Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How did I not know about Damien Rice?

It is not that I've been living a troll's existence, burrowed under a rock or covered by fallen leaves among the tree roots. It is just that somehow I've missed learning about things well known to millions of others. One of these is Damien Rice.

The other part of this phenomenon is that I find them in places that, if told, will expose me as one among many, a person of ordinary tastes and preferences (within reason), something I've been aware of for years.  Long ago I abandoned any hope of elitism, soaring sophistication.  If it provided a life-sustaining diet, I might be happy with candy corn and Cheetos. Our orange food groups are so under-rated.

Several weeks ago we began watching ALIAS on Netflix, never having seen even one of its 105 episodes. Being able to rely on a series that would not be cancelled after a single season, as were TERRIERS, RUBICON and AWAKE, nor be limited to a season of 3 BBC episodes like SHERLOCK HOLMES, gave us something to anticipate for the longer haul. That we may not last for all of them still leaves it as our choice. So far, we continue, though the words "Rambaldi artifact" have come to flavor many of our conversations and there is a frequent willing suspension of disbelief. Still. We are now in Season 3 and I finally checked to learn about a song from Epsiode 12, having heard other music I liked and couldn't identify but doing nothing about it until now. In the aftermath of Sandy's destruction and with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance as our election approaches, I am not confused about how trivial this must seem, of what little importance. However, I recognize that my life has a soundtrack, that I return again and again to music that plays in my head and when I am able to expand that library, I know it to be a gift. Thank you, ALIAS, for Damien Rice.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Opening new doors

A morning on which one thing led to another, link to link and now I know of people and things that were outside my scope when I woke up.

With vinyl crackles for nostalgia, Eric Satie from Yusef Lateef.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October 27

Wayne Thiebaud's "Cut Cakes"

To do today:

Celebrate son's birthday, savor and delight in the gift he is, has always been.  Appreciate the way in which his gentle nature, his humanness, his forgiving inclinations, his loyalty to friends, his questing mind remind me of what I value in this world.

Trust that all is well.

Find the joy in this moment, the present conditions.

Begin The Longer Piece, even if just a working title and opening paragraph.  Do not mess about.  This is important.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Let's get over ourselves for 2 minutes and collapse in gratitude to ART

Any feelings of dreariness cannot coexist with the discovery of Joanne Harper's Frida Kahlo In A Garden finger puppet.  At least not at my house.
Original stitched art by Joanne Harper.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Button debut

The Rubbermoon Co., under Kristen Power's new ownership, has just started producing pin-back buttons.  Today she released one of my dolly face designs and said, for a short time, the buttons will be given with a stamp purchase from her etsy shop.  The etsy shop is not the same as the Rubbermoon website, for anyone interested.  Newer and featured items and a button.  There is a contact link at Kristen's etsy page for inquiries.  I've wanted buttons almost forever.  Happy dancing indicated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Clarity - not as easy as you might think

For all that YouTube offers, could there not be an original album version of Bob Dylan's "Oh Sister?"  Could the covers perhaps be categorized separately?  No disrespect to those musicians, just the sincere yearning to hear, on demand, the song as it plays in my head.

So having said ix-nay to that morning jukebox tune, and wherever it was taking me, I landed instead on a Van Morrison original in which my favorite part, and they are all grand, is the spoken-word segment..."I didn't know you stayed up so late..." and "...gotta play this Muddy Waters..." and more.   The surely not-by-chance encounter he depicts stirs personal memory of a late-night caller in another century, another incarnation.  A Dorianne Laux poem, "Antilamentation," posted by Elizabeth a few days ago, begins with the admonishment to "Regret nothing..."  It is some piece of writing, enhanced by her inclusion of a recorded reading.  I saved it as an ideal, the exercise I practice in hope of coming close.  I took as its message that I must pay even more attention, make (and write down) the connections of this to that, not settle for anything less than the perfect word, the searing image, the truth.  I've learned that, even in conversation before it becomes writing, clarity is my most reliable sidekick, a precision about what was, the straight razor cut that leaves nothing befogged.   There is my assignment for today, for the rest of my days.  And before the mail is collected tomorrow, I also have an art commitment to be completed with the same fervent intention.  Not doing things by half-measures take a lot out of a girl.  Let me rest a while in the music.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Say yes to dancing stars

Corita Kent's art, Friedrich Nietzsche's quote
“Our lives unfold in ways that we cannot fathom beforehand. That condition of not knowing produces a sense of wonder and openness to what may come.”  Roger Housden

(The Housden quote is from an audio series called Teaching What We Need to Learn, hosted by Raphael Cushnir.  As of Oct. 16, the programs were still available for listening or downloading here.  The link will take you directly to the recorded talks but there you will find a link to the HOME page which will give you more context.)

