Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One Slender Book

I heard my name through the intercom. I left the bookshelf and walked to the back counter to see what the offer was. I wasn't expecting much, maybe three dollars for three small bags of books. I set my expectations low, knowing anything more would be a bonus. 

Twenty-two dollars–not bad.

I saw my stacks of books there. I felt a slight pang and wanted to reach for them and take them back. No, I reasoned, it was time to let them go. And there would be more in due time because there are books for keeping and books for giving up. The buyer looked at the one nearest me.

"Did you read this one?"

I placed my hand on top of the slender book.

"This one? Yes–in parts. I probably didn't give it the attention it deserved."

Where did this come from. I had read it, but it was so long ago. 

"It reminds me of–" He rattled off a few unknown names, more independents. She wanted to reach for her notebook, so she could jot them down and look them up later. Instead, she nodded, listened, saw the excitement in his face.

He turned back to his register to complete the transaction.

"I really like the cover art," she said.

"Yeah. It's beautiful. Reminds me of a friend's book. He was in an MFA program and this cover reminds me of one of his."

"Ah, I actually found this one at the Berkeley Museum of Art's bookstore. They had a small section of books that were on sale. 

"Oh, yeah–really?"

I signed my name and took the receipt to the middle of the store and cashed in on the books I sold.

Those hummingbirds–that book–that I did read: one poem contained within its slender, white casing–a rumination that I read so long ago remembering the beautiful jacket cover more than the words inside; though, from flipping through the first few pages, just before saying goodbye, just before placing it inside the bag, just before placing it back out into the world–the words were ethereal, they beat like the wings of a butterfly and shimmered like the coat of a hummingbird, now out of my hands, but in memory–as a bitter sweet parting.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Can See Clearly

I feel like I've been suckered; and the worst of it is, I've been suckered by my own self. 

My eyes have been bothering me, especially when I'm reading on the computer screen. I made an appointment with the eye doctor. It's been almost three years since my last appointment. I figured my eyes had gotten slightly worse, so I anticipated having to buy a new pair of glasses. 

Choosing a new pair of glasses is exhausting. There are so many styles to choose from.  I like my old glasses but thought maybe it was time for a change, something fun and different from the old frame. The woman who was helping me, chose some cute options, but then I noticed she kept bringing me glasses with flashy handles–too complicated for me. I tried on a few that were almost identical to the current frame. Then I tried a few options just to see what they would look like, knowing they wouldn't suit me. I tried on a black pair wasn't perfectly round or square, sort of a little bit of both. The woman really liked these. She said that most people that have tried them on didn't look right in them. They were cute in a non-cute way. I had already tried on so many glasses and this pair qualified as different from my old pair. Sold. 

Next I needed a pair of computer glasses. When I had the eye examination, that's what the doctor said. My other choice was a bifocal or transition lens. I said No. That wouldn't work for me, I'll need a separate pair of glasses. It seems ridiculous to need a whole separate pair of glasses for reading on the computer! But, that's why I was feeling the strain. I don't need all the strength of my everyday glasses.

Since I had collected several frames in the little plastic box they provided while I searched, I didn't need go start from scratch. I looked in the box and chose the frame for my second pair of glasses. 

I wear prescription sunglasses too and wasn't about to buy a new frame. So my existing sun glasses get fitted with new lenses. 

I feel like the excitement of getting a new pair of glasses, left my reasoning ability at the door. I could have made different choices and saved money, but I got caught up in the process. I had my credit card ready. I could have taken advantage of a better deal, but no, I was caught up in the idea of these new glasses and how it was a change and they were cute in a different way. I didn't want similar if I couldn't have the same.

If only I could have seen as clearly as I did when I saw those great pine trees and the moon that same morning. If only I could have had my practical, thrifty mind with me. Now, I'll only see dollar signs and unnecessary indulgence. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Journal of Days

I don't live by the calendar. I don't like planning ahead–not usually anyway, but sometimes you just have to. Even then, often times, the plan needs to be thrown out and you just have to go with it. Life is one big improvisation act when it comes down to it. Your musical score evolves and changes, adapting, playing off off the other musical elements that come your way.


But I do mark certain things on the calendar, things I don't want to forget, like this past Saturday, one of the local library bookstores was having their half off everything sale. I woke up early to avoid potential crowds. It wasn't that bad when I arrived. I only had $10 with me and I had already told myself that I really shouldn't be buying books anyway. I went in and walked over to an empty table and browed through the "trade paperback" titles. Lots of duplicates. Book clubs reads I imagine. Many of these books I could just as well check out at the library, but I picked them up and held onto them. I've been wanting to read Gail Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden for some time now. With the book in my possession, I have no excuse. And then I saw The Virgin's Knot by Holly Payne. I loved this book so much. I remember how it touched me deeply as I was immersed in Turkish culture and was fascinated with the weaver, Nurdane. I hadn't forgotten about the book, but the author and title of the book had long escaped me after having read it so many years ago; the characters and the story though never left me. I look forward to rereading this wonderful novel.

