Saturday, August 31, 2019

Hopeful Misses and Tearful Misses

If this was a normal day with no hurricane offshore, I might have written more about the death of Valerie Harper.  I imagine that others will write eloquently about the friendships depicted in the stories of Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper, and about how the various shows (both the Rhoda shows and later shows)  that featured Valerie Harper showed us all the ways to be a modern woman as the 20th century moved towards the 21st.

I wrote this comment on a friend's post:  "I want to be a Rhoda or a Mary. But I worry I'm the other friend, Phyllis, the married one who exasperates them all and doesn't have enough self-awareness to realize that she's doing it."

Until this morning, when I looked up the name of the character, I had forgotten that Phyllis was also the landlady; if I was a younger grad student, I could have a lot of fun writing that essay about the power dynamics in the show--Phyllis could never really be on the same level of friendship, in part because of her marital/motherhood status, in part because she's the landlady.  Of course, if I was younger and a grad student, I might not have the necessary knowledge to conceive of the idea, much less write it.

But this is not a normal day--we've got a hurricane of historic proportions off the shore of Florida.  I'm trying not to draw comparisons to other Labor Day hurricanes.

I used to say that I preferred hurricanes to other weather systems because you could see a hurricane coming and prepare.

After decades of seeing hurricanes coming, I am no longer sure I prefer hurricanes.  I might would rather wake up to a house shaking in an earthquake or duck into a storm shelter minutes before a tornado comes.

I used to think that knowing a hurricane was coming meant that you could secure your property, gather your valuables, and get out of the way.  With these larger hurricanes, that's no longer true.

Earlier this week, I wanted to throw everything in the car and drive to friends in South Carolina.    Their houses are hundreds of miles inland; mine is less than a mile from the Atlantic.  Now those friends' houses are closer to the center of the cone of possible tracks than my house.  How odd is that?

We can see a storm coming, but we spend days wondering if now is the time to get ready.  It takes a lot of work to secure the property, and then to take apart the preparations when the threat is gone.  At a certain point, there's some local hysteria that makes going to the store a herculean task because of crowds and shortages.

We will be doing lots of prep work through the week-end.  With that kind of storm headed our way, we can't take chances.  Even if it misses us, we may still feel some effects.  I'm preparing for flooding.

I was lucky that I filled up the car on Sunday, so I could avoid the mania of the lines at gas stations.  I always have plenty of food in the pantry and freezer.  I have lots of containers and a bathtub that I would fill with water.  In short, I'm always ready to a certain extent.  I pay a lot more attention to the tropics than many people.

Yesterday we met some of our neighborhood friends at the Tipsy Boar to celebrate one of our birthdays.  Happily, it was still too early to do much storm prep beyond discussing what we would do in certain scenarios.

After that time together, my spouse and I went to Hollywood Vine to get some wine for the duration.  And we got home to discover that our Amazon delivery had come--if the power holds out, I will be listening to Rhiannon Giddens' new CD this week-end.

My hurricane supplies are now complete:

You can't see the red velvet cake because we already ate it.  Some hurricane seasons we lose weight, while others have us packing on the pounds.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with strange aches in my arms.  I realized it was from my hurricane prep yesterday. 

The storm path had shifted south, and I wanted to make sure the plants in my butterfly garden wouldn't turn into flying projectiles

I've been toggling between writing, Facebook, Internet rambling, and weather sites.  I cannot spend the whole day this way.  Today is the day to move most of our stuff out of the cottage.  I had planned to do that anyway; my sister-in-law arrives in 2 weeks to live here while she gets settled into her new job and finding a larger space to live. 

Because of the hurricane, I've changed my approach.  I'll move boxes in, and later this week-end, when I expect it to be rainier, I'll unpack them. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Hurricane Insomnia

Last night, I created this Facebook post:

As dusk deepens, I watch the towering clouds. I know that they're not really related to Hurricane Dorian. We have a sudden invasion of tiny ants (down here we call them sugar ants)--not really related to Hurricane Dorian. Once a poet wrote these words about a different hurricane:

I think of ancient ancestors
who could forecast the week’s weather
based on the wanderings
of each cloud. But I consult
the oracles through my computer

I have no answers to the most pressing questions--where will Dorian make landfall?

Or are there more pressing questions? Maybe not tonight on Florida's eastern coast.

And then, about 5 hours later, I couldn't fall back asleep.  I made this Facebook post:

I was having a restless night. Then I got up and checked the 11 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory. Now I may be having a sleepless night. If you need me, I'll be over on the NPR website, exploring the musical world of Rhiannon Giddens. I ordered her CD on Wed. I hope it gets here before Hurricane Dorian.


But it hasn't been a totally bad thing.  I've heard some fascinating NPR shows and gotten a lot of work for my online classes done.  

Today I will go to work to do some work on the spreadsheets for the upcoming budget year, as if there's no storm coming.  Then we will prepare for a worst case storm possibility.  I will spend part of this afternoon putting plastic bags on computers at school. Part of me thinks this is ludicrous. If we have a storm that blows out the windows, plastic bags on computers won't do much good. But I will be do my part. I will also move the butterfly garden plants inside and hope they don't dry out completely before we return.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Haunted Wayfaring Strangers

Yesterday, I ordered a CD.  I had heard an episode of On Point with Rhiannon Giddens as a guest.  I loved every clip that they played, so I decided to go ahead and purchase the collection before I left for work.  Usually I add CDs to my cart, and months later, I can't remember why I was interested. 

I love Giddens' voice--and I love her approach to music.  As I listened yesterday, I realized that I've been singing "Walk that Lonesome Valley" to the tune of "Wayfaring Stranger"--for years, I've sung that song to the wrong tune.

And where have I sung that song you may ask. Not in church, not in my imaginary mandolin punk band. No, just walking around, music swirling in my head, as one does.

That said, I think that singing "Walk that Lonesome Valley" works beautifully sung to the tune of "Wayfaring Stranger," although now I'm doubting my ability to remember songs at all. And I'm wondering if "normal" people have snippets of folk music and the music from various 60's movements and old hymns and rock and roll winding through their brains all day.

There are worse things to have in one's brain.

Last night, after having "Wayfaring Stranger" in my brain all day, I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole looking for versions of it.  And then my spouse and I had fun seeing if other lyrics would work with the song.

As with so much folk music, I am struck by the lonesomeness of the lyrics, the stark reminder of how much more common the death of loved ones used to be.

This morning, I went back online to see if anyone has posted ukulele chords.  Of course they have!  And oddly, there was the grown son of my undergrad school mentor, singing this haunting song.

I expect I will feel haunted all day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Year of Bakery Runs

This week marks the one year anniversary of my baked goods initiative.  A year ago, I brought baked goods to campus from Publix--the baked goods were going in the trash if I hadn't showed up.  I put out some of the baked goods and put the rest in the freezer.

The next day, they were gone, a whole freezer full.  Lesson learned--I now keep many of the baked goods in my office.  They stay good throughout most of the week.  The muffins have a tendency to mold quickly, so I put them out first.

If I put baked goods in the freezer or the fridge, I put them in a plastic bag with a note that says, "Please save until Thursday."  People don't often take what they can't see; they're not tempted by a knotted plastic bag.

