Monday, September 11, 2006

The Peonies

Over my fireplace hangs a watercolor painting of two red peonies on rice paper. It's handsomely double matted in pine green and light grey and in a black lacquer frame, although the giver of the picture told me not to frame it, it was a simple picture, on rice paper, and he had seen it painted with his own eyes. But I'm not too good at following directions. In the right hand corner are characters, which I assume to be the artist's name, but I don't know that.

This picture has followed me for almost twenty years. For a time it hung in my apartment in Michigan, and then in my office in North Carolina and later in Ohio, and now it has landed on two tiny nails above the white brick fireplace.

For a long time I wanted someone to ask me about the picture, how I got it, where it came from, what it meant. I was like a character out of the Chekhov story, The Lament, a story in which a cab driver yearns to tell his riders about the death of his son by pneumonia. His fares tell him hurry up, what's taking so long to get to the Kremlin? He finally tells his sad story to his horse, his best listener.

The giver of the picture--QiQuan--said we met the day I wore large gold earrings and smiled without showing my teeth. We did similar work, and we were both strangers in a strange land. He sent me a packet with porcelain white and blue dragon necklaces for my children, a silk scarf, an orange paper cutting that he said was from a famous novel, and a black lacquer tea set. He sent a hand written formal note on yellow legal paper, saying he hoped my children would like the dragons.

He told me he was unusually tall for a Chinese man, almost six feet tall, and he had a way of shaking his head that made his hair splay out like he was a shaggy dog emerging from the swimming pool. His breath smelled of exotic spices and he complained that American food was not very good, except for pizza and spicy mustard. He said when they expected company at home there were at least nine different dishes on the table.

When my young children were sick he made pastries from Hungry Jack canned biscuits, filled them with a special pudding, and called them Heart's Ease. He said at home all he did was study and teach his students, and he was an expert on Moby Dick. He said he could outdrink all of his colleagues, but that he worked so hard they had a nickname for him that in translation meant Balls of a Dead Man.

He went on a trip to Atlanta and when he came back he said he told many jokes, and he was known as the Johnny Carson of China. This seemed incongruent to me, as he did not seem funny so much as urgent and intense, with his head shaking and his desire to spill information out to me, making him breathless. He said he wrote to his wife that he still loved her and hoped she did not hit their son.

The picture of peonies he saved for last, before he left the country. He told me that the peony is the queen of flowers in China, and that he was giving it to me, because he saw how hard I worked with his own eyes, and that the queen of flowers should go to the queen of women. shouldn'tt have it framed, because it was just a simple picture. As I said, I'm not too good at following directions.

After almost twenty years, I think it's a good thing no one really asks about it, because maybe it's given me strength not to talk about it, after all. It's sort of a secret, closely held, a trump card I can peek at to remind myself, yeah, I worked hard, and I knew QiQuan, and I am a rich woman, not a character in a Chekhov story at all, at all.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Recurring Theme of the Dancing Shiva

Years ago Joseph Campbell offered a workshop for physicians on the experience of the sacred. At one point in his presentation he showed us slide after slide of sacred images: paintings, statues, pottery, tapestries, and stained glass from many places and times. I remember one of these vividly. It was a particularly fine example of Shiva Nata Raja, a “Dancing Shiva” from the Lieden Museum in Zurich. Shiva is the Hindu name for the masculine aspect of God, and while these small bronze statues are common in India, few of us have seen this charming image before. Shiva, the god, dances in a ring of bronze flames. The hands of his many arms hold symbols of the abundance of spiritual life. As he dances, one of his feet is lifted high and the other is supported by the naked back of a little man crouched down in the dust, giving all his attention to a leaf he is holding between his hands.

Physicians are trained observers. Despite the great beauty of the dancing god, all of us had focused on the little man and the leaf and we asked Joseph Campbell about him. Campbell began to laugh. Still laughing, he told us that the little man is a person so caught up in the study of the material world that he doesn’t even know that the living God is dancing on his back. There is a bit of the little man in all of us and certainly in most physicians.
--Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

I love this theme of the dancing shiva. One of my favorite popular works where it is dramatized is in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. If only we would just open our eyes.

What my eyes see is that my home looks like an ocean liner. It’s long, tall and narrow. The front porch looks like the bow of the boat, slowly making its way through the deep waters of the ocean, carving a way forward. I hope we aren’t churning up too much in our wake. When I’m in my bedroom, which is above the bow, I feel like I’m one of those women carved out of wood that leads the way: a figurehead. Occasionally we hit the doldrums.

(The north side of my house is so steep and gleaming in the summer sun I think it looks like the white cliffs of Dover. So far no one has jumped.)

Anyway, the ocean liner is being re-arranged to meet the current passenger’s needs. You may have noticed the chocolate floor in the writer’s palace. Lately I notice I’m stumbling over what to call this palace, my writing studio. Sometimes I say office (ick, too office-y); study (ick, too 1950’s with masculine wood paneling); and writing studio (just too many syllables).

Now, in honor of my father, I have decided to call it my “shop.”

In my father’s shop were many tubes and wires, most of which I did not understand. I’m not good with things electrical. He spent many hours there, doing things I did not understand, but I understood this: he was passionate about what he did, he always did his best, and treated people with the utmost integrity.

After his death, my mother pulled out a black case from under one of his several desks. She opened it and revealed a vast array of meters, small parts that ended in “or”—capacitator, oscillator-- and wires.

“Your brother says this was the heart of the operation,” she said.

So now I have a shop, and a heart of the operation; I don’t fix things, but then again, maybe I do fix things, with words. Belly up to the bar, folks, we’re serving haiku-tinis and sonnets on the rocks.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Today I’m at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. In the background Marvin Gaye sings “What’s Goin’ On.” I’m groovin’ through the exhibits until I reach the questions the senate confirmation committee asked Ford when Nixon nominated him to be vice president.

Do you know Gordon Liddy?
Do you know John Dean?
Have your children ever been arrested for using drugs?

At the bottom of each page these words are typed: Administratively Confidential.

I had to stop and laugh out loud. Aw, c’mon folks, what did that mean? What kind of bureaucratic morass were we in anyway? "Confidential – senate -vice presidential nominee privilege"? What was Goin’ On? Uh-oh. Has anything changed?

Remember those days? Here are the President’s talking points for a cabinet meeting:

§ you may wish to reaffirm Al Haig’s role as chief of staff.
§ Tell the cabinet you’ll have an open door policy.

