Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Drop

In New York City heralding a new year by watching a ball descend has been around since 1907. The Times Square drop was initially lowered by brute strength—six men used a rope and a stopwatch to lower the ball. Today a laser atomic clock keeps time so the ball's descent is accurate.

According to the Huffington Post this year 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles will create a "kaleidoscope" of dynamic colors.

It will take 32,256 LEDs to illuminate the ball.

Statisticians estimate that over one billion people all over the globe will watch the release of the ball from its stationary position.

Despite growing up in New York City I never went down to Times Square—but I do applaud those brave souls who stand in the cold for hours to watch the old transition into the new.

Happy New Year to all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Different Risks

What drives people to partake in Extreme Sports? I am not a risk taker. Doing something where the outcome may be a catastrophic injury or death is too daunting.

Last night I watched a clip about wingsuit flying. The zippered outfit the participant wears looks like a squirrel disguise or bat disguise.

According to qualified instructors, you must have at least 200 hrs of free fall parachute jumps under your belt before you take wingsuit flyinglessons.

According to one expert and aficionado over 3000 people "fly" off mountains or any man made high edifice a year. 3% die.

One man in the clip is a professional skier who also is fearless flying in a wingsuit. When he was asked about the death of one of his jumping partners he said, "He didn't release his parachute early enough."

Just like that. Several other deaths occurred this year because flyers attempted to fly too close to cliffs.

It's also risky to write or take a stance or love—just a different type of risk. And it, too, is exhilerating.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


I forgot to look
behind the word
release, beyond
its dictionary meaning,
beyond the foreground
to see what it hid

When I stopped
dancing around,
pulling stories
like taffy to give
it girth and dimension
I found a simple meaning

It's about love.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A List From a List

I do enjoy lists. This time of year list making reaches new heights-- best new recipes, ten deepest places in the world, ten most fashionable pets this year, even the ugliest dog of the year. ( I watched an interview with the owner of a dog who held that position).

Because I like to follow links I jumped into the rabbit hole and emerged ensconced in a blog that purported to have amassed a list of " every online best" of books released this year. He does admit that he may have missed one or two.

A treasure trove of book possibilities awaited me, but who authored these lists? Some of the names were familiar , but most weren't. I don't troll around the Internet so I miss out on the discovery of blogs.

I sat down and randomly opened up a list and discovered treasures. I now have a list of books to discover, authors whose names are unfamiliar, and blogs I want to read.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thank You

Five years ago I taught an online writing workshop. Two of the people in the group, co-workers, came from Iowa—one wrote quite well and the other had stories to tell, but lacked the basic rudiments of writing. Initially, she felt ill at ease with a group that felt comfortable with writing—and were all college graduates.

She wrote and rewrote assignment after assignment and absorbed every suggestion. Each piece of writing improved.

A year after the workshop ended she wrote and told me that at the age of forty she was going back to college to earn a B.A. degree. A year after that she wrote to say that she selected a minor—creative writing.

Today an email arrived—she had graduated with a B.A. degree and two of her stories appeared in the college magazine. She's continuing on for a master's degree—in creative writing.

She thanked me for encouraging her—and it felt great. How often do I remember to thank someone who had helped me in the past?

When my father died the man who drove one of the cars to the cemetery told me that he had known my father.

"I attended elementary school in the Bronx and your father was the principal."

"I always wanted to thank him. I had stolen something from the local candy store and the police came to the school and were going to lead me outside to a patrol car. Your father wouldn't release me to the policeman so that all the kids could see me being led outside. He walked me out and we talked. The police didn't do anything except talk to me. Mr. Watskin made me his special helper for the rest of the year—and we talked a lot—about me, about baseball, and always about basketball. Sometimes even about school."

He continued the story telling me that his parents moved at the end of the year and later on he wanted to come back and thank my father—"You know how it is, time passes and you just don't get around to it. I drive for the funeral home and when I heard it was Mr.Watskin's funeral I had to be one of the drivers. "

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Searching for a Narrative Arc

Where is my narrative arc? Will there be a conclusion—an epiphany?

Conclusion —a temporal end, finale, finishing point.

