"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wish Book

Sears Wish Book 2007 ~ Good Old Days meet New Age

Talk about custom and ceremony, and annual tradition! I don't remember my family referring to it as the "Wish Book," but I well recall the excitement of marking all of our favorite pages in the Sears Christmas Catalog every year. We were not alone!

On one holiday blog after another, the old catalogs feature as an unforgettable childhood memory. Take a look at this great site or this one for a glimpse of vintage wish books from decades gone by. How poignantly Cris Williamson captures the nostalgia in her truly unique Christmas song:

Wish - Book
When the fire danger was low
Off we'd go to Ohio
Through the cold December days
In the old black Chevrolet.

The three of us kids would sit in the back
With the wish - book catalogue on our laps
We'd dream of all the things there'd be
Underneath the Christmas tree.

And we'd say
"What'll we get when the great day's here?"
And Mama'd make the wishing - book appear
And we dreamed of life for all it was worth
And I knew the meaning of peace on earth.

As Daddy drove the car through
the middle of the night
I'd be reading by the glow of the radio light
Pointing to the pictures one - by - one
Daddy said we'd have it all when the money comes.

When my sister and brother were asleep
I'd crawl over in the front seat
And I'd sit up with Mom and Dad
And talk about all the things we'd have.

And we'd say
"What'll we get when the great day's here?"
And Mama'd make the wishing - book appear
And we dreamed of life for all it was worth
And I knew the meaning of peace on earth.

On the day that Christmas came
I found an envelope with my name
Like promises of days to be
The wish - book pictures spilled in front of me.

And, oh I tried not to feel too sad
As I read the note from Mom and Dad
That said, "Merry Christmas, little one.
This is just until the money comes."

words by Cris Williamson
music by Tret Fure and Cris Williamson
found on the album Snow Angel

I was such a lucky little kid; the Christmas that I was nine years old, I wished for an Italian Boy Doll (2nd one down on the right, wearing pale blue) and my wish came true!

Page 619 of the Sears Christmas Catalog, 1966

Christmas Day, 1966

As I've said before (on my previous post: "Boy Doll"), "my sister and I were so proud of our new dolls! If any of you ever come to visit and stay overnight, you will find Boy Doll, in pristine condition, sitting on the guest bed. I wanted this doll like crazy, but I never played with him very much and never gave him a name other than "Boy Doll." [Don't ask me why, but we had a way back then of describing our toys rather than actually naming them, as with my sister Diane's Floppy Doll.]

"Little did I know that one day a couple of decades later I would have two little blond baby boys who looked just like my Boy Doll! Or . . . wait! . . . perhaps I did know but just didn't know that I knew! Maybe Boy Doll was sent to me as an innocent little Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come!"

Fall 1990 ~ Baby Ben, propped up beside Boy Doll

Fall 1993 ~ Baby Sam, three years later

For a little Baby Boomer such as I, the Christmas Season and the Catalog Season were one and the same. But catalogs did appear at other times of year (e.g. "Back to School") and Wish Books could be for other special occasions as well (Easter dresses, prom dresses, wedding dresses). My talented cousin Robert Lindsey Nassif describes just such a special occasion in his winsome tribute to wishing and dreaming and shopping from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. "Dreams are all I've got," croons the narrator; yet it's a dream that just might come true! Don't forget, in real life, Lady Bird Johnson's wedding ring really did come from Sears and Roebuck!

Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band
Go on, walk away.
I'm a waste of time
Can't take me to a dimestore,
'cause I haven't got a dime.

Dreams are all I got
that's not in short supply.
But, if I printed money,
then I know just what I'd buy:

That Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band
on page one hundred three.
Gold electro - plated,
with a lifetime guarantee.

That Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band
to flash before your eyes.
One in just your size.

What I can't afford,
that's what you should have.
Like, an "Acme Wonder Washer,"
or "Bonjour Parisian Salve."

Patent Leather shoes,
or a Patent - Pending Sieve,
and there's something with engraving
I'd give anything to give:

That Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band
on page one hundred three.
Gold electro - plated,
with a lifetime guarantee.

That Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band
delivered C.O.D.
Just for you, from me.

See, as long as I know
nothing's gonna come true,
guess I might as well go
for the top a the line --
for a de - luxe editon,
like you,
and that

Sears and Roebuck Wedding Band
on page one hundred three.
Gold electro - plated,
with a lifetime guarantee.

A fella needs a dream to dream,
especially if he's poor.
That's the thing
that catalogues
and pretty girls
are for.

words and music by Robert Lindsey Nassif

60th Anniversary Issue from 2012

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, January 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Posting early this week
in honor of Emily Dickinson's Birthday
Born this day in 1830
[died May 15, 1886]

Photo of Dickinson's House by Stan Lichens

"Eden is that old - fashioned House
We dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
Until we drive away.
How fair, on looking back, the Day
We sauntered from the door,
Unconscious our returning
Discover it no more."

~ Emily Dickinson ~


Does it bring you joy to indulge in an innocent little English usage error every occasionally (like that)? It does me! One of my favorites is the word hopefully. The handbooks will advise you that it means "with hope," as in, "I dropped my bike off hopefully" or "Hopefully, I entered the contest."

It does not mean "I hope," as in, "Hopefully I will win" or "Hopefully my bike can be fixed" (not to mention get rid of that passive verb). Even so, I like using it both ways, either way, ambiguously, whenever I feel like. Hopefully, you will agree with me when I say that we all need all the hope we can get!

What are you hoping for? What are the desires of your heart?

Do you get what you're hoping for
When you look behind you there's no open door
What are you hoping for?
Do you know?
--song by M. Masser / G. Goffin;
--sung by Diana Ross (and a few others)

I once came across a little proverb, so easy to remember, I didn't even have to write it down: "Want something long enough and you don't." It took me awhile to puzzle out the meaning. Once it starts happening, however, you grow to understand. It's not that you actively give up wanting or deliberately relinquish the object of your desire; it's just that one day you realize, hey I don't want that anymore, and in fact haven't wanted it for quite some time.

It's not so bad to stop wanting things you can't have. But it's also good to hope for what you might have. And the wisdom to know the difference. As Emily Dickinson says in one of her best loved poems:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all . . .

