Tuesday, April 23, 2013

every artist lacks a license

Wade Lagoon in springtime may be one of my favorite places anywhere.
This photo drawn from a celebration of same at 

I am actively resisting the urge to apologize to the blog for being gone so long. I am failing. I am actively resisting the impulse to come up with something big and profound to write now, now that I am back. This should be easier!

Thank you to the guy behind the meat counter at Whole Foods who so discreetly yet so directly told me my fly was down. This is citizenship.

Last week I was in a spelling bee. We placed second. We went out on the word "makebate." (We guessed that the second syllable was "bait.") The Merriam-Webster definition of this obsolete word is "one that excites contention or quarrels," but I like this blog entry about its uses and origins better.

Sunday, I successfully executed a big event for work whilst ZandO played soccer in the (chilly) sunshine. (Particularly gratifying, as Z has been suffering from a bad case of tendonitis and sitting out for a few weeks. Good to see her taking names out there on the pitch. #sentencesineverimaginedwriting.) Yesterday, it felt like spring -- warm sun, trees glowing with the buds of new leaves, pink blossoms, a continuation of daffodils, lots of dead squirrels, poor squirrels.

A young man is in custody in Boston. We will try him like a citizen, as we should, not an enemy combatant. I have been obsessing about what it must feel like to commit an act of terrible violence. What is the point of no return, the last moment when one could choose not to do this thing? And what does it feel like after you have passed that point? These questions hurt to contemplate.

Life goes on.

Reading: In fiction, continuing with Possession. When I was in Massachusetts recently, I picked up three books at a lovely used book shop in Easthampton (I like books as travel souvenirs): A new 85th anniversary edition of The Art Spirit by Robert Henri (he was a painter and teacher, a good teacher apparently). The jacket copy says it is "Filled with valuable technical advice as well as wisdom about the place of art and the artist in American society." An interesting how-to book called Storyteller, Storyteacher by Marni Gillard. I have been interested in storytelling as a performance genre for a while, and this connects that to innovative classroom teaching. And an old Viking paperback copy of Lewis Mumford's The Story of Utopias, which is relevant to my endless ToT (Tome of Tomorrow, i.e., book in progress, for new fans).

Writing: Like the blog, the writing writing has suffered from the overwhelmence (#shouldbeaword) of stuff lately. Back in the saddle this morning, working on a scene my writers group suggests needs to be in scene rather than summarized as memory. And contemplating, as always, structure. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to be more direct with the storytelling. Simplify. As this is a big, complicated story, this feels sort of counterintuitive, but of course simplicity and directness probably matter even more with material that itself is big and complicated. I will tell you now. I hope to have a draft for my group to read by July 1. This is my new goal. You read it here first.

Also, thinking about how to be kinder to myself. Know any other artists who need to work on this? I really enjoy the book Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel - in bits and pieces, as needed, not as a continuous program. Last night, I was reading a passage about assessing how you work over time. (In preparation for returning to writing today.) I liked this bit:

"One answer is to continue working exactly as you are, irritable as a Beethoven, anxious as a Dostoyevsky, sad as a van Gogh, and white-knuckle life as you produce fine work. The house gets built but the carpenter crucifies himself in the process.
Or you can work to transform yourself. The artist transforms herself not only so that she can work better over time, but so that she can be as free as possible. Disabling anger, anxiety and sadness, a disabling worldview formed in the crucible on an unfair childhood, disabling behaviors and habits are all losses of freedom which she would prefer to jettison.
For the artist intent on transforming herself, working over time is a heartmending operation. Alone, she must perform her own surgery and provide her own nursing care."
Dinner: I've missed recording some good ones, alas. But I can tell you this, last night's Monday night pizza was red pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. This was inspired by some project O is working on at school to figure out how much different things would cost. He priced out this pizza and then asked that we make it at home. It was very good. (David did the actual pizza making.)

