Friday, February 28, 2014

On Exhibit

an artist
carves a watch dial
surrounded by petunia petals
held up by an oak stem painted green
and plants it in on a wood base

the museum guard
waters it daily

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Of Vampires

Aided by the cold temperatures, talk of more snow the beginning of next week, and a day filled with things you don't want to do—but accomplish anyway, I succumbed to sloth.

Instead of reading something worthwhile, a book that would make me think and expand my boundaries, I picked up a supernatural thriller—667 pages of roaring narrative that included classic vampires and a quest to find a specific book. Of course there are those who thwart that quest.

The story wends its way through one complication after another, through miraculous and heroic escapes from legendary demons and some newly created monsters.

This escapade so grabbed my attention that I opened a forty year old wood TV table, spread a napkin over the stained top, placed my plate and a book to raise the level of my book and read and ate.

I left one of the main characters in a tense situation with no way out—at the moment.Now with only 124 pages to go I must get back to the book. The second book in the series is out, but I'll wait until the paperback edition in May. Then I'll put it on my shelf and wait until the third or fourth day of a heat wave and then slip into sloth again.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Words, Words and More Words

Magazines and newspapers attempt to lure new subscribers by offering either a free subscription for a limited number of weeks or a significantly reduced subscription price. How, they ask, can you refuse to take advantage of this offer?

During the winter when the cold and snow causes some of us to dream of spring and short sleeves —the offers multiply. The days are shorter and the time indoors tends to lengthen and the resolve to spurn the seductive offers of magazines for free or costing "practically nothing" compared to the newsstand price—falters.

That's how I ended up with a plethora of unread magazines. Three arrived within days of one another. The covers screamed at me with enticing stories—how could I refuse to read about corruption at the highest level, how to avoid writer's block, essays on craft by well known writers, the Chinese economy, global warming and several stories depicting the moral decay of our civilization as well as the demise of manners.

At one point, during the dead of winter, I succumbed to an offer of ten weeks of The New York Times for a mere five dollars a week. Two days after saying "Yes, Yes, I want to take advantage of your generous offer"—how could I refuse when I had learned as a student how to fold the Times so that you read a quarter of a page at a time as you rode the subway—the paper arrived.

Each morning three papers arrived, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe. At first I attempted to read all the international news in all three papers. This I thought, especially after reading the editorials in all three papers, gives me a broad perspective.

By the end of the second week I dreaded opening the front door and finding the papers in their gaudy plastic protective bags. I thought about getting up earlier and leaving before the papers arrived. If I didn't peruse the papers I felt a numbing sense of guilt.

Finally —an epiphany. I called the Times. "I am appreciative of your generous offer," I said, " but please stop delivering the paper." They stopped, but keep emailing me offers to begin again.

I did think that close encounter cured me. I wanted my world back—books to read that allowed me to select my topic, wallow in someone's story, follow an intelligence officer through a treacherous encounter with a foreign spy intent on infiltrating the highest level of our security, being a fly on the wall of an intrepid adventurer, checking out a vegan menu and philosophy, or reading Moby Dick for the third time.

Then an offer arrived from The Atlantic—free for a month or was it ten issues? How could I refuse. Now I'm faced with "Letting Go of Aspergers", "Burmese Daze" and "The Aliens Next Door" —‚ as well as the other articles, letters to the editor, wordy advertisements.

Then there are the three other monthly magazines vying for my attention. Perhaps I should give up on another reading of Moby Dick.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Step Right Up

Why is it that so many ads for medication appear on television? In a half hour, while attempting to watch the international news, I heard three or four advertisements for —cholesterol reducing pills, a drug to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis, a pill for those who suffered from an overactive bladder, and a little pill that guaranteed men the ability to be "ready" any time.

After lauding the benefits of a particular drug —a voice, full of concern and not to unduly alarm anyone, lists all the possible , albeit rare side effects. The litany of side effects usually includes this statement, "even death—although rare". The list always includes liver failure, rash, swelling of the tongue, throat or lips and anything lasting more than four hours.

Then the voice reminds you to call your doctor if you experience any of these "rare" side effects. And since you can't go into your local pharmacy and prescribe for yourself the voice asks you to ask your doctor if "...." is right for you.