This stanza always reminds me of the Psalm: "Delight yourself in the Goodness of God and you will be given the Desires of Your Heart" (37:4). The trick, of course, is knowing what it is that you desire, what you're hoping for.

A few years ago in the Notre Dame Magazine, Elizabeth Austin told the story of a young friend who wanted to complete the last leg of an around-the-world journey. Asking his father's advice, he received this ambiguous reply: "I think it's a ridiculous idea . . . If it's just a whim forget about it. The only reason to do something like that is if it's your heart's desire. And if it's your heart's desire, then you have to do it."

The son was baffled: "What's that supposed to mean, my heart's desire?" Austin concludes her narrative with yet another conundrum: Discovering our heart's desire "must be, in the end, our heart's desire" (NDM, Winter 1997 - 98, p 79).

From some angles, Emily Dickinson's sequestered life appears so unruffled, but what about her heart's desire? What message did she discern when listening so carefully to that song without words, the one that never stopped?

Emily Dickinson
"We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won't explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain."

poem by Linda Pastan, (U.S. Poet, b. 1932)

In her poem, "Lists," Pastan says:

"I made a list of things I have
to remember and a list
of things I want to forget,
but I see they are the same list."

I wonder if it's ever the case that the same is also true of what we're hoping for?

Looking at it a different way, author Susan Jeffers recommends not a "Hoping Life" but a "Wondering Life": " . . . with the magic of wondering, fear of the uncertain is replaced by curiosity . . . pressure about the future is relieved when we live in a wondering world" (Embracing Uncertainty, 20 - 21).

E.g., not I HOPE you are reading my blog,
but I WONDER if you are reading my blog.

For more on Emily Dickinson, see
"Emily From Different Angles
on Kitti's Book List

Young Girl Reading
by French artist
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
1732 - 1806

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, December 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The House You're Standing In . . .
or Holding in the Palm of Your Hand

"Shop Around the Corner"
Gingerbread bookstore created a few years ago
by my friend Professor Kathleen O'Gorman

Look closely and you'll see that this Gingerbread House has its own Gingerbread House! When I praised Kathie for the charm of this particular design feature, she said, "Ah, the meta-gingerbread house! The measure of how desperately I didn't want to grade papers that year!"

In practice, that is.

In theory, it's the measure of "interiorty":

"A house within a house, the dollhouse not only presents the house's articulation of the tension between inner and outer spheres of exteriority and interiority -- it also represents the tension between two modes of interiority. Occupying a space within an enclosed space, the dollhouse's aptest analogy is the locket or the secret recesses of the heart: center within center, within within within. The dollhouse is a materialized secret: what we look for is the dollhouse within the dollhouse and its promise of an infinitely profound interiority."

from On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic,
the Souvenir, the Collection
(p 61)
by Susan Stewart ~ poet, professor, academic folklorist

This subject has long been of interest to me, as I explained a couple of weeks ago, when writing about Katherine Mansfield's story "The Doll's House. While admiring Kathie's photographs, it occurred to me that Susan Stewart's theory of the small house within the big house is just as applicable to the gingerbread house as it is to the dollhouse. Both display the impulse to miniaturize and the process of reducing utility to ornament. And both allow the creator to control a manageable universe: "Worlds of inversion, of contamination and crudeness, are controlled within the dollhouse by an absolution manipulation and control of the boundaries of time and space" (Stewart, 63).


[See comments below, especially #4, for Kathie's
detailed history of the gingerbread project]

Seeing the photo of Kathie's gingerbread masterpiece, our mutual friend Leonard Orr said, "Good to see this festive mise-en-abyme! I hope it includes a miniature version of Kitti's book on the shelves inside."

We entertained ourselves for awhile, imagining all that was inside. I suggested all of Len's books, plus the Complete Works of Shakespeare & an OED. Len suggested Beckett, Kafka, Woolf, and copies of all the avant-garde novels that Kathie teaches. Len observed that "To have room for all of the essential works, this would have to be the gingerbread Powell's." Kathie said, "To fit them all, it would have to be the gingerbread House of Leaves!"

Len: "Next challenge: #7 Eccles St. (with Bloom's library and Sweets of Sin)."

Kathie: "#7 Eccles Street! How can you do this to me? I can tell I'm going to have to do it one of these years! Now let's see . . . shall I move the piano?!"

Len: "Did William Morris create gingerbread houses? If so, they might still survive, the interiors covered with tapestries and carpets depicting noble labor or scenes from Icelandic sagas. I look forward to seeing your replicas."

Kathie: "I believe the research for that work will be adequate justification for a return visit to London."

Len: "As well as a large grant from British research associations."

Me: "And a morgage exemption!"

Len: "I didn't know mortgages were available for gingerbread houses."

We also enjoyed some comments from Kathie's daughter: "Awww Mom, I miss you making Gingerbread Houses, having the kitchen counter covered with frosting flowers or ice cream cone trees, smelling you baking on a cold winter morning, and coming down from my warm bed to see what new masterpiece you were working on."

Kathie recalled, "All of the desperate attempts at architectural challenges, like the dome for the arboretum, for which I / we ought to have received our degree in architectural engineering! I continue to seek out roofing materials here, of course! Good to have them on hand just in case there's an unexpectedly urgent need for a gingerbread house somewhere!"

Len, a literary theorist of the first order, added that, until our discussion of Kathie's edible creation, he "hadn't thought about the necessity for gingerbread house theory."

Conveniently, there is Susan Stewart's aesthetic of the miniature: " . . . even the most basic use of the toy object -- to be 'played with' -- is not often found in the world of the dollhouse. The dollhouse is consumed by the eye." Likewise, the most basic use of gingerbread -- to be eaten -- is not the case with a gingerbread house, which is to be consumed by the eye, not the taste buds, edible though it may be. The transcendent vision offered by the gingerbread house or the dollhouse, "the most consummate of miniatures," can be known through visual apprehension alone (Stewart, 62, 61)

Then there's this great passage from Bill Bryson: "Houses are really quite odd things. They have almost no universally defining qualities: they can be of practically any shape, incorporate virtually any material, be of almost any size. Yet wherever we go in the world we recognize domesticity the moment we see it" (28, from At Home: A Short History of Private Life). You can always count on the miniature to signify domesticity!

