Saturday, December 23, 2006


I wasn't expecting him. My hair was hanging in wet strings, water drizzling down my chest and back. I was wearing my at-home ensemble, the fetching one in celebratory once-black - cotton knit shirt so thin with age you could blow a hole in it, pants that instantly grow huge knee pouches the minute you sit down. And, come to think of it, although I don't get this view, probably a rear pouch as well. Fuzzy 50s housewife sitcom slippers.

"Thanks for the warning," I say.

"I tried to call you, but I had this new quarter and it wouldn't work in the pay phone and I had to get this to you and I wrapped it myself and it's really, really bad because I did it on the counter at the store...
Maybe you should just leave it in the bag and open it without looking."

When he's taken his coat off and we're sitting at the kitchen table, I pull the huge box out of its plastic bag. Yep. Yep. It's a pretty keen assessment of his wrapping skills all right. Looks a bit like it's been done up by a troop of pawless monkeys who've been into the Christmas punch.

"A friend of mine came along and helped me," he said. It's almost impossible to think anyone could screw up wrapping a box shape that badly but obviously two grown men can botch that up even better than one. The folds are puffing out like the box is about to explode. The ends have layers of paper at impossible angles. And scotch tape, so much scotch tape, was apparently the last ditch try at getting paper to stay around box. I can't stop laughing.

"We didn't have scissors," he says.

And I'm teasing him, but it's a wonderful gift - the thought of this near 200 pound man in a fight to the death with Christmas wrapping. I loved the gift, but really, the box could've been empty and I'd still have loved it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

It's just less than one hour to Solstice - and it's a new Moon! I am about to shower and change, light every candle I own and send gratitude out into the universe for how lucky I am to know you all, to have friends, loved ones in my life. I will be asking a blessing for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Walking with an archetype

Borrowing from famous paintings and found photographs... John Collier's "Lilith" in the top right. Central figure (repeating & altered) Edvard Munch's "Madonna. Bottom left, a statue of Kali.

I never know what I'm going for until I finish (which is like not knowing what I think until I write it down). Visual art is not an intellectual process for me. Other elements: the globe, a bare tree, a superimposed photograph of vines and tropical leaves. Blend well and add parts of a poem by the same title.

Only afterwards, do I think about the fact that the Munch's particular Madonna is the most Lilith-like image I could find - which makes sense when you consider patriarchial religions managed to restrain a powerful and sexual image of a female diety by converting it into the tamer and more manageable image of a virgin mother.

I associate the mythological Lilith with spirituality grounded and informed by the earth and natural cycles and she represents, also, the banishment of female power by the patriarchy. That banishment and subsequent disconnection, the ages-old rule of conquerers, is depleting both the human spirit and the earth we depend on for survival. It's a paradigm that has to change. And it is my personal feeling that the spirit represented by Lilith is awakening. Kali sits below on the left and Lilith, the most brightly lit figure, shines into the darkness.

And it was interesting to me to note that the two line quote in the entry below, "He said, he said"...and this piece both are indicators of what I listen to.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Accidental Shopper

I am trying to write
on the card that goes with the present.

What do you say to a man who loves many people deeply
but finds the concept suspect?
Who has a fear of words?

And what of the gift itself?

I am bad at buying gifts.
I am impatient or dull and practical
because I can't purchase
the kind of gifts I'm really good at
making him laugh.

I started to think about gifts in general –
how one man could give me roses
when a can opener from another man
would mean as much
or more

and how sometimes the right gift
is just to tell the truth
when someone least wants to hear it
and most needs to know.

How giving up a seat on the bus is a gift
or making fun of tragedy
until you can laugh a friend
past their personal
scary graveyard.

Not pumping words into every silence
is a gift. Not always mine, of course.

And awkwardness -
mine, someone else’s
right there in front
of god and everyone,
the miraculous slapstick attempt of humans
to fit into their own skins,
the failed attempts at dignity,
the lurch and stumble into vulnerability.
When we wince in empathy
instead of laughing
that is the best gift of all.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Relationship challenged

When I am confused, I go to ground. I may call the kind of friend who doesn't mind me sobbing snottily into the phone and blubbering the awful admission that I am a disasterous mess on several major counts. Or the kind of friend who, if I start the litany of self-abuse, goes me one or two slags better until, by the end of the call, we have declared me to be worthless dirt - but hysterically funny dirt. Mostly though, I pace from room to room, waiting for clarity. Clarity, like my muse, usually doesn't know what day it is.

Theoretically, I am a grown woman. There are people, here and there who may have time to time thought I possessed some small wisdom. Occasionally, while in the grips of dangerous attacks of ego, I might even lay claim to that sort of virtue.

Clarity suddenly remembers what day it is and visits immediately when that happens.

And there is no area in my life more muddled, less wise or more confusing than the area of relationships with men.

Recently, I tried an internet dating site. The object of my affection being, as usual, a mostly unavailable man, I thought it would be wise to try to move on. It did not deter me that my feelings were entirely unchanged for this man and that I had, really, no interest in seeing anyone else. My large left brain began talking down my right brain. Look here, it reasoned (for that is what it does) do you really want to face years more of being alone this much? Would you not like to have an actual date now and then? Actually spend Christmas with a man? My right brain is easily intimidated, and even though it's trying to stand up to the logic monster, it can't do anything better than But...but...I like this man. And the left brain groans in disgust.

I write an honest ad. My banner line? "I'm not her." (The right brain is sneaky like that. It will do what it's told, but it's passive-aggressive.) I try a little harder in the body of the ad. Very little.

Yet, people answer me. Desperate widowers, nice men who would like to have sex or a wife or any combination of those, 22 year olds who suggest that we could have sex once and then be friends. Angry men write. Misogynists write. Most of them write badly. Few of them can spell.

Worst of all, a nice, intelligent, interesting man writes - and I write back. I am drawn into hours of genuinely engaging conversation and end up making a date for just before Christmas.

I tell my current love-interest and he is heroically selfless about the whole thing. He thinks that maybe he should step out of my life and out of my way. He thinks that if he doesn't, I'll never really try, never really make the effort and that I deserve more.

And then it occurs to me. I never tried with him. It hasn't been smooth or painless, but it has been effortless. You can't try to make an attraction anymore than you can try to like a song that has one jarring note.

And even if my friend decides to be honorable, to leave so that I can find the "more" he is sure is out there for me, relationship is not something you can pick up during a stroll down some internet shopping aisle.

Better alone than trying, Clarity says. And much as I wish she'd get her feet off the coffee table and stop feeling so entirely, obnoxiously at home here, I know she's right.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"This call may be recorded for quality control"

Font has disappeared from my "compose" mode, so this may be in Times New Roman font size 8. I can't help it.

December 1st. I spend a productive day learning how to paste a simple tag into blogger from Photobucket. See the idiot post below. I reduce someone's bill for a lost book from $420.00 to $59.60, thereby becoming, for a nice change, his hero. Nevermind that much of the charge was a conversion error from the old system to the new. I have not looked down my Librarian spectacles and declared him bankrupt and banned from borrowing. It's the end of term. I am God herself.