I spend a good chunk of my work week moving baked goods around.  For example, on Monday I unloaded the car; we got 3 cart loads of food, so yesterday, there was still bread left.  It got moved to the conference room so that there was more space for the Job Fair.  At the end of the Job Fair, I moved the bread back.  I also put out baked goods in the morning and sliced cakes in the afternoon. 

As I moved the bread back yesterday, I said, "I've spent a better part of the week moving baked goods around.  Maybe I should open a bakery when I'm done here."  One student said, "Yes you should."  I'm trying not to interpret her comment as a cosmic sign.

Occasionally students thank me.  Once a student asked, "Do you buy us all these goodies with your own money?"

I wish I made that kind of money.  If I had to pay for all the bakery items I bring in, it would be hundreds of dollars a week.

I have wondered why/how the bakery produces so much stuff they can't sell week after week.  My spouse's theory is that it's better to make the bread so that customers can have it than have an unfulfilled need.  And I'm assuming that Publix gets a tax write off for the donations.

I pursued the idea of the baked goods because once, long ago, I did the bakery run for our church's food pantry. I was amazed at the amount of bakery goods given to our food pantry.  As I heard and read about the hunger issues faced by students, I wanted to do something.

Yes, I wish I could get food that has more nutritive value.  I did ask the produce manager what happens to the produce that's going bad--it's donated to Feeding South Florida, a charity group that distributes food to the needy.  I can't figure out how I'd distribute meat, dairy or eggs, assuming I could get donations.

Even though the baked goods aren't the most nutritious, they can fill an empty stomach and provide calories to keep going.  Some of our students are missing meals, and this food will help.  I've heard from a few of them who tell me so, and there are probably others who are quietly grateful.

On Monday, one woman told me that her children look forward to Mondays to see what she's bringing home with her.  That comment made me happy.

I like the look of the counter in the student break room filled with treats--free treats!--and a table full of bread.  That's what hospitality looks like to me.  I like strategizing about how to make the treats last all week.  I enjoy taking breaks from my administrator work to put out more treats.

One week we got all bread and no treats.  I had some sticks of butter left over from an event, so each week, I put out the toaster, butter, and sliced loaves that I set aside.  I thought students would be irritated with toast each day, but I was wrong.

Each week, as an administrator, I do a variety of tasks.  I'm sure that the bosses above me would argue that my non-food tasks are more important.  But these days, I'm less sure.  They might scoff, but I do think that having food on site can help with retention.

There are other initiatives that might help more, like a day care center or a car mechanic on site.  But those initiatives would not be as easy to initiate and keep going, and I'm not sure how I could make them free for students (yes, lots of grants, and hiring of people and adding 10 more hours to every day). 

Today I'm taking a moment of gratitude for what I have accomplished.  I may not be saving the world, but I'm making my corner of it better.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Giving Natural Disaster a Voice

Lately I've made some Amazon orders.  I've requested free shipping which should have taken 5-8 days or more.  The orders have arrived the next day.  I am not a Prime member, so that's not the explanation.

I'm not complaining.  It just seems worth noting.

On Saturday, I read this blog post by Jeannine Hall Gailey.  She had reviewed Lee Ann Roripaugh's Tsunami vs. The Fukushima 50.  It sounded like a book that would hit several of my reading sweet spots:  nuclear disaster, natural disaster, poetry, and a female-centered take on it all.  It's been awhile since I've ordered a book of poems, so I ordered it.

It arrived on Sunday.  Usually books arrive and go to my ever growing books to be read shelf, but I decided to read it while I could still remember why I had ordered it.  So I did.

It's a great book--but it's also the kind of book that makes me wonder if I'd appreciate it more if I had more background.  There are some pop culture references that I can sense are there, but they're not mine, like the reference to Watchmen.

There were also some references that may or may not be references to Japanese pop culture, but I can't be sure.  I know even less about the pop culture of other cultures than my own.

It's not enough to keep me from enjoying the poems, and also not enough to send me on a quest to know more.  It is the kind of moment that makes me feel old--once I knew all sorts of stuff about a wide variety of pop culture, and not just that pop culture coming from my own society.  Once I could keep track.

My favorite poems were the ones that gave the tsunami a voice.  I thought of Patricia Smith's Hurricane Katrina poems in Blood Dazzler.  If I was a grad student, I might do more with those comparisons.  If I was an ambitious woman on a tenure track, I might write a book that explores the ways we give natural disasters a personality.

I am a poet feeling like a dried out crisp.  Maybe I need to play with the idea of weather having a personality.  Maybe I should start with the August weather that's leaving me so worn out.  Hurricanes get so much press (speaking of which, I should keep an eye on Tropical Storm Dorian down in the Caribbean), but heat waves can kill far more people.  Maybe I should write a poem in the voice of the disappearing Arctic ice.

This morning, I went to Jeannine's review on The Rumpus.  I had decided not to read it until I read the book.  It's an amazing review--wow.  It does just what a review should do.  It puts the poems in context and gives me insight.  It makes me want to read the book again.

Here's the way she ends the review:  "In Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50, a book that crackles with imaginative language and mythological retellings that represent real-life disaster, Roripaugh offers the audience a new way to think about nuclear and natural disasters and the remnants and ghosts that remain in their wake. Worth a close reading just for the sonic skills displayed, this book manages to weave a larger message for the reader inside poems that are at once playful, plaintive, and foreboding."

This experience over the past few days is as close to having a real time conversation about poetry as I'm likely to have these days.  It's been a treat to think about a volume of poems in this way.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Alligator Fosters and Other Changes

Today I soon leave to do the bread run.  So this post will be less an essay with a coherent theme than a collection of snapshots from the week.

--Many people in my immediate surroundings are in the process of huge change:  moving, illness, children moving to another level in school.  I am partly jealous--I want to move!  I am also relieved not to be in the throws of it.

--Of course, in a way, I, too, am facing change.  My spouse and I will be co-treasurers at church because the current treasurer is moving.  My sister-in-law will be moving down in a few weeks and staying in our cottage as she starts her new job here.

--That means I will be spending the next several weeks getting all of our stored stuff out of the cottage, a task I've needed to do for months now.

--One of my spin class members just sold her house a few counties to the north, which means they, too, have lots of clearing out to do.  Friday at spin class, one of our spin class members talked about hiring Guatemalans to do a variety of work around her house.  They will also help load the truck.

--She said, "I want a Guatemalan all my own to work on just my projects."

--In a way I knew what she meant.  In another way, it was disconcerting, especially in a week where I'd been reading a lot about the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving in America.

--I look forward to reading the whole series on the subject in The New York Times.  In the meantime, I enjoyed the episode of NPR's 1A that talked to some of the writers.

--Also overheard this week:  "We're fostering an alligator."

--My first thought:  only in Florida.  But upon further investigation, it makes more sense.  A member of the family works in a wildlife rescue, and he brought a baby alligator home.

--The baby alligator eats food in the form of pellets, so at least they don't have to feed it live food.

I have no beautiful way to close that ties all these threads together. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Malaise or Melancholy?

Yesterday was an unusual Saturday.  I was the manager on duty at campus, so I went to work from 9-1.  It was a stormy start to the day, so it's not like I'd have been lounging by the pool. 

I came home and spent the afternoon watching The African Americans:  Many Rivers to Cross.  Sure, it was a PBS fundraiser, and I've seen parts of it before.  But it's a magnificent series.  When the fundraising came on, I went to shred papers or put things away.  I got laundry done and piles of paper sorted, filed, or shredded.  I felt my brain perking up with all the insight that Henry Louis Gates has to offer on our U.S. history.

My Saturdays have often been wasted on cooking shows and naps and feeling like I should be getting more done, but feeling such a sense of malaise about it all. 

Is it malaise or is it melancholy?

I have been feeling a some sort of blues for much of the summer, certainly for July and August.  I've said, "Well, some years the summer weather is harder on me than other years."  But lately, I've wondered if it might not be weather-related.

This post by Beth Adams gave me some new insight into my mood this morning.  She says, "I feel like I've been in mourning all summer."  There is much to mourn, and she notes the larger picture beyond the individual outrages and degradations:  "But underpinning these catastrophes are the male aggressiveness, bravado, greed, competitiveness, and desire for domination at all costs that have driven our world since the beginning."

Unlike many of us, who might attempt a variety of escapes, she's returned to the wisdom of Tolstoy.  I can't imagine reading Tolstoy in the summer, but kudos to those who can.  She notes, " As Tolstoy pointed out about Napoleon and, to a lesser extent, the Tsar, one single man, no matter how charismatic or powerful, cannot gain that power unless he taps into broad undercurrents of belief already present in the population. The systemic violence, greed, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and exploitation that feed everything from war to genocide to climate change run very deeply and broadly; what Walter Wink called "The Powers and Principalities" have been operating since human societies began. By and large these systems have been dominated by white males who have believed in their right to supremacy over people of all other races, as well as over women. Even today, with all of our progress, women of every race are still below men in nearly every measure except life expectancy. And even the most intelligent and well-educated of us are often in positions where, to help families and institutions function, or in order to have some influence, we end up serving the men who actually hold the power."

I do a lot of reading of a variety of materials thinking that maybe I'll get some understanding or insight or wisdom--but Beth Adams' post is a far more coherent piece of analysis than almost anything I've read recently.

She's returning to practices that have served her well.  She says, "For me, the contemplative practices of art, music, journaling and being in nature are part of this path, and so is silent meditation, especially in a world that has become cacophonous to the point of damaging our very ability to speak effectively to one another or listen to what is said. On the other side of the coin is Action, but action (of which speech is a part) must proceed from a centered, calm, free, and deeply considered place in order to have any power against the forces that threaten everything we hold dear."

I read her piece before I went on my morning walk.  I want to get away from my computer screen more as the weeks go on.  I, too, want to return to the habits that are more nourishing:  getting fresh air (even when it's hot and humid air), sketching, writing, reading that will help my brain not hurt it.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Advice for Those Encased in Flesh

When drowning, remember that you know how to float:

Remind yourself that you are flesh, not stone.

Decide which quality you need to channel, the dragonfly or the wrought iron.

Don't forget to glow.

Protect the upper room, where illumination lives.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Whale and the Ticket

I am part of an online journaling group organized by Mepkin Abbey.  We are working/listening/journaling our way through Don Bisson's series of CDs from a presention,  Individuation:  Beyond Happy and Normal.  Our last chunk explored the book of Jonah.

It's interesting to think about the book of Jonah and what it has to say to us about psychological health.  We're used to reading the book as a picture of a reluctant prophet, and therefore many of us might assume it doesn't apply to us.  We're not prophets, after all.

Because Don Bisson is a Marist brother, he does approach the material through a Christian lens.  But he's also a Jungian, which makes for interesting juxtapositions.  His approach of the main lesson of Jonah is that we need to get the right ticket to the right destination.

When I first heard him say that, I heard ticket as a type of parking ticket, not a plane ticket or a train ticket. 

For those of us who say no to what God asks of us, he says we need to think about the moral dimension to saying no. 

He also says we should notice what whales show up to remind us that we're going in the wrong direction.  I found that an interesting way of thinking about the whale.

I am now thinking of the end of Jonah, where Jonah goes off in a snit about how everyone reacts positively to his message.  Once again, we see someone trying to micromanage the miracles.

And now I'm thinking of my manuscript of essays.  Should I try to do a major overhaul?  I have decided that the title should be Micromanaging the Miracles.  Maybe I should revise with that in mind.

Or maybe I should create a different manuscript, something designed to be a daily devotions.  Could I develop enough new stuff to say about each of God's people who tried to micromanage the miracles? 

I have so many potential projects--not to mention the manuscripts that I've already created and can't find a place to publish them.  It's enough to make a girl feel discouraged. 

But I also know that life works in mysterious ways.  I blogged for years and many of those blog posts have found new life in various publications, which was not my plan when I started blogging. 

If I suddenly become a popular writer whose audience has a voracious appetite for my work, at least I have plenty of work to release.

I have spent the last 10 minutes trying to think of a way to conclude this blog post--how can I tie Jonah to my writing life?  Is my writing life the whale or the ticket?

In the depths of despair, it's tempting to think of all the writing rejections as the whale that tells us that we've taken the wrong direction.  But the life of the prophet reminds us that failure is part of the process--and the life of Jonah reminds us that even when we get with the program, when people accept us, we might still pout.

Jungian psychologists would not be surprised by this process.  One of the ideas that I found most comforting from our recent journaling time is that our culture tells us that as we get older, life should get easier because we've got it all figured out--but that's not the way it is at all.  Failure is part of the process.

To be called to be oneself in one's historical moment is never easy--even though we look at the life of the great humans and think they always knew exactly where they were going.  But it's the essential task of every human.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Revisions and Revolutions

My time grows short this morning, so let me post capture some writing that I want to preserve here and some links to materials that I want to remember.

--I am intrigued by the blog posts from Terri Lewis, who has been blogging from the Sewanee Writers' Conference.  She shared her notes from Margot Livesy's presentation on revision in this post.  Livesy instructs us to print out the whole novel and get markers in a variety of colors:

"You are going to highlight in in a different color the following things (explanations in parenthesis [Lewis']):
  • Scene (the reader is inside an event with dialog and/or action)
  • Narration (bits between scenes, usually where the “narrator” – often the author – is telling, not showing. Can be a transition)
  • Summary (I need to spend time thinking about differentiating between this one and the next)
  • Exposition
  • Description (Needs to move the story, not just be a travelogue)
  • Interior / Exterior (Succinctly put: is the character thinking or doing)
  • Memories
  • Flashbacks
  • Each character"
How interesting!  I've had some of this on the brain as I've been writing my novel.  

--I am trying to get into a rhythm for writing my apocalyptic novel.  This week, my approach has been to grab time where I can find it, writing little bits here and there.  I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how to revise what I've just written.

--Last night I was working on the novel when a grad school friend posted this bit to Facebook:  "Oh dear, what to do. Drop everything to watch the 25th anniversary special of Les Mis, or keep plugging away at work I've committed to delivering by morning? Hmmm...this is not easy. Oh, they're at the barricades, so my decision is made! I can fire up the espresso machine when this finishes in 2 hours, then fire it up AGAIN come the morning and load up my favorite thermos to keep me going after so little sleep. Okay, that's the plan!"

--I didn't see her post, but I clearly had the French Revolution on the brain.  I was writing this bit:  Each citizen got an allotment of food, which was the way out of the first food shortage that the government had created to try both to keep a nation fed and to keep peace. Even if the Despot hadn’t learned the lessons of history, some official clearly had—or at least they remembered how many revolutions had been fueled by food shortages and literal hunger, not just a hunger for justice.

--This morning, I made this response to my friend's post:   If I write a novel of our grad school years, there will be a student who leaves graduate work to follow "Les Mis," the way that some follow the Grateful Dead. She will discover a fellowship of travelers, and they will wonder why they don't get the same kind of press as Deadheads.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Decision Not to Participate in an Art Show

Yesterday I wrote this post about my artistic process that took an older piece from this:

to this:

But in the end, I didn't enter the piece in the show.  It started to feel overwhelming, and I took some time to figure out whether or not I really wanted to participate.  The decision not to do it boiled down to several reasons:

--I had questions, but when I reached out to the curator, both by e-mail and phone, she never returned my call.  Therefore, I wasn't sure when the art would be accepted.  The website and the entry form had different information.

--The art show isn't juried, so all art would be accepted if it fit the theme.  That aspect appealed to me on one level, but it also seemed less desirable.

--I thought about having show participation to put on a resume, but if it's not juried, it would count less.  And then I laughed at myself.  What resume is this, exactly?

--That question made me realize that I wanted some sort of acclaim.  There would be prizes.  I had this vision of a gallery owner asking to represent me.

--But what if people did want more 3 D work from me?  I don't have a back up supply, like I do with my other art and writing.  While the appeal of creating art out of found objects appeals to me, I don't do it much.

--Why don't I do it?  I don't have the space--for the supplies or for the finished work.  How do artists store their work?  Even if I transformed the cottage into a studio and storage space, I would quickly run out of room if I did much work in found objects.

--A space in the art show cost $45.  That fee would buy me an entry fee for a manuscript.  I still have hopes for a writing career.  Those hopes and dreams are reasonable.  My dream of being a 3 D artist is much more recent and not as viable.

It's been an interesting way to spend part of the month of August, thinking about an old art project, transforming it, and writing about it.  I love the small jar that I created to go with the piece:

I love that it changes as I rotate the jar:

And from a different angle:

Long ago, I saw a work at Girl's Club, but I can't find a picture.  It was a collection of baby food sized jars, with balls of yarn in them.  I kept coming back to that piece, although I couldn't exactly articulate why.

If I did decide to do more with 3 D art, I might do more with jars.  It seems more manageable in terms of space.

I wonder if any scholar has explored the issue of space when it comes to art.  What kinds of decisions have artists made based on space--space for storage and space to do the work in the first place?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Poet and Fiber Artist Goes 3 D

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on a 3 D art piece.  It began with a piece that I created for an Ash Wednesday art project at church.  I brought 3 shelves from a dresser that had been damaged during Hurricane Irma.  I brought lots of other stuff, and we created art with an Ash Wednesday theme.  For more on the original project, see this blog post.

I saw a call for art pieces for a show with the theme of home, and I thought of the piece.  A few weeks ago, I brought it home with me from the storage closet at church.  I wanted to add some pieces to it--one of the requirements for the show was that the art had to be created in the past year.

I created an element out of fabric.  I thought about gluing it to the back of the piece, but before I did that, I realized it might be interesting to pin it to the top.  In the end, I pinned it to both the top and the side.  I like the way it flutters.  It speaks of quilts to me, of quilts that have come apart but can be stitched back together again.

I decided the piece needed more threads, so I also cut apart a small piece of flannel to lay in the banana leaves.  A few years ago, after her mother's death, one of my friends gave me the spools of thread that her mother collected.  I don't want to waste good thread, but some of the spools had threads of the same color.  I will never use that much thread.  So I chose a few for the piece.

I find the image of a box of collected buttons showing up in my poetry quite often, so I pulled out our button box.  Again, I hate wasting buttons that might be useful, so I chose ones that were similar, along with some that were just interesting.

The old drawer that creates a shadowbox container is huge, so I decided I needed another vertical element.  I plucked an olive jar out of the recycling and filled it with things that said home to me:  buttons, yarn, dental floss, small spools of thread, and shells.  I also liked the images of stitching/threads, since I had decided to title the piece "Ash Wednesday in Hurricane Country."

I had to write a statement about how the piece fits with the theme.  One day, I made several drafts:

Home is more than a location on a map. You bought banana trees for a significant anniversary, and the hurricane destroyed them. We stitch our communities together with all sorts of threads to create a patchwork comforter.

Living in hurricane country comes with a constant reminder that our physical homes could be destroyed by wind and flood. But home is more than a location on a map. We keep our collections portable, our grandmothers’ button boxes, the spools collected by a friend’s mother during her lifetime.

We are a nation of dreamers and through our dreams, we are the repairers of the broken. We are a nation of quilters, the ones who can stitch and patch to create a comforter. We are the collagists who create a work of art out of all the pieces.

I ended up with a statement I really liked:

Home is more than a location on a map. We are a nation of quilters, the ones who can stitch and patch to create a comforter. We are the collagists who create a work of art out of all the pieces. We repair the broken to find the beautiful.

In the end, I decided not to submit the piece.  I'll write more about that decision tomorrow.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Nancy Drew Poem for a Week of School Beginnings

In my county, students started school last Wednesday; this week will be their first full week of school.  By the end of this week, all students in the tri county area will be back in school.

I know that there are still some schools up north who start after Labor Day.  They probably have Columbus Day off too.

Yesterday in church, our pastor said it was the last Sunday in Summer.  He caught himself mid-declaration and said, "Yes, it's the last Sunday in the Summer.  Because I declare it to be so."  And then he explained that once the public schools start again, summer is effectively over.

I agree.  We have another month until the equinox which will launch us into a new season, and for some of us, we might switch wardrobes at Labor Day--although to be honest, I don't know of anyone who doesn't wear white after the first Monday in September.  Many of us still have a month or more of summer heat and humidity.  But essentially, summer is over.

The back to school stories that surround us take me back to my writing process as I created a poem about Nancy Drew in her retirement.  Nancy Drew wouldn't be teaching college. She'd have had a teacher's certificate from pre-feminist days. And they'd let her teach the kids that were headed to juvenile jails and drop out land--who cares about those kids?

I thought about a friend's experience teaching those kinds of kids. She was allowed to do basically whatever she wanted, to abandon textbooks and to teach whatever came to her, so long as she kept the kids from hurting each other or the other children in the school.

I thought about Nancy Drew's friends, Bess and George--what happened to them? Could they help Nancy Drew solve the mystery of how to reach these students?

Of course! Bess has started a bakeshop and this generation of students, raised on cooking shows, eat up what she has to offer in the way of old-fashioned home-ec. George, the tomboy, has gone on to become a marine biologist, so she leads field trips into various ecosystems.

Here's the poem, which appeared in my third chapbook, Life in the Holocene Extinction.  If you want an autographed copy of the chapbook, I'll give you a back-to-school discount between now and the Tuesday after Labor Day:  $10 per copy.

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Pre-Drop Outs

Nancy Drew decides she needs new
mysteries to solve, so she returns
to school, to mold young minds.

