Thursday, November 28, 2013

With gratitude for an answer to a Thanksgiving Day question

Tazhii Da'Aghat
(People Are Eating Turkey)

Note:  The diacritical mark is missing under the first '"a," and the "t" is an approximation of the Navajo letter in that spot.

When I looked outside in the early morning light, I was grateful to see a few stars and the crescent moon instead of the usual November cloud cover.  My Thanksgiving tradition in recent years is to eat breakfast with and spend the early part of the day with my eccentric group of friends and to take a walk, usually by myself, in the afternoon.  I'm not a vegetarian, but I rarely eat turkey on Thanksgiving.  This year I bought some locally made bratwurst to eat today.  It's not uncommon in Whatcom County for people to celebrate Thanksgiving with a salmon dinner.

Hope everyone has a peaceful day today, whether celebrating Thanksgiving or not.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Lost Horse Story and the Clock With No Hands

Yesterday, after waking up with a bad cold that just won't go away and is preventing me from volunteering with the babies at the daycare, I called and was surprised to be able to make an immediate appointment to see a nurse practitioner at the low-income clinic where I receive my medical care. After twenty minutes of driving through slow morning traffic, I arrived at the clinic. Some remodeling is being done there, and the large painting of Caesar Chavez by Alfredo Arreguin that is like a healing icon for me was no longer in its usual place in the busy waiting room.  I asked about the painting and was assured by one of the bilingual receptionists that it would be returned to the office after the remodel.

Soon, one of the many kind and compassionate medical assistants who work in this clinic called my name and accompanied me to an examination room where she asked questions, listened to the story of my lingering cold, weighed me and then took my temperature and blood pressure.  While she was entering information into a laptop on the counter, I suddenly became aware of the words "the lost horse" on the narrow spine of a book that was mixed in with a stack of magazines next to where I was sitting.  Reaching up, I fished for the book and found it to be what I had guessed it might be -- a children's book:

What I hadn't counted on was that it was by Ed Young, a children's book writer I am familiar with for his book titled Voices of the Heart:

The medical assistant, having completed her duties, let me know that the nurse practitioner would be by shortly.  She left the room, closing the door.

Already familiar with the Chinese folk tale which begins with the loss of a horse, I quickly read the story (take a look inside the book for a glimpse of the story, if you'd like) which does not contain the traditional Chinese moral that a loss may turn out to be a gain and a gain may turn out to be a loss.  Instead, it shows a young man and his father continuing to be open and conscious of the changing nature of life.

A few minutes later, the nurse practitioner knocked on the door and came in to ask more questions and examine me. To my great relief, she didn't automatically prescribe antibiotics, and she said that chances were pretty good that my cold would go away on its own.

On my way home I stopped at the Community Food Co-op to buy some food and continued on home to take a look at Vania Heymann's video "Like a Rolling Stone" which I hadn't been able to access earlier that morning because of internet slowness.  As with some of my many experiences with Bob Dylan's creative offerings over the years, my first impression was bewilderment.  I felt annoyed and couldn't roll along with it at all, but then there was that decisive moment of shifting consciousness where I suddenly remembered "TV Talkin' Song," followed up on that thought, and then returned to play with the interactive video with its many "channels." My favorite channel so far is the one with rapper Danny Brown.  I'd never heard of him before.  Because I don't watch TV, I don't have a clue as to the identities of most of the people who lip-sync "Like A Rolling Stone." It turns out that channels will continue to be added, and it appears that a channel was added not long before the video was released.  It contained recent devastating world news items in a surreal and unsettling way.

On the other hand, although I don't watch TV, I'm sitting in front of a computer screen for much longer periods of time than I ever sat in front of a television and for years I was paid to sit in front of a computer screen for a good part of my day.  Can I really say that I am not attached to something even more compelling than TV ever was?  Who am I fooling?

While playing with the channels on the video, a memory came to me from the early 1970s. I can recall walking from the outdoors into someone's living room and hearing Bob Dylan's voice coming from a record player and completely filling the smoke-filled air.  There was a TV turned on for all to see, but the sound was turned off. Bob Dylan's music was the soundtrack for whatever was on TV, some of it inane, some of it devastating.

This morning I came across these anonymous words:

"You never let me forget that this is a life-or-death situation, but paradoxically, you showed me how to laugh and have fun."

Just now I remembered another lost horse story.  Odd how creativity and illness are intertwined for me.

Time heals, after all -- although the clock that marks that kind of time has no hands.
(Suze Rotolo, from A Freewheelin' Time:  A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Back home to Bellingham with its Village Green mural / Needing time

Last night I was relieved to receive an email from my friend who flew to the Philippines on October 30th after the unexpected death of her father. She writes that she is doing well despite being exhausted and is taking time to regain her energy after her return to Bellingham.  She just wants to sleep for now.

