Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Revised update - Shapes of the past

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A theory

My relationship with time is a one-sided affair. It has no awareness of me and I think about it constantly. Perhaps time infatuation is an identified disorder. It is really a matter of where we look for meaning. I find meaning in time.

Last Sunday's Los Angeles Times Book Review section offered, on the same page, an interview with historian Sean Wilentz on his new book, Bob Dylan in America, and a review of The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, here.

The page featured a quote from Wilentz about Dylan, "He had this sensibility that the past wasn't the past, that the past was the present." He further said of Dylan's early days in New York, "He was living in this world where Edgar Allan Poe was living around the corner...a phantasmagoria of American history." Times reporter Charles Taylor referred to Dylan's CD of holiday music, Christmas in the Heart, as Dylan's love letter to the holiday music that was part of the American popular music he grew up hearing.
A time slip.
When Dylan returned to the Newport Folk Festival in 2002, where his electric debut elicited boos and jeers in 1965, Wilentz said, "There were ghosts all over the place. You could feel them." Wilentz told how he sensed the ghosts take form, many of the pivotal musicians from the American tradition, "...they were all kind of assuming shape again."

My interpretation of this information is that others, including a respected historian who teaches at Princeton, find that the past lives in and through us. We bring it forth in our thoughts, in works we create. It is not a dead thing, immobile in some unreachable long-ago, but alive, its influences at work on us through memories, either individually or collectively.

In his review, Michael Moorcock said that the Hawking-Mlodinow book suggests that physics and metaphysics are growing closer. Robert Oppenheimer is said to have proposed that physics and poetry were indistinguishable.

Moorcock described, "In an environment that includes black holes, super black holes, dark matter, dark energy, string theory, M-theory, alternate pasts and alternate futures, we can no longer assume there is one universe or even a set of universes with a single group of natural laws applicable to everything from the domain of atoms to that of astronomy.

"Models of the universe are changing radically. We now live in a world in which many physicists have come to believe there are not merely three dimensions (plus time) but 10 or possibly 11.

"Even laws we have taken for granted, like those relating to the speed of light, might be at odds in different realms of a near-infinite set of universes."

Those review excerpts and the remainder of the article suggest to me that anything is possible.

What I believe is that, if we pay attention and look inward frequently, we learn to identify our truths. They don't need educated, scientific validation to be true for us, but it does take some of the lunatic self-labeling away to have credible sources appear to think along similar lines. What I feel, what I experience, is the fluid quality of time (yes, I HAVE mentioned this before) but also the real yet intangible way that what has gone before is not gone.


RachelVB said...
I've never understood why some people think ghost don't exists ... many live even within ourselves do they not?
Something about this post is eerie to me, unknown. It can be hard to face your truths, even when you know they are there in whatever dimension they hover in. Truths and ghosts. I wonder if they reside in the same places?
Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - My thinking has always been that more ghosts live within than without, though sometimes we may project them to the point of sitting down, having a conversation.

Eerie and unknown...I subscribe to the "It's all a mystery" theory and, if there are no answers, it makes my not having any feel less defective. And maybe I draw a line between reality and truths...reality can give you a rash, while truths are more like a balm.

Likely, it all resides in the same places.
RachelVB said...
Yes, truths are more soothing. They are usually discovered after a burn. Reality seems to be the burn itself.
Radish King said...
Marylinn, ah yes, right down my alley. The Tearful Dishwasher posted on this on my blog this morning. Einstein said time wasn't linear and I have no reason not to believe him. I think of my passage through this life as passage through a series of portals wormholes if you will. Present and parallel universes coinciding and sometimes one can enter the right portal that takes us to a parallel universe. Perhaps this is where Rachel's ghosts come from.

And déjà vu and presque vu and jamais vu and any number of fascinations of the human mind.

Perhaps artists and madmen and well trained to enter and pass through these portals and observe though they don't always know it.

Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - Eww, image, the cockroach in the whipped cream. (and not whipped topping)

Rebecca - Being here and there at the same time...I wonder if I volunteered for this or was I screened and recruited, unbeknownst. It is good to have an assignment for which one is suited. Happily, they didn't tell us not to talk about it.
RachelVB said...
I like the idea of being summoned in the womb. It does feel very much like a purpose. I, too, love being suited for the assignment. I wonder if this is how other people feel when they've found their passions in life?

very eew. Cockroaches give me the heebie-jeebies. But not sure why. They survive most assassination attempts and should be given a little credit at least.

I'm not sure where my ghosts come from. Sometimes they feel too deep to even be mine. As a little girl I used to imagine I was Judy Garland in a past life - you wanna talk about ghosts?! =)
Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - I believe we end up carrying things that don't belong to us. Maybe they come from other incarnations, maybe they were foisted upon us growing up..."here, take this" and in time we forget that it isn't ours. I think shame is a good example...plenty of this to go around.

Being suited for the assignment is essential. What a wretched First Lady I would make, what a sub-par bookkeeper (I have proof), what an impatient sixth-grade teacher. How glad I am not to have been called for any of those gigs.
grrl + dog said...
I smirk to read these kinds of things.

What indidginous folk have known and lived for thousands of yers is news to us.

Us - somewhere along the line we lost our spirit.No wonder our Australian aborginies are perplexed by us.
Robert the Skeptic said...
Though I have not read Hawking's book yet, I have some familiarity with the concepts. We have waded into an ocean of knowledge literally unknown to previous generations. And though it is all very exciting, much is still unknown.

Yes, this information increases possibilities, but what is most likely "probable" to be reality?
Marylinn Kelly said...
Denise - For me, life is mystery - and that's the good part. The Hawking book, for example, takes another step toward...do we even know what, other than things are much, much bigger than we thought and much less predictable, with current information. All of which goes in support of, I believe, living a life of the spirit, for being open, period. For being open.

Robert - I have Hawking's book in hand and am going to start reading it this afternoon. Skimming through, it looks as though we may have some revisions to make in our thinking on such matters. At least we can consider revisions. And as to what may be probable, I think your question mark says it for us. I am a great fan of possibility.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Word of the Week - 38

In the Japanese festival of Hari Kujo, broken and worn needles are set to rest outside shrines, thanked for their hard work, article here.
Word of the Week: WONDERSTRUCK

That at any hour on any day I may find (figuratively) my knees weakened by the sight or knowledge of a previously unknown delight for the eye or mind or spirit or, generally, all of the above, causes me to declare myself permanently wonderstruck.

Learning of the Hari Kujo festival yesterday via the writing of Mister Finch, himself a wonder, then discovering the date of the annual festival is Feb. 8, my birthday, set all my senses tingling.  I was brought to speechlessness by a celebration so profound and humble.  Thinking of all we owe to -  would we call them service objects? - and to our own hands as the means of livelihood, the means of keeping ourselves and our families fed and clothed, transported, protected, educated and entertained, my heart sighed for women.  Read the link to learn more of what the needles and pins represent.
Kimono sewing.
I hear the sound of monks chanting as women approach the block of tofu, the place of rest for tired tools, and long for such ceremony, such acknowledgement of the sacred in daily life. My message is that we need to create our own rituals, build the habit of reverence for what may be deemed small and insignificant yet is anything but.  Artists, think of pens, brushes, scissors, think of lined yellow tablets or typewriters or keyboards, think of ink but continue to think of needles, of pins.  The work of creating, of connecting, of holding together, preserving, mending, think of its significance, its metaphor.

Reading of this festival caused me to look at my hands, offer thanks for how well they learned the skills necessary to care for myself, my family, to create, to embellish, to add color and silliness and surprise in unexpected corners.  When we become wonderstruck, we are shifted on our foundations, pushed to the often teetering edge of the unknown where the only known element is awareness of wonder, that we are not who we were a moment ago.
Antique silk kimono.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Word of the Week - 37

Seaside village from Kirsty Elson Designs.
Michelle Holmes Embroidery.
Word(s) of the Week:  PLAYING FOR TIME

There is a sensibility with which I identify in the work of Kirsty Elson and Michelle Holmes.  Their wooden seaside encampments and understated embroidered vignettes express visually some of what I hope to capture in the ongoing story on my blog of Gloria. The Reading Man and life in Billington's Cove.  In the saga of 60-some episodes (so far), I arrived at a pivotal moment and its details have not yet become clear.