Long ago, in between cracking cases
involving diaries or letters or maps and solving
secrets in attics and towers, she got a teaching
certificate, as ambitious women did in those days.
Now she calls the school board to see
how she might be of use.

Her credentials, old and out of date,
don't prevent her from taking charge
of the most hopeless classrooms,
the students on a layover
on their journey to juvenile court.

Given tattered textbooks and worksheets without
answer keys, Nancy Drew adopts
a different approach. As always, she calls
on her friends.

Bess runs a bakeshop, so she teaches
the students to cook, a retro home-ec
approach. Nancy Drew's feminist critics
would not approve, but this generation
of students, raised on cooking shows, responds
with rare enthusiasm.

Nancy Drew believes in fresh air and sunshine,
so she recruits her friend George, a marine
biologist, for ideas. George leads
field trips to various ecosystems:
swamp walks and snorkeling and soon
some of the students are ready
for college-track science classes.

These clues to a better future don't prevent
some of her students from sneaking
away to explore more ancient secrets.
She tries to keep them focused on the future,
but she remembers Ned Nickerson
and those cars now considered classics.

She thinks of Ned in the roadster,
and later, her love confined to the hospital bed,
immune from rescue, unable to hear
her whispered pleas.

She kisses the old locket always worn
around her neck and writes the day's lesson
plan on the white board. At the end
of the day, she erases the smeared
lines from the board to leave a blank
space to be filled again in the morning.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

August Traditions: Blessing Backpacks and Church Picnics

Based on what I'm reading in various Facebook updates, the Blessing of the Backpacks as part of August church services is becoming fairly common across the nation, or at least in the Southeast. I'm all in favor.

One of my Facebook friends who is a minister seems to be having today's worship service at a park, where there will be the annual picnic along with the blessing of the backpacks.  I like that approach too.

My church has a huge space in the back of the church, so we've had a cookout there once or twice, often in conjunction with the close of Vacation Bible School.

And now I'm remembering late August days at my grandmother's church long ago.  There was one Sunday where they'd have church and then everyone would get in cars to spend Sunday afternoon at Lutheridge.  That church camp was over an hour away, so modern me is astonished that people would come to church and then make the drive to Lutheridge.  Of course, there was a wonderful potluck picnic at the end of the drive and time in the mountains and fellowship.  Still, it tells me what a different time it was.

And now I'm suddenly craving deviled eggs and a variety of pasta salads.  I'll never crave those odd mixes of gelatin and add-ins--blhh.  But the dessert table--ah, yes, I'd love a good dessert table today after church.

Instead, I'll count the money after church.  It won't be nearly as much fun/fulfilling as a trip to the mountains with a picnic, but it's an essential task that few can'will do in my congregation.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Thinking about the Yield Curve on a Lovely Saturday in August

This week, perhaps we've all gotten a mini Economics lesson.  I confess that I didn't really think about the yield curve before this week, and I'm still not sure I understand it enough to explain it.

One fact stands out in this week of reports of our now inverted yield curve:  an inverted yield curve has predicted 6 of the last 6 recessions.

On a recent episode of On Point, I heard economics analyst Rana Foroohar say that she had taken all of her retirement money out of the stock market and invested it in primarily cash and real estate.  Hmm.

You may or may not remember that we haven't had a recession since the big one in 2008.  Here's an interesting fact from an article in yesterday's The Washington Post: "About 40 million U.S. adults haven’t seen a single recession during their working lives. Almost as many, including most millennials, have seen only one since they turned 18. That recession, the devastating Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009, was (hopefully) not representative."

My earliest memory of economic downturns is the one in the early 70's, around 1973 or so.  I remember asking my dad why so many people didn't have Christmas lights strung on their houses the way they used to do.  He told me that they might not be able to afford it.

Ah, the good ole days of the Arab oil embargo!  I remember the 70's as a time when beef was a luxury.  Now I've had a few shopping days when potatoes cost more than the beef when I made pot roast.  I'm paying far less for chicken these days then my mom did when she bought chicken in the 70's as a budget meat for a middle-class family.

I remember recessions in the 80's; I started undergraduate school in a college town that had had much of its industry decimated during a recent recession where two of the three poultry plants had closed.  I did my first job search during the recession of 92, and I was grateful to get my community college job, even though I went to grad school with a different kind of teaching job in mind.  In the recession of 2002, when my meager portfolio lost almost all its value, I had a moment when I wished I had just given all that money to the poor.  I remember the early days of the Great Recession of 2008, hearing about the stock market stumbling then falling precipitously and feeling a cold stone of fear in my body.

In short, the economy has never felt secure to me.  The words of Jesus have always made sense, the ones where he cautions about storing our treasures where moths can eat it and thieves can steal it.  The economy shows us over and over again the wisdom of Christ's teaching--at least to those of us who aren't part of the uppermost of the uppermost economic echelons.

Friday, August 16, 2019

More Milestones to Mark the Aging Process

I have read books about aging that talk about all the various personal milestones most of us go through when we age:  physical changes of all sorts, mental changes, and perhaps societal changes.  There's less talk about the milestones in the lives of our friends and acquaintances and how they affect us.

I got a Facebook message today from one of my college friends:  "My mom died today."  I have a variety of memories about her mom, although I never spent lots of time with her.

I spent some time scrolling through Facebook.  My high school friend who is moving his parents into an assisted living facility has lots of posts describing both that process and his process of cleaning out the house.  Last week I wrote a post about how strange it is to read about this process.

Here's a post from a friend and a picture of her daughter and a friend who just made the JV volleyball team.  Wait--didn't we just have a baby shower for that child?  How is it possible that she started high school this week?

In some ways it makes me feel old, but it's more complex than that.  I sometimes feel that time is wrinkling.  Some part of me doesn't feel much older than my high school self--and I know that I'm very lucky.  And yet, clearly, I am old enough to have children in high school or college myself.  A new generation emerges.

The various 50 year anniversaries this year are also a reminder of how much time has zipped on.  It seems like just yesterday I found the Woodstock LP in the collection of my college radio station.  I made a cassette tape and listened to it over and over again.  I was listening to music that was already 17 years old.  Now it's much older.  If you want to listen to that concert in real time, as the concert unfolded hour by hour, over the next few days, go here.

Of course I'm not ready to limp off into the sunset yet.  Let me use these reminders of mortality to get moving on projects I want to complete sooner rather than later.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

How to be an Artist: Wisdom from Toni Morrison

Our public school students had their first day of classes yesterday.  By this time next week, my spouse and I will be back to class, which means I need to get some dates typed into course shells and change the settings across the course shells.

The summer is zooming to a close, even though we will still have summery weather for many months.

My college of primary employment is on a strange quarter system, which will end in mid-September.  Here, too, time races by.  We will be done before we know it. 

Yesterday was an interesting change of pace.  I subbed for a teacher, which involved overseeing tests, so I had time to read.  I forgot that I was going to sub, so I didn't bring a book.  Happily, I have plenty of books in the office.

I keep Toni Morrison's The Source of Self-Regard in the office because it's easy to dip in and out of, even though the essays aren't exactly zippy reading.  It's interesting to read her essays which sometimes repeat language word for word--intriguing to know that Morrison reused images in different speeches and public addresses.  It's powerful language, well worth repeating.