Perhaps there is no ending, only some vague sense that there's been a shift.

I started in one place and find myself walking alongside the person who picked up the star. How can this possibly be? Ever look at yourself from another perch? It's informative.

No bells, no drum roll—not even drum majorettes twirling batons. Just one foot in front of another foot. Yet, I don't think I've squeezed release to its end. There's more to this word then my attachment or detachment.

And I don't have the ending—or even a sense of how to go about finding an ending and only a paltry number of days left.

I recall seeing Six Characters in Search of an Author. I am one wanderer, one author, in search of an ending. Or am I looking for a beginning?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


In the past week I feel like the long distance runner knowing the end is in sight. For me—365 days of writing about release. But that's not the end. It's the beginning.

No, I'm not intending to continue plodding on chasing release like a greyhound pursuing a mechanical rabbit. I think the act of releasing, or to release—is a continual cycle.

The question for everyone, for me, becomes one of peeling away the layers and levels of disclaimers before you reach the place where you engage.

I think of Korean fan dancers whose movements, shaped by politics and religion, is both elaborate and spontaneous. As the dancers move their painted fans create the illusion of flowers and blossoms.

Synchronize a line of dancers into a fantasy of one dancer and the flowing movements become one with a wave's repetition and undulation.

The audience engages with the wave, feels the energy and the repetition.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

the pastor said
come as you are
don't worry about
your style
come when you're
dragging mistakes
like millstones
come as you are
don't wait until
you release all doubt
Jesus is waiting

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Recipe for Seeing

release bias
that one-sided way
of looking at people
free yourself
of illusions
of carnival mirrors
that distort

Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Open Hand

It isn't that you let go of, release all hope. It isn't as if you accept that you may always hear things from afar.

Why advertise a grade B movie?

People become estranged for reasons that may contradict the reality and people become alienated from one another for reasons that carry weight—convey gravitas.

Acknowledging brokenness—accepting prayers may also mean recognizing the strength inherent in an open hand.

No thunder and lightening and perhaps not even a response.

Yet, lifted up—buoyed up.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


God is blessing
He's still blessing...

God is blessing...

right now...
—Jonathan Nelson

For the past year, save two weeks, I've been writing about one word—release. At times I thought I knew the road map, where I stood in the cartography of a seeker.

This afternoon I listened to a rousing rendition, a hand clapping interpretation of the song "God is Blessing". I heard the word release or released over and over. God releases his blessings.

Those blessings surround me each and every day—I just need to stop and listen.

How often do I take a moment to release a simple prayer of thanks for the ordinary everyday things in my life and for the moments of grace.

God releases His blessings and His grace. I can't barter for it or earn it. God releases his blessings, His grace, His love freely.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the minutia of the day and miss the blessings of the day.

God is blessing...right now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holy Places

My grandmother talked to God
like an old friend. She told him
what happened that day, who
needed help and how her varicose
veins throbbed. She excused God
when he didn't show up to help.
Sometimes she took out a prayer book,
started to read a prayer and then
stopped and began her dialogue
with God. I am more formal, picking
a time and place for prayer. I begin
with a salutation and end with a set
phrase. My grandmother released
her prayers whenever the spirit moved--
in the morning when she put on
her corset, in the kitchen plucking
chicken feathers, while crocheting
a tablecloth, or before going to sleep.
"God, " she told me, " listens.
You just can't hurry him."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Lottery

someone selects a
sequence of numbers
and it is exact

they win a cache
of millions

in the same breath
that announces
a winner,

a call
for unwrapped presents
for homeless children

a fire leaves
fourteen people homeless

a young man returns
home from a war
a hero buried
at nineteen

the news is released
and we listen
to stories

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To Mediate a Word

chasing after a word
expecting to find
a place to enter
to unearth
what it means

to parse each letter
to turn the word
upside down
inside out

to block out
to resolve
to bracket
to release

to grasp
the brass ring

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Myths and Stories

I notice a rather bedraggled man sitting at a table with a cup of coffee. He's not typical for that coffee house. Most of the customers look as if they can afford lattes and $7.95 sandwiches.

At one table a man types away on his laptop, at another table two men conduct a business meeting. Two coffees and muffins.