As evidence, which I gather on all topics because it seems wise to have as much proof as one can amass, on the morning I began writing this I found a link on FB to a new Pema Chodron title about change and uncertainty, obvious indicators of chaos.

If we are dancing stars born from chaos, then it really IS all physics, which I had begun to suspect.  But in a human and not a celestial body, as sentient beings, comfort and the awareness of chaos make difficult playmates.  Being part of a naturally-occuring process does not quarantee a quiet mind.

However, chaos as an antonym for complacency and not comfort takes on the aspect of quest, seeking/seeker, more of my favorite metaphoric rocket fuel to propel us beyond settling, being stuck.  We all know the water needs to boil to cook the noodles.

We churn, suffer our gastric juices.  We yearn and fidget, dream and try to foresee how we might map our lives as dancing stars, knowing we have not been endowed with such vision.  We reread the contract, looking for the loophole that permits explosive miracles to be born from tranquility, a sure passage to our hopes of greatness without the need for volcanic shenanigans.  Chaos, what an unexpected new best friend.

Monday, October 15, 2012

When it has to be the Supremes or nothing

"You Can't Hurry Love" was the second single from the Supremes' album The Supremes A' Go-Go. It reached the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in the United States, and #3 in the United Kingdom. The Supremes' version of the song is honored by inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's permanent collection of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The Supremes also released their own Italian cover of the song: L'amore verrĂ  (Love will come).

There is an aspiration: sit down and listen to all 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.  Let the games begin.

Grace follow-up

As I remained at a loss for the appropriate yet less obvious song, my brother suggested "Into White" by Cat Stevens.  The shared idea and the song itself only strengthen my suspicion that each of our definitions of grace is something intimate and unique.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Because my mind is acting rusty, pretending to be the yard furniture left out all winter so that it no longer adjusts to more comfortable positions, the only song I could think of to speak of grace was Amazing Grace.  Maybe by the time this post is finished, there will be more choices.

To begin, any grace, all grace, is amazing to me.  This week it found me gnawing over an annoyance I no longer remember, feeling ill-used and unheard.  Living in anything close to harmony with another human has tip-toe moments, self-silencing even if it means using duct tape moments, this isn't what I signed on for moments.  One example of grace is the fact that my most control-driven years seem to be in the past.  Since I really can't remember what caused this specific disquiet, I will just call it that, a wide sweeping gesture of my right arm showing you it went from here to here and made me uncomfortable and messed with my optimism.

I started poking my snout into old closets where past disappointments have been folded until they fit in empty Nike boxes.  Everything seemed tainted, even high-altitude sorts of possibilities that were, at most, just a few days old. In antidote mode I sat down to work on the Sunday crossword.  Maybe the clue is there:  cross word.  I rassle just enough with the LA Times puzzle.  I no longer see the NY Times but might have gained skill if I worked it every week.  A crossword focuses me, even more than drawing or coloring, for the way the mind has to play along, has to - help me - remember.  Names, things, Roman numerals, older models of automobiles, rivers, vice presidents, extinct brands of fruit juice.

When absorbed in harmless trivia, my mind can relax, put down the sharp objects and blunt instruments it gathered to defend the realm.  It makes room for grace, which falls over me like a blanket tucked around a sleeping child.  It lifts a weight and replaces it with peace.  It sweeps away annoyance like a crime scene cleaning squad.  Not a trace remains.  It comes without being summoned, as though it is an unknown state.  It staggers me with its precision, its timing.  I know the meaning of awe in being aware it exists and that it comes for me.

This was, in assessing the magnitude of life so far, a tiny matter yet one that caused the wind to rise and the whitecaps to threaten small craft.  Sometimes my long-practiced capacity for stillness is as close as I come to a reliable state.  When it is jostled, I feel lost.  Only grace restores equilibrium without contortion, without the necessity of fixing something beyond my ability to repair.

Still no song except the obvious.  You may sing it to yourselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Other voices from other rooms

It has been several days since I've had the luxury to follow links, to discover.  On a twitchy morning, which is how this began but not how it continues, the sight of the extraordinary and labor-intensive prods me to mutter insults like "slacker" to myself.  How mean, how unpleasant.  Who would spend time in the company of someone just like the library supervisor who used to glare from her desk, mouth pinched in disapproval, at too much hilarity.  Clearly, any two people who could find something to laugh about during the typing of catalog file cards were at best to be frowned upon and at worst to be reprimanded.  It is much too early in the day for criticism.  I'll replace it with admiration for soaring imagination and skill and use it, not as a cudgel, but as a springboard for my own elevated thoughts du jour.

