Friday, December 23, 2011

December Night



December Night

Happy puppy licking the back window. The sun that rose in the bedroom window this morning, I see up over the hill as I drive in the opposite direction, it now sets--a large burnt tangerine globe going down the mountain. I pass the tree lot. Lights around the perimeter glow softly. Families scurrying to find the perfect tree. What happens to those trees that remain I always wonder. Back into the earth they came from--mulch, I suppose. The cold in the air clips my nose. The stark trees silhouetted, stark naked, sharing the space with other trees that still hold their autumn foliage close to their breast. It is the season of holiday lights and people running around in good cheer and the crows harking in the background. And to all a good night.

**

I originally wrote this on December 8. I was driving to the store the long way and the calm affect of the drive opened me to the night. The puppies are what got me and the everything was filled with emotion after that. I wanted to pull over but there wasn't anywhere and I was nearing my destination. I pulled into the parking lot and pulled out my iPod Touch and began tapping out my musings. I kept them the way they flowed out--without edits.

This is an unrelated photo of nighttime-- unrelated in the sense that it was a different day. 

Happy Day & Writing and Creating!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random ~ Trying to Capture the Days ~ Catharsis



I’ve never been one for holiday music, not in a humbug way. But one year I did download an Elvis Christmas and another compilation of festive music. I thought I would dig it up, put it in the CD player and see how I felt about it today. Well, I must say, I wasn’t in the mood for it and when it finished, I felt as though I had enough holiday music. I was at my computer paying bills and on the phone with the cable provider to see if I could get a better deal since the current one expired, bringing the cost of the bill higher than I wanted it to be. So when the holiday music stopped, I opened iTunes and switched to some Jazz.

Yesterday I finished the last of my Christmas shopping and watched the traffic jam in the intersection as I waited for the sign to say WALK. I was glad I had found a parking space on the street and walked to my destination instead of trying to find parking where it seemed there were no empty spaces. I could hear the frustration through the honking horns and screeching tires as people tried to get home, while others most likely were in a mad scramble to get the last of their gifts.

Some time during last week I was walking to the store to drop off a UPS shipment for work. I seem to wear sweaters and sweatshirts wrapped around my waist often. And this particular morning I had a red cozy zipper fleece on and wrapped around my waist was a bright green zipper jacket. It felt festive, but it was also convenient. While I was walking, I saw a lady in her overall jeans and I started looking harder at what I realized were paint splatters on her jeans then I stole a glance at her and recognized her immediately. She said to me, I like your colors. I said thanks and then I said, “Your Blair, right?”

She said, “Yes.”

I said, “I used to work for a flower shop a long time ago and you used to paint our windows. I see your name around and I’m always happy to see you are still painting.”

She was tickled that I remembered and thanked me.  She had a mature exuberant glow about her and she truly seemed happy with life.

It was within that week, last week, that I also had a small “meltdown” at work. You know how when you try to “go with the flow”? Well, after some time, it catches up. One of my largest obstacles remains taking things personally. As my boss said, “You tend to personalize things, Rebbecca.” I listened as best I could. I conceded that yes that was true and I said it didn’t help that I was so sensitive. I told him how I felt, through sobs at our team meeting of three—in the restaurant no less. At first, my defensive reaction was, “I’m done. I can’t talk anymore.” It made it uncomfortable, so I tried to recover. That’s when the tears came and then frustration because he didn’t understand. For me, the most frustrating thing is when you have feelings that you feel and you try to explain them to someone because their behaviors add to your feelings. Everything ended fine, but as any woman knows, when your tears take over in the company of men at work, well, it’s an uncomfortable thing. The good thing is that I kept trying to explain as best I could without being accusatory and also owning my personality components and I felt like he finally “heard” me when he said, “I didn’t know you felt like that, Rebbecca. I’m truly sorry.” That was all I really needed—to be heard—that and an awareness of his behavior and its effects on the whole. Little things add up. I told him I know that I can’t expect him to change and at the same time I can try to “roll with it,”—but sometimes—

The other thing that has helped post small “melt down” is reading the book, Sybil. I had never fully known the details of the story, only the surface. It came up in conversation after a quick reference was made to it in a movie. My significant other asked about the reference and I told him what I knew, which was only that there was this real person who had many personalities and they made a movie about it. That was all I knew. I became more curious and checked the Amazon Kindle store for copies. They did not have one but they did have another book called SYBIL in her own words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple Personalities and Paintings. At that moment I became intrigued and decided I would get the book Sybil from the library because I wanted to read that first. It came and I could not put it down. I’ve always been fascinated with anything having to do with the psyche. It was hard to fathom a person who dissociated into separate personalities to cope—separate personalities that each had their own memories, their own experiences, their own outward physical appearances and speech patterns. And all the while, the main person, whom we know as Sybil, not being aware of any of the separate personalities due to her “losing time,” as she would dissociate to such a degree due to the abuse she endured in her childhood, that the other personalities would take over.

How did this help me? First, I don’t want to undermine the severity of this complex. By reading this story, however, it helped me realize something about my relationships with certain personalities—or rather reinforced what I knew. Reading Sybil gave me more to work with. I do not do well with strong personalities that I feel try to overpower me or have a cruel tone and once I reach a point, I start becoming more defensive, sometimes louder, defending myself, being prompted just by a look from them. Something in me detaches and matches the behavior coming at me or develops behavior that makes me feel in control. It made me revisit my reactions in general and take a harder look at some things that I hadn’t quite considered with my own past. I felt as thought there were pieces that made more sense in a way that I think I’ve always had a sense of, but didn’t quite have certain pieces. It made me also feel more compassion toward my mother for the pain that she must have felt and not knowing how to deal with it.

I noticed there is another book on Amazon that questions the truthfulness of the book Sybil and whether the doctor’s behavior was ethical. All I can say is that the story touched me immensely and it was good of Shirley Mason to share her story and to bring awareness when the book came out 1973. I have not seen any of the movies, but plan to sometime soon.

And so this morning as I was paying bills on the computer I started getting a little down at the credit card debt. I took a deep breath, tried to bring myself into focus, looked up at my inspirational corkboard and my heart and soul received what it needed from Mother Theresa. I read it to myself quietly and then read it aloud so I could hear the words.

Lastly, this is a photo of our little Victorian Village. My significant other was at the thrift store and found this set. I was surprised when he brought it home and showed me. He was so excited that he found it and that it was such a good deal. It was only $12. What a bargain indeed. He helps me to be more festive and grounded. He also bought our first Christmas tree. It’s cute and a little slanted.

Wishing you all peace and happiness; and strength and resilience for handling the kaleidoscope of emotions that make us human.

Rebb


“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

—Mother Teresa

Friday, December 9, 2011

Desert Loom

Two books popped into my head: Willa Cather’s, Death Comes for the Archbishop and Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky. A third book came later: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

I came to The Sheltering Sky because I was reading something—an article maybe—and the actor, Ethan Hawke, listed it as one of his favorites. I admired Ethan Hawke and I still do. If not for finding it that way, I may not have come to this book. If I had seen it on a shelf, I may not have been interested. I remember the odd triangular relationship of the characters, the African desert looming, pushing down, having a profound effect on the characters as they each struggled with their own feelings of isolation and maybe even hopelessness. It’s been years since I read this book and I don’t know how well my memory recalls the details. I know that the language swept me in and something held me there through the end. I know that it had enough of an affect on me to stay planted in my memory.

