Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Words, time and words

There is a shipwreck aspect to writing. Surrender to the call means other pieces of life are abandoned. The tighter its grip, the farther I drift from ordinary. I hadn't thought of writing and me in these terms until today; until a ship I hadn't known I was waiting for sailed into view.

I am so thankful for the writers I have met recently through our blogs, yet it is still a solitary, lonely business. At times the connections make it feel more remote for I see where others have found the thread they need and I, in my own eyes, am stumbling around, getting my foot caught in a bucket, stepping on a rake, having misplaced the last known pencil. I find it impossible to explain the writing desire - or is it a compulsion? It is not like anything else that I can name...a day's work can produce pages of words, but if they are not the right words...

So much about life I find to be acts of faith and writing is surely one of them. So is getting out of bed in the morning. A writer has a place she wants the writing to take her - and those who read the words - but, at least as I practice it, the act is much closer to interpretive dance, I don't know which way I will bend until I do it, than to, say, something for which I have created an outline and have a...plan. I haven't done an outline for anything since junior college and what I remember is writing the outline after the paper. You can guess what that did to my grade.

The left side of my brain gets a lot rest. It is never invited over to play when I write; the times when it has popped in to see what we were up to, its suggestions made me feel like I was trying to swim while zipped into a sleeping bag. While taking part in a fiction writing workshop, someone asked (not the classic "where do you get your ideas?"), "How do you know what happens next?" The only, the honest answer was, "When the car pulls up, I wait to see who gets out and then tell about it."

My rescue vessel arrived in the form of a writer friend who has taken some time away from writing to do the work for which we rely on that other side of the brain. Life, rude and intrusive or the opposite, sometimes needs us to talk to attorneys, reduce soaring piles of magazines and mail, make arrangements, show up. But in talking to her, feeling our mutual urgency about whatever it is that we're doing - for neither of us is sure, we just know we have to do it - I wept for knowing that this is not madness and that fact could be confirmed.

Drama in my everyday world is, in my opinion, something loathsome and to be avoided. When I use a word like madness my self-regulator tries to give me the stink eye. I look away, knowing this isn't the exaggeration it might seem. Pushing forward with a body of work that is not a novel, not a collection of poems or short stories, more a gathering of thoughts from heart, mind and spirit, is not a wholly rational act and, because of its solitary nature, becomes a questionable investment of all the resources, down to those dollar coins the post office machines give as change.

It may be a measure of commitment, the single mindedness that makes it possible to float so far from known landmarks without having a clue that I am no longer tethered. The work may be epic, the work may be one paragraph that builds upon another, or one word, followed by three more, but the force it exerts once the call is answered could pull a bulldozer out of quicksand.

One of my core beliefs is that each of us is called to something and as long as it does no harm, the possibilities are infinite. I wobbled and waffled for years, trying to understand the call, trying to meet its expectations, halfway trying to dodge it and substitute an activity like writing. It now has me for however long it takes or however long I last. There are far more meanings to the word surrender than waving the white flag.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weather report

If I haven't tackled it over the weekend, my first task on Monday mornings is writing my weekly retail paragraph. This morning I got to welcome Halloween. In the paper crafting world, as with retail in general, holidays begin early, though card makers have a reason for the head start. Creating one-of-a-kind greetings takes time.

Southern California's weather, following days hot enough to leave our brightest citizens panting and witless, did a sharp U-turn with its usual false promise of autumn. It is a tease we know well, yet those of us who long to put the fans back on closet shelves think, just maybe, this could be it. As my sister, a Virginia resident, describes it, "The morning when you feel the snap in the air." Northern Virginia will be snapping while Los Angeles is still wriggling out of its sandy bathing suits.

The notion of back-to-school clothes was usually absurd. We picked styles we saw in the stores or Sears catalog, outfits that would bring on heat rash in a Pasadena September, yet there were years we wore them anyway. They were NEW clothes. Too many times the hottest days of the year coincided with the start of school. That spilled over into October when the Santa Ana winds kick up, often bringing fires. But by Halloween there were leaves to rake nearly every afternoon and the need of a costume-spoiling sweater - or the unthinkable coat - for trick or treating.

It is ungrateful to complain about our weather; this may have been the mildest summer on record and I certainly became spoiled by so many sweatless days and nights. After living in Washington, D.C. for one summer and visiting Raleigh, North Carolina, one July, I know I do not have the right stuff for that kind of heat and humidity. I used to reread Southern writers during the summer: Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote. Acclimating was the only possible way for a mind to wander along creative paths rather than spend hot days and nights in a stupor of writers' block. I admired and envied their flexibility.

Today the Los Angeles temperature was 57 degrees at 6 a.m., expected to reach a high of 74. Five days ago 74 was the overnight low in Pasadena. Our fluctuations seem more than meteorological; many of us, I among them, judging by our postings and conversations, seem to be commuting between other highs and lows, between quavering doubt and sturdy optimism. If climate changes have such an impact on something the size of our home planet, why would they not exert some power over lesser bodies? I can't swear that my glaciers have begun to shrink, but I intend to keep them under surveillance. They've become too unpredictable for my comfort.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A sleeping/waking puzzle

The on-line dictionary says haunt means to visit often. I am, therefore, haunted by the frequent dream appearances of a late friend. Two separate dreams very early this morning, leaving me with the same disorientation and let-down that resulted from previous - and recent - encounters. We were friends; in the months before his death we didn't see each other but talked for hours on the phone. In life, I would not have guessed that he would turn up so often or leave me in grief every time, with each awakening feeling as thought he continues to die again and again.

There must be comfort I can't know in a faith that says death reunites us with all whom we have lost. What makes this a mystery within a mystery - for what are dreams, if not fragments of the unknown, tossed up by our own unknowable sleeping minds - is the intensity of the loss, repeated. Why him, why now, why?

In junior high school I had - and carried with my binder and textbooks - a copy of Freud's volume on the interpretation of dreams. I forget whether I bought it or found it in our home library. I just know as I hurried along the halls it perched on my right hip, top of the pile. What imagined version of myself I was trying to project is something I can guess at but not truly know; I think I was trying for smartypants soothsayer. Perhaps Freud makes sense to some 14-year-olds but his was a code I couldn't crack. If there was something accessible, I probably disagreed with it.

I used to receive catalogs from new-age-slanted book clubs. There were always the manuals, with symbol-heavy illustrated covers, on interpreting our own dreams. In keeping with my there-is-very-little-that-is-one-size-fits-all philosophy, I found it difficult to accept that what a fish meant in your dream meant the same in mine.

So I am prepared to take all that I don't know about dreams and put it in a shoebox under the bed, while I take whatever I do know about Jack, about myself, and see if I can find more overlappings and parallel lines. In fiction, there is always a reason for the haunting; visited and visitor are not random and unconnected. I admit to noticing what might be considered signs, but only of good, never ill. If I find a coin on the sidewalk, it reminds me there is abundance, that a gift may come from anywhere. Sooner or later, I imagine I'll know the reasons for Jack's house calls. It is far too late to try and make sense of Freud.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dispatches

Lock up your shrill, your punishing monkey minds. If you are without basement, shed or soundproof closet, give them bus fare to get as far as the coast, encourage them to wade into the deep waters and hope the rip current takes them as far south as Cabo. They may like the climate, though a slower pace could give them the heebie-jeebies. Trouble stirred with a big stick, that's their element.

Doll-maker Jane Cather writes her characters' stories on the turned hems of their skirts or aprons. I would be wise to leave myself such a memo for those times when shrieks of malice drown all knowledge of the person I believe myself to be in my most compassionate moments.

We have done nothing to bring on the frenzy of abuse our thoughts heap upon us, nothing but dwell here, beings of spirit, laboring - in theory - to find an easy home in human form. Some low-toned yet wise voice suggests that we are many; I have taken to inscribing on my garment, along with my known truth in block letters, the names of those with matching symptoms. If found wandering, please contact...

Too many miles of my journey have been spent with doubt kicking up the dust beside me. I avoid post offices in new towns, not willing to be recognized should my photo appear on poster there: Wanted for unspecified crimes. I know every unloving act I have ever committed but have grown nearly feeble trying to clear my name, to reach the cool grove of respite.

Today I would prefer to be fueled by peaceful contemplation rather than angst. In a state of acute disrepair, I am not able to cozy up to words in workable order. I can think of only one piece I wrote under the influence of sleeplessness and grief that wasn't awful; it was the letter to my cousin's husband, composed the night she died. It might have been wise to make a copy. I know he saved it, as I saved his voice mail that told me so.

We don't forget where we've been; we don't need to stay there, we are not filing dispatches from the front. Distance and a measure of stability - we can debate the illusion of that state - give us time to collect images and to soften into something not so brittle that it cracks when we attempt to mold it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH

Even though a friend had told me of its existence nearly a year ago, information soon dissolved in the everyday soup,  it was in the past few days  that I chanced upon the documentary, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, whose subject is Harlan Ellison, speculative fiction writer for every medium, tale-spinner possibly without peer. I risk being taken for a dowager fanboy, I am that enamored of his work and his essential self. The movie and the G-force energy of Ellison speaking his mind made the two people in this household who write feel that, no matter how deeply in his shadow we may walk, if we keep working, refining, learning and propping our minds open with whatever sticks we can find, we have chosen a path which may lead...anywhere.

This is an excerpt from the short story, "Bright Eyes", collected in the volume Paingod and Other Delusions. Much of Ellison's nearly 50 years of work seems either out of print or not easy to find. It is worth the hunt.

"Feet without toes.  Softly-padded feet, furred.  Footsteps sounded gently, padding furry, down ink-chill corridors of the place.  A place Bright Eyes had inhabited since before time had substance.  Since before places had names.  A dark place, a shadowed place, only a blot against the eternally nightened skies.  No stars chip-ice twittered insanely against that night; for in truth the night was mad enough.

Night was a condition Bright Eyes understood.  And he knew about day...

He knew about almost everything.

The worms.  The moles.  The trunks of dead trees.  The whites of eggs.  Music.  And random sounds.  The sound fish make in the deep.  The flares of the sun...Clocks and what they do.  Ice cream.  Wax seals on parchment dedications.  Grass and leaves.  Metal and wood.  Up and down.  Here and most of there. Bright Eyes knew it all."

Following is a clip from the documentary.  If he is not known to you, meet Harlan Ellison.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FULL MOON IN PISCES

Stamped art from Rubbermoon by Stephanie Mullaney, stamp images by M. Kelly. (Yes, I know this moon is less than full. We do the best we can.)

Before sunup this morning, the Piscean full moon hung above the barely-lit Los Angeles skyline, preparing to emphasize our dreams, illusions and spiritual connections to the Divine within. It signifies - in rudimentary terms - a lunar shift to the dreamy flow of the inner world. Pisces opens the door to worlds that lie within the soul and the psyche. Make of this what you will. Oh, and Mercury is retrograde.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Here's something you can do

Photo from The Collective Mind, posted by Bob Bragman. Many thanks.

Among my friends are retailers, present and past. These are not rosy times for them. During the years I appeared at rubber stamp stores, especially for free demonstrations, I overheard - not that they were whispering - too many customers urging others in the audience either to buy the item being shown at a huge chain store with its unmatchable discounts or, more recently, to shop on line. Valid businesses, not witless advice, just not appropriate to be spouting when you are collecting free handouts, taking notes on how to use new materials and, as a friend once described it, sucking up the air conditioning. Bad manners.

I'll step out in front on this one and volunteer to buy something from an independent retailer or other local business this week...yes, I know we want and need the good chain stores...no one is watching, it's okay to go to Kinko's. But a magazine from a local newsstand, latte from a one-up coffee merchant, a yard of ribbon from the craft store, a stack of mysteries from the charitable thrift shop or second-hand bookseller...any and all would help keep the ship afloat.

And a note to customers of the shops that do things like offer how-to demonstrations at no charge: I know your mother raised you better than that. It is simply polite to (a) thank the owner or manager for their generosity and (b) BUY SOMETHING. One pen, a sheet of scrapbook paper, you'll still scoot out the door for less than a dollar in most cases and go from being thought of - by ALL the staff - as a cheapskate and become someone they will greet more warmly next time. Believe me, they don't forget these things.

I was one who got really cranky when, post 9/11, we were told that if we didn't shop, the terrorists would win. Expletives are not part of my blog writing, but just imagine what I'm thinking. This is different; this is us, all together, with our Social Security, a dollar left over from lunch, 25 cents from the bottom of an old purse, bringing a modicum of good will into the community and doing what we can to see that our towns and neighborhoods will not only prevail but prosper. If you possibly can...thank you and please come again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

ANYTHING-CAN-HAPPEN THURSDAY...even more unexpected on Friday

From the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, exploding star V838 moncerotis.

Once my brother joined the gang suggesting that I'd enjoy the CBS comedy, The Big Bang Theory, I began watching and they were right. For those who don't know, the premise involves four very bright young scientists whose geeky leanings add to their appeal. Anything-Can-Happen Thursday is an event referred to in the show. Today's post is a small and quiet shout out to the smart men who are and have been in my life and to all smart men (we'll get to the women another day) everywhere.

My formal education goes no farther than high school. In a state of bewilderment I showed up for junior college, briefly, but other than learning to resist the deconstruction of poetry by W. B. Yeats and surviving the Cuban Missile Crisis, I'm not sure I retain much. Oh, there was a geology class in which we heard a taped lecture by Hungarian-American nuclear physicist, Edward Teller, on, among other things, the extent of the universe. One of his well-known quotes, on another topic of which he had knowledge, is, "Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction." Smart man.

Yesterday, a word close to my heart - autodidact - came up in conversation and I was reminded of the birthday or Christmas when my last long-term boss at my last real job gave me a copy of The Day I Became An Autodidact by Kendall Hailey. Mr. F. is one of the smart, perhaps smartest, men I am fortunate to count as a friend. His wisdom results from, I would say, a superior mind, significant academic achievements, considerable professional abilities and the gift of insight. To have my self-taught ways acknowledged by someone whom I consider a giant was the greatest affirmation I could want. With his equally-amazing wife and children, I believe they could run the world.

Sons - my own and those of women I know who are not confused about the extent of their blessing - are on my smart men list. For senses of humor, inquiring minds, vision that reaches far beyond seeing, talent, awareness of who they are, kindness and generous hearts, the ability to set boundaries, encyclopedic knowledge of greater and lesser matters and the people behind them, continual growth in mind and spirit, and having survived events in their younger years that looked iffy at times, they are among my heroes.

My brother, before he set our to seek his fortune in a distant land at 19, was already smart, musically and artistically gifted and knew his way around sports cars. Who he has become over the last 40-some years is my closest confidant, champion of my essential self and my work, teacher, composer and a man whose appetite for the real story of who we are, and why, and his ceaseless exploration of life's mysteries, are all the proof anyone might need that some of us get even smarter as we get older.

I count among smart men some whom I have recently met through blogging; thoughtful, questioning, supportive of others in the blog world, self-deprecating, creative, alert and not likely to be bamboozled. Their honest writings and willingness to be seen by strangers model courage for me, openness. I have no sense from them that the first thing they seek in a room is the exit, that keeping themselves guarded and hidden is not how they interpret their purpose on earth. I have had such friends in the actual, 3-D world; sadly, they are gone. I am grateful for these new encounters.

To call anyone, for instance President Obama, an intellectual and use the word as an insult is a tragic measure of how far we have drifted from center. If smart is not one of the values we demand from elected officials, well...we could end up with any old thing. I think I know how this turns out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Note to self

"All of the animals except for man know that the principle business of life is to enjoy it."
-Samuel Butler.

Luckily for me, there is no rigid screening process for membership in the Organization of Sentient Beings. My ferry schedule must be out of date, because I come awfully close to missing the boat - repeatedly.

Beliefs - our personal mythology, our more than twice-told stories - can act as the curse spoken over the baby just before the castle and all within it fall into coma-like slumber. Whatever the planets are up to, their influence has someone touching live wires to parts of my brain while an Observer stands by and remarks, "That's not true. Where did you come up with that?"

Item one: how many times have I written or said that I just write; I don't know where it's going, I just show up and do it. False. I DO know. My writing carries me from this place into another, as the words pile up my work becomes more, bigger. Where it is going is forward. That forward may not have a name or form is not the same as standing still. I do know.

Item two: because of current or historic events that might be seen as setbacks, I often tell myself that life is hard, as though that limp and watery classification lets me be as half-assed as I want. False. I have not broken down at some menacing desert way-station; the necessary replacement part will not take 6 weeks to arrive; I am not without resources and, in many ways, abundance. The grocery stores have been selling blueberries for (almost) pennies for the past several weeks. Blueberries may be one of the signs of advanced civilization; they are surely not a sign of the apocalypse. No trust fund? Que lastima.

Item three: I see Iraqi war amputees climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and feel like a whiner and a wimp. I see the armless teenager who paints, applies eye makeup without smudges, drives a car and flies an airplane. I am usually the first to scream that comparisons are odious - or odorous - but please. At what point did I make the choice to sit out the rest of my life because getting around is not the easy waltz it used to be.

Item four: there is an emphatic part of me that really believes impossible things can happen. I have had them happen to me. Call them miracles, blessings, call them impossible things; the last-minute reprieve has saved us more times than I can count. That is enough to hold onto; empirical evidence is sufficient in this case.

Item five: I have not been drawing and have written less often than I intend. The only thing keeping me from these joys is me and too many lunches from the apathy cafe. My time here is finite; is this the best I can do? Does this make me happy?

As other faulty beliefs come to me, I may list them here, if only to bring them into the light and let them slither off to another shadowy grotto. This could be labeled Noticing Out Loud, I suppose, but unlike writing the thoughts in the air with the licked tip of a finger, at least for the moment they have shape here. After the blogger lost comments fiasco, who knows. I may have choked on self-absorption long before a follow-up entry can be pasted together.

Several weeks ago I learned that artist-teacher-author Carla Sonheim was giving copies of her new book, Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists , to some of the illustrators who contributed to the work, so that they could hold drawings on their blogs. I was one of the fortunate drawees and my copy arrived today. One of the first pages I turned to was about creating paper dolls. The exercise speaks to me, not only because she uses cereal box cardboard as the background. The page also includes a quote from Carl Jung, "What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Here is the key to your earthly pursuits."

What I did was read, daydream, dance, sing, cook, do my best and believe. Later I wrote. Earthly pursuits. My keys.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Incongruities

Awakened mid-dream, my jukebox mind is playing Buck Owens' Together Again. This began a few months ago, the music of others already in progress. I have no idea what it means.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a drawer full of swapmeet silverware, grape-patterns, flowers, initials that are not mine. I am vintage Nancy Drew and The Road; It's A Wonderful Life and True Romance. My heart wishes for claret-red frizzy hair; my head seeks invisibility.

I am the seven-year-old who wants pink boiled icing on her birthday cake, the eleven-year-old who moistens Mabelline black cake mascara with spit. I am the eighteen-year-old whose only vision is to call San Francisco home while someone teaches her how to write plays and the twenty-three-year-old who wonders if it is possible to wish herself into a sleep that will not end.

My parts don't match. Are we allowed to serve arthritis and rock and roll on the same plate? Aren't there rules?

Apparently not. We are untethered, certain at last of one thing: that we have to make it up as we go along.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Out West

After toting Wallace Stegner's Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West from our last home to this, in a move that saw probably 2/3 of the library depart, I started reading it yesterday.

One of the essays (I peeked ahead) is about Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It, and I will wait until I arrive honestly at page 190 to read about his unexpected, unlikely success with writing which he began at age 70.

Stegner prefaces his chapter called "Thoughts In a Dry Land," by saying, "You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale." The West of which he writes seems to cover everything that is not east of the Missouri River. The West I know is Southern California but the advice applies.

Our first family home was part of a post-war housing tract in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles in land so dry that tumbleweeds blew through before people began fencing their yards. Even with fences, the tumbleweeds simply congregated against the chainlinks. The tract was bordered by a commercial gravel pit, a dairy and orange groves, irrigated with water we must have acquired from somewhere to the north. I grew up knowing that we, evil desert dwellers with aspirations of green yards and orchards, stole water from the Owens Valley. Robert Towne managed to turn that, and other betrayals, into an Academy Award-winning screenplay.

Which brings me, by skating the long way around, to Chinatown, Roman Polanski's Ghost Writer, film noir in a marginal way, and the schnook. Watching Ghost Writer last night and not remembering, in the moment, who had directed it, I had the feeling I had seen this guy before - more than once - and wanted to convince him to turn around, reminding him to, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Since I know I have the capacity for schnookdom with regard to certain things, I suspect it is a (we can but hope) mostly dormant aspect of our smarter, better selves. But like Jake Gittes and his doomed intentions, the leading man as dupe makes for great stories, Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Out of the Past and Body Heat among them. Not wanting to be a spoiler for Ghost Writer, I will merely leave you with the schnook association.

Because I believe most of us live on hope of some description part of most days, we simple humans are easy prey for those who are determined to mislead us. We may be blinded by greed, beauty, lust or the desire to do the right thing but while our eyes are on a self-serving - or noble - goal, the guy in the good suit with a thick insulation of yes men and thugs or the femme fatale with her troubled marriage is picking our pocket and messing with our mind.

In Jack Nicholson's detective who thought he had all the answers, Towne and Polanski gave us an iconic version of Everyman, deceived and abandoned by fate or design. In the overlays of Stegner and Polanski as I absorbed their stories, there seemed a connection between the opening of the West as begun by Lewis and Clark and the refusal of entrepreneurs at the turn of 20th century Los Angeles to accept that our arid land would not, as it stood, support their dreams.

Writing of expectations of those seeking to discover and claim the West, Stegner says, "Illusion and mirage have been built into it since Coronado came seeking the Seven Cities of Cibola in 1540...Witness the young men from all over the world who fill graveyards in California's Mother Lode country." Dreamers or dupes, they are not unique to the West but do seem attuned to that inaudible call, so filled with promise at a price not yet determined.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh, play it loud

THE WHO, live with Keith Moon - BABA O'RILEY
Video uploaded by pireterna - thanks very much.

Because some mornings you just...fill in the blank.

For Mr. Kelly and Mr. Anderson and all those Farewell Tours.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Must be demon rasslin' time


Yo-Yo Ma James Taylor - Hard Times Come Again No More

Charles Schulz' Pigpen could raise a cloud of dust atop freshly-fallen snow. I can raise a cloud of crazy walking from one room to another. Some moments, the mind is a trusted ally; I seek its counsel and follow, without question, its non-linear illumination of byzantine connections. Then, without slowing to pat the handkerchief in its breast pocket, it transforms into a pack of shrill yet snarling dogs and I seem to have left the box of distracting treats elsewhere.

Because I do not see myself or this situation as unique, I believe we are stalked, followed, eavesdropped upon, satellite-scanned and grabbed roughly from peaceful moments by demons. No matter if it is the demon of unwritten thank-you notes or the lamenting wraith who carries old trauma and loss like a bouquet, like something you might have left behind by accident and might be happy to see again.

Demons can be gnats; they can be the heavy equipment needed to rebuild war zones. They are the one-time friends whose habits caused you to neglect giving them your new address. They are reminders of our least perfect moments and whether or not we had any role in creating them, demons want to be sure we don't forget.

So we rassle them. Yes, it is a word...wrestling with even fewer rules and a Southern accent. I suppose we could sell tickets - you come and watch me rassle, then I'll come over and watch you. But I don't imagine there would be much to see. If the ugly little pustules would manifest as opponents that could be grabbed by the hair or if they possessed fingers that could be bent backward painfully, then we'd have a match. Buying tickets for an anxiety attack or a hand-wringing gloom fest sounds like money poorly spent.

A swap meet find which I've already owned for 40 years is a poster, advertising THELMA NICKLE, CASTING OUT DEMONS, SIGNS - MIRACLES - MULTITUDES HEALED. Oh, Thelma, you'd have to show me some moves that the federation wouldn't approve.

Once, because all else had made no difference, I helped my mother take her best friend, in her last months of lung cancer, to a shameful circus called a faith healing. Held in the Shrine Auditorium - site of Hollywood award shows, which tells you something - it was standing room only. We were banished to the nosebleed section, not having had the presence of mind to use a wheelchair. I do believe in miracles, I know that impossible and unexplainable things happen. I just don't believe they are things you can obtain with money. We are left to fend off our own demons by whatever means we can.

It is a Haagen Daaz Rocky Road or slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing sort of celebratory day when the demons are still. Perhaps they hibernate. They are party crashers. I swear it, all is peace and contentment, bliss and gratitude and they arrive, welcome as a whopping cold sore. Time to suit up, reach for your fiercest lucha libre mask and accept that ass-kicking season is here for real. And we can always hope that this time, once rassled, they won't get up again.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

For today...


THIS represents a morale-boosting campaign by the British Ministry of Information launched in 1939, of which I knew nothing until this week. I now have, as a gift, the poster image on the cover of a journal. Perhaps it will become the keeper of my inconsistent, well-intentioned attempts to do as the words direct.

In my defense, I am a millpond of calm compared to the North Atlantic, Perfect Storm bag of unease I once was. And circumstances, eventually, give most of us two choices: carry on or not. "Or not" falls short of appealing. The winner is "carry on," by default.

I believe we are allowed moments when we become the character from the fantasy story - or cautionary tale - who sits weeping on a fallen log until the bold or hapless protagonist strolls, strides or gallops past and asks us what's wrong. What we need to remember is that wallowing has a brief shelf life. Stay at it too long and, whew, it begins to emit a repellent aroma.

If flawless recall had been granted as one of my wishes (and it is not one that I would have asked for...there would need to be oh, so many wishes for that to make the list), I could be certain there has not been one day in my adult life when I was unaware of my blessings, blessings which cannot be nullified by evidence of life just being life.

One truth which I try to hold in consciousness is that no one has ever known what happens next. War, peace, sunny days or dark, any moment other than this is a mystery. In fact, I am willing to acknowledge that it is ALL a mystery and also admit that its mysteriousness does not indicate anything wrong. Wanting to pep up an uncertain nation with a new version of, "stiff upper lip," the Ministry of Information left us timeless good sense.

The smooth, red journal with its "elastic band place holder" fits comfortably in the hand. Its lipstick brightness calls out with the encouraging pat on the back, saying all will be well...if not now, then soon or soonish. The sans-serif font (could it be Helvetica?) is easy to read, hard to miss, impossible to misunderstand. Do your best, make you neighbors/town/nation proud. The next time I venture forth, I think I may carry it, cover facing out, like a religious tract. One thing I can count on, if I forget to live the motto and slip into any version of crazy, there will be at least one person to snap me back into line. There we are, yet another use for the elastic band place holder.