people needing to find new types of employment.

Do the perpetrators of violent senseless killings ever feel remorse? Do they wonder about how people proceed with their lives? Do they ever read the stories and learn their victims names?

Just today officials released information about a note "scrawled inside the boat" where one of the suspects was hiding. "Unnamed sources" said the Marathon victims were referred to as "collateral damage."

None of this makes sense—but violence makes no sense.

On the other side of the senselessness is the goodness of so many people. I appreciate the stories that the newspaper carries because it's important to put faces to the victims and to the "heroes" and do so in a respectful manner.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Release From an Ordinary Day

the sun
bore down,
pricking the water.
One heron
preened, stood still,
posed, a contortionist,
an aerialist poised for flight
aware of an admiring audience.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Strip the Skin Off

The end of our exploring will be to arrive at
where we started, and to know the place
for the first time.
—T.S. Eliot

I've been thinking about memory and what it means to recall the past and how those recollections change in time. The same memory altered—reconfigured.

What does it mean to arrive back at where we started and to know that place?

For me it means erasing the layers I've pasted on top of the remembrance, the scales that dim the real and produce a created memory—momentary ephemera.

Perhaps, only after peeling away and releasing the created contortions do we arrive at the bare memory and begin to understand its place in the litany of our life.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Releasing Memory from Nostalgia

I have a lot of objects
In my space, little things,
reminders, memories.
--Marc Newson

don't recite
the past with a fictive voice
plastering over cracks,
smoothing the uneven spaces
to tell a story that has no edges

Monday, May 13, 2013

Some Things Just Happen

The way to love anything
is to realize that it might be lost.
—G.K. Chesterton

When I dropped some art supplies—and they tumbled down the basement stairs— I didn't worry about the points on four graphite pencils, or the water soluble pen or the small metal tin, or my black sketch book. I hoped that the small sable watercolor brush survived the spill without picking up some spilled top soil and threads of grass.

Our basement can't be called finished. A gray coat of paint covers the bare cement floor and the white paint hides the cinder block walls. My art space, or studio, faces a window straight ahead, a hot water heater on the one side, and snow shoes, boots and poles on the other side.

Created shelves and rolling plastic carts hold art supplies, half finished projects, paints, glues and boards—as well as an assortment of pens, pencils, art sticks.

Rollup cases hold brushes—most are synthetic, or blends. But the brush that dropped is sable. Dip it into water or paint and it forms a point, hairs stay in place, and it releases just the right amount of paint. I bought this small brush twenty years ago at an independent art store in Maryland.

I recall the owner telling me that some things you buy for a lifetime of use, "Everyone needs one brush that feels just right— as if you were one soul."

It's the brush I've taken with me when I painted canyons in Utah, a kiva at Chaco, mountains in Maine, lupines, rocks, and ocean waves.

I found the pencils, the case, the sketchbook—all in one spot. I couldn't find the brush and called for additional help—more eyes and flashlights, but to no avail.

Then when I placed my flashlight on a small table, I spotted the brush. Obviously when it hit the ground it popped into the air and landed on the table—a seemingly improbable acrobatic act.

Isn't that a metaphor for soul-mates.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Broader Definition

There's always someone asking you to
underline one piece of yourself—whether it's Black, woman,
mother, dyke, teacher, etc.—because that's the piece
that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.
—Audre Lourde

Mother's Day, Muttertag, La Festa della Mamma,Bonne fete des meres, Gelukkige Moederdag—

We were late in celebrating mothers compared to the Greeks and Romans. They were doing so thousands of years before we jumped on the bandwagon, but we've made up for our tardy entrance. Florists report more flowers are sold on Mother's Day—even more than on Valentine's Day.

It's always been jarring, to me, to see the adoration paid to mothers on this day when I compare it to the inequalities meted out to women throughout history. While we were being lauded for being mothers— we had to fight tooth and nail to be able to vote, to have control of our bodies.

While the flowers sat in vases women marched and shouted for equal pay. There's a disconnect between putting mothers on pedestals and according them the same equality as men. To many men, women are either or—saints or "fallen women".

When Audre Lourde named herself "a black feminist lesbian mother poet" she stated for all women the necessity to name the myriad facets of any woman. Each woman may use different words to encompass her identity, but all the words are necessary. When I first read Loude's definition of herself, it released me to define myself—and mother was only one of many words.

I once heard Audre Lourde speak and I recall her saying that it wasn't that women didn't have enough power, it was that they didn't use the power they had.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

In the Cracks

There's no release from reality,
no "outside" or "beyond" from which some
transforming touch might come.
-- Christine Wiman The Bright Abyss

Wiman goes on to say that it's a relief to be in that place where you meet God in the midst of the chaos of life.