Another book that I may not have read except that it was one of the books for a class that I took is Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop.

The desert played a prominent character, the villages—the whole Southwestern landscape. A part of the book that has stayed with me is when they are trying to reach “The Rock.” I still have my book with underlined passages and reminder notes and here is one small excerpt that still sends me chills of truth:

The rock, when one came to think of it, was the utmost expression of human need; even mere feeling yearned for it; it was the highest comparison of loyalty in love and friendship. Christ Himself had used that comparison for the disciple to whom He gave the keys of His Church. And the Hebrews of the Old Testament, always being carried captive into foreign lands,—their rock was an idea of God, the only thing their conquerors could not take from them. (pg. 97)  

It was a difficult book for me to get through. The writing is beautiful and dense. I would read mouthfuls of description, and as much as I admired the beauty in which Cather creates sentences and brings the characters and setting alive, I was drowning in it. And yet, I was so happy that I finished. It took a little while for the depth and beauty to really wash over me. It was a long journey literally and for me as a reader—An unforgettable book.

And last, one of my favorite books because it speaks to the dreamer and elemental in me: Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. This one I bought the first moment I saw it on the shelves and read the back cover. Again, the desert is a powerful character, along with the elements. Even the idea of a dream becomes itself a character and drives the story that is dependent upon the vast Egyptian desert, its inhabitants and nature her and him self. As the Shepard boy, Santiago, embarks on his journey he thinks to himself: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” (pg. 13).

When these books were prompted into my awareness by this week’s blog topic, I had no idea that they would share in common the desert. I have always been in awe of the desert landscape, the way it seems like a dried up ocean that goes on forever and can seemingly swallow anyone who dares to enter. I love desert flowers and succulents, the colors, the way the sands ripple, the warmth, but it’s not a place that I have ever desired to travel except in books. Revisiting these books though, has made me think again and I realize it’s very possible that if I met the desert, I might just fall in love.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Odds & Ends


Sugar, Chocolate, and Sweet Breads

Yesterday I had to stop and get sugar for the office. I thought while I was at it, I would bring in a sweet treat. Not chocolate because the boss doesn’t know how to stop eating it and will eat and eat until he may get a bellyache. And the few others that may want some need to be quick; and they joke about it because they know. I keep the candy bowl on the front counter and he will sit there, unpeeling the chocolates, until there are only a few left. I scold him in a nice way, “D! You’re going to get sick eating too many.” He’ll stop and then when he has to go by again, he has to stop for a chocolate. But, I only rarely bring chocolate anymore because of his lack of restraint; and if I do bring chocolate, I try to put it out in small batches.

I saw that CVS had a variety pack of 16 individually wrapped Svenhard’s pastries. I thought this could probably last a few days. I then went down the Christmas isle to see if I could find a festive box to keep the pastries in our makeshift kitchen. We don’t really have a kitchen in the office. There is a long folding table with a microwave, coffee maker, postage meter, and shelves above the table for “kitchen” supplies. I found a cute pale blue box with snowmen. Perfect. I made the purchase, left the store, and drove away.

Waiting at the light, the wind started blowing really hard and the leaves were shaking like snow, rolling and twisting. I tried to bring my camera out and I did, but the light changed and I missed the shot.

Walking to work, I had my sweets in hand. I saw a man, that I occasionally see walking the crosswalk after work. He appears without a home and a tad disheveled and usually has a bag or two. Even sitting at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to change, I can see time and toil in his face and his gait. Yesterday morning I saw this man sifting through the top layer of the trash can. Without thinking, I tore open the box of Svenhard’s and started to walk toward the man, but waited until he turned around. I approached him. His body slightly hunched over, but he was not that old. I held out the small sealed package with a bear claw and he eyed me, eyed the package, and in a gruff voice said, “What’s that?”

I too looked at the package. “It’s a bear claw,” I said.

I held it out for him to take. I was waiting for him to reject it, but instead he took it. I smiled. He held the same stern countenance; face ruddy with a scornful twist to it. We parted ways.

As I walked away I felt a small wave of emotion well up inside of me and it led me to a recent email that I received as part of being on an e-mail list for a small local store that sells jewelry, spiritual items, clothing, and many wonderful odds and ends.

In the email, N., the storeowner shared what was new in the store and current sales discounts. She also shared a recent exercise she came upon in her meditation book: Write down five things you are grateful for each morning and each evening. Don’t just think about it. Write it down. I thought I would give it a try and used one of my Apps to record the mornings and the evenings. It’s only been three days, but it feels like much longer. It’s possible I may continue with this ritual or be satisfied when it’s been a week and with the small inner shifts I’ve noticed in the short time.

Book Ends

I don’t recall seeing BookPage at the local library I usually go to. When I was in Carmel, I went into the library for a quick moment. They were closing, so I only had a few minutes. I saw the BookPage in paper format and took a copy. I was pleased to see that they also have an App for iPhone or iPod Touch. Hurray!


Here’s the link from the Apple AppStore description.


Another App I’ve enjoyed is Short Stories e-reader App from the Apple App Store. Free is always nice. I prefer reading on my Kindle e-reader to save my eyes, but this short story App has had some interesting short stories. It’s very easy to navigate and is visually easy on the eyes.


On of the short stories that I thoroughly enjoyed listed under their Top 20’s list is called Death by Scrabble by Charlie Fish. It’s only 4 pages long—on my iPod Touch that translates to 13 pages.

One of my favorite holiday shorts is O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. I may have eventually stumbled upon it, especially since it’s also on this App. But I first came across this short story when I asked a friend what some of her favorite short stories were and this was one of them. What a beautiful story.

Currently I am reading John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas on Kindle. I was in the mood for something Christmassy to read, yet not too serious and so far this is fitting. It’s made me laugh a lot. I’m half way through, so I have to see how it turns out.

Little Flower – Photo

I took this photo of a little yellow flower that I saw growing from inside the drain cover around a tree. She looks full of hope and happiness with her little yellow wings around a sturdy green shoot, that is her base and holds her head up high amongst the dried leaves and fresh moist soil.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Next Iron Chef: Storytelling and a Small Token that Snuck In

On Sunday evenings at 9:00 p.m. sharp, I am tuned in to the television to watch The Next Iron Chef. I used to watch the Iron Chef back when they had dubbed voices for the Japanese-speaking judges. It was actually quite comical. You could tell that the judges were having a good time, laughing a lot in between their comments as they watched the chefs cook off for a win. At some point in the years, the judges changed and the show was no longer dubbed. I stopped watching on a regular basis and became an intermittent watcher. I had never watched how one became an Iron Chef, but when I saw a few weeks back that The Next Iron Chef would be airing, I knew I would be glued to the TV for an hour each Sunday.

It’s all about the secret ingredient and how successfully you incorporate it into your dish. Several Sunday’s ago stands out to me as one of the most challenging competitions: The Concessions Challenge. The chefs would have one of several concessions items: root beer, malted chocolate balls, and sour candy, to name a few. The chefs would have to create a masterpiece in an hour showcasing the secret ingredient in their dish. Can you imagine? It’s exciting to watch the chefs, as they figure out quickly what they will cook as they set to work, concocting, tasting, plating. It’s a culinary whirlwind.

This past Sunday’s show was my favorite so far: Storytelling. The chefs were presented with six postcards featuring six iconic New York City locations: Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Central Park, Times Square, and the Empire State Building. Wow! Food and storytelling—this would be a dream episode to savor. I started to think about food in general and the story that it does tell. I thought of memorable meals that I have experienced and if I were to cook from a perspective of telling a story, what would I cook and what story would I want to tell.

Back in Kitchen Stadium, each chef would pick a number from one to six and be matched up with a post card. The chef with the advantage from the last competition would go last and have the option of keeping their postcard or swapping for one of the five in hand. All of the chefs seemed pleased with their offerings. As usual, I watch in anticipation and excitement at the creativity and passion that these chefs exhibit as they set out for a win. The clock ticks down. Time goes fast. Time’s up: Step away. Judging time.

Two stood out to me for different reasons.

What I recall about Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s presentation is that she wanted to evoke the smell of New York, of walking the streets and being hit with that NYC smell. Her creativity is what got me. Along with her meal, she had a small brown paper bag that was meant only for smelling and in it were the burnt roasted peanuts to bring the judges there to NYC. Her overall meal was not that exciting and she did have some bumps, but her creativity got me.

Chef Anne Burrell was the clear winner in her story, food presentation, and delivery of her own memories tied to Central Park and what it represents to her. She personalized it and made it universal. It was as though from the moment she got her postcard, she knew exactly where she was headed. She recounted how most may think of her as a city girl, but she was actually raised in a country setting and it was this feeling that she received from sitting in Central Park, with the pigeons, trees, grass, and birds.

And how could I not think of Red Room member, Mary Wilkinson (m), in all the stories—stories that she has served up with food and words. It made me reflect for a moment upon her blogs, especially the food blogs and the wonderful stories that come out of her kitchen. And for the lucky passerby in her cozy area, they could probably catch the mouth-watering smells that sneak from her kitchen windows. I imagine her on her culinary journey and how she gets to do what these great chefs do in this one particular episode of telling stories with food. I guess this last part is a small token of appreciation to, m, all the way in Ireland: An ode to her and an ode to all the chefs and aspiring chefs of the wordly and culinary world.

Salute!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Series of Events: Unexpected Light


There has always been a spiritual home inside of me, and at times, it may have grown dark and cold, but mostly a light was always left on because of my grandmother. When I was "finding" myself in my late teenage years, I rejected aspects of my Catholic upbringing. This struggle would continue as I wrestled with myself and tried to find what was true for me on my terms.

A fading memory flickers in and out, always there, but reawakened on a recent visit to Carmel. I’m in my early twenties, sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother discussing how the Catholic religion is not the only one that is good. On that she agrees, but I feel her desire to want me to embrace it as she has. At the time, I was exploring Eastern thought.  When I saw the look in her eyes and knowing her passion and devotion to Catholicism, I realized it didn't matter and I backed down. I didn't want to take that from her. At the same time, I didn't want her to take my explorations from me. At that moment, her own wisdom to me whispered in my ear: To respect my elders.

I remember a point in my life, a seemingly long sporadic time of feeling angry at the world, easily upset, slightly depressed. Time shows that there is an order to events that don’t often go in a straight line, but usually connect, disconnect, and reconnect. Amongst the many synchronistic influences and events along the way, one defining moment was when an old friend called me out of the blue with an extra ticket to see a Buddhist monk speak in Berkeley.  I didn't have anything else to do that night so I went along. I didn't know who Thich Nhat Hanh was at the time and didn't know what to expect. I still have the ticket stub. Touching Peace: Thich Nhat Hanh, Berkeley Community Theater. The year is 1993.

I met my friend in Berkeley. He would have to head back home to Santa Cruz that night. We caught up on old times while we waited in the long line to enter the auditorium. Inside, we took our seats. The whole place buzzed with conversation, people finding their seats and visiting with people they knew. The velvet red curtains stood out to me. They looked regal and added warmth. 

Next I remember people taking their seats and the chatter fading to silence after someone announced Thich Nhat Hanh.

Silence. 

As soon as Nhat Hanh walked out to the front of the stage in his robes, the Buddhist nuns nearby, I felt an instant peace in every part of my being. And then he spoke in his calm, loving voice. Nhat Hanh radiated the most positive, loving energy that I have ever felt and it spilled out into the room. I was touched. His voice was low and it was difficult to hear him at times. But because of how he spoke and the genuine smile on his face, the love and compassion—his body language—this made the words not matter. He embodied the words, the teachings—and delivered them with love. He was truly present with every ounce of his being right there in an auditorium emanating with his inner peace, that same love and compassion reflecting back to him. 

Ever since that day, I felt changed. I felt renewed; the light inside of me would be restored. As I continued to learn from Nhat Hanh through his books, I appreciated how he respected all religions and encouraged us to make peace with the religions we were raised in. Over the years in between, I came to embrace Catholicism, mostly the way I remember my grandmother practicing it through her actions, through her loving kindness.

The two spiritual traditions that guide me most today are Zen Buddhism and my grandmother's Catholicism. Nature serves as my all encompassing teacher, which is embedded within and lives in me. I am a human being that connects with her grandmother’s light, connects with human light, who does this on her own terms, where the great blue sky and all the creatures are her guides.

In Carmel, walking through both the monastery grounds and the mission grounds, I feel my grandmother's presence and I also feel Nhat Hahn's presence. I feel the light inside as I walk quietly through the small monastery garden and pathways with images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ocean in sight. I light a candle at Mission Carmel, sending positive thoughts to those in heaven and all around.

I feel blessed to have been touched so deeply by two living angels and to know that I have that presence in my being—in light and dark times. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Leaves Burst

Leaves burst like warm blood.
Through burning roots, Sun explodes
on a clear palette.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carmel Beach on a Monday Morning

We took a weekend trip to Carmel to celebrate our one year anniversary together. Our weekend began on Sunday and ended on Tuesday. We both love the sleepiness of Carmel, the quaint fairy tale feel of it— and the ocean being right there.

I wanted to take a piece of the ocean back with me.

I noticed I’ve been recording videos on my iPod Touch here and there. The snippets are starting to collect, and naturally I decided that it was time to open a YouTube account to make it easier to upload and share.

This video is just a small clip of Carmel Beach on Monday morning. The Crow always finds me, as you will see at the end there. He was rather friendly and seemed to enjoy being close to us. I found him to be quite beautiful. The big white dog caught my attention too. You can’t hear it in the video, but each time he walked by, the sound of his clop, clop, squish, in the sand made me smile so wide.