Carole Maso contributes this existential insight on the realm of miniaturization and the meaning of life: "It is the week before Christmas. In the apartment across the way, a man works on a dollhouse. So what if we are doomed? He will die rubbing a small chair smooth" (199, from her novel AVA).

And, interestingly enough, even Martha Stewart weighs in on the topic: "What is more tantalizing -- at a child's eye level -- than a gingerbread replica of the house you're standing in?" Reading Martha's insight gave me goosebumps! Why? Because she is talking about the secrets of interiority! Within within within. [Emphasis added.]

She goes on the describe "The whimsy and . . . the thrill of . . . playing with scale and expectations: What's big is rendered small (the house) but with such an eye to detail that it uses three shades and flavors of cookie, and the roof and chimney have the realistic look of shingles and bricks. Meanwhile, what's small (the teddy bear) is presented as life - size . . ." (Martha Stewart Living, December 2012, p 130 - 31).


Gingerbread Close - up
See also my previous posts: Making Gingerbread for Christmas
and Gingerbread: A Short, Happy Photo History

In closing, I can't resist turning once again to the journal of my friend Jan Donley. You might recall that my last fortnightly post featured her drawing "Dad's Lamp" and her story "The rain fell on yellow leaves." This time she writes of a miniature house, even smaller than a dollhouse -- a house you can hold in your hand. Reading it shortly after Christmas a year ago, I thought it was the perfect reverie for all those faraway post – Christmas snow day feelings, and I had to add it immediately to my list of all - time favorites.

House / 13 January 2012

You received it as a gift—a ceramic house to set on your mantle or on a shelf or on a table. You hold the house in the palm of your hand—a triangle roof and a square base. No windows. No doors. Just the shape. Simple. The house a child would draw if you said, “Draw a house.” Or the house in a dream with no entrance and no exit. You’re just suddenly there. In the box of it, or you’re looking at it from a distance. Or there it is in a coloring book. You color it blue or brown. Maybe you add windows and doors. Even a dormer. And then the house starts getting complicated, and you can no longer hold it in your hand or remember your childhood or even dream it. Suddenly the house becomes a cape or a colonial or a bungalow. And there are too many words to remember, and too many memories to hold onto, and too much loss. The world is no longer the world you knew, and houses stretch for miles: triangles atop boxes. And you want to hold one in your hand. More than anything, you want to hold a house in your hand. And you reach out for one, but it stays just beyond your grasp. Never simple anymore. It is not the house in the coloring book. It is instead a structure full of rooms and doorways and hallways. The hallways are the hardest. They are narrow and long. You walk down one and push open a door. You hear the creak of its hinges and swear that one day you will oil them. You look inside the room, and maybe there’s a bed and a desk. A lamp sits on a table beside the bed. Maybe it is lit. Maybe a book waits by the lamp. Maybe a person, someone you love, holds the book. And that is familiar. And you leave the hallway and walk toward the familiar. Or you close that door and continue down the hallway and open another door. Its hinges do not creak, and the room behind the door looks like no room you’ve ever seen. All the windows on all the walls are wide open. Wind blows curtains up like wings. The wind takes you, and suddenly you are out the window and flying. You have wings. And nothing is familiar save for the houses below you—so far away you can only see their shapes—triangles and boxes. You want to hold one in your hand. [Emphasis added.]

My house is filled with houses like this:

Especially around Halloween:

and Christmas:

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, December 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"I Seen the Little Lamp"

artwork by Jan Donley

A year ago today, my fortnightly post was a series of connections drawn from the autumnal writing and photography of my friend Jan Donley.* At the same time that I was posting "There on the Edge of Autumn," Jan was writing another leaf story in her journal. How timely!

The rain fell on yellow leaves / 14 November 12

She remembered a place. It might have been a place in a dream. There were there no trees, and there was no sky. She had looked out of eyes that did not belong to her. And then she remembered, there was no ground either. No dirt. No grass. No branches or trunks or leaves. Just air. There may have been light. Yes. She remembered light coming from some distance—maybe a star or a moon or a lamp. She wanted it to be a lamp. And she heard a voice—a voice that whispered and whistled. That was the language of this place: whispers and whistles. [emphasis added]

When she awoke from the dream or what may have been a dream, she looked across her room to the window. The window was open, and a breeze blew in. She saw leaves on the ground. Through the window, she saw the yellow leaves. And the rain fell on them.

It should have been a familiar sight. But ever since the dream, her eyes were not her own. And ever since the dream, she knew the sky and the trees and the ground could disappear. She knew that familiar languages could suddenly become unfamiliar.

It unsettled her, the way a dream can do.

And it must have been a dream; otherwise, why would she wake to look out a window and see rain falling on yellow leaves?

She could not be sure.

The yellow leaves whistled in the wind. The rain that fell on them whispered.

~ photo by Jan Donley ~

Jan's entry provided an immediate connection to one of my favorite stories by Katherine Mansfield (1888 - 1923), "The Doll's House," in which the two little poor sisters, Lil and Else Kelvey, are lucky enough to get a quick look at the elaborate dollhouse of the wealthy Burnell sisters, Isabel, Lottie, and Kezia. But their viewing lasts only for a few seconds, before the prejudiced cranky aunt shoos them away. Instead of being embarrassed by their poverty or disappointed in not getting to admire the dollhouse, the younger sister internalizes the reward of her adventure: "I seen the little lamp!" That was enough for her! A sign of comfort, hope, stability -- the same reasons that Jan's dream girl in "yellow leaves" hopes that the distant light is coming from a lamp!

If you're interested in reading more about Mansfield's story, I have written about it in my book -- Created in Our Image: The Miniature Body of the Doll). I was inspired by On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, a fascinating theoretical study by poet and professor of folklore Susan Stewart, who calls the dollhouse "a materialized secret; what we look for is the dollhouse within the dollhouse and its promise of an infinitely profound interiority" (61).