I think God must become weary of too many people standing, sitting, repeating some of the same rituals, singing familiar hymns and then going out into the world not expecting to find God until the following week.

Maybe God's waiting for us on a street corner, on the grocery line, on a crowded bus. Maybe one of God's messenger's was standing right there and I kept walking.

Maybe I need to be more alert in the messy places, the chaotic places, the places where everything isn't laid out straight, the places where the broken parts show right through, where the plaster peels, and everybody's talking.

Friday, May 10, 2013

To Meditate Upon—

Years ago all the photos of the ministers adorned the hallway between the office and the  minister's office. Then, I believe, although I'm not certain, one minister erred from the straight and narrow path. Several congregants wanted his photo taken down. Now we know that you can't remove one photo without upsetting the delicate balance.

A solution—all the photos came down and were inserted in an album which was displayed in the library. When the library was reorganized we found a number of Bibles that were over one hundred years old.

One woman, a member of the decorating committee, arranged a wonderful display of the Bibles and Books of Common Prayer. She, or someone else, placed the huge blue photo  album in a cabinet under the display.

Weeks went by and then one woman realized that the album was no longer prominently displayed. She went to the church secretary and told her that the book needed to be out. The secretary found the book and put it on a ledge—satisfying the congregant.

I received a note, since I had spent hours reorganizing the library, about the need for the album to be displayed. Nicely phrased — at your convenience—place it on whatever shelf you want.

I will do so.

Only when involved in an organization—be it church, community group, business group, does one realize how many cooks are involved.

'Tis much easier to delve into books about spirituality or religion and not deal with the day to day minutia.

Thinking about books about spirituality I'm reading My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman. Christian is a man who faces a diagnosis that may include an early death. In the face of that he explores his faith—desiring to know what is it he really believes.

He writes: 
Intellectuals and artists concerned with faith tend to underestimate the radical, inviolable innocence it requires...
Spiritual innocence is not naiveté. Quite the opposite. Spiritual innocence is a state of mind—or, if you prefer, a state of heart—in which the life of God, and a life in God, are not simply viable but the sine qua non of all knowledge and experience, not simply durable but everlasting.

Reading this book requires me to put it down and think—write down my thoughts—and then continue savoring his thoughts and where they take me in my own journey.

Thinking is a great release—


Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Church Kitchen Manifesto

The town insists, wisely I'm certain, that people who use church kitchens must be certified. I expect that the edict refers to any kitchen that is used to prepare food for a number of people.

Restaurants fall under a different set of instructions. And, of course, I want to think that their kitchens reflect the highest standards of hygiene and all employees observe the most stringent of care with their personal cleanliness.

Today I received an email with four attachments outlining how to properly observe the rules for the church kitchen. By the time I read the first three attachments I knew that I didn't care a whit about ever eating anything made in the kitchen if it meant learning how to follow the thirteen instructions for using the dishwasher.

Words in RED  highlighted salient points. If you bring a dish from home and take home your platter the rules differ. No one cares if you use bleach to wash down counters at home or simply pour dish detergent into the detergent cup—whittling down the must do list from thirteen to two or three.

In order to obtain a release from ever following any of these rules I'm going to abstain from drinking coffee, eating anything on a platter that needs washing, and ever using any utensil.

When I hear the call for volunteers I'll select anything that does not include following thirteen rules for the use of the kitchen dishwasher.

No doubt the people who created these lists want to prevent food poisoning —
And, of course, we don't want to use plastic because of the environment—

I salute all those all over the country who are washing down the counters with a bleach/water solution, who are assiduously following all the instructions, and who nourish the congregants with delectable food.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

An Unmailed Letter

Unto this wood I came As to a nest;
Dreaming that sylvan peace Offered the harrowed ease-
Nature a soft release From men's unrest
--Thomas Hardy

If going backwards, returning to the past
stands out as a resonable solution
then I'll pick a date when we didn't exist
within wide spaces, no words, and in disunion,
a day when you climbed Old Rag Mountain hand
over hand, earning a bright red bandana
for scurrying over stones with five year old legs
Remember how we ate gorp on the rock's edge

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Just Let Go, Release, the Animosity

I've just bumped into one of the movers and planners in our town. At the moment the town is in the throes of divided opinions. Years ago a large technology company had settled in town. In time they built numerous buildings for their ever increasing business operations.

Unfortunately the tides changed and their company went through a time of downsizing and eventually they simply moved out of town and left the buildings.

