Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dystopian Curse

My next substantial piece of writing is way overdue.

People keep asking me if I am writing a new book. No. But I should be.

The trouble is, I want it to be funny. I am pretty good at making people laugh, usually just by saying something unexpected. Something other than the “how are you?” “fine” kind of stuff.

These ambitions are daunted, subdued, quashed by two factors.
First, the enormously depressing news of what is going on in our world. It’s as if news reports were written by Margaret Atwood or George Orwell. It seems irresponsible to write something fluffy.
Second, I too often let the enormously depressing news quash my own sense of humor.

However, I do understand why Hollywood pumped out lots of lighthearted movies during the Depression. When they were so urgently needed. That’s an important precedent. But someone on the West Coast must have been buoyed by more ebullience than I can muster… most days.

Writing dystopian tales seems the only logical response to current events.
And they are not funny. At all.

Still, I keep trying. I’ve even invented a character, Gertrude, who (just a coincidence) is experiencing with ironic humor all the indignities of getting old… alone.

So I will persevere. I will take a walk and actually look at the beauty around me. I will eat a piece of chocolate. And snuggle with my cat. And write another damn paragraph full of wit and good cheer.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

I want a lion

This is Harlan’s lion. 

As Linus used a blanket, Harlan (age 3) uses his lion. It's something for him to hold on to when things (either good or bad) get overwhelming. 

Mostly the news is about something terrible ... every day: 
A pipeline . . . 
A wall . . .
A shooting or bombing . . .
A massive fire or tsunami . . .
Alliances shattered; treaties ignored . . .
Environmental safeguards dissolved . . .
Governments paralyzed or paranoid or predatory . . .
More than 260 million people wandering the planet with no home and little hope -- having left everything they have ever known ... Millions escaping the unacceptable, only to become unacceptable. 
All kinds of toxicity

All the time

I (considerably older than 3)want a lion

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Beethoven Lives

Last summer, my son and daughter-in-law took my 2.5- year-old grandson Harlan to Chicago’s Grant Park to listen to whatever music was being performed. He could sit on the grass or dance. He danced.

Thanksgiving week we were playing around in his living room. My son casually picked out the beginning notes of “Ode to Joy” (4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) on Harlan’s toy piano. Harlan, now three, was playing with his toy train but he perked up when he heard the melody.

Then, amazingly, he started singing – in German.

Both my son and I were astounded – that he recognized the melody, that he remembered the German words, and that he sang them pretty much on key.

Harlan’s mom is German and is teaching him that language along with English and a myriad other things. But still.

There are perhaps a hundred language variations of that particular section of Beethoven’s work. I believe that it is adapted so often, in so many contexts, because it may well be the most joyfully triumphant piece of music ever written.

But what could be more triumphant than a performance by a three-year-old boy in a Chicago living room? Beethoven lives.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Once Every 16 Years

For 16 years, ever since I brought him home from the Humane Society when he was two years old, I have avoided tripping over my cat, Herbie. 

Until yesterday. 

I was unloading groceries. When I turned to move some perishables into the refrigerator, I stumbled over his soft, not-so-adorable-at-that-moment form. 

I didn’t fall. Instead, I managed to land most of the perishables safely onto the counter. 

Except for the blueberries. When their little plastic box fell to the floor, it opened, and all the little blue globules flew out. 

Herbie the cat was delighted. Blueberries roll. Everywhere. The magnificent old feline batted them around for a few minutes before ambling off to one of his four favorite napping places. 

Except for the one I stepped on, the blueberries were quite neat and retrievable. And washable. 

And the cat, forgivable, especially when he snuggled, purring, next to me in bed that night. And still forgivable even when I found the small hairball on my bedroom rug this morning. 

Once every 16 years is okay.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

One Hummingbird Moth

I am fortunate to live where I can go up when I get down. And I was down. All that Friday afternoon and evening I barely slogged through agonizingly slow hours. I could not focus. Not read. Not watch television. Not write the letters and emails that needed writing. Not do basic chores. I was stuck in the muck of despond.

 It took me a while to get going on Saturday. But I knew that moving was essential. And going up the mountain imperative.

 I didn’t leave until almost midday so stopped and bought a sandwich at the Subway place where the man with perpetual verve works. (He always makes me smile.) I put the sandwich in my car and drove up through the canyon west of town --  the canyon that can do so much to restore my soul. There is a little restaurant where the road forks – one branch going into Estes Park, the other into Glen Haven (then on into Estes). I stopped there to see if it was still in business. (It was, but not for lunch.)

The Glen Haven road is less traveled so I took it. It had been more than a year but the curves and cliffs were familiar and comforting. Entering Glen Haven, I spotted the general store and pulled into the parking area at its side. My sandals were not suited for the gravel, but I managed to move my sandwich and water bottle and droopy self to a table in the shade of the store’s front porch. I ate, watching passersby and the birds playing in the pine tree across the street.

When I finished and went into the store, I bought some little things and a cup of ice cream. When I asked the flavors, the owner pointed to the sign on which the flavors were listed. When I asked the ingredients of ‘Rocky Road’ he said: chocolate, marshmallow and walnuts. He smiled when I said that sounded well balanced. And his smile made me smile.

Back out on the porch, I savored. Not just the ice cream, but also the flowers on the porch – in large sedentary pots and pots swinging above. Each was crammed with a rainbow of blossoms. It was then that I noticed the tiny creature hovering over the flowers – wings beating faster than my eyes could register. A hummingbird? The woman sitting next to me said yes but then changed her mind. She had never seen one with bumble bee stripes and, as we looked more closely, we saw that the two-inch creature did not have a beak but a proboscis, curling into the center of each blossom.

Others began to gather and comment and take pictures. They said it was a hummingbird moth. My camera was in the car, but I took no photographs. It was more fun to watch a half dozen tourists pointing smartphones and 35mm cameras at the tiny wonder. And it was a wonder (you can Google it if you’d like to see what it looks like).

The miracle was the shared awe that it invoked among us. It was enough to remind me how spectacular our world is.

I stood up and drove home. I was okay.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Family-Rich Weekend

Rarely, rarely, rarely have I had such a family-rich weekend/birthday. 

My grandson and his parents returned from camping to fill my house with energy and laughter. And they stayed for my birthday and even brought presents. 

Then my nephew and his family came – my grandniece and grandson delighting each other and all of the grown-ups. And they brought presents. 

Then my brother came and melded into us as if we had never separated. And he brought a present. 

And I received calls and/or texts from my older son and other nephew and my other grandniece. Plus lots of wonderful birthday cards. And Facebook notifications. 

The house is quieter now and everything is pretty much put back together. [Put-back-together houses are over-rated.] 

Some might worry that the house might feel a little empty and sad. But it doesn’t. All the laughter and love reverberated into the walls and floors and lodged permanently into my being. 

I am replete.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Continuing Education

On a recent morning, there was, miraculously, an amusing comic strip in my morning paper. [I always start with that section hoping to find a little humor amid the newsprint largely devoted to disasters of one kind or another.] 

In the strip in question, one lump of a man was commenting on the predicament of another lump of a man about to fall on a banana peel. He said: “For Ernie, learning from his mistakes is a form of continuing education.” 

For Mim too. When I learn. Too often, I repeat the same unproductive patterns. Too much television. Too many computer games. Too much to eat. Duh. 

Occasionally, I break out of what Thich Nhat Hahn calls ‘habit energy’ and revel in productivity and/or spontaneity. And it always feels terrific. I am energized by taking a detour up into the mountains or actually writing a new post for my blog. 

Sometimes ‘continuing education’ feels like tripping on a banana peel. But at least I am moving. And learning. 

You can learn a lot from the comics section.