Rebb’s Video of Carmel Beach (44 seconds)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Morning Relaxation

It was a stiff morning, and though my body is still young-ish, it sometimes creaks. It seemed a good day for Yoga. Slow down. Center yourself. Invite peace. Offer peace.

The same CD always brings an instant calm—more than any of the other meditative CDs. Why is that? Was it the one that I used from the very early stages?

And so I begin with the poses that I’m familiar with and that my body yearns for. It’s a brief session; next time, perhaps longer. As I lay there, transitioning toward the end of my session, body face down, head to the side, fully relaxed, the music washes over me, the plucking of the sitar lulls my body deeper into relaxation, punctuated by the ting, ting, of the chimes, a deep breath exits my mouth. I feel all the muscles loosena deep calm permeates the tight muscles of my bodily container. I hear the rain outside through the bedroom window. It snuck in—wheels driving by on wet pavement turns to the swish of waterfalls.

I rise out of this pose slowly, carefully, in small stages. After a few more poses, my body decides that my next to last pose will be the warrior and my mind decides it will be for strength.

The last, how I always end, is to give thanks. Today, I turn to the North, East, South, and West, and bow with my hands in prayer, held close together, like angel wings surrounding a beating heart. I then kiss my palms and blow a kiss of love into our home and out into the universe.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Afternoon Walk

An afternoon appointment sent me on a brisk walk through the streets from work to the doctor’s office. I was going to drive but thought it was walkable, and if I kept a very quick pace, I’d make it on time.

I slipped my headphones on, turned the iPod Touch on and began listening to the audio. I don’t usually listen to anything through headphones when I walk, but today I was in the mood, and I could still hear the cars and other noises. I wasn’t completely shut out.

It was a quick visit. Leaving the doctor’s office, I thought how nice it was to receive good news for a change—or rather news that wouldn’t lead to a follow up appointment; and then several more follow up appointments. I left the office with a slight worry shed from my shoulders and I walked back to work at a much slower pace, no headphones. I’ve walked this path many times. And as I looked up, down, and around, at the homes, the gardens, cars parked, men working, this is what I saw and this is what made an impression in that moment—a continuation of the little beauties in the world:

Walking back, inhaling the sun, little wooden birdhouses sit just outside the window—three in a row. Each with a heart for a doorway—a doorway for a heart.

On the cabled wires above sits a squirrel, looking down at her. Walking, walking—red and orange leaved confetti tossed on the pavement, glows in the sun.

She turns the corner after seeing pink blossoms scattered on the eucalyptus. A Great Oak is just ahead; two large connected roots reach up. She looks and looks and then sees the folds and nooks, the skin of the Oak, and right where the large roots meet, the image she sees is of large white angel wings. It takes her breath away and all of these little moments gathered here, were prompted to be written down because of the Oak and right before she pulls for the paper and pen, a black crow sneaks into the pine tree near her next turn and she smiles because he is friend to her, and it is as though he is also summoning her with his caw caw and the way he bends his head—to write it down and enjoy this day. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PO Box – Letter to Self: Eight Questions

Has it been that long and so short? one year and five months. Summer of 2010. I know that I’ve mentioned the public speaking class I took on a few occasions recently, but it felt as though it was much further in the distance than I realized. Time has gone by fast in 2010 and continues to speed by as the end of 2011 is near.

When I sorted through the mail, I saw a familiar address label, both receiver and sender: Rebbecca Hill. Hmm. What is this? No memories triggered. I didn’t know. Probably another bill. I opened it then and there. Now I remember…yes, the instructor had us do a first assignment: Answer eight questions. Be honest, he said. This is for you. Turn it in to me with a self addressed and stamped envelope. I will send this back to you in one year.

It felt good. It felt true. And it came at the right time, when I needed to hear my own encouraging words to myself at this point in time. I held it close, and I laughed and thought, all be darn. It’s seems so long ago, yet, it’s only a little over a year.

I still have the assignment on my computer, but I really had forgotten about that piece of the class, and I’m glad I forgot because it was a great surprise to receive a letter from myself, well not a letter, but a reminder of where I was and where I am in eight questions. The destination is similar and I continue on my path, making adjustments, just as I have been and it feels right.

**

Rebbecca Hill
June 14, 2010
SPCH 120
MTWTH 8:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

First Assignment

Part 2

1.  Why am I attending college?  I love learning and will attend college or take classes as long as I can—hopefully I don’t run out of classes.

2.  What do I believe I might be doing in a year (specifically)?  I’m honestly not sure. It’s possible I may be doing work with my voice and by then maybe I will have finally submitted something for publication.  In 5 years?  In five years…wow, that seems like a long time out.  Let’s see, in numbers, in five years, I’ll be 42 years old.  I can see myself teaching or communicating.  I may have found just the right teaching environment by this time and I may have found out how to make it happen as far as credential/education needed to do this.  And I hope that I am able to make a good living doing what I love.

3.  What three values does my life stand for/represent to others?  This is hard to answer.  I think people see kindness, curiosity, love for life. I think many people see me as a teacher and writer.

4.  What about me do I want to change?  I think I’d like to continue working on my situational social shy skills.  I’d probably like to see me become a better networked and be open to more friendships, which time wise can be a challenge.

5.  What about me do I hope stays the same?  I hope to always maintain my zest for life, my childlike curiosity and wonder and ability to continue laughing and trying to make the best of life.

6.  What is happening in my life now that I hope to be able to laugh at in a year?  I can’t think of anything in particular, maybe I’ll have a good laugh about voiceovers.

7.  What do I want to be sure to remember about my life today, and remind myself about approximately a year from now?  Keep remembering to appreciate every moment and to honor and respect the past and future, but to keep the present in mind—in perspective. Remember that you signed up for public speaking and you decided to face one of your biggest fears head on. You should be proud of yourself :)

8.  What about myself, my family and my friends do I want to remember to celebrate?  I guess just celebrate life! Keep it simple. Appreciate every day!
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Two Birds, One Stone

When I was at the bank, waiting for the deposit to be processed, I noticed that the teller behind the counter seemed young. He was an Asian man and he wore dark slacks and a blazer to match. I don’t know that I could work in a bank. Getting dressed up everyday would be dreadful. I noticed that he had a small golden Buddha sitting up on his counter. It was the Chinese style Buddha with the big belly. I wanted to tell him that I liked his figurine. Instead, I kept quiet. The transaction was taking a little longer than usual. He apologized for the wait.

“No problem. Could I also get some more deposit slips?”

“Sure, I need some myself. I’ll kill two birds with one stone.”

I coil inside at the words. The image is violent to me and though it suits the situation, I still have trouble with this common expression. I want to say something, but what? Finally, I say,

“It would be nice if there was a different way of saying that, No?” He smiles.

“I’ll be right back with those deposit slips.”

I look at the Buddha. Then I set my eyes to the counter and wait patiently with my hands atop the counter, fingers folded together. He comes back, hands me the deposit slips, and receipt.

“Thank you.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I quickly steal a glance of the Buddha one more time.

“That’s it, thanks.”