The man in (and out of) my life phones in busy for the weekend. He's rushing off to do a talk on violence. Christmas decorations are happening over the weekend in his home. And yesterday or the day before, it was the meeting with the Neo-Nazi father and son. I leave him voice mail as he's trying one more time to reach me. He leaves me voice mail as I am returning the call. Finally, by some miracle, we connect and I offer hugs and kisses have a good weekend and relax. We'll see each other next week. I hang up and feel blue for 10 seconds and then consider that I have an ENTIRE weekend to do my own work and watch movies. This cheers me considerably. Which is the really huge benefit of being my age, I think. It reduces moping to a short interval. Hell, I could drop dead anytime. I don't have time to mope.

I come home and find a letter addressed to me - and to my former married self. Both names, neatly typed on a letter. In the letter are three calling cards from my phone company. The nice lady who offered to correct the endlessly looping mistake in my name information (the one I PAID THEM to correct to my maiden name), had offered new calling cards. What the hell, I thought. And today they arrived. Three of them. All bearing both names.

I endure the phone menu. I press 1 for English and 2 for Residential service and 3 for "any other inquiries" and finally, Steve answers. I explain, not without considerable theatrics, that Bell Aliant is an ass and that I would really, really like calling cards in my one and only legal name. Steve says, "You know, we live in a pretty great country. And when you think about the wars and all the awful stuff that's going on, if our only problem is two names on a calling card is..."

And yes, I cut him off.

"Steve," I say,"The problem IS that we have to go through 18 friggin phone menus and recorded announcements to get a human being and in spite of the fact that we have done this for roughly five years, only to find the same mistake popping up over and over, only to find that years after we are divorced and move and inform our phone company that our bill is still under our husband's name...and even though we have PAID for a name change, our married name is STILL in the phone book...the problem IS that it's all such a huge stupid bureacracy out there that nothing ever works, nothing is ever corrected..." I take a breath. "And you're right about the other thing."

"I spent my lunch hour with student loans," Steve says.

"Oh you poor guy."

"Yeah. And then I have to come back here and listen to people being mad. And what does it really matter if you have two names on the card. It's just the PIN that counts."



"Steve, have you ever crossed the border with ID bearing two different names?"

"No. But I doubt they'll ask for your Aliant card."



"Have you ever been hassled at the border?"

"No. I don't want to cross the border."

"Uh-huh. So you'll fix that, huh?"

"Yes. And you'll probably get your new cards in 2010."

Good boy. Let's hope for your sake they weren't recording this one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Arriving home late, hauling a big bottle of red wine and a newly arrived beading book, the red light is blinking on my phone. Before I get a chance to check my voice mail, the phone rings.

It’s Iris, who is bubbling over with more news about Doc’s recent successes. He has become the darling of the governor’s office after helping, as a union representative during an election. He’d gone there, expecting to be pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, but instead, they give him an office and he organizes people in all the wards to pound and knock. Doc has a powerful intelligence and is a natural leader. He can read people at a glance. I wasn’t surprised he did it well.

He was buddy-buddy with the secret service guys and the campaign workers. They gave him the code to unlock the inner office and word was that he had the governor’s ear.

The other day, he was asked to help lobby for an increase in the minimum wage and when he arrived, one legislator said, “So. This is the living legend.”

But nobody knew Doc's past. Everyone, for the first time in his life, just judged him for himself.

He did alright for a guy who was down for 22 years. Doc is finished with his parole now – all the strangling ribbons that held him to the D.O.C. are finally cut. He doesn’t have to live with parole officers pounding on his door at 4:00 a.m., or calling him at work putting his livelihood at risk. He doesn’t have to live with the D.O.C.’s humiliating “mistakes” – like slapping him in cuff monitors after four or five years of spotless parole. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder anymore.

But he does.

Doesn’t matter that he could have been the poster boy for the parole board. Kept a job and worked hard, went to church, volunteered, was faithful to his wife. Or that the time he went to visit his dying Aunt and witnessed a gangland shooting in the hospital parking lot he didn’t blow when the police dragged him in and abused him for 12 hours before they let him go. Didn’t blow when the remote to his car wouldn’t work and he called the police to ask what to do because he was in a white neighborhood and it was late. They came. With dogs to check his car for drugs. Didn’t give into need when he and Iris were hard up and he found a wallet with over $1,000 cash and new credit cards in it. He looked the lady’s address up, drove over and returned it. Not a single penny missing.

All that didn’t take the shadow away.

And now, he’s told the governor who he is and where he came from. Face to face and without skipping anything.

And it’s ok.

Integrity isn’t worth shit if it hasn’t been tested. And people whose integrity survive the kind of tests that Doc's been through, shine so bright that it’s the rest of us standing small in the shadows.

You’ll never read this, but you're my hero, Doc - and I love you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The black hole in blogger

Sucked into the virtual blackhole, so far: Fatale Abstraction and Coyoboy. "Your links list looks much shorter," KD mentions. I'd caught the disappearance of Coyoboy the other day when I went to use the link - and today, repeating the same process, I discover that Fatale Abstraction is missing.

And I've put them back. But it's a mystery. Why just those? Are there more? Yes indeed. Chuck is among the missing, My Hiding Place. I'll fix that.

Is this happening if people move from "classic" to "beta?" Is it happening because they don't? Is it happening because a leaf falls onto a picnic table in Iowa and someone puts a dented can of stewed tomatoes in their shopping cart while at the same time, an old man sneezes furiously and reaches for Kleenex?

And PS. HELP NEEDED. I would like writing exercises. I will write one paragraph or two on any topic, sentence, picture or word you send me in comments. Thanks!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Quote of the day

"Sometimes the best teaching tool is keeping your piehole shut."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pogo and Ghandhi

When I first ventured into the Beta version of Blogspot with The Hindenburg Effect, KD asked if it wasn’t time to change the caption beside “about me,” which is a quote from Walt Kelly’s cartoon character, Pogo – “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

I horde quotes like some kind of literary packrat but I still haven’t found anything that equals Pogo’s observation for brevity and wisdom. It applies, for me, when I’m blocked in my personal or creative life; it applies to politics; it applies to activism. It applies. Period. And I need to see the sentence.

So when the Scorpio casually asks me, “How do you deal with your enemies?” I look at him, dumbfounded, speechless. Enemies?

“Well,” he says, observing my expression and the long pause, “I suppose you have to see them that way.”

Yes, you do. And I always suspect that if I can manage to see anyone or anything that way, I’m in Pogo territory.

Don’t misunderstand. I can be one hell of a hot head. I am not known for my aura of calm, for loving all living beings or for my approval of governments, institutions and political systems. I can be a bitter little piece of work on many subjects. But it's not useful.

Ten years ago, beginning to correspond with someone on death row, I came to some pretty stunning realizations about our modern level of enlightenment. During three months, when the lessons were intense, I lost about 30 pounds and stopped sleeping.

I preached and raved to anyone who couldn’t escape fast enough. I don’t, these days, write about the things I learned, but let me put it this way – Guantánamo came as no surprise to me.

At one point, the Universe, in its infinite wisdom, sent me a mentor – a lawyer who has been an activist his entire life, now in his seventies, he still works 16 hour days on behalf of prisoners and the poor (nearly synonymous terms, by the way). I began to write around the time I met James. I began to publish a little here and there. As my horror grew, I didn’t spare details and finally my mentor stepped in.

“You won’t change anything with that kind of writing,” he said.

