Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ah, Bruce Willis, Where Are Ye?

More on Fanny and Alexander

What my husband has against Fanny and Alexander, other than it’s three-and-a-half hours long without a single machine gun going off once: fantasy. He has nothing against Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, the vampire movie, because he says it’s clear all the fantasy is happening in the character’s head. I'll have to take his word about Hour of the Wolf. We started it after dark, and Bergman toward bedtime puts me to sleep as surely as the violins in Ken Burns' The Civil War.

But here (spoiler ahead)…Fanny and Alexander are rescued by a magical Jew who lives in a magical house. The wicked stepfather is killed in a housefire. The children and the mother are reunited with their loving family. Alexander is walking down the hall, and the stepfather comes up behind him and strikes him down. “You’ll never escape me,” the man says before disappearing into a side room.

Oh, Ingmar, we are always haunted by the past.

It has been said Ingmar made this movie of the loving family because someone told him he never made happy movies.

My husband says Alexander never left the bishop’s austere house, that the happy scenes were in the boy’s head; that instead of being a slap-happy ghost, the bishop was the reality. Once my writer’s group talked about a short story, The Sorrowful Woman. On my way home that night, I wondered what would happen if I ever had a completely happy day (I tend to be rather intense). I would have to kill myself, I thought, because I would then know what happiness was and I would know it would never happen again. So I wrote The Joyful Woman, a story about a woman who realized what happiness was. At the end of the story she was driving up the mountain, and it was like she was driving into the face of the moon. (I wanted to put Elvis in there, but I couldn’t work it out.) Only I knew she was actually launching herself off the side of that mountain, though later a member of the group wrangled it out of me. “I’ll never ask you how you think of your ideas again,” she said, horrified between the disparity of the feeling of love the story conveyed, and what actually went on in my head. Oh, Ingmar, challenged to give us a happy movie, is my husband right, did you pull a Joyful Woman on us all?

So, I ask my husband (not Ingmar)…can not Ingmar be conveying that we have these factual incidents that happen, and then we use them to create the fantasy life we are living?

Don’t give me that psychological mumbledy-jumble, he told me.

No. Give him Die Hard. It’s got lots of machine guns.


A Course in Miracles says this world is a dream of judgment—judging is how we keep the dream going while we are asleep to our Reality. It also says the memory of God returns to the quiet mind, and that if we ever stop judging, we will awaken. Nice. But it hasn’t happened to me. Maybe because (and the following is the condensed version, believe me):

Today while I was walking the dogs, a man turned the corner. He carried an umbrella. A strange, anxious man talking to himself. I know who this man is, and I knew he would not look at me, we would not greet. I thought if I did not know him, I would be afraid of him, but I did know him. He is, in fact, a cousin to my cousin’s husband. I thought how strange that my cousin, who is not from here, married a man who is also not from here, and how I was not from here, but the husband’s cousin was from here, and now I am from here and how often I see the husband’s cousin, scurrying down the road and talking to himself. I thought how often in my family I feel as if I am from a foreign country and do not know the nuances of the language, and that this is not how I thought it would be when I was young, a pup in a tumbling litter, and how sometimes that makes me sad. I thought of my child who also knew the husband’s cousin, and how the husband’s cousin irritated my child, who once talked about it to my cousin and her husband, who seemed uncomfortable with my child's story, and how the cousin and her husband had never been around the husband’s cousin as much as my child had, so how would they know, but still you do not talk about people’s relatives, no matter how strange they are, and I wanted to protect my child and my cousin and her husband, and maybe even her husband's cousin. And then I thought my child was probably not coming home for Christmas again, and sometimes it seems as if everybody I know is from a foreign country, with an indecipherable language, which makes it me and not them, and….


For each one of those thoughts I gave a minus (-) to life. So,


And then I was simply on the street with my three dogs. A man was turning the corner. He had an umbrella. He was talking to himself. The sky was gray.

A huge silence. And a huge space.

Which might be the memory of God.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

At the Movies: Must See

Last night I watched Ingmar Bergman’s 1983 Fanny and Alexander for the third time. It’s been nine or ten years since I’ve seen it, and I wondered if the years and experience would have dulled my appreciation. No. It’s just as dreamy now as the first time I viewed it.

My husband, who is watching all Bergman’s films, some twice, played free cell while I once again fell under the spell of the Eckdahl family in 1907 Sweden. What problems do you have with it, I asked him. It’s three and a half hours long? he said. Which is shorter than the television version that I’ve never seen and now have on my must-watch-someday list. Either scene #1 is fantasy and scene #2 is fact, or scene #1 is fact and the other fantasy, or else it's just poor movie-making, he said. I now understand why there are no self-help books on his library shelves, and why he doesn't seem as confused by life as I sometimes am.