Soundtrack: Hmm. I have Bach Gavotte in D Maj. from Suzuki Book 3 rattling around in my head a lot, b/c that is what Z is working on for recital.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month)

An apt verse from Marge Piercy, grabbed from http://judithpordon.tripod.com/poetry/poems_about_writing.html

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Marge Piercy

Copyright 1980, Middlemarsh, Inc.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York 

Monday, April 15, 2013


Again, I will start with the poem of the day. I picked it special, in light of the news of the day. It is by Sharon Olds (whose most recent book just won the Pulitzer).

originally published July 1980 : Poetry Magazine

Before the news of two bombs at the Boston Marathon, I had been contemplating a way to sum up my long, busy weekend in one tidy blog post. I kept thinking of beginning lines.

I spent the weekend in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts and was surprised to find how much it felt like Athens Co. ...

I spent the weekend at a reproductive justice conference and was challenged to begin to rethink my own ideas about gender ...

I spent the weekend at a conference about social justice in the context of sexuality and families and women's wellbeing, interpreted broadly (housing, immigration, queer identity, prisons, gender-based violence, media access, drug policy, food, and on and on, in addition to parenting, pregnancy, abortion, and contraception), and I came away struggling not to be overwhelmed by all that needs to be done ...

Yes, and then, bombs in Boston. At the fucking marathon. Will we be forced to fear public places? Public space is sacred space to me. It is this that hurts me as much as lives lost and people, so many people, injured. Yet, there are so many places where terrible violence is happening, bombs and deaths, the idea of safe public space suspect. My heart is hurting for all of this. It is horrendous when it reaches so close to me -- my husband is a runner, I had acquaintances in the race yesterday, friends in the city, the city is here in my homeland - but the violence is everywhere.

I am overwhelmed by all that needs to be done.

Reading: Read two interesting pieces about food - a book review and a TV review - in recent issues of the NYer. I will post about them on some other, more frivolous day.

Writing: Thought about it. And also read an article about an artist obsessed with one painting for years and years that made me, of course, doubt myself. More on that too, maybe.

Dinner: Monday night pizza was plain white pizza and a green salad. (I like to eat the vinegary salad on top of the rich and garlicky pizza.)

Soundtrack: My hostesses this weekend in MA, Kat and Jen, went to a Carolina Chocolate Drops concert on Saturday, prompting me to listen to them when I was puttering  in the house today. Among other things, I like their version of this Ethel Waters song:

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month): See above.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Defend the day we see the daffodils

Read today's poem first, please. It is important to me.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month):

—for David Lehman

Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. 

—William Wordsworth

Going to hell so many times tears it
Which explains poetry. 

—Jack Spicer

The day the war against Iraq begins
I’m photographing the yellow daffodils
With their outstretched arms and ruffled cups
Blowing in the wind of Jesus Green

Edging the lush grassy moving river
Along with the swans and ducks
Under a soft March Cambridge sky
Embellishing the earth like a hand

Starting to illustrate a children’s book
Where people in light clothes come out
To play, to frisk and run about
With their lovers, friends, animals, and children

As down every stony back road of history
They’ve always done in the peaceful springs
—Which in a sense is also hell because
The daffodils do look as if they dance

And make some of us in the park want to dance
And breathe deeply and I know that
Being able to eat and incorporate beauty like this
I am privileged and by that token can

Taste pain, roll it on my tongue, it’s good
The cruel wars are good the stupidity is good,
The primates hiding in their caves are very good,
They do their best, which explains poetry.

What explains poetry is that life is hard
But better than the alternatives,
The no and the nothing. Look at this light
And color, a splash of brilliant yellow

Punctuating an emerald text, white swans
And mottled brown ducks floating quietly along
Whole and alive, like an untorn language
That lacks nothing, that excludes

Nothing. Period. Don’t you think
It is our business to defend it
Even the day our masters start a war?
To defend the day we see the daffodils?

"Daffodils" from No Heaven, by Alicia Suskin Ostriker, © 2005

As I write this morning I am sitting in a coffee shop in Easthampton, MA, hiding from the spitting sleet outside, and wondering spring is really happening. The week has gotten away from me, and I meant to post this days ago when the weather in CLE was glorious and the daffodils had just started to bloom.

