Sunday, April 29, 2007

oozing through the weekend

The swoosh-hiss of cars on wet pavement. In my studio, the fan hums, turning its satellite head back and forth, issuing a tiny arthritic click each time it stretches to its farthest point. It jerks gracelessly along in its preset path – front to side, side to front, and back. It’s rather how I imagine I’d look in an advanced aerobics class.

It's an underwater day. Like looking at the world from just beneath the surface of a lake. The sky is diluted Payne’s grey, cloud and mist. The music of rain.

The grass is patching up green. The Red Maples behind my building – always competing with Forsythia to be first in bloom or leaf – have a peach fuzz growth of leaves. An aura of leaves.

I am happy. The story arc is kind of a gently waving line, really. Wake up, sit down in studio wearing only my bedraggled over sized blue T-shirt. Pick up a needle and thread it. Pick up a bead, and another and then repeat for ten hours – less the time to stuff myself into clothes, shop for food and flowers and have lunch with Weedy. I leave the radio off. I don’t talk on the phone. I don’t check email. I am happy. I even like the weather – below normal temperatures, rain, fog. It’s all watercolor lovely and hushed.

Happy begins yesterday. The Scorpio is visiting in the morning. “Ten, ten thirty,” he says. At 8:30, I’ve had time enough to clear the debris from the coffee table, dump the dishes into the dishpan to soak. I've just barely stepped out of the shower when he arrives. “I had to come early,” he said. Uh-huh. And here I am with Hair By Showercap, clutching a towel around me and dripping on the rug. This is more chagrined, sopping woman than sexy, I assure you. “Take your time,” he says, with a big magnanimous grin, thoroughly entertained by my discomfort.

What the hell, I wasn’t going to be dressed for long anyway.

****Interval****Shot of Scorpio putting jacket on****Shot of hands moving on clock****

I slide into the afternoon – where the story “arc” begins to flat line. I pop in a DVD of Running with Scissors and watch it. Twice in a row. And I loll, boneless and lazy. I loll eating ginger snaps. And then I loll drinking wine. I loll right up to bedtime.

I reflect on the week of not complaining. The one big challenge – a three hour, no coffee break meeting, followed by training to change computer tables. Mute squirming on my part through the usual overextended, rambling off-topic blah blah. I note that while I am not complaining, one woman is. I perk up. Oh good – someone to study. She starts by making a relevant point, but it swiftly descends into a pinched thin monologue about how much work she does and how much is still left and how really, it isn’t even worth it to take two days off when you have to face that when you come back. I’m absolutely fascinated listening to her. I sit up straight in my seat and pay close attention. I know it’s exactly how I sound when I complain. And it’s horrible. We are on item 3 of a 16 item agenda, and we’re an hour into the meeting and she is not clamming up.

I decide to extend the not-complaining experiment for life.

Talking to Weedy on the phone, I say, “It isn’t that hard. I don’t complain as much as I thought I did.”

“That,” she replies, “is because we don’t care about much anymore.” And it’s true. At least it’s true of the bullshit things I used to think were important and worth worrying about. There’s something to be said for telling yourself, when your thoughts start to shove you front to side to front, that you might only have a day, a year, a decade left.

It is enormously cheering and makes complaining seem a little ludicrous.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Can't complain...

I bitch. I often make aggrieved, self-pitying and sarcastic noises. Really, I don't have a life that warrants that kind of thing, so I've decided to attempt a cure - a week without complaining.

Let's look at the part of the definition I'm interested in...

com·plaint (kəm-plānt')
  1. An expression of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment.
  2. A cause or reason for complaining; a grievance.
In my case "complaining" is closely linked with "whining."

whine (hwīn, wīn) pronunciation
v., whined, whin·ing, whines. v.intr.
  1. To utter a plaintive, high-pitched, protracted sound, as in pain, fear, supplication, or complaint.
  2. To complain or protest in a childish fashion.
  3. To produce a sustained noise of relatively high pitch: jet engines whining.
So not complaining is partly a matter timbre, maturity level and what I'm projecting to my fellow humans. For instance, I will allow myself to say, "The bus is twenty minutes late and I have missed my appointment." But I will not let my voice arc into that wheedling, why-me-god, nerve-shredding tone of voice, punctuated with deep, sad sighs that mark protest in a childish fashion against the inevitable.

I picked a week in which I have to attend a meeting all afternoon. This is a proposition (she said in an upbeat voice) that generally makes me hope to be struck seriously ill - just for the day. Meetings are, to my personality type, as church services are to a hyperactive three year old wearing scratchy underwear and forced to sit in a wooden pew. That is simply a fact. I say that calmly, evenly. Not in a sustained noise of relatively high pitch. Nothing unduly protracted.

In spite of loathing of the average business meeting, my deportment, lately, is impeccable due to the fact that I've learned to: A) Shut my pie hole and B) when my eyes glaze over and I am beginning to look forward to counting paint stains, I take notes. Occasionally, in sheer desperation, I industriously record every word said. This yields the bonus of being able to actually report back on the meeting when I return to work, to appear to have cared about the content of the meeting. Sadly, though, this is often not sustained. It morphs into observation and free-writing. If someone comes in hauling a towering ego problem or an advanced case of anal retention they are likely to become fodder for the creative/escape impulse and I use them for writing practice - meaning that I have to read my notes aloud to my coworkers and boss and never, ever show them to anyone.

This week though, I am confined to facts. Just the facts, ma'am. Unembroidered and without opinion. She is wearing red shoes. His tie is loud enough to break the sound barrier. No. No. Scratch the tie thing. If it gets really bad, I'll draw or count the number of words in every sentence spoken.

Right after this week's meeting, I have computer training. It is necessary. It is good. I am supposed to be grateful for it. I will behave and take notes. Real ones. I will smile and look interested. I will use my company manners.

Then, on the way home, I will jam on headphones and play soothing music at a volume that could be heard by the dead. Oh. And I won't look around the bus, either.

Wish me luck. Better yet - choose a bad habit of your own (not blogging. NOT blogging) and swear off for a week. I figure we'll all have lots of material after seven days...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Unclench & update

Almost there! Note for Ariel...the center is dichroic glass. According to Wikipedia (links are not active):

The brilliant dichroic optical properties of dichroic glass are the result of multiple micro-layers of metal oxides. These thin layers of oxides have a total thickness of three to five millionths of an inch.

NASA developed dichroic glass for use in satellite mirrors. Multiple ultra-thin layers of different metals (gold, silver, titanium, chromium, aluminium, zirconium, magnesium, silicon) are applied to the surface of the glass in a vacuum chamber.

The resulting plate of dichroic glass can then be fused with other glass in multiple firings. Certain wavelengths of light will either pass through or be reflected, causing an array of colour to be visible. Due to variations in the firing process, individual results can never be exactly reproduced; each piece of fused dichroic glass is unique and no two pieces are ever the same.

Brilliant sun, deep bright blue sky. I have forgiven the weather bastards. And today it's ass plunked on the plastic balcony chair and beading my brains out....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wish list for the world

My first attempt to avoid commenting on the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech was an attempt at humor. Yesterday's entry.

And this was not because I haven't thought about it or cared, not because I don't realize or feel the immensity of it - but because the event ate hope and shat out fear, grief and anger. I didn't want to add to it and I still don't.

So this entry is not for opinions, although, like everyone else, I have them. This is a wish list...

Let us pray if that is our inclination or remember the victims and their families - including the shooter and his family, with as much understanding as we can muster. Sadly, victims or villain - it could have been any of us. I recall here the mantra of Buddhist, Bo Lozoff, author of We are all doing time, which is "Anything that can happen to a human being can happen to me."

Let's not use it as an excuse to descend to fear, hate and paranoia. Let's not look with suspicion on every loner who ever displayed signs of anger or alienation. Let's not lock our hearts and minds and see the world as ugly beyond hope. Let's not pretend that dwelling on this, talking about it and using it as a excuse to descend verbally and emotionally to the same level of vigilante "justice" as the killer used is a helpful thing in any way. If we do, then another kind of terrorism wins. Again.

Let us realize that if we want a better world, to paraphrase Gandhi, we must be a better world. If there is something concrete to be done - do it. If not, let us not pretend that letting fear and anger eat our hearts and courage away in any way contributes to a solution.

Let us understand that fear, hate and rage poison. Period. And that all hate and rage is based in fear.

Let us feel our grief and let it pass through. Let us be kinder to the next person we see, whoever they are, however small the opportunity. Let us drop our everlasting opinions for just a moment, and realize that the world without reflects everyone of us.

I have refused to discuss this issue all day - and it amazes me how people react. There is a kind of tribal pressure to take some kind of radical stand. To react - in the ways I've described above or to defend not reacting. I hope we don't fall for the pressure.