“But, but…”

“People don’t want to read the gory details. They don’t want to know.”

Never let it be said that I’ll take wise advice laying down. I argued. Surely to God if people knew what went on inside prisons, surely it was just that they didn’t

James held his ground calmly. The point was, according to him, that prison was just a microcosm of what prisoners and soldiers call, ‘the world.’

“Whatever goes on in there,” James said, “is the same thing that goes on out here, only concentrated.”

In other words, the “problem” was not prison staff and officials so much as it was society in general. The mindset of the world in general. The mindset of the people in the society that allowed for these institutions and this behavior. We have met those people and they are us.

Once in a while, I can’t contain my sadness and fury at the stupidity and cruelty of the world. The callous ignorance of politicians makes my hair stand on end. The injustices visited on people all over the world makes me furious. The treatment of women, the abuse of children, massive hunger, war, environmental suicide are crazy-making things. And moral outrage, the feeling that I am right and these others are wrong, that I would bloody-well like to hand out punishment or my own idea of justice, lands me directly in Pogo territory. Polarity, rage, self-righteousness, intolerance and the big fat ego they rode in on have yet to hand us peace or decency in the world. The very idea that the problem is always something outside of ourselves, is someone else, is our most fundamental and tragic mistake.

I get on my horse to slay the dragon. But when I get there, the dragon is me.

Difficult as it is for a hot-head, better to take Ghandi’s advice, “you have to be the change you want to see in the world.”

I’ll never get there, but Pogo stays to encourage me to try.

**Note: James and his wife, T, now work as volunteers running cognitive therapy groups and meditation sessions for prisoners and correctional officers and work in the inner city providing classes in nutrition and life skills.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

November self-portrait

Saturday starts with a white sky and clean hair. Colors leap out from the November fade. White sky. Grey pavement, the bare limbs of trees, the bricks of the building opposite, which seemed drab and almost colorless in the summer, are a rich red. I take a self-portrait because I cannot write and one has to post something before the rescue teams are dispatched. The photo turns out well. It is not a soft expression – it is a November expression - the red bricks, red hair and green sweater are November too. I like it – if it’s not a soft expression, it’s a typical one – a suggestion of defensiveness and skepticism as I face my own camera. Serious woman. I am more serious than you might think.

Or maybe I don’t know what you think or what impression I give out here.

Lunch with Weedy, a little trip to a new store selling stone beads. The beads are overpriced and the stock is sparse. A beautiful Indian woman, the wife, sits facing the window, making jewelry. Her husband, careful not to push, but proud of the store and the stock, shows me his best turquoise. I buy two beads at ten times the price I should pay. I succumb to their eager politeness and obvious dreams of a new business in a new country succeeding. “Lady Bountiful,” I say to Weedy, “and when I’m eating beans next week…” Well, when I’m eating beans next week, I can consider the fact that no good deed goes unpunished.

I tell Weedy a recent dream: I am standing in front of a mirror posing…arranging and rearranging a beautiful long silk scarf. It’s very teenage. I’m trying different looks out planning to charm the Sc…the love interest in my life. There are sliding glass patio doors at the back of the room and someone is there. Very carefully, I back up to the wall beside the doors, where I see a man pointing a gun at me. He takes aim and shoots. He misses me narrowly and I hit the floor, trying to stay down and get out of range. He keeps shooting, over and over and I’m thinking, Jesus! He’s got a clear shot. There’s no way I can keep dodging the bullets.

Weedy shudders. “Jesus.”

“Naw,” I say, “It freaked me out at first but it’s just one of my internal selves not liking the one at the mirror.” A spat in the ranks. The everlasting internal riot of conflicting personality fragments. I am thankful to KD for sharing the voice dialogue perspective on dreams. That one once would have made me nervous for days.

After lunch, we hit the wine store and supermarket and I pick up the laughable list of groceries I think will sustain me for another week, and later manage to settle down to writing the Dreaded Submission for Very Prestigious Specialty Magazine. During the week, I’ve actually burned pictures of my work onto a CD – a feat of great daring for me. (Here’s how: you put in a blank CD – and some software comes up and tells you what to do. Then you take the CD out. My problem was the part before putting in the CD, when every instinct told me I would manage to blue screen my computer – somehow).

The dreaded submission consists of a tedious list of techniques, materials, sizes and photo credits to accompany the CD, a “career overview,” and the loathsome “artist’s statement.” I write the last thing over and over. Then I write it over again. I add and embellish. I am now designing artworks on paper that I will be lucky to live to find the time to make. In fact, by the time I finish talking about these imagined artworks, I feel that I’ve actually made them already, so I’d be repeating myself if…

Saturday now. Black sky, blue robe, tired eyes.


Friday, November 17, 2006

The space where something was and the space where something is trying to be

My morning walk to work. This space where a building once was fascinates me. If you click to enlarge, you can see how many textures and colors there are in this small abandoned space. And I love this plant...fighting to find the light between the slates of a blind in a bank office.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mirror, mirror is the world


Give a Gemini a language & idea puzzle, like what do we like instead of “Pronoia” (the suspicion that the universe is constantly conspiring to make you happy)? What would be the word for suspecting that the world is a film you’re making? That “reality” is only what we believe, mirrored back to us. Catoptronia – “the suspicion that reality/the external world, is a mirror.” KD, being a Gemini, loved the puzzle of finding the word, having Scorpio rising, she has the genes of a relentless detective. It’s as perfect a word can be if it's stitched together from ancient Greek by an American.

I’d told KD about my big Ah-ha moment of the week. In September, when I was taking "coffee breaks" at the dockside to weep out the stress overload, I seized on a small incident at work that motivated me to keep showing up. I blogged about the student who asked me “Is anyone going to show us how to use this library?” I wrote that it reminded me I didn’t work for the university, I worked for her – for all the students who needed that little bit of help. So shoot me, I’m a hallmark card.

Or shoot me because two weeks later, when we gave orientation tours and talks, she was the student standing at the new book section, reading and paying no attention whatsoever.

Lately, I’ve connected those incidents with a sequence from Crash. A Persian immigrant shopkeeper, thinking a locksmith has been responsible for a break-in at his shop, hunts down the address of the locksmith and tries to shoot him. The locksmith’s child, seeing that her father is in danger and believing in an invisible cloak he’s given her, telling her she safe and bulletproof because she’s wearing it, runs and flings herself in front of her father just as the shopkeeper fires. Unknown to the shopkeeper, his own daughter has filled the gun with blanks. In the next scene, the shopkeeper’s daughter finds him sitting on the floor at the back of the shop. His life has utterly changed. His eyes are filled with tears, his face shines with the light of peace and redemption because he believes the little girl was an angel, sent to save him. It’s illusion after illusion after illusion.

And here’s the thing that was the Ah-ha to me – It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I romanticized the student’s distress and found in it a positive reason to keep pushing myself out the door at a time when I was scared that one more day at work might bring a heart attack. And it doesn’t matter that it was only the shopkeeper’s illusion that redeemed him. It only matters that consciousness changes. It only matters to find strength to keep going, and to keep going with a little hope in your heart.

See KD's blog and her definition and quotes on the word she's so diligently constructed here.

