Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not Someone Else

Glad to be me and no-one else this morning.  Forget the fragile housing market, the fickle stock market, and the fact that I mangled the front tire of my bike in the the rim of my car's front tire (luckily, I was in the car and not on the bike).  Forget the mysterious disappearance of the mint chocolate chip ice cream and the sunglasses that decided to move to a shadier neighborhood. Those are minor irritations.
Skimming the Post this morning, I realized I'm quite fortunate because I am neither
     the woman who wrecked her SUV while fleeing vampires.  

Nor am I
     the person who taste-tested the newly launched Smoked Salmon vodka  (right out of Sarah Palin's hometown) forty-eight times. Or ever will taste it.

I've used some lame excuses when confronted by the blinking red light and the man with the gun on the highway.
'Oops, I dropped my m&;m's and just leaned over, '  or, one of my favorites, 'I am so sorry. My little baby (or my little boy, my two little boys) were crying/fighting/getting sick/screaming/pinching each other.'   or
'OMG, I am so late for a job interview, and if I get this job we will be able to stay in our apartment/house,' and, inevitably, 'This is soo embarrassing, but I have to get to a bathroom or this is going to be an awful scene, to 'Sorry, I just didn't realize I was going so fast.'
Never a vampire. Should I have vampire envy? Lots of people getting lots of attention from vampires and I'm not one of them. Jane Austen had her turn, what about me? And Jane was even chased by a blogger in one book.
But if a few vampires decide to visit, I'd prefer to have them visit when the Delinquent Writers are at my house. Some of us need a jump start in these lazy summer days. They will be here tonight, so do drop in. Please don't come when I am driving.

As for the smoked-salmon vodka, someone has too much time on his hands. Ditto for the person or persons who apparently came up with bacon-flavored vodka last year. Too much time.

Of course I'm glad I'm not Elena Kagan or David Petraeus today either. Imagine having those people on the hill questioning you; imagine trying to smile and be congenial with the people you'd least like to be sharing a room. Confirmation hearings.
What would you ask either of them? Who can get us out of Afghanistan faster? Do you really believe we all should be sleeping with a gun under our pillow? Who is your favorite comedian?
Newscaster? What do you read when you can't sleep? Under what circumstances would or could you justify telling a lie? Did/do you like your parents? What do you do for fun? What is your favorite font? What do you eat when no-one is looking? What are your thoughts on gender?  Have you ever been chased by a vampire? Have you swilled smoked salmon vodka?
Let's have some real questions, questions that get at the core of someone's beliefs or values. I don't care what either of you wrote or said fifteen years ago. We change. And we get to change our minds. That's the beauty of life.
So lots of reasons to be glad I am me. What about you?  If you aren't sure, just read, view or listen to the news. You will be happy to be you. Happy not to be visiting with vampires, gargling vodka or being confirmed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wandering Mind

Wandering mind kind of day. Too warm to be focused, fixed on a topic, zooming in on a thesis. But, good news to all of us, a recent article in the NYT says it's a good thing our mind wanders. What if it didn't? What if we sat in a traffic jam just thinking about the traffic jam? Or hung on to every word spoken at that three hour meeting? Somewhere might exist a meeting worthy of that laser-like attention, but not one I ever attended. I love a mind that saunters through the internal landscape, hoping to find something that holds its attention.
I know, I know....too much of a wandering mind is not a good thing...there's always a dark side of everything. Too much wandering leads to getting lost, to the 'things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world' that Yeats referenced. I'm just advocating for a little wandering, a short pilgrimage, if you will.
In my mind wanderings today I have been thinking about the World Cup: thinking about the silly decision FIFA made before the Cup began to not use replays or technology in controversial calls. Hmm...and the committee was thinking what? Better to have a team or part of the world despise a particular all too human referee for not seeing something (i.e. making the wrong call)? And why? Do the replays lie? Do we prefer having scapegoats to having a decision reversed? What were the philosophical and psychological motivators behind such a decision. Think they all needed some mind wandering at those meetings.
On a personal note: it's always interesting to follow - or bump into - someone's professional trajectory. This week, Sunil Gulati, President of the US Soccer Federation, will be deciding whether the coach of the US World Cup team keeps his job. Twenty five years ago he was part of the Soccer Fed's men in CT deciding which young men would play on state teams and Olympic development teams. Great trajectory. His mind probably did not wander too far or too wide.
Also been thinking about Tim Howard, the US goalkeeper. He was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome in the sixth grade... the syndrome identified by a person's tics and twitches, both physical and verbal. Tim is a spokesperson for the Tourette's Foundation. Pretty gutsy guy. And because he needs his reflexes to be razor sharp, attentive at all times (not wandering) as a goalkeeper, he's managed without medications. Impressive...don't know why the story isn't out front more than it is.

