Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For You, Today

Because a lot of stuff with major emotional content is going on right now that requires my time and attention and

Because I always wanted to join the circus and

Because of elephant-love and hugs

I am directing you to perhaps my most favorite post on the internet. Go here now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

If You Just Can't Get What You Want, Maybe You Should Check What You're Not Asking For

When I talked to my daughter she brought up the woman who had made a list of the qualities she wanted in the guy who would be perfect for her, put the list away, and four months later, he showed up at her Christmas party. Good present. My daughter said she had recently been at a gathering of singletons, mid-twenties to late-thirties, when the conversation turned to True Love, which none of them had found. “We discovered we all knew what we didn’t want,” my daughter, “but none of us had a clue about what we did want.”

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Notes found in an old composition book (though from this past year):

Dr.: There is a correlation between your hip pain and spiritual problems. Are you a spiritual person?

Patient: Yes. Right now I’m praying you get paid.


“Her heart can’t stop beating. You have to have a heart first.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grocery Store Olympics

Today I needed spinach and ricotta for lunch’s lasagna. It was 10:00 a.m., so I was racing against the clock. In the store I quickly tossed items from my list into my basket and headed up front. The store had two checkers. The line fartherest from me had one customer, nearly checked out. I angled for that line, when coming from behind on my left was a woman, also with a few items. She looked like she was trying to cut me off, but I was a neck ahead of her. Ordinarily I would have slowed down, but time was fleeting, and I had a casserole to cook. The need to speed had taken over my brain. My competitor was inching forward, with a few side-long glances in my direction as she gauged my distance. Still, it looked like I could make the gate first, only fair, since I had approached first, and I was in a hurry.

Out of left field a third checker called out ‘can I help you’. A new line was opening with no wait. My racing companion swung into the new lane with all of her seven items. I had the coveted place in the now middle isle. Somehow, though, it felt as if I had lost, even though I had gained what I had been jockeying for. She was checking out first. In fact, if I had stepped back, she would have been hemmed in by the candy counter, and I would have been checking out first, shaving maybe three minutes off my over-all time. Instead I got the silver, she got the gold.

That’s when I noticed the swirl of chemicals in my head. They were churning. No matter when I could check out, impatience had hi-jacked my brain. The peace of my day had been disturbed. And I understood: With peace, you are either peaceful, or you summon the brain chemicals for war. Either/or. The face or the vase. Two different perceptions and you can’t hold both in your brain at one time. There is no partial peace.

When I left the store my opposition was in front of me. For the first time I noticed her, really noticed her. She was wearing an apron. She was headed somewhere to cook lunch, just like me, with the same time limitations I had. God’s speed to her, and His peace to me and to her, because peace—it’s just not a competitive sport.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I've Been Waiting, Waiting for the Miracle to Come...

If it is your destiny to be this labor called a writer, you know that you’ve got to go to work every day.

Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man, Sundance Documentary

A Giggle and a Peck: The Universe Loves a Laugh

I think I was born nervous, timid, unsure of my self in this world. I’ve been fearful, depressed, anxious, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve spent a large portion of my adult life looking for a better way. At one time I was practicing visualizing a happy and peaceful life. One school of visualization says to practice the feeling you want to have as if you already had it. As I headed to a situation where I knew I would feel alien while I still needed/wanted to make an appearance, I repeated, “I have a happy and peaceful life, I have a happy and peaceful life.” I managed the occasion, then went to a Chinese restaurant to eat with a friend who always loves and welcomes me. When I finished the meal, I got my fortune cookie. I cracked it open, pulled out my fortune, and read, “Your life is happy and peaceful.”


A divorced friend felt like she was floundering in the shallows of a single life—not that her life was not good, but she missed the company of a good companion. She had dated some, but those men had turned out to be shallow, inconsiderate, or just plain weird, and by the end of last summer, she had regretfully stepped out of the dating pool.

Visualize, I told her, and related a couple of feel-good stories about women I had read or heard about who made a list of the qualities they wanted in a man (all the qualities), and within a short period of time, a man with those qualities appeared. The women I had heard this story about posted the list somewhere they could read it every day (one had to hide it, because some of the qualities she wanted in a man, she didn’t want to discuss with her children). Otherwise, they didn’t even wait for this perfect guy. They went about their business, dated or not, and then one day, voilĂ , he was there.