Cleveland and daffodils are forever linked in my mind. I moved from NYC in mid March and the sudden eruption of daffodils everywhere -- in my backyard (miraculous!), along sidewalks, and all up and down the wooded hills of the cultural gardens in Rockefeller Park along MLK -- made me feel welcomed and validated for coming. I grew up with daffodils up the street in the wonderous yard of the Summers (Hollis was a poet and English prof, Laura was a kind and dazzlingly elegant woman who cultivated a spectacular spring garden and presided over the best Easter egg hunt anywhere -- the eggs were hand decorated by faculty and grad students and late winter parties, some with intricate black ink cartoons. I wish had one of those). But the daffodils of my first spring in Cleveland were of a different order. And every year since, they remind me riotously that just maybe I am home.

Reading: I have finished the Carol Anshaw. I was satisfied to the very end. I had read her first novel, Aquamarine, which I picked up while working at a bookstore then let sit on a shelf for several years. I like that book, but I didn't love it. Carry the One, I think I loved.

On to rereading Possession, by AS Byatt. Though I can't find the paperback copy I have owned forever and ever (did I lend it to you? can I have it back?). So I picked up (or rather, caused to be picked up -- thanks, Sarah!) a hardcover from Mac's Backs. Beginning it I am a bit overwhelmed by the connections I find to other things I have been thinking and working on. I know this book was an inspiration to me, but I didn't realize how much.

Writing: Yes, Tuesday and Wednesday were good. Writing a scene that illuminates a character is ways I happy to finally be doing. Thursday and Friday (so far) not so much.

Dinner: Tuesday night, David made (at my command) an absolutely super phenomenal coucous and chicken salad with peas and red bell peppers and red onion and mint with roasted garlic vinaegrette. The recipe is from a book I've owned for several years but haven't really delved into much. Garlic, Garlic, Garlic! by Clevelanders Fred and  Linda Griffith. This recipe makes me want to return to the book soon.

Wednesday, I helped the kids make sunbutter noodles (like peanut noodles, but safe for Z) and a simple cucumber salad with black sesame seeds.

Thursday, I made Tuscan beans (with some of those legumes of the week I mentioned on Monday) - recipe from this tiny, charming book I got for David for Christmas at Loganberry -- The Goodness of Beans, Peas, and Lentils - and we also had olive bread from On the Rise and a salad of finely shredded romaine dressed with garlicky olive oil, salt, and lemon juice.

Soundtrack: I've been doing yoga again, which is good, but have totally not been paying attention to music at all, which is not good. Is it possible to both?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Under 20, dammit! episode 2 -- or, In What Furnace Was Thy Brain?

Begin 9:18 pm ... (recall the 20 minute rule ... It is rule #2)

Ack! No time for pictures! (But really shouldn't it be something by William Blake? Damn.)

So many things I could write about. At one point this evening, I thought "This! This what I will write about tonight!" and I began to construct some in-my-mind elegant yet offhand post of close focus on some corner of a topic that has at this moment entirely eluded me.

The kids said the damnedest things though.

Me (reacting to the song that just came on): I love David Bowie.
David:Yeah. He's such a David Bowie.
Z (from other room, completely deadpan): Oh, yes. It is just exactly like he is David Bowie.


O: I just have a smidge more homework.
David: What would Orson do without the word "smidge"?
Me: He also uses the word "bit"
O (shrugs): That's true.
Me: What's the difference between a "smidge" and a "bit"
O (shrugs)
O:  I don't really want to tell you, but ...The difference is they're different.

I am also in love with my cat, giddy about the appearance of daffodils (whole post could be written on daffodils, maybe tomorrow), in a bit of disbelief that outdoor soccer season has arrived at last, and contemplating  my friend Kristen's post about "A Broken Thing." She issues an invitation for others to write about the broken objects in their lives. I very much want to respond ... more about lost things than broken ones, but still (so a whole other post there too)

Still don't know what it was I thought of in the middle of the evening. Plus I would like to hire you to add tags to my blog. I will cook you dinner in return.

