Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reason to Believe

The midnight/morning jukebox selection was "Reason to Believe." I thought when I'd played it a few times, I might know what its message was intended to be. Other than the abundantly obvious, there seems no answer. We are all adrift in time and space, trying to shuffle pain into the airlock, hoping for passengers to keep us company and help defray costs.
Details of the much too short life of Tim Hardin, including artists who covered his songs.  Among them, Nico, on her debut album.

Another version, referred to on YouTube under the Tim Hardin video, from the Youngbloods.  And group leader, Jesse Colin Young, whose face still says 1970s to me as almost no other can.  Can't explain it, don't need to.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The pencil

The ever-informative, often surprising CBS Sunday Morning show this weekend paid homage to the #2 pencil.  The segment began with David Rees, author of HOW TO SHARPEN PENCILS with footage of him at work on this arcane (to some of us) art form.  For more, visit here.  Once again, I realize I have been doing IT all wrong.
Ordering information here.
Should you still have questions, Pencil Revolution can likely answer them all.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Melba and the babysitter

Art dolls by Laurie Johnson.
In another of those previous lifetimes to which I refer, I had a business making stocking-faced dolls.  As I was getting started, developing patterns and models, my sister and I sat and sewed together.  She created the pair shown here, gumball-headed Melba and her babysitter.  They have been with me for nearly 40 years and grow more dear with age. Their gowns are made from scraps, the babysitter's hair a doll product from the 1970s, a few inches from a lengthy hank of curly mohair.  Bits of exhausted pantyhose, stuffed with polyester fiberfill, are heads and hands.  Real blush colors the cheeks.  The same doll-making supply house that carried the mohair also sold the narrow double-faced satin ribbon.

I believe passionately in the right we each have to choose our path, no matter how far it may carry us from a rational course.  Who is to define rational?  We are drawn toward that which exerts itself upon us, away from that with the weaker gravitational pull.  Even to try and insinuate our notions of a right trajectory on anyone else is arrogant, demeaning.   We cannot possibly know the terrible price someone has paid just to be where they are, just to be.   Without that wisdom, how can we correct or condemn their actions.  We each reside in the center of a unique universe, bombarded by media-invented images of success and contentment, often questioning why we must take such adaptive, evasive, circuitous steps to approach a version of peace.

My sister has found her comfort level in less frequent communication and while I miss what had once been elevated foolishness along with so much shared DNA, I can only support her choice.   As I think of everything and everyone I have known that no longer fits me any better than those size 8 1/2 Calvin Klein rosy metallic flats, I wrap my imposed estrangement up in a mental flannel blanket, ends tucked around tight to keep the baby from feeling unsafe in life's drafty expanse.  For decades the babysitter has kept watch over the sturdy and cheerful-seeming Melba, knowing at times that bravado and idiocyncrasies are all that keep us tethered.  Whatever it takes.

Peter Rabbit remembers

Sorting through a kitchen cupboard I came upon this,

part of a two-piece set of Beatrix Potter Wedgewood given upon the birth of my son.  The friend from whom he received it has been gone just short of 10 years.  Such a plate is by now, I imagine, considered a collectible. [Mentioning a Thanksgiving table with a Lazy Susan in a recent writing assignment, I was assured that Lazy Susans are now definitely in the collectible category, extinct as hoop skirts.]

If I can weave them together, the pieces that took form as I looked at the dish seem to be about comfort, simple acts of human kindness that make a difference; about what endures - in friendships, in iconic or treasured objects, in memories, in tradition; about the swiftness and brevity of it all.

I see Jane, bestower of Beatrix Potter, helping me paint an iron bedstead on our porch in Sierra Madre Canyon, steps away from her house.  I see and hear her chuckling at Ratso, my vintage rabbit fur coat, one of many hippie-esque remnants that seeped into the 1970s.  She was not one to offer the sip of camomile tea, her comfort took other forms.  Freelance assignments, enticing me away from a state of semi-exile (with low rent and great weather) to a real writing job and the unrealized promise of an assistant back in my hometown, unequaled generosity and fine humor.  She could not have been called sentimental or mushy.

Without checking the date, I would not have realized how long ago Jane died.  With my imperfect memory, I'm not sure if I've written about her in other years.  I do know any mentions would not have included the Peter Rabbit illustration.  I may have missed the mark, trying to find a point in all this.  The closest I can come is to note we are reminded that forward is really the only direction, persevering is the indicated action, holding on, sometimes lightly, but holding on nonetheless may keep up from drifting too far off course, our anchors as fragile as memories or photographs or a child's china plate.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

If Wes Anderson ran the world, with help from BoBo BaBushka

For Rebecca
Characters from four Wes Anderson films, as interpreted by artist BoBo BaBushka.
The very last set of MOONRISE KINGDOM dolls is available, at least for today, at
the Pygmy Hippo Shoppe in Los Angeles.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

View from the side of the road

Can there be an introspection overdose?  It may be too many years of stillness, of seeking - not just for self but for larger truths - of assuming what vexed me were complex situations with complex solutions.  Today I'm not sure.  Today my obstacles seem to be resistance and fear.  Stubborn and frightened, no matter what the cause, there I am.  What DO I know?  That compassion without enabling might be a step toward deflating these hovering airships of inaction.

I really, really hate feeling stuck.  I am not necessarily wise enough to know the difference between stuck and marching in place, waiting for a cue from the bandleader.  I have outside resources, places to turn for a combination of words that could relieve this vapor lock, the balking engine that has me by the side of the road.  It feels as though so much time has been, if not lost then certainly spent stalled.  In another life, a Morgan Plus 4 would suffer vapor lock each autumn on the drive from LA to Yosemite.  The weather was always warm, we were often the last car in the caravan, sometimes able to limp into the rural, time-warp gas station for help, sometimes not. 

Modern cars, I'm guessing, don't have vapor locks.  Whatever new afflictions beset them, that particular problem seems to have been solved.  I, however, am an older model, much older.  Heat, high altitudes, and finicky working parts are elements of the big picture.  We always got under way again, always reached our destination, were cheered by the other drives who were, of course, waiting in the bar.

I have two choices:  find what there is to enjoy about this detour, this delay, or be angry and resistant, worried, fearful.  Aren't there just days when you wish someone would come and fix it, fix it all?  We can all have a good laugh over that.  Onward and upward.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pie, dude. Pie.

Graphic borrowed from Simply Southern Pies

Well of course it does, it's PIE.

Do we outgrow one-time passions or do they leave us behind?  Holidays with quiches lined up for delivery - no more.  Cornish pasties for celebrations, a dozen at least because they make such fine leftovers - I can't imagine that effort.  Yet as I think about pie, as a friend wrote to describe her nieces' Thanksgiving fruit masterpieces, the baker in me seems to draw new breath.  Not for today but as a strong future possibility.  Doors I thought closed, nailed shut, keys lost, continue to open.  There may again be pie with homemade crust.  Words I had not expected to write - or utter - when, as we call them, boughten pies do nicely.  I even looked to see if one of my mother's favorite cookbooks, Simple Cooking for the Epicure, from which I learned to make piroshki with cream cheese dough, was still available.  It is.

What I didn't know when I was younger, when there was energy and seemingly no choice about what got done and what didn't, is that there was a choice.  That some expected me to do it all and I complied was the result of circumstances and conditioning.  I have become not entirely reliable.  I am late and slow and have a full-blown case of simply wandering off.  What matters most is time to be quiet, time to think or not, time to be and allow my mind to float along beside me like a balloon with a string tied to my wrist.  Chores are ignored.  Emails go unanswered, for no other reason than there is not enough of me or time or the combination to be prompt.  I care, I just can't quite get there.  But pie.  I might come out of retirement, apathy, fatigue, distraction, indifference, stubborn refusal and confusion for that.  No answer required now or ever.  Just the allure of delicious maybe.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dance with me in the GASLIGHT

Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman in GASLIGHT
In a morning conversation about the new film version of ANNA KARENINA, what I'd seen and heard about the costuming, segueing to the Met and a cousin who has worked on its costumes, I thought of  (spoiler alert) how costumes contribute to the unfolding mystery in GASLIGHT.  Even as I spoke the title, I had a feeling the movie had popped up to inform me about something else.  Bless those nearly unmappable synaptic leaps that have always carried me.

If you don't know GASLIGHT, you may want to leave now, since pivotal matters may be revealed as I figure out this lesson.  I think what I am being directed toward is the example of how we wake up to the knowledge that we've been looking in the wrong place for what treasure we seek.

Borrowing parallels from the movie's story line, I reflect on times and circumstances when it felt as though so much had been lost, that what was known to be of value somehow vanished, was embezzled or was left behind through carelessness or haste.  I think, too, of involvements in which truth and illusion were stirred into a murky mess, of placing trust in those who could not be trusted, not from an intention to do harm but because steady was an impossible expectation, boundaries too easily erased, compulsions too strong to be held in check by promise or optimism.  Then there is the fact that we are able to confuse ourselves with no outside help, by listening to the fearful inner voices which dredge up old missteps, perhaps in an effort to keep us in what it, the mind, feels is a safer place.  When we attend to its whispers and urgings, we cannot hear the higher and wiser interpretation of events that does not see everything as a tsunami warning flag.

As for the costumes, they may have their own message about disguise or self-delusion, about wishing to be seen as other than I was, lacking belief in the ability to be sufficient in a state of authenticity.  So many years spent wishing to pass for normal, whatever that may be, as though it were (a) an achievable goal and (b) would somehow allow a respite from the chronic, distancing and fatal-seeming sense of otherness for which I had no cure.

I've received comments from people who have known me over some years and wish to save me from my (less harsh than it used to be) self-criticism.  The only way out is through.  I see it as growth to recognize this as a pattern, acknowledge it as perhaps my most determined demon and not sink under its convincing but false rhetoric.  At the imagined birthday party, I will no longer settle for the smallest piece of cake with the fewest frosting roses, or take none at all.  Everything is a process.