This is for you, DM.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


My father was drunk the night he meet my mother. He was an officer stationed in Brandon, Manitoba during World War II. The day he heard the news that two of his brothers, both of them pilots, were M.I.A, he pleaded with his commanding officer to go to Europe, to the front. He had the crazy idea that he could find them. His commanding officer refused the request.

At an army dance that night, my father tied one on. He was navigating a treacherous piece of heaving floor when he saw the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen in his life talking on a pay phone. That’s how he described her – after he got past the habit of telling my brother and me that he’d rescued my mother in a train station after overhearing her ask for a ticket to the Old Maid’s Home.

The happy ending was that he married the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Uncle Stan came home alive and well. The sad part is that my Uncle Eddie didn’t come home at all.

My father denied this ever happened, But I came home one afternoon when I was only four or five and my father was sitting in our big green armchair, crying. My mother was perched on one arm of the chair with her arms around him. “Your father is sad about your Uncle Eddie dying in the war,” she said, "Sometimes it's good to have a cry." I remember this clearly because my father, as far as I knew then, never cried.

In a good-looking family, he was the youngest and most handsome, the one, my father said, every girl in town dreamed about. I could believe it when my father showed me the photographs. Dad said he was sweet tempered, too and easy to love. If my father was 21 or 22 when he enlisted, and Eddie was younger, then how young was he when he died in a sky over Europe?

Much later in life, as dementia began to claim my father’s mind and shortly before he died, his wife told me that he’d get up every morning very early and creep around the house trying to be quiet. “He thinks he’s been sleeping beside Eddie every night, and he doesn’t want to make noise and wake him up.” They’d bunked that way as kids – on a poor prairie farm there were only so many blankets and an excess of cold.

When I heard about Eddie’s reappearance, I thought the veil gets thinner at the end. I knew my father would die soon and my sense was that Eddie’s presence was a kind of reassurance. I didn’t for a moment think he was imagined, or a product of the dementia or dreamed. If it’s my imagination, that’s all right. My truth doesn’t have to be the truth, or anyone else’s truth.

So this Remembrance day, I send my love to my Uncle Eddie. I send love to Randy in Missouri who, in one short ride to and from a prison visit, shared feelings about Vietnam I don't think he'd ever shared with anyone and touched my heart. I send love to George Fowler from Connecticut – whom I knew before the war and saw between tours of duty in Nam and who I searched for many times over the years afterwards but could never find, and to all the men and women the world over dying bravely and honorably in wars that, no matter how just or not the cause, have never, in the end, brought us peace. May you all have peace and joy now. May there be an end to war.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Life on earth: a report

If you’re hoping for something profound, something inspiring, you should know right off the top this isn’t going to be it.

This is upkeep. The I’m-still-here entry.

While Herhimnbryn (for instance) dwells in dog and plant-filled bliss, (reading her blog stirs both a sense of relief and envious longing), a constant stream of mail from the Federal Government is arriving at my address. None of the government mail has friendly dogs or plant vibrations enclosed. In comparison, it is a strip mall - and I am, apparently, condemned to visit it daily.

Today, I'm finally compelled to call and talk to the Feds. Ask why I’m getting a second Goods & Services tax report form when I already submitted one in October. After determining my mother’s middle name, matching my DNA , inquiring as to the name of my very first doll and other top-secret information and asking how many fingers the phone lady is holding up so that my identity is not in question (no such luck), the nice lady on the phone says, “It wasn’t filled in right.”
“You missed lines 101, 105 and 108.”
“Was anyone planning to advise me of this?” Come on folks, it’s been nearly a month.
“Well, usually they send a letter.” Usually, but not this time? Usually within four months? A year? Ever?

We determine, the lady and me, that I have not put zeros on those lines and this is the problem. Of course it is. And if I need help, I can always go in person to Customs and Revenue, where they will have me take a number, and then, when it’s my turn, direct me to an office with a phone – where I can call the same 1-800 number I could call from home. I’m serious. They "helped" me this way only last week. For one hopeful moment, I suspected that I was the unwitting participant in a Monty Python sketch.

I am making some fundamental mistake, am I? With my life, I mean?

I am home from work with a stuffed up head, a headache and a good case of what might be called "November."

I decide to touch up the roots of my hair. Hell, something has to clear my sinuses and the aroma of hair dye would take the paint of a car. I smear toxic chemicals on my head and set my timer for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, the bell rings and I proceed to the bathroom to take the clips out of my hair and…what? The crap on my scalp has not turned the color of drying blood, the shade that indicates I have successfully matched roots to strands and shortened my life span by willful self-poisoning for the sake of vanity. Bad batch? Cursed by god? No. Apparently, instead of mixing color with the developer, I have mixed conditioner. As Weedy says, rather like trying to dye your hair with yogurt.

Now it’s funny. In a spraining your ankle tripping on a banana sort of way.

I get an email saying that my last teaching cheque is in the mail. I file my copy of a contract for the exhibition in January, which, to my utter shock, states that I will receive an artist’s fee for letting them display my work. Money for nothing and your chicks for free, I think. Let me get this straight, I loan you my work, I get it back, and you pay me? What a concept.

The Scorpio and me are getting along famously at the moment and I am in like. Not that I mention that ever.

Teaching my last beading class was a complete gas – I loved watching the women get hooked on my favorite addiction, heads bent, excited by creating in spite of snarled thread and a few oh-ohs. I found I adore teaching. I actually like picking the knots out of thread. And I love deciphering what it is that someone just learning doesn't understand and figuring out how to clarify it for them. It's fabulous to watch the light go on.

Pleased to say, I am, so far, fulfilling Marko’s personal ambition for the decade of his fifties – “not being dead yet.”

So life is…


The Democrats gain ground /versus the general temperature of the world increases more significantly, alarmingly and suddenly than it has in 1200 years. I find a beautiful, perfect Maple leaf so achingly red it would make you weep for the beauty/ versus the bureaucracy of business and daily life is making me crazy.

To quote Vonnegut, “and so it goes.”

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dancing at the end of the world

I am not entirely convinced that Rob Brezsny of "Freewill Astrology" actually IS an astrologer.
Not that it matters in the least. I quote below from "Pronoia Therapy for Beginners"

"3. Eat a pinch of dirt while affirming that you are ready to kill off one of your outworn shticks -- some idea or formula that has worked for you in the past but has now become a parody of itself.

4. Using crayons, paints, scissors, glue, collage materials or any other materials, create a piece of large-denomination paper money, good for making a payment on your karmic debt.

10. Build an altar devoted to beauty, truth, and love in one of the ugliest places you know."

Ten. Most of all, I want to do ten. Failing being able to place art in an actual prison, I need to determine what might be next on the ugliness scale. Ideas welcome.

Friday, October 27, 2006

“Is it a firm decision,” Weedy asks, “to retire a year this May?” Lately, I’ve been enjoying my job, even staying late to finish at my desk, having fun helping the students, pleased with my recently hired new staff of student assistants.

“I’m not going to put myself in a position to starve, but so far that’s the plan” I say, “When you called, I was picking out photographs for a magazine submission. And I’m working every day towards developing the business.”

I don’t know where all this is going. I’m following instinct, coupled with a reasonable amount of business experience and using my research skills. I’m practicing the principle of doing what I love and setting my will.