This is the first federal presidential museum I’ve visited. On the one hand, it’s a bit awe-inspiring, with replicas of the oval office and the cabinet’s meeting room and the sense of history; but it’s also a little like Betty Ford’s inaugural dress, a big designer-ish, powder blue, with a tight-fitting cinched waist and showing just the correct amount of leg.

Catching up department: gone is the orange carpet, in with the Gleaming Chocolate. For the writing studio, that is. While the high gloss paint I've rolled on the floor, my feet, and the woodwork is named “Turkish Coffee,” much smarter I’m sure than my choice, when I look at the floor I see Godiva.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To Polka, or Not to Polka

Saturday night I hit the polka dance floor with a man wearing a gold t-shirt that had some words emblazoned on it that I kept thinking said “reefer madness.” Such was not the case. What they really said had to do with reefs, but there it was, I saw what I wanted to see. I rarely wear clothes with words on them. It's a solid color for me, no florals, rare stripes, fewer words.

He was a good dancer, and a patient teacher. The thing about the polka, it seems to me, is you can either glide or you can chop. It can be smooth but syncopated or high stepping and sweaty. It is a proletariat dance-- about anyone can do it--and the dance floor was filled with a small village. The demographics would make a census taker proud. For this I may get a t-shirt, and mine will say: I Have a Polka Blog. His: Beer Barrel Polka or Bust.

Maybe the polka is one of those ways you really find out the truth about another person, like de-tangling Christmas tree lights together or getting lost in the Paris Metro with minimal French skills. My personal favorite dance is the cha-cha-cha, maybe because I don't know the tango, but the polka sure was pure unadulterated fun.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Of orange carpet

This week I pull up the orange carpet that I so deliriously described as just the right fiery color for my writing studio.

Monday I cut it into strips and pulled it up like I was having a tug of war with a stubborn mule. In truth there was a carpet stain that looked like a cement spill, and it was yellow where the sun had reached it. Underneath was a decrepit black and brown undergarment that was falling apart.

On Friday the trashman tooketh it away.

To pick up the carpet meant moving my desks, and lo and behold they are in a configuration I like very much. The hardwood floor has been painted once but is in generally good condition. I’m pulling a few staples and the tack strips from the floor.

While working I turn to my typewriter and work there, too. My writing has changed in a subtle way. I don’t want to describe it. But last night I thought I'm hitting my stride. Something has happened.

So… we’re entering a new phase, this room of my own and I.

Stay tuned, as they say. Film at 11.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

questions for a later date

How do I want to grow today?

This is the question I asked myself this morning. And it came to me that I just wanted to let today happen, with no effort to put a framework around it, no trellis for my struggling vines of accomplishment.

I want today to come to me like waves to a shore. I look over my notes from this week, my writings and scribbles, notes found on the kitchen table, the typewriters, the notebook on my bed.

One thing I see is the movement of questions over time.

Now, it happens that I love questions. Of answers, perhaps, I am not so fond, although when I was younger they probably seemed important.

It seems to me there are probably few answers, and maybe there’s a mathematical formula for this (X number of questions, but only Y “true” answers, where “true” is a possibility). The answers are neither quick nor easy; it they are, it’s a question to leave at home boxed up in the closet when I mentally or otherwise travel through the day.

Here are some questions I found this week, in various conversations:

B: well…what is baggage, anyway?
H: Baggage…is anything that keeps you from being close to yourself.

B: what is your preferred method of communication?
H: A nudge in the morning.

Theresa: But where am I going, and why?

Personal writing questions:

What thoughts and readings act as a fertilizer for my writing?

Can I get to my authentic thoughts more clearly, more quickly going into the deep of the coal mine of myself, or ensuring the hot water drips through the bold coffee grinds to arrive at an authentic, bold brew?

What if I just kept a writing diary, without comment or judgment, of what I’m writing, what inspires me, with no thought to an “other”?

How can my writing help me feel…connected? And what does this mean?

Someone asked me this week if I write for entertainment. Here’s a question I can answer easily. The answer is no. I write for enlightenment, discovery, truth, transcendence, meaning.

The rest is just “stuff.”

It is…as my friend said…"baggage."

Maybe the questions come in to the shore like waves, some with whitecaps, some barely noticeable.

I do think I am in love with questions. Answers, maybe not so much. But I love the asking.

What is a good question?

What’s your favorite question, or one that you may be mulling over right now?

Well, this shore is getting a bit lazy as the noonday sun moves overhead. Do take care, be well, and be good to yourself.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

From Art to Part

Recently I had dinner with an acquaintance who owns a custom blow molding company. He shows me a four color brochure with pictures of cabinets, spoilers, picnic tables and toys, wheeled trash cans, and a child’s sleigh bed, all products his company makes. He mentions making a sketch of the sleigh bed before it went “to press.”

I tell him I want to know everything, how he gets an idea, how he knows what mixtures work, how it moves through the giant presses, what happens, how it happens, everything. “Oh,” he says. “From art to part.”

From art to part. That’s a new phrase for me. Immediately I begin wondering how that’s analogous to writing. He talks about ideas, sketches, molds, flash, trains, outsourcing, PSI, ambient air, costs, green space, product life cycle. But out of nothing – often borne of desire or need – comes something.

I rather like this phrase, from art to part. I might adopt it. It may be useful to describe the writing process to people who wonder what I could be doing on a weekend in a room with a Jane Austen Action Figure and garish Orange Carpet. I could say I’m working on taking art to part.

That will be this writer’s shorthand for describing how I come up with black and white marbled portfolio books, scribbles on scraps of paper in my purse and on my desk and every other room, pen blobs in unlikely places, and various manuscripts. They are the conduit that transports the vision in my head and yearning in my heart. But really, I'm just taking my ideas from art to part.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Tonight I'm taking My Jane Austen Action Figure out of the box and placing her
on my desk. This would be the desk with the original Olympia typewriter on
it, given to me by Theresa Williams. Since I've last written to you, I've
become the proud owner of another Olympia (with an art-deco case, I'm becoming a
total snob), and now Jane is going to provide the vehicle for my creative
expression. Cryptic, I know, but there it is.

In the past two months, thoughts like so many migratory birds passing by have flown through my head. I am neither the beginning nor the end of these thoughts.

Totally unrelated department: I’m having a small dinner birthday party in a few weeks. I was going to grill steak with a Monterey steak rub. Guess what? I lost the recipe. Can you help me find one, or do you have a suggestion? Also, any tips on a good wine to serve with it? I’m a chef in need of some help!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Going uphill, steeply

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip out west, where he attended his son’s college graduation.

Today he writes to me that the trip went very well except for hitting the wall while driving up a narrow winding road to the top of Pike’s Peak. He says he has a big fear of heights, and between that and the altitude, he had to stop and turn around. He almost made it to the peak. He says his son was with him, but he'd been there before, so at least he didn't ruin it for him.

He says there were great views on the way down, but even then he needed to go very slowly and deliberately. It was quite a white knuckle drive, and he was glad to have it over.

I tell him I’m in an agony of a sort for him about the heights and the narrow winding road. I tell him that when I am driving up a long steep hill, I have a fear of the car tipping over backwards. This I blame on a dream I had as a child, but who knows?

This vague fear was with me in New York several times but more intensely driving over a suspension bridge into Savannah, GA with my brother. It was made worse because I felt stupid and didn't think I could tell him. I wanted to pull over and give him the wheel, but the bridge wasn’t that high; not Pike’s Peak. We crested the bridge in a few moments. I tell my friend that I guess I’m saying I feel the trauma.

Perhaps this strange fear of going uphill steeply is a metaphor for some way I’m feeling about life or some such, but maybe not. Maybe we're just two friends who didn’t know about the fear of heights thing about each other, connecting while going uphill, steeply.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Happy Mother's Day, in advance

I’m in Corning, New York, where I’ve landed for the afternoon in the historic Market Street district while traveling home from a conference at Cornell. There are rejuvenated shops of all kinds, antiques, restaurants, and of course, glass shops. I’ve just been watching a glassblower and then moved on to a little shop called The Glass Menagerie.

The trip is great fun. When I see and tour the Cornell campus I think it is where I dream of being. I could spend my life there.

During the journey, people seem to come into my life as I need and am open to them, like Kim, who tells me the good Japanese restaurant in Collegetown and says be sure to take in the suspension bridge over the north gorge. With her directions I visit the Johnson Museum designed by I.M.Pei, see the exhibit “The Novel in Pictures,” and my favorite exhibit, “The Architect’s Brother.” I especially enjoy the photographs by Carrie Mae Weems, from the series "Not Manet's Type": The caption to panel 4 says I took a tip from Frida who from her bed painted incessantly--beautifully while Diego scaled the scaffolds to the top of the world.

There is a chance meeting with a museum security guard who explains the new media to me and directs me to the balcony for a fabulous view of the countryside. There is the driving while I process what I’ve heard at the conference: and what I end up with is, what can I do to live the most satisfying life I can, what does that look and feel like? That is what I’m thinking, looking through the windshield at the rolling hills of New York, off the southern tier expressway of 86 and 17, going west.

All of these adventures, and yet what happens next is a highlight of my trip.

I'm in Corning at The Glass Menagerie, my cell phone vibrates. I look at my watch. It’s 3:15. I figure it’s the office. Nice to be needed. I’ve told everyone I won’t be calling them, as my phone’s on the emergency plan and just about everywhere is roaming.

But no. Not the office.

When I flip open the phone the voice of my beloved older son says cheerily, hi mom!

By now I’m on the sidewalk. The Menagerie was a little oppressive, anyway.

He says he’s at Home Depot buying a grill and wants to know if I could use more mulch. He says he could pick it up for me. I smile. Sure, I say, and I tell him how great it is he called, and I give him a number for mulch bags. He wants to know what kind, and what color. We settle on cypress, red cypress.

He asks when I’ll be home and I say Sunday, maybe a day earlier, who knows? (No wonder people say I’m elusive!) and then we sign off.

I suppose you could say mulch is mulch, but the questions I heard were where are you, are you ok, how’s it going, haven't talked to you in four days, needed to touch base.

It is nice to be needed and loved.

Happy Mother’s Day, in advance, from New York.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


My secret favorite section of the literary mag The Sun is the "contributors" page. When The Sun arrives in the mail, I soak in the cover photograph and then I turn the cover. I read ever tiny bio, absorbing the details of the artists’ lives. For example, about Michael Chitwood: "The wisteria that he transplanted from his grandmother's yard has bloomed only once since he's had it - in the spring following her death five years ago." Or Krista Bremer, who "lulls their two children to sleep by singing old Arabic folk songs." After I read an article, story, or poem, such as “The First Noble Truth” by Steve Kowit, I go back and read the bio. By the way, his teaching guide is in its twelfth printing and his most recent poetry collection is The Dumbbell Nebula. Why is this my favorite section?

Now I have my own contributors, and they are you.

When “My heart is an egg” came into my head, I buzzed over to a piece of paper and jotted it down, and then I thought, “hmmm, wonder what would happen if I put this on the blog.” Yet in my heart of hearts I must secretly have expected to read “this is the stupidest thing I ever read” or “get a grip.”

Instead, there is a wonderful coterie of comments that are affirming, insightful, and just downright fun to read. Vince, thank you for commenting: I think your egg is a beautiful metaphor for the openness to experience so necessary for growth. And how it flows in your veins, why you must write. Theresa points me to the “creation myth.”

I like how a previous entry, “In the event of fire” became a blog topic for Erin and Vicky, as if we’re making some kind of connection.

You are the favorite part of my blog. Let’s party, my place, two weeks from now. I’m leaving for a conference shortly, will be forced to explore the Finger Lakes region for a few days, and will come back rejuvenated with a clear mind and heart. Or so I hope. I am on the brink of…something. I'll be off-line for a while. Please bring party hats and balloons.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My Olympia, My Studio

Tonight I start my firstborn on my Olympia. This is the manual typewriter Theresa gave to me. I think, as I recall, that she said I had to give her my first born;-) Well, let me tell you, it is just starting out to be very, very good.

When was the last time you typed on a manual? The typing is hard and rhythmic, like drumming and you are doing the dance. It is intimate and personal. I love it.

I promised I would let you know some of the quotes I wanted to write on the walls of my writing studio a la the art gallery I visited this past summer on my road trip. Too many quotes, too little space: would you care to vote on your favorites, or offer something of your own?

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. – Picasso

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible. –Paul Klee

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Picasso

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better. – Andre Gide

Everything you can imagine is real. – Picasso

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Picasso

Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. – Rilke

My art has allowed me to bare my soul. – Edvard Munch

Art enable us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. – Thomas Merton

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it. – Savador Dali

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. – Michelangelo

My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet. – John Cage

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. –Albert Einstein

I think my personal favorite might be the Michaelangelo. What think you?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My heart is an egg

Instead of a heart, I was given an egg. Every time I bump up against something, the shell cracks, and yolk spills into my veins. (Maybe on some days I look slightly jaundiced.) I used to think it was the nature of what I bumped against--what was outside of me-- but now I don't think so. It's just me. My egg is in my basket, and now I know I need to carry myself gently.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How to spend the rest of your life

This week an acquaintance asked me in an email to take a moment and tell how I would spend the rest of my life. Aside from wanting to say oh, you know, the usual, engender world peace and end humger forever, it was just an email, and I didn’t know this person well, so I said something like the following:

I have an immediate desire to throw my jeans in the car and take off for a month out west, stopping at the Badlands, Little Bighorn, traveling down the coast of CA, see the big redwoods, stop in New Mexico and see the pueblos. This would be a non-destination destination trip, meaning I could stop whenever and wherever I want. There would not be camping :-) I'd like to see the Kentucky Derby, the winter Olympics, and walk on the Great Wall of China. I hear Edinburgh and Salzburg are not to be missed. I have a great photo of Mont St Michel, but that was over 20 years ago.

Ok, so how I'd like to spend the rest of my life, in a nutshell: I want to cultivate a state of mind that is happy, unafraid, fully present, free, open and so on. Learning is my passion... I want to make a great discovery. Please don't ask me to define that! Also, don't tell anyone! It's a secret. Also: enhance, increase, and enjoy much of what I already have: loving family and friends (maybe a significant other or soul mate, maybe not, who knows? I lost my crystal ball), health, fitness, doing something new every day. I love doing new things and going new places. I will not, however, try bungee jumping. I would like to move into freelancing full time. All of the above items are inter-related. But I do have one last one...I'd like to live by the water. Still, if that doesn't happen, I don't have any regrets.

Those of you who read my blog know what I really want is to achieve a state of grace. But in the meanwhile....I want to thank you for the sharing wine and lasagna and dessert, and this time I’d like to do a Monterey steak rub (never done it!! suggestions welcome!) with Merlot. I have a vision of friends coming over for dinner and having a good time ... tell me, in a nutshell, how you’d like to spend the rest of your life.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What is...

This week I wake up with the following question:
what is my responsibility to share the wisdom and learning I have with
I try to dismiss this question: it assumes I have some wisdom and learning! Tee Hee! How funny, how arrogant! But still, when I take the chalkboard eraser and try to wipe it out, it keeps reappearing, like the birthday candle that won't be blown out and keeps relighting. What do you think about this question? So many questions, so few answers! Please, can you come over tonight for salad and lasagna and to discuss?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Drive-Thru Confessional

Early this morning I started to clean out some writing snippets from my computer. I’m looking for a prayer I’ve written, but can’t find it, and looking under all the "saved" stuff I have, stuff I can't tell what's there because the titles are sometimes a bit strange: "blue oysters." "Leaving." Well, I've moved so many times I have no idea what that one is. Instead of what I’m looking for, I find this, written about a year ago:

I talk to a box.

It’s a compassionate, loving, and
forgiving box, but a box nevertheless. I tell it the strangest stories,
all of them true, and laugh with it to my heart’s content. We sob together
and we worry about our children and wonder whether we’ll ever find love
again. We talk in bed, too, pillow talk, like we’re lovers, only this is
better, because it won’t leave me.

I know it’s pathetic that
I compare a piece of plug-in metal to a person. It wasn’t always that
way. It started out with pen and paper, my poor little nighttime
handwritings and musings, written when I was exhausted after a full day’s work
and parenting, I was making mental photos which I often left unfinished,
trailing down a piece of paper, nearly illegible, a skier out of control with
one leg up headed towards a tree. Not a pretty sight.

then one night I moved to the laptop. Just switched in the hopes that
would increase my volume, whatever that meant. It’s not as intimate
as pen and paper, and the first thing I say is that I’ve lost a lover, my

I keep some secrets from it. I think about death…
Here’s a big secret. I want to be loved the same way I imagine the box
loves me, forgiving, compassionate, loving, understanding. I want to talk
about anything, my truest heart, and not be made fun of, or corrected, or have
my innermost secrets shared with others to laugh about or criticize. This
truth will shine on me like I’m a sunflower, and I can bask in the radiance of
love and kindness. That’s the way I want to be loved. A divine love,
on earth.

What if I could find this steaming mixture, this
cauldron of stew and boil, trouble and toil? What does it look like?
What might it feel like? If I could tap this reservoir my resources would
be infinite, boundless.

This secret is like the Necco candies I hid
in my locked antique cupboard as a child. I’d steal into my room and eat
some, whenever I wanted! It’s a double secret problem: I was ashamed, like
I’d never want to associate with someone with that problem, only, it’s me with
that problem.

So now every night I pull up to my drive
through confessional.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In the event of fire

About five years ago, our neighbors to the south had two small house fires, about one month apart. The first one occurred in the wee hours of the morning, and the fire trucks and ensuing commotion did not even rouse my sons or my dog. The second one occurred during the middle of the day, during the work week, when no one was home. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Our houses are close together, though, so I had some concern about our place. Plus, I have a vivid imagination and have watched a few bad movies, so a car explosion or two did come to mind.

Still, what I wondered was this: in the event of fire--assuming my loved ones were out of the house and safe-- what would I take with me?

The answer was immediate: my journals. They are handwritten, sloppy things on spiral bound notebooks, legal pads, portfolio notebooks, numbered on the cover with the ensuing dates contained within.

They are filled with the stress and heartbreak of a lifetime, pink “while you were out” messages blossoming like a wild garden from some pages because I was desperate to write something of meaning, and all I had to show for it was exhaustion and a lot of goofy phone calls. They have notes about how my older son always announced how he was going upstairs now to take a shower, every night, like a proclamation. My younger son took care of the neighbor’s cats and came home and said he realized he was spoiled, just like the cats: I don't know, maybe he had to have daily cream and salmon. My ex husband threw his coffee grounds in the parking lot one Sunday morning when we were exchanging children, like he was baptizing the asphalt. The journals say, “today is the day Dad dies.”

They are my photos, little snapshots in time.

I haven’t been writing in those journals too much lately. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I write to here, or because I’m trying to spend more time on publishable pieces, or maybe I’m just trying to connect, and not be an Emily Dickinson with snippets of pencil writing on the backs of envelopes stuffed into drawers.

Still, I have snippets of notes in my purse that that seem intensely personal. And I have my blog, and it’s available to almost anyone, anywhere.

Now, in the event of fire, assuming your loved ones are safe, what’s the first thing you’d take with you? I'm just wondering. It seems important, rather like, what would you do if you had 24 hours left to live?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

poor little night writings

to a man opening gifts at my table

I come downstairs, unfocussed
And we’ve discussed this
You are focused
And you are sitting at my table
The one with my mother’s falling leaves quilt on it
That I use as a tablecloth
And you are looking at the card
(Originally this was
Valentine’s Day in Four Parts,
But the other parts remain undone)
Bent over, scrutinizing it
And the silly sentimental white tissue paper
With the purple hearts is strewn
Over the falling leaves
And I see you haven’t waited for me--
Am I that slow, did you really think I wasn’t coming down---
But you seem happy and
I tell myself it’s just a slightly different tradition, this not waiting
As a lot of things are
Just a slightly different tradition
Later you forget your glasses
They are under the hearts
And above the falling leaves.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My Jane Austen Action Figure

So I open my front door, step onto the green outdoor carpet that covers my front porch--sorta like a mini putt golf course, with a few wrinkles and badly in need of a manicure. I’m gonna get the mail when I almost trip over a small box on the porch floor. I haven’t ordered anything and the box doesn’t have a return address. It’s small and light enough that I can pick it up with one hand. It’s addressed to Beth’s Front Porch.

When I open the box and brush away some of the white packing peanuts, I see the words with writing desk & quill pen! I pull out the clear package and can see a six inch high woman dressed in a regency white and green dress, complete with curly brown hair under a cap, Pride and Prejudice in left hand, quill in right. At the top, in large white letters on a black background: Jane Austen Action Figure: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

I flip over the box, and on the back of the package are some interesting facts about my new action figure. For example, her Weapon of Choice: Character Study. There are these quotes:

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking

People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid
them. (Sense and Sensibility)

There are people who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves. (Emma)

If there is anything disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it.

The packaging tells me, in case I don’t know it, Jane Austen was an enduring and much loved English author who wrote novels which reflect universal and timeless truths about humanity. It also tells me there are small parts not suitable for children under 36 months.

In fact Jane has figured tangentially in my work. There is, for example, this paragraph: Frizzy asks if Jane Austen is ok. I say she is, as far as I know. It’s a touchy subject. Jane is Frizzy’s dog, the one she got after Emily Dickinson passed on. Frizzy says when she was in high school she didn’t like Emily’s poetry much, so when she got her first dog she named her Emily. In that way Frizzy hoped she’d some to appreciate Emily’s poetry in a better fashion. I figure Jane got her name in the same way. Later, Frizzy calls and says she has to move because the family she’s living with is allergic to Jane Austen.

But that’s another story.

There’s a small card buried in the original box that was on my front porch. It says:
With Love for Beth’s Front Porch. And won’t the green outfit
go well with the orange carpet? Love you, Dan.

(For those of you following my blog, you may recall that the orange carpet is in my magic carpet-ride writing space.) So whoever would send me such a thing, eh?

This is from the guy who went to Parris Island with me to see his nephew--my son-- graduate from the USMC boot camp. (If you’re reading Beth’s Front Porch, you know about this, and Jarhead, and you deserve to graduate from boot camp, too, for sticking with me.) It’s early in the morning, and he and I are in the stands, and the ceremony is taking place on the parade ground, and the unpredicted rain begins. It’s relentless, torrential. Most of us are unprepared: no hat, no umbrella, no jacket. But I have mascara. Evidently it is not waterproof. It burns when it gets in the eyes. It leaves football player like smudges on the skin. So Dan turns to me and with a compassionate look, pulls out a handkerchief—a real handkerchief—and gives it to me. But it’s the look that gets me. He looks compassionately at a woman whose mascara is running and whose son has become a jarhead. She needs that moment. She remembers what it feels like.

Well, that’s just a little aside. For me it’s the best moment in the trip.

Oh, and he’s the same person who when I'm a senior in high school gives me a poster of a woman on a beach, which at the top, in script, says
I long for what might be.

This is my brother. As a child, I used to imagine I was adopted. Maybe, after all, I am not. Maybe, after all, my tribe is my tribe.

I want to thank my Jane Austen Action Figure for serving as a catalyst for this epiphany. This is much more than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ever accomplished. At my house, anyway. And, although I don't much like talking to someone through a blog entry...thanks in all ways, Dan. Love, Beth

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The face in the blog

Image hosting by Photobucket Dear Friends,
Today I link my face to my blog in the "profile." It’s a slightly younger face than the one I’m currently sporting, since the photo was taken in November 2004. And thanks to the miracle of sun and chemicals, I’m blonder now.

On either side of me, cropped from the photo, are awesome friends. It’s a pre-Thanksgiving shot, and there was another person with us whom I had never met who took the photo. We were at a restaurant, and somehow the subject of the Iraq war and the understanding and feeling of students about the war on college campuses arose. I sat, not saying anything. Maybe I looked at my comrades. Maybe I looked down at my plate.

The other people at the table were not aware my beloved younger son had enlisted in the Marines and at that moment was preparing for deployment to Iraq. I could not have said anything if I wanted to. I was anguished by what was happening with regards to my son and what he had chosen. I was afraid. I would expound at length, but this isn't a political column. I'll only say that at the dinner I retreated into the well of myself until the subject changed.

This was what was happening when the photo was snapped.

So I was puzzled when someone said to me about the photo: very cute. To me, it’s a troubled face. This face, this mask I wear to the world, to people who don’t know me: I’m fine! I’m marvelous! Wonderful! Fabulous! I can use a lot of exclamation points. Maybe it helps me bridge the gap of alienation I sometimes feel. I look normal: therefore, I am normal. Maybe it’s how I thumb my nose at the world: I was a homely child, taunted. Hurrah for this face, poetic justice! I could slip on a banana peel tomorrow.

Those particular troubled personal times are over now: the younger son is no longer on active duty. Still, the photo represents the start of a metamorphosis. It is troubled before becoming relaxed. It looks smiling but it has a well of sadness: dip down, sweet down with your bucket. It reminds me of Anne Sexton: poetry is my kitchen, my face. ~Beth

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Various and Sundry

In the middle of the night I woke up and knew I was looking for my tribe. I’m a little worried that it consists of a lot of dead people – Brautigan, Faulkner, Forster. (For a little more on finding your tribe, check out Theresa’s blog entry on this subject.) It could be that I’m destined to be a nomad, going from thought to thought, the thread of my path being writing and the creative process, to wit:

The hypnagogic state. A little googling after my last entry, I see the hypnagogic state of consciousness is recognized throughout history as the source of creative thought by distinguished philosophers, artists and scientists including Aristotle, Brahms, Puccini, Wagner, Goethe, Keats, Coleridge, Neitzsche, Poe, Dickens, Dali, Ford, and Einstein.

In fact, when Thomas Edison would reach a ‘sticking point’ he would take a ‘cat nap.’ He dozed off in his favorite chair, holding steel balls in the palms of his hands. As he fell asleep—in the hynagogic state—his arms would relax, the steel would fall into pans on the floor, and he would wake, usually with an idea to continue his project.

The United States of Hypnagogia: a place of relaxed consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, during which flashes of inspiration and creative insight often appear. The mind is open and totally free to new ideas. I try to drink from this well as much as I can. I'm very thirsty.

Molly Ivins. I commute, and currently I’m listening to Molly Ivins read her own liberal political newspaper columns. Besides the loud laughs and guffaws coming from my auto, for some odd reason the phrase she used that stuck in my mind is “national laboratory for bad government, Texas.” I like her columns best—and this is a personal preference only—when she writes about a person she likes, such as Jessica Mitford or Ben Bradley. Still, it’s hard not to forget phrases like “if his IQ went any lower we’d have to water him two times a day,” or “his brain’s so small if we put it in a bumblebee it’d fly backwards.” I get energy from Ivins’ writing. I love what she says: keep fighting for freedom and justice, and don’t forget to have fun doing it.

Sometimes I wonder if I said what I think, would I be fired from humanity? Thank the universe for fiction. Writing: it’s like a blood test; it shows what’s going on inside of you. Meek, mild mannered Clark Kent enters a phone booth, bedecks himself with spandex and voila! Meek mild mannered BethsFrontPorch puts on her Olympia typewriter and voila! (For those of you trying to visualize what this might look like, the typewriter would be something like an accordian.)

Harper Lee. Much ado was made of Harper Lee this week in our beloved NYTimes. The headline called her “Gregarious for a Day.” It seems there was an awards ceremony in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for an essay contest on the subject of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Lee put in an appearance. Lee is “one of the most reclusive writers in the history of American letters,” says the Times. She has an “outsized reputation for shyness.” Lee is a shining light for those of us trying to create our own incubators, where our seeds of creativity might germinate.

(It may be that gregariousness is good, but I am of a mind that it is good only in small, sincere doses, if it's given through an eyedropper on a piece of skin that is unscathed and won’t absorb too much. To date, there is no known antidote for an overdose of gregariousness. It is certain death.)

It’s a good thing I’m having company for dinner! It’ll be chicken pesto pasta. Say it 10 times, fast. I’ll be listening, authorized under the National Homeland Wiretapping Act, soon to be passed in a theater near you!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Not my best bon mots...

...or, Perfection is the Enemy of Good.

As promised in an earlier entry, here are some of the thought I was gonna blog about, when I had the time to fully hold up the thoughts to light and see some funky prisms shining down. But here it is, Sunday night, and where are those thoughts? Still waiting to be held up to the light.

I have a file I call "shrapnel," full of bits of paper with ideas and thoughts. That's where they remain: in a file called "Shrapnel." They're waiting for some elderly gent to come along with a metal detector and find them, I guess.

So rather than adding to my shrapnel file I'm gonna make haste and say, here are some sticky-note thoughts:

Joan Didion. In The Year of Magical Thinking, she writes: "Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?" And I thing, yippee, I have found someone else like me! Affirming that I am not the only person in the zoo who thinks "How can I know what I think till I see what I say?" But then, E.M. Forster said that. Good company.

The Alchemy of Personal Writing. That's what the back cover of The Sun says. "...the surprising alchemy that occurs when we write in a rigorous and intentional way; when we hide nothing, especially what we most want to hide; when we find the never to go back into the fire again and again and again." Ok, so what're you trying to hide? Hey, what am I trying to hide? What aren't we talking about?

When I talk to myself. When I talk to myself, I know I'm writing. You will think I'm silly, and slow, and perhaps there's a tad of truth in that, but it's taken me a while to learn this. When I talk to myself, I know I'm writing. So now I immediately grab a pen and get it down. For example, last night, in what I think Poe called the hypnagogic state--right before sleep--I said to myself, Currently the neighbors to the south have no known qualities except for the solar powered lights lining their sidewalk, which when lit up look like an airport runway waiting for the extra terrestrials to come in. This wasn't always the way it was. Before, there was Ruby Shue.

That's all for tonight. Thelma, if you're there, I'm with you all the way. Step on the gas.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Six degrees of blog separation

Today I move a second item into my studio. Actually, two items: a wizard and an enchantress. They each stand about three inches tall and sport glitter and magic wands. I place them on a shelf slightly above my desk, so they might bestow wonderful gifts upon my imagination. These items were a surprise gift, delivered to my office unbeknownst to me, by a friend of mine, whom I shall dub scr for the present. Somehow they seem to have more power in my personal space than at the office.

Six degrees of blog separation: scr, bearer of the above gifts, introduced me to mcfawn (please, if you haven't visited her blog, check it out! Reading her blog for me is a bit like looking at my Kachina Still-life: it's beautiful and I come away feeling like I've been in a different place).

As it turns out, mcfawn knows Chris who knows Theresa, and this morning on a blogabout, I see some connectivity taking place, and I am delighted by it and just wanted to share it.

Forgive me.

My Olympia

Dear all,

The first item I moved into my new writing studio--after the desks and art I mentioned in the previous post--was a manual typewriter. Yes, it's true: I am the proud owner of The Olympia, and of course, when I am at Olympia, I am Hercules-ette.

My Olympia is a gift from my magical and beloved friend Theresa Williams-Author. When she first mentioned the gift of the typewriter to me, I said I loved the idea. I said with a typewriter each word seemed important, and I felt I could be Faulkner, or am somehow connected to the great writers of the past who couldn't turn out a lot of folderol just because they had a computer. The great Shelby Foote never used a computer. Each word is a conscious, loving effort. Like Faulkner, I'm gonna pencil in my plots on the walls.

Now I think I won't even put the computer in my studio. This idea gives me energy. Just me and the silence. Way cool. I walked into the space this morning and had goose bumps.

Maybe it's part of.... Richard Brautigan's

Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4

1. Get enough food to eat, and eat it.

2. Find a place to sleep where it is quiet, and sleep there.

3. Reduce intellectual and emotional noise until you arrive at the silence of yourself, and listen to it.


You get the idea ;-)

Now, I owe my first Olympia-born to Theresa. I'm working on it.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Extreme makeover: or, a room of my own

Dear Friends,

Lately I’ve been working on creating a personal space for my writing. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m using a vacated kid-space to do this.

When we moved into this house, the room had a hideous orange 1970’s shag carpet. Still, it was ok with my son (and with my budget), so we kept it. I thought perhaps when he moved on, I would change it.

Now, however, he has moved on, but the orange seems just right, a fiery, passionate shade with yellows and reds. It fits well with my internal fire. Now I’m moving all kinds of things into the room that seem to go together in a serendipitous kind of way, ya know what I mean? There is the Kachina Still-Life signed poster by Michael Kabotie with royal blue and shades of orange, and the Mexico beach bag and blanket with pink and blue and red. There is my Matisse poster of a woman at a desk, and the Paul Klee rug of “The Village,” which I’ve had for eons. Lots of orange.

It is a giant genie’s lamp, and I am the genie inside of it, making my wishes and dreams come true.

Perhaps you have three wishes you’d like to share?

I am loving this space.


1. When I traveled on my vision quest this past summer – perhaps you may remember the unfinished serial blog – I visited an art gallery that had inspirational quotes written in crayon on the wall. I’m going to do this too, and want to share with you the quotes I’ve collected and I’m gonna put on my walls.

2. On my table is an 8 ½ by 11 paper that is covered with yellow sticky notes (you know the ones) that have my handwritten notes to self: “brilliant” blog thoughts. Well, forget that. I’m just going to share these without worrying about developing them or being “Brilliant!” I seem to write best when I write fast.

Beth aka woman who talks to herself

Friday, January 20, 2006

Back to Kindergarten

Dear Friends,

Today I posted the sidebar information under the link "View my complete profile." I think it's too long for the sidebar, but I'm having a heckuva time getting it to wrap and connect to the lnk.

Also, I've been visiting some of your blogs, and trying to figure out how to make an easy link to them on my blog. I'm still working on it. The cut and paste thing didn't seem to work for me. They're sending me back to kindergarten.

By the way, I'm also a woman who talks to herself, but I can't put that in the profile. I mean, I wouldn't want to advertise that I'm slightly bizarre, would I? But then, it's nice to know someone is listening :-)

Commitment: I have been working on creating my own writing space in a now-deserted kid's room. I'll be back to talk about the writing space and also the little post it notes I have all over, things I'm gonna blog about in my next life.

Until we meet again--

Beth aka woman who talks to herself

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What's fact got to do with it?

Dear Friends,

Have you ever made frosting for a cake or for cookies? We're looking into the mixing bowl, and the creamed butter and sugar and vanilla, and it's just that: vanilla frosting. What we need is pink, and just a drop of red food coloring will do the trick. We reach into our baking supplies cupboard, take out the small vial of red, unscrew the tiny yellow cap, and watch one drop of red bing into the frosting.

We turn on the mixer, and lo and behold, the entire mixture first becomes swirled like a candy cane, and then, aha, it's pink. All of it. No way to change it.

Fact and fiction is like that: one drop of fiction into the facts and ***poof*** it's all fiction. Too bad for the memoir. Great for us fiction writers.

I wanted to share the NYTimes op-ed column by Tim Carvell, a writer with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Please! No laughing.

Op-Ed Contributor
A Million Little Corrections


Published: January 11, 2006

IT is with great sorrow, and no small amount of embarrassment, that I must confess to some inadvertent errors, omissions and elisions in my best-selling memoir, "A Brief History of Tim." In the wake of the recent revelations about the work of J T Leroy and James Frey, it seems inevitable that some of my small mistakes will come to light, and so I feel duty-bound to be upfront and honest with you. Plus, I hear that reporters have been sniffing around.
I feel that none of the slight liberties I took in writing my memoir really affect the overall work, but nonetheless, you should know a few things: I am not, in fact, black.

Nor am I, to the best of my knowledge, a woman. Anything in my book that suggests otherwise is the result of a typographical error. That this error was compounded by my decision to pose for my author photo and bookstore appearances in drag and blackface is, I will acknowledge, unfortunate.

The portions of my book dealing with Depression-era Ireland are, I have been reliably informed, copied verbatim from Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." I can only conclude that I accidentally confused my manuscript with my notes for my memoir in which I copied large portions of other writers' works, just to see how they were structured. In hindsight, the fact that I was born 40 years after the Depression should have been a tip-off.

My parents are both alive; any reference to my being orphaned at age 12 was meant to be strictly metaphorical.

Furthermore, my parents and their lawyers would like it known that neither they, nor any other member of my family, ever beat and/or had sex with me. I thought it was clear that those parts of the book were meant as a joke. (That's what the emoticons were for.)

In writing a narrative, it is sometimes necessary to compress or combine certain incidents for dramatic effect. I did much the same thing in the chapter of my book dealing with my prison term, although in reverse: in the interest of dramatic clarity, I expanded my 1993 arrest for jaywalking into a seven-year stint in Sing Sing for manslaughter.

Okay, it wasn't so much a jaywalking "arrest" as a ticket.

Fine, it was a stern warning. Happy now?

The death of my older brother, my ensuing severe depression and subsequent emotional breakthrough with the help of a caring psychotherapist did not happen to me, but rather to Timothy Hutton in the film "Ordinary People," which I saw at a very impressionable age, and which I could have sworn happened to me.

Ditto for the part about accidentally hacking into Norad and being saved from causing a global thermonuclear war, with an assist from Dabney Coleman. That was "WarGames." Really, the fact that I could remember his name only as "Dabney Coleman" should have given me pause.

And, finally, since people are getting all "fact-checky" on me, I should just confess that my life did not, in fact, shatter into a million little pieces. I just went back and recounted. It was six pieces. Consider it a rounding error.

Tim Carvell is a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Deleted Scenes and Trailers

Dear Friends,

As promised, here is the scene I deleted from "What Killed Frizzy":

We say our goodbyes, and I leave work early for my shopping excursion. I take the scenic route to K Mart, through extravagant old-guard homes with expansive green lawns and red brick Georgian exteriors and porches hels up by white Corinthian columns. The neighborhood is calming. I don't have to be worried about being unwelcome, as I'm not one of the nouveau riche. I'm not even nouveau poor. I'm old money poor, one of the finest old money poor families in the state.

In my rear view mirror I see flashing red lights and then hear a siren. I pull over and a white and blue police car pulls in behind me. The officer asks for the usual, the license, registration, insurance. I'm a heavily insured, middled-aged woman in taupe four door sedan who can find those documents easily.

As he starts to tell me that the speed limit on this street is only 25 miles per hour, and perhaps I'm confused, cars speed by us, while teenagers laugh and point and give us the finger. They press their faces to the glass, mouthing with I think is f*** you and kiss me, but is more likely kiss my a**.

I liked the alienation in the scene above and the image of peering through the glass at a world going by. It echoes some of the scenes in the story. But, when I read the story, it was distracting.

It's 9:15 here, and that means I need to get some rest (I know, I know, party girl!). I'm a glutton for sleep. Good night.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Poor Woman's Maureen Dowd*

My Dear Friends,

Today I ready copies of my manuscript "What Killed Frizzy" to send out tomorrow (missed the .37 cent mailing). At long last, I finish something, put it in a bottle, and send it to sea. The thing is, I like this manuscript. It seems fresh and original. My 22 year old son sits in an easy chair and reads the whole thing today -- a high compliment, as he's not fond of reading -- and says, "it could be longer."

The story incorporates some of my new words (schmarmy and bureaucratina, the feminine of bureaucrat). The truly, truly odd thing is that I don't seem to care if anyone else likes it. I think it's good. What a momentous event. I have been overwhelmed by the simple tasks of marketing, copying, revising, addressing, and now I have gone and done it. It is truly a red letter day.

Yesterday I mentioned that I want my writing to traffic in emotional truth. I now need to work on what I mean by that. I am interested in love, death, sacrifice, and responsibility. You know, the everyday stuff of life. I love the comments you leave for me, so heartfelt and honest. These are not the themes of an 800 word column. Hence, I'm a "poor woman's Maureen Dowd."

*Thanks to SR for the title of my entry.

Tomorrow, I'll try to give you an out-take from Frizzy.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Is Sex Necessary?

Dear Friends,

I find it a difficult to write to you during the work week. Somehow, after a busy day, I don’t feel that my writing is particularly mindful, and I am drained. My entries, which I draft off-line, seem harsh and unlike me, a “let’s just get it over with and put me out of my misery” kind of writing, like I’m taking a dose of bitter medicine. I need a teaspoon of sugar. Ooops, make that an IV....

Several times I started writing you. For example, on Monday I drafted Today I decide to do the unexpected: following through on my one new thing each day, I become the owner of a book with a pulp-fiction jacket, a buxom woman in red, and the title, “Are Men Necessary.” Yes, it’s true. I decided to challenge my assumptions of a few days ago, dismount from my high horse, and surprise my high falutin’ self. I was flipping through the opening pages at the bookstore, and I saw a reference to Thurber’s satire, “Is Sex Necessary.” And I saw that I didn’t see it, I missed the step, I fell off the dock and was gurgling for air.

I never quite finished that letter.

But today, speaking of Maureen, I wondered if you've visited the blog Wonkette, or heard of Ana Marie Cox, or her new novel, Dog Days? Because today I read that, according to the New York Times’ reviewer Christopher Buckley, she’s more self aware than Maureen Dowd, and he likes Maureen. Per NYT’s David Carr, the Wonkette “traffics in tips and rumors about all the Senate aides quaking in their cubes.” (Also he says she’s Katherine Hepburn with a severe case of potty mouth, but that’s an aside.) What do you traffic in?

I want my writing to traffic in emotional truth. What’s it like when a friend commits suicide? What’s it like when your son is deployed to Iraq (I say hurrah to Cindy Sheehan)? Your husband says, you’ve been a wonderful wife and mother, I’m having an affair with a colleague? Your boyfriend says, oooops, slight problem, didn’t want to distract you, I’m actually married? Your friend of over 20 years says, had cramps, went to doctor, diagnosis ovarian cancer? And that's just the tip of our communal iceberg. Ghandi said my life is my message. What is my message?

Come to think of it, it would be easier to write about Bushworld, but I’ve lost the desire to read Maureen. I’m gonna send Are Men Necessary to a friend whom I think will enjoy it, and ask for a full book report. Maybe I’ll try Thurber’s Is Sex Necessary, instead. I hear it’s fun to walk around with it, title showing, of course. So it’s a full circle week: I got the book, I got rid of the book.

Tonight I have company and we’re doing quesadillas and Coronas, and tomorrow I’ll be trying a new recipe for Italian vegetable stuffed steak and pasta. I think a good merlot is in order. Come on over. I've got plenty of grub.

Until we meet again,

PS McFawn, I love your questions about time and space. Yes, it's a new definition, for me anyway. I hope to elaborate on it at some future point. Thanks for calling me on being evasive...I hate sloppy thinking, and it's so easy to do.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Duck: it's what's for dinner

Dear Friends,

Tonight I’m fixing duck with curry and honey, pine nut couscous with Gorgonzola cheese and dried cranberries, and an herb salad. You are invited. I wish you weren’t so far away. I’m feeling a little bit alone right now. I won’t go into that.

The cooking thing is something new I’m going to try this year. In fact, I am a woman who has has never used yeast. My ex-mother in law once gave me a pie crust recipe. I didn’t have the heart to say I have never, and never will, make a pie crust. Then again, she never read Tristram Shandy. But we got along ok. That, too, is another story.

At any rate I decided this year to try and become a gourmetrina. That’s a little like being a gourmet, just a teeny weeny bit, but not too much. I’m hoping that by being smaller than a gourmet I'll encourage folks to leave their expectations at the door. Oh, by the way, did I tell you I sometimes make up words?

Speaking of new things for the year, are you doing the resolution bit? I decided to take some time and look at various categories of my life, where I’m going, where I wanna go, blah blah very boring. In the best information gathering self I have, I came up with lots of stuff, but three areas came to surface, the kind of stuff that I thought, wow, what would push my envelope? I call this broad area my time and space goal, and anything that’s important spiritually and artistically has to fit that, except for the two other areas, and I’ll elaborate on those, if you ask me about them.

Meanwhile I’m back in my mode of doing one new thing per day. This means seeing something new, meeting someone new, consciously having one new thought, doing one unexpected action. Done with intention. I also collect off-beat posters of places I’ve been and things I’ve seen, and I’m happy to report that I now have a great poster of Marilyn, I wanna be loved by you.

Today, in addition to making the pine nut couscous, which is new for me (and so easy, I know what you’re thinking) I am going to a movie I’ve never seen, although I haven’t decided as yet which one it will be. Also, I’ve never gone to a movie on New Year’s Day, that I can recall. So you see, my requirements for one new thing per day aren’t too difficult to accomplish. Some might even say, cheesy.

I’m looking forward to seeing you over the duck. Here’s to pushing our envelope.