The Burnell sisters are certainly anxious to share the secret of their new possession, the "perfect, perfect little house!" (318). They are instructed that they may bring their friends from school, two at a time, to view the splendid toy. These visits are to be allowed, however, with the specific condition that the visitors are "not to stay to tea, of course, or to come traipsing through the house" (320). That is, the girls may share with outsiders the secrets of the miniature house but not those of the life - size house. The privacy and the sanctity (and the secrets) of the home are to be protected from intrusion and idle curiosity. Nor are the guests invited to actually play with the dollhouse; they are asked merely to admire it, "to stand quietly in the courtyard while Isabel pointed out the beauties and Lottie and Kezia looked pleased" (320).

"The whole house - front swung back, and -- there you were, gazing at one and the same moment into the drawing - room and dining - room, the kitchen and two bedrooms" (319; see comment below). The girls are enchanted by the small furniture, the stove complete with oven door, the table set with tiny plates, the wallpaper, the carpeting, and the miniature gold - framed pictures. Of all the charming details, for Kezia, it is the little lamp that represents the "promise of an infinitely profound interiority":

"But what Kezia liked more than anything, what she liked frightfully, was the lamp. It stood in the middle of the dining - room table, an exquisite little amber lamp with a white globe. It was even filled all ready for lighting, though, of course, you couldn't light it. But there was something inside that looked like oil, and that moved when you shook it. . . . [T]he lamp was perfect. It seemed to smile at Kezia, to say 'I live here.' The lamp was real" (319).

Choosing which playmates may or may not see the remarkable exhibition, the children are in a position to impose the same social class barriers observed by their elders. The two girls who are excluded from the joy of viewing the dollhouse are "the two who were always outside, the little Kelveys. They knew better than to come anywhere near the Burnells" (320). Lil and Else Kelvey are shunned because their mother is a "washerwoman" who works in other people's homes, their father is rumored to be in prison, their wardrobe is made up of hand - me - downs from their mother's various employers, and their lunches consist of messy jam sandwiches wrapped in old newspaper. They are thin, quiet, shy, and strange - looking to the other children, who taunt them mercilessly. Their one strength seems to be that they "never failed to understand each other" (320 - 21). Lil and Else know, of course, about the magical dollhouse, and they accept without question the fact that, though all the other girls have been to see it, they will not be invited.

Kezia, however, decides to question the unwritten and sometimes unspoken social code by which the Kelveys are ostracized. Any class snobbery that she harbors is vanquished when the opportunity arises to treat the Kelveys to a view of the dollhouse. They, on the other hand, long accustomed to perceiving themselves in the despised position, are doubtful -- astounded even-- when Kezia extends to them the privilege of an invitation: "'You can come see our doll's house if you want to.'" Lil, the older of the two sisters, is hardly bold enough to defy convention; she flushes, gasps, and murmurs her refusal: "'Your ma told our ma you wasn't to speak to us."" Kezia is initially at a loss for words at this abrupt rejoinder but soon decides to brush the warning aside: "'It doesn't matter. You can come and see our doll's house all the same. Come on. Nobody's looking'" (324).

Finally, to placate little Else, Lil is persuaded to give in. When Kezia opens the hinge and the interior of the house swings into view, Lil and Else are overwhelmed by the marvelous despair that first swept over the Burnell children. Kezia points out "'the drawing - room and the dining - room, and that's the -- '" (325). The unfinished thought was undoubtedly to be "and that's the little lamp." But before Kezia can finish the tour of the house or even her sentence, the cold furious voice of reprimand is heard in the doorway.

It is not Kezia's mother but her stern Aunt Beryl who issues the demand that Lil and Else leave at once: "'How dare you ask the little Kelveys into the courtyard? . . . You know as well as I do, you're not allowed to talk to them. Run away, children, run away at once. And don't come back again. . . . Off you go immediately!'" As the doors slam shut, Lil and Else are not surprised that their glimpse inside of Kezia's dollhouse has been so brief. They shrink away from the courtyard, not stopping to rest alongside the road until they are well away from the scene of their humiliation. Lil, who is described as "like her mother," still feels the shame burning in her cheeks, but Else soon forgets "the cross lady," remembering only the privilege of the moment. The narrator attempts to read their thoughts as they look "dreamily" into the distance, bur Lil's remain private. Beryl's unkindness has struck her as a much deeper rejection than Else can perceive. Not only are theymu denied a view of the dollhouse, they are also barred from the vision that it represents -- the comfort and security of a middle - class home. No four walls protect them from the instability, the randomness, and the vulgarity of life.

Else, on the other hand, smiles "her rare smile." Even if only for a moment, she has been illuminated by that infinite promise of profound interiority that resides within the dollhouse. Kezia's admonitions on the playground that everyone pay attention to the lamp were not wasted on Else, who remembered every word and, in the few seconds give her, witnessed the symbolic object. Now, softly, she says to her sister Lil, "'I seen the little lamp'" (325 - 26).
I seen the little lamp!
To see many more miniature lamps, go to Ruby Lane,
where they also have a stunning collection of big lamps
and a vast collection of dolls!

Another Darling Dollhouse
Illustration by Beatrix Potter, 1866 - 1943
for her story The Tale of Two Bad Mice, 1904
"Once upon a time there was a very beautiful doll's-house;
it was red brick with white windows, and it had
real muslin curtains and a front door and a chimney."

* Previous Jan Donley
Posts on My Blogs

Lucky Rock
Lost & Found
9 / 11 Retrospective [also on Quotidian Kit]
Dagmar's Birthday [also on Quotidian Kit]
Everyone Loves Stories
There On the Edge of Autumn

Sleight of Hand
The Little Door
Savor September!
Happy Birthday Coyote!

Another Lovely Little Lamp by Jan ~ January 2014

Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, November 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Times

Laguna Beach Nursery and Garden Center, California
Don't let anyone tell you that autumn doesn't come to Southern California!
These are without a doubt the most amazing pumpkins and
the most beautiful harvest displays that I've seen all season!

"Ada had tried to love all the year equally . . .
Nevertheless, she could not get over loving autumn best . . . "

~ Cold Mountain
~ Charles Frazier ~


Only three days 'til Halloween, that mystical half - way point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Like Frazier's Ada, I too have a heart that favors fall. In fact, one of my favorite poets, Lee Perron, claims that even Time loves autumn best:

Fall Arrives
Fall arrives, time’s most favored season—
at last the heart, the mind loosens its fist
so that I no longer need to know who I am

I return to the hills and the great presences—
light, heat, clouds, the bull pines—
to recover for myself the purity of the falling world
to enfold it like a pearl in the mind’s silence

I read the calligraphy of the oaks against
the fading skies, the grass bending in the meadow,
the last robins— I’m a circle reaching
the first place for the first time

for in youth among fall leaves I refused
to acknowledge the ancient writing—
that the basket of summer empties, that
the hours of men are as wind-driven clouds—
and yet among fall leaves
I was overjoyed with the beauty of loss

now I stand on autumn’s wooded knoll
that my life too may vanish,
that night may fall into the earth’s arms

time is calling her trout
from their playgrounds in the sea
to river mouth, and redemption, and fury

it is by means of the long delay
that we come to the righteousness of passion.

by Lee Perron
Contemporary American Poet & Antiquarian Bookseller

Fall: a season that sets the heart free! The end and the beginning of everything: "the falling world . . . a circle reaching / the first place for the first time." Perron's seasonal poem shows us that Life is what we do with Time. I'm also thinking of these philosophical lyrics from Janis Ian, appropriate to any time of year:
These aren't the best times
These aren't the worst times
But these are my times
I never asked for more

~ Janis Ian ~

Ummm, okay, maybe there were a few times when I asked for more -- maybe for a longer "fall than in these parts a man is apt to see." However, in retrospect I can that Janis Ian is right. More is not necessary. Just enough is plenty. As I remember telling our neighbors when we moved from the city: Thanks for the good times, sorry for the bad (there were some bad). Maybe not the best times, maybe not the worst, but they were our times. In those days, the Eagles were our team, and the Schuylkill was our river. Now, it's the Boilermakers and the Wabash. As Stephen Stills recommended back in the 70s, "Love the One You're With":

Don't be angry - don't be sad
Don't sit crying over good times you've had . . .
Love the one you're with

This song came to mind a couple of weeks ago when Michael Lipsey, who kindly shares his daily epigrams and fanciful collages, posted this one:

Why does the Little Prince love the Rose? Because she's his rose, on his planet. I guess it's the inverse of "bloom where you are planted" -- something along the lines of "wherever you are, love what blooms." In Philadelphia, we loved our youthful side - street ginkgo trees; in West Lafayette, we love our aged front - yard oak tree. Love the one you're with! Even the Bible says so:

"These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. . . . Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jeremiah 29:1, 5-7; English Standard Version).

These are your times; you needn't ask for more. Not the best times; not the worst times; but your times. Current rock lyrics by Green Day offer similar advice, with a creative twist and a memorable tune, encouraging the listener to make the best of this "test" . . . don't ask why . . . have the time of your life:

Time of Your Life
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,
I hope you had the time of your life.

song by Billie Joe Armstrong

One final connection. As with all of the other readings posted here -- Charles Frazier, Lee Perron, Janis Ian, Stephen Stills, Michael Lipsey, the Little Prince, the prophet Jeremiah, and Green Day -- this Desiderata - like meditation on the "secret of contentment" again started me humming, "Love the one you're with." Want what you have . . . make do:

How To Make A Beautiful Life
Love yourself.
Make peace with who you are
and where you are at this moment in time.

Listen to your heart.
If you can't hear what it's saying in this noisy world,
make time for yourself. Enjoy your own company.
Let your mind wander among the stars.

Try. Take chances. Make mistakes.
Life can be messy and confusing, but it's also full of surprises.
The next rock in your path may be a stepping stone.

Be happy. When you don't have what you want,
want what you have. Make do.
That's a well-kept secret of contentment.

There aren't any shortcuts to tomorrow.
You have to make your own day.
To know where you're going is only part of it.
You need to know where you've been too.
And if you get lost, don't worry.
The people who love you will find you.
Count on it.

Life isn't days and years.
It's what you do with time
and with all the goodness and grace
that's inside of you.
Make a beautiful life...
The kind of life you deserve.

by Unknown Author
Posted on facebook by The Optimism Revolution
[Thanks to Jason Dufair for sharing this link!]

The Little Prince, Tending His Rose

Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, November 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, October 14, 2013

Be As Brave As Sharon Olds


The Fear of Oneself
As we get near the house, taking off our gloves,
the air forming a fine casing of
ice around each hand,
you say you believe I would hold up under torture
for the sake of our children. You say you think I have
courage. I lean against the door and weep,
the tears freezing on my cheeks with brittle
clicking sounds.
I think of the women standing naked
on the frozen river, the guards pouring
buckets of water over their bodies till they
glisten like trees in an ice storm.

I have never thought I could take it, not even
for the children. It is all I have wanted to do,
to stand between them and pain. But I come from a
long line
of women
who put themselves
first. I lean against the huge dark
cold door, my face glittering with
glare ice like a dangerous road,
and think about hot pokers, and goads,
and the skin of my children, the delicate, tight,
thin top layer of it,
covering their whole bodies, softly

by American Poet, Sharon Olds (b 1942)
Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2013
[interview, 2009]

While I cannot claim to have endured the unspeakable tortures of fire and ice described here by Sharon Olds, I can say that an unexpected experience once taught me that, whether I knew it or not, I would take a hatchet in the back without hesitation for the sake of my children. The day I learned that "I could take it" was the day, eighteen years ago, when my five - year - old son Ben and I put two - year - old Sam into his stroller and rolled him to the babysitter a few blocks away, then returned home to pick up our swim bags and walk to the pool, just a few blocks away in the other direction. It was a happy sunny day on our block, the Tuesday after Labor Day, 1995.

. . . around this time . . .

Only one little glitch marred the scene, but I had pushed that to the back of my mind: the two young men sauntering down our side street as I hoisted the baby stroller down the front steps. Just the tiniest alarm bell went off in my head. Should I cross the street, where contractors were erecting scaffolding to repair the Tiffany windows of the large old church that stood there, comforting men in white overalls and caps; should I ask them to please keep an eye on my house for the short while that I would be gone? But maybe, no.

