Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making good use of Feb. 29

Just as I treasure the additional hour when we fall back into Standard Time, no matter how seriously it disorients me, I find the gift of an entire day something rare, to which I have never given any thought.  It is on a par with the skill of a superhero, conquests of space or time or gravity.    Here is the calendar saying, Oh, look what we've found for you.  Silly us, we'd put it aside for just such an occasion.   Go ahead, we want you to have it.

By now, this bonanza is nearly 9 1/2 hours gone and I'm only beginning to imagine how best to use it.  Like discovering the bank balance is higher than remembered, it is found time,  birthday money, a MacArthur genius grant.  I would describe my relationship with time as conflicted, had I not realized that accepting its liquid properties, and my weightless drifting thereupon,  almost allows us to be friends.  I am not as troubled by its unreliable ways as I once was, having first supposed that when I had less to do, there would be more of it.

During years of job, family, freelancing and life, I felt like a losing contestant on Beat the Clock.  The seconds ran out long before I chased the ping pong ball across the finish line, armed with cans of Redi-Whip as propellant.  Or something like that.  A day was too impossibly small to contain all that it was expected to hold.  Each morning I looked at the bed before sprinting out the door, wondering just how long it would be until I could sleep again.   I had no experience of time as mutable; I had no awareness of choices.

Leap Day feels like Ferris Bueller territory.  I wish I'd planned for it, paid better attention.  I'd have a list of frivolous must-dos to check off, squeezing the bonus good out of each second.  Now it is too late for anything other than improvisation, which may be the best response after all.  Divided into scheduled activities, it would have been just another day.  I think I'll start with reading and see where that takes me, the perfect seque to a guilt-free nap.  If only Starbucks delivered.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The good

Bill Murray from "Ghostbusters II"
One of my long-held beliefs: The good is never wasted.  Nor is it forgotten.  Reminders bloom in unlikely corners and their reappearance warms me.

During the In Memorium segment of Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, my son and I saw a name that connected us to an event, at the time so kind, so enormous and surreal, that we will never forget it.

My son, a fan of Star Wars and Superman, inhabited another realm with his Ghostbusters, shall we say, appreciation.  He could recite the dialog, he constructed tiny sets on the shelves in his room, he cobbled together versions of their equipment and uniforms.  He was enchanted.  He WAS a Ghostbuster.

The name we saw Sunday night was that of a previous Oscar winner, film professional and father of a co-worker and friend at my last real job.  When Ghostbusters II  was being shot in Burbank, father and daughter arranged a surprise visit to the set for my son, then around 8 or 9.   I stayed at the office and he went off for his own adventure, which ended up including banter and teasing by Bill Murray, being present for filming and between-takes goofing around and simply, inexpressibly Being There. To this day, he has rarely told the story to friends, old or new, thinking they might not believe him, and also being, by nature, a low-key sort of fellow.  (When my sister moved to North Carolina, then Virginia, she stopped telling our grew-up-near-Hollywood stories, like sitting behind Paul Newman on the opening night of a Noel Coward play.  Or our then-teenaged mother, sitting near Errol Flynn without swooning and then collecting his discarded cigarette butts at a Beverly Hills tennis match.  But I digress.)

After the ceremonies, I Googled and found the woman I believe had been responsible for such a peak experience, sending a note of condolence and repeated thanks for such a great-hearted, thoughtful and loving act more than 20 years ago.

Life in its spirals brings us back to familiar-seeming places, opening doors, at least of memory, giving us further chances to affirm ways in which we matter to each other.  Earlier in the day on Sunday, at her blog (which no longer exists), Susan T. Landry with her gift for vision told us to: pay attention.  everything matters.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What we are not (good news)

What if the on-going narrative we have always thought was our story, our defining story, was not that at all.  What if those details were merely things that happened to us, not who we are.

The recent post sharing Ben Okri's quote and video, and the responses it received,  jolted me out of one of my fogs, a default position in which I convince myself that whatever I'm doing is a reasonable substitute for thinking.  My story - likely all our stories - is not a closed room or vacuum, in which the things that happened remain in place, exactly as they occurred, with me marooned there, reshuffling those pieces as the only cards I'll be allowed to play.  That story is not THE story, but more likely the ticket for a mythic journey, upon which I would not, could not, have embarked without  the whats of the story setting events in motion.

"Getting stuck in our story" is a phrase a therapist friend used one day, referring to how any of us is capable of repeating, endlessly, the grievances, wounds, losses, disappointments, resentments, horrors, and so on, that we experienced.  In my most coherent moments, I am able to say, as one of the facts of life for which I am most grateful, I'm still here.   Where there once may have been drama, now there is calm.  Life is a skill with the longest learning curve, with the possible exception of Photoshop, which I have no intention of trying to master.  We are neither our faded glories nor our faded traumas.  Those were towns we passed through on an extended road trip.  Remember, if you wish,  the root beer floats, the mosquito-plagued motel, the moments, ups and downs, the cars and their drivers.  None of them are here.  And the sum of them does not add up to an authentic self.  Who we really are has always loitered, or hidden, behind the events; we did not become them, nor they us.

