Monday, December 31, 2007

things I've learned from 2007 and some pictures from a disposable camera

Hi Friends! Happy New Year! Welcome 2008! (Insert inspirational quote here). Here are my New Year's Faux/Real-Resolutions (the fun part is figuring out which ones I'm being serious about). Warning: this is an extremely sarcastic post. Those still high on "the Christmas spirit" should stop reading immediately and go trolling for leftover Christmas cookies.
Okay, here goes:

1. Make fewer resolutions; instead, tell people that, against all odds and with the help of last year's resolutions, I have crafted myself into the most perfect human specimen ever to grace the planet. And, also, that I have finally memorized the Bible.
2. Convince Nathan that Epcot Center does NOT count as traveling the world.
3. Always bet on Red 23 (Thanks, Cole!)
4. Learn to love the smell of dead crickets and freshmen body odor.
5. Begrudgingly agree to George Eads' restraining order.
6. Stop smelling my right hand and/or blogging about it.
7. Never use inspirational quotes. If quote is in stanza form, okay. Rhyming poems need not apply.
8. Start heavily drinking, smoking and get more tattoos.
9. Open tiny shop where I cut hair as well as selling button necklaces and the "perfect" grilled cheese sandwich.
10. Smile more.

What are you planning on doing differently in 2008? Only joke comments, please... Nobody wants to hear about your new diet/exercise/goodwill/"finding joy in the small things" garbage.

Here are some pictures from our crappy disposable camera to bring you tidings of comfort and joy.

The Weed "twins" who look nothing alike:
We like to pose by outdated modes of transportation used in the wild west.
Yes... another stagecoach.
Er... Paige and Philip, getting crazy.

Does anyone else wonder where my feet have gone?

My nephew Benjamin, whose smile makes me smile.

This is my friend Hope, who successfully ordered a drink that is like hot chocolate, but only with vanilla.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What I finally settled on after searching unsuccessfully for a Christmas poem that I liked.

"Prayer" by Jorie Graham

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water's downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change --
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

beginnings, middles and ends

A white van just delivered a Christmas present, boots from my twin brother Chris. They are green and made of soft suede, but I will not open the package yet. I am saving them for a trip to Boston in the Spring.

My last post was a poem about beginnings, middles and ends from my favorite poet, Billy Collins. I love the way he describes these stages in snapshots; the multiplicity of images for each word makes me think differently about our obsession with linearity, the idea that my life is going from a horizontal Point A to Point B to Point C, with spaces in the middle to signify each stage, and then it will be over. In contrast, all at the same time, I feel I am at the beginning, middle, and ends of many things. I tend to think of time as not linear, but more like a spirograph, or a repeating circle, except it is one of those spirographs that never turned out right: the center was always moving, and so the circles never exactly met in the middle, but it was close enough to make some things overlap. I recently read in an article about Dirk Nowitski (he went on a walkabout after last season) that Aborigines in Australia believe that the past and the future travel with you in the present. I really like that idea, and I can see that working with my spirograph. Crossings are so much more interesting if you can rely on things from the past to help you see the future clearly.

Like most of you reading this (I'm assuming), I like to take walks. Many famous writers have loved walking, including Pound and Hemingway. I just realized that I like to walk more in the winter than in the summer; there is something about walking in my street clothes in the cold that reminds me of my time in graduate school in Boston. I used to get off of the T (the subway) a couple of miles before the Boylston stop for Emerson and walk through Back Bay in the morning, just to walk early as the sun was rising and see Boston waking up as I went. I would usually stop and get a coffee, holding it carefully as my boots clomped on the red cobblestones and the bells jangled as the shopkeepers opened doors and hosed off the sidewalks. I remember striped green-and-white awnings and cursive sale signs. I remember white children's layettes and alphabet blocks in some windows and tiny chocolate cakes on trays in others. I smelled cinnamon and I smelled fish bones and I smelled snow. I smelled grease and paper and leather. I walked past courtyards and flower pots and ripe tomatoes. I walked past people sweeping and skulking and kissing in doorways. I walked through Boston on those early mornings, and I felt as if I walked through my whole life.

Though I enjoy my walks around campus and around my neighborhood, I miss those Back Bay streets. Sometimes I drive downtown just to walk on concrete, to feel the solidness of a city, even though some would scoff at that notion. I'm looking forward to the trip to Boston in March, and to walking and to walking and to walking. I know I will feel the past underneath my feet and the future pushing me onward to the public gardens, where the swans are swimming in lazy circles, and their wings make ripples in the dark water.


"Aristotle" by Billy Collins

This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the walls of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.

This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes --
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unshoulders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward's child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things.
So much is crowded into the middle --
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avacados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall --
too much to name, too much to think about.

And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electric line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair,
and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit
thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

in absentia

Hello friends,
I decided to come up with a list of things I will NEVER blog about because I was trying to think of things to write, and everything that came to mind sounded really boring. Making a list does not count as blogging. But if I do, in the future, blog about one of these things, then you can make me do something embarrassing, e.g., wear a retainer or make shadow puppets.

Okay, here's the list:
1. the most recent episode of "The Hills"
2. grading final exams
3. politics, or more specifically, any post in which I write, "And that is why the death penalty/abortion/gun control/tax is right/wrong."
4. why my right hand smells weird at this moment
5. why using a calculator makes me happy
6. dieting/overeating associated with the holidays
7. the weather, generally speaking (specific comments on nature/solar system/birds are okay)
8. "getting into the Christmas spirit"
9. the contents of my desk drawer
10. what "in absentia" technically means

Sunday, December 2, 2007

praying in color, or doodling

Tonight at a small group meeting of friends, we tried "praying in color." This is a prayer practice based on Sybil Macbeth's book of the same name. But you don't really need the book. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or markers. She recommends keeping the doodling to abstract shapes, names, lines, squiggles and dots, but basically the point of the whole thing is to think of doodling as prayer; the drawing/coloring helps us to focus on our concerns, and then the right brain makes creative associations and connections. I love this practice, and I think it can help me listen, which is something I'm trying to do more of every day. I have been particularly thinking about people I know for whom the holidays are a sad or difficult time.

Also, you can learn a lot about a person from their doodlings. I flipped through a book of Presidential doodlings once, and they were fascinating: Nixon's were perverse, Clinton's boring; or was it the other way around? At this point, I can't remember, but I'm having fun typing the word "doodling." And now it sounds really weird.

On that note, here are some lingering questions from my week (please comment, by all means):
1. Why don't people wear ear muffs anymore?
2. Why is it so hard to know when to STOP decorating? (I'm particularly thinking of holiday lights and lawn ornaments, cakes, and hair dye).
3. When you call someone's cell phone, why does it take five minutes of listening to detailed instructions just to be able to leave a message? Don't we already know that "beep" means "start talking"? ("At the beep, please record your message. When you are finished with your message, you may either hang up, or push pound for more options.")
4. What is it about remembering our dreams that is so exciting and yet so disconcerting?
5. What is it about a person carving a gigantic roast beef at the end of every buffet that makes me lose my appetite?

p.s. Many thanks to Drs. Jaime Goff and Jackie Halstead for the "Praying in Color" idea.