"It is very much, and in the best way, an old man's movie, the work of an artist resigned to life's mystery, full of wonder at the passage of time, full of forgiveness for past wrongs, and full of understanding, even of those people whose wrongs can never quite be forgiven," says Mick LaSalle.

The opening scenes make it the perfect Christmas movie, all pomp and gilt and velvet. It is Bergman; know that plenty of angst will follow. If you want to talk Bergman, we can discuss his take on men and their failings, and on how he regards women, even the girl children, to be strong enough to carry us past those failings. This movie was filmed after his last wife created a family for him, including the nine children he had with other women and was too disinterested to father. It is a movie where the interior life and exterior life intertwine. "Perhaps we're the same person, with no boundaries. Perhaps we flow through each other, stream through each other boundlessly and magnificently. You bear such terrible's almost painful to be near you," Ismael tells Alexander, while he shows him the murder we carry in our hearts. Yet murder is not the heart of this movie. Perhaps not even love is. Life is, as we flow through one another, with every moment too quickly lost, yet carried forth with us always.

By the end, I again understand life is filled with mystery and love, betrayal, and regeneration. I want to believe, along with Alexander and his grandmother Helena, Agustus Strindberg's words from the opening of The Dream Play:

Anything can happen, all is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist. On an insignificant foundation of reality, imagination spins out and weaves new patterns.…

Monday, December 17, 2007


We have been eating out one night a week at La Piñata for years…even before the waiters learned English, when we would be amused at what their translation of our order would bring us. Recently the Margarita Grill opened two blocks down the street from La Piñata. I stopped by for a menu which does not offer much more than La Piñata’s basic fare. My husband has elected not to try the new restaurant. While we could use a new restaurant in town, he thinks our town is too small for two restaurants serving the same kind of food, and he will be loyal to our restaurant, with our waiters.

Last night he asked Antonio if the new restaurant had cut into their business. Some, Antonio said, and asked if we had eaten there. No, I said, and asked if he had. Yes, he said.

That’s when it occurred to me…in Mexico, most of the restaurants are probably Mexican. Antonio may not feel the same sense of redundancy we do.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

magical world

Last night when I took the garbage out I heard the loon. I stopped and listened, sending out my wondering gratitude. If I had listened longer, would my attention have drawn it nearer? But the cats were hungry and my boyfriend was popping netflix in the player.

Wait….maybe it is all magic.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Do You Believe in Magic?

The night after my early morning bosom’s whistle awakening, I snugged into the covers, ready for the healing power of sleep. I confess….I was running the a.c. It has been the kind of hot muggy winter that has given Mississippi its reputation for being The Balmy South. I was trying to clear my mind of detritus of the day when I heard the a. c. compressor kick on, accompanied by a shrill, though not as loud and shrill as my morning wake-up call, whistle. It was the UPS that I had failed to turn off the night before. These two share an electrical line, but sometimes fight for control. The UPS squawk was my bosom’s whistle. I had heard it before, and I was hearing it now. Later my husband said he was surprised I didn’t hear it several times that morning…he could hear it all the way in the sun room.

You didn’t really think that I really thought my brain had somehow manifested my own personal alarm system, did you? Of course I didn’t. Not really. Not even though nine times out of ten, or at least a lot, I can tell myself what time to wake up and I do. So much so I forget how to set the alarm. Or that some people have seemed to read my thoughts, and I have had mind melding or at least thought sharing experiences, and a bit of the esp thing.

And if my will were going to control my passage through the physical universe, I would certainly direct it to do better things that manifest an ear-piercing system of alarm. Like forgiving those who hurt my feelings or those who are just ornery jerks. Or better yet, never getting my feelings hurt, and recognizing we are none of us in reality ornery jerks. I would heal the sick. I would heal my little dog. I would fly, without machines, of course. I would spontaneously awaken and also not eat junk food I think I crave and vacuum the floor on a regular basis and drive without fear through Houston, Texas. I would spontaneously awaken in eternity, not just physically wake up at 5:00 a.m., and still vacuum the floor.

Also, if that sound were going to manifest from another dimension, what else might enter through that portal? Both Stuart Wilde and Lynn Grabhorn think they saw other dimensional entities that weren’t necessarily there in their best interests. And my husband’s family dealt for several years with a poltergeist that could be downright annoying. And while I’ve never seen another dimensional entity, so what do I know, I do think you better be careful what you ask for, or at least that’s what my husband tells me, and he also says "they're other dimensions for a reason."

Still, for a brief while, it felt like those barriers were falling. And I do, I do believe this: our reality isn’t this fun house of mirrors I’ve chosen to explore. But I guess I must use my mind not to vilify my elderly ornery aunt, and to cherish my little dog rather than dread his mysterious and progressive disease, and to not view potato chips with interest. If I have to be sure to wake up, I best set the alarm.