Four women converse. Four lunches and four drinks.

I am reading and enjoying a hot cup of herbal tea. Soon we'll order a sandwich.

This is the second day I've noticed him. He's stooped, unshaven, shuffles. It's snowing today and he is wearing layers—each layer worn and threadbare.

Usually I see him walking outside. Sometimes he's sitting on a bench staring at the ground.

It's cold and he has the money for a coffee. No one looks his way. It's almost as if he's invisible. He doesn't linger over his coffee. Uses the bathroom and then leaves.

He contains stories and a name.

We're all reams of stories. Occasionally the fictive and the real become twisted together. Did it happen that way? Is there another way to tell the story? Why do we tell two different versions?

To release one version and look at a story with a different lens means upending myths and standing naked. Then to put on a different garment—perhaps one that is a bit threadbare.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Racing to Tomorrow

If thou hast run with the footmen,
and they have wearied thee, then how canst
thou contend with horses?
-- Jeremiah 12:5

to race with shadows
to pursue a spectacle
set in the past
to tire performing
the same role
to suspend the cycle
before the end
is to release
a chance to cross
the finish line

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Oh for a Typewriter

Tonight we followed the directions our cable company sent out to increase our Internet speed. After doing everything we were told to do our printer simply refused to print.

Then began the calls to the cable company.
" We're an Internet company. We don't deal in printers."
" But we followed your directions."

Round and round we went. " I'll transfer you to someone who can help you."
That person repeated the mantra--" We're an Internet company and we don't know anything about printers."

After speaking to five different people and finally a supervisor the printer remains mute. Perhaps this is a message. Life is too full of wanting to move faster-- slow down, slow down. Is this a signal to us? Is life moving too fast? Do we need to increase everything to supersonic levels?

I'd like to be released from this quandary of going around in circles with the Internet company.  Actually I'd like to have a printer that prints.

Tomorrow I'll call the company that made the printer. Perhaps the printer is tired, worn out and wanting to retire. Perhaps it's a metaphor.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

We all bear responsibility. It's too simple, too easy to assume it's always the other. To own one's part in this play, to wipe away the scenes that don't fit into our understanding of the ending is to blind oneself to reality.

It always takes two. I said, you said. I did. You did.

Forgiveness means wading across a crevasse—
Forgiveness includes forgiving the other and forgiving yourself—

But first one needs to dig deep and unearth the words said or unsaid, the actions done or undone.

To release the past and move on means looking in the mirror and responding to the image.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Seasons of waiting
Years of expectation
Yet, nothing stirs
beyond hope
That sliver

To abandon
that faith,
to release
any shred
isn't possible

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Past is Past

Yesterday evening our refrigerator began to exhibit symptoms of age. First, the frozen food began to thaw, then water appeared on packages. The blueberry pouches turned squishy. We dumped everything-- including some leftover dishes.

This morning the milk container felt decidedly warmer than last night. Everything in the fridge turned cool, rather than cold. We checked the date of purchase and accepted the fact-- age. Our refrigerator lost its youth and middle age.

This morning we purchased a new refrigerator.
"They don 't make that color anymore. "
" Black, white, or stainless steel?"

Outdated. We're outdated. In fact by looking at the color of our appliances we fit into specific eras. What happened to forever? What happened to for all seasons?

Antiquated. Our color is over the hill.

Perhaps when new colors are released next year our black refrigerator will be deemed out if date.

It's an insidious example of ageism.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Eat one chocolate, nibble on one cookie, one slice of pie—it’s a downward tumble. Sugar captivates. It takes prisoners, luring them on with “ just another”, “this will be my last.” Soon one cookie won’t suffice, one chocolate seems paltry, and how can you refuse another slice of homemade pie?

Peanuts also exact the same servile deference. Dipping a hand into the bag of peanuts means emerging with a fistful of peanuts. Cracking each shell to reach the nut enhances the pleasure—working for your palette’s delight.

I just received an email invitation to a Christmas open house —with an attachment listing the menu. Reading the list sent me into a delirium of expectation and released me from harboring any false thoughts of dieting that day. The hostess loves to cook and is especially able with luscious cakes and divine cookies. Her fig and Brie cheese reaches a heavenly status.