I didn't want to be the woman who panicked because the passersby were African American and she was not. Though clearly this was not the case. Yes, I did feel a twinge of anxiety at the sight of those two strangers, but not because of their race. No, it was the slowness of their step, their observation of my exit, their sideways glance at the long thin side of my house, extending down the block on the corner. It was just an instinctive worrisome "Hmmmmm," followed by an instinctive urge to ask the men across the road, also African American, for help. So I know it was not race that caused the fear. Besides, if I stopped in my tracks every time someone or something in the city gave me the creeps, I'd never get anywhere.

Turns out I should have paid a little more attention to my fear. Instead, I glanced at their backs as they walked on -- one in white jeans and tee - shirt, one in green Army pants and red sweatshirt -- gave a shrug, fastened the baby bag onto the stroller, pushed on with the children, delivered Sam to the sitter, and was back in front of the house well within thirty minutes. All seemed as we had left it, the contractors across the street working quietly on the church.

Calvary United Methodist ~ Center for Culture & Community

Ben and I called out "Hello!" to the UPS man who was rounding the corner; waved up to a neighbor who was leaning out of his third - floor window to touch up the paint on his sill and shutters; stopped for a moment to chat with our neighbor Mark who was on his way to the trolley stop at the next corner. Our minds had already turned toward our morning at the pool as we bounded up the steps, unlocked the front door, then locked it behind us; unlocked the inner foyer door, locked it behind us. I had no more than placed the keys on the hall table when I noticed that the swinging door into the kitchen was closed -- odd, since we always kept this door propped open. A split second later the door swang ever so slightly, and I saw, with no mistake, the green trousers, the red sweatshirt.

Now, this is the moment in dreams when I try to scream but cannot, when I wrap my arms around my head and hunker down, cowardly. I always feared I might behave similarly, uselessly, in real life; but this day my fears were put to rest.

I grabbed the keys back up, screamed louder than ever before: "There's someone in there," and lurched toward little Ben, knowing intuitively that I had to keep my body between him and that kitchen door. I did not look over my shoulder to see if they were following; I did not think, "Do they have a gun?" My mind raced alternately between two thoughts only: "Keep Ben in front of me" / "Get out the front door." Keep Ben in front of me" / "Get out the front door." I fumbled through the two locks, wishing now that I had not closed up quite so securely; and I screamed without stopping -- "There's someone in there! Mark, Mark, Mark!" -- hoping to summon our neighbor before he got on the trolley. He returned immediately, sat us down on the porch swing, calmed our nerves, called the police, said, "Don't go back inside."

Simultaneously, another kind neighbor named Darryl (African American, I might add) ran up from the other direction saying, "Not to worry, not to worry," he'd just seen the two intruders leap from our steep back porch and run away, down the side street where I had first seen them less than an hour before. Mark and Darryl sat outside with Ben and me while the police inspected the house and my mind ranged over every door and window. Where had been the weak spot? Darryl also shared the disturbing detail that he had seen the two earlier, ringing my front doorbell! In retrospect, yes, they had been sauntering slowly, scoping the side of the house, watching me leave. And, no, they had not proceeded on their way after the boys and I rounded the corner. Instead they had returned, ringing the doorbell on the assumption that if no one answered, no one was home (a risky assumption, if you ask me; what if someone else had been home but in the shower? or home but ignoring the bell?).

When no one answered, they took the opportunity to return to what they had seen on the side of the house -- a very high kitchen window, open, protected only by a screen. My fault. One must have boosted the other, who then dislodged the screen, and both jumped in unnoticed. Voila! Entry! And all this while, out in the open, neighbors, painters, delivery people, and contractors went about their business. I guess it takes only a few seconds when all eyes are elsewhere. How strange to think that as I stood out on the porch glibly waving and chatting, these two men were inside, shifting our belongings about.

The police were patient. After a thorough check, they allowed me to go inside, with the gentle warning not to be too upset if the place seemed a mess. But, in fact, it wasn't too bad. There was no indication that our closets or dressers had been opened, so we were spared that horrible sense of violation that many break - in victims are left with. It's true, our living room floor was strewn with clothes and books and papers, but, as I explained to the police officer, Ben, Sam and I were responsible for that particular disorder -- a massive summer sorting project.

Our only electronics at the time were a couple of out - dated stereo systems and televisions from college days. We had not yet acquired anything of value. Yet, rather pathetically, all of this rummage had been carried down from our second floor and piled by the back door. These burglars had gone to a lot of trouble and heavy lifting without noticing that the back door opened onto a steep brick stairwell enclosed by a locked wrought - iron gate, requiring a key for exit. They could not possibly have gotten very far with their contraband. Without it, however, they were able to jump to the ground with whatever they had stuffed into their pockets (a handful of change, a $20 bill, my Visa card, and a remote control for one of the abandoned televisions) and make a run for it.

Our back gate and kitchen windows in beautiful West Philly

After an hour or so, the officers' work was done, the neighbors went on their way, and we were left to regain our bearings and restore order, custom, and ceremony to our upset home. Ben and I, and our friendly cat Josef, wandered from room to room calling out "911!" -- a game we devised on the spot to make ourselves feel strong and safe. We searched the house from top to bottom, finding all as it should be -- except for no sign of Marcus, our cautious cat. It was possible that he had slipped out an open door in all the chaos, but -- I kept telling myself -- more likely that he was hidden away somewhere in a very good secret hiding spot and would soon creep out quietly and surprise us (which he did).

Ben had a different idea: "Mommy do you think they took Marcus?" I tried to assure Ben that the robbers would not take our cat, but he remained troubled, "Well, you kept calling his name!" Awww, poor little guy! Now I understood the depth of his concern. What he had heard, when I was shouting for our neighbor "Mark!" to return from the trolley stop, was a cry of distress for our shy little pet. As a way of putting everything back into perspective, Ben made an excellent connection that afternoon: "Let's watch 101 Dalmations! What a wise child -- there's art informing life: the bad guys are vanquished; the pets are safe!