There are days, though, when the endless busy-work makes me feel like my brain is a radio tuned in-between stations, running static. I can barely think through the blur of chores and errands, running on the perpetually revolving wheel of what-I-have-to-do-next. It feels like a slog.

“When I get overloaded,” I tell Weedy, “I remember that I could die tomorrow, or be diagnosed with a disease or hit by car, or the world could suddenly change so drastically that none of what I’m doing will matter at all. The thought cheers me – at least in the sense that I remind myself I’m not in control...that all this won’t matter when I’m dead. You need to keep that in mind but you have to proceed anyway or you freeze in your tracks.”

Twice in most people’s lives (three times if they live to be 86 or so) Saturn orbits back to its original position at their birth and it's a life-altering transit. Marko, who at 29 is going through his first Saturn Return, has inquired as to whether, considering we can reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, it doesn’t make sense to rename Saturn, “Flaming Shitbrick.” Jess and my boss at work, who, along with me, are also going through second Flaming Shitbrick Returns, concur. It’s not an easy transit – and it goes on longer than any of us would choose if it were up to us.

Liz Greene once referred to “the cold dead hand of Saturn” and the phrase stuck with me. Symbolically, a strong Saturn aspect translates as a period of time marked by chilled & mixed emotions, hard work, discipline and duty, the crumbling of any structure (real or metaphoric) that we have built carelessly. Foundations wobble and collapse. Marriages fail – or passing Saturn’s hurdles, grow stronger. Careers take other directions. We leave our physical or metaphoric homes, change directions or buckle down and recommit. Some our dearest illusions pop like soap bubbles. At 28-30, we pass into real adulthood and often mourn the loss of a certain kind of innocence. Our deepest fears emerge in the midst of all this questioning and change.

But there is a gift, and I am grudgingly starting to recognize it. You learn persistence.

Saturn’s sign is Capricorn, and it's symbol, half fish, half Mountain Goat, is spirit translating into matter, into physical manifestation. Capricorn builds. Saturn persists.

I let go of my ambition to have no ambition. This is not the time for that.

I release outcomes and keep my mind on what needs to be done now.

I accept that I am not who I was a year ago and am not who I will be year from now.

I let go when I need to, even if I mourn the loss.

I keep climbing.

But I reserve the right to call it Flaming Shitbrick when the climb gets slippery.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just f---ing write something.

A boot and turnip stew kind of week. You don't notice your socks don't match until you get there. The sun shines and there are intermittent hurricanes and you get a letter postmarked July 6th on October 19th. The 15 choice Canada Post phone menu awaits you and you don't, truly, want to crap on the postal carrier's day but hell - that's over three months - so you call and are thanked endlessly for snitching on the poor guy because the woman answering is working for a call centre and this might be taped for quality control.

The stuffing comes out of a relationship that matters. It's a one-armed rag doll that you keep carrying around anyway because you still love the doll and it's only one arm after all and you knew the stitches were loose. And you're angry and sad and empathetic - a whole mixture of emotions that generally equal no firm stand of any kind so you make most of a beautiful necklace then pack it in, go to bed and don't sleep again.

In the morning you apply eyeliner to fatique-mushroomed eyelids even though you can't quite focus your eyes. Dab bright orange lipstick in the vicinity of your mouth and Make A Brave Front. Spend the first of the morning teaching an incomprehensible software application to your next minimum wage victim I mean student staff member and find yourself peppy with exhaustion. "It's important," you tell her, after investigating an option that does nothing whatsoever, "that you understand this program is incomprehensible and doesn't actually work." You say it with genuine cheer. You send her off for a break.

During which you guzzle caffeinated beverages and blink stupidly at the sky, count the number of vans parked on the walking street in front of what will someday be Boston Pizza but is now a site swarming with Men and Their Noisy Machines. The pigeons dodder around your feet in fits of pigeon optomism. People = food.

You think, riding the bus, which is crammed beyond the safety point and smells like soured hope and unwashed babies, that your life is really, be honest, the pits and your life is, really, be honest, pretty great. And the fact that those conditions exist simultaneously and that you have not slept a full night in three days is somewhat confusing.

You take pictures of yourself in the present state of near collapse and muck around in Paint Shop Pro with them. You think about posting to your blog. And then, in a sleep-deprived fit of poor judgement, you do it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Something more inspiring than my insect problems

I'm recommending a new blog BFAilures, a cooperative artists' blog that looks very promising. The entry at the bottom gives you a little background on the group - and I'm looking forward to seeing more drawings and work there. Thought you might like it too. Link in the usual spot.

And while I'm on the subject of inspiration...the last few poems on the coyote's site are not to be missed. Trust me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

LJ: Friend to all living creatures

Meet one of my new friends. That is, meet one of my late new friends, the Black Spiderhunter wasp.

Does my apartment have a sign in the window - Find spiders here? And are there directions to a hole, invisible to the human eye, where these miniature monsters are getting in? Because I have screens, people, and screens are supposed to prevent my apartment from becoming infested with inch long big black wasps. "Up to 20 cm," my rear end. These are a good healthy inch long, and they tend to sally through the air, bumping noisily against the ceiling and scaring the daylights out of me.

Do not tell me that they just want to go outside. They should have thought of that before they came in. And do not tell me they aren't really a danger. Have you ever pissed a wasp off? Have you sat on one by accident? I have. It's an experience I don't plan to repeat anytime soon.

And so out comes the poison. Big can of Black Flag House & Garden that hasn't seen the light of day in about five years. And now, of course, I'm breathing the stuff in myself - which, I suppose is a kind of justice.

I'm curious, though. What goes through the wasp mind when it is wiggling its way into a tiny little opening somewhere around my windows? Is it just curious? Is there some kind of biological imperative that dictates it must crawl into all tiny available spaces? Or am I just mildly cursed?

I ask because the last couple of weeks have been a bizarre mixture of good and bad. I'm humming along, taking care of roughly three thousand teaching and business details (when I'm not working full time) and some of this is going splendidly, especially on the days when I get over four hours of unbroken sleep.

On the other hand, I broke my glasses a week ago, screwed my computer up, and while paying for Pizza on Friday night, I managed to drop $50 in the lobby of my building as I juggled purse and pizza box. Today, I was up at 6:00 - spent hours writing handouts for my beading classes, filing deskfill and paying bills. At 3:00 p.m. I emerge from the studio, looking forward to having a few hours downtime, only to find a living room full of wasps.

It's just stuff, right? It's not cancer and I'm not in Buffalo freezing after a freak snowstorm...but sometimes, don't you just get fed up when the stuff keeps coming?

Thank you for listening to me whine. The pity-party should end about the time I get the smell of Black Flag out of my nose.

Here's a little quiz for you! How big is that hornet? In inches? Grinning. Thanks to The Hermit Queen for notes.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bank is a four letter word.

Write something.

People worry. Some are-you-okay emails from blogger friends during my short absence, an imperative from our future “god emperor of earth,” with Jess D’Zerts on backup in the comments. God, (If you’ll excuse me, Marko), it just shows you how I rattle on if I’m counted AWOL that quickly.

It’s the house in Southern India, you see. Snake-infested and alive with slithering creatures. The help has fled, believing that I must have offended a goddess somewhere along the line and they are anxious to disassociate as quickly as possible. I’ve had to make my own bed, if you can imagine.