I walk out the door and the best that I can come up with is changing “Kill” to “Live.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Morning

Monday mornings have not been easy for me lately. I don't find myself wanting to go to work. Instead, I'd like to stay home all day and do what I feel like doing, which could be reading, could be writing, could be staring out the window, eating. I hope that by the time I get to work, the day doesn't begin as rocky as it did last Monday.

I feel as though I've been experiencing a reading frenzy and it could be the feeling that has always been there but that I've wanted to follow and talk about. When it becomes too full, though, it makes it hard to know where to begin or how to enter the speaking space. I've written about a few of the books that I've been reading, and this is just as much a journal account for myself, as it is to share with whomever is interested. I find safety and comfort in books. Since I haven't always loved books, I have a different sort of appreciation for them. I wasn't always a reader, but once it took hold, it mostly stayed constant. This is my way of remembering my reading self.

My reading journeys this weekend took me back to some books that I had left for later. I settled on a new audio. I began with The Interior Castle and needed to take a break. The image itself of the mind as mansions and the soul entering and embodying leave me wanting to leave it to my imagination. Lately I have preferred the audio book to the radio in the car when I drive to work. I decided to listen to Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why. I love listening to his analysis and his words. It was re-listening to that audio with a clearer focus that brought me back to Russian literature. I have read a few short Russian stories and began a few novels. I found some Kindle freebies and began with the first short story. Once I was at home, still with books on my mind, I decided to revisit The Brother's Karamazov. It was difficult for me to settle on a translation for Kindle. I have the book, but it's bulky and now I'm spoiled by the slenderness and lightness of Mr. Kindle. I found a translation that feels as though it flows and I do pray that it stays true to the original. My intuition tells me it does. I was so thrilled to be able to pick up where I left off and the chapter I bumped into after the first had a familiar name, which I imagine is a common Russian name: Lizaveta. The same name was in the short story I had read: "The Queen of Spades" by Alexsandr Pushkin. As with most short stories, they seem to require more than one reading to fully absorb what is put between those pages. I hear Bloom in my ears talking about the different Russian writers and how they write simply, but don't be fooled by the simplicity he seems to be saying. What I get from what Bloom is saying is that they write what is real and what is true, what they see and feel. But it feels, from what he is saying--or what I am understanding--that they do it in such a way that they don't try; they just do because they bloody have to because their souls require them to. I'm reading these short stories to enjoy, and at the same time, I'm also reading to learn--not just learn about the craft, but to learn about what seems different. He talks about other short story writers and at first I was disappointed that he didn't think much of Poe's writing or his stories. But if I try to see it from his perspective, I think I can see what he means. For some reason the Russian writers are calling to me because of listening to Bloom. And then somehow Mark Twain slipped back into my mind and I'm not sure if it's because of Bloom or something else triggered it. When the mind starts going in many directions, it becomes difficult to keep track of.

I remember my fifth grade English teacher reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer out loud to us. That's when I most definitely was not a reader. I listened, but I don't know that I was enthralled. Since I have been lulled by the short story recently, I have also decided to read some of Mark Twain's short stories and essays. I truly appreciate the humorist and I don't know what has kept me from reading Twain for all these years. I suppose that's another reason I've felt this frenzy and excitement--because for year's I've collected and intended on reading certain works; started and stopped, always pulled by the hand by another book or piece of writing, including blogs and anything with words and communication.

I don't have quite as much time as I'd like to complete all the reading that I want to in this life time, which is why even if I only make time to experience bits and pieces, that to me--for me--is better than not. I feel also this need to turn back inside in the sense of keeping my private thoughts for my private journals and writing more about what I'm reading. I'm sure that will change and I know that what I say this moment can change in that moment. And I wasn't planning on writing so much and maybe just rambling and writing about nothing. But it's my way of processing and it started out with no direction and who knows what the real direction is. All I know is that there is this moment and this space and I never quite know how I'm going to fill it. And sometimes I'm scared and always a degree of self-consciousness; sometimes I just have to keep pushing myself and telling myself to keep going. It's nice to be able to be one's own coach because in the end, all you've got is yourself. I think that's my Uncle talking. But to some degree it's true. Only I alone have an appointment with God and with Death when that moment comes, so for me it's important to keep that in mind for myself and to prepare myself internally--as has been my goal since I can remember--to try and live each day as if it were the last and to remember that though writing and reading are a passion and sometimes they consume me, I must not lose sight of what is important outside of the books and pages. I tell myself this mantra, have told myself. I must live it. I feel that I have been true to myself for the most part and then what makes me wonder is when my mind goes back to the past. Reading helps me, ironically, stay in the present. Even when we go back even further to the past; it's someone else's past. There is solace in that. By now, I really am rambling and a part of me is saying, maybe you should just keep this in your journals, but the other part of me is saying, you may as well post it and if anything, it becomes a part of your collection--a marker for you to look back at, to remember--and to maybe laugh at yourself.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good Day ~ After Morning Blog


It was a good day. My morning blog felt like a sort of purge. I felt uncomfortable posting it at first because it felt negative. I realize though, that even if it was a bit moody, I can’t push down feelings, which is why I’m posting an after morning blog—not something I do often, but every now and then.

Today was a good day because my smiles were returned by strangers, if even only noticed out of the corner of my eye. It’s difficult for me to set emotional boundaries and I think that’s what makes me feel out of control at times. I can sense people’s body language and sometimes I react to that. Today was a good body language day. It felt free and positive.

I finally finished an audio book that I’ve been listening to for a couple of months. I am now ready for another to join me on my short drives. I’ve also been enjoying a young adult book called The Librarian (Book One: Little Boy Lost) by Eric Hobbs. I just checked—I guess it’s recommended for kids 10 years old and above—and adults that are kids at heart. Well, I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s a fun lighthearted adventure through a library with a mysterious history and the characters so far feel real to me. I learned about it through a blog I subscribe to on my Kindle. It’s a free download.

Another book that I am enjoying is a biography-memoir called Camus, A Romance by Elizabeth Hawes. I don’t remember exactly what I was looking for, but I came across this one and it intrigued me. Hawes’s passion for Camus began with her college thesis and grew into this book. I’ve learned little nuances about Camus that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It is just as interesting to follow along with Hawes, as she explores herself, maybe even begins finding herself through her exploration of Camus.

A fun book that I came across is Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness by Arnold Kozak, Ph.D. It’s like having good dose of mindfulness each time you open the book and read the small excerpt. I can tell that I will want to start all over once I’ve read through all 108. 