The jewels are mostly hidden in plain sight, not layered over but shining so boldly they are mistaken for fakes.  The truth of it is, our lights are hard to hide.  They seep out around the edges, send their rays through holes in the curtain and only fool those who do not trouble themselves to look closely.  We are, though we may forget it, the shaken can of soft drink whose pull-tab is not going to hold for much longer.  That fizzing sound is us escaping, from our own limiting beliefs, from old lessons, from containers much too small.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Angelou, Basquiat and fear

Illustration by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
There IS a difference between frighten and befuddle, though when the lights are out and the water is rising, one might be mistaken for the other.  As I shiver in our 40+ degree dawns I think of Long Islanders who are still without electricity, for whom 44 might seem almost balmy.

I want a magic charm to keep up my sleeve.  I want rows of charms, worn bandolier-style like a Girl Scout sash with amulets in place of badges.  I want pockets for my ammunition in case life breaks out in forms too unexpectedly unwelcome.

Blog writers whom I follow as consistently as I can, which could be defined at the present as not very, confront daily events that would leave me shell-shocked, immobilized.  "Don't compare pain" is advice carried from various recovery group sessions.  Still.  Most of us are given circumstances that we are expected to endure, for it is not within our power to change them.  Once the whimpering, in my case, stops, comes time for the winnowing.  How can I see this (or these) differently, what CAN I change, is there peace to be found within discouragement, certainly within multiple imperfections?

Definitions can be adjusted, the word imperfect changed to read ideal.  How much are we handed that is ideal?   Life is a make-do business.  Mostly.  Am I frightened or am I resistant?  They are not the same.  Am I capable of evolving, of becoming the flexible, adaptable creature that survives growing older with optimism and good humor?  Can I believe in myself and my work when connections to the numinous suddenly feel thin and fragile?

Certainty would be a fine thing, certainty of the good outcome,  unfailing trust in resilience and the transcending of all which is irksome or unsettling, guarantees of safety, of wisdom, of ability.  Wish for the moon, then go back and read the contract.  The word guarantee does not appear.

When I feel, because of orbiting planets or undulating chemistry, that I am flimsy and vulnerable, fear starts to wriggle in under the tent or over the transom.  I forget that I am both wave and particle, solid and gas, earth and sky.  I become foggy and forget the only thing we can count on is change.  I lose the grasp on my gifts, that I am one among the great shape shifters, the mind changers, the course adjusters.  I am most frightened when I fail to remember who I am.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My veterans

Veterans Day immerses me in memory; of songs sung by my grandfather from his rocking chair; of fastidiously scripted plans for "policing the area" before imaginary camping trips hinted at by my father; of my cousin's affection for growing up on military bases; of a brother-in-law's sudden re-deployment to the Gulf War, decades after covert assignments out of Vietnam,  which kicked open the door to sleepless nights for my sister and all of us who love them both.

Because of my father's service in World War II, I grew up watching Victory at Sea, reading Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, knowing that Isa Lei was a Fijian song that took him, for moments, to a part of the war that he wanted to remember, even revisit.  A late remarriage and honeymoon presented an opportunity to see Fiji again.   He had waited so long.

Grandpa came home with the French Croix de guerre and his battlefield nurse bride-to-be, Dad with his Navy pea coat and a fondness for military order, brother Jay with stories he could never tell, and all with hard-won benefits that helped house and educate them, that continue to provide.

If you haven't seen the French movie, A Very Long Engagement, I recommend it: against the horrors of war, very much in support of the heart's wisdom.

Overwhelm seems to be my authentic response to stories of our current returning veterans, how short we have fallen in terms of support to express our gratitude.  On a recent vacation in San Diego, friends Lisa and Jim took the time to search out the grave sites for my veteran grandparents at the stunning Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Point Loma, as beautiful a piece of real estate as California has to offer.  They deserve no less.  More than that, I am grateful for the care they received from V.A. hospitals while they were alive.
 All flags fly for you, the brave and the willing.  With thanks almost beyond expressing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election day but no politics

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

I will not pretend that this election day has me light of heart and quiet of mind.  I wish to take nothing for granted.  Which may be why my words refuse to dance smoothly with each other, they seem to be glaring and rolling their eyes as the time comes for them to step out on the floor together and touch.  Why did my mother sign me up for this stupid Cotillion, each wonders.  Why would I ever need to know the waltz or how to be gracious when approached (or not approached) as the music begins?

With that knowledge, I am happy to yield to Rilke, mentioned by other bloggers recently - it may be his season.  It is surely the season of needing answers or perspective I may not always have, and not necessarily related to the election.  These are questioning times.  If asked, I would say that I wish to be understood, yet know that is not within my power.  I gesticulate, sputter, sigh and move on, hoping I left something other than confusion in my wake.

Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be happy about your growth, in which of course you can't take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don't torment them with your doubts and don't frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn't be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn't necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet