Monday, March 28, 2016

Word of the Week - 108

Art by Lisa Congdon, from The Reconstructionists.

Word(s) of the Week: PLAN B

In things both great and small, one finds reprieve and deliverance by having made, in advance, a second choice.  That it was second does not proclaim it lesser.  Often it turns out to be the preferred option, which is only known when Plan A falls through or vanishes like the mirage it may have always been.  In my experience, the potential for self-delusion is without limit.

Plans B (or Plan Bs) demand invention, improvisation.  They allow us to act out our frequently under-employed talents as magicians, those clever sorts who can save a fallen souffle or fashion the missing element of a incomplete Halloween costume, moments before the curtain rises.  A classic Plan B invariably requires the replacement or circumvention of a missing essential.  Dropped the keys to the getaway car?  Plan B.  Broken zipper, power outage, balky printer, insufficient funds, etc., Plan B.  Priority Mail (flat rate) is a procrastinator's ideal fall-back.  The panache to pull off eccentric choices in hair or make-up or clothing can disguise Plan B fixes.

So many of our expectations turn out to be unrealistic fantasies, leaving two choices: withering with disappointment for an extended period, like forever, or acknowledging that we are stuck with IT, whatever IT is, and would be wise to go back into the huddle and come up with an alternative play.  The truth is that life frequently has plans that bear no resemblance to ours, though they may turn out to be ultimately preferable.

I don't recall seeing the word "flexibility" on a list of classic virtues, though it belongs there with patience, generosity and courage, as a means to overcome adversity and lack.  For us, masters of Plan B, there is a sufficiency, regardless of how it first appears.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Word of the Week - 107

Word of the Week: CONTAIN

As I look at the packet of de-stashed envelopes, bought for a song on etsy, sliding from shades of banana cream pie yellow, through sherbet hues to those of a spring garden, I think about Easter baskets, for the colors shriek spring.  I think about long-ago kits for dying eggs and the smell of vinegar.  I think about new lace-edged ankle socks for church.  I think about other times.

How is it possible for us to contain all we have known and encountered on this voyage?  What a miracle that we manage to sift and sort and store it for, we hope, retrieval as needed.  The wonder of the body remembering how it felt to crouch and bend while hunting the hidden eggs, the nests of jelly beans, the growing weight of the basket with each added find.  Do we imagine the memory because we know it happened or are we there once again?

I am a fan of boxes, bags, cabinets and drawers, places and means for the storage of goods.  To have and to hold and to carry.  I admire friends who have committed written works to memory, something for which I once had a talent.  The array of material, of subjects, for which our minds and bodies are repositories is without limit.  Every skill we've acquired, from a foreign language to knitting, remains stashed in some infrequently visited corner, possibly a diluted version of what it once was, but there even if as a more ghostly presence.

We are encyclopedic in ways we may not recognize.  Recipes, meals pleasurable or otherwise, conversations, places, scents, clothes that fit or didn't, a sibling's smile, fear or anticipation, every emotion, every sense, ideas, awarenesses, they fill us yet leave room for more.  To be is to contain.  Here's to spring and our capacity for the infinite.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Word of the Week - 106

Word(s) of the Week: LET'S DANCE

The puzzle, or one of them: how to replicate the joy, the freedom, the sense of pure abandon one finds through dance when one's legs no longer agree to participate.

The adaptive life.  Life, indeed, no mistaking it, though of need being more inventive:when the roads are washed out, how do we reach our destination?

I have not yet thrown myself fully into all possible avenues of movement available to one of less than full mobility.  I have an excellent book on chair yoga, mostly unexplored, and the wits to know one can do a lot of shoogling about without standing, certainly without what could be identified as walking.  Yet I delay, or perhaps resist is not too strong a word.  What is it in the human psyche that allows and even goads us to hold ourselves back from that which could be so freeing?  Or should I say, in MY psyche.  I have no clear answer.

If life is about adapting, and it is, even for the most able-bodied, it is also about resisting our natural default positions.  On an intellectual level I know the more I move, the more accomplished I feel; the more I move, the more alive and youthful and hopeful I feel.  Many, many years ago I was a ballet student.  My body remembers how that felt.  I know what my legs were able to do.  What is the purpose of imagination if not to elevate us beyond actual or perceived limitations?

As this serves, I hope, as pep-inducing self-talk, it may throw needed illumination into our collective shadowed corners.  Our time here is finite, of which I am too aware on a regular basis.  That there is ample peace and delight in my days is not enough, not when I am capable of creating more through simple acts.  My history contains loss and trauma, as, I'm sure, yours does, too.  For so many of us there has already been too much juiciness lost to sorrow.  Let's swear to keep reminding each other.  It will never be too late to dance.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Word of the Week - 105

Another week without illustration, alas.

Word of the Week:  OPTIONS

For the sake of this post and not as an absolute, let us assume that things happen for reasons, usually known in hindsight.  If ever.

As I rely on my son's tutelage and his iPad - and one-fingered typing - until we are computer compliant again, I have returned to reading.  Somehow that life-long pleasure was shuttled aside as I found how few activities could actually fit into a day.  My delighted book companions may be heard cheering, "We're BACK!"

I began with the rereading of Marilynne Robinson's HOUSEKEEPING, which I found so much more bittersweet these several decades later (forgive me if I already wrote of this).  Almost too many experiences of loss now stuffed into my bag of tricks, I inhabit the story in a different skin.

Then Junot Diaz's THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, winner of the Pulitzer and a lesson in history of the Dominican Republic as well as life, in all caps, in buzzing neon, as one family lives it.  I cried at the end of these first choices.

Now, a decision:  the somehow-missed Cormac McCarthy BLOOD MERIDIAN, Ursula Le Guin's LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS or my birthday gift of JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORELL, the mini-series version of which I truly loved.

I am not confused, imagining that my brief and current reading list is any sort of stop-the-presses news.  Simply, I choose to share the yet-again discovered truth that all which seems at first so impossibly vexing may actually be not all bad.  Among my manifesto-level beliefs is that complaining and/or whining is a poor use of time, a poorer use of finite energy.  Let us find, always, the brightest sides we can and pledge them our allegiance.  Any other option is pure suckage.