Often a film clip accompanies the voice. We see someone who barely lifts themselves out of a chair— now gardening, ferociously turning over the soil, after taking the aforementioned drug.

A man looks lovingly at his wife and then they retire into the house—sometimes they are seated on a dock, or having a romantic dinner—always by candlelight.

A woman walks down the street. She's wearing high heels and looks so happy because she is freed from the necessity of staying close to home.

And on and on it goes—happy people trilling their way through another advertisement.

I admit I did order something I "first saw" on television. When you walk on the treadmill early in the morning the pickings are slim. I bought furniture cleaner because the voice said it restored wood back to —its primal state. No warnings issued forth and the shipping was free.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Haute Fashion

I'm glad that my invitation to the Academy Awards didn't arrive. The Post Office sometimes loses mail. What in my closet might be appropriate? Perhaps one of the two black cords I've alternated this entire winter—with time in between for laundering.

This winter I retired my fleece tops for four turtle neck tops and a light fleece vest—black, blue or green. My winter shoes—heavy, waterproof shoes or high boots when appropriate.

I do own a pair of church pants—different black cords or brown cords.

I can't wear one of those flouncy dresses, or a dress that plunges—not because of modesty, but I'd get too cold. I turned my ankle when I attempted to walk on anything higher than my winter shoes.

As for jewelry—there's my southwestern bear on a chain, a tree of life, and several beaded necklaces strung on heavy duty dental floss.

Fashion changes and my style may be in next year—

Sunday, February 23, 2014


What is community? I know the typical answers, but I think in the age of technology we need a new response. I read of one individual who proclaimed that his community existed within the confines of a particular video game. He's a character and feels connected to other characters-- all of whom are played by real people who reside somewhere in the world.

Another person said that their on line friends were their community. Perhaps we need to broaden the scope of what it means to be part of a community.

Occasionally, when I become immersed in a book, the characters within that book become completely real. Of course when I put the book down I move on to other communities.

I once knew someone who played the part of a medieval princess in a dramatic re-enactment of that time period. Her group met several times a year and each person played one role for an entire weekend. In real life, or what we call reality, the princess had a low paying job, wore baggy clothes and never wore make-up.

As a princess she wore a dress fit for a princess. It wasn't as if she lost fifty pounds to play the part, but it didn't matter. Her dress-- part of the wardrobe belonging to the group-- enabled her to move into a totally new persona.

I recall her saying that for one weekend every three months she became herself. Her community embraced the princess.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

On a Warm Winter Day

The sun strips snow
from tree trunks,
a rock rises,
bushes begin a slow
ascension toward spring

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Complaint

I don't want to complain, but...

We don't need anymore damp, dank, dark days.
We absolutely do not want, or need, anymore snow.
I am tired of seeing dirty snow.
I am tired of meteorologists who err.
When will we see a break in this pattern?
When will the first flower break through the ground?

I don't want to complain even--even if I sound like a crumudgeon I'm ready to move on-- to spring.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Gift of a Day

The sun came out. The temperature went-up. The snow began to melt. The puddles grew larger and deeper. Icicles melted. All is good; however, before I sound too elated I must deal with reality. Melting piles of snow that resemble small mountains or mesas—depending on the plow driver or the inclination of the shoveler—need time to reveal what is on the bottom.

Today I walked through puddles with my waterproof boots, splashed a bit when I erred on the depth of the water, and forgot that water dripping off roofs or awnings is cold.

I sat and read in my car at Starbucks because the sun lit me up and I felt my bones warming. First, I threw my coat in the backseat and then I added a vest. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself in short sleeves.

Then I made a mistake—I listened to the news and the weather report. Tomorrow the sun will vie with rain and next week the cold is back and snow has not made its last appearance.

But this morning the sun and higher temperatures reminded me that everything is cyclical. During the dog days of summer I'll probably complain about the heat and humidity, but for now I'm grateful for this day—drops, puddles, mounds and all.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Of Punctuation Marks

Oh to be a fact checker and privy to arcane minutia or to verify well known facts. How often does the reclusive checker find an error—or a fact half correct and receive any accolades for the find? Or is it all in a day's labor?

