Monday, February 27, 2006

Cavendish Beach: Maritime Travels 6 Out of 12

The red stone and sand distinguishes the beaches of the western side of Prince Edward Island. Cavendish Beach, in the PEI National Park, stretches for miles with its rocky pools, cliffs, and blanket of sand. In the afternoon, children rush the cold water exuberantly while most people over the age of ten find it much more pleasant to stretch out in the sand.

In the morning, the light reminds you that you are standing on the northern tilt of the planet. The birds ~ cormorants, Bonaparte's gulls, and sanderlings ~ are indifferent to your presence. The beach is devoid of human presence, lifeguard stands remain tipped back from the night before, and sandcastles triumphantly proclaim their escape from the tides.

And in the evening, it's still again.

Cavendish Dunes: Maritime Travels 5 Out Of 12

We spent two days in Cavendish, the little town adjacent to the Prince Edward Island National Park. Our main activities: walking the dunes and beach, visiting Anne of Green Gables sites, walking the dunes and beach, kayaking in North Rustico Harbor, walking the dunes and beach, looking for sunsets, and walking the dunes and beach.

We went to the beach late on the first afternoon. How I wish I had remembered the camera. My daughter, wearing an ankle-length skirt printed in pink strawberries, a thin white jacket that hugged her hips, and a pile of honey-colored hair atop her head, looked just like a girl out of the novels, walking gracefully up and down the dune paths and bending delightedly over tide pools carved in the red rock of the beach.

We went back late at night to watch the moon over the sea, and we went back the next day to spend time on the beach itself. And I, bowing to the demands of the adolescent craving for sleep in the mornings, set out by myself early each day to see the dawn on northern shores, with ravens my companions every step of the way.

Sunsets joined lighthouses as a PEI pasttime of ours. The first night we lingered too long over dinner, but the next night, and every night afterward, we got it right.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Heroines of Cavendish PEI ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables: Maritime Travels 4 Out Of 12

I count myself extremely fortunate in having a daughter who, despite her natural 18-year-old inclination toward increasing sophistication, doesn't hesitate to return to the pleasures of childhood.

I was once such a girl. (Now that I'm middle-aged, it is, of course, much easier to revert to childhood.) Many, many years ago, I was a boarding school girl who did a great many things to which I would be unlikely to admit today. However, that same girl and one of her best friends, walking to their dorm from the library at closing, would brace themselves against the frozen tundra of a Massachusetts night by pretending that they were Laura and Mary of the Little House books, out on the South Dakota prairie during The Long Winter, anticipating that eerie encounter with the wolves. Girls don't want to give up their childhood friends.

It was easy, therefore, to convince the lovely daughter that we should visit Green Gables, the Cavendish house on which Anne Shirley's adoptive home was modeled. The week before we left for our trip, we re-watched the wonderful videos of Anne of Green Gables starring Megan Follows, Collen Dewhurt, and Richard Farnsworth that we had enjoyed many years before. I could hardly believe that we were going to take walks through the same Cavendish dunes across which Anne and her friend, "kindred spirit" Diana Barry, stride in the movie, and see the same skies stretching above the Gulf of St. Lawrence that they watch as they try to sort out the complexities of young womanhood.

It was a short walk from our motel to the Green Gables property with its house, barns, and extensive walking trail through the Haunted Woods. The buildings and gardens are meticulously maintained, causing us to exclaim over the work that must have gone into keeping house and farming 100 years ago. It was easy to imagine the characters of Matthew Cuthbert among the horse paraphernalia and his sister Marilla in the turn-of-the-century kitchen. One of the more interesting facets of Anne-dom: the Japanese are obsessed with her. We saw more tourists of Japanese than any other nationality; the Anne sites are popular locations for Japanese weddings, and there is a direct flight from Tokyo to Halifax to meet the demands of Anne tourists!

We did stop by Lucy Maud Montgomery's own
home a couple of days later, although we elected not to pay the admission fee to explore the grounds there. And we did not go to the Anne of Green Gables musical, a summer island staple. It was enough just to roam the house and grounds where the fictional "Anne with an 'E' " had grown up. The magic of fiction ~ it lasts a lifetime.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Six Feet Under -- Or Not

The recent death of a friend's neighbor under circumstances of an unusually difficult nature has led to a vigorous discussion among a group of women over funeral practices and the advisability of including children therein.

I voiced the opinion that the funeral process is one of those natural life cycle things and that I saw no reason to exclude children. Another woman suggested that the process is anything but natural, to which I could only respond that, while she is correct (Hey! I watched every episode of Six Feet Under! No embalming or open caskets for me!), it is "culturally" natural for many people and part of the process of supporting them in their bereavement.

Like all of our views, mine is formed by my own life experience. When my mother and baby brother were killed in a car accident, there was no thought of me or my surviving brother attending the funeral; we were in the hospital in serious condition. However, there was also no thought of informing us about the events at hand, a decision that left me confused and resentful. I did learn, many years later, that my mother was buried with my brother in her arms, and that her obstetrician had had a magnificent bouqet of flowers delivered, the card saying, "To a lovely mother." And, of course, I learned that when young people die, the tsuanmi of grief is so overpowering that no one functions rationally for decades. Maybe forever. It does not occur to the adults that the small children might be wondering, "Where exactly is my mommy?"

For years afterward the adults in the family sought to protect the children from the repercussions of death: family members, friends, pets. It was, of course, with the pets that we finally grasped what was rightfully ours: the privilege of burying one of many dogs and cats to lie in the small country cemetery up the road, where gravestones marked the remains of family members and a small white cross carried a child's hand-painted letters: Best Dog In The World.

When my stepmother died last spring, my father expressed his usual revulsion toward the practice of an open casket viewing. That was his third experience in burying a wife, and he knew his preferences. This time, I asked him what she would have wanted. We also discussed the preferences of her family and ended up with a compromise: an open casket for family members for half an hour before the visitation opened to the public. That didn't satisfy everyone; one young relative even voiced his opinions for all to hear when he spoke during the post-funeral graveside service.

If I have learned anything from the five funerals I have attended in the past year, it is that I need to write my wishes down, sooner rather than later. They aren't too complicated: sprinkle me in Lake Chautauqua, off the coast of St. Augustine, and on Mount Pisgah. Put up a monument of an angel with BIG WINGS (think Angels in America) where I walk, preferably a strikingly carved glass one that will be as much a gift in the sunlight to the cemetery walkers and runners as is the stained glass bonsai tree monument already there. I have some specific music requests -- I do like a formal church service with major, major music. I like it when people go out in style -- my dad's minimalistic views are not mine.
On the other hand, I don't have the slightest desire for my remains to be displayed for a public viewing. A lot of people say that the presence of the body cements the finality of death for those left behind. I can't discount that for others, but it's not been my experience. I am very much aware that dead is dead. On the other hand, my grandfather has been gone for 21 years and often seems present to me, as does my stepmother who died last year. I never saw my grandfather's body; I held my stepmother's hand as she died and sat with her for about an hour afterward. Not because her body was there, but because we were both caught in some magical and windy place between here and there. The body itself, for all the attention we lavish on ours while we live, turns out to be rather insignificant in the end. The spirit moves, even in a cramped and poorly designed hospital room.

The most moving service I've attended in the past year was for a man about my age who was a stained glass artist. His company had restored all the glass in the magnificent church where his memorial service was held and the timing was perfect, with the mid-afternoon sunlight streaming through one of the major side windows. Everything about the service reflected a perfect balance of the family's mixture of sorrow over one gone far too soon and relief that his extreme suffering had ended in combination with their celebration of the exquisitely triumphal beauty of his life's work.
It's very difficult to find a way to celebrate a person's life in the short hour or so usually allotted to a funeral or memorial service and simultaneously attend to the needs and preferencees of all the mourners. One of the reasons I liked that memorial last October was the way in which it encompassed grief and celebration in balance. We tend to find ourselves at "Celebrations of Life" these days and, while laughter and music and honoring of lives well-lived are all important, the terrible grief that accompanies them should be acknowledged as well. We live in a culture in which people are often staggered by their sense of loss and disorientation months after someone's departure; we need to remind ourselves at the memorial or funeral service that grief is for a lifetime. The alteration of the fabric of our lives is permanent, regardless of how we accomodate ourselves to it, and it is ludicrous to pretend otherwise.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Harbor and History in Charlottetown PEI: Maritime Travels 3 Out Of 12

Who can resist a harbortown? Not me, that's for sure, even though the last time I went sailing, as I recall, involved a capsized boat full of inexperienced summer campers in the middle of an icy Torch Lake in northern Michigan. Oh, no ~ there was one sunny day on my brother's cat on Lake Chautauqua ~ but even that was 20 years ago. Nevertheless, there's nothing like a city with a harbor and boats, boats, boats. And Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Edward, is just about perfect in my book.

Charlottetown itself is a relaxed and funky 19th century city, with shops ands restaurants dotting the harborfront. (Our easy favorite:
Fishbones Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill, a few blocks up from the harbor on a pedestrains-only historic street ~ ahhhh. . . . . that lobster bisque.) It's a bit quiet, though. After dinner and a little relaxation time back at the motel, I urged my lovely daughter back outside for a walk down to the docks a few blocks away.

"There will be music!" I said. "Lots of people! It'll be so fun!"

NOT A SOUL. 9:00 p.m. on a summer Saturday night.

