Monday, July 6, 2015

Word of the Week - 70

Example of orderly notes by muki wu in a Midori Traveler's Notebook.
Examples of my notes on anything other than the tablecloth.
Word of the Week:  NOTES

Notes, as in take them copiously.  Notes, as in jot it down.  Notes, as in handwritten.  To keep them in any form is an encouraging first step.  To take them in some orderly fashion so that I may find them again is the ideal.  My life and I are works in progress.

A shared article from the NY Times about what we lose as we lose handwriting reminded me that I do exercise penmanship every day.  A good thing, as fond as I am of pens.  A better thing for it seems to keep aspects of the brain engaged in a way that using a keyboard does not.  I suspect (or may have read, too) that doodling is also good for us in a similar way.

I see the hand as a loyal family retainer of the old school, taking up the pen or pencil in a last stand for civilization in the face of chaos.  Yet recently fresh recruits have appeared on the horizon, a younger generation who have sworn allegiance to what they call analog.  They are keepers of notebooks and planners, purchasers of fountain pens with triple-digit prices, sketchers and defenders of the high art of hand lettering, inventors of fonts and illustrators of life's often mundane interludes.  They may be the new radicals, owners of iPhones, of tablets, who keep track of what matters by writing it down on paper.

For years I've known that I am more likely to remember something when my hand plays a part in preserving it.  Under optimal circumstances I may even recall where on the page I wrote it, the name of the poet or illustrator or blogger, squeezed between a reminder to "Visualize Today" and encouragement to "Respond to all areas of your life with love and kindness."

Friday, July 3, 2015

The ceramics of Midori Takaki

Ceramic sculptures by Midori Takaki.  Additionally, see Elsa Mora's post.
There is beauty, serenity and mystery in the ceramic faces of Midori Takaki.  Somehow, as things do on Facebook, she drifted onto my screen and the rest is a love story.

We are enchanted by whatever enchants us.  All our senses take up the cause of reaching a maximum state of besottedness, whether with art, fashion, flavor, sound or the cooler-than-the-air-temperature water of a plastic wading pool. Scent will carry me into another dimension or previous lifetime, its magic every bit as potent now as then, or here as there.  It could be an herb, flower or example of the parfumier's art.  It could be the dust of chalk or ancient wallpaper or the long-held bit of clothing from a departed other.

Gaze into the eyes of a Takaki sculpture.  They don't look at you but rather beyond.  We encounter them, not as ghosts, more as realizations, aspects of beauty and self not often contemplated.  A capacity for stillness which we thought beyond our power.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Word of the Week - 69

Painting by Maynard Dixon.
Word of the Week:  WEST

Lucky me, I didn't have to come west.  I was already here.

As children about three years old, both of my parents moved to Southern  California with their families, my father from Illinois, my mother from Michigan.  Both families chose the midwestern sensibility of Pasadena, though my father, uncle and grandparents eventually settled on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley.  My best guess is that it more nearly matched the life my grandfather knew.  My parents met during World War II while attending the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, Mother working toward her BFA, Father there as part of his Navy Officer Candidate School.  My brother, sister and I were all born in Pasadena.

Until I heard Lucinda Williams sing this, I'd forgotten than my former and late husband, growing up in South Africa with western dreams fueled by his Yankee father and Hollywood depictions, was determined to reach California.  Newspaper work knows no geographical limits and he believed there would always be employment wherever he landed.  After reporting jobs in Virginia and New Jersey, after Army service at Ft. Knox, after the Associated Press, he claimed the West as home.   Though Lucinda's West is not California, it is close enough in spirit and allure.  I think it's a swell song.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Keep on rockin

Mick and the boys in the band, 2013.
A song I've shared before, perhaps more than once, that my head was singing to me when I awoke.  My favorite line (guess which it is) told me what I wanted to say here today.  (Update:  The original of "Anchorage" as sung by its writer Michelle Shocked seems no longer to exist.  This cover, by Mary McCarthy, about whom I could find no solid information, was my favorite.  Some good male covers, but I preferred a woman's voice.)

I digress.  Keep on rockin is the thread.  A brief news clip of Mick Jagger on stage last night, his signature moves seemingly unimpaired, fit perfectly.  This is just a succession of shouts-out to the undaunted.

To Mike and Emmanuel who compose, play, sing and help keep civilization afloat.