Lost to a later theft: our Fearsome Garden Snake!
When we moved in, the previous owners had left this snake behind, up in the attic, wearing a cowboy hat -- too bad I didn't take a picture of it that way! After three years or so, we brought in down one spring for a yard ornament. It was there all summer, until about this time of year. I drove up one Monday morning, after grocery shopping, and thought, "What's different here?" Oh -- no snake! Well, since it was leaf - raking season and all, I thought maybe Gerry had put it away in the basement for the winter. But, no. The poor thing had just been kidnapped, never to be seen again! Alas!

also by Sharon Olds:

The Forms
I always had the feeling my mother would
die for us, jump into a fire
to pull us out, her hair burning like
a halo, jump into water, her white
body going down and turning slowly,
the astronaut whose hose is cut
blackness. She would have
covered us with her body, thrust her
breasts between our chests and the knife,
slipped us into her coat pocket
outside the showers. In disaster, an animal
mother, she would have died for us,

but in life as it was
she had to put herself
She had to do whatever he
told her to do to the children, she had to
protect herself. In war, she would have
died for us, I tell you she would,
and I know: I am a student of war,
of gas ovens, smothering, knives,
drowning, burning, all the forms
in which I have experienced her love.

both poems found in The Dead and the Living (pp 55 & 35)

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, October 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September Travels Slow

Hillsdale - Possum Bridge
Indiana photo by Marsha Williamson Mohr


"Because September travels slow
I catch it when I can
and hold it over for another month or two."

by Rod McKuen
from the poem "True Holly"
found in Twelve Years of Christmas
[for more Rod McKuen Christmas Poems]


"It was a day of exceeding and almost unmatched beauty,
one of those perfectly lovely afternoons
that we seldom get but in September or October.
A warm delicious calm and sweet peace brooded breathless
over the mellow sunny autumn afternoon
and the happy stillness was broken only by the voices of children
blackberry gathering in an adjoining meadow
and the sweet solitary singing of a robin."

Entry for Thursday, 24 September 1874
from A Wiltshire Diary: English Journies
by Clergyman & diarist, Robert Francis Kilvert, 1840 - 1879

Kilvert wrote these words one hundred and thirty - nine years ago, but it could have been this very week! How reassuring to feel so seasonally connected to the writers of yore, to know that the 24th of September in 1874 was precisely the kind of day that we experienced just a few days ago on the 24th of September in 2013! Is it that way every year?

As another sunny September draws to a close -- can it really be the 28th already? -- Rod McKuen's appealing suggestion seems the only way to go. No matter how slowly this beautiful month travels, it still goes by too quickly. Can we maybe hold September over for another month or two? Of course we know the answer. Not possible. Every year, I ask the very same question at the end of October -- Can we please turn back the calendar and have it all over again? It is not a question I ask at the end of every month. Just September and October, and, of course, June. For "what is so rare as a day in June? / Then, if ever, come perfect days" (as American Romantic James Russell Lowell points out in "The Vision of Sir Launfal").

It's true, only a few things are so rare as a day in June, and one of those things is a day in September, especially when it's that improbably fabulous Pleasantville weather: " . . . another sunny day - high 72, low 72, and not a cloud in the sky," so perfect, so beautiful that it would almost break your heart, though hearts don't break in Pleasantville, where perfection is unrelenting. In our world, however, such a sublime day is a reminder that the season doesn't last and that it is ever tinged with melancholy -- a sadness due in part to the fading light and the inability to say just what we mean or to pin down what is slipping away even as we speak.

Someone You Love is Far Away
but Near a Telephone

Twilight, and the maples outside the windows
Of this $95 - a - month room where I live alone
Are turning black with the time of day and time of year,
September. "It's sunset," I'd say if you called,
"And the trees are turning into shadows of themselves."

But it's too late for that, the sun is gone,
It's night here, and what I wanted to tell you

Is a lie already. Maybe, though, where you are, in the next
Time zone west, it's becoming true, taking shape
In the sky, the air, the shadow
You cast against whatever wall keeps you
There, in autumn, in twilight, on the other side

Of the telephone, where suddenly you are wanting to say
Something to someone about leaves, about light,

Not knowing what, or to whom, or why, or how far away
Anything is, while the day goes on changing
Slowly into the same night I wait in
Alone in the darkness, in love, watching the dial
Of the stars move, knowing we are both in the world.

T. R. Hummer
from The Angelic Orders

Phone Booth Near the Lake
painting by Scott Prior

For T. R. Hummer ,"the trees are turning into shadows of themselves," and for Thomas Hood, Autumn stands "shadowless like Silence, listening / To silence." I can't help wondering if, in the end, the two sensations are one and the same: Shadows to shadows. Silence to silence.


I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;—
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.

Where are the songs of Summer?—With the sun,
Oping the dusky eyelids of the south,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds?—Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
Lest owls should prey
Undazzled at noonday,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.

Where are the blooms of Summer?—In the west,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours,
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatch'd from her flow'rs
To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer,—the green prime,—
The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
On the moss'd elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling,—and one upon the old oak-tree!
Where is the Dryad's immortality?—
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
In the smooth holly's green eternity.

The squirrel gloats on his accomplish'd hoard,
The ants have brimm'd their garners with ripe grain,
And honey bees have stored
The sweets of Summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have wing'd across the main;
But here the Autumn melancholy dwells,
And sighs her tearful spells
Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.

Alone, alone,
Upon a mossy stone,
She sits and reckons up the dead and gone
With the last leaves for a love-rosary,
Whilst all the wither'd world looks drearily,
Like a dim picture of the drownèd past
In the hush'd mind's mysterious far away,
Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
Into that distance, gray upon the gray.

O go and sit with her, and be o'ershaded
Under the languid downfall of her hair:
She wears a coronal of flowers faded
Upon her forehead, and a face of care;—
There is enough of wither'd everywhere
To make her bower,—and enough of gloom;
There is enough of sadness to invite,
If only for the rose that died, whose doom
Is Beauty's,—she that with the living bloom
Of conscious cheeks most beautifies the light:
There is enough of sorrowing, and quite
Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,—
Enough of chilly droppings for her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

Thomas Hood, 1798–1845

Pumpkin Bales
Photographer Jay Beets says,
"Tilt screen up . . . lean back . . . color gets better!
I liked the color the hay cast this morning . . . that pumpkin hue!"