Okay, so that might explain why the young cashier in the drugstore the next morning said she couldn't wait to move to Toronto. And when the nightlife doesn't meet even my meagre expectations, you know things are really slow.

We spent part of Sunday on one of the historical tours narrated from
Founders' Hall by charming college students in costume. PEI bills itself as the Home of the Confederation and, in fact, the first conference on the topic of Canadian unity took place there, with important delegates arriving from across Canada and partying merrilying into the wee hours of the mornings in the autumn of 1864. But the Islanders themselves weren't much interested in the idea until an economic crisis several years later left them with little choice. It seems that at the original conference, the delegates mostly had fun in the pubs and ballrooms of the booming little capital.

We saw Charlottetown's early homes and more recently built basilica, learned about the constant threat of fire in a city built of wood, and heard about PEI's early successes in shipbuilding and agriculture. I would love to return just for the tour that tells the story of the Acadians and their plight at the hands of the British. For us that Sunday afternoon, however, the road north to Green Gables was calling.
Postscript: The French Acadians of the Maritimes, brutally evacuated by the English crown, eventually became the Cajuns of Louisiana. The lovely daughter, having gone from a graduation trip in the home of the former to college in the home of the latter, went to her first Mardi Gras parade last night!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Eaglet Arrival!

Yesterday morning I dragged my 8th grade history class into a computer room to show them the beginnings of this eagle's hatching effort. I reminded them that, as one of my students last year had said, we have just finished studying colonial Maryland, and

Monday, February 20, 2006

Getting There Is Half The Fun: Maritime Travels 2 Out Of 12

August 2005

It's an island, which means you have to cross the water to get there. That's the point.

There are two ways to get back and forth between Prince Edward Island and the mainland: the
Northumberland Ferry between Caribou, Nova Scotia and Woods Island, PEI, and the Confederation Bridge between Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick and Borden-Carleton, PEI. We elected, of course, to do both. The price is pretty much the same; in either case, you only pay on the way from the island to the mainland.

The ferry is first-come first-serve, so we had a long wait -- at least a couple of hours, with no guarantee of getting on the next one to go -- but that gave us plenty of time to look over the other boats in the Caribou Harbor -- always a fun time, even in the gray and cold. We probably felt better on the return trip -- it was a sunny day and the bridge entry point features, of course, a touristy shopping plaza -- but then a ferry is always worth the trouble. Some fries, a little Celtic music performed by two very young girls, and an island ahead. Life can be very good.

When we pulled off the ferry, we started detouring from the main road almost immediately. I can't even tell you the name of the first lighthouse -- we were just ecstatic to see the red sands of PEI and didn't realize that we were embarking upon a weeklong obsession with lighthouses.

Back on the highway, it wasn't long before we saw signs directing us to Point Prim. Paul had mentioned that we should watch for the goose, uh, excrement on the curve out there, so of course we were off the main road within seconds, ready for the next exploration. No goose problems -- just, as you can see, the only round, brick lighthouse in Canada. Up to the top, while we wondered about the lack of bricks and I told the lovely daughter about the brick lighthouse at Hatteras in North Carolina and its move back from the faltering shoreland some years back.

We managed to find some other detours leading us back to the shoreline, rafts of cormorants and, most beautifully, marsh hawks sailing across fields turning golden in the sun, finally emerging as the afternoon ended. Yes, I know they're called harriers now but, really, you can hardly call them anything but marsh hawks when they skim maritme marshes.

On to Charlottetown -- history was calling.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Greetings From Halifax: Maritime Travels 1 Out Of 12

Originally Written August 19, 2005:

The sun streams across the Halifax Harbor below us as a cargo ship starts across the water. The Citadel stands quietly behind us, its bagpipes silenced until the tourists arrive in a few hours. Tonight the city will bustle with music and crowds under a full moon, but for now its deserted streets call me for a walk. The birthday girl, eighteen since 2:01 a.m., sleeps soundly in this luxury executive suite that we acquired quite by accident, thanks to an on-time arrival before our own room was ready.

It's been an exhilarating week: walks along red-beach coastlines and lupine-strewn dunes, kayaking with cormorants, meanderings through charming cities, boating to an uninhabited island, soaking up history and natural beauty.

Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, is a small but lively international port city. The shopping is far more sophisticated than what we might find at home, many of the restaurants feature outdoor seating, and the architecture is largely Victorian. It feels decidedly more cosmopolitan than most American cities, which was a delight to the mother-daughter traveling partnership. We had hoped to make a graduation trip to Europe, but outrageously high air fares had quickly quashed that plan. I thought Quebec would make a nice alternative, but the graduate, despite her twelve years of French, chose Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, so here we are.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Well, no.

But the Stones in Rio are live on AOL. And I had to drag my miserable flu-ridden self downstairs for a minute so I'm watching.