Take your fresh and eager young hearts to see this work at Jay Anderson's blog.  A brief, intricate and magic-affirming video awaits.   Books by the featured artist, Rebecca Dautremer, may be found here.
Author, artist Rebecca Dautremer, I highly recommend "The Secret Lives of Princesses."

For today's post, Jay interviews Viv Sliwka of Hen's Teeth Art, an example of whose envelope art follows. (The link no longer takes us to the Hen's Teeth story but here is a link to Viv's etsy shop, just in time for, well, whatever you want it to be in time for.)

Art from Hen's Teeth, Viv Sliwka.

My personal bridges over troubled water require color, humor, simple joy, a deft hand and a facile mind.  An envelope from Hens Teeth meets all my needs.  And apropos of a Simon and Garfunkel hit,  last month on her blog 37 Paddington, Angella offered those of us of a certain age the chance to rekindle our collective passion for the pair and the soundtrack they gave us.  A post worth visiting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The procession

Life as a Renaissance Faire procession, all fluttering banners, gonfalons, trailing ribbons, flowers and flutes.  It is a scene that recreates, in my imagination, the wake of a land-borne ship: dusty footprints, daisies fallen from garlands, sounds receding, molecules separated and rearranged.  Our own solitary procession leaves its traces as well.  Often, we have no idea what they are or even that they are.
It is not only the scholarly, the devout, the remarkable who influence and change thought, who inspire, who ignite.  We are all touched and altered, even if imperceptibly, by those whose paths we cross.

The message I've received from multiple, diverse sources, is this: burrow within, find what is truest and least tangled, what feels weightless and brings the shining essence of me with knowledge but without baggage.  Wear it, model it, give it, live it - no small tasks - and don't ever ask, "Am I doing okay?"  You know.  You've always known.  Keep moving.  With love,

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Walking in my dreams

Maira Kalman, with her words and paintings, animates the snapshot moments that speak of how our lives exist in stand-alone compartments that may or may not seep from yesterday and into tomorrow.  One of my failings or gifts is looking for and, mostly, finding a Bigger Picture, a context within which there is meaning and portent in anything from (I exaggerate) a toothpick to bending the space/time continuum.  At the same time, I have come to know that some experiences are simply gems, cut unlike any other and residing in solitary perfection on the pedestal of a day, an hour.  They have no history, no expectation, they just are and our only work is to love and savor them as that.

Ms. Kalman walks and tells us why.  My response to this is bittersweet, as walking for me is a challenge mostly beyond my capability, at least for today.  Getting about inside my home and for necessary increments here on our apartment grounds is hard work, done because it is what there is.  In my dreams I am always mobile, agile, ageless.  I move from here to there with ease and I dance and climb lighthouse stairs, stand in lines and in conversation at parties.  I miss walking, which was transportation for many periods of my life.   I miss seeing what one sees when afoot, I miss the freedom of pace, the discoveries of which Kalman speaks.  How do we find that mind-clearing motion when walking is not one of the choices?  When not present to absorb and interpret, first-hand, the neighborhood and the directions in which it expands, how do we release the mind to travel as a passenger, an observer, and not the museum tour guide deconstructing - or enhancing - each object viewed?  There must be a way.  I want to find it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Etta sings of impossible choices

Still gasping in Pasadena, the heat, the thing, that wouldn't leave.  Etta James with the chilliest blues was the morning jukebox song.  Meaning of this?  At first, I just listened.  The original recorded version - the shortest - seemed the best choice for clarity of sound and its massive lack of ambiguity. 

We all receive great sacks full of what is unrequested and unwanted, bad surprises and situations harder than we ever dreamed we could handle.  Wiser minds than my own discovered, promise,  that each circumstance brings a gift that is greater than its burden.  It is a lesson, in my case, of slow dawning.  We are called again and again to bear what could be called unbearable.  We are not asked if it is convenient or if it fits into our life or our plan.  It arrives, no return address, and redefines inconvenient, the bomb that blows everything apart.

Over time my gratitude list has as a constant the fact that I'm still here.  Many are not and I don't take for granted or trivialize the fact of resilience.  Though I no longer choose to go back to the sites where, for a time, hope disappeared, when I hear Etta James sing of making what seems her better choice, I get it.  How do I unknow, unsee, unexperience THIS?  I don't know how we do it, just that we do.  And I say, "Thank you."