There was the spa accident. You can’t get good help, I swear, and I’d meant to write as soon as I pried the mineral-packed youth-restoring mud out of my nostrils and my hair grew back. Stupid girl. I didn't tip her, either.

It’s not easy.

Then there was Kevin of Big Fat Bank Inc. When the receptionist chirps, “I’ve put you in with Kevin at 10:00 tomorrow,” I have a premonition that involves someone wearing a suit, young enough to be my grandchild, priggish enough to be my grandfather’s Baptist minister, and unkindly disposed and grudging in attitude towards those of us who, a few years back, fell from the stellar heights of a life-long A+ credit rating into bankruptcy. Long story – and merely a footnote to the point here.

In my premonition, Kevin is automatically white. In that I am mistaken. Apparently Kevin-ness is not confined to one culture or race. In fact whiteness, as I think of it in its most negative aspects, is not even confined to Caucasians. Either that or all young bankers assume the name Kevin, along with the priggish air of someone perpetually stepping over a homeless person on the pavement. He’s opening my business account and he’s polite. He’s humorless as a block of Formica.

We proceed through the list of no’s to fill in the blanks on his computer screen: no RRSP, no Mutual Funds, no car, no property. He misses, I think to myself, no debts, no apologies, no pickle in my nether regions.

I make it clear I intend to give Big Fat Bank Inc. as little of my money as humanly possible. This further endears me to Kevin, who is looking downright pained by this point. As if I’m causing his suit to wrinkle, or his underwear to ride up between the cheeks of his very tight ass. I offer him a couple of Fisherman’s Friend cold tablets for his stuffed up nose, dumping them out of their grimy paper packet onto his pristine desk. He thanks me. They lay there like forensic evidence at a crime scene.

I can almost hear Kevin’s thoughts. I know that Kevin is at the age where he still believes that sound, practical planning can stave off the shocks and vicissitudes of life, that life can actually be controlled, managed, kept in order and predicted. Poor Kevin.

Departing with the few free cheques and deposit slips Kevin will grant (far less than if he liked me), I politely refuse to order a set for $119.00 (“but that’s with tax and shipping, the call center woman tells me when I’m pricing them). I depart vowing to become famous and rich and send my press clippings to Kevin when his wife leaves him and his children become sex offenders, when the market crashes and money has less value and use than toilet paper.

But far be from me to be petty. I smile and thank him for his time.

Then I go home, do a download of a new version of Acrobat, install an extra feature I don’t want, uninstall it - partially - just enough to leave random, file-fragmenting bits remaining, and accidentally fuck my video card up royally. On my new computer. (Mac users, I’m warning you. Just don’t.)

Minor Diety, who I’m nominating for major sainthood very shortly, is coming over tomorrow. I have duly confessed, in all humility, that I should only be allowed technology up to and including the Etch-A-Sketch. And he’s taken pity.

I can’t write tomorrow because last Saturday, I snapped my prescription glasses in half and I have to pick the new ones up.

Right now, my coat, boots, and the clothing I wore (right down to my skin) are drying in artful arrangements on the doorknobs as God (the original one) decided he didn’t like the Maritimes today and LO, he sent the gale winds and driving rain.

You see?

Thanks for checking on me, everyone. As you can see, I’m doing splendidly.

Or still laughing, anyway. Really.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Page 123

Zheon challenges. Turn to page 123 of the book nearest cheating...and write the sentence and a few following...

"Carpet-bag n. travelling-bag, orig. made of carpet-like material.
Carpet-bagger n. colloq. 1. esp. US political candidate etc. without local connections. 2. Unscrupulous opportunist.
-The Oxford Dictionary of Current English

It is nearly always the book nearest me when I write. My spelling is atrocious and here at "classic blogger" spell check was designed by a defective droid.

The cover is black, with white font and red and green diagonal slashes. "The biggest paperback dictionary of its kind."

On the edge of the pages, in ballpoint pen, in my handwriting, is the name of an inmate on Death Row in Illinois and his prison number. He'd asked for one with "lots of words." I sent it and months later, beat up, with torn wrapping, it came back to me with a letter stating it was contraband. Television is not "contraband" in prison. Neither is most pornography. You can let an inmate watch game-shows or stare at naked women in lurid positions but you don't want him knowing how to spell a word or improving his mind.

Thinking about the Kafkaesque "rules" of most prisons leads me to thinking about the prison population in the US. Last time I checked, over the population of some states. Our current prime minister is now trying to get a "three strikes" law passed. Even though the Attorney General of the US has responded by saying Canada is ten years behind the time. The US tried it, he says, and it didn't work. Didn't deter crime. Swelled the prison population beyond imagination.

Carpet-baggers make laws. Unscrupulous (or possibly simply stupid, uniformed) politicians campaign on "three strikes" and "truth in sentencing" or "tough on crime" platforms. They play on fear, and use statistics to fuel it.

The most often used is the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), tabulated by the FBI. According to The Real War on Crime : The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, most criminologists deem this report to be inaccurate. Why? In 1973, while citizens reported 861,000 aggravated assaults, the police recorded only 421,000. By 1988, record keeping improved and 910,000 were recorded out of the 940,000 reported. The crime rate had risen very little in actuality, but the statistics made it look like a catastophic rise.

Secondly, if a crime is committed and two people are arrested, many police departments record it as two crimes. Police department budgets are allocated on this type of information.

Third - there is a distinct difference between crimes of violence and crimes against property and no distinction is made. At the time The Real War on Crime was published, only one in ten crimes in America was violent. Only three in a hundred resulted in injury.

Page 123 of The Real War on Crime, now the closest book to me, sentence five:

"All other things being equal, minority youths faced criminal charges more often than white youths for the same offenses. Also, African-American youths are charged more often than whites with a felony when the offense could be considered a misdemeanor."

And I'm thinking about how many of our fears are based on ignorance and how eager we are to let officials think for us. And about how our uninformed fears, be they of crime or other cultures or religions, motivate us to approve laws and policies that actually create or increase the very things we fear.

Page 123. Pretty interesting reading. I wonder how we're all going to feel when we see watch towers in the hundreds built along the US/Mexico and US/Canada border. Safe? Will we feel safe then?

Me? I've visited prisons and seen watch towers and electric fencing razor-wired at the top - and I can tell you that personally, I can't think of anything more terrifying than physical representations of that kind of fear.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Woman seeks Sugar Daddy

Today, as I ruminated on about whether or not to register a craft business officially, and whether or not to save money or spend wads of it to buy supplies wholesale, my boss remarked, "You need a different kind of boyfriend."
"You need a sugar Daddy," she said, and I immediately thought of what I'd recently written for the middle-aged meme:

What I'll Never Do and That's Okay: Enter a relationship for money, status or security.

It was the very first sentence of the meme and suddenly I realized that saying "never" is one of those things you shouldn't do because that's when the Universe, God love it, decides to get hilarious on your ass. It popped into my mind, that, having said such a thing, in writing and as publically as you can get, the temptation (impossible as it seems to me) might arise.

I'm beating the universe to it. I'm advertising here and now.

Woman Seeks Sugar Daddy:

The qualified applicant should be between 45 and 110.

Hair is not an issue, unless you do a comb-over and then you are just pathetic no matter how much money you have.

Height is not an issue if you don't mind me towering over you.

