Sunday, April 29, 2012

Once family, family no more

For about five minutes in the early 1970s, during my father's flashbulb-quick second marriage, I had, in addition to my own sister and brother, two stepsisters and a stepbrother, Annie, Gwen and Jack.

What brought Gwen to mind and heart today, I can't say.  I have not even heard of her since I encountered her mother in the supermarket around 1985.  She was married, successful in a mathematical field, many degrees earned and applied.

When we were related, she left in my care her red Triumph Spitfire that rattled and shook like the earthquake simulator they take around to the schools here, great and risky fun to drive in our fog-bound beach town, while she was overseas in the Peace Corps.  At the time of her return, I remember her liking Wings' album Venus and Mars.  I was an older sister.  I guess that makes the Paul McCartney connection only slightly less baffling; this, however, was the Gwen song playing in my head.  I take no responsibility for an on-going altered state.  Writing of her in the company of bouncy Beatles' music seemed  the next indicated thing.  Hey, Gwen.  I miss you today.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Peter Pain, unwelcome house guest

There you are, thinking, well, thinking something as opposed to nothing as you are doing right now, and you discover life has other plans. I thought I was being still. It seems stillness is a matter of degrees. I have much to learn. It is beautiful Los Angeles weather for dolce far niente.

Peter Pain, alarming nemesis from the Sunday funnies of my childhood.  Called to mind (so to speak, which will tell you the state of synapses):

"Indiana Jones, I always knew one day you'd come walking back through my door..."

Marion Ravenwood
"Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Talk amongst yourselves.  xoxo

Monday, April 23, 2012

Attributes of the moth

"Moths of Orange County, CA," photographed by Peter J. Bryant
A pair of comet moths, photo by Johan Nijenhuis

By now, which means after more than three years of blog writing,  some of my secrets have been pulled from under the couch cushions and put on the table.  Among these are the revelation that I find life to be teeming,  jumping with symbolism, that I willingly allow a representative portion of something to stand in for the still-to-come whole, that metaphor is my native language and very little is only what it seems.

In a short, perhaps five-minute segment of a recent podcast, there was a meditative exercise in which  listeners were directed to find a spirit guide.  The practitioner spoke of eagles, for the ability to fly would be required of the guide.  Mine arrived.  It was a moth.

It may be my most basic belief that we are here - wherever we are geographically, emotionally, physically in this moment - to be of assistance to each other.  Assistance, in this case, can mean anything.  Without rushing to Google, I thought of the moth, an extreme example of transformation, starting life as one form and becoming a different creature.  I am not who I used to be. Teachers, awareness and opportunities continue to find me, carrying me out of dimness, discouragement, into a brighter land.  Mulling and pondering - and daydreaming - are natural states, taking the measure of a situation, mostly by intuition, interpreting, perceiving, feeling.  Feeling my way toward knowledge, insight, information.

When I looked into what moth brings as a totem  I found: the ability to perceive with clarity, strong healing abilities, protection for traveling between darkness and the light, finding light in darkness, metamorphosis and, in common with the phoenix, rising from the ashes, in moth's case of the flames to which it is drawn.  What better sidekick?

The title above is one of those, "Quick, write this down," flashes that fill the scraps I mentioned in the previous post.  Attributes of the moth.  Forgive me, please, if I repeat myself.  Life as I have come to know it is fraught with meaning; likely it always was, but I had no skills.  These, too, are days of myth and fable, truths revealed in waking, walking dreams.  No wonder fiction explores parallel universes, wormholes, wrinkles in time.  How else to explain being conscious of treading the ordinary path of oil changes, bill paying, medical procedures, clothes that need washing or detecting an unpleasant odor in the refrigerator and, in the same moments, seeing the story within the story, the plan behind the random event, the bigger picture. 

For some of you, this will be like my talking in tongues.  That may be a fair comparison.  The best we can hope for is to know our own truths and to allow others to know theirs.  If we share common ground, there is much to discuss.  If not, I may be found in a somewhat unkempt state wearing soft clothes that feel like pajamas, pencil-callused fingers turning the pages in The Great Big Book of Moths.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Night Pink

Of The Band's five members, only Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson remain after Levon Helm's death this week.  If you're interested, Wikipedia has background on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down here.  That Helm, it reports, never again performed the song after this concert, filmed for Scorsese's The Last Waltz, tells a story.  His "Saturday Night Pink" would be enough to make me want to be a writer, wishing for such a phrase to drift in on a summer-like wind, if that wasn't already my plan.
Moving on to a separate topic which is not, as far as I know, connected at all to the paragraph above.
The scraps of paper - envelopes, the backs of on-line craft store receipts, bottom of a page listing color pencil product numbers - on which we preserve the you-never-know fleeting thoughts,  are repositories of the arcane.  In front of me is a note that says, "phrase - suicide mollusk."  For now, I'm viewing this as a misfire, not an internal prompt, not a Sherlock-worthy mystery to which I have been assigned.  It might be easier to draw than write: a colossal squid holding its breath.