This information is the hamburger too big to bite, or almost.  As soon as I could absorb it, I could feel its truth.  For now, I'll leave the thought here for all of us to nibble upon.  As I digest this slowly, I realize I could write of all the ways in which I am not my story until I had each of them firmly in print, with hard copies in at least three separate files and maybe a tattoo that I could read without straining.  I am not my story.  I never was my story.  That makes so much more seem possible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fun stuff, some of it free

These bright gems are Creative Imaginations' glittering watercolor paint pots called Twinkling H2Os.  Some of them are part of a generous prize I won last fall in a product giveaway drawing on their blog.  They seemed a suitable Valentine follow-up to last week's post about color.

If you enjoy the chance to win free stuff, has a weekly giveaway and never-ending array of the most creative office products from around the world, including these vinyl documents folders from

When 45s were objects of desire, weekly allowance spent at the record shop, favorites toted to slumber parties in the plastic-handled faux-leather case intended for just that purpose, who would have guessed (a) they'd ever become obsolete or (b) be turned into imaginative, retro desk-top art.

If you fall into the "certain age" category, what was your all-time favorite single?

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

" interval in the enchantment of living."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Visitors in the land of the magic bus

Is it the Puritan Ethic that plants itself between our child-like inclinations for bright fancy and the manifestation of vehicles such as the trucks and buses of Pakistan?  Seeing my first episode of Michael Palin's BBC series, HIMALAYA, last night I was seized by a strong hankering, not experienced until now, to know a culture in which we could travel about surrounded by walls of image and color and be considered normal.  Ken Kesey did stand out in a crowd.
The Merry Pranksters, on the road in America.

Pakistani bus/truck art.  Photo copyright Umair Mohsin.  More photos here.

I've watched many of Palin's travel series, admiring his ease in discomfiting situations, his lack of resistance to the range and diversity of this planet and its life forms.  Though, as he admits in an introductory promo, their stays are brief, he and his crew introduce us to distant communities, intentionally revealing them as our fellows, not as curiosities.  He expresses concern that the mere presence of outsiders may change a way of life and not for the better.

In this episode, we're invited to see a polo match and festival for 10,000 villagers, held on a plain more than 12,000 feet up.  Not having traveled outside my home state all that much, I find something within me expands as I am introduced to my world on a wider scale.   Like a visit to the Planetarium,  an armchair journey alters the scale of what I think I know.  Rather than feeling diminished by my own minor participation in a whole too big to comprehend, I experience a sense of connectedness to the remote, even the infinite.

One of the two languages I speak is color.  When I find it appreciated, applied in ways not seen on the streets of Los Angeles,  I take notice.  While I seem to be descended from people of a more limited palette, my years of sunshine, oranges, hydrangeas, hibiscus and geraniums in red clay pots have caused a mutation. What about marigold as the base color for my Honda?  It seems a good place to begin.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rave on words on printed page

For some of us, to be without means to put words to paper would be the worst sort of exile, separation and estrangement from our core. In recent musings on type and ink and paper and they ways by which we feel more connected to the act of extracting what is spoken in the mind and allowing the hand to give it form, I heard this resonating like an anthem.

Van Morrison - Rave On, John Donne Lyrics

Rave on john donne, rave on thy holy fool
Down through the weeks of ages
In the moss borne dark dank pools

Rave on, down through the industrial revolution
Empiricism, atomic and nuclear age
Rave on down through time and space down through the corridors
Rave on words on printed page

Rave on, you left us infinity
And well pressed pages torn to fade
Drive on with wild abandon
Uptempo, frenzied heels

Rave on, walt whitman, nose down in wet grass
Rave on fill the senses
On nature’s bright green shady path

Rave on omar khayyam, rave on kahlil gibran
Oh, what sweet wine we drinketh
The celebration will be held
We will partake the wine and break the holy bread

Rave on let a man come out of ireland
Rave on on mr. yeats,
Rave on down through the holy rosey cross
Rave on down through theosophy, and the golden dawn
Rave on through the writing of "a vision"
Rave on, rave on, rave on, rave on, rave on, rave on

Rave on john donne, rave on thy holy fool
Down through the weeks of ages
In the moss borne dark dank pools

Rave on, down though the industrial revolution
Empiricism, atomic and nuclear age
Rave on words on printed page

Brighten the corner where you are

Envelope art, Marylinn Kelly.  Rubber stamps, Gretchen Ersham, Marylinn Kelly for Rubbermoon.

For you to ponder, this February 6, 2012:

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
Charles Dickens

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Notes from fonty geekdom

On some alternate calendar, this seems to be the Year of the Font. Type, type everywhere. Especially here. When you visit their site, click on SHOP and find the likes of this:

From Scribble on Everything, via Felt & Wire Shop.

Describing themselves as, "garden-variety art and design geeks," the staff at Scribble on Everything seems to know just what those of us here in fonty geekdom are seeking. This looks like trouble.