Build is not an issue because who in hell is perfect.

Money, for obvious reasons, is an issue but you don't have to be on the list of world's wealthiest men. Moderately well off will do.

Needn't be emotionally sensitive but should be emotionally aware - say five, on a scale of ten.
A lively look in the eyes is nice. Table manners also.

Must be able to read.

An interest in sex is useful if you want to have any - and by "interest" I mean the kind of interest that indicates you actually know something about it beyond the absolute basics.

If you are not handy at chores, you should be able to employ someone who is.

Religion is optional and I'm open-minded, as long as you don't go on and on or expect me to convert to anything.

You would never, ever, ever talk down to me under any circumstance.

Race is completely beside the point.

And finally - this is important - you would never mistake me for your mother, daughter or the domestic help.

NOW! THIS is what YOU get!

To enjoy the fast pace of associating with a woman whose mood cycles on a minute to minute basis.

Infinite sympathy for your real problems.

A kick in the butt when you are sorry for yourself over things that aren't real problems.

Talents I cannot write about on the internet. If you deserve them.

Blunt honesty alternating with periods of abject humility.

Complete silence when you need it.

Someone who can really listen when you really need to talk.

And who will tell you to shut-up when you're talking BS.

I clean up well and can manage social gatherings for limited periods of time.

Tolerance for guy-things, up to and including days of football on television (as long as I am in a sound-proof room somewhere else.)

You may pee with the bathroom door open but do not ever clip your toenails in front of me.

I will read you stories and tell you amusing anecdotes.

I will give you lots of alone time.

I will not ask "what are you thinking" or start conversations with, "we need to talk."

I don't care about your past unless you killed your previous girlfriend.

A sense of humor. (Warning: Not always when you expect it.)

A way to spend your hard-earned cash and the opportunity to give business advice (if it's good and it's brief).

This is a time-limited offer. It probably expires when my fingers leave the keyboard. My phone number is...
written on the wall of the men's washroom at The Split Crow Pub in Halifax.

Thank you for your bandwidth.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

View of death at different ages...

Back then, he says,
we laid the dead out
in the parlor.
My grandparents,
right there
in the front room.
It was how
we did things.

There's just been another
and he is astonished to see
His friend's wife
flutter and clutch his arm,
chair to chair,
trapped, terrified
of seeing a body
in death.

I don't understand it, he says.
He means
the fear.
He still kisses the foreheads
of the dead,
as they did back then.
Goodbye kisses
for the journey.

I tell him that I used to think
it was an obscenity,
the open casket.
It was an offense
when I
was falling
off the edge
of the world
to hear them say
it was
my mother there
powdered and lipsticked
still as a wax mold...
To hear them say
how natural she looks
and me
not even screaming,
My little brother's eyes
dry, shocked and lost.
Afterwards -
this is how I saw it -
the grownups got
drunk and I hid
in my Sunday clothes
eating a roast beef sandwich
escaping the pity of
kind relatives
with runny mascara.
I hated them all.

But closer in time,
it is my father
boxed and covered
in flowers.

I smooth his hair and
kiss his forehead.
I talk to him and put my hand
over his.
It's the last chance
I'll ever have
I am glad to see
the pain gone
and the lines smoothed
and just to
see his face.
Goodbye kisses
for the journey.

Will you come to mine? I ask him.
Will you kiss my forehead
if it's me first?
Something breaks
in his eyes.
I don't think I could
stand it
stand to see you...
laying there...
he says.

And although
he says he's used to death,
he never says
I love you
I know he isn't
and I know
he does.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Of sandals and sealing wax

She showed up in the library over 10 years ago and we called her Crazy Susan. Libraries are like the kind of home Robert Frost wrote about in The Death of the Hired Hand - "the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." As long as you don't greatly disturb anyone, spit on the floors or make a bomb shelter out of the books, you have as much right as anyone else has to be there.

And she was. There. Four or five days a week, for hours, using the old electric typewriter on the second floor, bashing out page after page of God-knows-what, harassing government officials on the student phone, standing at the circulation desk pulling staff members into conversational mazes with no entrance or exit point.

She's bright and well-educated, I think. Her vocabulary and confidence will fool you at first. You listen, automatically, and if you aren't quite following what she's saying, you'll figure it's just that you weren't listening carefully enough, or need more details. So you'll ask. You'll say, "I'm very sorry, but I'm not sure what regulation you're referring to," or "I'm sorry, but I'm not quite sure how to help you with that, can you be more specific about what you're looking for?" In any event, you'll start with, "I'm sorry..." because Susan has a professorial air and you'll assume, because you're at work in a library, that whatever she's talking about has something to do with searching for information.

Enter the maze. She will continue to talk until you realize that nothing she says connects - at least nothing you can access connects. Sometimes, she'll stop dead, listening to things you can't hear and then, as if a switch were thrown, she'll plunge back in. There is no polite way to stop the flood of words, short of getting up and leaving.

I used to dread her appearances. A political activist gone mad, a civic-minded citizen obsessed with community but without the gravity of a sane mind, Susan orbits into diatribes both acrimonious and aggrieved. She wears on your nerves. She demands your time.

We felt a little ashamed, my coworkers and me, for calling her Crazy Susan. But she was difficult to like. Still, she had a right to be there, and no one was going to throw her out for having a particularly exasperating form of mental illness.

We felt ashamed but also admired her a little. It's hard not to wonder what happened to her life, this older woman with the fabulous vocabulary and mind set on overdrive. She wears whatever bright pinks and purples and emerald greens can be found at the Salvation Army and keeps her white hair combed into two jaunty ponytails. Her blue eyes are alive and sharp. If she is poor and mad in our eyes, in her own, she is a force to be reckoned with.

J, one of my coworkers, is more patient than me, and Susan adopted her. A less than enviable adoption, given the frequency of her visits and the length of time she can keep you from your work. We devised a system, because J could not force herself to be rude, where I would leave the office and phone in a fictional emergency so that J could excuse herself.

The day I stopped calling her Crazy Susan, I was alone in the office, slowly being buried by incoming paperwork and Not In The Mood. Susan loomed in the doorway, looking pointedly towards J's empty desk. J's father had been gravely ill and was dying. She'd been out of the office, off and on for weeks at that point. I had no choice but to engage...

"J's not here, Susan."
"When will she be back?" Alright. Alright. No need to be crappy and no need for her to keep coming in looking. I don't want to divulge details of J's life, but...
"Susan. There's serious illness in her family. I don't know when she'll be in." Susan nods. She holds her hand out.
"I knew something was wrong," she says, "and I brought her this to cheer her up." In her hand is a single serving package of chocolate pudding.

Susan doesn't have enough to eat. Susan, as far as I know, may not even have a home. Tears start to well up in my eyes as I absorb the kindness of the offering.

"That's so nice of you," I tell her, "but I don't think it would keep. I'll tell her you came in. I'll tell her you brought it for her, okay? I know that will make her feel better."

After that, I called her Susan.