Reading: Gosh! Still not done with the Anshaw! And jonesing to read the NYT magazine from yesterday (food and wine editions), and a review article in the NYer about food tv ... food ... writing/communicating about food. That might have been what I was going to blog about.

Writing: Yes! Playing in the sandbox.

Dinner: On Saturday, I cooked up a whole mess of white beans - some so that David could make "boulanger" beans and potatoes with leeks (essentially a slow cooked non-dairy casserole of these ingredients.

I made tons of beans so we play a new game called "legume of the week!" in which we will try as many different ways as we can manage. So tonight for pizza night, I made a leek, chard, white bean, and feta pizza that was one of my best pizzas yet. Seriously. And a simple Waldorf salad of gala apples, celery, and pecans, with a dressing of mayo, plain yogurt, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. I rock.

Soundtrack: Duh, David Bowie. ... and well, The Beat, too.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month):  Two classic poems that rattle around in my head and I have fancifully quoted from in the past two days. Even if you think you know these, take a moment to read them, out loud, and consider them anew.

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Tyger
By William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright 
In the forests of the night, 
What immortal hand or eye 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

and ... end at 9:43 ... 25 minutes

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Drink up!

my current cocktail of choice - with rye, though I will accept bourbon if I must

Last night I was out with some lady friends celebrating and propping up someone overwhelmed by real estate transactions and what they will mean for her short- and long-term futures. When the waitress came, others were still trying to decide what they wanted, and I readily ordered (having already gone over my eternal whiskey or gin question in my head) a dry Bombay Sapphire martini up with extra olives -- which is odd, because I have in recent times been learning the virtues of the martini on the rocks as a more sociable drink, but old habits die hard. A while later, one friend commented that she'd like to learn more about drinking, that she'd like to be Toni. While I feel slightly bashful about this, I have to admit I am proud to have "knowledgeable (and perhaps prodigious?) drinker" as an identified character trait. I have cultivated myself as a drinker from a scandalous age (and I have friendships dating back at least a quarter of a century that are practically built around mutual appreciation for good booze -- and black clothing.)  It is nice to have my accomplishments recognized!

Why am I bashful? Because we are still a puritanical and prohibitionist culture, despite how much everyone drinks? Because I know personally that alcoholism can be a real, devastating problem? Some of each.

But I love drinking well. I am a bit of a snob (I pretty much disdain vodka on principle) but not a fetishist. I don't need the haute brand just because it is exclusive. I like tradition, but I also like to experiment. In my childhood, for cocktail hour, while the CBS news proclaimed the doom and gloom of the 1970s, my grandfather would mix whisky drinks for the grown ups (though sometimes my grandmother would just have a tumbler of dry vermouth on the rocks) and a Hawaiian Punch in an old fashioned glass, garnished with orange and cherry, for me. It was my job to pass the nibblies -- crudites, olives, nuts, maybe some cheese. This is, obviously, a foundational memory for me. Last summer, I invented a mead and stone fruit sangria.

I have gone through phases in my drinking habits. My drinking friend of 25+ years and I became acquainted over Johnny Walker Red (Scotch was my preferred whisky as a young woman. Because it was tough.) and we truly bonded over a summer of freshly made margaritas. These days, I'm mostly into rye, which makes me right on trend (the snob in me recoils, but what can you do?). Rye was hard to come by for a long time -- out of fashion and little produced -- the resurgence of cocktail culture has meant more rye produced and more rye to try.

I think that part of what I like about cocktail (and wine) culture is that it is something built purely for pleasure.   There is no utility here. It is really art for art's sake. Good food still at its root is about nourishment. Good drink is about enjoyment.

In thinking about how to approach this post, I came across this most excellent blog: Drinking Diaries, about women and drink (women who are mothers, professionals, artists, daughters of alcoholics, etc., etc. and what role drinking has in their lives). I've not really even begun to explore it yet,  but the current post is an interview about drinking with a woman who wrote a book about American women and shoes in the 20th Century - if you know me at all, you know this is irresistable to me.

Reading: Not a lot.

Writing: Setting up the sandbox for my two weeks of play (see yesterday's post for explanation). Have I mentioned how much I love Scrivener?

Dinner: pasta with creamy, garlicky mushroom (white mushrooms and a melange of dried) sauce and side of sauteed mustard greens with garlic and lemon juice.

Soundtrack: Remember when I wrote approvingly of a new CLE radio station? Yeah, like all non-college/community radio stations everywhere ever that I have started out liking and feeling as though they were programmed just for me, this station too has turned against me. I never hear cheeky punk rock or fanciful new wave when I pass over that spot on the dial anymore. Now it is all overly self-serious 90s dude rock. So, I ended up listening to one of the local classic rock stations (not sure which) on the drive home from work -- end of the day Friday is a sacred time in Cleveland radio (maybe radio everywhere), and I if I do say so, the string of "Party Tonight," "It's Only Rock and Roll," and "Stayin' Alive" did indeed make me feel all the more ready for the weekend.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month): A two-fer! 2 poems by women that mention drink!

1. Petition
What god will catch me
when I’m down, when I’ve taken
sufficient drink to reveal
myself, when my words are little
more than a blurring
of consonant and vowel?

I’m drunk on spring:
branches of waxy leaves that
greet me at my driveway,
a family clutching
trays of sweets.
How can I sing of this?

If I cannot sing, then
make me mute. Or lend me
words, send me
the taste of another’s prayer,
cool as a coin
newly minted on the tongue.

2. Bar Napkin Sonnet #11
Things happen when you drink too much mescal.
One night, with not enough food in my belly,
he kept on buying. I’m a girl who’ll fall
damn near in love with gratitude and, well, he
was hot and generous and so the least
that I could do was let him kiss me, hard
and soft and any way you want it, beast
and beauty, lime and salt—sweet Bacchus’ pards—
and when his friend showed up I felt so warm
and generous I let him kiss me too.
His buddy asked me if it was the worm
inside that makes me do the things I do.
I wasn’t sure which worm he meant, the one
I ate? The one that eats at me alone?

PS This post vastly exceeded the 20-minute rule, for anyone keeping score.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rude girls

Completely random photo of a rose that Robert Herrick might have liked.

Having a ten-year-old daughter is hard. I love my girl so much, and enjoy her company so much of the time. But this new phase of development  is tough. So volatile and moody. Sometimes feels like parenting a toddler again. A very big, verbally sophisticated toddler. Sometimes feels like parenting myself on a really bad jag of pms. Often I think I deal with this well -- calmly, with compassionate authority. Sometimes I fail miserably. Tonight I failed miserably. Her rudeness hurt my feelings and I reacted hotly. I was sarcastic. I think sarcasm may be the worst mode to use in parenting. So, then, I hurt her feelings. So we were both moody, rude, and hurt. Oh joy. And she isn't even a teenager yet. (That is the bit that really scares me.) Eventually, we made up. We got to a moment when we were both staring at each other in frustration. I softened a smidge and asked her what she needed, she told me I had sounded really mean. I hugged her and apologized, admitted to making a mistake. I hope that is the lesson here -- that people make mistakes and can correct them and move on. I hope the lesson is not that mom is mean and we should all feel bad about ourselves.

Reading: I thought I would finish Carry the One today. I even spent pre-dinner time sitting with O at the dining table, nibbling cheese together, each of us quietly reading. But it didn't happen. I want to finish reading this book, and I know I will miss it when it is done.

Writing: I'll probably feel the same way about my own book if I ever finish it. ::She sighs:: I am too much in the macro level thinking about the ms, but I still have some scenes to be written or reimagined, some plot points that are fuzzy, some character details that need to be developed, so for the next 16 days, I have decided to focus on PLAY -- generative, fun, playful work without regard to the larger whole. I have a whole set of empty files waiting to be filled in -- this whole collection is called "sandbox" (yes I stole the term from programmers, so what). I will have fun. (And can I say again how much I love the Scrivener program?)

Dinner: I repurposed the leftovers of last week's ginger lentil soup into a kind of makeshift mujadarra -- the soup is really thick at this point anyway, so I served it over rice and brown a whole bunch of onions to pile on top. This, and some irresistable thin bright asparagus. (Should have made the blog pic of asparagus today, but too late to go back and change now.)

Soundtrack: After setting the table, Z went and put on our "Dinner Music" playlist, all on her own. She is not snarly all the time. Not at all.

Random thing: Poem of the Day (for April Poetry Month):

I spent the day at a meeting in the Herrick Room. So, I will share with you a poem by Robert Herrick (Cavalier poet, son of an English gold merchant, 27 years younger than Shakespeare). Herrick may be best known for the line "gather ye rosebuds while ye may" but that is not what I will share with you. Instead, I give you an estimable 17th century verse on the subject of ... nipples!

Upon The Nipples Of Julia's Breast
by Robert Herick
Have ye beheld (with much delight) 
A red rose peeping through a white? 
Or else a cherry (double graced) 
Within a lily? Centre placed?
Or ever marked the pretty beam 
A strawberry shows half drowned in cream? 
Or seen rich rubies blushing through 
A pure smooth pearl, and orient too? 
So like to this, nay all the rest, 
Is each neat niplet of her breast.- find more at http://www.poemhunter.com/robert-herrick/

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lady on a Train

Hey! Check out this awesome blog: Every Person in New York
 - a project by an artist trying to draw every person in NYC! I freaking love this.

I took the Rapid downtown in the early evening for a reception I was attending for work, because I was fretting about where to park and I realized that the train would be infinitely easier. This shouldn't be such an unusual line of thought for me. I love public transportation. I wish it worked better here, by which I mean that I wish the schedules were more extensive (near my house, buses only run on an arcane and totally inconvenient and infrequent schedule) and the system more user-friendly for new riders. I have cried more than once out of frustration and helpless confusion while trying to navigate the system here. Really. And I have negotiated the transit systems of many cities with grace and style.

But this evening, it was fab. A coworker even handed me a bus pass, thus quelling my eternal anxiety about how to pay for riding. (A worry that only besets me in this city, where sometimes you pay when you get on, sometimes when you get off, sometimes on board, sometimes at a kiosk, sometimes with exact change only. Sometimes you even have to pay twice, and if you are not prepared for that it is really inconvenient.) And I got to sit and think and read. Read! Reading on the train! This is the most civilized of actions -- sitting on a public train and reading a book. This is something I want more of in my life. Here, there, anywhere.

It will only happen more here if I move to a part of town more convenient to regularly scheduled routes or if we all somehow come to decide to better fund public transportation so that there can be better coverage all over. Sadly, we won't better fund it until more people choose to use it (recognizing that there are many people who can't afford cars and so don't have a choice) and that won't happen if they have no meaningful opportunity to ... seems a catch-22. I will say, that coming back from my event, I was on a train half full of well-dressed office workers on their evening commute ... some people are choosing.

While we're at it -- let's fund light rail between Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati!

Reading: Nearing the end of Carry the One. An interesting thing happens with POV as the end draws nearer. It has been a rotating POV all along, but generally chapter to chapter. Now it rotates much more frequently. Also, I like how the leaps of time happen with little or no explanation (this ties in with the lack of unnecessary connective tissue I wrote about last week or the week before).

I plan to pick up Possession by AS Byatt next. I have read this before, more than once, and it is a book that has been an inspiration to me. I am needing a refresher.

Writing: Yes, and making a widget list of things I need to do to get the ms into a penultimate draft.

Dinner: Kid-made mac and cheese and broccoli, and part of a salad leftover from a work meeting.

Soundtrack: Coltrane radio

Random thing: It is National Poetry Month ... maybe I should do random poems for the month ... like I sort of did love songs in February? Dear reader, what thinkst thou? Today, I will share on of my favorites ...

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
  by e e cummings 
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15401#sthash.CS0JoF1W.dpuf

Sending out a world wide hoo-doo

She is really digging these tunes, is she not?

 There's a lot on my mind that goes beyond the borders of this blog -- sad news from odd angles, and trains of thought too long and sooty to examine here. It is making it difficult for me to focus on this and, as the saying goes, be here now. The temptation then is to avoid being here at all, to put the blog on hold until suddenly everything seems easy again and I have just the right anecdote. But that defeats the purpose. The purpose is to make this a practice and a practice is not something you do only when you feel like it.

When I write the word "practice" I think of many things. I think about music practice, which my children are truant from just as I am truant from this blog. I think about the practice of law or medicine. I think about religious practice - specifically zen practice sticks out in my head. I think of the phrase "practice makes perfect."

Music practice with ZandO has been a learning experience for me. As a kid, I was terrible at music practice, as most kids are. I played the flute, which was all wrong for me as an instrument, and I didn't much like my band teacher (partly because he wouldn't let me play the saxophone, which is what I really wanted to play -- that and piano), so I had both those things working against me. But I was also a perfectionist, and the eternal imperfection of the practice session was very difficult for me. I wanted to play something and play it well enough and be done. But I see with my kids that the value is in the time spent with the instrument -- the repetition, the endless mistakes and corrections, the exploration. This is how a musician learns what is possible. (There is all kinds of research about this that I desire to cite, but again, that is outside the bounds of the blog, at this particular moment.) Watching music practice in this way has made me better (though always imperfect) at my writing practice ... In some sense, regular writing practice is the same as music practice -- most of what happens at the writing desk is not "performance level" but instead part of the constant going over and going over.

According to the OED, "practice" is the sense of "an established method of legal procedure" dates from the early 17th century. However, the slightly more general sense of "the carrying out or exercise of a profession or occupation" goes back to late Middle English. This all relates to the more philosophical distinction between practice and theory. (For the true word geeks among us, note that the OED has separate but similar entries for "practic" and "practise" -- these and many related words deriving ultimately from Greek, through Latin and French. So we can assume, I think, that this is something humans have spent a lot of time thinking about; not just me.)

And religious practice, zen practice. I have no zen training. But I like the idea of being present, of mindfulness and non-attachment. I appreciate the appreciation of impermanence. There is a famous passage from the Diamond Sutra:
A shooting star, a clouding of the sight, a lamp,
An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble,
A dream, a lightning’s flash, a thunder cloud—
This is the way one should see the conditioned. (from a newish translation by Paul Harrison)
And finally, "perfect," which at its root means "to complete" or to make whole, not necessarily to be flawless, which is how we tend to think of it in common usage. So "practice makes perfect" = repetitive application of a skill or way of being is the means to wholeness! OK, well, we'll keep working on it. Right?

Reading: Yes, although having provoked my mother to read Carry the One, I fear she is now outpacing me (reading as competition?). I am still really enjoying this book, and also longing to get on to a new book to read too.

Writing: Oh, who the hell knows. Not enough. As I said, I am truant. And I will return. David's lovely Aunt Dede asked me about the book last week, and told me she keeps looking for me on the Times' list. This was meant as support, and I took it that way.

Dinner: Last night we had microwaved "baked" potatoes with butter and cheese and a lettuce salad. In the car on the way back from our adventures in mid-Ohio, David and I were talking about Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals , which he is listening to on CD, and contemplating changes to our eating habits. This something we revisit and readjust time and again -- going more towards the ideal and retreating from it. A kind of practice, if you will.

Soundtrack: When I got music out of the library for my recent solo drive to Columbus, I picked up a Chuck Berry CD, because I like Chuck Berry. I didn't realize at the time that Chuck Berry's Golden Hits is a disc of his classic Chess tracks he re-recorded for Mercury in the 60s. It is like bizarro Berry.  The version of "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" is a very interesting re-interpretation (and this is one of my favorite of his songs), but the version of "Rock and Roll Music" is just plain looney. (PS the title of this blog post is from the song "Thirty Days")

Random thing: On our weekend trip, Z had opportunity to spend time with a cousin, B, she only sees once a year, if that (it's been probably two years since they last were around each other). B is actually my cousin, but a year older than Z. (Second cousins?) They are fun to watch together and have a ton in common, despite their very different places of upbringing and all the weird distance between them. It made me happy to see.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Summary post of a holiday weekend

No deep thoughts here.

Our favorite animal on Sunday. When they extend their wings it is breathtaking.

Friday: half day at work then family time, meeting new twin babies time, and pre-Easter celebration with the in-laws time. Good times, despite my raging PMS. My mother-in-law set up seasonally appropriate activities for the kids. O obliged with very methodical dye work before dinner, and Z with concentrated cookie cutting and decorating after. In between, they insisted I come outside and play catch with them, and I got to talk with my father-in-law about his dream life, which he is beginning to think might reveal something about what goes on in his mind, if only he knew how to interpret it (this despite his longheld disdain for all things Freud).

Saturday: sleep in, then writing time (including avoiding writing, futzing with writing, getting rid of writing, moving writing around, and also some actual writing), house cleaning time, family lunch, women's plays at the first SWAN Day Cleveland (thanks, Deb, for organizing this), and a lovely, lovely indulgent evening with my boy -- he got to play outside in *warmth* while I did some financial work, then we went shopping for Legos (for a gift and with for himself with his own money). He put his new Lego set together while I made mac and cheese and futzed in the kitchen and listened to Splendid Table. Then we at Phineas and Ferb shaped macaroni while watching Phineas and Ferb - 3 episodes! - and then we played a round Plants vs Zombies after snuggling up in for bed. Bliss for the boy.

Sunday: Up early with David to orchestrate an egg hunt, and talk over coffee (after I was done having a mini freak out and take it out on David session about the anxieties of life - public apologies to my mate), then kids up, eggs hunted, breakfast eaten (David and Z's leftovers from Li Wah ... chicken and chinese broccoli - wow! this is my kind of breakfast!), car packed, and off to ... the Columbus Zoo! to meet up with my mom and my sister and frolic with the animals. We have determined that my mother, who is about to retire, should keep a herd of pygmy goats, or flying foxes. We tried to have dinner at a local Indian restaurant, but when we turned into the parking lot of the shopping plaza, we found it had been demolished. At the hotel, I was happy to find the pool was very heated, and unhappy that the wi-fi is expensive.

Reading: I have misplaced two books : IB Singer: A Life, and Alix Kates Shulman's Good Enough Daughter. If you have seen my (library) copies lying around somewhere, please let me know.

Writing: Yeah, but I am really resisting getting into some hard parts. By self-diagnosis, I know that I just need to lock myself in a room without internet and do several hours of exploratory writing on the bits/events/turns/emotions/character moments/sequences I need to work on without reference to the current manuscript. Then I can figure out how to get that back into the whole (or discard it or whatever).

Dinner: O was also listening to Splendid Table with me while putting together his Lego Star Wars laser cannon or whatever it is, and as we were clearing our macnchz dishes, he commented that the recipe they had discussed for tart pan-roasted chipeas with olives and barley sounded "really delicious, and probably good for you ... and really easy too." Look for this on the menu this week, and the recipe for salmon cakes in the same episode.

Soundtrack: O likes to drum along with Topper Headon of The Clash.

Random thing: My father-in-law shared with me a recurring dream he has where he is in the bank he used to work in, only it is huge, blocks and blocks of interconnected lobbies and an enormous bank of elevators, all of which go to different floors. Inside some of the elevators the decoration is so elaborate that it is impossible to even figure out where the buttons are let alone know what floor it will take you to.