Honky Tonk Woman.

Start It Up.

Sympathy for the Devil.

Brown Sugar.

You Can't Always Get What You Want.

The world sure has changed since those guys in suits were prohibited from singing the last one on The Ed Sullivan Show, when I was about 13 and in Catholic school! The sexual awakening of an entire generation ~

And yes, Keith Richards does look dead. But they really are great.

Satisfaction -- the concert must be about over.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I'm getting sicker, too

Last night about 10:00, I suddenly said, "I feel absolutely awful."

I've been to work and I've been to the grocery and I've come home and gulped down some Nyquil. At the grocery I saw one of my kids' Montessori teachers and the dad of one of their oldest (also from Montessori days) friends. Two people I have known almost my entire parenting life. It was a nice moment. But I had to wave them away because I am sneezing and achy and miserable.

I am now going to bed with my books and my magazines and my sick kitty and my exuberant dog. (IQ Test: Which one does NOT belong in this grouping? Not a thing I can do about it, though.)

Should I ever emerge, look for a new series on the trip the lovely daughter and I took to Prince Edward Island last summer. I never did get it all down before the AOL implosion, so I think I will now. Or soon. Water. Beaches. Birds. What else is there?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Time makes you bolder, children get older, I'm getting older, too

Lisa wrote an entry today that has me thinking. I'm not sure whether I'm one of the women she refers to, but I might be.

And what I have to say is: I really am aware, and I really am grateful.

Most of the things in my life are not what I would like them to be. For instance, there are certain aspects of my personal life that could stand an overhaul. And I do not, as it turns out, look like Tyra Banks, whom one of my sons has advised me is the most beautiful woman in the world. Furthermore, my house is too big, too broken down, too messy, and too-everything for anyone to manage adequately on less than a Trumpian income. My work life is not as satisfying as I had at one time imagined it would be. And certainly not as lucrative.

There was a time when I thought that by now I would be that gorgeous cover girl on Fortune Magazine, the Executive Vice-President for Environmental Affairs of Big Company I Used To Work For, featured for her gorgeous hair, gorgeous bod, gorgeous wardrobe, gorgeous career, gorgeous stock options and, of course, gorgeous house on the coast. It's hard to believe now, but I used to be a girl who wore great suits and had dinner in restaurants in Washington with other lawyers who had every reason to take me seriously.

Wow. That thought just made me momentarily extremely depressed.

But here's the thing. I really do have a rich, rewarding, incredible life. I have engaging work, absorbing studies, and a spirituality I love to pursue. I have three kids who are, uh, challenging and intriguing at this point in their lives. I have experienced terrible, really terrible heartbreak, situations so desperate that I could never write about them here, or maybe anywhere, but I seemed to have survived to not tell the tale. I have lots and lots of people to talk to and keep me company. And I have a few really incredible friends, people who would fly anywhere at a moment's notice for me (even if sometimes they don't seem to know exactly who it is they would be flying to meet).

All I can say is, every risk I have taken has panned out. Not necessarily in terms of traditional success. But every time I have extended myself for someone, or tried something new, or decided to be brave instead of chicken, I have expanded my sphere of being in some way.

Usually it's just little things. Yesterday I had to make a call to someone I had last talked to maybe two years ago. I would guess that she's about 10 years older than I am. I hesitated, but then I mentioned that I had seen in a newsletter that her husband had died this winter. Suddenly we were immersed in a conversation about loss, grief, starting over, taking chances. I took a tiny chance, and today my world is a little wider.

This is a good way to be 52. This is actually a great way to be 52.

If you saw me, sitting in a coffee shop or walking down the street, you would not turn your head. But if you sat down or ran up to talk, you would find that the conversation is GREAT.

I am so much more interesting than Tyra.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Almost Forgot

(Click on link for info)

A Rose By Another Other Name Is Not A Rose

Gannet Girl is pretty pissed at one of her best friends.

So Gannet has been married for, oh, well, 31 years. That's a long time. And during that 31 years she has never once, for any reason under the sun or over it, utilized the surname of her husband as her own.

That decision was something of a novelty in 1974 but the IRS ("You can't do that") got over it, Gannet's grandmother ("Aren't you going to want the same last name as your children?") got over it, Gannet friend's father who hadn't seen her in 20 years but still felt compelled to put in his .02 ("I guess you don't love your husband") got over it, and Gannet's then step-mother ("Oh, you'll change your mind someday") got over it.

In fact, Gannet had not thought about any of those conversations for decades. Until today, when she and her husband received a formal invitation to an event being hosted by one of her very best friends in the world and addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Husband's Name.

What the hell is this? muttered Gannet as she ripped open the offending envelope. This has to have come from some Republican mailing list by mistake.

How could this be? How could your own best friend not know what your name is?

Now that I think of it, I'm not so pissed. My feelings are hurt. How could someone think this is ok? How hard is it to address an envelope correctly? Isn't that one of those basic Emily Post things your mama taught you? If someone's name is Mrs. Miller, you don't call her Mrs. Brown. The exact same rule applies.

So here's the deal. You wanna be called Mrs. William Brown, Mrs. Joan Brown, Ms. Joan Brown, Mrs. or Ms. Joan White-Brown, Ms. Joan White, or Joan? I don't care. Your choice is entirely your business and I have no comment to make about it. I will accord you the courtesy of calling you by your name. Just offer me the same, ok?

PS: Did you notice that as soon as I tried to pretend I wasn't pissed off, I switched voices? I think that's pretty telling and pretty funny, too. So I'm leaving it that way.

PPS: Yeah, this is why my in-person friends don't know I blog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Oh, Why Not?

Okay, here is my link to my Johari Window.

I picked it up from Cynthia of Crazy Quilt Life, but it's all over the place tonight.

If you click on it and you want to "play," you click on five or six adjectives that you think describe me, sign a name, and hit "Submit."

You can click on the link at the bottom of the page to see how it's going so far. It took me a few minutes to figure out the squares, but they're pretty self explanatory.

Then go on over and visit Cynthia; she's a terrific writer.

Books and Sex

Many of us blog from time to time about what's on the nightstands (or, in my case, in the bookshelf) next to our beds.

This entry is a slightly, but only very slightly, different version. This morning the priest who's guiding me through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises suggested that I read T. S. Eliot's play, The Cocktail Party. So I came home at lunch to find it. I figured there must be a Complete Works or Plays or something of Eliot upstairs and that I could put my hands right on it.

As I started rummaging through the library bookshelves, I came across all sorts of long-forgotten books, and I decided it was time for a new list. Where to begin? There are 36 shelves full of books up there, many of them double-stacked. Today's choices: the middle four books from each of the shelves behind the glass doors. (Yeah, it's an old house, remember?)

Poems of Anne Bradstreet -- marked January, 1973; Providence, Rhode Island. It must be from my American Poetry class in my junior year of college.

An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist who writes about her personal experience with bipolar disorder. My great-grandmother, for whom I am named, suffered from the same incursion into her mind, and I think I purchased this book at a time when I thought someone else in the family might be similarly plagued. (No, not me.)

The Magic Years by Selma Fraiberg. I picked up this classic of child psychiatry when my children's preschool teacher told me I needed to read about Laughing Tiger.

Something in the Water by Peter Scott, my daughter's AP English teacher. A novel set along the coast of Maine when German U-boats roamed the North Atlantic. I read it after a trip to Maine, so the landscape was emminently familiar.

The Wrong Stuff: The Adventures and Mis-Adventures of an 8th Air Force Aviator by Truman Smith. That one belongs to one of my sons, who started to learn to fly in high school.

Lenten Lands by Douglas H. Gresham. C.S. Lewis's stepson's story of his childhood.

The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith. My daughter stayed home for school in 5th grade.

Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner. I suppose all teachers have read this one by now.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. One way to learn about medieval cathedral building!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Published 1994 -- I was reading Anne Lamott on writing long before she got famous on Christianity.

Bone Deep in Landscape: Writing, Reading, and Place by Mary Clearman Blew. My three favorite subjects. And what incredible powers of organization I have -- two books about writing right next to each other.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. A seemingly untouched volume.

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. I think I'll keep this one out.

The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse. This looks like a very young reader's book. Probably my daughter's.

Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. No doubt from a college anthropology and women's studies course. See, this is why I save everything. I should reread this right now and so, probably, should we all.

Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale. Where on earth did this come from? Aha -- the margin notes are all in the lovely daughter's handwriting. I knew I could fit sex into this entry somehow.

"Experience, though noon auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage. . . ".

And with that, I will simply note that I never did find the Eliot play that started all this, which apparently is also about "wo in mariage," and many other things besides, as is Brokeback and pretty much anything else worth reading.

Oh, and I did find Annie Proulx's Close Range on the same set of bookshelves. But not in the middle.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Musing About Blogging

Blogging is my newest and most extensive form of procrastination. It's been a smashing success in that regard.

I started my first blog because I thought it might help me lose weight. Accountability and all that. Needless to say, I am not inclined to be accountable to anyone or anything. A blog least of all. But I did enjoy the writing so I just blogged on, oblivious to the reality that blogging is not the same as cutting back on the ice cream or getting out there and running a few miles. Blogging about weight is pretty much in the same category as purchasing a weight loss magazine and presuming that you will morph into the cover model by virtue of having plunked your cash down.

So I decided that blogging was a useful venue for practicing writing skills. I do think I've become a better writer as I've, uh, written. But I haven't translated that improvement into any effort to get myself published. I just keep blogging away, seldom noticed and definitely not paid.

Then I started meeting people. There are some bloggers whose work I really enjoy. There are some whose humor I enjoy just as much. There are some I wish lived next door. So now I blog, I read blogs, I search for new blogs, and I hope with some degree of obsessiveness for comments, because a lot of the time I like those best of all -- and not just the ones left for me.

My husband has just recovered from not one but two kidney stones. My cat is not going to recover from renal disease, and I have just yesterday learned to give her sub-cu fluids. One son is sick and the other is flunking econ. The lovely daughter is very much in a quandry over whether to switch colleges. I am healthy, but I'm the one who worries about all the rest. Tylenol is making a fortune off me.

I'm thinking I might continue blogging for a new reason -- I need a rather extensive fantasy life. One where urine output, college tuitions, and the imminent unemployment of three adult children are not factors.

Oops. I was going to toss in a new title, but I think self-restraint might be in order.

Friday, February 10, 2006

C'est Moi

"When you are ruled by curiosity. . . you are rarely affronted."

The quote is from The Thin Place, a novel by Kathryn Davis reviewed in The New York Times last Sunday. I read the review because I recognized the title. The Celts came up with the term "thin place" to describe a locale, on the planet or in the human consciousness, where physical and spiritual worlds brush against one another. Next summer I am going to Iona, a small island off the west coast of Scotland and for fifteen centuries considered by many to be one of the "thin places" on the planet.

It seems to me that I have set foot on rather a number of thin places, which tells me that the designation is more a state of mind than one of latitutude and longitude.

What do you see? What do you hope to see?

I never much liked The Chronicles of Narnia. A dutiful mother, I read every single one of them out loud to my children one summer. (Okay, so I skipped a few paragraphs here and there.) It was a challenge; science fiction, fairy tales, extended allegory -- not my style. (So why, dear girl, are you reading both The Sparrow and Outlander at present? See first sentence above.) But there was one character in Narnia whom I loved -- little Reppicheep, the brave mouse commander, last seen determindedly heading toward the unknown horizon.

When you hope to see the next thing, you are not guaranteed a happy ending. But you have to see it anyway.

It's been nearly a year since my stepmother died. A tiny hospital room in Cincinnati can be a thin, thin place -- although my observation at 4:00 a.m. was that no one else seemed aware of that.

I have decided, at 52, to count it as good fortune that thin places stretch before my unsteady feet with unnerving frequency.

And likewise, good fortune that I am spared the certainty and judgmental acumen that mark those less curious.

"When you are ruled by curiousity. . . you are rarely affronted." The reviewer goes on to say, in a statement that makes sense in the context of her piece, that that statement "sounds very doglike."

I was reading the paper outside. I came into the house, looked at the dog, and said, "You and me, babe."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"We all dream a lot - some are lucky, some are not..."

One of the things I've been listening to as I drive around these days is the Broadway production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, so I have all those songs bopping around in my head. It occurred to me, as I was listening to

"Strange as it seems, there's been a run of crazy dreams. . . "

that I have one, or some, to write about.

I dream vividly, but remember almost nothing of the amazing technicolor madness of my own mind once I am fully awake. However, I've realized this week that I've been having a recurring dream, and variations on same, that leave me exhausted. I know that there are some folks around, Theresa, for instance, who are really into dream imagery and symbolism, and I'd love to hear their take, and anyone else's, on my little mansion series.

In real life, we live in a house that is reasonably but not obscenely large. It's a center-hall brick colonial so it looks a little massive, and there are four rooms on the first and second floors and two on the third (not counting bathrooms). It's pretty typical for our 90-year-old neighborhood, which means the windows are all double-hung, the woodwork is beautiful, and a lot of things don't work. When we moved in we were expecting twins, although we didn't know about the twin part yet, and we've been able to comfortably accomodate three children and a live-in nanny, and to squeeze in 50 people for Christmas dinner (given that they are all willing to sit or stand just about anywhere). The yard is 1917-tiny and the garage was built for a buggy, I guess. A number of the homes around here have carriage houses, but there's no sign that our tiny lot ever accomodated horses. (Supposedly the church lot behind us was originally a racetrack, though!)

Anyway, the dream:

In these dreams, we are moving into a new home. IT's HUGE. There are rooms all over the place. So many rooms that a decorator would have a hard time finding pleasure in her job, and this writer is no decorator. Usually the house is also old, with all kinds of odd nooks ands crannies, but the most recent one looked like it had been built on Long Island Sound in the last 20 years.