THE BIG WANDER AND WONDER: Our taxes go for some great things - and the buildings and historical documents, monuments, mint, castle, gardens in DC make me happy to see where some of my tax dollars go.
How to begin to describe the fun and adventures in Washington DC. One needs a minimum of a week to see the basics, if not more, just to get grounded. And we were fortunate enough to have Garret and Jane Arlington, VA/ DC residents leading the way, suggesting routes.
Also, I think one needs to see Night at the Museum and those other movies that little kids watch. Our team tour guides included Emma (7) and Colin (5). Among the facts we learned from them:
19 Smithsonian buildings, but only 15 open to the public right now. And I've already forgotten which buildings aren't open.
There's a difference between Teddy Roosevelt and FDR (I knew that).
Michelle Obama has the coolest gown of the women in the White House.
Stimulate and simulate mean different things; always look for the exhibits that simulate some moving activity.
Brain size matters.
The first USA flag is awesome and huge.
The Albert Einstein statue is the best...except for Lincoln..maybe.
Many people came to the mall to protest for civil rights and MLK is a hero.
The ocean is our friend. Once there was only one land mass. Earthquakes cause tsunamis in other parts of the world. Pandas love bamboo.
And that's before entering any of the buildings or spending a day at the zoo - facts and observations just pouring out.

I'm already trying to figure out a good time to go back. I love wandering through history and the present simultaneously.
Here's hoping your mind is wandering somewhat today - wandering away from the oil spill, the stock market, the angst on the streets.

Findings - Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind -

Jun 28, 2010 ... A wandering mind can protect you from immediate perils and keep you on course ...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Back at the Blog

Wow, I've been away from internet for almost a week, and it has been both good and bad. I have been in blog withdrawal, and hope to hop back on with a vengeance this week. But, like you, I'm in and out of town and summer is a good time to be a little less consistent with just about everything. We'll see what happens when I leave town again next week.
In the meantime, I've gone from Rehoboth Beach to Washington DC for four days and back to Denver last night. I forgot how magical DC is, and am happy to have been in the Smithsonian, the Zoo, and other places that actually make me happy I pay taxes. Well, not exactly happy to pay, but happy to see the good use of some of our dollars.
But I want to finish up a bit on the beach trip before launching into DC.
For now, I'm attaching the books selected by the Beach Bookies in 2009 for our reading discussion last week.
More to come later on reactions to the various books, but I think it was a great list, most of us liked most of the books, and most of us read most of the books.
Any you want to add to the list? We can never read too many books, can we?


This year we’re not mailing books. Everyone has selected a book they think is worth reading.
   If you can read all/some/any of them, we’ll have something to discuss next summer.

Marlene T: RELATIONSHIPS:  Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man – Steve Harvey
Maureen : POETRY:  Letter to My Daughter – Maya Angelou
Andrea: SHORT STORIES:  Olive Kitteridge  - Elizabeth Strout
Mary Jane: MEMOIRS:  Lost Daughters of China – Karin Evans
Marlene O: BEST SELLER: Shanghai Girls – Lisa See
Beth: CLASSICS: Innocents Abroad – Mark Twain
Anne: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN/BIOG:  Between Two Worlds – Zaineb Salbi
Karen: NONFICTION:  The Girls from Ames – Jeffrey Zaslow
Hurle: PHILOSOPHY:  The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
Linda: HISTORICAL FICTION:   The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Sheila:  Random    Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann

Other recommendations:
Lazy B. –Sandra Day O’Connor (her growing up out west, child’s story)
The Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Rise & Shine – Anna Quindlen
The Good Earth – Pearl Buck
The Caged Virgin  (emancipation proclamation for women growing up in Islam)
Showing Up for Life (Bill Gates’ father)

Oh, and just a few more photos..........
Beth, Marlene O. and Sheila share the downscale bunk room....
Proud to say I didn't step on Beth's head once during the night on the way to the bathroom.