Early this morning, I finished re-reading Doris Lessing's Alfred and Emily, published in 2008 when she was in her late 80s, after she had received the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Although Doris Lessing is referring to the post-war days of World War II with the words below, I imagine that my friend might relate to these words:

"No, we did not at once 'take it in'.  This news was too horrifying to 'take in', just like that:  we needed time."
(p. 268, Alfred and Emily)

"Now I would say we were like people recovering from an illness:  we were numbed, stunned, because we hadn't really 'taken in' the years of war."
(p. 269, Alfred and Emily)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

With Gratitude to Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

The Golden Notebook (1962)
The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five (1980)
The Diary of a Good Neighbor (1984)
Alfred and Emily (2008)

“Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want.”
-- Doris Lessing

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Marcel, Walt, and That Extraordinary Beloved Mockingbird named Bob

After having followed a link at wood s lot to Paintings in Proust (Vol. 1, Swann's Way) and reading from Proust, it occurred to me that the rhythm of Marcel Proust's voice was reminding me of Bob Dylan's voice in his 2004 memoir titled Chronicles:  Vol. 1.  

By Googling "Bob Dylan" together with "Proust," I found this and this and then came upon this:

"The men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected."

(Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove)

"... I left town at dawn with Marcel and St. John ..."
(Bob Dylan lyrics from "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)" from the album titled "Street Legal.")

Back in the beginning of 2003, I belonged to an informal group of people who met once a month to read and discuss poetry.  For one month, Walt Whitman's poetry was chosen as a focus.  Among other poetry by Walt Whitman, I read his Civil War poems.  During those early months of 2003, a movie titled "Gods and Generals" was released. I would not likely have watched it if my Richard hadn't recommended it and had I not learned that the movie included a song written by Bob Dylan called "'Cross the Green Mountain."  Not long after that when I found the lyrics of "'Cross the Green Mountain" via Google, I was startled to read:

A letter to mother 
came today
Gunshot wound to the breast
is what it did say
But he'll be better soon
He's in a hospital bed
But he'll never be better
He's already dead

That sounded to me a whole lot like one of Walt Whitman's Civil War poems that I had just read.  Sure enough, it was:

Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken
mother's soul!
All swims before her yes, flashes with black, she catches the
main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry
skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks
through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
See dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (no may-be needs to
be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,

Now I'm wondering if I noticed what I noticed before Bob Dylan's mockingbird tendencies began to arouse controversy in July of 2003.

"... Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle ..."

"... I celebrate myself, and what I assume, you shall assume,
for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you ..."

"... You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself ..."

"...Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems ..."
(from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

No eye / Just a green shining sun

"You have an idea; it comes from somewhere, and it works.  It always comes from deep down.  You don't know why you do it; you don't know what makes it work; you don't even know until afterwards, maybe, what happened.  It just sort of happened."
(Dale Chihuly)

If asked, I tend to say that my eyes are blue, but today it occurred to me to try to photograph my eyes with my new camera using the Macro function. For some reason, the pupils came out blue-green.  I would say that my eyes are more green than blue.  The iris color is pretty much what I see when I look in the mirror.  There is not much color distortion.

“you are right john cohen — quazimodo was right — mozart was right…  I cannot say the word eye any more …  when I speak this word eye, it is as if I am speaking of somebody’s eye that I faintly remember …  there is no eye — there is only a series of mouths — long live the mouths — your rooftop — if you don’t already know — has been demolished …  eye is plasma & you are right about that too — you are lucky — you don’t have to think about such things as eye & rooftops & quazimodo.” 
(Bob Dylan quote from the 1960s)

Here's another Green Shining Like The Sun from 2009. I had the feeling that I was repeating myself ...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Our hearts go out

A friend of mine emailed me before she flew to the Philippines on October 30th after the unexpected death of her father, and I have not heard from her since.  I picture her safe with family and await word from her.  I have not wanted to let the scope of this disaster in.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gates / Patience and Action

"I've been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country - where you could breathe it and smell it every day.  And I've always worked with it in one form or another.  Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow.  They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow.  They can shut you out or shut you in.  And in some ways there is no difference." (Bob Dylan)

"Patience is also a form of action" (Auguste Rodin, sculptor, 1840-1917)

My photo of "Gates of Hell," by
Auguste Rodin, from September 1982 
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"In Our Sleep"

Spending an afternoon in a gently lit room full of babies once a week is a revelation to me. There are no computers or cell phones in this room.  The youngest babies don't yet crawl. The oldest is close to a year old and seems to be the tiniest of all.  The babies say so much without speaking words.  They are especially focused when they hear the sound of a little bell that hangs from the light fixture in the middle of the peaceful room.  They laugh and they cry.  They sleep.  They play with the toys.  They look deeply at everything.  They look outside at the wind and rain and trees and grass and leaves and the fence and the cars up on the road, and sometimes they see children a little older than they are who can walk and play outside, bundled in hats and coats and boots. The older ones sometimes wave to the babies. The babies drink from bottles or baby cups and some of them eat solid food.  They have their diapers changed.  Some of them stand up.  Some of them crawl.  They all sit up straight the way babies do. They are curious.  I'm impressed by the early childhood teachers.  They are loving, attentive and knowledgeable about babies.  I have a lot to learn from them.  All of them sing beautifully while rocking the babies to sleep.  The babies appear to feel safe and secure, and then they glow when their families arrive to take them home.