I am not a nit picker. I don't look for errors or partial truths, but I occasionally stumble over sloppy reporting of a detail. Yesterday while reading a mystery one character said to the other character—"Manutius's invention—the semi-colon."

Let me set the stage—today was inclement, snowy, raw, and one of many we've had this winter. I was delighted to look into the history of the semi-colon. It seems that in 1494, Aldus Manutius, an Italian printer, "added the semi-colon to a Roman typeface." I noted the word—added, not invented ; he simply added the semicolon to a font.

To give Manutius his due—according to writings in the National Library of Scotland—he was a scholar who printed manuscripts he himself edited, or translated from Latin or Greek. To some lovers of books he "liberated" books from private or cloistered studies into the everyday world.

Early on he printed the entire works of Aristotle—first printed edition.

Slater magazine says that Aldus "revived" the semicolon.

Thus far I haven't found any use of Interrobangs—which is a nonstandard punctuation mark. It's useful for those people who want to end a sentence with both a question and an exclamation mark. It may be printed side by side or as a combined symbol.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Translation Necessary

I'm about to begin reading a new author, a translation from Italian into English. What am I missing-- nuances, the rhythm of sentences, the way one word prods another word. Someone once said that there are really two authors of any book and especially of any poem that requires a translation.

But this is a mystery. Mysteries fit in with, yet another snowy day. It is set in Florence, a city I visited between my junior and senior year in college. I ate pasta at a student place and stayed in a hostel. I recall long walks, the Arno River, listening to the monks pray the Gregorian chants at San Miniato al Monte. Their voices transported the words, out of the church. I sat outside listening while I looked down at Florence. The chant surrounded me, included me in the presence of the holy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Landscape Includes the blade of grass...

Often I'll be reading an article or a book and one line or phrase will simply stand out, speak to me. The words will begin a domino effect, one thought somersaulting into another thought.

I read the words " landscape of experience" somewhere and those three words keep echoing in my mind. On one level it reminds me that a landscape is like a collage-- the whole made of myriad parts. Each part separate, but together they form the scene.

Everything that rubs against me adds to my landscape. And it isn't only those things I choose to see, read, hear, partake in, or touch. Everything that happens that I 'm privy to or become a reluctant observer peoples my landscape.

Listening to the news, reading an editorial, watching a child catch snowflakes, hearing about another act of violence, reading a poem, all add to that landscape.

My birthplace in a city, living in a small apartment, sledding down alleyways, playing hopscotch on concrete, losing a pink spaldeen ball in a sewer, living next door to a man who won a car for a limerick he wrote, having a friend who played the violin have the pads of her fingers cut by a man who was declared mentally incompetent, winning a golf key in the scholastic art competition, sitting on a knoll in the summer, sitting on the edge of a kiva listening to the silence, reading a description of the horrific effects of a blaze, becoming lost in a quagmire , listening to voices singing a hymn, seeing hours and hours of visuals depicting disasters, hearing the words-- I love you.

Sitting in the coffee house observing --

Sunday, February 16, 2014

High Fashion

Who buys the outrageous styles that push the boundaries of common attire? Perhaps I am on the conservative side. Perhaps in the winter I like to wear cords, turtle necks, and comfortable shoes everywhere. In the summer I simply wear lighter fabrics and sneakers.

Conservative in some areas, moderate in others, and completely liberal in other areas. I expect that we all move along that continuum. I worry when people accept and decree only one label as sufficient definition. It narrows the view of another.

So a toast to all those who want to and can wear the most way out clothing. Strut. Wiggle. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Audience

Whenever there's the possibility of a lazy day I find myself desiring a number of books. Perhaps out of the four I took out of the library today one will propel me to another place.

And what is captivating today will feel ordinary on another day. How difficult it is for the writer to assume what his audience will fancy at any given time. We change with the seasons, with events, even with the news.

Late this afternoon I found myself drawn to a mystery. Yesterday I finished a book set in a Shaker community. Perhaps tomorrow I' ll find myself adrift in short fiction or poetry.

Now I read once that you should write the book you would want to read. Perhaps that's why I've never written anything longer than a short story. I change every day.