You know the's a Woman's Week. But Tom came to take photos. If you are wondering where those photos are going, so am I.
Turns out Tom is a gourmet chef, so maybe he'll just be back next year for photos and a man-made meal.
But what about those books?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How Many Thoughts?

65,000 thoughts a day. Most of them repetitive. Many of them negative.
That's what we we told this morning, and I have no reason to be a non-believer. I did forget to ask if the 65,000 include dream thoughts. Some mornings I feel as if I've used up most of my thoughts before my head is off the pillow. Midnight to 6:00 a.m. a lot of visitors pass through the thought channel.

We learned that little fact at Svanaroopa Yoga, described by one friend as 'glorious napping.' Shivasana at the beginning and at the end (which simply means at least ten minutes at the beginning and ten at the end of deeply relaxing breathing, done in corpose pose, with eyes closed).

After yoga we decided to take a bike ride into quaint little seaside Lewis. Along the humid way, I suddenly heard myself muttering into the wind, "How much further? Did I really have to come on this ride because I was afraid I'd miss something good?"
 Working on those 65,000 rapid fire. And banging up points for repetitive and negative. So I stopped. At least untl the ride back.

You might wonder what twelve women in the same beachhouse do all day. Some read - no, everyone reads. It's just a matter of how much and for how long...and at what time of day.  others walk; lots of catching up chatter; bike many bike rides. Bike trips to yoga, to the 'Y' to the discount shopping mall, walk on the beach, sit on the beach....stare at the beach.

And then there is food. The women from Maryland are all gourmet cooks. The rest of us? Well, we try to help entertain, set the table, move things around, and stay out of the way. Beth has a special appetizer and Andrea makes pelicans. Linda and Sheila?  Good on commentary, not so good at slicing or dicing.

Loads of technology talk. Whose Kindle,phone, computer, camera does what and more importantly, whose various pieces of equipment are capable of things that we hven't figured out yet. Thanks to Beth, Linda can now use her Kindle to shop on line - at Nordstrom's - from the beach. Who would have thought? Who's on Facebook, twitter, skype; why or why not. for some. Maybe not.

Talk: How many conversations can you listen to or participate in at once? It's not easy. Beads for Peace, Personal Vision, comfort zones,owning chickens vs. pigs, Penn State football, pharmacology, switchflops and more switchflops, Slovenia and Slovakia, Bhutan..

The Sacred and the Profane. Humble Ignorance. Love. Death.

BP, ecology; World Cup, haircuts, school systems, grandchildren, retirement, birthdays, weddings. vacation plans, the Euro, Turkey and the caves in Capadoccia, Mark Twain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, lots of the other stans...Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd. Economics. World Parliament of Religion. The Sacred Feminine. The Not So Sacred Feminine. Men, in all their manifestations. Our new show Someone's Got To Say It, hosted by Karen Ferguson.

65,000 thoughts times 12 = lots of thoughts. sometimes more conversation than thoughts....and really
we have yet to have our formal technology night, book night, fashionista night....just beginning.

It's Tuesday morning. Time for a bike ride to the Farmers' market. Then the beach....65,000 and counting.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How Much Does it Take?

Thirty rolls of toilet paper. Eight rolls of paper towels. Enough paper plates, napkins, glasses to serve a convention. Five Softsoap dispensers  Dried mangoes, peanuts, mixed nuts, cheetos, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries – can’t get enough antioxidants to compensate for the bags of chips and peanut butter filled pretzels and the proverbial wheat thins.

Tubs of yogurt (Greek, Yoplait, Dannon, no name brand)…and that is just the first round of groceries being lugged into the cottage. It takes a lot to feed twelve women, and a lot of discernment. Amazing how picky we get as we move along the age continuum: diet coke with no caffeine; zero coke with caffiene; sprite with caffeine and calories; crystal light; decaf and caffeinated coffee; herbal tea, mineral water. Breakfast bars with fiber; Larabars, zone bars, shredded wheat cereal, honey bunch cereal, honey bunch oat cereal.

Did I mention the twenty pound ham or the bag of potatoes?

All this and more from the first five people who arrive. Not even half the group is here and the kitchen is full.

Next come the suitcases………….how many bathing suits does it take to go to the beach? Yoga pants for yoga? Shorts for bike rides? You guessed it. More than a few.

Products….trust your imagination on this one. Products.