There were two women talking over in the children's book section, which I quickly scanned. No children's books today. I then went over to whichever fiction shelf had an open space to browse. There was an older gentlemen in front of me. He would pull out each book. I tried to see if he was looking at the covers and then I saw that he was quickly glancing at the blurbs on the back. I don't know what I was looking for. Familiar titles? New titles? I wanted the books to find me. Next I saw an Elizabeth Berg novel: The Pull of the Moon about a woman who when she turns 50, packs up and goes away, leaving her husband and home behind. It sounded intriguing. 

I continued fingering books, looking at the spines, recognizing books and seeing many unknown to me. How to choose? As I collected the books, I kept my budget in mind, adding up to be sure I wasn't going over my limit. If I saw a book that sounded interesting, on flipping through it, if the print is too small, I put it back wishing the print were larger. My eyes can't handle the fine print–that's too bad. I love looking at books spines, often the first window into an unknown book. What does the title tell me? How does it speak to me? And then artistic side: How is the titled presented? Which font? All caps? Authors name on the top or the bottom? Black letters or white or some other color? The words on the spine: clean or busy spine? And then after taking it all in, I take the book from the shelf, examine the cover, reading every small bit, then flip it over, open to the first pages, flip through. A decision is made.

The next book that made it into my hands was The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber. I've never heard of this one and if I didn't get it today, I would forget. If I wrote it down to remember for later, I might not get around to reading it. 

I was becoming tired of browsing and hungry too. And it was becoming difficult to browse comfortably with someone hanging in each corner. I had to change my position several times so that someone could pass. I heard someone call her father on the phone. "Hi Dad, do you have the Home Depot Home Improvement Book? How sweet. 

I saw a copy of William Zinsser's On Writing Well. I laughed because I bought a copy at The Salvation Army a few month's back. I laughed because I already had a copy. Now I have two; I didn't want a third. I've been reading it in slow spurts again. I like Zinsser's sense of humor and well I like reading books on writing even if I've read them or just peeked at them. It's just something I enjoy.

Earlier there were two people sitting at the writing reference section. I wasn't planning on going in that section on that day, but as I was getting ready to check out, I circled back and it was empty. I looked and looked. Lots of writing books, books on books, literature, education, dictionaries. What did I want? Did I see something that wanted to come home with me?

I saw two books that made it into my small stack: Howard Gardner's The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts and Standardized Tests, the K-12 Education that Every Child Deserves; and How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. I have a vague recollection that I had seen this second book before and made a note to come back to it. I couldn't pass it up for $1 and flipping through, Mr. Foster seems to have a great sense of humor.

A part of me really didn't want to leave, despite my hunger knocking around in my stomach, and the stuffiness pressing down on me. I took one last stroll and the last book I settled on, not knowing if it would end up clicking with me or not, but deciding to get it anyway is Thomas Steinbeck's Down to a Soundless Sea: Stories. I want to love it because it's stories about the history and culture of California. I hope I do.


Sunday was a simple day. We decided to walk into town and get some fresh baked bread from the Farmer's Market. I haven't felt especially inspired in the kitchen lately, so dinners have been a mix of take out and last minute planning. I need to do better.

The highlight of my morning–well, two highlights–one was as we began our walk. The chatter of this one little bird was so rich, such a strong, chattering voice that I could hear as though the little dear were singing into a microphone and the still air were his speakers. I looked up, up, up, into the tree until I set my eyes upon him. I saw his rouge belly. Ah, so it's you, I said. We continued with our walk with birdsong in my head.

The next highlight on our walk was a beautiful tree, stark against the white backdrop of the morning and there in its branches a different bird. I pulled out my phone to take a few photos. Hubby walked on as he said "C'mon, it's just a tree." We don't share the same appreciation for these little things and that's alright. I don't force it on him, although he hears point out this and that and sees me stop often to take photos. He doesn't mind. He jokes with me. I didn't budge of course. I will stop to take in the beauty and take my picture. When I was done I saw that he had made it a ways down the path, so I did a slow jog to catch up and off we went, walking into the beautiful day.


Yesterday I decided I needed a new journal–I needed to get back to "morning pages." I have a journal I've been writing in this year. It still has the last part of December. It didn't feel like a fresh start. The last notebook I got was at the .99 cents store, so when I paid $2.99 for a 90 sheet notebook if felt like a lot. I guess you could say, I really really like a bargain. A few days ago I started going through books to donate. I wish that I could let go of more. I'm not there yet. I also thought it would be a good idea to start going through old notebooks and tossing the ones that served their purpose. The pile isn't that big because a few years ago I went through a similar purge and tossed out a lot. 

Last night I sat down with two of my morning pages journals. I started skimming the pages. Most of it was just what the title of the notebook said and there wasn't much of interest, except a couple of jottings and a few dreams. The dreams are always the most interesting. I tore those pages out and threw out the notebooks with all those scrawling of every little thing that I was thinking or going through. They were memories that I no longer needed to hold onto.

Last night marked the night that I began morning pages, only it became my evening pages and this morning I continued and wrote in my new notebook and then I came here to the computer page, which in a way is a continuation–it was a kick start. I may as well write while I can. There are potential changes in the future...whenever they might happen...and well, it will change our lives and I may only be able to scribble a line here, a line there. Who knows. As I say that, I suppose, it will work out. I'll just have to be careful...time and responsibilities and all. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

What's Wrong with this Picture

Hubby and I both had to stop at the ATM. I was focused on our breakfast destination because I was incredibly hungry, which made me less observant of my surroundings. I was about to walk to the car when he pointed out that someone left their children in the car with its engine on. We looked around to see if a parent was around. No one people were at the ATM machine. Without hesitation he went into the bank to alert someone. I stayed outside in front of the car, looking around to see if someone would come out soon. 

Two children in the back seat, an infant and a toddler, not at all in distress, actually entertaining themselves, but something was not right. Sure, we might be in a safe neighborhood, but no where is absolutely safe and to leave two children unattended in an idling car doesn't seem right. Children are kidnapped all the time; cars stolen.

There were words exchanged in the bank. Hubby asked for security and told them about unattended children. A man–the man spoke up in an angry tone and said they were his and that who was he to judge. Hubby said indeed he was judging and it wasn't right to leave his children in a running car without anyone there. Shortly after that is when they came out those doors. He said the women in the bank gasped, they seemed in disbelief.

I look over at the bank doors to see if anyone is coming out. Out comes a man of about 35, hubby behind him walking towards me, shaking his head. The man reaches into the car with the children, turns off the ignition, and hurriedly goes back into the bank.

I asked if the man at least had a view out to the car. No, his back was to the door. 

What was most shocking to my hubby is that the man clearly did not think there was anything wrong in his decision.

We went on our way. The children remained alone for however long the man needed to clear up his banking business. They would probably be fine.

But really, Sir, you should be more careful in the future!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Two Views

One of the tasks that I enjoy doing at work is putting together the agenda for our bi-monthly team meetings where we also choose a place to eat. I add clip art to spruce up the blank page and try to come up with an interesting "activity" for each meeting. It could be anything from naming our favorite childhood game to working through a short list of anagrams. It mustn't take up too much time, just something to lighten things up, to inform, or entertain. Our past meeting, I was short for time and had collected a few bits of trivia to share from the back of past daily calendar pages. I also shared a quote from my new daily calendar: "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." 

As we entered the Vietnamese restaurant and taken to our seats, I immediately noticed the plants nearby and commented on how nice they looked. There was a collection of several green leafed plants on top of an area that had been built as a short wall that was wide enough to accommodate a half-dozen plants. A skylight illuminated their foliage and their space. When we sat, my boss said that he thought the plants looked gloomy. I was a bit surprised and asked him why he thought so. He wasn't able to say.

We placed our orders and I handed an agenda to the boss and T. The boss read the quote first and then said, "Is this another one of those depressing sayings?"

The quote was: "When you are wishing you were somewhere else, it’s almost as though you are one step removed from life rather than actually being in it, open to life exactly as it is.”

I told him that I thought the quote was somewhat uplifting and asked if he really thought it was depressing.  He gave me a look to say yes. He then moved on to the trivia and said, oh, this will be better, not depressing. I told him the trivia should be much more positive for his tastes and shouldn't make him feel depressed at all. He did like it, and I added a few more bits about it that I had read on Wikipedia.

We waited for our meals and drank tea and water. I noticed that the boss turned back to look at the plants. I asked him if he knew what it was that made him think they looked gloomy. He turned back again. He looked perplexed, like he was searching for something that had no answer. I suggested that maybe it was the beige wall they sat upon. He asked me what I thought; what was my view of the plants? I told him that when I looked at those plants standing straight and tall that they made me feel happy and that they looked happy and healthy. He agreed that they looked healthy, but that didn't change the fact that they also appeared gloomy to him. 

I completely accepted his view. I was just so fascinated that in this one instance, there were two totally different examples of how we saw something so differently. Of course if we were in an art gallery, I wouldn't give it a second thought. So why did it surprise me now?

He joked in a half-serious way that maybe his eyesight was going. I said his eyes were probably just fine.

Our meals arrived and we continued talking about other things. As I sipped my tea, I too stole glances at the plants, contemplating the different views, but also admiring their beauty. 

An Angel

Piercing blue eyes,
he, curved into his core,
a hand that trembles;
white hair, a lazy leg.

Making his living, in the last
stages of his life, washing away
the grime, making sure we can see
clearly, daydream through those clear windows,
watch the passerby.

I see him from time to time. The last,
before this, I wept.

I wept because I felt that I 
was looking upon one of God's Angels–

The moment I whispered these words aloud
for only my ears: 'that is one of God's Angels'–
the tears trailed down my face.