Monday, July 18, 2016

Light

Photo credit and thanks, here.
This morning's fog burned off early from South Pasadena skies.  By 7:30 or sooner it was sunny.  There is a slant to morning sun, when it appears, that illuminates in the most unflattering fashion such imperfections as old lady whiskers.   Yet I love it beyond cruel honesty.

While putting the theory into practice often exceeds my ability, I know I am not meant to hate, I am not meant to reject or dismiss or invest time and energy into thoughts that drain me.   More than five decades ago, an excruciating time which I barely survived found me being squinted at with what I interpreted as disapproval by a psychiatrist.  I felt diminished, even cursed, by his proclamation that I was, to quote, "Overly responsive to my environment."  As time passed I came to see that as code for empathy.

Battered by current events, I am scarcely able to absorb what we are given as facts.  If I try to speak of my interpretation with my son, my stomach hurts and things seem to spin.  I have awakened in the wee hours over the past several nights and, until sleep returned, looked to PBS for whatever they were serving.  Last night it was the 472,936th airing of the Dr. Wayne Dyer chronicles.  Which is not to disparage Dr. Dyer in any way, just the rather bludgeoning repetition of programs on our local channel.  However many times I've heard his words, the 472,936th hearing caused me to turn on a light, find my glasses, paper and pen and write things down.

"Bring happiness to all you do."  Which I translated to mean don't do stuff that makes you unhappy, like rail or complain.

"See everything as miracles."  No translation required.

"Practice radical humility."  Even if we know we're smarter than the next guy, don't go on and on about it.  And we could be wrong.

"See yourself in everyone you encounter."  And I'm thinking, ewww, even THAT guy?  Yes.

"Be strong by bending."  This one I have learned.  Being reminded strengthens the notion.

I can only, faintly at times, know my own truth and haven't a clue about yours.  I cannot engage, least of all on social media, about the mountainous occurrences that have become our daily news.  To maintain what passes for sanity, I need to become even more still and, plant-like, try to grow in the general direction of natural light.  The brilliance of plants in seeking - without actual brains - what keeps them alive is a model that serves me well.

Word of the Week - 124

Italy, a front door.
One of the miniature fairy doors in NYC.
Word of the Week:  PORTALS

"There must be some kind of way outta here..." (lyrics by Bob Dylan, as sung by Jimi Hendrix.)

The cupboard to Narnia, the rabbit hole, places where realities intersect or the veil thins.  Are they escape hatches or entrances, or, more likely, both?  Whatever assists in shoehorning us from an ordinary state to one of pure non-ordinariness becomes, by definition, a portal.  Unfailingly, books meet that definition.
Since it is only July, I will probably mention it again in the next few months:  summer takes me back to hours spent reading.   All that uncommitted time, the wish to remain still and unsweaty, the sense of burrowing into a book and becoming invisible in the here-and-now.  My son uses the word "yoink" to mean lifted, stolen, taken, filched.  Books yoink me, always have, always will. 

Portals, as in the photo above, the tiny door in the base of the lamp post or between gnarled roots of a great tree, beneath a lifted rock or hidden on the ledge behind a waterfall.  A car which you enter from the left, then exit on the right into an unfamiliar dimension, a transformational hat, a magic mirror, a spell, an unidentifiable key that opens an unknown lock, a never-before-noticed stairway, the stuff of magic.

In such times as these, portals become not amusements but necessities.  If we stay here too long we risk being overtaken by so much that is wrong, dreadfully askew.  It is only frequent escape that allows me to remain without spontaneous human combustion or melting down into a puddle of toxic dreariness.  The more ways in which we can remind ourselves of vitality, of being militantly alive, the better our odds at transcending whatever would lay us low.  What we seek is not permanent escape but respite.  A door that allows us to find our way home again after a rejuvenating lull, that is all we need. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Word of the Week - 123



Word of the Week:  CHEONGSAM
Rather than get my feet tangled in explanations or definitions, I will let you read for yourselves here.  So much better informed.
Photos: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, directed by Wong Kar Wai.
A not-too-long ago viewing of the documentary FIRST MONDAY IN MAY, about the gala premier of "China: Through the Looking Glass" at the Metropolitan Museum, reminded me of the fashion art shown in IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.  Being, as most of you know, a fool for florals, fabrics, fashion and design, I was a'swoon throughout the documentary.  To see the Chinese movie again is very high on my must-do list.  I recommend it for more reasons than I can name at the moment, same for the documentary.  As you can see from the links, FIRST MONDAY is available for Amazon rental, IN THE MOOD is not, though it may be available through another streaming service.  Please only view the subtitled version.

Back to the thought behind this week's word.  Think antidote, distraction, diversion - the equivalent of the shiny tinfoil ball. Beauty will always save us, even when the rhetoric threatens to engulf everything.  Reality will be there when we return, if we choose to.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Word of the Week - 122


Word of the Week:  CAMELOT

My life holds moments, or longer, of Camelot.  I assume we all have the experience of good we hoped would go on forever.  Perhaps we knew the rarity of it,  perhaps we only realized its value much later.  Life being life, nothing lasts forever.

One of the matters I've pondered as we watch the O.J. Simpson documentary is how do we acquire the wisdom or maturity or generosity to know when we have been given as much of a good thing as we can reasonably hope for.  How do we not push our luck or burn out struggling to hold on for just a bit more?