Just as we are realizing that we have actually purchased this place and that there's no going back, we open a door and find a whole new suite of three or four rooms. Sometimes they are in the basement and they look like someone tried to make an addition in the form of a bomb shelter. Sometimes they are in the attic, and they look like someone added an entire new floor and wing. I keep trying to find furniture for them, but no one in their right mind would own that much furniture. Then I think about how we could just close the door and pretend for as long as we live there that those rooms don't exist.

So go for it, dear readers.

"Any dream, any dream will do."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Stones Sunday

Can it be THIRTY-SIX YEARS since the Stones concert at Boston Gardens?

I think they're still incredible.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

It's Raining

It's raining, and it's gray, and it's cold, and it's really miserable out there, and I HATE this, and I could whine on and on and on. . . (wanna hear?). . .
I am trying to write a paper about Beowulf. It is pretty Beowulfian out there today, so the combination of murder and mayhem in the text and water water everywhere does nothing for my spirits. And no, Paul I still have not read Grendel. I doubt that it would improve my mood at the moment.
I followed the advice of the majority and signed up for bloglines. But as usual with these computer things, I don't understand a word of the instructions re: how to get my links to swim directly into my blog sidebar. This is the first couple of lines of Beowulf in the "original" --
Hweat we Gar-Dena in gear-dagum
peod-cyninga prym gefrunon. . .
The bloglines instructions are similar.
I am not alone in this. When I tried to link to one of the bloggers who suggested bloglines, I got her bloglines account, not her blog. Probably not such good news for her.
The news from New Orleans is also not good. I had a long conversation with one of my best friends today. Her son, a student at Cornell (and one of my great triumphs, that boy: I introduced him to birding when our families vacationed together in Yellowstone when our boys were about 12, and he is now well on his way to becoming a real life professional ornithologist, having accomplished more by his junior year of college than most grad students ever will) spent a week of his winter break volunteering there. His report of the conditions and the work: dismal, frightening, sometimes life-threatening. Today I see in The New York Times that the city is in no way ready for Mardi Gras, which is days away, from an emergency-preparedness standpoint. FEMA is right on top of things, as usual. Meanwhile, my Tulane daughter is out somewhere in the city today, volunteering on a public school reconstruction project.
The news from my college sons is nonexistent. They are in the "life is boring, nothing to tell you" stage. I am in the shut-up-hands-off stage.
Our kitty is trying not to eat. I read yesterday that if a cat goes more than a couple of days without eating, she will develop fatal liver damage, so I am spending a lot of time trying to entice her with various delectable dishes like -- well, never mind, they're all disgusting. She has had enough that I know her digestive system is functioning and she sniffs around like she's interested, so I'm wondering if her teeth are bothering her. I have to get her to the vet, but I need help: she won't go in a carrier, my husband is too sick to go anywhere, and my one really good friend who's not allergic to cats is out of town. There are just not that many people you can ask to ride in a car with a loose cat. Maybe Monday.
I am cleaning up the kitchen as I am writing this. I just found TWO things that I need for tomorrow. The contents of the counter include: money, catalogs, 37-cent stamps, copies of my daughter's passport and social security card, various receipts for UPS and USPS 2-day (read:5) packages to New Orleans, an agenda for a meeting tomorrow, my daughter's CD case, guidebooks to Spain and Scotland, a college recommendation for a former student, a pin that I removed from my coat collar last week (a Celtic goose -- very cool), and a book on Iona that I have to convince 15 other people to read and discuss. I know there are people whose live sand possessions are organized, but I am not one of those people. However, that will not stop me from getting to Scotland and France. Of course, I have to FIND the France guidebooks.
OK, I have run out of procrastinating possibilities. I have to go out in the cold and dark and rain and misery to pick up prints and buy groceries. If a dragon gets me, so be it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

More on Brokeback

Found this over on yahoo!movies. I wish I had written it, but I have neither the perspective nor the words. It's well worth sharing, though, so I hope the gentleman doesn't mind that I'm including it here:
I am outraged at all the critics and reviews of this movie! As a real "cowboy" from a real cattle ranch from western Nebraska, I patently take offense to calling a movie about a couple of sissy sheep herders a "GAY COWBOY MOVIE"!!
That is my only beef about this amazing movie. That and the fact that I made the mistake of seeing it by myself. I even went 40 miles away from my neck of the woods because I didn't want to be seen by anybody I knew going into a "gay cowboy" movie. I felt dirty. Like I was going into a porn flick or something.
I wanted to see it because I read Annie Proulx's Close Range: Wyoming Stories years ago. I am a fan of westerns and love cowboy lore and stories and her writings are always exceptional. Amongst her amazing reads, this book had a surprising short story at the end of it that shocked me in its direction and topic matter, and has haunted me ever since I read it. When I heard about Brokeback Mountain the Movie and realized it was made from that same riveting short story, I couldn't wait to see how bad Hollywood would ruin it.
After the first few minutes I was sucked comfortably in to this intense and lushly created movie. For the first time in a very long time (Star Wars maybe?) during a movie, I actually left the theater for an entire screening. Not literally. Not to object to the movie. But I left my awareness of where I was and who I was while I disappeared into a movie and lived it with the characters. I lived the life of an invisible ghost watching helplessly at an arm's length away from the aching and tortured lives of two men, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. And most importantly, I actually gave a crap about them.
It took me by surprise how Heath Ledger (yuk), and Jake Gyllenhaal (who has been a big blank girly idol with big doey eyes in every thing since Donnie Darko), transformed themselves into two of the most transfixing characters I have ever had the uneasy pleasure to watch. Ledger was...well...WOW! Gyllenhaal totally redeems himself as an actor in this flick as far as I am concerned. Those big eyes finally communicated and were capable of conveying, in a few seconds, pages of poignant dialog and meaning. He finally acted. And his mugging close ups were filmed so beautifully, hell, they even made me want to kiss this guy. They were perfectly cast in their roles and neither actor gave any sense that they were not completely one and in total comfort with the roles they portrayed so exceptionally well.
I went alone and by the end of this movie it felt like a boot was put up against my throat. Those last closing scenes were absolutely a suffocating emotional experience that came on like a slow locomotive driving down over your chest and heart. It just kept on coming and kept on getting heavier and heavier. I was absolutely claustrophobic in Jack's childhood room. I my eyes welled up like an artesian well and my heart ached for the openness and freedom of the Brokeback Mountain these two men fell in love at.
When the movie was done I was totally blown away. What the hell did I just see? I wanted to talk about it with somebody so bad. I never had a movie effect me so deeply, so emotionally.
I never have been in love, 'cept maybe with my dog. I didn't think I was capable and certainly didn't think I knew what love was anyway. I have been troubled by my emotional reaction this movie these past few days.
I went into it thinking I'd see some sleazy left wing gay soft porn filled with some of Hollywood's usual Bush hatin' liberal agenda. I left seeing a movie that truly captured by heart. Captured it and then shoved into my throat. That Annie Proulx is damn lucky that her beautiful story was in the hands of so many gifted people. They all clearly endeavored with respect to greatly surpass any expectation one could have for this movie and did not succumb to the obvious political correctness that dilutes Hollywood today. Director Ang Lee spectacularly cut to the throat and jugular of this story and kept his knife-like direction and camera unwaveringly there, pressing firm and hard enough to draw the real blood from this story and his actors.
Watching this movie I saw and felt love in all its hope and joy and gut wrenching sorrow. It panics me that it took a stupid movie to show it to me. Even the written story didn't have this same impact. I guess that's what has been bothering me these past few days. Half my life has past and I haven't felt a love one tenth of what Jack and Ennis were feeling. I fear I will end up just like Ennis except with out even the love to look back on.
This ain't no "Gay Cowboy" movie. To my Republican friends: Hollywood is worth boycotting but I would (and did) make an exception for this film and I am sure glad I did. This it Not for kids. A great couples flick or a buddy flick if you sit with a open seat between ya. Not a HINT of gay propaganda in it, all that propaganda is in the press, media and in reviews surrounding the likes of this one. In fact, it shows all the negative seams of that lifestyle in the most riveting and deeply portrayed ways possible.
If anything it is an anti-Gay movie. Who could suffer through all that these two men do to each other, with all the destruction to both their worlds around them, and the pain they inflict on themselves and each other and their families and not be completely ruined?
The staggeringly beautiful and only shining ray of light through this whole emotional landslide is the obvious love these two men have for each other. That love is like a brilliant shooting star that we see ignite and hop upon for a fast shooting ride through the time of their lives. We see their world illuminated only in that light, in that heat, and we are left in darkness when the shooting star abruptly ends.
It is because the focus is so tightly and unwaveringly, and so amazingly close-in to these two men, this one love, that the whole thing works in the most extraordinary way. That singular shine feeds the soul all the way through. Gay and liberal agendas didn't and don't have room or a place in this precision crafted film. This was about bigger things that transcend all that. This was about a love and lives unfulfilled.
And to all those gay people who are whining about the negative reviews and waving this film like a rainbow flag...I am afraid you didn't get the movie one damn bit either. It wasn't what I wanted to see.
It wasn't what I expected to see. It was what I anticipated. It sure did hit me like a freight train, though, and I had know idea how hard it was going to hit me. This is one good movie.
Absolutely beautifully and hauntingly painful to watch.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Note to Self and Anyone Reading

Went to see Brokeback Mountain for the second time tonight.
It's going to take me a few days to recover (again) and, even then, I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to articulate a cogent thought about this movie.
I don't think I've been this powerfully affected by a work of fiction since the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was ten.
I hope Wendy Wasserstein got to see it.