First beauty tip of the week: It’s good to wear wrinkled shirts because it makes one’s face appear less wrinkled. That would be Andrea’s contribution.
Second Beauty Tip:  Make sure to choose a bra that doesn't make your breasts look like cornish hens. Really.
And it's only the first day.

And on the first day we must go to Bob's bikes and rent bikes from Bob's No. One man. He loves us and we love him.  Actually he loves Bob serenades us every year, "Whenver I sleep I never count sheep I count all the charms about Linda."  Bob loves Linda and we are all crazy about the man we call the man Bob.
Our bikes would do well at any antique show in the U.S.  No bother with shifts or gear. Back pedal. Only thing older in Rehoboth than Bob's bikes are the baskets on Bob's bikes. We love them.

But Beth, our world-renowned bicyclist brought her own bike...all boxed up. Out of the box and onto the ground. Five hours later, Beth's bike was almost fixed. Now, Beth is the smartest woman I know. I'd tell you what she does if I could understand. But I don't. It's a computer, Up in the Air sort of thing.
But something happened to the chain on Beth's bike. I'll blame it on TSA. Anyway, FIVE hours later,
Beth was still working on her bike. The last two hours she was on the phone with Steve as he tried to help on a step-by-micro-step set of directions to fix the chain. Now several of us would have chucked the bike after one hour; another group would have run over the bike after two hours; still another group would have spliced and sliced the bike into one inch pieces after three hours, but not Beth. Nobel Prize for Patience.

Beads for Peace is on tomorrow's agenda. But for now...

Oh, if you need an answer or an opinion on anything, just give us a call. We have formed, informed and ill-formed opinions about the state of education, politics, global business, collaboration, justice, sports, theatre, best books, worst books. We can tell you what to eat, drink, see, smell, taste and ponder. We've got all the opinions you need.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's Go To the Beach

Sun's up. Surf's Up. Reunion time at the beach with the Maryland Beach Bookies. It's a long story, and I'll probably share it during the week. Starting Friday and rolling through the week, ten to twelve women will be sharing a large, friendly cottage at Rehoboth Beach. Same group, with a few newcomers rolling in, for more than five years. Same cottage. Same gourmet cooks, same non-cooks, same bike rentals from Bob the bike man. Same boardwalk, same yoga studio, same french fries.Healthy food sometimes finds incredibly unhealthy food sharing the counter.
Most of the women come from Maryland, but four of us come in from Colorado, one from MA, and another from New Jersey. Occasionally a New Yorker shows up.
We're married, divorced, single, in love, out of love, taking a break from love, without children and with children, some with grandchildren.Happy and unhappy families. Animal lovers, athletes, teachers, librarians, part-time, full-time, no-time. Believers and non-believers; feminists and not-so-sure feminists. Prankster and observers. Bicyclists, hikers, walkers, swimmers.  Lovers of books, lovers of laughter. Lovers of love. Iconoclasts and preservers. Florence Nightingale and Nurse Ratchett. Lady Gaga and Queen Elizabeth. Sarah Palin (not really) and Tina Fey. Warrior Women and Pacifists. Sarah Silverman and Betty White.
Diane Keaton all over the place.
Aging gracefully, aging with anguish, denying age, embracing age.  Living Large and living well. FRIENDS.
I'll be checking in from the beach...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Tree Grows (Slowly) in Lowry

I'm a lover of the luscious, especially the green and luscious. This time of year, both coasts in the US are ripe with Molly Bloom lusciousness....But there's not quite so much abundance where I live.
The Lowry Community, once the site of military training, has been transformed from a base to a planned community. There is great diversity here - one can by a house for $100,00 or a house for 4million. Upscale rentals and subsidized rental apartments co-exist. There's housing for the elderly (whatever that means) and several pre-schools. As you can see, this eight-nine year old community is rich with human resources, social capital.
It's flat land. Good for walking and biking. The sky is large and the vista expansive. But the trees. The trees are babies; they haven't even reached adolescence. When I'm in a whining frame of mind, I complain that there isn't enough shade, it's just all too new and desert-like for me. Everything is new -- no old colonial homes, no huge elm trees.....lots of budding flowers and trees that will be robust in another generation or so.
Getting outside of myself for a while, I observed another disadvantage to being in a newly developed neighborhood: No one tree gives off enough shade to cover several people. At lunchtime, when all the laborers who make the neighborhood so beautiful and clean, break for lunch, each one has to find his or her own tree. One slowly growing tree casts off enough noontime shade for one worker and one lunchbox.
Using my own lunchtime leisure, I hopped on my bike and rode past the chapel and its little trees and on to  the park and saw the same scene. Oh, some of the trees threw off enough shade for two people, but not enough. Some of the trees are close enough together so some conversation was passing from tree to tree. But not much. Most of the workers were male, most of them sitting or lying in their private patch of tree shade.
Maybe the workers like their time of silence and meditation. Maybe not. But I hope the trees grow quickly.


... and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

yes I said yes I will Yes.

Yesterday was Bloomsday, June 16th, the day when James Joyce and Ulysses admirers recreate the walk and talk of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. June 16, 1904. Considered to be one of the greatest modern novels ever written, the narrative takes place over the span of just one day -- June 16, 1904 -- and follows the musings and adventures of  the two men who live in Dublin. Almost 800 pages of musing, didactica, redactica, and any possible words you can create to describe the day in the life, ending with the 45 pages plus of Molly Bloom's brilliant soliloquy.
It's all complicated and luscious, playful and serious, complex and simple, word play as one would imagine it in an Irish Garden of Eden.
Is there an English major or English grad student who didn't agonize over the multiple meanings in Ulysses? The reward, or so it seemed to me, was Molly Bloom's soliloquy and her last seven words.

I celebrated late -- started too late last night to finish the soliloquy, so finished up this morning. My copy of Ulysses has been fingered many times, all the way back to the time these fingers were also holding cigarettes. And I have the smell of the book to remind me of those times.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flunking Om

I flunked Om again this morning. Not that anyone was giving out grades, or paying any attention to me. But as the self-appointed judge, I can report with truth that I flunked Om. I usually do.  Om is basically three sounds, the last one a vibrating 'mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.'  Except for mine. Mine is 'mmm' and that's it.  My lips start tingling and I run out of breath way before anyone else; the sacred turns profane, and an internal pout takes over. So while everyone else is belting out a strong, vibrating sound I am trying to get rid of the internal judges, scoreboards in hand, and get back to peace.

It's not easy chasing those judges away, as mine seem to think they have lifetime appointments, similar to the Supreme Court justices. Time for a few of these judges to transfer, take a sabbatical or retire. Maybe we should gather all our internal judges and send them off to re-training boot camp.

  "Dear Internal Judges,
 We regret to inform you that we no longer need your services. We are in the process of upgrading our systems, and hope to find more productive forms of evaluation in the future. We will be phasing out your positions over the next three months.
In the meantime, Management would like to provide you with an opportunity to re-train or re-invent yourselves. To this end, we will provide you with the services of a facilitator so that you may take a one-day retreat to focus on the future. If you are interested in staying in our re-structured organization, we encourage you to report back with a new mission statement, vision, and strategy demonstrating how you can assist us in reaching our new goals. In the meantime, thank you for all your hard work in the past.
Best wishes for the future."  The Management

Would make a great short play, don't you think? Let's move towards phased obsolescence with these characters. I am definitely not packing my judges when I head out for the beach this Friday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vote Nowl Vote Often

Last day to vote for One Book One Denver. I voted once, that's all. The choice was among three books, so I voted for the one I haven't read. Anyone can vote for a book they've read. That's easy. Taking my chances on the unread. I actually wanted to slip in a write-in, but couldn't figure out how.
So go ahead and rock the One Book One Denver vote before it's too late.
My biggest wake-up call regarding voting came when I learned that people voted for themselves when they were running for an office or a position. For years I stayed under the spell of  Miss Clark (Ms. Clark today, thank you very much) when she said: a.) if we didn't learn how to diagram sentences we would never be successful
                                                        b.) a good person never votes for him or herself in an election.

What a shock it was to me when I lost a classroom election and realized the winner had voted for himself. Shock. I couldn't believe it. Now I can't believe that I ever, ever thought it made sense to vote for the other person.  Batchelder School was no commune, nor was it a Catholic or Buddhist or Socialist school; it was an inner city public elementary school. As for the sentence diagramming - if nothing else, it made those of us who could draw those lines and place adverbs on the right diagonal feel pretty superior to everyone else for a couple of years.

Speaking of some of you know, I was at a retreat this past weekend with some pretty amazing people. I had bowls of m&m's around just to stay on the sweet side of retreat life. I noticed several people carefully selecting their pieces. When I asked why, one woman replied, "Oh, I still don't eat the blue ones. About four or five years ago when M&M's put out the opportunity to vote for a new color, I voted for purple. Blue won. I still think purple would have been better."
"We must be sisters, separated at birth," said another woman. "I voted for purple then, and I never eat the blue."
Guess in this great land of freedom, there are more than enough elections to go around. We can vote people on or off islands, vote for entertainment winners, vote for the right to change our votes. I'm not saying a word about the recent elections. Well, just two words. South Carolina.
Maybe some people would be better off voting for m&m colors. What do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010


Just two comments on the World Cup for now:
  Why does a tie between Italy and Paraguay feel like a tie and a tie between the US and England feel like a US win? Funny thing about ties.
Oh, those goalkeepers. The pundits have it at three - three goalkeeper blunders that cost three teams their games. Talk about The Cheese Stands Alone.  Breaks one's heart. Ninety minutes and counting..and, in the end, the fingers all point at one man's mistake.  And so much glee from the anti-England fans. (and for old futbol grudges, that would include Germany, where the press is reveling in schadenfreude... You know schadenfreude even if you think you don't. Taking pleasure (sometimes great pleasure) in someone else's misfortune. One of those feelings we aren't supposed to have.

But on to better things:

At Amy's Pink and Black Good Luck, Good Health, Good Friends gathering Saturday night, the woman seated next to me asked "What is the latest work of fiction you have read?"
Simple question with no subtext, no agenda, just part of a conversation about books, e-books, kindles, paper books and book clubs.
"Huh?"  "Oh, I just finished a great book. Title is Secret Bee, I think. Can't remember who wrote it.
"Oh, do you mean The Secret Life of Bees?"
"No, although I read that way back. I've got it..."Little Bee." Still can't remember the author's name. But it's great. I definitely recommend it."
Biting into the blackberry atop my salad I think, "Please don't ask the name of the last non-fiction, best film I've seen recently, latest poem. I need to scroll through the memory bank and retrieve all of that.
Funny thing that happens to those of us thinking we are multi-tasking our way through the world. We don't absorb a lot of what we are doing. I can't tell you how many times friends - of all ages - have said to me, "Oh, I was at the bookstore and picked up X. Cover looked interesting.  About ten pages in I realized I had read it before." New cover. Befuddled mind.
So for all of us who have to click and pause to come up with those names, here's one of my favorite Billy Collins' poems:


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
Billy Collins

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Say a Little Prayer...

It was a simple plan.  Drive from my house to meet Diane and Joy. Park in Joy's garage space in Observatory Park. Fifteen minutes from space to space. But as Joy directed me into the garage, Diane flew from her car to the passenger side of mine. All she could do was point and laugh. I knew I had accidentally tipped over an aluminum-sided table in the garage, but didn't think I had done anything else. What was so funny?
Hanging from the flap of the front right tire protector (is that a mud flap?) was a string of rosary beads with the cross hanging down. Catholic rosary beads. The mysteries of the beads -  battered and mud splattered rosary beads.  Had I run over a nun and not noticed? A hit and nun run? I'd be imprisoned for life, sentenced to confession once a week for the rest of my life. There are five sets of ten beads each, separated by a large bead. That's a lot of praying to be done to solve this mystery of the beads.
Diane finally pried the beads loose and threw them in my car. "I don't know what you did, but you better take the evidence," she roared.

We were off to Amy's 'Happy to Be Here' party, with twenty women dressed in black and pink to celebrate Good Luck, Good Health and Girlfriends on a Saturday night. Hope someone sends me some photos so I can post them.  The age range in the room stretched  long -- starting with the still pre-adolescent beautiful and talented emerging goddesses Olivia and Caroline, winding through the pianist who graduated from college this month, circling round new and seasoned teachers and administrators, stretching along to the beautiful and talented retired judge whose six grandchildren have gone to Amy's school. Many generations represented in the celebration. Amy's husband Gregg and nieces Caroline and Olivia served and nourished us all evening long.