As I've been reading through the book, I've wondered how she decided what to preserve in print and what to let go of.  I've had this on the brain in terms of visual artists too.  This article in The New York Times examines artist's studios and archives and asks what should be saved and what will be lost.  It's a fascinating question.

Morrison has much to say about the work of being an artist in this repressive society.  Many of her essays that I've read so far were written in the 1980's, but they still have much to say to us.  She's not as concerned about what we should save, but how we should be creating.

Here's a quote, which seems perfect for this week of back to school pictures and artistic longings of all sorts:

"Art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs into bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be. Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstance. Art reminds us that we belong here. And if we serve, we last. My faith in art rivals my admiration for any other discourse" (p. 53).

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rejection Evening

My Submittable account no longer sends me e-mail updates about my submissions.  I can't figure out how to fix it--all the settings seem correct, and Submittable e-mails aren't going to my Spam file.

And let me take a minute to note what a strange collection of e-mails goes to my Spam file.  I'm always intrigued to see what ends up there--and who/what is sending these e-mails?  How do I get on some of these lists?

I feel the same way about all the ads which jump into motion when I'm reading e-mails or online newspapers.  Yesterday was one of those days when I thought about paying for the ad-free platforms, just to avoid ads.  I used to feel the same way about cable, back when I watched much T.V.

Interesting to think that the Internet is the new T.V.--both distracting and enriching.

But that's not what I came here to explore.  I wanted to write about my evening of rejection.

The last time I went to my Submittable account, in early August, I took heart by how my poetry book manuscript seemed to be in consideration in so many places.  I've been submitting it about once a month.  Last night I saw 3 rejections.  Sigh.

But I want to record that my manuscript was a semifinalist in the 2019 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition.  There were almost 400 manuscripts, according to the rejection e-mail.

As I was reading the e-mail, I thought about the familiarity of this language of rejection.  The language is so similar to the rejection letters I used to get back when I did my most aggressive job hunting.  It's a version of "it's not you, it's me" that I first heard about in a Seinfeld episode.

In a way, the news is good.  My manuscript does stand out in a field of 400 manuscripts from poets who have yet to publish a first book.  I haven't always gotten that feedback from earlier submission years.

Let me not spend too much time thinking about how many earlier submission years there have been.  Let me keep going with my plan:  to make judicious submissions, to contests where I see a judge who resonates with me or to contests where I'm supporting a press I believe in or to contests which give me a book in exchange for my submission.

Let me keep working on other projects too.  I've put together a new chapbook this year, and that process has made me feel hopeful too.

Next week, I want to put a plan into place that will lead to me work on my apocalyptic novel on a more regular basis.  I need to create that plan.

The weeks are zooming by.  I am astonished at how long I've been at this writing and publishing process.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Quick Time Away

We have been away--just a 4 day vacation, an extended week-end really.  Today I'll do the bread run a day late, so I don't have much time to write here this morning.

Let me just capture a few items:

--We had fairly easy flights, which is saying something for summer.  Jam packed, but that's usual these days.  The Friday trip was easiest--we snagged the exit row seats.  Yesterday the guy behind us had a non-stop talk with his seatmate about the importance of discussion and dialogue--the seatmate could hardly get a word in edgewise.

--Because we were gone for such a short period of time, we left our laptops at home, and we weren't surrounded by screens we could watch either.  What a treat to be away from constant news.

--I got a lot of reading done; it's always worth remembering how much more reading I do when I don't have the lure of the laptop.  I'll say more about the books I read in a later post.

--I love the change of scenery.  We had decent weather for summer:  warm/hot but not humid, glowering clouds but no fierce storms.

--It was good to hear the stories about how others are living their lives.  I heard about the Air Force guy who took his housing allowance and bought a live-aboard sailboat.  I heard about retired people who sold their northern Virginia townhouse and moved to a one story house in Maryland.  I saw all sorts of people in planes and airports who had some interesting stories that they didn't tell me.

--I didn't do any writing or even reach for my travel journal where I take notes on anything interesting.  But I did think about my apocalyptic novel.

--It is good to get away and so good to get completely offline.  And the benefit of a shorter vacation is that I don't dread going back to work as much.

--We played Monopoly for 3 hours one morning.  It was great fun, and a reminder of how quickly the game can turn, both the Monopoly game and the real life housing game.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Lessons from the Butterfly Garden #2

In early July, the caterpillars ate the milkweed plants, leaving nothing but devoured stubs.

But we knew that these plants only looked like they were dead. Now they have not only sprouted new leaves, but flowers—and we have some monarch butterfly visitors!

Let us remember that even when we feel used up, new growth is waiting, along with new discoveries.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Lessons from the Butterfly Garden #1

When I transplanted this dutchman's pipe plant to a larger pot, I wasn't sure it would make it. 

At one point, it was the scraggliest plants in the garden:

The August rains have helped it flourish. Let us all remember that even when we might be in danger of wilting in the heat of our studies/lives/challenges, if we just dig in, we, too, can flourish.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Summer Publications

Before summer vanishes, let me record some publishing that made me happy:

In June, my piece about ways to celebrate June appeared in Gather, the magazine of the Women of the ELCA.  In July, I was the person who wrote the Lectionary reflection for The Christian Century.  And in August, I got my contributor copy of The Women Artists Datebook that had one of my poems in it (Feb. 3). 

I couldn't get a great photo so let me just copy the text of the poem below:

Fiber of Existence

You will study the maps,
make a plan, pack
the right clothes, only to find
yourself in a different country,
the one you didn’t know
you needed to explore.

It is here you find the answers
to the unspoken questions.
Here is the journal written
in a language you can’t understand.
Here the box of letters
written between two souls
you do not know.

Here you pledge to drink from a dirty
glass, to ignore all your dusty duties.
Here you will ride the beast that scares
you most, the elephant or the motorcycle,
the couple married multiple decades
or mornings of solitary coffee.

Listen for the wind to whisper
your name. Go where the wind commands.
The rains will wash
away all evidence of your longing.

Eat the mush of memory.
Remember every dreary breakfast.
Resolve to find the fiber of your existence.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Navigating the Milestones of Life

One of my friends from high school is moving his parents to an assisted living facility this week.  His mother has dementia issues, so it's been a tough process.  I've been following along on Facebook.

I have memories of going to his house in the summer for a party.  I didn't go to the kinds of high school parties that would get Supreme Court nominees in trouble later.  We sat around rec rooms listening to music and talking.  I can't remember what we talked about.  I remember one party at my friend's house listening to the whole of David Bowie's Let's Dance album and talking to his older sister who was home from college.

Not long after that party we would all scatter off to college ourselves, and if it wasn't for Facebook, I probably wouldn't know about my friend's parents leaving that house where once we listened to New Wave music and talked.

Or maybe that David Bowie album shouldn't really be considered New Wave. It's been decades, and I still can't decide.

I'm also feeling nostalgic at the news that Pizza Hut will be closing most of its dine-in restaurants.  I spent many happy years of my adolescence eating with friends in Pizza Hut restaurants.  I was a vegetarian for many of those years, so Pizza Hut was a good choice in a landscape that didn't have many good choices.

My friend took time out from his parents' move to post a link to the story that gave the news about the closure of Pizza Hut restaurants:

"I have some fond memories of eating at the Pizza Hut on Bearden Hill. Ordering a pizza or two and then going through the salad bar. Good meals out with my family back in the day. Sigh..."
I included this memory on that thread:

I have good memories of that Pizza Hut too--one night coming out to discover that it had started snowing, and I said to Chum Kimsey, "I've never driven in snow before!" She said, "Pretend it's like rain." And so I carefully drove my parents' huge Monte Carlo through the snow, with pizza in our stomachs, a bit of fear, and the exhilaration of successfully navigating in the snow.
And this one:

I seem to recall a group of us that included you getting pizza after a football game once or twice. I didn't much care about football, but I loved having pizza afterwards. I think once you even gave me a ride to the game, back before my parents thought I had enough driving experience to drive at night. Isn't that a quaint idea? That once upon a time I didn't have enough driving experience to drive at night? And I think about my parents, who had more rules for me than many parents today have. It's been poignant for me, reading about your interactions with your folks this week.

Back in those days of Pizza Hut and David Bowie and learning to drive, I could not have imagined the day would come when my friend Chum would be dead of esophageal cancer or that the day would come when a friend would be orchestrating the move of his parents into a facility where they can get the care we need.

I feel like we're too young for this.  I'm guessing that people always do.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Artistic Openness and Book Evangelists

I have a series of thoughts, but I don't know if they will hold together as a unified blog post.  But it feels important to collect them.

--One of the delights of Facebook is hearing from old friends who may just have a snippet of something to say.  In olden days, they wouldn't have written a letter to say it, and back then, long distance phone calls cost serious money, so they wouldn't have picked up the phone.  When I linked to my Toni Morrison post yesterday, a friend wrote this:   "I actually cried at work when I got the news. I remember to this day you recommending Song of Solomon to me. I have loved her writing ever since."

I have no memory of recommending that book or any other Toni Morrison book to my friend.  I'm so happy that he shared that memory with me.

It reminded me of a different friend from the same time, my undergraduate years.  She remembers that I recommended The Handmaid's Tale to her, that I insisted that she read it.  She did, and she says it completely changed her mind about many feminist issues.

Here, too, I have no memory of this event, but it made me happy to hear it.

Some people are religious evangelists, but I once was a book evangelist.  And I still am, although I'm not reading nearly as many books as I once was.

--This article is composed of pieces of writing advice from Toni Morrison throughout the years.  They're the kind of quotes that make me want to get back to my writing in a deeper way.

--Three weeks ago I started writing my apocalyptic novel.  I am not making the kind of progress as I did three weeks ago.  Let me take the next few days of this week to strategize how I'm going to get into a more regular writing rhythm once the semester begins, and my spouse and I return to teaching.

I want  to work on the novel at least 3 days a week.  I want to write a poem a week, at least one.  I have been finding it hard to write both the novel and poetry.

--And while I'm listing goals, let me say that I want to get back to more regular exercise, more walks, even if they're short walks.  I need to remember why I love living here.

--I have been thinking about the art piece that I intend to submit for this show about home at ArtServe.  I am surprised by this inner critic who has begun piping in, the one who thinks this idea is stupid, the idea that I'm not a real artist.  For over 20 years, I've been working on a variety of visual arts, and I've been a writer even longer than that.  Where does this voice come from?  Part of it may come from the years I was around "real visual artists" at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale.  Most of them were kind and encouraging.  There were some snooty artists who were dismissive of the kinds of art forms that were most interesting to me.  I'm surprised that some of their ideas have become embedded in my brain.

--Let me close with a quote of encouragement from Toni Morrison:  "It’s that being open—not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don’t know will be available to you. It is bigger than your overt consciousness or your intelligence or even your gifts; it is out there somewhere and you have to let it in."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

In Praise of Toni Morrison

Like much of the world, yesterday was a bit sadder with the announcement of Toni Morrison's death.  But as with the death of many a luminary, remembering why she was so important made me feel a bit better.

I think that the first Toni Morrison book I read was Tar Baby.  Back then, I checked it out from the library to have something to read on my commute from the Virginia suburbs to inner city DC where I had a summer job as a social worker in 1984.  That was during the year that D.C. had the worst murder rate in the country, but I met wonderful people that summer.  If those people managed to stay in their homes, those homes that we spent a summer winterizing, they could be very rich now.

That summer I also read Sula(or was it Song of Solomon?), but I remember not liking it as much as I liked Tar Baby.  My mom and I were both reading her work.  I read Beloved soon after it came out, and I liked it, but I didn't realize what made it an amazing book back when I first read it.  I think I read it after both of my parents read it and passed it on to me.  My memory says that my mom really loved the book, while my dad found it a tough read.

I read The Bluest Eye in grad school.  What an amazing--and painful--book.  But my favorite one of her books of all that I've read is A Mercy.  No other work has so powerfully made me realize how perilous life in the colonies was.

When Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature, I cheered.  As with so many of these developments, I thought it was a sure sign of progress, how far we had come.  I assumed we would keep zooming on to a bright future where a much wider cross section of artists would gain recognition and society would be changed by their art.

I still want to believe that--but with midlife comes the knowledge that the way forward is much murkier than I first thought and the road to the bright future may take much longer than I thought.

But let me lift my coffee mug to Toni Morrison, who in her life and in her art showed us that a different way is possible.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Origami Cranes, Hiroshima, and All the Places that need Blessing

On this day in 1945, the U.S. dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  Today would be a good day to read John Hersey's Hiroshima, which began life as a nonfiction piece in The New Yorker. In the summer of 1985, I read obsessively about nuclear weapons, both their genesis and their current status, and Hiroshima was one of the books I read. Best book of that summer? War Day, by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka, a sobering piece of fiction about life in the U.S. after a massive nuclear exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union; it's still a compelling read. I remember Hersey's book as being elegaic in its depiction of the lost city and the suffering of the people.

The bombs used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki were small by today's standards--but what damage they did! The effects of that bomb obliterated much of Hiroshima--and vaporized some of it. There were reports of people fused into pavement and glass--or just vanished, with a trace remaining at the pavement. The reports of the survivors who walked miles in search of help or water are grim. And many of those survivors would die of the effects of radiation in the coming years.

Through the years, I've seen many a documentary about the rush to build nuclear weapons, about the uncertainty of what would happen with those first tests and explosions--would the very atmosphere around the planet dissolve? I have yet to see any footage of scientists who wondered what might happen to civilians on the ground when these bombs exploded.

I've lived long enough to see history being made to know that the choices can be fairly ghastly. In this case, far better to develop the weapons before the Germans. I know many people who believe that the use of these bombs helped avoid more years of grueling battles in the Pacific that would have left us with even more dead--one could argue that the sacrifice of the populations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were worth the avoidance of more years of war and that loss of life.

I've also done enough reading and thinking about pacifist approaches to wonder if there might not have been another way if we had acted much earlier.

I remember during our grad school years we went to a beautiful anti-nuclear vigil on August 6 in a city park.  I remember paper cranes and seeing some of our grad school professors there.  That would have been in 1988 or 1989.  I wonder if any groups mount anti-nuclear vigils in August anymore?

It's not that the world is any more of a peaceful place these days.  Sadly, the world still needs the blessings of the origami cranes.  They're not as easy to fold as they look--that, too, makes them an appropriate metaphor.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Not the Staycation I Had in Mind

I had been calling this week-end a staycation, even though it was just a regular week-end.  We committed to no commitments except for church.  We had in mind some things we might do.  Or maybe it was just me that had some activities in mind. 

I thought we might do some of the things we only do when we have visitors:  maybe go to the brewery at the beach or make tropical drinks to enjoy by the pool.  But the weather was iffy to downright rainy, so we didn't do that.

As with every week-end, I thought we might do some unpacking of the boxes that are out in the cottage.  We got the kitchen boxes unpacked and the CDs and videos put away.  Why does that not feel more significant?  Why does it take so long to put CDs away in alphabetical order?

We watched Thelma and Louise Saturday night--I own a copy of the movie, and we needed a mindless way to spend the night. What a great movie. Sad that it is still so relevant in terms of violence/harassment against women.

That experience made me miss the old DVD player.  We have a computer connected to our Smart TV, but the DVD player doesn't always want to work.  On Saturday, we had trouble with not one but two laptops.  Sigh.  But we did finally watch something beyond cooking shows or the dreadful news.

On Sunday, we had another day of delightful feminist viewing--there's a great American Masters episode on Ursula K. Le Guin--and it's available to view online.  These episodes don't always stay available, so I was glad that we took the opportunity to watch it, while the next round of rain came.

And of course, there was the grading that I did, the grading that felt endless.  We are at the end of summer semester for my online classes, so the necessity of grading wasn't unexpected.  I just thought I might have some times to read.

And now, all too quickly, it's time to head back to work.  Time to make the bread run.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Fierce Joy: A Nonviolent Form of Resistance

Like many of us who went to bed with the shooting of El Paso, Texas on our brains only to wake up to find that there was ANOTHER mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio--I, too, have been left gobsmacked by 2 mass shootings in one day--less than a day. Madness. I wonder if people felt this way in the late 60's/early 70's when there was so much violence: assassinations, bombings, etc.

I don't have any ideas of what one might do. I'm not sure I think that stricter gun control will help. We have fairly tough gun laws now.

Of course I think it all speaks to a deep not-wellness part of our society.  I think that technology leaves us isolated--and now, even worse, leaves us ANGRY and some of us don't have good ways to handle that. I don't really know how to deal with that as a society, just as much smaller communities. And fixing things in smaller communities, like our households or our schools, can't protect us from the ones who aren't interested in the fix. I can still be gunned down by an isolated crazy person who decides to shoot up a school or a church or a grocery store.

I think of various writers and theologians who have said that despair is the deadliest of the deadly sins--of course, many of them use different language, but it boils down to this idea. And a fierce commitment to joy is a way of beating back despair.

So, on to happier subjects.  Let me think of things that I can control, things that bring me joy.  The butterfly garden isn't as active as it once was. We haven't been able to see any more butterflies being born since that first week when the 36 caterpillars went into their chrysalises and then emerged. But that's O.K. For one thing, it's given the milkweed plants (the only food the caterpillars that become monarchs eat) a chance to recover. I go out to the plants several times a day, and so if nothing else, it's solace for me. And I do think it makes the concrete wasteland of a parking lot just a bit more beautiful--and there's a tiny green space, where before there wasn't.

It's the teeniest, tiniest way to save the planet, but it's one of the ways I can do it right now.

And it's a larger project even than taking care of the planet. It's a kind of self-care that seems increasingly important in these days. I've been taking joy in some cooking and of course, writing. I think it's important to find joy where we can--a different kind of resistance to the evil in the world.

So today, let's commit to whatever brings us fierce joy.  Let's use our fierce joy to combat the forces of hate and violence in the world.  Let's create a world that's so much more appealing than the one offered by those forces of hate and violence.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

In Which the Poet Considers Her 3D Art

After going to bed relatively early, I got up at 4 a.m.--not unusual for me.  But I haven't done as much writing as I sometimes do when waking up early.  I haven't been baking, like I thought about doing.  I have this delicious pumpkin butter--it would go so well with some oatmeal bread.  I haven't been doing reading or sketching or sorting or any of the other early morning activities that I could have been doing.

But it hasn't been a waste of a morning.  I've gone back to my novel periodically, and I've written my way out of a rough patch.  Hurrah.

I also saw this call for an art show at Art Serve; the show's theme sounds perfect for me:  "ArtServe seeks multimedia works that explore metaphors of home, habitat, community, and the related idea of belonging, whether cultural, social or creative."

Unlike with some art shows, where I don't have the slightest idea how I'd get started or I don't have the technical skills, I have a flood of ideas, especially in terms of photos or drawings made with markers.  I thought about a collage--and then I thought of 3D possibilities.

When I'm at church tomorrow, I'll see if the piece of art I made awhile ago is still in the storage closet. We made them during an arts session for Ash Wednesday in 2018.

Actually, that picture is earlier in the process.  Later, I added some map fragments from places I've lived (which ties into the theme--the box itself is a drawer from a dresser that was damaged in Hurricane Irma):

If it's still there, I'd add some fiber art elements, and see what happens when I submit it for this art show.  It seems to fit with the idea of the show better than my 2D work would do:  "‘HOME’ exposes layers of multimedia works, assemblages and vignettes, made through the collaboration of diverse, multi-faceted artists and creatives. Through these layers, the viewer can experience a cross-selection of our identity as a community, and be the spectator to a spirited fusion of theater, dance poetry, fashion and art exhibition."

I don't think it's a juried art show, so I think my work has a good chance of being accepted.

All the work has to be for sale--wouldn't that be an interesting twist?

Friday, August 2, 2019

Friday Gratitudes

It has been the kind of week that makes me mutter, "Is Mercury in retrograde?"  My favorite mug, a Lutheridge mug that my grandmother had since 1985 has cracked, along with a Pyrex pan shattering into a thousand shards.  It's a week of accreditation writing tasks, more specifically writing the action plans for programs under benchmark, never my favorite type of accreditation writing.  The ice melt in July in Greenland alone has broken records.

So this morning, let me list some gratitudes from the week that has just zoomed past:

--My spouse and I got the results of our blood work on Wednesday.  In terms of what those tests reveal, we're very healthy.  We're on the low end of ranges where it's good to be low.  I am 54 years old, and I know that I have some genetic gifts, like a family tendency to low cholesterol.  But I do worry that time may be running out on me, especially when I think about the days I don't eat any vegetables at all.

--I registered for the AWP 2020 conference.  I submitted paperwork to be reimbursed, but even if I'm not, I'm grateful that I can afford it.

--I got a great e-mail from the person in charge of the spiritual direction certificate program that interests me--very encouraging.

--I've had some good writing sessions.

--I had a lovely morning yesterday making pumpkin butter and writing.

--In spite of some obstacles, I have made some progress in work-related tasks that aren't related to accreditation.

--Did I mention how grateful I am for my good health?

--I had a good morning at church on Sunday, as I put away the Pentecost banners and created an altarscape in shades of green and gold.

--It's been rainy, which I've found a relief from the relentless heat.  It's also good for the butterfly garden I created at school.