Morning Musings ~ Firecracker ~ Writing Into It

Trucks drive by, clunk, clunk. A car zooms close after. The shutting of a door. These things represent outside for me today and most mornings. The refrigerator rumbling softly, my coffee cup sits on the upper left side of this small desk that faces a wall with a window behind, near the bed. The music drifts in from the living room, the same soothing CD that somehow gets my days started. I’ve been wanting to stay inside, reading mostly, and some journaling too. It’s been difficult to want to go outside, when outside soon becomes the inside of an office building, with stale air and carpets that I don’t like looking at, colors that are drab. I adjust. I keep colorful calendars, colorful in images and words—to keep me company. I’ll be honest, I think what is sometimes frustrating is when humans in general aren’t aware of their own “stuff.” You hear them complain about the same things over and over and wonder if there is some adjustment they can make. And I wonder if we don’t all—me included, of course—from time to time operate as though the world revolves around us. I have great days most of the time and every now and then annoyances get the best of me because you begin to see how other people operate, you see little things, observe little things—things of the psyche, things often cloaked from their own awareness. I then look to myself and ask why certain behaviors bother me so and it comes down to a miscellaneous grab bag. In certain environments, I have a pet peeve for inefficiencies; I don’t particularly like when people don’t have faith—trust in your following through and somehow turn to a micromanaging demeanor. It’s with the smallest of things that this can occur. The mail—worried that you didn’t take the letter down only because your letter is there, not stopping to think that the mail always makes it down to the box. Why would your piece of mail be treated any differently? If it’s in the pile, it will get mailed. It’s little petty things. And then I ask myself: Am I not being somewhat petty by bringing this up with myself? I don’t know. I do know that I have certain buttons and even with that awareness, it doesn’t stop the buttons from going off from time to time. It happens. I’m human. I suppose this is my way of having a conversation about it with myself because one cannot always have these conversations with everyone—or specifically the person. I can, thank goodness, express my frustration in an open fashion with most—the ones that it counts with—counts in the sense that if I was keeping everything inside with them, well, I’d be miserable and they’d be miserable and who needs that. I’m a firecracker at times—could be hard to believe. But it’s an aspect of myself that I am aware of. I’m a firecracker in a good way and sometimes it can overwhelm people that have a more level way of being. I find it difficult at times, knowing that I have chosen to put this firecracker inside of a box that is necessary to make a living. That’s why when I write, when I journal, when I read—when I am in some way interacting with the page, I am in heaven—I am in my bliss. Sometimes it’s going to feel good and sometimes it’s not, and as I always remind myself: That’s OK. I accept the positive aspects of myself and the negative; and in the end, I try to do the same toward my fellow human beings. What’s important is my intentions are positive. It’s complicated being a human firecracker, especially when it’s somehow stifled and that can be felt in many ways—not just the obvious. Fire needs air to breathe; Fire also needs air to grow.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Winding down dotted hills of champagne
and plum wine, grapes round with abundance.
Cows in patches, mooing and chewing the
grain. Rustling grasses beneath hoofs, furry
groundhogs playing hide and seek with the
clouds. Jack-O-Lanterns greet visitors,
atop the brick arch overlooking vineyards.
Aroma of oak barrels and freshly crushed grapes,
A hint of fresh grass tickling the senses, mixed with the
brink of being right on the cusp of this season and
that season. Open hearts, open mouths— a toast to you
on this—O’ Joyous Halloween.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hoofmaker

Betsy was walking into the supply room to put postage on a letter when she saw William filing down one of his nails. He then got out a band aid box from the cabinet. She didn’t ask, but he told her he had a hangnail.

Bespeckled William snorted out a laugh and said, “I feel so feminine.”

Betsy turned back to William and said, “I usually just rip mine off.”

She’s about done at the postage machine, when William grabs her hand to inspect her fingers. She looks too.

“You have very unfeminine hands,” he says. Another one of his chortled laughs. He’s known for these laughs and it annoys some of the other office mates.

Betsy pulls her hand away. “Yes, I know. Tom boy hands.”

She’s still trying to get back to her desk when William proceeds to flap his lips. He’s know for this too. William is the sort of guy that has something to say about just about anything. Freely opinionated. And occasionally when Betsy needs a random piece of trivia, she goes to William if he’s nearby.

He says, “Ya know, they sell this stuff at the horse and feed called Hoofmakers.”

“Hoof What?”

“Hoofmakers. No really, it’s straight from my mom. All the girls there at the feed store use it. It has a bunch of vitamins and other stuff in it. It smoothes your nails and puts a protective barrier around them and helps with cracked skin. You should check it out.”

Betsy listens. On one hand in the back of her head she laughs because this is just William; and on the other hand, she’s thinking, maybe she should check it out. She’s thinking it’s  moments like these that give her day a little lift because she appreciates being able to find the comedy in what can be a humdrum office vibe. So she’ll take it.

She’s determined to get out of the supply room and back to her desk. As she edges away, she says, “Hoofmakers, huh?”

“Yeah. Check it out.”

Betsy leaves William with his nail file and band aid and says, “Maybe I will. Thanks.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Farmer’s Market Veggies



This morning my hands and fingers are frigid. I’m running late, but my writing moments usually take precedence and then I will find myself in a rushed mode, which I don’t care for. But this is part of my daily ritual, whether it stays sealed in my notebooks or appears here in the moment. There are so many journal clippings, thoughts, and more books that I want to share. They collect and then, patiently, they simmer in my notebooks, or my mental crockpot.

The weekend included a visit to the Farmer’s Market. I walked from stand to stand looking for veggies mostly. Last night I brought the veggies out, knowing I would base dinner around them. There is nothing besides being outside in nature that I enjoy more than admiring fruits and vegetables. In last night’s case, just vegetables. And when I start chopping and setting them into the pot, the colors blending together, it is a sight that I can look at over and over. Fresh veggies with their different skins and juices and fresh oozings and drips of freshness that reach up to my olfactory and put me there under the sun on the farms with the fresh soil and the good smell of earth. I am the okra, the eggplant, the zucchini—yellow and green—and I’m the garlic with it’s pungent kick that mellows as it cooks and becomes so soft, it melts in my mouth—the green bells and the red bells—all of these happy veggies, having gone through a long process, of growth and handling, to eventually reach me here in this most smallest of kitchens, that feels like the size of a hobbit’s, but it suits me well. And of course, other additions joined the veggies, but I wanted to honor them on their own, to savor their goodness for a few moments more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Leaning trees

Leaning trees
berries hanging
                         Pulling
Bear thy fruits
Unload yourselves
young tender shoots

Amongst mature wise bark,
lean on each other, bear
thy weight together.

**

Endnote:
I enjoy being the passenger in a car. The freeway especially allows me to enter into the moment. This small poem came to me on October 15, 2011. I was watching the road and noticing and absorbing what I saw. I wasn’t thinking. Words started forming, so I unzipped my bag and pulled out the little blue notebook the size of a credit card. It’s a Moleskin—my favorite. I also have a larger sized one in there, but the moment decides which one I will select.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween ~ Mix & Match


Halloween was one of my favorite holidays when I was growing up. I would get excited about finding a costume to wear. A few of my memorable transformations were of being a clown, a witch, and my many interpretations of a gypsy. Being a gypsy was my favorite. I would usually find something in my closet, mixing and matching clothing that I bought for the beauty, but no where appropriate for my self-conscious self to wear them.

But Halloween changed that for me, allowing me to set aside my insecurities and unleash some part of myself through costume. I would make my eyes smoky with dark eye shadow, lots of rouge on my cheeks, sparkling eye shadow, and bright lips of a sultry red. I was transformed.

Of course at some point, I stopped dressing up and admired Halloween from a distance. It didn't feel the same anymore and the neighborhoods I passed through didn't have decorations outside to enjoy—something about it felt lost. But that is no more. I’ve been seeing some great Halloween efforts this year.

 This Halloween—for me all of October is Halloween—feels different in a good way. I may not be dressing up the way I used to but I have my orange and black knee high socks ready to go. I already wore the socks once with a pair of flowing pants that came just past the knee so you could see them. That day I had my brown Portland shirt on to match my rust colored pants. I felt like a fall leaf. When I was walking, a lady was with her friend and she seemed to be deep in their conversation. She turned to me and said in the most cheerful tone, "Girlfriend, love those socks!" I smiled at her and said thanks somewhat meekly.

And just yesterday I bought a pair of black boots that come just below my knee. They have a pink zipper. Pink is not my favorite color, but I was thrilled that they were just my style: Simple and fun and there’s something about boots. I can still fit into a girls size four, so I got a deal on them at Target! I saw a pair of striped tights on the way out, so I now have magenta and black striped stockings as well.

For around our apartment, I bought a cute little stuffed bear-- he's only about three inches high--he has on a pumpkin costume. I put him on one of the bookshelves that our television sits on, so we can see him all through October.

The other way I'm celebrating this year is by revisiting Edgar Allan Poe's short stories. I am also trying to read other scary or dark tales. And this I am sharing with my significant other. The other morning with Poe on my mind, I remembered how much I love "The Tell-Tale Heart." I thought this might be a story that my significant other would enjoy so I asked him if he wouldn't mind my reading it aloud to us. I enjoy reading aloud very much. I told him it wasn't that long and I proceeded. I sensed out of the corner of my eye that he was engaged but I wasn't sure. When I reached the end of the story, I appreciated how much more of an impact it had on me reading it aloud and when my significant other said that he really enjoyed it, I was pleased.  I said that I'd love to read another Poe story aloud later that evening. Some months ago I had downloaded a free e-book of Poe's stories on my Kindle and other free and inexpensive collections. Last night I excitedly searched for a few others to add to my e-book collection. I always have fun searching the Amazon Kindle store.

I already have Flannery O'Connor's short story collection, "A Good Man is Hard to Find." I thought to myself, he might really appreciate this title story and I would enjoy reading it aloud. I began it, but O'Connor writes much longer short stories than Poe. He was curious how many more pages and as I flipped through the Kindle to see, he jokingly said "that's not short, that’s a book." I laughed. I asked if he was enjoying it. He was. We agreed to stop there and continue tomorrow. He thought we were going to read more Poe. I said that I wanted to see what he thought of this story first.

What’s funny too is before we had started reading O’Connor, I was started to get cozy while we were watching a little TV and my eyes were closing and he said I was a sleepy head and I said, no just resting my eyes and then I popped up and that’s when I said, are you ready for our short story?! He said, “I thought you’d never ask.” He was half kidding. He knows I get a little crazy about books and reading and all of it. We muted the tele and off we went to story land for a little while.

Hopefully we continue our out loud reading regime past October. There is such enjoyment, an elevated intimacy in reading aloud together, of sharing stories I love, and discovering new ones together.

**


The Talented Mr. Ripley is on of my favorite movies and this song popped into my radar and fits in my little box of October. Here is the clip in the Jazz club where they sing “Tu vo' fa' l'Americano.” It makes me want to jump around and sing with them!

Tu vo' fa' l'Americano

Happy Day!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Web

Zelia Morris simply did not love Dudley anymore.  He could not stop his drinking, could not hold a job for very long.  He stopped painting—his one passion had slowly slipped away.  He wasn’t the Dudley that she had married years ago.

A strong woman, some might even say that Zelia was cold; it wasn’t that she was cold.  She did love Dudley at a time.  But love changes—she would not continue being drained in this relationship.  She did not however expect that Dudley would change even further as he did; he climbed down into his dark dungeon, never to come out into the light again.

They had found Dudley Morris, bottle in hand, sprawled out on the concrete in a dark alleyway, yelling nonsense to the wind, to the shadows.  He found himself in and out of institutions, but this time he would spend the rest of his days alone, enclosed in a world on the  inside, damning himself, damning anyone he could, especially the voice in his head.

“If you come too close, I will take you and squeeze the life out of you.”  Dudley Morris walked the streets aimlessly through the suffocating fog.  Little did he know that his whole life would be different after that one winter eve.  His jacket flaps were pulled up high to cover his neck from the brisk wind that chapped his face.  He walked and walked on those lonely stone streets, wet from the hard rain that poured hours ago. 

“I will intrigue you with the pretty things that I have to offer, then I will come close as if I want to be your friend, reach out to you and quickly spin you into my web:  This intricate, detailed design—we are all part of it!.” 

Earlier in the day after a fight with his landlord, Dudley began talking, and then yelling to himself, he took a long swig from his bottle, wiped his mouth sloppily, and shoving the bottle back into his deep jacket pocket. He would run the incident through his mind over and over again.

“God damn landlord—the jackass!  Unreasonable bastard; can’t he understand that I’m barely making ends meet.  I didn’t have the god damn rent!”  Keeping his hands in his pockets, he would let the filth spew out of his mouth as though anyone cared.  He spoke to the dark and lonely street; to the scraggly cats rummaging through the putrid dumpsters.  Dudley continued his rant: “But No!  He wouldn’t hear it.”

Dudley usually kept to himself but the Landlord, Hue Bedford, picked the wrong day to push Dudley.  Dudley started pounding him.  Hue yelled, pleaded for him to stop but he couldn’t.  The spit sprayed from Dudley’s mouth as he yelled at him “You son-of-bitch!” 

After Zelia had left him, Dudley rarely left that dim, claustrophobic room; the only light filtered through the tiny round window facing the street and the candles on the nightstand.  Cobwebs hung in every corner.  Dudley would kill the spiders, fascinated at watching their bodies shrivel up in the candle flames, sometimes he would take a fuzzy body between two fingers, bring it right up to his eye, examine it with great wonder, then squish it tightly, watching the life drain out of it. 

Every time he heard a stir, he would flinch in fear.  He would look all around him as if someone was in the room with him.  Occasionally rodents would scurry across the room in search of crumbs. 

A loud thud woke Dudley; he shot right up in bed, sweat pouring down his face, dripping down his dingy, brown shirt.  He rubbed his hands on his rough sandpaper face. 

“Where am I?” Dudley mumbled to himself, looking around.  He walked past a mirror, his attention whisked away by a beautiful web that was up high in the corner of this unfamiliar room.  He walked over to the web with wide eyes; a chill went down his spine.  He jumped back, knocking over a small worn out pocket watch from a strange—unfamiliar end table—the spider seeming to watch his every move.  He watched the spiders many hairy legs moving slowly along the web, seeming to move toward Dudley.  The harder he looked back, the greater the chill became.

Pinching himself hard, Dudley was trying to make sense of this strange familiarity.  “Ouch!”  A large red mark appeared.  Dudley bent over to pick the watch up, turned it over in his hand.  It looked familiar, yet it didn’t.  He placed it back on the table.

“Mrs. Morris, I’m so glad you could make it,” the Head Psychiatrist said.

“I really don’t want any part of this anymore—he’s not part of my life—it’s done!” Zelia said, trying to stay composed, looking ahead with tired eyes. 

“How would you like to handle this; you’re his only living family.”  The nurse jotted down a few notes in her file.

“I don’t know if I can handle this anymore—can’t he stay here?.”  Zelia’s voice was shaky.  She started sifting though her purse, looking for her cigarettes.  She found the empty pack and threw them back in her purse.

“Mrs. Morris, if you leave him here, there’s a chance he will never be released.  This is becoming a common occurrence and we think it is in Dudley’s best interest that he stay, but that decision is up to you, Mrs. Morris.”  The Doctor looked sternly at Zelia.  “Are you sure about this?” After a long pause, “Yes, I’m sure.”

It pained Zelia’s conscience, but she had no choice.  She was the only one left in his life and now she too would vanish, leaving him to himself.  She knew it was the best—the only answer that made sense to her.  Dudley had become unreachable.

Dudley screamed so loud that everyone in the hospital could hear him; they heard him two floors up and two floors down—so much anger poured out.  After many more episodes, Dudley would spend much of his time in solitude, yelling, screaming himself to sleep…

“I didn’t ask for this—.”  Looking up to the high ceiling, hands secured behind his back in the white cocoon that he would never break out of.  He let out a howling scream, looking up at the ceiling again.  “You!—You, did this to me.  The people!—they stare in awe.  I spin—I spew myself out aimlessly in circles.  They look on in fascination but if only they were I, they would see how meaninglessness this existence really is. Damn You!!” 

There was not one tear in Dudley’s face.  He rested his head on his knees, unable to do anything but rock back and forth, wishing he had never left his dingy little room that cold winter eve, wandering the streets, seeking his doomed fate.  Zelia’s image quickly passed through his mind.  Dudley slowly lifted his head; out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move.  He froze at the sight of it and went into hysterics.  He saw black and red swirls, he couldn’t move, his whole being, mind and soul entered a deep abyss.

The next morning, Sunday, Dudley was gone.  The police were unable to find any clues as to the whereabouts of Dudley Morris.  On Tuesday while the cleaning person was dusting away a cobweb, she saw a large black spider.  She was about to swat it, but could swear it was smiling at her, and decided to let it live.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Joan Brown Posthumous Retrospective ~ Inspiration and Self-Reflection


I’m not any one thing: I’m not just a teacher, I’m not just a mother, I’m not just a painter, I’m all these things plus, and the more areas I can tap, the richer each one of the others will be.
— Joan Brown (1938-1990)

**

This past weekend included a trip to the San Jose art museum. I was browsing through the entertainment section of the local online paper and was pulled into the title, "This Kind of Bird Flies Backward." I continued reading about the artist, Joan Brown, a bay area resident and professor at the University of Berkeley, California. She died in 1990 when a falling “concrete turret” crashed down and killed her while installing her art work in a museum in India

Joan Brown's self-reflective qualities and strong spirit caught my soul’s attention. Not seeming to want to make bold verbal statements about issues, she maintained her own voice and authenticity by tackling issues of the time in her own space, but without the need to flaunt nor speak of them directly.

As I wound myself through her exhibit, reading the informational placards along the way, I found myself knowing Joan Brown, both admiring her evolution as an artist, and feeling deeply inspired. 

I haven't sketched or attempted to paint a self-portrait in at least 10 to 15 years but seeing her own self-portraits reminded me how much I enjoyed trying to render myself, even though the result was not flattering in my eyes and often very rough but nevertheless— revealing.
 
Joan Brown's early paintings are painted thick. I too enjoy the textures and visceralness that thick paint invites—working thick and loose, free and maybe even sloppy in a non-sloppy way. As she evolves, she loses the thickness and her paintings become large and smooth with vibrant colors.

There is much of  Joan Brown to soak up in this exhibit. One of my favorites is a huge canvas with a fish that takes up practically the whole space. We connected from that great distance, periwinkle blue, other pretty pinks and vibrant Easter type colors sent my mouth slightly agape —like seeing a long lost relation—the painting itself connected with me from a distance—and then I walked up to it—and there she was, amongst happy colors standing in the mouth of the fish—Joan smiling back at us. 

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Part of what brought me to the page this morning was that I attempted to sketch a self-portrait of myself last night. I was in the store and went to the stationery section, and over to the far right crayons and sketch books beckoned me. So this photo is a self-portrait sketch. It began with me, holding the sketch pad up with one hand, pencil in the other, and my own reflection looking back. When I was done, there was a certain familiarity both in self and also in style to past attempts. I then added the puck ears which is also familiar; the moon, butterfly, and other squiggles. 

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San Jose Museum of Art

This Kind of Bird Flies Backward: Paintings by Joan Brown.  Those of you who are interested in exploring her art and learning about the artist, can explore here. You won’t see all of the paintings, but you will get a glimmer.

You can learn a little bit more about the title of the exhibition at the above website. Here is Diane Di Prima’s poem, “The Window” from her collection of poetry, This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, that line also from this poem.

Article that was the reason I was fortunate to know of and see her exhibit. It goes through March 11, 2012, for any of you bay area residents that would like to visit.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rubber Stamps


Over the weekend I was in the mood to go thrift store browsing. We stopped at one that is a quaint cottage style shop. It looks like it used to be a small home. It took me a while to get past the entrance of books stacked to greet visitors. I found two. Then as I edged my way into the store I was plopped right into Halloween: Cobwebs, Halloween jars, a strangely wicked old wooden puppet on a string; purples and silver; orange glimmering. It was a visual whirlwind of razzle-dazzle all around this small cottage.

My eyes darted as though following a maze, viewing all the interesting items. Something caught my eye that was nestled among some Halloween knick-knacks. It was a bag of rubber stamps. I crouched down to take a closer look. They were wooden stamps. Childhood was nearby. I remembered how much I loved rubber stamps as a child and the different ones flooded into my memory bank—Hello Kitty, farm animals, date stamps, smiley face stamps, and other random novelty stamps I’d collected as a child.

I turned the bag over in my hand to see if I could see what was on these stamps. I recognized the company—The Oakland Stamp Company—and how my older brother had a custom stamp made for me as a gift. I loved that stamp. It had my name and address in beautiful script letters. I was too young to pay bills; as I grew old enough to have more reason to use it appropriately, I began stamping the return address on envelopes for bills and letters. So when I saw this bag of stamps, I felt that I wanted it. It was $10.  Not bad, a little more than I wanted to spend. As I turned the bag of stamps over in my hands, trying to peek inside without opening it, I saw that they told a unique story and I wanted them. Some of the stamps I could see were “beef stew,” “ground round,” a cat, “in confidence,” other creatures, and “have a nice life.”

I suppose that nostalgia go a hold of me. I  hold on not  with a tight grip, rather with a loose string connected to a past that slips by, not a straight string, but one that has offshoots that go in all directions. I want to have a little something so simple to sit there beside the other advancements that inevitably replace that which is deemed no longer relevant.