Friday, February 14, 2014

You Have a Telegram

According to the people who know-- that is the Greeting Card Association-- about one billion valentine cards are sent world wide. Has anyone counted the email greeting cards?

According to other pundits 1.1 billion boxed Valentine's Day chocolates will be sold in the U.S. What about loose chocolates? A truffle or turtle attached to a card.

According to Statistic Brain, 196 million roses will be "produced" for Valentine's Day.

34% of people celebrate by dining out. Does that include fast food restaurants or only tony establishments?

I didn't find any statistics for Valentine Day balloons. And you can still get a Singing Telegram in Boston. Of course it's updated and doesn't actually involve a telegram.

But if you want to send a real telegram there's one place that states that they are the only " telegraph company legally operating in the United States."

They " physically hand deliver the telegram" to the intended party. However, if you wish you can have a phoned in telegram which is read to the recipient or a singing telegram.

Perhaps next year I'll send my Valentine a singing telegram-- or I could record my message and send it via email, but why not try for the retro feel to Valentin's Day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


On November 19, 2013 the Oxford Dictionary selected Selfie as their international word of the year. What does that mean? Does it simply mean a word that has so infiltrated our vocabulary and everyday usage that we embrace it as the new word for the year?

It took selfie eleven years to go from being used on an online forum in Australia to a mainstream phenom. Of course during that span of time the widespread use of smartphone cameras and social media took giant steps. A certain segment of the population detail their every move on Instagram or Facebook. And of course you want your photo in front of every place you visit, or with every friend, or while immersed in what you are immersed in at that particular moment.

I do own an ITouch and do take photos, but not selfies. Today, another snowy day—presented the perfect time for me to take some selfies. A day to join the march toward embracing this international word of the year—albeit a bit late.

After posing in front of the snow laden deck, the completely covered steps, my refrigerator and an African basket, I will leave selfies to those double jointed long-armed people who manage not to look completely self-conscious while smiling and taking their own photo.

I expect that there is someone somewhere who is taking a photo of themselves every five minutes. I know there is—The 365 feminist selfie project— for "women and girls" to take one selfie a day for a year.

Perhaps I need to be less self-conscious about— wrinkles.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Few Questions?

How many people actually cook the same recipe they watched a cook prepare on a cooking channel?

How many people bought the ingredients and got no further?

What keeps people glued to the weather forecast when the meteorologists haven't changed the prediction?

What prevents someone from not finishing a book they are not enjoying?

Who will cross the aisle in our Congress?

Who will create the largest pizza? They have to beat five Italian chefs whose pizza measured 131 feet in diameter and weighed over 51,000 pounds.

Who wrote the longest sentence?

Some people answer the question of who wrote the longest sentence in English by writing their own sentence—often a run-on. If we only include literary personalities with known and accepted work, James Joyce garners top honors. One sentence contains 4,391 words. Of course he was the master of conscious stream of thought.

The New Literary Magazine says that Joyce's sentence was surpassed by Joanathan Coe's book, The Rotter's Club—one sentence of 13,955 words.

And we haven't looked at the longest sentence in languages other than English.

Imagine losing the sense of the sentence mid-way through—and beginning again?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Museum of the Future

Doing my standing exercises while listening to public radio allowed me to start my day thinking about something I didn’t know before I stood on one leg for thirty seconds.

Someone who is worth several billion dollars started a new media publication—for the digital age. I’m not certain whether I was stunned by how one amasses that much money or how the “old fashioned” paper will one day be a museum relic.

Of note—a recent book tells a story about a relationship that grows out of emails. Not so long ago another book told a story about a relationship forged through letters between a bookstore owner and a discerning reader.

I expect the museum of the future will contain artifacts that will include letters—meanwhile I should write a letter to the one person I know who refuses to succumb to the allure of quick notes as text or email.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What to Add What to Subtract

It's easy to load up your plate with " places to go and things to do" without stopping to ask if you really want all those sweet confections. But, you say, what does an empty or sparse plate indicate? Isn't there a middle ground?

I like short term projects and not so many that I'm giving each one a cursory glance before I need to move n to the next item on my list.