Wonder is an appropriate response to the creeping, dawning illumination that we are actually amphibians, afloat in the infinite sea.  I think, I suggest: write how the inexpressible feels, choose words for the horizon-to-horizon journey as what we were certain did not exist begins to take vaporish form.  Can you explain, I ask myself, the ways in which life as an out-of-body experience differs from being here?  Or are they different?  One of my favorite characters on television is John Noble as Dr. Walter Bishop in Fringe.  His advanced state of "otherness" may be the result of long-term experimentation with mind-altering drugs but I suspect they were merely enhancements for his true nature.

Refrigerator words will not help me now.  I'm not certain there are words in contemporary reality that don't pare down and blanch our vibrant possibilities.  At last I've awakened to the allure of science fiction as a medium of revelation.  (Mad Men's Ken Cosgrove finds or found an outlet, moonlighting as a sci-fi writer, for plots that would not fit into ordinary fiction.  *smacks forehead*)  Fantasy, speculative fiction, science fiction, the shape-shifter that is called magical realism, create opportunities for telling stories that may well be true but unprovable, real yet invisible.

When I began this post, first wanting to give a farewell wave to Levon Helm, then hoping to give credible voice to what presently rolls through my mind, I didn't know we would end up together in the section where Dune, Farenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse Five reside.  But here we are.  And I get to consider that languages of other worlds may be the source of words that are so elusive in this one.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It was a large refrigerator

After beginning a clunker of a post, which sits in draft exuding hope thick as bus exhaust, I felt the need to refresh, that is to say, develop, something close to reliably consistent descriptive writing.  If that's not possible, I have no back-up plan. 

The only actual writing teacher I ever studied with had a label, refrigerator words, that included: large, cold, dark, pretty, young, words that, by themselves, fall short of creating an image.  My brain has a setting - auto selected - in which everything intended to be creative goes flat and I begin channeling a Stepford wife who majored in refrigerator words.

It has been nearly two years since whatever angels hover around my left ear suggested that I find, in bloglandia, more writers.  I found them/you and one link led to the next.  I was given the breadcrumb trail to other writers whose names I might never have known, books of which I could have remained ignorant, music too far outside my sphere to have been discovered any other way.  If we are sent messages from the universe, affirmations that, contrary to our crippling doubts, we are going in the right direction, I received a large one, as in five-pound, double-layered, heart-shaped box of See's candy, that morning.

For today I decided against the Colin Farrell clip in which he talks about writing poetry, my gift to myself as I grapple with the possibility that this blog is on its way to becoming 45% fanzine.  It would have been helpful, illuminating, to have examples of my favorite descriptive passages.  I was ill-prepared and knew I'd be distracted by something shiny if I tried to find those samples mid-post.

I may play with assignments such as we were given in the writing workshop.  I may start with things that are shiny.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Catch The Wind

Some illusions refuse to leave without one last scuffle.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I think I know today

I procrastinate.  I avoid.  I wander off while the left-overs sit on the counter.  I dither and dink and fart around generally.  Sometimes I get something done.

What I know today, subject to change tomorrow, is that if I do ONE thing that is a step, a single step, toward order, a continuation or supplementary act added to what I did yesterday, I am making progress.  One thing.  Or one thing in each of several categories.  But just the one thing is enough.  I think this is true.

I am not sure that Einstein ever fretted over such matters.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Misapprehension - Part One

The White Rabbit by Sir John Tenniel

There is a section of the brain - or of my brain, I should say - that seems to enjoy grabbing and holding on fiercely to beliefs that are just not true.  This is about one of them.

For years, decades, I have been telling myself that there were not enough hours in a day for all that a day was required to hold.  I believed it; I had proof.  I cannot call it an epiphany, the instant of electrifying awareness that things are other than assumed.  Instead, it felt more like waking up; not knowing in one moment, then knowing with certainty in the next.  Nothing jarring or gasp-producing.  Rather, "Oh, yes.   It could be like that."  I began to believe there is time  for what matters.

In other posts I've written about my fluid and somewhat non-ordinary relationship with time. I have written about a sense, an imperative, of proceeding through my life slowly.  That was not always the case.  Health concerns changed my pace and  I realized this is my authentic state.  All the hurry has leaked out of me.

What I have begun to do, and I hesitated to write of a process so new, is believe differently.  I do not tell myself, I do not think the words, "There isn't enough time."   As I find the 15 or so minutes each day to write and roughly illustrate a small journal page, I suspect the time was never missing.   But by believing there was not enough, there wasn't.

This may be very old news to all of you.  I know we are capable of limiting ourselves with false beliefs, but had not imagined it was something a person could just stop doing.  I was wrong about time and have begun to examine other notions that may be equally defeating.  If this account seems short or incomplete, it is because I expect there will be other posts,  detailing other misapprehensions.  Time is just the first Junior Mint I pulled out of the box, the big, theater-size box.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"...this must be the premiere"

We are already eight days into National Poetry Month with no time to waste.  Here is a gift sent by friend-poet Melissa Green, thank you,  by Polish writer and Nobel Prize-winner Wisława Szymborska.  It restates a theme explored in an earlier post here.  No false humility; the poets always say it best.