Cooking exquisite looking desserts isn’t my forte. Over the years I did bake a credible cheesecake —actually a fine cheesecake. Once I started reading nutritional guidelines and what to avoid my cheesecake minus the sugar, real butter, sour cream, and graham crackers lost appeal. Bare bones no sugar cheesecake made from drained tofu doesn’t equate to a culinary highlight.

Once I baked a package marble cake and smeared it with icing from a can. Passable.

Once when Elyse was a freshman in high school she surprised me with a birthday party— for two. My teaching job ended at three and given light traffic I walked in the house at 3:45.

The day of my birthday Elyse arrived home an hour and a half earlier, set the table for two—with birthday plates and napkins. She baked a white cake— and covered it with a milk chocolate frosting. Pink and white striped candles circled around the top.

“It’s tilted to the right,” she said. “I tried to cut it down on the left side so it didn’t sit lopsided, but that made it look as if it would topple.”

We sat down and ate large portions of the almost toppled cake. I think I told her what a wonderful surprise and how perfect the cake turned out.

I’m not sure why I recall the incident as tinged with sadness.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unbridled Criticism

My list of movies grows and then shrinks. When a critic waxes on and on about the movie I add it to my list. A poor review means a red line. How dependent I am on words.

In time I learn whose taste is simpatico with my assessment of a movie. We lock in and I am dependent on this person or persons.

Of course some publications favor a particular style and sneer at certain motifs.

Certainly some directors speak to me and I'm willing to see any of their movies, even the disasters.

To know that words sway must also mean that my words don't drop into a vacuum without creating some effect. How often we release words that reverberate for years and years.

Monday, December 09, 2013

My Turn

Flannery O'Connor yearned to be a mystic, if not a mystic then a good writer. .

Once I ached with a desire to publish long literary novels. I gave up when I realized that I didn't enjoy reading ponderous novels that meandered for hundreds of pages.

Then I developed a fondness for poetry and imagined hard back poetry books lined up in an oak bookcase. My poems never made it beyond chap books and journals-- never hardback.

I hankered after publishing houses rather than self-publishing. I wanted to read glorious reviews in well read publications.

In time I settled for short stories in journals and poems in anthologies. Not top of the line publications-- mid-range types.

I've never wanted to be a mystic, or seer, or even a secular person seeped in the skills of prestidigitation.

God didn't ignore my wants, just channeled them. I taught. I read the writings of others. It's odd the way God's agenda doesn't always align with my plans.

But that doesn't mean that my plans need to be scrapped, just modified. I release into the universe my own machinations.

And I continue to write short pieces and poetry hoping that they form a cohesive pattern. When that happens I'll put it all together and remind God that it's my turn to do it my way-- but I'd like a little help.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Archeology of Release

...I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God
burnt offerings that cost me nothing.
—2 Samuel 24:24

what cost
to delve
into a word
to unwrap
to stare
to wonder
how long

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Looking to Exhale

And it was too late. No one wants
to believe something is too late, but
it is always becoming too late, and
then it is.
—Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys

What do you say
is it too late to mend
what's tattered, too late
to change, pick untried
words, dance
instead of shuffling
What do you say
is it too late
to release
what's held in

Friday, December 06, 2013

No Changes Possible

Memories kept as souvenirs
in leather bound albums
keep time at bay
and release
the present
to a time
in the future

Thursday, December 05, 2013


Some days are meant for eating anything and everything without a concern about checking labels, counting calories, and worrying about that extra pound. You release all the prohibitions and indulge.

Today we ate a falafel sandwich in a pita—combined with diced vegetables, hummus, and tahini sauce as the last topping. Following that we walked over to the bakery and ordered a large elephant ear stuffed with baked apple slices—under a blanket of sugar.

My son, who once only loved hot dogs, is now a vegan—at least for the present time. What foods does my daughter love to eat? Does she bake bread or cookies for her family? Is she a vegetarian? Does she use a juicer? Does she listen to music when she cooks? Does she collect recipes, own cookbooks, watch cooking shows?

My mother loved white fish and salmon. My father and I both ate cold cereal and three minute eggs for breakfast. My grandmother Yette baked honey cake and served it with cream cheese. My grandmother Cecile cooked the lightest potato latkes. When she removed them from the oil she placed them on a brown paper bag and said, “Let them drain.”

My daughter once made ratatouille with me. We added all the bits and pieces of left over vegetables to our zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and onion mixture. We made enough for two nights and then some.

My mother loved to have coffee out—usually with a danish. I am always reading or writing in a coffee house—drinking either ice decaf or herbal tea. Did that gene for coffee houses pass down to my daughter?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

You Can't Replace Everything

Mozart provides a backdrop. The walls contain memories.

Straight ahead I contemplate a woven piece brought back from a trip taken to India by my son David and his wife Peggy. "It's an old piece-- note the small mirror."

When we went to Cleveland for the birth of our first grandchild, David gave us a painting done by a Navaho medicine man. " To keep you well and release any harmful spirits."

I did the small weaving. Shells Incorporated into the varied shades of wool yarn remind me of my times at the ocean. These shells, collected by my friend Jean and her three boys, once hung on a necklace. The summer before Elyse turned ten she made three or four necklaces. For years the one she made for me hung on a nail until it simply fell apart.

A photo of the Taj Mahal at sundown, a page out of an early McGuffey reader, and a photo of the merry-go-round on Martha's Vineyard all share a space over a bookcase. David and Peggy spent a year traveling the year after he decided that the financial world wasn't his bailiwick . A man who ran a used bookstore gave me the McGuffey page, " It's not worth much, but I know how much you love books." I took the photo of the merry-go-round.

I'll not turn around to describe all the photos and places behind me save for a missing piece. I once collected unicorns. A unicorn Elyse gave me stood on the bookcase. It's been gone for years.

I look around the room- a cup and saucer from my mother's collection, a prayer book belonging to both my parents, and mementoes from friends. David's photos and gifts and a unicorn that no longer is here.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Rein in those Words

I request ten books. Five arrive at the same time and I want to read each one—but three are new books and renewing any new books might be problematic. I sign up for an online art course, which requires an hour of time every evening for two weeks. I write a post every evening.

Something’s wrong with this picture. Did I really need to request all those books? I need to keep a list.

Perhaps I need to release myself from the desire to always have enough books so that I won’t run out of reading material. What would happen if I didn’t get to read one of the books? Request it again—in several weeks.

Just because you get the Sunday Times doesn’t mean that it’s necessary to read the help wanted section—although that is interesting. I imagine I can eliminate the real estate section.

Then when will I get to The New York Review of Books? Too many words hanging around this house. Writer’s Chronicle remains on the kitchen table—available for a glimpse over cold cereal. Sometimes I think Long Journalism is an excuse for some writers to turn an article into a novella. Other times I enjoy the pace and the depth of content.

Words, let loose—and that is the problem.

Monday, December 02, 2013


they form
a circle of eight hands
and pray

they dip
pita in grape juice
consecrated on Sunday

a room
in a nursing home
transformed by words
and Spirit,
released from ordinary
into Holy Space

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Question

When I first started writing a daily post for release I didn't think about where it might lead. Just write a piece each day. Writing is that way. You start writing and off you go discovering hidden places and strange connections.

How did I get here? I never intended to arrive on this shore—but here I am. Today I reread some posts from early on and it's obvious that my pieces covered multiple subjects. Then as the months passed I returned or turned to particular subjects.

I realized that the word release belonged to me. My random selection of that particular star with the word release written on the back might be termed a pointer. A year isn't too long to wander about.

This is the year of the cone—in the beginning, or the top of an inverted cone— my writings reflected what I read, heard, thought about. Eclectic. As months passed the subjects narrowed down and a single strand kept pushing into view.

A puzzle, an enigma, an unraveling of words and a walking toward something. All journeys come to a terminus. I am close , but not there yet.

Will I recognize the last post? Some books end abruptly without any conclusion. The narrative arc doesn't come down. Am I an unreliable narrator of the past?

Are we unreliable narrators of our past or people who see through our own lenses?