Uh-huh, she said, before going about her business. I’m sure she thought I was a hippy-dippy bona fide kook.

Fall passed and winter arrived, bringing the holiday festivities with it. She had a party. She cooked too much, decorated too much, maybe drank a bit much. One couple brought a friend. He was nice, but she was a tired and distracted hostess. He got her number. He called. Rested, she went out with him. Then she and he went out again. And again. And again. From what she told me about him, it seemed as if he had been waiting for her a long, long time. She wondered when she would quit marveling about how sweet he was.

Recently she cleaned out last year’s date-keeper, and read a stray note she had forgotten she had tucked away there. It was list of all the qualities she wanted in a man. She had made the list, but felt too silly to read it every day. This new man she was dating and dating and dating had every one of those qualities. She hasn’t stopped marveling yet.


And you, what giggles has the Universe shared with you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Hollies of robins,
Fools for winter’s red berries,
Song drunks, wild for spring.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Universe Reiterates Its Point

The man who resented magnolias stopped raking and looked at the tree as if he had just woken up, then looked at me, laughed and said, “My wife was the one who had to have this house.” He is no longer part of the household. I don’t think his wife’s lack of awareness for her ex-husband’s aversion to magnolias contributed to the divorce, but it might represent a general trend.

After I had written my post yesterday, a friend and I exchanged emails about an acquaintance we have in common who just announced her engagement. We, the dowagers, do not know the fiancĂ© well. We do know his feelings seem more important in the relationship than hers, here in the courtship phase, when he is supposedly on his best behavior. (Just ask Mrs. Camellia why she figures that, Honey, she will count the ways.) The acquaintance is smart and beautiful. She thinks she loves him. Maybe she thinks love means patiently waiting for him to take her into consideration. We know the bride-to-be's family, and it would appear this young woman is tumbling along the lines of family fractals. While we hope the stars in Cinderella’s eyes aren’t blinding her, my friend wrote me, “I guess we do what we have learned at home. At least there won't be surprises. For the observers, anyway.”

Yesterday I came home from having my hair cut with a new bit of gossip. “Did you hear Skeet and Lola are getting a divorce?” I asked my husband. They both work in my husband’s place of business, and maybe ten years ago Skeet left his wife and children to take up with Lola. “Oh, yeah,” my husband said, “Skeet’s walking around like he doesn’t know what hit him.” “He wasn’t expecting this divorce? What happened,” I asked. “The women at work, they all take Lola’s side. They said he was gone too much, and Lola got tired of him hunting while she sat around waiting for him to come in out of the woods.” Where we live, hunters start hunting as kids and never quit. Nobody could marry a man who hunts and have any doubts where he would be during hunting season. My husband, who doesn’t even read my blogs, added, “Tell me she didn’t see that magnolia before she moved him in.”

So many of us can’t see the trees because of the enchanted forest, but that tree we’re pretending isn’t really there or it doesn’t bother us so much? --it’s a magnolia. If we can't stand magnolias, the stardust will always turn to grit. And we're going to think it's somebody else's fault.

Friday, February 15, 2008

When We Always Want to Know Why Is This Happening--to ME--AGAIN

We hadn’t been living in our new-to-us house for very long when I was called over by my neighbor. It was the first of only four times we were to speak to one another—we didn’t have problems, but she was from an old society family and we were just folks from some place else. She wanted to discuss the magnolia spread far into both of our yards. “This magnolia gives me lots of pleasure,” she said. “Even though its trunk is on your property, you are to do nothing to harm this tree. It is very old, it is magnificent and it is a great treasure.” I have no depth perception. To me that tree stretched to the sky and was round enough at the bottom to house a forest of magnolias. The birds loved it, Mrs. Society-Jones loved it, I loved it.

Mrs. S-J died and the family with teenagers moved in next. They must have loved the tree, too, because the ground underneath was often littered with beer cans and whiskey bottles. I am sure whole packs of high-schoolers used the tree for their rites of passage, it was that big, so they could hide and the grown-ups would never know what they were doing under there, and I didn’t want to know. When those people left (and the neighborhood breathed a sigh of relief), a family with a small child bought the house.

Not long after I stepped outside and found the father grimly raking leaves from around the tree. We had never raked; we weren’t the raking kind. I said hello, found out he was preparing for a family party. He said as if I were at some way at fault for his misery, “I hate magnolias. They’re trashy. We had one when I was growing up. I had to rake it. I swore when I was grown, I would never live with another magnolia.”

I looked at him, and then looked up at the tree. Up and up and up and up. I said, “Didn’t you see that magnolia before you moved in?”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saturday's Sermon

I had breakfast with a man who inspected cranes, the mechanical ones, not the birds. He been inspecting cranes for twenty years, and he loved it so much I loved listening to him tell me about it, though I was also listening for what the Universe wanted to tell me through him.

He not only inspected cranes, he taught classes on operational safety. Even though he could not drive a crane, he could read the specs and he knew the stress points, and these were things the operators often did not know. He talked about lifting heavy loads, and how on the old cranes these loads could tip the crane over, and on the new ones, lower to the ground, how too heavy a load could crack the chassis. “Of course it depends on how you pick it up,” he said. “You can pick up a lot more if you lift it slow and steady. If you take the bucket up fast, it will bounce around, and then there’s the shock effect, creating a lot more stress on the equipment, and that can do a lot of damage.”

Once when my step-daughter was three, her dad headed out to the country after the Delta spring monsoons. He came to a bridge that was barely submerged, and being young himself, and foolish, he began inching his way across. Ellie plastered herself against the back of the seat and began shrieking, “We’re all going to die,” over and over. On that day, they did not, though the water was higher than he expected. He took his shrieking daughter and walked her to dry land, came back later for the truck. The we’re-all-going-to-die reaction is generally my immediate technique for meeting emergencies head-on, my mind running rat mazes of disastrous consequences, even if my exterior appears to be fairly calm, and even though I have survived all the emergencies low these many years. Now on the morning of breakfast with the man who inspects cranes, the Universe reminded me again: If you have a heavy load to lift, slow and steady is the way to go.

Thank you, Universe.

Long after the man went on his way, I’ve thought about heavy loads and stress and slow and steady. One morning as I was walking the dog I was thinking on this Universe lesson, what I would cook for lunch, probably about my children, the elderly aunts, and how I really needed to clean the upstairs room when my eye was caught by

the knobby twigs of the popcorn tree lacing against the gray winter sky.

I realized I could not see the tree or the sky or the birds darting overhead while my mind was full of chatter. I really didn’t see anything except the video playing in my head, telling me how things are, how they should be. If I took in

the tree, the birds, the morning sky

my brain had to shut up. And if my mind is full of this constant movie-making, all talk, talk, talk, and flashing images, when the waters start to rise, and I finally notice, that movie-making brain is going to shriek for all its worth.

Slow and steady.

And quiet.

It takes practice.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Star-Struck Destiny

Overheard from a gaggle of clerks behind the counter:

"My father told him he wasn't ever going to find a girl who thought as much of him as he thought of himself."

Friday, February 8, 2008

That Would Be Correct, M'am

The night was cold and dark and I had only been home for a couple of hours after an all day’s trip with Frannie to the big city when the phone rang. It was Frannie. “I’ve broken my arm,” she said. After she got home, her little Shih Tzu Poochie wouldn’t go out to potty but had pooped in the living room. Frannie was trying to clean the mess up when Poochie decided to eat it. Poochie is nothing if not determined. Frannie, tired and frazzled and very irritated, kicked at Poochie and fell. Her arm was definitely broken, so crooked I couldn’t stand to look at it after I arrived to take her to emergency room, where Frannie told her story to each of the many professionals who provided her treatment that night. The story met with the same results. The doctor or nurse or whoever would ask her what happened, and she would dutifully report the incident, and when she got to the kicking part, the professional’s mouth would twist, and he or she would mumble something about how was the dog, and patiently suggest she might not want to try that again. Frannie is a singular woman, and never noticed that the people she was talking to might not think kicking your dog was legal, much less a socially acceptable thing to do. I was with her for most of the interviews, and every time I would get tickled, because I knew Frannie and I knew Poochie, and as my husband described the incident later, Frannie was going to discipline Poochie and Poochie took her down. We always knew that in any Frannie/Poochie confrontation, Poochie would be top dog. I finally suggested to Frannie she might not want to give all the story to everyone, and somewhere in the many doctor’s visits I noticed her story took on a variation, and the kicking part was usually omitted.