May they all rest in peace. May we all try our best to live in peace, to be decent to one another.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Things I like about today

1. I am not dead. This cheers me more than it does on some days because I have been talking to my friends, listening to the news and generally am provoked, more or less in self-defense, to count what blessings are mine and what curses, minor and major, are not mine. It's sink or count.

2. I have figured out that I can ice the bottom of my foot - which has developed a strange burning kind of pain for no reason on god's not yet (here) green earth - while putting on makeup, thereby saving myself a whole 10 minutes I can't spare in the morning and enabling me to insert my right foot in a shoe and hobble bravely off to work.

3. I do not have three adult offspring living with me, one of whom ruins my entire night of sleep by yakking on the phone at 4:00 a.m. in the next room.

4. I did not go to the Dominican Republic to find every single travel arrangement screwed up and have my baggage lost until two days before returning. The baggage I didn't lose didn't contain life-sustaining medication and I was not in a place where I could not replace said medication. I didn't go, so I didn't follow the trip up with an emergency appointment with the dentist either.

5. The huge white blister on the inside of my lower lip - the one caused by a rogue strand of chicken in soup heated (by me) to past boiling - is healing. There won't be a scar. Not visibly anyway. And better yet, no one will phone to ask me if I was hit in the crosswalk accident they heard about on the news because I am too obviously clumsy to survive.

6. I do not work in a reasonable facsimile of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and am unlikely to encounter anyone, in my daily work, who can weave a blanket and bra together and make a hat out of it. No coworker will make me count how many cookies someone else eats.

7. Minor Deity fixed a Trojan virus on the computer at work and we got to have a pleasant chat wherein he accused me of surfing porn sites at the front desk of the library. I assured him that people liked that. My coworker assured him it made the place feel more homey. That broke up the work day nicely.

8. The number 20 bus at high rush hour was one of the newer models I refer to as "mini vans" and passengers were about standing in the driver's lap and on the dashboard by mile two. I gave my seat up for an older man who, while not looking terribly frail, was lugging shopping bags and appeared to be panic-stricken and frightened when he saw the lack of available space. That's not the good part.The good part was how, when anyone stands on the bus to give up a seat, it creates a tipping point and someone else or several someones also give up seats. A hefty man in work clothes offered me his seat. Okay. It's not much. But it counts because it reminds me that sometimes we are decent people if just reminded a little about decency.

9. I have traded a cow for a handful of magical dichroic glass cabochons and expect to see a beanstalk sprout magically from them at any moment. Or at least a few minor works of art. In a pinch, I'm sure they'll be tasty when I can no longer afford groceries - and the glass artist is having a very happy day. eBay loves me, too.

10. Someone gave me a compliment on LOE and someone else referred to this blog as "dessert." I had cookies to celebrate. I didn't count how many.

11. They say - the weather bastards, that is - that it will stop raining and driving cold gale winds into our little Maritime faces by Friday. They say that it will become almost warm and that bright and unfamiliar light will appear in the heavens during the day time. I'm only sort of counting that one. The weather bastards are always right about crappy conditions but they often miss on good ones.

All in all...well...I'm still standing. It's a lesser ambition than I once may have sported, but it's achievable. Hope you are all still standing too.



Friday, April 13, 2007

"Hope I die before I get old"

I was what? Fifty-two, I think. Some nerve, huh? In some of the other pictures, you can see the tattoo on my upper left arm - the tarot card, Strength - a lady closing a lion's jaws, so I had to be over fifty. The tattoo was a gift for my 50th birthday. My friend, beautiful Cristina, is the photographer and later we put her in the body suit and I take the camera. The cats needed no costumes.

Some people buy a little red sports car. For the pictures, I am a little red sports car.

See how thin I am? I'm not bragging, here. I am thin because my marriage is finished and my husband and I are painfully living together in the house we couldn't sell for nine agonizing months. I can barely eat or sleep. I am thin because I'd come to love someone wrongfully serving a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit. I am thin because my pre-fifty world and all my notions of how it works have collapsed. At first it caved a little on the sides, got soft and wobbled. It wasn't long before it couldn't hold at all. I am thin because I no longer belong anywhere. And I am the bad guy. I'm the one leaving a marriage everyone used as an example of "See? It can work."

I am thin and wearing a see-through spider lace body suit, posing for a camera because I have rediscovered that I am still a sexual being and because the pictures will make a man in a far-away prison cell happy. Just for a day, maybe, an hour, he'll forget the walls and the shouting male voices and the way it all closes in - a constant menace. Just for a little, he'll just be a man looking at the woman he loves. I can't send him a book or a pair of socks - but I can send the pictures.