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, October 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry,
Just Eat Curry!

A quiet spot for coffee, tea, curry, rice pudding
and inspiration:
"No. No, we are not satisfied
and we will not be satisfied
until 'justice rolls down like water
and righteousness like a mighty stream.' "
~ Martin Luther King, Jr. ~

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Fountain & Waterfall
in the lovely Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Last year, when I flew out to San Francisco for the first time, I was stressing about the trip and asked my friend Eileen to send me some anti - worry mantras. She had already shared many; but, of course, when I needed them most -- when I was worrying! -- I couldn't remember them.

She e-mailed back with a simple mantra, easy to keep in mind while traveling or anytime:
"Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry, Just Eat Curry!"

Okay! I could remember that advice and, even better, I could follow it! She added some additional words of wisdom that I continue to find both intriguing and useful: "Just breathe. And remember that anxiety and excitement are in fact the same sensations physiologically speaking, just with either fear stories or looking - forward stories attached. I think that's an oversimplification, but it can help." Yes, it does help! Anxious or excited? Choose your story, determine your mood! The power of narrative! Or, better yet, Nostalgic Narrative Therapy!

At the Samovar Tea Lounge
Unhurried, not worried, ordered curry!

We also discussed worry and perfection. Will we ever be able to stop second guessing that life should be other than it is -- or to accept that, in the words of Toby Maguire's character David, the twin brother in Pleasantville: "It. Is. Not. Supposed. To. Be. Any. Way."

"A great way to feel that comes and goes," Eileen said, supplying the following anecdote: San Francisco Zen Chef "Ed Brown tells a wonderful story about making his first from - scratch biscuits when he began baking at Tassajara. He kept being upset because they didn't taste like or have the same texture as the real biscuits that he remembered from childhood -- 'til he realized that what he was Proustifyin' about were those Pillsbury cartons that you crack and extract the crescents & pop in. He used to do a kickass dharma talk, extrapolating to advertisements, etc., on all the ways we imagine we are not 'measuring up.' Nothing one doesn't already know, intellectually, but to really take it in, receive and accept -- aaahhh!"

We interrupt this blog post
for an unexpected connection!

The best kind, of course! A surprise telephone call from dear Cate, who it certainly seems should know Eileen, although they are each from a different phase of my life (i.e., Cate ~ Philly; Eileen ~ facebook) and have yet to become acquainted. Maybe after this blog post they will!

When I told Cate what I was working on, she jumped right in and told me all about Edward Espe Brown's Tassajara Bread Book and Deborah Madison's Greens Cook Book, and their celebrated San Francisco restaurant Greens. Okay, I know where we're eating next time we visit!

My thanks to Cate
~ talented cook and student of Zen ~
for these cookery eatery references!


And now, back to Eileen for further annotation
and explication of our brief new mantra:
"Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry, Just Eat Curry!"

"I wonder if I even answered the simple question? She tends to leave out the obvious and important. That flurry of 'explain yourself, sir' (it feels more 'sir' than 'ma'am') that can overrun a thoughtful calm, 'Here is what I care about, and here are some ways I have earned a living at it.' So interesting, that wanting to be known for / as who you actually are, whilst resisting naming it; feeling like saying anything will somehow distort what might be 'felt - into' from just exposure over time. I remember when I decided to stop asking people that directly, like at parties, and began experimenting with other indirect probes [as I've heard they do in France]. But especially now, we are curious and wonder how others are putting it together / keeping body and soul together, and making sense and cents (that last word was corny, I just hadda end /stop). Also, facebook tends to just be verbal. I already know I am making a picture of my interests and concerns, in colors and shapes, for someone who wants to pay for my services. Doesn't even feel 'brave,' just feels obvious, easier, more relatable. From two phone calls I am intuiting what this person will enjoy. Quien sabe?"

Another nice lunch ~ this time at Cafe de la Presse

"Maybe it's a self-selection thing (big superego sorts), or maybe it's the scholarly crucible itself, but I can feel the 'military neck' want to happen. I so wanna be / have FUN. & ENUF (ha! I know u c that near - anagram). You know how in the Feldenkrais Method [similar to the Alexander Technique], you can 'visualize' a movement -- even if your body cannot or can no longer execute -- and it will have the same effect, neuro-howeverly? So then, can we not say that metabolizing insights is not doing nothing -- for the greater social organism, I mean. Is that what the Buddha meant by with our thoughts we make the world? All that time spent doubting the value of my natural way of doing my life? And, yes, I'll still do the odd 'motivational discussion,' but it will sound more like quietly coexisting and then 'reporting out to the group.' And inhale. And exhale."
Thanks Eileen!


Try to remember:

1. "Do Not Worry, Do Not Hurry, Just Eat Curry!

2. "It. Is. Not. Supposed. To. Be. Any. Way."


Parting Words of Wisdom

from StoryPeople by Brian Andreas

Things to know about the future.
It doesn't have to look any particular way,
but around here, if it doesn't,
a lot of people will never speak to you again
[well, just don't worry about those people!]

deciding everything is falling into place perfectly
as long as you don't get too picky
about what you mean by place.
Or perfectly.


and from the movie Pleasantville, 1998
script by Gary Ross

David, the previously nerdy teen - aged son has returned from "Pleasantville," wiser in his newfound knowledge that there's no such thing as a perfect life, not even over the rainbow. He finds his mother crying and gently asks her what is wrong.

"MOM: Oh, I don't know. It's all so f---ed up. . . .
You know, when your father was here I thought well this is it.
It's always gonna be like this.
I have the right house and the right car and the right life.

DAVID: There is no right house. There is no right car.

MOM: Oh, God. It's not supposed to be like this. . . .

DAVID: It's not supposed to be anything.

MOM: How'd you get so smart all of a sudden?

DAVID: (stops for a second, smiles to himself, shrugs): I had a good day."


Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, September 28th

Between now and then,

feel free to take a look at my
San Francisco Photo Albums: October 2012 & September 2013

and read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading