Monday, June 30, 2014

Word of the Week - 17

Link here, uncertain of artist's name.
Word of the Week:  CIRCLES

Duality continues to muscle us this way and that.  As we cross thresholds of age, the circles expand and the circles narrow.  The spirals coil tighter.  In widening, influences create ripples that reach farther from the center, they encompass and include more.  We exceed our imagined limitations, find our shells not the rigid corrals that kept us in and the world out.  Not shells at all but sheer encasings akin to jelly fish, billowing and pliant like crepe paper though entirely waterproof, stretched into cupped shapes.  They are meant to contain.  We open to and accommodate the simple, the rare, the true in manifestations we could not even name as recently as yesterday.  The universe becomes a child seated in the shopping cart, pulling exotic treats off the shelves while we try to stick to our meticulous and budget-minded lists.

As we reach detente with what remains unanswerable or unresolvable within, we require a smaller spool upon which to wind our ribbons.  Earlier lack of clarity that insisted upon swirling acreage to navigate within finds altered interpretations.  Furor hogs the bed, fills the room, spills into the yard and floods the fields.  Harmony, without fidgeting, sits on a footstool and keeps its hands to itself.

The soul as a bellows, air drawn in, air expelled.  Within our circles we are enlarged and reduced.

“Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed.”
Jason Kravitz

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
Albert Einstein
Art, Juan Romero.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Thinking stuff up

Artist, Gabriel Pacheco.
The job of sitting and thinking stuff up can be easily mistaken for sloth, which it resembles uncannily.

An arranger of words, a former of thin lines on paper does not always have busy hands.  That many of my thoughts are bestowed as gifts in the middle of the night gives me more breathing room during the day.  My hands have assignments.  I am not visibly idle.

There is a necessarily solitary aspect to being someone whose job is to sit and think stuff up.  It is not a task completed by committee.  It rarely benefits from outside suggestions.  It is organic, all-or-nothing.  It loathes hearing anyone say, on any topic, "But couldn't you just..."  No, I couldn't.  If I could, I would.
Artist, Pablo Auladell.
At the same time, having the job, for pay or as a volunteer, of sitting and thinking stuff up could be the best job there is.  I've never had one that suited me any better and I've had some jobs that I would say were near-perfect matches, though the sock-counting in department stores was not among them.  No restrictions. no boundaries, just application of the contemplative's long-held traditions.

Some days are easier than others.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Word of the Week - 16

Art, The Whale, by Terry Fan, works found here.
Word of the Week:  UNSEEN

In his short story, "The Night the Bed Fell on Father," James Thurber wrote of a character who piled her belongings outside the bedroom door at night with instructions that any burglars take what they wanted and not use their chloroform on her.  We are fragile vessels on endless, unknowable seas taking what precautions we can and hoping for the best.  Such a grain, a particle of what exists falls within our scope, so much is unseen.

On a solo Alaskan hunting trip in what I imagine to be a vast snowy wasteland, my uncle Ray was, after a number of days, picked up as had been arranged.  When the pilot landed, he told Ray that he could see from the air what Ray could not have known: that he was being stalked by a polar bear.  This may be family myth, I may have misremembered all or part of it, but the whale painting called it to mind.

I experience life as an act of faith, an unspooling continuum in which what we must know next somehow finds us, steps forward, states its name.  So much of the unseen is the good, which may leave itself like notes written in a spidery and nearly illegible hand tucked under a corner of the doormat.  A whiff of night-blooming jasmine, possibly imagined for the plant is no longer there, drifting through the second floor window.  Our sight is enhanced by distance of time and space.  I've heard often in 12-step meetings, "More will be revealed."  And it will, it is.  Meanwhile, unless we wish to suffer needlessly, we operate as advised by Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Note to self: befriend the unseen.  Think of ways in which to do this. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pattern, pattern, pattern

Not apologizing for stating again that beauty nourishes me.  One of its most pleasing-to-me forms is a mix of multiple patterns and colors.  The paintings of Japanese artist Naomi Okubo, discovered just this past week, are visual feasts that explain far better than words the effect pattern, pattern and pattern have on me.
Another artist who blends what seem to be disparate prints in a thoroughly pleasing way is Kaffe Fassett, long considered a glorious expert in knitting, quilting, painting and the decorative arts.
When I stumble upon or am introduced the work of an artist whose pattern, shall we say appreciation matches my own I feel as though the most fun, interesting and slightly edgy child has just moved in next door and wants to be my newest friend.  I am a lucky girl.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Under the morning sun in Billington's Cove

As The Reading Man awoke on that summer Wednesday, he remembered dreaming of conversations with goldfish.  He must have been under water, for they, plural, swam right up to his face, their mouths opened and closed and they spoke, in English, to him in clear tones unmuffled by water or any assumed lack of familiarity with talking.  What they discussed he could not recall.

With their glowing hues still bright in his interior vision, he opened his eyes to the unaccustomed brightness of a Billington's Cove morning.  As it had some weeks earlier, sun somehow managed to overcome the tradition of fog and damp that made The Cove such a destination for those fleeing the valley heat.  In a shade he knew intimately, stripes and pools of egg yolk yellow inched across his bed, the floor, the walls.  My favorite color, he thought before he took in the significance of this meteorological transformation.  The first warm spell introduced him to communal outdoor movies.  If the tales were true, this one might signal - did he dare to hope? - a town-wide dance.  A dance.
Original art and glowing eggy goodness by Jennifer Bellinger.  Thank you.
He said "thank you" out loud to a universe whose nearest-to-Earth star had altered his vision of the day.  Never one to dawdle when there were places to be, he reached Gloria's as though he was two men, twins perhaps, one who was quicker and more eager than the second, one who believed this was a race he had to win.  He left his imagined, slower self in the dust.

Taking the path to the kitchen door, Mr. Apotienne, at the same time, kept watch on the light-capped sea, coaxing, encouraging it, silently pleading his case for clear skies and off-shore winds.  These were wizardly doings he thought, knowing fully that areas of high pressure and low pressure altered the weather patterns.  It only seemed like magic.

As he stepped onto the small porch, Gloria opened the door.  "What does this signify?" he asked, hands indicating everything within view which had begun to grow toasty as the temperature rose.  "And whatever it brings, will you go with me?"  Gloria, laughing, said she was just about to extend the same invitation to him.  Knowing he'd understand the West Side Story reference, she told him, "There'll be a dance tonight at the gym."  Not a gym, probably a field or cordoned-off street, but a dance all the same.  He was twins again, this time one a sweaty-palmed teen, the other a slightly-less-sweaty palmed man of advanced years but one who was pretty sure he could dance to anything they played.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Word of the Week - 15

Word of the Week:  ENSORCELLED
Artist Gianni de Conno.
Artist Rebecca Dautremer.
At the top of my food pyramid sits beauty, sometimes known by the name color.  I am no longer sure what is the pointy part, what is the flat part, are grains good or out of favor?  What I know is that I am nourished by, sustained by and captivated by beauty as I define it.

As with others who know enchantment, I am pulled away from useful tasks, necessary maintenance of ordinary life, by images that speak to me.  I blame the internet, I blame my own curiosity about tracking things down, I especially blame Pinterest.  Yet in the same breath I thank all those for access to wonders I could not possibly have known, if these seemingly magic connections did not exist.

They tell us at World Wide Word that we are not likely to find "ensorcelled" in our daily newspaper, that it is a word more often chosen for poetry, literature or sword-and-sorcery fantasies.  It is descriptive, ensorcelled, not a passive act but one of intention and power.  Beauty in all its forms refuses to leave us napping.  It has come to feed our hungry hearts, nurse wan souls back to health, lift us from lethargy and gloom, banish indifference.  Take as many helpings a day as you can manage.  Beauty, you sorceress, abundant, underrated resource, calls and suggests we may as well hide our watches, stop our clocks.  Beneath her radiance, time becomes meaningless

Monday, June 9, 2014

Word of the Week - 14

Not quite this many of us but double what we were.  Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Word of the Week:  EVENTS

At the high school across the street they have begun observing traditional June events, starting with the Sunday afternoon baccalaureate service.  Graduation must be very near.  Weddings, vacations, high points often originate in this prelude-to-summer month.

Difficult to say just when our events got under way.  The first true milestone was that Sunday in early May when family, travelers from afar, arrived after a nearly 24-hour flight.  We had not seen each other in 10 years.  While they spent a week driving to and through parts of Northern California, we have had the unaccustomed joy of sitting together at the breakfast and dinner table.  If there is no quote about laughter being the best seasoning, there ought to be.  These are not ordinary days.

Some time ago our ancient apartment oven sparked itself into oblivion.  We hoped to have its replacement in time for our guests, our event.  The fact of its age and, accordingly, size made the search more lengthy than anticipated.  Because time becomes one long and infinite loop of taffy for me, I think the new one was installed last Thursday, always welcome, never too late.  It is a shiny creature and could probably challenge the computer on Jeopardy!  I grow mute in its presence.  Were it not built into the cabinet, we might have done a welcome dance around it. 
It has been a time of domestic evolution, the coming-going of household objects in addition to the ovens from a Swiffer mop, handsome piece of furniture and entertainment electronics to broke-ass office chairs, a manual treadmill and sectional of advanced decrepitude and missing springs that we'd had no hope of ever seeing jettisoned.  The amount of drama involved with having new things come in up a precarious flight of stairs - the floating kind with nothing solid keeping them all in the air - and, more to the point, going down them to await curbside pickup exceeded any expectation I had.  Phone calls, financial negotiations, further phoning, a self-appointed mayor of our block who was displeased with our unsightly sofa parts and demanded the movers relocate them, more phoning, more arranging.  And then, last Tuesday, the sound of the behemoth rubbish truck pulling away after I heard our discards clanking into its formerly empty recesses one at a time.  It's enough to make you want to kiss everybody.

The events roll on and include this week two NBA finals games which we hope to watch together, unless our visitors have an invitation too tasty to miss.  I am doing my best not to think of their departure, the one event I would put off like the master procrastinator I am.  Until then, picture us at the table with its blooming orchids centerpiece surrounded by coupons for take-out food.  I think this is pizza night.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Much to learn you still have..."

Painting, "Girl in Green Chair," by Michael Carson.
I'm throwing the Puritan Ethic under the bus:  do less.  It surprised me how many of these recommendation (mandates?) I have slowly folded into my life.  I move slowly, eat slowly, talk slowly (mostly), make decisions slowly.  All with deliberation.

I devote time to sitting, think about what is necessary and leave as much space as can be gently wrangled between things.  To the best of my ability and awareness I smile and serve others, by my definition.  Cooking, especially chopping, and dish washing are meditation.

At nearly 70 years of age I am learning to play a musical instrument for the first time.  Spending five minutes, approximately,  with a guitar teacher when I was 18 and having a nervous breakdown really doesn't count.  The stilling, focusing aspects of practicing and learning chords may be medicinal.  I intend to sing.  I already savor and look forward to every unfolding moment of this adventure.  My visiting musician/music teacher brother has launched me well.  There is no fear that I will stumble, at least not lastingly, once he returns home.

Keeping "it" simple is a daily choice.  Gradually I feel less and less like the hopelessly tangled skein of embroidery thread, seeing myself more neatly wrapped around a square of scrap cardboard, feeling myself  not as kinked with drama and anxiety.

Peace has a quality of smoothness, of ease.  It is a process and it is slow.  Yoda is quoted as saying, "Much to learn you still young padawan."  Heh heh.  Young.  I like that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When the map IS the destination

Sweet Jesus I miss maps.

With family visiting, I wish to be a helpful guide.  Instead, I am Google's poster girl for ha-ha, you can't get there from here.

I know we still have a Los Angeles-Orange County Thomas Bros. from the 80s.  I have vowed to find it.  Last time I used it as reference, whole named communities had erupted where open fields once stood.  Still, I could find my way around.

It may be a brain hemisphere thing or an age thing or just a stubborn, old school, I used to be good at this thing but the indiscriminately expanding and contracting maps I find on the internet leave me sad and dizzy.  No one in this household has GPS, we don't talk to electronic devices nor do they talk to us.  Give me an awkwardly folded tea table-sized sheet of AAA paper with routes and destinations on it and I will make my way home from a ghost town across the Nevada border.  From here I can pinpoint that hidden gem of a used record store (now you KNOW I'm living in the past) near the railroad tracks in the general vicinity of Culver City.  Maybe they were old streetcar tracks.

Nearly weeping with frustration and impatient at being a map person in a world which seems to have no more use for them, I have tried day after day to be of some earthly use to my family as they seek to either revisit or discover charming spots in the general vicinity.  Since I can't always remember the name of a street, a map would be of great assistance.  Sadly, I think I am doomed to disappointment.

And since I'm carping, in addition to not accepting a world without paper maps, I also reject a world in which one needs an internet connection to find a phone number.  I reject that so many of the businesses and products on which we relied have vanished from my neighborhoods.  Who but a dinosaur would yearn to walk into a, say it again, record store with even a wink of hope at finding a CD for a talented but not widely known singing cowboy poet?  A dinosaur or a fool.  These are vexing days, having our new age and what it considers irrelevant thrown in my face four or five times before lunch.  The world I knew and relied upon has gone the way of the collar button and carpenters who would build you a custom bookcase for $15.  I know, it is what it is, but I don't have to like it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Word of the Week - 13

Pre-Raphaelite painting, The Soul of the Rose, by John William Waterhouse.
Word of the Week:  ROSES

For a time, until the aphids became more than anyone could bear, the porch of my childhood home was flanked by trellises through which pink climbing roses twined.   We were not a gardening people.  Everything was kept tidy by professionals who trimmed the hedges and mowed.  I was elected for raking, sweeping and weeding.  I once grew radishes and, as I remember, a few carrots for a class project.  Never again a rose of any size or description.

In the last two years, perhaps less, rose images began courting me.  And I such an easy mark.  Beauty nourishes me and there is something about the rose, followed by flowers in general, that produces tranquility as I fall asleep, a lightness of heart when I'm awake.  There is a sense akin to having made a new friend, one in whom affection and steadfastness are never doubted, whose ability to cheer does not falter.

I have reached and passed the age my sister once referred to as "powder-faced lady" from her long career in fashion and retail among the dowagers of Pasadena.  As I picture them there is a hint of rose scent in their powder.  I imagine a cut glass globe vase of the old varieties, petals loose and dreamy, not tightly furled like florist bouquets.  A few petals have fallen, attractively, to the surface of a round, marble-topped table in the foyer, standing between twin staircases that curve to a second-floor balcony.  Old world blossoms encouraged by loving hands.

So it is that I prowl Google's image library, entering the most accurate descriptions I can invent for what I hope to find, like rose-patterned socks.
It is encouraging, affirming, to fall so innocently in love with the enduring rose at an advanced age.  No doubt I am not really so newly-smitten, that this hankering, this allegiance has lurked for some time, finally stepping into the light and declaring itself as the mad crush it is.