I do like variety. And what does that mean? That's the rub.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Not Just a Book

Ever hop from one reading to the next? So much to read and everything of interest. For thirty minutes I resided in a small town in Poland looking over the shoulder of the chief policeman attempting to solve a complex murder case. What was of interest to me was the way the author delves into the past and how it marks the present day Poland. Because he's Polish and writes in his native language I am more apt to believe his assessment of present day Poland.

My maternal grandmother immigrated from Poland when she was seventeen. She passed through Ellis Island before settling in the Lower East Side where she had relatives. I know that she spoke no English when she arrived. She, like many other young women, found employment in what became known as the sweat shops. My mother told me that my grandmother Yette worked a treadle sewing machine for ten hours a day.

She never spoke about Poland. I don't know the name of her place of birth. My mother said it didn't survive the war.

After the mystery...more books, other stories.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


It's light outside—time 5:15 PM. There's a disconnect between the cold weather and the light. I'm ready for spring, but spring has its own mind. Some things you can't push or cajole. It's best to just accept the inevitable—despite our technology, theories, plaintive cries—we can't move winter along. It needs to play itself out.

I'll wait, perhaps not patiently. I'll dream about the warmth of the sun and promise I won't complain when it gets too hot and humid. Meanwhile I'll enjoy the crisp cold weather and turn the thermostat up a notch.

Friday, February 07, 2014

The Return

I love a pageant and the opening ceremony of the Olympics fits the bill. In order to get myself into the Russian mood I went to the Museum of Russian Icons yesterday.

Perhaps icons painted in the 1500s—and even earlier don't speak to present day Russia, but perhaps they do.

"... a radiant image of the mother of enchanted Ivan the Terrible ..(that)he built a monastery" for the icon. The Virgin of Tikhvin was considered a protector of the nation since the 14th century.

Because of decades of persecution against the people and the Russian Orthodox Church The Virgin of Tikhvin was spirited out of the monastery after World War II. It remained in the United States, (Chicago) until 2004 when the climate in Russia made it possible for its return.

I watched a video of the icon's return. Just as thousands turned out for the triumphant return of the idol tens of thousands upon tens of thousands descended upon Sochi, Russia to watch the Olympics return to Russia. In 1980 Russia hosted its first Olympics.

"On Christmas Eve 1979, Soviet troops... poured into Afghanistan."

The international community was infuriated and President Carter urged the U.S.Olympic Committee to bow out of the Olympics. They did along with 65 other countries.

Today more countries are competing in the Winter Olympics than ever before—eighty-eight countries, twelve new competitions.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

It 's All About Setting

I just read an article about a sixteen year old who circumnavigated the world in a sailboat-- solo. At the age of ten she sailed across the English Channel by herself. She was born on a boat which may explain her affinity for boats.

I was born in a large city hospital. My parents always lived in apartments in buildings of at least six stories. When they purchased a condo unit the building had eight floors. Despite my connection to apartments I was able to successfully transition to a house and townhouse condo. Although I do have an yearning for the feel of concrete underfoot.

A friend of mine who had moved east from Kansas and lived in these parts for twenty years left word that when she died she wanted to return to Kansas. When she died she returned to a hill overlooking farm land.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Snow Day

It snowed most of the day although the size of flakes toward late afternoon diminished. How can piles of snow consume so much time? Everything is in the timing. If you go out too soon you'll double the amount of time needed to brush the snow off your car.

We live in a condo development so shoveling the walkways or driveways is left up to the association. But you are responsible for getting your car out of its designated parking spot so that when the plow arrives you are out. Fortunately when I leave my spot I can park on the side of the road--still within the condo confines.

Sometimes the plow drivers can't help piling the snow in front of your car meaning that getting a car out entails shoveling. If you own a gas guzzler with big wheels getting out is usually only a matter of bullying your way over and through the snow. If you own a sedan with decent mileage getting out always entails shoveling.

What I do like about snowy days is the spirit of camaraderie.

We bought snow brums-- yes, that is the correct spelling. It's an incredible broom that pushes the snow off a car. It is made of " high grade durable foam and cross linked polyethylene." While one neighbor shoveled out my wheels which were buried in deep snow, I snow brushed another neighbor's car. He had a knee replacement earlier this week.

The same shoveling neighbor raked roofs. The plow came and shoveled our parking spots and we all moved back into our designated spots and our designated homes.

More snow is predicted for the weekend when camaraderie will once again appear. It's a seasonal event.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Potlucks of the Past

Potluck, that peculiar meal where everyone brings something and you hope for a melding of taste. Or you may delight in a wild array of fanciful dishes.

My book group held a once a year potluck. Despite dividing the twenty people into appetizer, main dishes, salads and desserts we always managed to find people migrating from their assignment. After several years it became apparent-- lasagna, in it's various guises, appeared frequently.

One year a number of people requested that we mention the " please don't cook items" or if you must cook them include a label so that those who eschewed sugar, dairy, any animal with eyes, and whatever was being boycotted that moment-- anywhere in the world will know what to avoid.

The lasagnas kept coming, but now we had the tofu variety.

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Intrepid Adventurer

I love looking forward to the Olympics. Where else can I experience so many vicarious thrills. I'll never set foot on a ski jump or race around on skis packing a rifle , or is it a bow? I can't even visualize racing down those hills or skiing backwards while defying the speed of light.

And my figure skating skills never went beyond lacing up skates and going round and round in circles on the Wollman Rink in Central Park.

Every four years I marvel at the sheer bravery of the Olympians who settle themselves into a luge-- feet first, and hurl themselves down a track at speeds occasionally exceeding 150 mph. Hair pin turns and riding half- way up the side of the track simply propel them to push faster and faster. I enjoy sleds on bunny hills.

Perhaps it's age that makes me consider all the risks, but for a number of days I'll put on my helmet, seat belt in, sharpen my winter boots, and exalt in the thrill of daring the universe. And to think that I've avoided the years of practice and the tired muscles and injuries.

I'll hang onto ski poles, strap on skates, bend in two to get into a sled, and partake of the Olympics. You'll recognize me-- short, layers of clothing, a fur lined hat, and wearing a perpetual expression of both fear and delight for the ride.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

To One Not Named

Coleridge wrestled with the concept of imagination and it's relation to the world-- both concrete and spiritual. He sought unity between the world of senses and the world of the spirit.

Perhaps " imaginative reconciliation" is that process where unity becomes a possibility.

I'll borrow the phrase and turn it to my own ends. Imaginative conjures up an inventive state --perhaps illusory, perhaps fertile, perhaps chimerical. It may also be original, creative, even mythic.

Reconciliation brings to mind forgiveness, absolution, pardon. It also carries a framework of accommodation, of peace offering, of an olive branch. The effect may be a consonance-- the awareness of congruity.

If, after decades, we sat down to talk and spread out the shawl we once wove and removed lines of yarn then stepped back to look at the lines we left-- could we imagine a different pattern?

And if so is forgiveness possible?

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Eve Before the Big Game

Is it the hype? Perhaps I simply enjoy watching the Super Bowl. Maybe I like the idea of appetizers—guacamole, sliced up carrots and celery—hummus and wine. Maybe I enjoy speculating about who will win, thinking about who deserves to win, reading and listening to the human interest stories.

There's something about the spectacle—even the weather gets into the picture. Who plays best in what conditions? What does Las Vegas think? What are the odds for each team?

Then there are the questions posed this week—and answered and answered by analysts and couch potatoes. Are they only guessing? Do they have an inside track?

Who will fumble? Who will take their eye off the ball? Who will run the wrong route? Who will throw a pass between defenders for a bulls eye? Who will intercept the football? Who will carry the ball over and over? Who will dance in the end zone?

What advertisement will get my vote? Will the talking turtles be back? How will I rate the half-time show?

Today we bought the fixings for minestrone soup because we can prepare it way before the game. Our neighbor invited us to a Super Bowl party, but this year the Patriots aren't in the Super Bowl and a large party doesn't seem appropriate.

Besides there's something about your own refrigerator and having the freedom to talk to the television, to analyze the plays—even when you only understand a smattering of football logistics. If I yell—"call a flea flicker," no one will say, "why now?"