Monday, September 21, 2009

Still We Try

from the quote archives

Mr. Raney named the porpoises—Sister Woman, and Renford, and Lamar, and St. Elmo—and could recognize them, and call each by its name, even at night, six feet long some of them, with a million sharp teeth and a naughty grin. Often when he floated past in the boat and watched their playful wheeling, in and out among the cypress knees, he called out to them, “Lamar, we are all alone in the world.” Or “Renford, cork is an export of India!”

The echoes of his voice across the wide water of the bayou was like a heartbreaking song, a music of the swamp.

Hydro said, one time, many times, “Do they understand what you tell them?”

Mr. Raney said, each time. “Nobody knows.”

Lewis Nordan, Music of the Swamp

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More from the notecard archives

The obscure we eventually see.

The obvious takes much longer.

source unknown

Discussion question:

What do you think?

Moderator's take:

My friend drove a beat-up car with a stick shift. We called it the Batmobile, but this is just an aside and not pertinent to the point, though just the name conjures up a lackadaisical delicious distraction of tumbling years of memories, thanks, Jenne, oops, back to the point. One day she took me to the pipeline site parking lot out by Baxter Labs to teach me to shift. After bucking the car across the lot, a door flew open, our school books fell out, and somehow I ran right over them.

"Why do you always do things the hard way?" she said.

I didn't know then and I don't know now. Could today's quote have some relationship to this?

Hint: "always do things the hard way?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

From the Notecard Archives

She found no easy answer, but instead quoted Rilke: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves." "Perhaps that is the deepest source and the greatest power of self-respect," she concluded, "learning to live with the questions that have no answer."

source unknown

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If You Don't Know What You Have, How Can You Let It Go?

I once knew a woman who had a resale store in a town too small to claim an establishment as fancy as a ‘shop’. I who at that time loved flitching perfectly good items from other people’s trash was a fool for a resale store.

The loft was filled with frayed clothes overstuffed on hangers and heaped on the floor, clothes so lifeless I could not imagine the fabric transformed into cleaning rags. The woman and her husband bought things in lots at auction. Once they purchased a truck load of shoes, only to discover the shoes were manufacturer’s samples, shoes in all sizes but for the left foot only. A family with a one-legged gene could have been well-shod for the rest of their lives.

Underneath the loft was reserved for discarded toys—puzzles missing pieces, games missing parts, limp and grayed stuffed animals, dolls without arms. The rest of the ground floor was mostly filled with the grim detritus of defunct households, bulbous lamps, orange and brown dented pots with yellow splotchy mushrooms, broken clocks, nondescript dishes with dingy cracks, the occasional sprung chair that looked like small animals lived in it. Nothing that even a seasoned garbage gleaner would want to brush against, much less rescue, though everything was priced to sell.

Then I spotted the fireplace shield. It looked copper, with an elegant spreading oak pressed almost from edge to edge, each distinct leaf gleaming. I can still see that magnificent shield and I covet it today, though I didn’t then and probably never will have a fireplace. There was no price tag affixed. “How much is this?” I asked, mentally rearranging my budget so I could carry home my prize.

“I can’t sell that,” she said. “It might be valuable.”

I was shy and she was shy, so we did not haggle over the unsalability of the perhaps copper shield. She did tell me she refused a handsome offer from a rich lady the week before, so I would know it wasn’t only unavailable to me.

I prowled the musty aisles, casually eyeing the shelves of intact, unpriced glassware behind the cash resister. When I got too close, she spoke up. “I can’t sell you those. That’s why I keep them back there. They might be valuable.”

She seemed nervous that I was looking. I knew then that anything I might find attractive enough to carry home, she would have to keep, because if she sold it she might later discover a treasure had slipped from her grasp.

I gave up. On my way out I spotted a little wind-up metal gorilla. When I fiddled with the rod that required a missing key, I could get the gorilla to stagger a couple of steps and sputter sparks. A horrible walking thing. My boy would love it.

It had no price tag, either. “How much?” I asked.

“I couldn’t sell you that,” she said. “You just take that with you. It ain’t worth nothing.”

Friday, September 4, 2009

Slap U-mami*

*umami—the fifth flavor, savory, which enhances all the other flavors
*Slap yo momma—what we say down home to signify approval; i.e., it was so good it made you want to slap yo momma.

Why is it when I order

Linguine with Crawfish & Andouille Sausage with artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms & basil pesto in a creole-cream sauce

and I think it can’t get any better than this,

and she orders

Penne with Beef Tenderloin & Portobello Mushrooms in a tomato & Noilly Prat vermouth brothlaced with pancetta

and she says hers is very, very good,

but before the meal is over, she leans forward and says, “I’m just going to have to have one little taste of yours," and she takes a bite and her mouth gets round and her eyes get rounder and she says, “I know what I’m going to have to order next time,"

in that instant my creole-creamy drenched everything does, it gets even better?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Power of Narrative

Life was a little rough for young Grace and Mary, a bit hard-scrabble. Their stern father and their illiterate mother who kept to themselves weren’t like other parents. The girls sensed their classmates looked down on them. They were excluded from activities that make a girl feel prom-ish and girly. High school seemed like a club they were never invited to join. When it came time for them to leave home, they wanted to spare their little sisters the pain of not fitting in, so they decided to give the younger girls a parting gift.

Together the older girls made a totem. One night they invited their little sisters to join them in a meeting, saying it had to be a secret because their parents didn’t want outsiders knowing about the family. “We’re going to tell you our history,” Grace said. With great ceremony the older sisters began story weaving. “Our great-grandmother was the daughter of an important chief,” Grace said. Before Grace and Mary left, they told the younger girls of the strength and bravery of their great-grandmother. Of how she had cared for her people. Of how she had persevered no matter how hard life got for her.

Grace and Mary presented the girls with the totem. “Keep this to remember who you are and what blood flows in your veins,” Grace said. “Always, no matter what anybody says, know what you are capable of."

The stories worked as Grace and Mary had hoped they would. Full of confidence their younger sisters were cheerleaders and homecoming queens. They were joiners and leaders. They lived the happy life Grace and Mary dreamed about when they were in school.

Many years later, one of the younger girls, now a woman with children of her own, called Grace to tell her about the book the P.T.A. was using as a fundraiser. People had contributed stories about family origins, and their story, along with a picture of the totem, was featured. Wasn’t Grace proud?

“You can’t do that,” Grace said.

“It’s done,” said her sister. "Your copy is on the way."

Grace had never confessed the truth to the younger two. “After we left home, we never really talked about things with them. Mary and I were seekers, always exploring the edge. The younger two loved convention. They lived within ‘the box’ and excelled in it. Because we didn’t fit their mold, they were uneasy around us. It was as if we came from different worlds.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Theology On the Way Home from La Piñata or A Little Tap Dancing to A Course in Miracles

she: How do you change your mind? She had been thinking about a situation she wished had ended differently, about feelings that, if she followed them, could be hard or sad.

What do you believe? What do you know?

she: I don’t know anything.

he: You’re on your way, then.


he: And if you don’t like what you believe, believe something else.