In the ex-rays they took to make sure Frannie was in shape to undergo surgery to set her arm, it was discovered she had cancer, so not only did she have to deal with a broken arm, she was in for the long haul of chemo, though she realized if not for the fall and the break her cancer might not have been discovered until it was too far gone for treatment to help. Over the past year she has done remarkably well, as has Poochie.

I talk to Frannie at least twice a day, morning and night, just a check-in call to make sure she hasn’t fallen and can’t get up. Yesterday morning I was regaling her with tales of DeMonica the cat who rides my hip at night like a California surfer when I’m sleeping on my side, and when I lay flat on my back, she sleeps on my chest, her butt so tight against my neck, I’ve dreamed I couldn’t breath and explain to my dream companions I can’t talk, I have a cat on my throat.

“I love cats, and all the cute things they do,” Frannie said.

Like try to smother you is what I thought, but what I said is “Cats are bad to trip you.”

“I never tripped over my cats,” she answered.

“I guess you never tried to kick your cats.”

“I never tried to kick Poochie,” Frannie said.

“When did your story change from last year?” I said.

“She got under my feet and I tried to avoid her, to my own detriment, and not hers.” Frannie sounded perturbed.

I weakened. I couldn’t goad an almost eighty-year-old woman who had been battling cancer for year. “I believe you,” I lied.

“I don’t care if you believe me,” she said. “I don’t care if anybody believes me. I know what happened. That’s all that matters. People will believe what they want to believe.”

And that, my friends, is the absolute truth.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

when we are lost and cannot find our way

In a scene in the middle of The Serpent’s Egg, Ingmar Bergman’s film set in 1920s Germany, cabaret dancer/prostitute Manuela seeks out a priest because of the guilt she bears for her ex-husband’s death. Busy with church duties, the priest brusquely pushes her aside. “Please,” she cries. Finally the priest hears her anguish. “We must give each other forgiveness that a remote god denies us,” he says, then lays his hand on her head, forgiving her and in return he asks for her forgiveness for his apathy and indifference. She lays her hand on his head, and says, "I forgive you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Futility of Tap Dancing

one man talking to another in Ram Cat Alley:

Mon, if you need to go changin’ to make a woman happy, you might as well shoot yourself.

Monday, February 4, 2008

You're Never Too Old for the Dog to Eat Your Homework

Patron: I need a book for my book club--Walker Percy? They said it would be up here.

Librarian: Walker Percys are right over here.

Patron: The Movie Goer? Isn't that a strange name?

Librarian: We don't seem to have a book by that title.

Patron: Oh, goodie. You've let me off the hook.

Librarian: I'm sorry I couldn't help you.

Patron: You helped me plenty. Now I don't have to read it.

Ecological Footprints

Ordinary Wolves is the Milkweed National Prize winning, coming-of-age novel by Seth Kantner. Cutuk Hawcly, raised in a sod igloo by a father who wanted his children to experience true wilderness before it was gone, bears witness to the relentlessness of surviving, the advance of civilization, the destruction of the wilderness, and the clash of cultures. He rarely makes judgment on the Eskimo life lived like a train wreck, or excuses for what the twentieth century brought to Alaska, though Ordinary Wolves clearly illustrates that when the government asserts its authority in a people's life, all of its attempts to rectify wrongs it has created creates more havoc. Cutuk lives in a world where everything is recycled and art is as less valuable than the fire it feeds. Canvas, paper, or plastic? Bath or shower? Flush the john or let things mellow? Organic? Hybrid? Handmade? When all the answers are irrelevant, the questions become superfluous.