Any of us with an eating disorder of any duration knows how blurry the lines can become.  Any of us with any addiction, ever, has needed to find such boundaries in order to survive.  At the same time, we are encouraged to transcend what may be called limitations.  This is considered virtuous, strong.  Human existence is so full of high-wire work, balancing acts, challenges to our equilibrium.  How many models can we find that let us know what is enough?

The combination of Sir Richard Burton, his (my opinion) wondrous voice and the words to what becomes a lament as Camelot wanes, fit well with the experience of aging.  It is a place visited once, we have no first-hand experience there and, in spite of all we have gained over time, much of it seems to speak more fluently of loss.  That this is a sobering business few can deny yet our chief assignment seems to be to find authentic joy in its midst.  The only way I can attempt to walk such a confusing path is a moment at a time, a step at a time, often with lengthy pauses between.

By revising definitions, such as considering cherry-strawberry-blueberry season a Camelot of sorts, I iron some of the most grievous wrinkles out of a day.  I celebrate aloud any portion of July that doesn't demand air conditioning, any night that brings untroubled, restorative sleep in abundance.  I still dream of reaching some specific and personal versions of the stars, all the while giving thanks for blessings already bestowed.  To have come this far with a reasonably quiet mind and the ability to wobble without falling down are no small achievements.  They will do.  

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Out of Africa

My staycations, vicarious adventures, are richly enhanced by gifts from afar, thanks to my friend Claire.  The above, found on her recent Botswana trip, are beautiful work by any standards.  As a card maker of many decades, I appreciate the design, techniques and will likely borrow the idea of small beads of glued brightness sprinkled here and there.  A cottage industry, even a very large cottage, is a fine thing.  Gorgeous promotion for the artists involved and for their country.  I have no plan to send these anywhere.

I discovered that kalahari sandworks has a Facebook presence, and also found reference to their products at this site.  Finding a connection to shop for their products is a work in progress.  I believe if we are determined and patient, we will prevail.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Word of the Week - 121

Word of the Week:  TITLES

Coming up with a title for any sort of work presents an opportunity for great creative mischief.  A few days before the UK and its choice filled the news, wall-to-wall, I had been thinking of a British gift for wry understatement.  My classic example is Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, "The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club."  Unpleasantness, indeed.  Murder.

A theme of titles also recalls another British source, this concerning a long-term lack of clarity, for The Who song is called "Baba O'Riley" and not "Teenage Wasteland."

Another favorite, since it arrived on the scene, is "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned  to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."  On the slight chance you've never seen it, here is the trailer.


It is summer, time for reading, once a time for going to the movies where the air conditioning was free.  Perhaps it is still a time for that.  All of which means titles.  Titles, titles and more titles.  "To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street" or "Nancy's Mysterious Letter" or "Big Wednesday."  For years I read southern writers during the summer, heat always being a component of southern fiction.  Eudora Welty's "Delta Wedding," Carson McCullers' "The Member of the Wedding" and other works, Truman Capote's "Other Voices, Other Rooms," Flannery O'Connor's "Wise Blood."  Whether it is true or not, I remember summer as the time of seeing westerns and the occasional epic (for the era), like "Giant." 

Making lists of things to read, things to watch is a perfectly valid summer activity.  So, too, is writing a list of gifts to make for Christmas and then starting to make them.  But, she whined, there is so much time and so many other things to do.  In December, just remember using that as your excuse.  Meanwhile, I'll be over here trying to find a version of "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers."  And taking a nap.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Word of the Week - 120

Big Sur Coast, photo by Vern Clevenger.
Word of the Week:  NEPENTHE

The start of no other season transports me to earlier times in the same manner as summer.  As Los Angeles began to swelter on Saturday, my thoughts drifted to an A&W Root Beer drive-in, oasis in Paso Robles on the vacation road back to the coast.  On Sunday, when our little town was 103 at about 12:30, I recalled Nepenthe's deck above the Big Sur cliffs, our first Ambrosia Burgers with pink lemonade.  I also remembered our dad telling us the meaning of "nepenthe," an ancient remedy for banishing grief, sorrow or trouble by inducing forgetfulness.

I have not gone to check my archives but suspect I write nearly the same post every year.  Summer's hold on me is that tenacious and I always capitulate to its fierce, mad strength.  Not to mention its ability to cloud memory.

So much to contain, all those summers, how is there room for other matters?  Once I allow myself, there are multiple reveries over the light, the clothes, the movies, family vacations, Girl Scout adventures, crafts, weekly treks to the library, our series of wading pools and, best of all, free time, its own source of forgetfulness of the homework and autumn yard chores not too far distant.  Until then, my sister and brother and I could count on at least one family trip that took us eventually to the sea and included restaurant meals.  Pancake houses, Fisherman's Wharf, small town diners, even unfamiliar grocery stores that sold much better stuff than ours did.

More than a time of year, summer is a state of mind, one to which I happily return when prompted by changes subtle or brash.  There may yet be days of our June gloom (which does not require banishing), the cooler nights, less fire-prone conditions.  I suppose each of the seasons has a trickster aspect, leading us to expect its best and frequently getting conditions far different.  While there are odes to every time of the year, I think summer has the edge on endurable.  We can talk about rock and roll another time.