Between courses and stories my mind would flip back to the rosary beads. Where in the world would I have been driving to pick up those beads?  I know there is a man in my neighborhood who carries a cross on his shoulder when he goes for a walk. The cross has a little wheel on the bottom to ease his burden, and apparently he has walked his cross around the world...and apparently there's even a movie about his cross-carrying ventures. I googled him again, but no mention of him carrying a cross and rosary beads. So I don't think he's the owner. But who is?  Claim them if they are yours. Thanks to Diane, the rosary is sitting safely on the passenger seat in my car.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hail balls or Tar balls

Better to be pelted by hail balls than by tar balls in June - or any time.
Testing the adage that 'there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing,' I walked to the post office a little while ago in the rain. It was a New England sort of rain, soft but constant, drizzle then a little drizzle plus. The kind of rain where one's hair gets wet but not soaked (if you are the hoodless type); rain that drips down the nose and off the chin....rain that turns nature into art.
The landscape around Denver tends towards brown, a dust-tinged brown, but this morning color was raging in every yard, on each street and little park. . I imagined myself as Ms. Crayola at the very beginning, carrying my eight-pack of colors. Then, voila! My eyes opened, and combinations and shades of red, purple, green, yellow, pink and orange assaulted my vision.  Suddenly I had one hundred and eight variations and still counting. That was Denver this morning. The rain has brought abundance to nature; her cups of flowers, bushes, trees and greens runneth over with beauty. In the midst of all this beauty, one is also reminded of the fragility of beauty.
Two and a half weeks ago, the iris in the neighborhood looked as if they would burst open momentarily. I walked the street before going to Germany hoping to be in the presence of just one burst into bloom. Just this short time later, the iris show themselves on the down side of nature's cycle. They've burst open, fully bloomed, and are already in decline. Beauty. Catch it while you can.  Sight and smell are jockeying for position.
One roar of thunder, and the sense of hearing enters the playground. Oh, color may be raging on the local earth, but the sky is gray. Simple, desolate, gloomy gray. In spite of the thunder, I decide to look for peonies on 6th Avenue. Big mistake. And, as if to let me know I should heed those warnings from above, I am pelted by hail. Little balls of hail, hail that gets caught in the sleeve of the rain jacket or on top of the sneaker. Hail that goes ping, ping, ping on my green rain jacket.  I've been diverted from the colors and am focused on turning the corner and seeing my front door.
I think Nature is telling me that it's good to have appropriate clothes for changes in weather, but she's also making sure I know she's still in charge. Wonder what revenge she has plotted for those tar balls let loose upon her world?
All of this before the US meets England today in South Africa.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let the Games Begin

The scream of a tornado warning permeates the area. In my study, on the back side of the house, I look out on a dark sky - no clouds, just darkness.It's black, nightlike.
I get up and take fifteen steps (counted them) to look out the window facing the front of the house. Blue skies, nothing but blue skies and puffy white clouds on the horizon in front. Retreating from that magnificent view before the predictable rainbow appears, I turn around and march into the bedroom where rain is coming diagonally through the open window onto the rug.

I feel as if I've just been given a painting of my mind. Crystal clear vision, joy and great abundance take a lot of space today, but the dark side looms. It's a CNN/News sort of dark: cynicism, pessimism, too many bad 'isms' lurking. Lots of sound and fury, but when you get right down to it, not signifying much of anything. And the slanted rain appears to water, nurture both the darkness and brightness.

Twenty minutes later the whole sky is brilliant blue, and it's the sunny side of the street in all directions. How quickly these patterns emerge and then disappear, both outside and inside. Fortunately, we have more control over the internal landscape than we do the external. It's possible to re-direct thoughts, adjust one's attitude, and dig in for a new perspective. Same old tired and oft mangled cliche, irritating in its simple yet profound truth, "there's a lot that can't be changed, but I can change myself, my reaction to the environment."
Glad the potential storms passed. Too much good energy and life force to be caught in an internal ill wind.

On an entirely different topic, or so I think, I believe Title IX and Women's Sports rock the world. But  I'm feeling a tiny surge of testosterone (or something) as I fixate on the World Cup, while simultaneously obsessing a bit over the Celtics and Lakers. I skim Sports Illustrated every week.  I've loved the Celtics forever, but rank Phil Jackson as one of my favorite men in the universe (that's more than you want to know, I'm sure. He's right up there with Eric Clapton in my book).
But the World Cup.... It is a real 'give me your tired, your poor, your rich, your struggles' and let the games begin.  I remember when there was Yugoslavia until it became Serbia-Montenegro until, right smack in the middle of the competition, we had teams from Serbia and Montenegro.
I love the fact that there is now Slovakia and Slovenia. And then there is Africa and the African countries.

In 2006 my colleagues and I organized an international conference on civic engagement in Bologna, sponsored by the University of Bologna and the University of Denver.  Out of nowhere, we had applications from several countries in Africa, most of them young people who wanted to come to the conference. Really? We finally figured out that these few clusters of young men were trying to find a way to Germany for the World Cup. What's a short trip from Italy to Germany, after all?
They had hopes that the conference would be the necessary passport. It wasn't. But we loved the fact that young college men were so entrepreneurial in their attempts to have visas granted. Don't know if any of them found other alternatives, but it was a great reminder of the passion that soccer generates around the world.

And with all its struggles aside, what glory to bring the world games to South Africa. What glory for all of us to acknowledge this great continent, with its diversity of countries, as a venue for world sports. Overdue, perhaps. We're at the beginning of a special time - out of our regular and ordered space - where the world of play, of festivities, rituals and pride reign....'time out of time' when one is at play.

Promoter and Publicist

The season of commencement speeches is just about over, and surely one or two will stand out from all the rest. A while back, I gave the summer commencement address at the University of Denver. Sitting impatiently on stage anticipating my time at the podium, looking out at those rows of undergrad and graduate students, I remember thinking and thinking "Go for the gold in the first two minutes. After that you will be talking to yourself until you say, 'In summary,'. . . "
But that's true more often than not, isn't it? Commencement speech or not, as listeners, we tend to disappear after the first couple of minutes. Too often the nuggets of wisdom aren't heard because we aren't present to hear them.
I found myself looking for a commencement speech by poet laureate Billy Collins because I came across one of his great lines somewhere else, "Experience holds its graduation at the grave." And the commencement address will be replaced by the eulogy which none of us will ever hear.
With the good luck that Google brings, I found a commencement speech Collins gave at Holy Cross in 2002.
It's long, sometimes funny, and very philosophical.  Here's one of my favorite parts:

John Updike said that the real motive for reading is not to learn but to steal. And every writer would admit that thievery is one of the most basic qualifications for the job. The real craft lies in making sure you don't leave any fingerprints lying around. But a more vital motive behind reading than learning or stealing is making room in yourself for the consciousness of another-whether "this other" is a character in a novel, the narrator of a biography or the voice of a poet. Our minds are enlarged by reading to the extent that reading forces us to make accommodations within ourselves for other points of view. By inviting in "the other," we loosen our grip on the set of hidebound opinions that we mistake for the self. And we also tone down the ego that acts relentlessly as that self's promoter and publicist.

Brilliant. So true. It's a good day to invite in, to make room for the voice of 'the other.' Goal for the day: Tone down that ever-present ego that is always positioning and promoting the self. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Align or Not to Align?

As a culture we are engaging in more activities designed to help us find ourselves than ever before, but of course we're usually doing them on the run...Whether it's a class in yoga or creative writing, an eco-vacation or a spiritual retreat of some kind, the underlying longing is for connection with the part of us that we know is more real, more authentic, and more in tune with the universe as a whole.   (Sarah Susanka)

I'm always looking for myself or parts of myself that have gone missing, taken a hike, or hiding under some pebble, waiting to ambush me. or not.  It's also true, whether I am meditating, reading, walking or beating the bushes on my search, I'm always looking for more than 'me.'  While seeking the 'me fully connected to me,' we are are also looking for the me that feels fully connected to the universe.

It's as if we are all little Adams and Eves or Oedipus and Antigone, disconnected from our homes, trying to get back or, at the least, to become aligned with the universe. And, of course, there is no alignment with the universe without self-alignment. How do we align ourselves?
I'm not sure, but maybe the best way to begin is with that which is closest to us; that part of the self that has a hard time escaping: the body.
That sounds simple enough. But, for me, at least, it isn't. Just becoming away of which foot, which hip takes the bulk of my weight when standing in line is a rude enough awakening. Or comparing the shoulder that carried the handbag to the free shoulder is another awakening...And there is the jaw, the neck, all those pieces connected to one another.
I dare not mention what sitting in front of the computer does for our fragile alignments.  Maybe the first tune-up is the body tune up. As align is an action verb, it's time for a little alignment action.  Maybe just ten minutes a day to start. Conscious, alert alignment. I think I can do that. What about you?