Kantner’s first novel is not a tour of a Disney North, and glorifies nothing. Yet he brings us along, letting us see the wilderness Abe Hawcly gifted to his son. And when we have no answers, we too become witnesses. What happens after that, I do not know.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Perception Makes Reality?

The offer is:

Because you bought HBO DVDs, you might like to know you can download the premiere of Candace Bushnell's new NBC hit "Lipstick Jungle" for free--before it airs on TV--only on Amazon Unbox. Watch it tonight on your PC or TiVo box.

You will explain to me:

how a television program gets to be a hit before it airs on TV?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Instead of:

My good, dear friend was once a coke-head. She realized one day she had to choose between cocaine or life; if she kept using, she would die sooner than later. She quit. For a long time after, she said she felt she had chosen second best.

Once I carried my camera everywhere, and quickly everything became a picture; a weird, quirky, funny, significant picture. “You’ve got the eye,” my weird, quirky, funny, significant husband said. At some point I noticed the picture blocked the experience. Willing to live the moment instead of recording it, I put the camera away, and endured the emptiness that followed. At times I still miss those pictures, those moments to be captured and remembered and shared.

Peter Cushing, B horror flick star and Dr. Who in two Dr. Who films, had continuous employment in the industry, and surely enjoyed the perks he earned. Until his wife, Helen Beck died. He said, "Since Helen passed on I can't find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that my dear Helen and I will be united again some day. To join Helen is my only ambition. You have my permission to publish that... really, you know dear boy, it's all just killing time. Please say that." Though he went on to play Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, he said of his wife’s death, "When Helen passed on six years ago I lost the only joy in life that I ever wanted. She was my whole life and without her there is no meaning. I am simply killing time, so to speak, until that wonderful day when we are together again."

Blogging. Bipolarlawyercook has a funny, funny post on blogging addiction. I love it, her post and blogging. See this? And this? Then this? Isn’t it funny or quirky or lovely or significant? Sometimes, though, blogging reminds me of my camera. Time becomes a thing to be captured rather than a moment to be lived. Static rather than fluid.

Remember Bone, the heroine of ?Bastard out Carolina—the girl who went from church to church to be saved every Sunday because in the pageant of baptism everybody loved her, while in the mundane day-to-day business of being a Christian nobody seemed to notice her.

What about food, food, food, food, what feels yummy in my tummy, or clothes or cars or h’mmm, need self-help or spiritual guidance, then this book or that book or that, that, that one has just the right insight, what about ecstatic experience, what a high, where’s the next one?

I caught the end of an interview with David Banner on MPR last week. I’ve never heard Banner’s music, though apparently he has his fans and detractors, but I this is what I understood him to say as the interview closed: People think evil is ugly. It’s not. Who would be attracted to something ugly? Evil is pretty. The thing you love best? That’s where you’re going to find evil.

How can love be evil? What do I think that means? Maybe not what David Banner means, but this: Loving something is merely collecting, pinning butterflies to a board, trying to transform the infinite into the finite, and will bring you grief in the end. Love is God or All or Is, and you can never grab hold of That. You can only relax, open your hands, and let it flow through you. The rest of it, no matter how pretty, is just killing time with second best.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Household Meditation

The Walking Dog God
hangs loose.
She hounds me
while I chop onions,
make beds,
sit to pay bills.
When I stand to stretch
she leaps to her feet.
Her scruffy fur coat
flings white hair
like petals
before the bridal path.
"Come," she commands--
or, "Go"--
out of the door,
out of this house.
I am tethered
in tow behind
her slow sail forward.

Do not assume
she means Go

Always she takes
the same four blocks,
stops for grass,
doggy smells,
and cat shit.
It's all a diversion.
She does not know trees,
bare today,
are trees here
or in Bangkok.
She does not know this bud
will flower,
then shatter.
She does not know
yet insists I learn
by her finite progression
this sky
in all its disguises
covers the world.

© January, 2005
All rights reserved

Household Haiku Moment

Mulligatawny simmers, the house cozy with heat. I open the front door, the cold winter air sluices the inside warmth out, the fragrance of curry envelops me. Yum.