I am thin because I've become one of those talk-show women - or at least that's how I feel. I don't feel like I belong to any race, to any culture. And people I thought would credit me with some intelligence are looking at me like I'm some kind of geek. Not all people. My close friends understand some, or they worry, and sometimes they're as outraged as I am at what I'm learning about how justice works. I have crossed a line and the only thing I know how to do is keep walking.

At this time, I'm writing. I am devouring books on race, justice, the penal system. I publish some writing. Preaching to the choir. I do research for a Prison Action Committee. Each step I take is one step farther on the wrong side of the looking glass - where the rules are backwards or tricks of the dark. Each step strips away a little of my privileged naivety. White. Middle-class. Surely that kind of thing doesn't happen here.

I am fifty-two or thereabouts. I have been patted down, screamed at by guards, processed through metal and drug detectors, and ordered to leave because the prison regulations for visitors didn't tell me that I could not bring a purse and store it in my locker.

I have walked, barefoot in the rain, high heels in hand, a mile or so through Southern Missouri farmland to leave the offending purse with surprised and kind strangers at an auto body shop in the middle of nowhere, down the highway. I have traveled over 1500 miles for the visit. The people at the auto body find someone to drive me back, bless them.

I am fifty-two and I am exhausted beyond belief. I am thin. I am a raw nerve resting against a high tension wire. I am grief and stupid bravery. I am love and loss and horrible awareness and can't be reasoned with.

"Cowgirl of the century" Marko called me - understanding more than I could let myself, and even as young as he was then, what kind of price I'd pay.

I look at the picture and have ambivalent reactions. I'm glad I'm not there anymore. I've learned not to tilt at the world and that screaming doesn't wake the dead. I've learned to swallow the things that break my heart and make me rage. I've learned that bravery is best used with careful strategy and needs to be balanced with a little care for life and metaphorical limb.

And I think...that even though I was more brave than wise, I am not sorry. For any of it. But most of all, I am not sorry for having loved.

Rather my life as it is and was than to let death find me saying, "What? But I still have to...."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye and good luck

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 1922-2007

I wanted to say something meaningful. But this image - the only thing appearing on his official website - says it all.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Peter Cottontail is dead

It is a typical January day. Steady heavy snowfall has dropped a white cover over the world outside my window, the temperature is heading for minus one Celsius, and the weather sadists predict that it will taper off sometime tomorrow morning, after which the wind will increase to 70K per hour. The temperature will still be a minus.

It is In between Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. April 7th, in case you aren't catching my drift. The time of year I expect to see small purple and yellow flowers emerging from the earth. The season in which I send my winter coat to the dry cleaners and start trying to remember where I put my sandals. When the dead straw covering the ground turns a miraculous green.

No. Apparently not.

And even though I have lived in this provincial outpost of hell for twenty-one years, my poor rigid brain cannot seem to accept the idea that Spring, in the Canadian maritimes, is more of a concept than an event.

I take it personally.

It is on my list of questions for the Supreme Being. It is on my list of Critical Design Flaws. Not to mention the fact that I'd like to inquire as to whether the Supreme Being thinks this is funny or simply dislikes an entire block of the north Atlantic and everyone who sails on her.

This paranoia is, of course, ego-maniacal self-pity of the grandest magnitude, when you consider real natural disasters. I mean tsunamis. I mean earthquakes and Hurricane Katrina. And the unnatural natural disasters spawned by our love of comfort and fossil fuel. I tell myself that, but I continue to sulk.

I sulk and I read "In a Sunburned Country" for the second time. I long to be in Australia - a place where plants and rocks are a strange and beautiful blue-grey. Where it is late summer.
Or in Cuba or Brazil - wearing a red dress to set off my gorgeous sunburn, drinking tequila or rum and gazing at flowers. Hell. I would settle for Vancouver where it's just as grey but the precipitation is not solid and the temperature is...seasonally appropriate.

Here, Spring may not come at all. One day in late May or Early June, it will become summer. It will shock our cold whithered systems into stupidy. It will be humid. Or not. Sometimes summer is also a concept - at least until September, when it becomes glorious, hot and sunny - just at the time I'm thinking I should find my winter coat. July could be lovely...warm and sun-drenched or, then-again, foggy and rain-soaked every single day for the entire month.

Fortunately for me, I have a book and enough cheap red wine to blur my eyesight if that's the only escape. And I can cheer myself with the fact that I haven't been waiting all winter to ride a motorcycle. Now those guys are suffering.