In time someone purchased the land-- and the unoccupied buildings. The buyer never really seemed intent on pursuing any plan.For years they sat on the site without doing anything productive.

The town, after a few years ,created a zoning plan that included housing, small stores, open space,and a larger footprint for a hoped for grocery store. Years went by. The recession appeared. In time the owner of the property sold to a large real estate company. This is a company that has built large scale malls and smaller malls.

Then the rumors began. We heard that the developers wanted rezoning to allow for big box stores. Then a number of people began to complain about places like Walmart or Targets.

So the developer opted to downsize the size of the large box stores and increased the number of apartments. All these changes required the town to vote on a rezoning proposal.

People have divided themselves into groups- and some of what is happening is ugly.

Some folks think that there will be too many homes with the increased school enrollment breaking the back of schools. Others think that we need more people in town in order to drive down tax assessments.

Some people love the idea of a place that will attract people to come to town, while other people worry about our present downtown area.

For every opinion on one side there's another on the other side. And folks aren't simply holding an opinion, there are fractions demonizing the other point of view.

Looking at the entire situation in a semi-detached manner would require us to put an end to texting, meeting on the soccer field, expending energy on telephone calls, and clandestine meetings on street corners, grocery lines, and in coffee houses.

Since that's unlikely to happen I expect many of us are going to wonder why these disagreements often work up to dissonance between them and us.

Isn't them really us and us really them?

I don't know what will happen, but I'll be at the Special Town Meeting and cast my vote.

There will be folks on both sides of the aisle and some rhetoric will be politely ugly.

Perhaps people feel abandoned. Perhaps they feel isolated. Perhaps we're just a microcosm of the larger world out there.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Feathered, but it Doesn't Fly

A telltale jaw fragment unearthed
from a 75 million-year old rock
formation in Big Bend, Texas,
has led to the identification
of a new dinosaur, Leptorhynchos

—Boston Globe May 6, 2013

Paleontologists, astronomers, scientists, mathematicians, oceanographers and to a lesser degree historians, discover previously unknown phenomena or animals or solutions.

Within the past few years a new species of tarantulas ,with a leg span of eight inches, showed up in Sri Lanka.

In 2011 scientists discovered one hundred twenty-six new species in the Mekong Basin.

A new spider, Myrmeklaphila tigris, hung out in a backyard in Auburn, Alabama. Unfortunately a mere resident didn't discover the spider. Auburn University's Museum of Natural History's team of investigators made the discovery.

Finding something new isn't a rare phenomenon. Yesterday a new species of toad showed up in Qatar.

That find interests me because Henry Kava,a science teacher,sent a group of students out to find and identify toads. Within a short period of time his son found an amphibian and brought it home for a photo shoot. His find—an unrecorded species.

This means that we all stand a chance to come upon something new, albeit that depends upon where we live. If I'm not out rooting around for new worms, or slogging through a swamp or marsh, or letting my body be bitten by numerous insects, I can't anticipate any discoveries.

Yet each year the community of scientists uncover over 15,000 new species—animals, grasses, things you can't see.

Perhaps, I need to turn away from science and look instead to other areas—or perhaps this is a futile search.

I shall never discover a new dinosaur, or a new fish, or a new strand of grass, or star or planet. I shall never release a new solution or a proof to a classical math question. It's humbling to realize that some doors remain totally closed—no entrance.

Should I feel cheated or mourn the loss? No, I expect I'll just read about the new dinosaur and search for a postcard or maybe I'll buy a teeshirt.

Or I can be the first person to create a paper mache Leptorhynchos gaddisi.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Learning to Fly

The moment you doubt
whether you can fly,
you cease for ever
to be able to do it.
—J.M. Barrie Peter Pan

I watched a father teaching his son to ride a two wheel bike. The father ran alongside the bike—holding the handlebar with one hand. Often the bike and rider seesawed until the father steadied the bike in an upright position. Then they continued, father and son, running and riding through an empty parking lot.

At one point the father removed his hand, but allowed it to hover above the handlebar—and for a few seconds his child rode the bicycle without any help. Just as the bike began to rock the father took hold of the handlebar and the youngster picked up his pace—and father and son raced to the end of the lot

Releasing children and allowing them to fly is difficult—what if they fall, what if they ignore the map you've laid out in your head?

How often we create the perfect plan and find that the child and the plan are an imperfect fit—they rub against one another.

I recall once hearing a psychologist talking to our group of teachers about how many youngsters seem problematic because they don't seem to fit the family pattern. "Imagine," he said, " the disconnect of being born into a family of total sports fanatics and being a loner who loves spending hours reading. Or how about the family that considers family reading time and board games to represent bliss while their youngster loves being on the move."

Letting someone fly when their flight plan differs—that's the hard part.

Saturday, May 04, 2013


A truly good book teaches me better than to read it.
I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint.
What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.
--Henry David Thoreau

Did you ever feel that there are so many books that you want to read-- all at once? It's probably akin to people who want to sample everything on the buffet table.

When Alka Seltzer celebrated their seventy-fifth anniversary they did so with style. They hosted a buffet at the Las Vegas Hilton composed of 510 items.

According to Oversized Meals website, the buffet consisted of 100 varied salads, 40 different soups, 12 types of meat, including fried alligator, 10 assorted seafood dishes, and 150 desserts. The food platters required 140 feet of table space.

The buffet set a Guinness World Record.

How many books could one person read at the same time? What about speed readers?

Guinness listed Howard Berg as a world record holder when it came to fastest reader. The average person peruses a book at a leisurely pace of between 200 and 400 words a minute while Howard's average tops out at 25,000 words per minute. I don't think I could turn the pages that quickly.

Then again there's something delightful about reading at a slower pace--getting caught up in another scenario, living with a new set of characters-- with no release from the plot until the last page. And then replaying the scenes in your head, dreaming of characters at night, and wondering about the ending-- and wishing to find out what happens after the last page.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Yearly Events

It takes a long time to grow young.
--Pablo Picasso

Four friends celebrate birthdays together and have done so for several decades.

When it's your birthday you pick the restaurant and the shared dessert.And no one argues with your choice or suggests other options. One birthday we ate at a place that only served raw food dressed up to replicate familiar dishes. Once I picked a Russian restaurant that had a slim menu with very little choice for vegetarians.

There's always a gift and a card as well as the raising of glasses and the wishing of birthday wishes.

There's the early morning call with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. Sometimes, depending on the singers, there's two part harmony.

Since I'm tone deaf I always consider it kind that no one mentions my quirky rendition.

Round birthdays mean additional celebrations-- we've gone on boat trips, played a golf tournament complete with prizes and we're the only participants. We've gone to Provincetown when the weather was not conducive for anyone but Eskimos and walked on the beach.

It's nice to anticipate these celebrations and all the rituals.

We never forget that despite one's age there's a specialness about celebrating the day you began this journey.

Just because you may not wear a party hat and release balloons doesn't mean that you don't enjoy being the center of attention.

Tonight we four friends celebrated Pat's birthday at restaurant of her choice and toasted her new year.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Maybe it's Me

279 people, as of today, want to read The Dinner. How do books gather a momentum that translates into readers lining up to request a book? Usually a reviewer waxes eloquent and writes a glowing review.

I, too, added the book to my must read pile. After waiting for months the book arrived at my library. I couldn't wait to start reading. Up until half way through The Dinner I hadn't read any reviews in any major newspaper.

At about page 150 I began to feel uncomfortable. Was it me? What about all those other people extolling this novel? I found the writing tedious, the characters totally unlikeable, and a sense that we were all mired in a dinner that never ended.

At page 200 I googled : book review of The Dinner and as soon as I found the New York Times review I opened it hoping to find an explanation for my discomfort.

The reviewer reminded me that the characters may all be unlikable, but the author needs to make them interesting.

The reviewer, Claire Messud, ends the review —

"Rather, he ( Koch) has created a clever, dark confection, like some elegant dessert fashioned out of entrails. The Dinner, absorbing and highly readable, proves in the end strangely shallow, and this may be the most unsettling thing about it. "

While the review released me from my sense of being an inept reader it didn't answer the question of why the book garnered so much interest.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

An Assemblage

But too much release was not good—
one had to remain on one's toes.
The Dinner Herman Koch

I don't like meetings and I especially abhor long tedious meetings. Last night's gathering lasted over two hours. The other eight participants appeared to delight in the slow process while I fiddled back and forth on the folding chair.

First I crossed my legs and then opted to spread them in front of me and stared at last years' sneakers. I do have a new pair, but the pink laces seemed too ostentatious for a church meeting.

I reminded myself to appear interested in the details, but instead I checked the baseball scores. Since I use Dropbox to keep all the pertinent agendas and meeting notes and assorted papers no one looked my way when I switched to the MLB app.

Since that worked so well I wondered about switching to the Scrabble app, but decided against that because I might never hear the discussion.

After two hours I noticed the flagging of other participants, but still they carried on and on. Perhaps I'm missing the gene that equates lasting through the length of a meeting with fortitude.

Suddenly everyone stood, held hands and began singing a simple hymn. I almost missed the ending—as I was busy composing a haiku in my head.