Magic. I wonder if I am wishing life were magic, how entertaining, what stories to share, rather than accepting it for being what it is, forgetting What Is holds all the possibilities from which I choose what I want to see. And hear.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weird Universe

In this morning’s dream, I knew it wasn’t time to wake up, but I didn’t know what time it was. Set a dream alarm to wake up at 5:00, my dream mind said. I did this twice, and at some point, shrill and loud a bosom’s whistle blew. I woke up. I looked at the clock. It was 5:00. Neat, I said.

I got up and jumped into the downstairs bed so I could talk to my husband while he got ready for work. Did you leave clothes drying, he said. From last week?, I said—I had been gone through Sunday afternoon. No, last night, he said. Who did he think he was living with, like I was going to come in after a road trip and pop some dirty clothes in the washer…and then put them in the dryer. This was me, the lazy sister, we were talking about.

I heard an alarm, like the dryer going off, he said, I heard it two or three times, the last time it was real loud. A bosom’s whistle went off in my room at 5:00 this morning, I said. That’s what it was, he said.

We’d never heard this whistle before, and we didn’t hear it after I got up. We may never hear it again. And we’ll never know what it was. I hope my brain isn’t leaking.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Oblivion, Or How We Fail To See

When I left the house at 6:30 to walk to walk the dogs this morning, the sky in the east glowed rose, the breast of a bird hovering over an awakening world.

In succession I thought:

1. This is the most beautiful sunrise in the world. evalution
2. I wish I were at the field at the end of the road, so I could see it in all its glory. looking toward the future, where things will be even better
3. By the time I reach the field, it will have faded. regret
4. I wonder if I can be there in the morning, and would it be so lovely tomorrow as it is today? planning for a better future, evaluation

Then I began walking the dogs and forgot to look again. instant amnesia

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dharma, Karma or Reality--The Do-nut or the Hole?

Honest Abe opened a do-nut shop down the street and around the corner from my house. In the earliest morning the smell of that hot, sweet, frying goodness saturates the air. When I was a girl, I could eat ALL of the hot do-nuts, and still have begged for more. So light, so sweet, they will never fill you up. Luckily I was tall then and blessed with the supercharged metabolism of youth. A do-nut shop in my neighborhood…it would have been heaven.

Now, in addition to the Age-Defeats-Metabolism syndrome, I have discovered even one do-nut makes me nauseous. What mean tricks that old coyote Life holds in store for us.

The question: Who is luckier? The girl who loves do-nuts and lives next door to the do-nut shop, or the girl who loves do-nuts, lives next door to the do-nut shop, and cannot eat them?

An addendum: In my own interpretation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, after the death of the physical body, the consciousness floats around in different realms until something attracts its attention, then wham-o, back in life, and hope you didn’t land in a pig sty. Here’s my problem…even though do-nuts make me sick, when I smell them cooking in the early morning air, I want one. Or twenty. Every time. So if I’m floating around in some bardo and Honest Abe fires up his grease vats, whoever is trying to conceive, watch out…here comes your baby flying home.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Lest I forget:

Here, where I live, there are sloughs and bayous, rivers and lakes, catfish ponds like ropes of pearls. Over the years, the Delta has become a flyway for water birds. Last year there were few. I remember none. I wondered if the changing climate had altered their route.

Night before last my husband in his easy chair said: Puppies. I listened. High and away I heard them. I rushed outside, and there they were, points of light strung across the sky like Christmas itself. Wave after wave they flew south toward the river. I stood in the dark and welcomed them.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Yesterday I pitched out the white bean soup, which wasn’t too tasty. I don’t know if the culprit was too much rosemary or the home-made broth I had labored over, trying to find a substitute for chicken broth. The cereal mix and nuts and crackery stuff we call Christmas trash…I think I overcooked it, perhaps because I have not set my kitchen wall clock back since the dratted time-change in November. This morning I burned the oatmeal. And cooking is my day job.

There’s only one conclusion to draw…after over a half-century of form life, I’m just not getting the hang of it. It’s time for spontaneous awakening.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Oh Lord won't you........

Last night was my favorite night of the year in my town—the night of the Christmas parade. My favorite part of the parade? That would be like trying to name your favorite ingredient in the world’s best cookie, but if I could choose future life-times, I know I would immediately live one as a cootchie dancer. To be able to wiggle my butt two inches from the ground? Can you imagine how it must feel to be that limber, to move all your body parts with such liquidity, to have every cell in your body surging to the flow of the music. It must feel like flying.

Last night the elegant women of the University of Arkansas dance squad regally posed in front of two blocks of band members cootchie dancing while they played wild Christmas music. The pep squad swooped and shimmied and laughed along with the band. They owned us.

This is not something you learn in dance class.

This is a force of nature.

I want it.