Tickets to anywhere else gratefully accepted. But be patient. Because if the ticket is for outside Canada, thanks to the new US border-crossing regulations, our passport offices are 127,000 passport applications behind - and my passport has expired.

What has survived major weeding

Okay, Herhimnbryn! Snoop to your hearts content! Click on these and they blow up enough so that you can read most of the titles. Keep in mind this does not include the books piled in the bedroom, the top of the fridge, on the coffee table and behind the books on writing, where there is a row of fiction. Seven years ago, I parted with most of the fiction, keeping only a few of the dearest ones I knew I would reread. The rest, mostly, can be borrowed from the library. And believe it or not, this is as sparse as I can get things. Be thankful you are not one of the people who helps me move!
(Note of interest - Blogger burps when I try to insert an apostrophe. As I misuse them, perhaps I have been eighty-sixed!)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Writing is not always the same as saying something

Above: left to right - Tiger's Eye, Pietersite, and Dichroic Glass WINNINGS.

I am a winner. A winner! I love how they call me that at eBay as I drain my bank account of grocery money. I will eat the word for breakfast and lunch until payday while I pray that the various mail systems from the USA to China to Canada do not screw my winnerdom up by losing my treasures.

I write the maker of the dichroic glass cab on the right. I tell her that I am slightly embarrassed to have paid as little as I did for such a fabulous piece. And it was nice to hear back that she loved the piece and had a hard time putting it up for auction. I will send her a photo of the finished work for her soon-to-be website and credit her when I finish my soon-to-be-masterpiece using the cabochon. Sometimes I love the craft biz. Love how generous and supportive artisans can be with each other.

I'm having a Dixie Chick day, other than that. A little sour, a wrong note pinging the eardrums, a who-cares (I do, actually) kind of dispirited day. As an Aquarius, I am supposed to love humanity and I do. It has often been pointed out, however, that Aquarians do not so much love the individual components that make up humanity. I have those days. And don't forget, I am one of the components.

Ruler of Aquarius, Uranus (the old god Ouranos) mated with Gaia & then, picky, high & mighty sky god that he was, he imprisoned his children. He was a swell guy. Finally, one of his kids, the Titan Chronos (Saturn) chopped his dad's manly parts off and cast them into the sea - where they begot the Furies and Aphrodite.

And so I am a cranky person with occasional charm because of having this astrological mythology as my heritage. That's my story and I'm sticking to it for now.

Tomorrow, I am about to meet an old friend of Marko's for a drink - and dump some of this fabulous wealth of astrological knowledge into his head. At his request, can you imagine...

Meanwhile, I will try to defeat the Dixie Chick impulse to not make nice and gloat over my winnings.

What? You thought this was about something?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It seemed a good idea at the time.

If you look down to the floor (not to close, I didn't vacuum) you'll see a wooden wedge which has slipped out from under the bookcases. This is an oldish building and the wedge was intended to make up for an uneven floor that tilts the bookcases forward in a precarious sort of way.

I washed the curtains this weekend, and because you can't actually get into the corner on the left without dismantling the room, I've worked out a system whereby I thread them onto the curtain rod, stand on a chair by the balcony door and then fling the curtained rod in the direction of the hook on the far left. Mostly this works. All I have to do then is move the rickety kitchen chair to the left corner, lean over about three feet while stretching to the ceiling & make sure the rod in actually in it's hook.

But I noticed after (carefully) limping off the chair that the left side curtains looked wrong. Oh joy, the middle panel had tabs hanging limply off the rod. I'd sort of forgotten about the tilt, so I cleared the plants and flowers, the bowls of stones and (carefully) climbed up to stand on the top of the bookcase. It was at this point that I had a religious experience. The bookcase began to sway a little and I began to pray, fervently as I threaded curtain tabs and wobbled on my bad ankle. "Oh Lord, just don't let the bookcase break or fall over and I will never ever do this again, Amen."

Evidently there is a God.

I went back to beading, because the worst that can happen with that is a foul temper and finger pricks.

Later, the Scorpio phoned. He called because a lady was hit by a car at a crosswalk near my house and, he said, he wanted to make sure it wasn't me. I was so touched by his concern that I made extravagant promises of a sexual nature, only to realize later that while he is worried about my well-being, he also has been calling me Gerald Ford (Google it, those under 40) lately and is mightily entertained by my propensity towards falling off my own shoes.

I didn't say anything about the curtains, just in case.