To Emma and Nanci, to Melissa, Sherry, Claire and Claire, Rebecca, T., Susan, Charlotte, Lisa, Michelle, Lynne, Sarah, Debra, Kristen, Kass, Karen, Elizabeth, Erin, Margot, Jean, Laurie and Laurie, Jay, Suzie, Dana, Ted, Randy, Joan, Marta and Marta, Sylvia, Cara, Lucas, Micah, Harris. by whose hands and hearts and minds we are saved from slipping into darkness, at which we somehow continue to laugh.

To all for whom chronic illness has been an inconvenience yet not a permanent deterrent.  To all whose words, images and forms provide nourishing beauty, encouraging wisdom.  To any whose names have, for the moment, eluded my memory - there are likely many - forgive me.  I love you and know that, because you all keep on rockin, so do I.

If anyone was wondering, there ARE plans and more in the works for new RubberMoon stamp designs.  The ever-discovering, highly persuasive Lisa Hoffman and I, along with Kristen Powers, are definitely up to something and will share when everything is real.  Meanwhile, a new cat postcard that makes me happy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Music takes me places I would likely not reach without it.  As a conveyance toward and through sorrow, it has no equal. 

Here is a link to the New York Times article, "The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning."

For now, it seems the best we can do is grieve beside our sisters and brothers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Word of the Week - 68

Director John Ford.
Monument Valley from "The Searchers."
Word of the Week:  LEGACY

John Ford is the only director who has won four Best Director Academy Awards.  His legacy,  in which he is called variously one of the top three directors ever or, by Orson Welles, the best, is enviable, defies challenge and endures.  It is said that regardless of where his westerns were set, he filmed them in Monument Valley.  It is land that I will always associate with him, as though he gave it voice.

Any of us who make things - poems, stories, movies, art, meals - must secretly harbor at least a faint wish that some of our efforts live after us.  My maternal grandmother was not an artist in a professional sense, yet it was her recipes for tamale pie and rice pudding that I wanted served at my wedding. My late cousin and I learned as girls to make her Cornish pasties.  If my son can be lured away from his Mexican and Asian dishes, perhaps he can be the next pasty generation.

As I write this on Father's Day, I think of the body of work my father created and how it still breathes.    A younger writer with whom he became friends has taken on the task, to which he seems most dedicated, of compiling Dad's biography, including decades of newspaper columns, magazine articles, children's books and, especially, books about car travel throughout California.  The author has shared facts with me that I never knew.  I can't say it is immortality, for who knows how long any of our species will be here on this warming planet (Werner Herzog is not optimistic), yet the words Dad wrote, the immeasurable time spent in research and interview,  contributed to material with lasting value.  He has become, in his way, part of California history, recounting and, by doing so, preserving.

He also left his three children with a model of caring deeply about California's ancient trees and desert lands, native people, about the precision of words.  We lived and watched as he practiced his craft, utilized his gifts, established solid professional footing.  It was not a democracy, our childhood home, and the wide shadow he cast likely left indelible marks.  Still, we became soft in ways we had not witnessed, soft meaning willing to adapt, to surrender to what could not be changed.  We learned to find and revere what spoke to our hearts, to do our best to see that certain values were honored, elevated.  We know that unnameable parts of us, parts of which we have become fond, would not exist had our raising been different.  Legacy is a shape-shifter, coyote one moment, spirit guide the next, variable as fog off the rocky coast of Big Sur.  Through intention or chance, we leave our mark.  Legacy means we remain.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Of a thousand young poets

Some days simply ask for John Prine.  This is one of them.

There's a rainbow of babies
Draped over the graveyard
Where all the dead sailors
Wait for their brides
And the cold bitter snow
Has strangled each grassblade
Where the salt from their tears
Washed out with the tide

And I smiled on the Wabash
The last time I passed it
Yes I gave her a wink
From the passenger side
And my foot fell asleep
As I swallowed my candy
Knowing he was in heaven
Before he died

Now the harbor's on fire
With the dreams and desires
Of a thousand young poets
Who failed 'cause they tried
For a rhyme without reason
Floats down to the bottom
Where the scavengers eat 'em
And wash in with the tide

Repeat Chorus:

The sun can play tricks
With your eyes on the highway
The moon can lay sideways
Till the ocean stands still
But a person can't tell
His best friend he loves him
Till time has stopped breathing
You're alone on the hill

Repeat Chorus:

Today would have been my 43rd wedding anniversary.  My former and late husband has been gone for eight years this month.   When we were first together he wrote a music column for the daily newspaper where we worked.  A review copy of John Prine's first album, followed by an interview with the singer/songwriter, converted all our friends into John Prine fans.  At the time of the photo above, Mr. Prine and Mr. Kelly bore a strong resemblance to each other.  Bless the 70s.