Because the characters and their place found me, not the other way around, I've learned to be trusting and patient.  They will spill the beans when they are ready.  They resist, which I've come to respect, any of my attempts to give them false moments, contrived musings, inauthentic action.  They and their setting do not belong to ordinary reality as to time and space.  I consider them not only imaginary friends but more.  They seem able to gauge the tides of my heart and inform me accordingly.  I have come to know myself better through them.  With their help I am clearer about what I believe, how the world, the universe even, works.

What happens after the dance, I mean THE DANCE, I have no idea.  It is not the ultimate moment in their story, yet it is much more than just a moment.  My great wish is that I not muddy any part of it by rushing them.

Once upon a time I meditated daily.  In the way of things, I somehow grew apart from that beneficial practice.  In the last few weeks, joining Oprah and Deepak Chopra, I've found what may be the way back to the states of mind that result from meditation.  My first thought was unattractively judgmental.  After the first session, I was grateful for the ease of the exercise.  It may be the lazy woman's path and I'm fine with that.  My rather elderly joints and muscles need comfort in order to focus.  I am either dreaming more or am more aware of my dreams.  I've had moments of being more connected to aspects of myself that I forgot existed.  I am able to slip into a state of detachment from daily stuff and let images appear, either during the meditation or other parts of the day.

In one of these "states," I saw a younger Reading Man standing in a field, talking in a soft animal voice to a horse for whom he obviously had great affection.  Their heads together, they seemed halves of the same whole.  Any stilling of the chattering, fretting mind allows the veil to thin.  I love going there.

I hope it won't be too much longer before my undeclared lovebirds and I resume our adventure.  I think of them as absent friends or a phantom limb, not as inventions of my imagination.  Until we meet again.  xo

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Maura O'Connell sings

Irish singer Maura O'Connell, born in County Clare.

My favorite Maura O'Connell song, why not start with it?

From the writings of William Butler Yeats.

With Nanci Griffith singing harmony.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Ian and Sylvia Folk Music Show

So there can be some general good come from listening to YouTube for much of the afternoon, I'll be the d.j. sharing (especially for those of you who don't know them) Ian and Sylvia.

The video for "Nancy Whiskey" would not have been my choice, but there you are.

At certain moments we are called back to reconnect with our former selves, parts that have never left but have gone dormant, at least for a time.  The young folkie that I was is now the much older folkie that I am.  Warning:  next time it may be Irish folk music.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why Edward Gorey rocks, in 26 words

Thoughtful Alphabets discussed here.
I have a vintage Edward Gorey journal from Pomegranate as the notebook of record by my computer.  As I jotted today's findings, the phrase "battered chrysanthemums" caught my eye.  Part of Gorey's Thoughtful Alphabet No. 10, the two words offered me just the right pinch of magic to feel not entirely deranged in the leaping associations my mind chooses to make.  Crushed or rain-thrashed blossoms in vivid fall hues made a kind of sense I cannot possibly explain.  Any attempt to guide you through what might be called a thought process would require a diagram similar to the old Arthur Murray directions for ballroom dancing.
With thanks.
I think our best course of action will be to acknowledge genius when we see it.  From "jellied kelp" through "hopeless infatuation," "listless meandering" and "wretched excess," Mr. Gorey supplies more than enough evidence of his unconventionally superior mind.  The rest of us are but battered chrysanthemums at his feet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Word of the Week - 36

Morocco's blue city,  Chefchaouen.
Word of the Week: VARIABLES

We live in a two-story, pink stucco building which has the word "Capri" as part of its name on the facade.  The color and name make giving directions easier, make it harder to miss  Other apartments on the block are less emphatic.  And I'll bet they don't have pink bathtubs.

Yet our Capri quarters lose any exotic cachet, however slight, when compared to the varying shades of blue in Morocco's once-secret mountain city of Chefchaouen.  (The link under the photo above provides history, background.)  As I am so eternally drawn to colors, I wonder what variables may be at work as influences on mind and spirit in a blue city.  Think of it.

It could be a direct line of descent from the Puritan Ethic that has kept my inner bohemian in mostly  subdued wrappers for so long, always leaning toward, longing for deeply saturated hues as displayed in other lands, in clothing, in doorways.
New Mexico
One could not possibly remain unchanged, going from shades of black to combinations of lime peel, mango and blueberry.  One can imagine the magnitude of shift made possible by changing the vista from politely, quietly American ordinary to the distantly, almost other-worldly vivid.  I know I feel happier, I feel more myself when I wear anything that is a true red.  Coloring my grey hair became too frequent and wearying a task though I know I would be altered by seeing a once-again red-haired version of myself looking back from the mirror.

I've written before that color is a language to me.  It is also a vitamin, a tonic, an essential nutrient, a form of rescue and helium in the dirigible by means of which I will make my getaway.  I may dream of Morocco's blue city, a round table next to the open windows, sipping a glass of golden tea while  afternoon haze merges with shadowed robin's egg stairways before the market closes.
Paint pigment for sale, blue for the exterior, colors for the interior.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Blog repost from 2010

Because a friend awaits the results of lab work, this came to mind.  Thinking good thoughts. xo

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One among many

Photo thanks to nola.com, by Ted Jackson

If you have forgotten that we are all in this together, try spending time in the waiting room of a medical lab collection office.

Fridays and Mondays, the phlebotomist said, are their busiest days. When we arrived, all but one seat was taken. My hierarchy of mobility is thus: something to hold onto, use cane; flat and nothing to hold onto, walker; flat with distances to be covered, wheelchair. This is why my 75-year-plan includes suspending the laws of gravity - floating, drifting, sproinging, hovering, ahhhh. So my son and I each had a seat.

When I switched to the health care plan of which this lab is part, the parking lot of the block-sized office building was run like Mussolini's trains. Now it is willy-nilly - yes, free - but out of the hundreds of spaces, many "Reserved for Management," there are two designated disabled spots. Workers were cutting rolls of carpeting in the aisles. We didn't do badly, a spot with room to open the car doors. It was enough.

I believe this lab serves a number of Medicare providers as well as other PPO-type plans, so there has always been a diverse population visiting there. This was true yesterday. A young man, in his 20s, had paper work spread across the floor near the entrance. A sturdy, perhaps 18-month-old future athlete was kicking a soccer ball, then dunking it in the receptionist's wastebasket. There was collective, yet still, restlessness, for it was obvious the wait would be measured in hours, or halves of hours.

The previous night, we had watched the re-make of CLASH OF THE TITANS, my son wanting to compare it to the original with Ray Harryhausen's classic special effects. Then, of course, there was the trailer with Liam Neeson bellowing, "Release the kraken!" All in all, the gods were unhappy. I whispered to my son that perhaps Perseus could come and liberate us from this Underworld, but not before having my blood drawn. It was a gloomy chamber, likely because we shared, on some level, unvoiced concern about the outcome of our tests. Mine was a routine check to determine that nothing essential had gone south in the previous months and my anxiety level was, oh, miracle, too low to register. I have no idea what any of the others were facing.

The staff, one receptionist and two phlebotomists, were efficient, patient, helpful and kind. It was not one of those "distract you from your monkey mind" offices with a television showing endless loops of things that we needed to watch out for. It definitely was not at all like the Social Security-approved bus station of a medical center where my son needed to be seen, in a storage closet, as part of his lengthy approval process for benefits. There they were showing Maury or some paternity-based, chair-throwing excuse for entertainment that made me long for chloroform. People who had come here together spoke in low tones, except for soccer boy and his mom who had to chase him around the room. Another mom had her hands full with a daughter of enviable curly red hair, age around five, for whom the vibe became intolerable - it has taken me years to learn not to whimper when I empathize too accutely in a crowded room - and who had to be comforted in the hall.

There we were, strangers on the bus, getting by, getting through. Since I imagine most of us had been fasting, and by now it was past 11, one of the strangers had brought a container of Ensure, and mentioned to the woman at the front desk that he was starving. My son and I were dreaming of our drive-through coffees, assuming we were done in time. It is an independent stand that closes at noon, the only drive-through coffee vendor in the greater Pasadena area. And you call yourselves civilized.

We did not really make eye contact with each other, not easy if you didn't bring a book or did not choose to immerse yourself in a two-year-old "Entertainment Weekly" laden with the germs of those two years. Occasionally it was possible to exchange a smile or a few words about how it shouldn't be much longer. I would like to know what sort of pre-employment tests they administer to find staff so centered, so unruffled, so able to bring their best game to this crowded island which no one visits by choice.

Driving through, Pasadena has a pungent air of prosperity, though the Maserati dealership did close. But in the waiting room, we of the budget health plans were not the people I pictured behind the elderly oaks in architect-designed stucco and redwood. They may have been, though my sense was we shared more than just the need to have our blood give up its secrets. We did not seem like a group which has all the answers for tomorrow's questions; since I knew I still had to get back up the stairs once we got home, I didn't even have answers for today's questions.

In spite of that, there we were, assuming, as I have written of lately, the good outcome. They talk in 12-step programs of "suiting up and showing up" and we did, patients and workers. There is comfort in company, in crowded waiting rooms, in mutual uncertainty, in just taking the next indicated step. Fingers crossed, I hope we all receive the news we want.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Word of the Week - 35

Teacher Viola Swamp from the Miss Nelson books.
Word of the Week: FLEXIBLE

Our experiences turn us into teachers.  They also turn us flexible, cause us to finds ways to prevail in the real world and not the one of our fantasies.  We are water, we are streams whose natural paths are clogged, blocked by debris or the work of zealous beavers.  We find our way.  We may be slowed, we are not stopped.

It is within the past 8 years, perhaps less, that I have come to know myself as an adaptive creature.  The ways I once moved, walked, cooked, the ways I once lived have vanished.  Those ways have been replaced by the next best thing.   I marvel at and give thanks for substitutions, support devices which began with a cane, my own unexpected capacity for adjusting and the previously unnoticed corners into which this turn of events has shined a light.  I have come to believe that we all live, in some fashion, adaptively.  That there is any life where all is perfection seems unlikely.

Another belief of mine is that we are here to give comfort and encouragement to each other, to bring the good we possess and share it as widely as possible.  Our disappointments and the ways in which we cope with, even triumph over them help us write our playbook of clever, though perhaps awkward-looking tricks.  That we must all cope with something we didn't choose unites us.  Fighting what is unwanted will not make it go away but it will embitter us and wear us out.  Better to maximize the skills, the strengths we still possess.

Yet another belief (maybe I should just have made a list) is that we are not meant to be defeated by the charging rhinoceros, singular or plural, that upended our plans.  That onslaught becomes part of the equation, part of us, of our experience.  We ignore or exclude it at our peril.  How much better to make it, if not an ally, then at least a consultant.   Illness, injury, affliction have demands, the first one being a course correction.  If we are able to continue, more or less, in the direction we were going when we met the rhinoceros on the road, we will at the very least be going at a different pace, probably taking a detour, maybe hunkering in place while the dust settles.

The human spirit, with which we are field-equipped, survives disappointment.  It survives jolts and losses, the forces of nature and time and our own unrealized dreams.  We redraw the boundaries, surrender expectations in favor of a general trust in the good outcome, find comfort in what is and try not to keep breaking our own hearts over and over by dwelling on what is not.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A fan speaks: Alexander Jansson, out of the mist

All artwork shown is by Alexander Jansson.

Monsters in a flying hat.
The title of a book by Ellen Gilchrist, In the Land of Dreamy Dreams, comes to me when I look at the work of Alexander Jansson.  His illustrations are the firmer version of images I see in clouds, the benevolent creatures spotted from the corner of my eye, the ones I want to see more clearly, perhaps get to know if they are not too shy.  His ships sail upon skies or waters, his fantastic passengers knew exactly what sort of trip they were booking.  They each have a plan, however vague it might seem when told aloud.  Regardless, they are launched with confidence, determination or a spectacular amount of bravado.  There will be no turning back.