Tonight, Susan rode the bus home with me. She talked about the mini-eco-systems that exist all along the south shore, and I said how this one big tree, blown over by Hurricane Juan, still comes into leaf each year, with only a root or two left in the soil. Susan rambled about how they should have community Christmas dinners for old people and single women, and about how Bin Laden could be so rich, with all those possibilites to do good or live a beautiful life and choose instead to promote death. Somewhere in there, there was something about shipping 40,000 pairs of sturdy sandals somewhere- or maybe, she said, they should send running shoes - and didn't I think they deserved to be held to some kind of standard? I only got bits. The rest was in her mind. At mile two of the bus ride, trying to follow was like attempting to pick my way out of a snarl of barbed wire. I hung in. Trying my best to catch the bits I could and respond to them.

And she was smiling when I got off. She looked happy.

I was smiling too.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Zhoen's tag for "Middle-aged meme. If you feel no longer young, but not yet old..."

What I'll never do & that's ok:

Enter a relationship for money, status or security.
Have children.
Have plastic surgery.
Save the world.
Be middle-aged again. Unless we consider 116 to be the average life-span.

What I have done, and would like to do again:

Publish something that really matters to me
Be self-employed
Live in a place where there is the view of trees from all the windows
Be obsessed with learning something new
Be scared to say the truth and say it anyway.
Be absolutely present in the moment.
Spend hours walking in the woods and by the ocean.
Forgive myself for being human, and therefore imperfect.
Laugh with a friend until we can't sit up straight.

What I've done and will have to do again:

Ride the number 20 bus for seventy minutes to travel 7 miles.
Be "on" when I want to retreat to a cave.
Try to accept that while I love to be partnered, part of me always ends up feeling caged.
Work for someone else.
Accept the bitterness in the world without becoming bitter.
Taxes, setting up a new computer, doing laundry, washing dishes (on and on)
Dissuade myself of the notion that the world needs saving.
Remind myself that it isn't all about ME.

What I won't do again:

(Like Mary in "A Breath of Air) - I won't say "yes" when I mean "no."
Apologize for needing a lot of time alone.
Apologize for loving anyone.
Have bad, indifferent or casual sex - or think I should be "past all that."
Favor my mind's decisions when my gut feelings are screaming "NO."
Forget to question all societal notions of How Things Are.
Fail to appreciate touch or love - in any guise or form.
Stop writing.

What I still may get to do:

See the desert. Arizona's sunsets.
Know why.
Be self-employed.
Grow old ungracefully, full of piss and vinegar.
Accept myself and everyone else without reservation or judgment.
Write ten million more words on this blog.
Have all the beads and findings in the entire world.
Be a good friend.
Be at peace.

Color me stupid (or Oh, the technology!)

It was a great bargain. Minor Deity personally approved all it's internal organs, canned a few options, added a little RAM, tinkered, generally with the order. It came without a new keyboard or monitor, sure - but I have those. Now, the keyboard is loaded with enough nacho fragments and toast crumbs to feed an entire village, and the monitor is a old - but I can still type and the resolution is good.

It was a terrific price for what I was getting, Minor Deity said - and he never lies about these things. It had (get this) things like: an ASUS P5LD2-VM/S-775/945G, Duel Core, 4DDR2 667, PCI-E, SATA II, Video, GB LAN & HD, Augdio/3yr. And that's only one of it's organs!

Who wouldn't be impressed?

Sure, it grumbles when it does anything. I mean, it makes a sort of complaining groan, as if it wishes I'd go away and stop demanding it do things. But I've been married, so I can live with that. And Minor Deity came back to check this curious and worrying sound and announced to me that it was just my hard drive, which, he explained, is BIGGER and FASTER and BETTER and they all make noises like that, the big boys. Oh.

And it runs my astrology program, PSP, and all my other big fat space-hogging software like a dream!

Strangely, I hadn't used Word since I got this marvel. On Sunday, I noticed that "My documents" were all showing up in Wordpad. Wordpad? I began to search "all programs" but there was no sign of a word processing program. And I'd given my old disk to MD and had to disturb him a third time to retrieve it and finish the setup.

That's when I figured out that the reason I have this Big Monster Computer for such a juicy low price is that, not only did it not have a keyboard or monitor, it didn't include the ability to speak or write English (unless you count Wordpad - and I equate that with writing in the dirt with a stick). I actually dumbed into getting a high quality PC when I could only afford a medium priced one.

But anyone, blinded by the light of such wonders as, ATI Sapphire/X550 Advantage 16x PCI-Express/256 M/TV-OUT/DVI/Retail Box could have done that!


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Breathing again.

The week bumps and lurches to a conclusion. By Wednesday afternoon, I have stopped fleeing to the pier to sit sobbing on guano-encrusted benches. I have stopped repeating my mantra, "Just breathe. Just breathe."

The pace is still insane, but I'm beginning to find both the pace and my own hysteria comical. The breakdowns come in every shape and size. Wednesday morning, I'm trapped on the bus for an hour and a half due to several car accidents on nearby traffic arteries. At lunch time, I make five or six attempts to leave for lunch and am intercepted each time before I get more than a yard from my desk. Wednesday night, giving up on my own number 20 bus ever arriving, I get on the number 32 and, being a good citizen, tell the driver, "You know you're stopping at the wrong place?"
"Oh! Thanks," he says - and I am rewarded by the added delay of going back around the block to pick up the passengers he's missed and it's just enough time to hit the height of rush-hour traffic.

Wednesday night, my friend the IT person (Minor Deity, we call him), comes to eat pizza, drink cheap wine and install my newer, bigger, faster and more intelligent computer. He begins the task by asking, "Where is your CD for Aliant?" Aliant is my phone and internet service.
"Duh?" I respond. This is not the correct answer. It leads to Minor Deity showing me how he plays Demolition Derby with Old and New computers. He rips out a brightly colored chunk of Old computer and patches it into New computer. He is tapping crazily and speed-reading incomprehensible screens moving at lightspeed.

"What are you doing?" I ask. Standing well back.
"Getting your internet. Transferring your documents." Oh. Now things are going swimmingly except for the fact that I don't know my passwords to anything and this means we need to paste a phone to his ear or mine for half hour periods. "Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line to maintain your holding priority unless you happen to die first in which case we'd prefer that you have someone there to hang up the phone." Meanwhile, Girlfriend of Minor Deity is going through a crisis, so he's there, sometimes with a phone to each ear.

Thursday morning, new computer operating, end of hell-week in sight, I start out cheerful and early. The bus seems to fly along in the surprisingly light traffic. I'm checking my watch - 8:20 a.m. and I am 10 minutes away from work. I'll be on time! Wrong. The shit fairy, who has obviously been lurking around my vicinity for weeks, overhears this thought and begins to grin manically. The bus breaks down at 8:21. By now, I have given up. I cannot hope to even do damage control on the chaos of the week. I can, however, laugh at it. And I do.

It's fall term of firsts. The first time I've actually cried from the pressure. The first time a new student has ever said something like, "This is horrible. How do you guys stand it?" I am in full black humor mode and reassure her. "I cry and have panic attacks." Then I look at her distressed face. "It gets much better," I tell her, "in about a week or so it levels out some. It'll be okay."
"Is anyone going to show us how to use this library?" she wails, "I don't know how to use the catalogues or where anything is."
Suddenly I remember why I work there and who I work for. Not the administration. Not The College. I work for her.
"You'll get an orientation tour next week. If that isn't enough help, you come in and make an appointment with one of us for some one-on-one help, ok? You're going to be just fine. We'll get it sorted."

And we both go home feeling better.