Life. While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it's mine, I can't exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play's all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living.
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can't conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for hammy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can't take back,
stars you'll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run--
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven't seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn't even clear my throat offstage).

You'd be wrong to think that it's just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I'm standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there's no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I've done.

Wisława Szymborska

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Back Pages

The growing sense of a life lived upside-down, escaping the gravity and dense mass of my own history to become others experience this?

And at what point do we declare, though it is not an end, that we have our wish, the happy ending we tried for so long to cobble together - through writing, wishing, tap dancing, perfect phrases, praying, beseeching and other even more destructive and less attractive efforts.  What are the elements of a very personal happy ending:  I'm still here.  I am able to spend my time doing things which have meaning for me and make me content.  I gradually become better (by my definition) at what I do.  I have family and friends whom I love and who love me back and we speak the same language.  I am in the company of people who all keep rowing pretty much in the same direction.  The universe continues to send messages of encouragement, saying press on, its love notes, surprises and serendipity like clues on a treasure hunt.

The Byrds' unique sound carries me, pleasantly, away.

Lyrics for MY BACK PAGES by Bob Dylan

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Time, patience and serendipity

For some, the juggling act appears so easy while the rest of us stand by,  agog.       M. Kelly stamps for Rubbermoon, Stampington & Co.

Serendipity has been a busy girl.  She appeared yesterday as a blog link titled, "Kim Roasted Vegetables with Yellow Curry Sauce" when I had just thought and mentioned to my son how I would like the recipe for a good vegetable curry.  She revealed another post that told me I am not alone in filling my pockets or piggy bank with tales of finding joy in what we may take for granted.  To read "Applaud the Sunset," posted April 2, visit Molly.  Please browse the sidebar links to discover her unique cards and see if they are carried by a shop near you.  If there are sufficient hours in your day, her blog links also hold aspects of wonder.

For any who find journaling with their own words to be a challenge,  Kelly Kilmer has recent posts about the benefit of using quotes from other sources as a supplement or prompt to reveal your own rare and authentic voice.  She is also offering an on-line journaling workshop, giving us stay-at-home types the opportunity to learn what she teaches around the country.

Regarding the juggling wunderkind shown above, I assumed at some point I would know what I wish to be when I grow up.  And I do know.  However, the list has not grown shorter.  My thoughts radiate like the unicycle's spokes, pointing in five or 15 different directions.  What I can say in my favor is they are all at least slightly related and can be, if I stop dithering, accomplished from right here with basic skills I already possess.  It is just that some of those skills need to be sharpened, refined, expanded, practiced.  That's the telling word, practiced. 

My mental schedule resembles that of the over-scheduled child of over-achieving parents.  Organize, straighten, discard, draw, play with paint, stamp, write fiction, read poetry, color, write non-fiction, correspond, converse, explore, ponder, imagine, sleep.  And drink enough water.  I am not confused; I have what I need (with practice) to do and be what I want.  I just seem to go about it so slowly.  Which drags out into the light the other telling word: patience.  Of all that is asked of me in a day, patience tops the list.  Over many years I've come to trust the process of unfolding that is life and know, absolutely know, that answers I don't have today will either (a) arrive or (b) won't and if they don't it will not matter. 

Taking a prompt from Tolstoy, I remind myself, "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time."  May I have enough of both.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Waiting for what's next

Yesterday we had the winds.  Today we have the postcard views.  Any who watch BIG BANG THEORY or PARKS AND RECREATION know the sight of Pasadena's City Hall, shown here with palm trees.  On our street, it was turf-war time among the palms this morning, the crows playing the Sharks, the parrots as the Jets.  The crows are bigger, louder and a lot more scary.  This round went to them.

Photo by Gina McDaniel

During Sunday's game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, an exterior shot of the Boston stadium showed a patch of jonquils. I have it on good authority there were snow flurries not two days earlier.  I take heart from the jonquils and how each growing thing, us included, pushes tenaciously toward the sun, toward dreams and sources of nourishment in all its forms, some of which may seem nearly unreachable.  I also took heart from the Celtics, called a team of old men (which they also call the Lakers), with too many players on the disabled list, winning handsomely.  Of course, being  an age that would allow me to be the mother - by a wide margin - of the team's oldest player, probably Kevin Garnett at 35, approximately, casts the notion of old in a different light.

Somewhere in my Monday morning internet rambles, I saw the reminder to never stop dreaming.  As my mind shrieks about a split infinitive, I ignore it and continue.  My philosophy could best be described as "We never know."  The will, the determination, not only to survive but to flourish inspires me, in flora, in fauna. We don't ever know what comes next, which may be the single best and most difficult thing about this existence.  Every moment becomes an act of faith, or perhaps you would call it optimism.  Life is a cliff-hanger, one of the old Saturday morning serials at the 10-cent Early Bird movie.  I intend to keep showing up.  I want to see what happens next.