Monday, November 30, 2015

Word of the Week - 91

Word of the Week:  LOST

(Truth in advertising:  this is a reworked vintage post.  I was 10 minutes from deadline and, well, there it is.)

Henry David Thoreau said, "Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."  For today, perhaps many days, that is part of my story.  Disquieting news arrived from more than one direction and, even though I feel I've found my way through part of it, bits of me have wandered off.

When lost, panic is pointless. What serves us is a version of treading water, staying in place, yet not idle. And companions, as they might be called, such as flat tin boxes of watercolors or polychromos (is it not a graceful word?) pencils. As I became lost while going about my life in my own home, I, in the only true preparedness I can claim, had emergency supplies on hand, including, in no particular order: a blank envelope, a pencil, a very fine-line waterproof pen, scissors, a glue stick, a sheet of white card stock, a Prismacolor Sunburst Yellow pencil, something red, glitter, color photocopies, paper for drawing, a good eraser, a rainbow ink pad, alphabet stamps. Bottled water and dark chocolate are also recommended to keep one company for the duration.

If there is a trick to what Thoreau described, it is to be lost long enough for awareness to sidle over and sit down, let us get caught up in its story and realize that lost is not who we thought it to be.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The sisters and brothers creep up on Thanksgiving

Ellington confronts the turkey, with thanks here.
Ellington and Henri's parents had to be "away" for Thanksgiving so of course the boys spent the holiday with Ambulancia and Sireena's family, where hi-jinks were the order of the day.   Of any day.  They even traded their signature bow ties for the popular "four-in-hand" in splashy cranberry, roast turkey and pumpkin pie colors.  The girls' father complimented both brothers on their mastery of that sometimes elusive knot.  Dexterous chaps they were.
Had the brothers not been there, Ambulancia and Sireena might have been a bit mopey.  Their next-door neighbor, Nadine, who was in high school, was due to start a Christmas job on Friday.  She, lucky cat, would be working in both the craft and toy sections of the best department store in town, possibly any town, selling doll clothes, crepe paper, crayons, all sorts of gummed seals, ribbon by-the-yard and small metal sports cars with doors that opened.  Nadine loved to, as she called it, "go thrifting" with the girls and their mother and though she was nearly grown up also loved to frolic with the sisters among their costumes and oddities.  They would miss her being around once vacation started but they also envied her hands-on, not to mention paying, job in a retail wonderland.  And she was getting an employee discount.  Great sighing ensued when the news broke.  Nadine knew she would see the girls often as the days crept up on Christmas.

From their existing and not insubstantial stash of new and salvaged crepe paper, the girls made nut cups for all the dinner guests, an assembly that included but was not limited to one grandmother, two honorary uncles who baked the best pies, an older cousin who made them all laugh and first-time visitors their father invited for "it seemed the thing to do."  It was a tradition with him.  Some came back, year after year, while others appeared only once.  Regardless, they were always a perfect match for the party and the girls loved every exotic, aromatic and/or glittering facet of them.  Away from the holiday season, they often exchanged postcards, for which the girls insisted on using fountain pens.
An Ambulancia/Sireena holiday nut cup.  Source.
Henri, being of the most serious frame of mind, asked to say grace and all took turns, as they held hands, speaking of that for which they were most grateful.  Then the laughter started and, over the clink of cutlery accompanied by polite chewing, the most frequently heard sound was someone's quietly issued "Heh heh."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Word of the Week - 90

Pete, the fastest one-man band.
Word of the Week:  VERSATILE

No matter how small the acreage of our fiefdom, we are required to be, among other things, the chief financial officer, social director, tech guy, scheduling secretary, chef, animal wrangler, medical intuitive, boundary-setting parent and guru.  And that is if we are only answerable to and responsible for ourselves.  Increase the population and the list of jobs we must fill balloons to the size of a lesser moon.  We tend to forget that we do, in fact, do it all.

On newspapers in the old days a reporter who took his or her own photos was called a combo man, a title I can claim for the occasional feature I sought out on a whim, no time to schedule a photographer.  Nothing quite like a bright Saturday morning, a classified ads list of garage sales and my husband's Pentax on its rainbow strap around my neck.  We have all worn many hats.

What necessary life positions do you fill on a daily or less frequent basis?  What is required of you, or do you require of yourself, to keep the wheels turning?  Imagine the length of our CVs as we might apply to be the captains of our own fates, if we did not already claim those titles.

Friday, November 20, 2015

"The hidden presence, when we think we are alone." *

Gloria Swanson, because this image is articulate beyond words.
*Title quote from Charles de Lint

“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.”
Tom Robbins

There are moments, more would be welcome, when we see or think we see behind, beyond the veil.  Generally no more than glimmers that feel like visual intuition, I experienced such a moment this week, the fleeting sight of how things are, how they may be in the future.  Not solid enough to allow description, the aperture opens and closes leaving behind a knowing, a confirmation, an almost-missed nod of assent that what one seeks is possible, perhaps even at hand.  Surely I am not the only one who is aware of this.

It may be the result of a current meditation course.  Some of the old caulking was loosened and things began slipping through the cracks.  It was an enlightenment I wanted to grab quickly and firmly with both hands.  It could not be held.

I've met the non-ordinary before, we are not strangers.  Listening to a program excerpt by shamanic teacher Robert Moss on active dreaming, he said, "The world around us will speak to us in signs and symbols...everything is alive...find extraordinary messages in ordinary things."

I think we all possess magic.  I believe we are dulled, bludgeoned, by simply trying to keep up with the everydayness of our lives, let alone the monstrous events that slide between us and the sun.  How not to be pulled even further from center, how not to react but to remain grounded, even hopeful no matter what, there's the task.  Perhaps it is to keep us going that we are allowed the rare peek beneath the circus tent.  The acrobats!  The aerialists!  Derring-do without a net!  We ARE made of the same stuff as they, aren't we?  Or did we lose the talismans tucked into our palms and pockets before we were propelled earthward?  Existence can be a weighty business.  We need to believe that nooks of impossible lightness, of goodness, remain, exist, that we have not spent all our tokens, worn the good off all our charms.

These chance sightings of sudden radiance are not corner-of-the-eye manifestations, the sort too-easily dismissed as imagined.  They are real and looking us in the eye, just not for long.  If the soul keeps a journal, I register them there, do my best to digest what nourishment they bring.  I think upon them, then think some more.  Mostly I trust, I believe.  I do not plan to stop.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saying no to foolish consistency - blog repost

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adjustments and revisions

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations. ~Faith Baldwin

The ability to change our minds has to be one of the great gifts of being assigned life in human form. There is no rule or requirement that we continue to be who we were yesterday. If we can't change our spots, we can alter the way in which we judge them.

Revisions, adjustments, reconsiderations and about-faces are not signs of uncertainty but of awareness. I know discomfort is quantifiable and our wish to escape it, universal. Nothing else works quite as well as doing something - or everything - differently.

Think of these words as a kiss on the forehead, a blessing to go forward with a growing suspicion that not all of this is engraved on non-returnable marble. We are allowed, without being fined for littering, to leave ill-fitting notions, opinions, by the side of the road. Many of them will reappear to haunt and hector when we are vulnerable, but their visits will grown less frequent, their forms less substantial.

It may be foolishness taken to the extreme, but I have grown to believe that life, and our untidy, idiosyncratic ways of living it, are not meant to be sources of chronic disappointment. Whether we find happiness because of or in spite of our circumstances, a measure of peace and optimism is the goal.

Regardless of what you've heard or where you heard it, there is no such thing as too old to change. A feeble excuse at best, I can no longer even sell it to myself.


Angella Lister said...
Marylinn, you are a modern philosopher and this post is exactly EXACTLY what i needed to hear today. Every word here is simply perfect, thank you.
Laoch of Chicago said...
Well said.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Angella - Thank you. I am always reassured to know what is tugging at me is also loitering on the doorsteps of others. xo
Marylinn Kelly said...
Laoch - Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.
Yvette said...
I'm trying to agree completely. Definitely trying. :)

Ah, what the heck, I do agree. You're never too old. I think sometimes I bash myself over the head with that and wonder if I mean it. Especially when I'm feeling especially fed up.

Enjoyed reading your well thought out post. Really.
Yvette said...
And by the way, forgot to add: Have a GREAT THANKSGIVING!
Elisabeth said...
I've been thinking about the need for change, too, Marylinn so I find your post helpful. It's so important to remain flexible and not to resist the inevitability of change, but to embrace it.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Yvette - Thank you. No, when I try to tell myself some of the reasons (read: excuses) why change is no longer possible, I am not very convincing. Happy Thanksgiving to you. We will be enjoying our holiday video fest.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Elisabeth - Thank you. My feeling, too, which is why the quote was so appealing: alterations go on forever.
Claire Beynon said...
Another wonderful post, dear Marylinn.

Change (and sometimes we know this only once we are through it) is vital, a gift, our human imperative?

Yesterday, I heard the words 'Happiness is a result of gratitude, not the other way round. . . ' So much begins and ends in gratitude - and so much, in wonder. I lose sight of these truths at times but deep in my bones I know. Thanks for this permission-giving message, Marylinn, esp. 'We are allowed, without being fined for littering, to leave ill-fitting notions, opinions, by the side of the road. Many of them will reappear to haunt and vector when we are vulnerable, but their visits will grow less frequent, their forms less substantial. . . '. Yes, and thank you.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING dear friend. xo
Marylinn Kelly said...
Claire - Thank you. Oh, it took me so long to learn that it all begins with gratitude, for every thing, in every moment. And when we notice the gifts, we find wonder and love. We have more choices than we realize, certainly more than I realized, and began to choose points of view, beliefs, emotions that made everything less fraught. If we never had those moments of conscious forgetting, we would be sages, holy women, not the creatures who go about turning over rocks with sticks that we are. Love to you, Marylinn

Monday, November 16, 2015

Word of the Week - 89

House and Garden magazine, December 1969.
Inside H&G, Dec., 1969, a Gloria Vanderbilt Christmas.  One of her collages on the wall above.  Source.
Word(s) of the Week: CHRISTMAS MAGAZINES

Once upon a time I had a well-traveled, frequently-moved stash of December issues of all the house lovely magazines of the day.  Decorations, recipes, wrapping, homemade gifts.  Revisiting them each year was a source of inspiration and comfort.  I'd collected them since the end of the 1960s, through the 70s and into 80s.  Each year around this time, I'd pull out the stack and wander through them, one by one.

As I write this on Saturday, November 14, I recall how life's harder moments were softened by the sight of Christmas lights, thoughts of package wrapping to come, extravagantly decorated cookies that reminded me of those my mother created when my brother, sister and I were young children.  It was the early 1950s and, until Martha Steward introduced us to the art, perhaps in this century, I'd never seen anyone but our mom paint frosting on cookies.  A woman ahead of her time.

Too many changes of residence, not really so many in the larger picture but enough that shifting stuff from place to place lost its luster. and one November day I realized that my mood-lifting magazines weren't with me.  Earlier this year, an artist friend wrote to tell me she'd found on ebay a copy of the now-fabled and rare House and Garden December 1969 issue with the Gloria Vanderbilt Christmas and how it was all that she remembered before her copy had gone missing.  Trust me when I tell you these are photos we would all look at through magnifying glasses, wanting to capture each shy figure or nuanced grouping.  I was delighted for her and I wish there had been two copies.

I enjoy Christmas most by looking backward, at my own celebrations and those of others.  I still harbor dreams of stumbling into the shuttered shop or flea market booth where all manner of extinct gift wrap nestles in dusty cellophane, for sale at its original price.  When our hearts ache for any reason, we know instantly what will ease that sadness.  Mary Engelbreit and Martha Stewart, with their ribbons and color are perfect companions for me today, offering a place on their pages where all is merry and bright.  No more news, maybe fewer tears.  I do not believe it is shallow to find solace in beauty and memories of joy.  I believe those things exist exactly for that purpose.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Maya Angelou, Jean-Michel Basquiat Repost

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Angelou, Basquiat and fear

Illustration by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
There IS a difference between frighten and befuddle, though when the lights are out and the water is rising, one might be mistaken for the other.  As I shiver in our 40+ degree dawns I think of Long Islanders who are still without electricity, for whom 44 might seem almost balmy.

I want a magic charm to keep up my sleeve.  I want rows of charms, worn bandolier-style like a Girl Scout sash with amulets in place of badges.  I want pockets for my ammunition in case life breaks out in forms too unexpectedly unwelcome.

Blog writers whom I follow as consistently as I can, which could be defined at the present as not very, confront daily events that would leave me shell-shocked, immobilized.  "Don't compare pain" is advice carried from various recovery group sessions.  Still.  Most of us are given circumstances that we are expected to endure, for it is not within our power to change them.  Once the whimpering, in my case, stops, comes time for the winnowing.  How can I see this (or these) differently, what CAN I change, is there peace to be found within discouragement, certainly within multiple imperfections?

Definitions can be adjusted, the word imperfect changed to read ideal.  How much are we handed that is ideal?   Life is a make-do business.  Mostly.  Am I frightened or am I resistant?  They are not the same.  Am I capable of evolving, of becoming the flexible, adaptable creature that survives growing older with optimism and good humor?  Can I believe in myself and my work when connections to the numinous suddenly feel thin and fragile?

Certainty would be a fine thing, certainty of the good outcome,  unfailing trust in resilience and the transcending of all which is irksome or unsettling, guarantees of safety, of wisdom, of ability.  Wish for the moon, then go back and read the contract.  The word guarantee does not appear.

When I feel, because of orbiting planets or undulating chemistry, that I am flimsy and vulnerable, fear starts to wriggle in under the tent or over the transom.  I forget that I am both wave and particle, solid and gas, earth and sky.  I become foggy and forget the only thing we can count on is change.  I lose the grasp on my gifts, that I am one among the great shape shifters, the mind changers, the course adjusters.  I am most frightened when I fail to remember who I am.


Angella said...
This is such a song of life, so inspirational really, even though you may not have thought you were giving succor with these words. They are beautiful. The remind me to endure, to remember that so much of this dance is fear, is illusion, and we only give in to all that when we forget who we are. Thank you.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Angella - Thank you. Do you find everything to be a process, as I do? Everything needing to be worked from A to whatever letter we reach, and with good fortune finding something not too slippery to hold on to, the enoughness of us. Perhaps for today we can remember that we are that, enough. xo
Wonderful post, Marylinn . . . and I love this book. It is still in my library after criss-crossing the country several times now and divesting myself of much of my library in the process.

You are much loved for your clarity, your clairvoyance, your crystal clear view of the human condition.

Marylinn Kelly said...
Karen - Thank you. How I missed knowing about the book until recently I can't say but was glad to have found it. We are certainly here, doing hand-to-hand with the human condition, are we not? xo
susan t. landry said...
i did not know about this book, either--and i have to say it seems like an inspired collaboration. maya angelou has become a national salt-of-the-earth fairy godmother, with her beautiful voice and language and her no-nonsense spirit...and poor basquiat, a fallen angel, an artist manqué. your beautiful observations as usual, marylinn, take everything to another level.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Susan - Thank you. Inspired collaboration was just how I saw it. The images which disquiet, the words that reassure, their trajectories in such contrast. xo
Antares Cryptos said...
Don't compare anything.

Looking up at the sky, knowing how inhospitable space actually is reminds me every time how improbable our existence actually is.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Antares - Comparing is the dying star of old habits. It is/we are truly the most improbable result of infinite chances. xo
RachelVB said...
I found this quote from Anias Nin: I must be a mermaid ... I have no fear of great depths and a great fear of shallow living."

I don't know why, quite yet, but your post reminded me of this. I suppose because no matter what we consider our flaws, we can define ourselves as something beautiful.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - What a lovely thought, one to be held tightly. There are too many days when my limited vision has trouble finding beautiful. Aren't comparisons the most deadly things? xo