Tuesday, December 29, 2009

(Check Out) These Things

Things I recommend checking out:

"The List" -- Rosanne Cash's renditions of some on the list of 100 essential country songs, given to her by her father, Johnny Cash
From her website:
"When I was 18, I was on the road with my dad. One day, we were sitting in the tour bus, talking about songs, and he mentioned a song, and I said, "I don’t know that one." He mentioned another one, and I said, "I don’t know that one, either." Then he started to get alarmed, so he spent the rest of the day making a list on a legal pad, and at the top he put "100 Essential Country Songs." And he handed it to me and he said, "This is your education."

And check out these books, that I'm taking back to the library today after voracious winter reading:
Barbara Kingsolver's new book, "The Lacuna";
"A Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore (what beautiful writing!)

And new to the pile of books read but to be revisited to mine the passages I marked while I read them:
"The History of Love" by Nicole Kraus
More about that later, as it was not only the structure of the book but so many passages that I want to look at again ...

Things I want to check out:
The new biography of Raymond Carver, and Stephen King's review of it in the NY Times Book Review

Monday, December 28, 2009

Afternoon visit to the beach

Northern Ocean

White January froth
winter rhythm
midday light burns clear
and blue and sharp
until sudden twilight gray
hours before dark

The sand frozen in ruts,
winter peaks
in the dune where I set
your funeral flowers
long ago

Stripes of twilight colors
blew life into the sky, briefly,
like lips directing the flow of air
to one burning ember
when I walked in the hilly graveyard
yesterday afternoon

So many there dead
at 50, 60, 61 --
ages suddenly a part of me.

This is your life:
The wind soughing through cedars
grizzled and tempered,
green-gray and twigs.
The line of foam,
flat surface and breaking waves,
blood and tears seeped into the ground
hoping for joy to emerge

Greeting Christmas
in Paris and

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seasons of Light

It's such a cheesy phrase but I'll say it: the soundtrack of my life. Been thinking of that as I'm preparing playlists for a party for my upcoming "landmark" birthday, because, well, I want the evening to have more meaning than just another get-together, helping me take the next steps toward my approach to the next phase of life. And I do feel one phase is ending and another beginning.
But, really, I'm always there, running over the soundtrack of my life. Still loving the music I grew up with, and savoring the songs that moved me and soothed me and turned me on and helped me blow the cobwebs out at so many different points.
So it is with great excitement and satisfaction and gratitude that I'm playing, once again, Laura Nyro's "Seasons of Light," a live collection of songs that, singly and as a journey from one to the next, was such a part of things for me for a time that I wore the cassette tape out. Have been wanting to hear it again, in toto, but could not find what it was until I asked a friend, a fellow Laura fan, and he knew, right away: "Seasons of Light."
And here it is again, a gift. And just one of the many new and changing and returning things in my life that stitch my soul together through the years, like the people I love, and poems, and places, and moments, looping and unraveling and holding and stretching and rolling back again, holding this heart together as I live through my years.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Transformative Wind

A multilayered point in the year: the weather has been saturated, warm, and when I first titled this post some time ago there had been thick, blowy, thunderstorm winds, tangible wind, thick wind, wind you could hold in your hand like dough.
Then came the days of popping color, the road to home with its overhanging beeches and maples in their autumn green and gold, like driving into magic, a path I've taken in white blinding snow and through these leaves, so many years now, following toward home.
Rain, rain and then this late afternoon in the hollow of the graveyard, looking up its hills, I saw how the branches are now bare, charcoal sketchmarks against the horizontal wash of sunset colors.
For the first time surrounded by the winter horizon, knowing again how much I love the months where the shapes of the trees are revealed -- not too much, really, about those months, but that -- earth bones revealed.
But just the other night the crickets woke and sang, we shed our coats and shoes, and today I ran onto the sodden lawn, barefoot, to play with the dog.
Summer's remnant, somnolent but still a presence, the crest of fall, life imbued with death, and now, winter's look.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Almost, now, I can remember the sound of the screech owl at random moments of the day. With windows still open and the September quiet settled in, I've been hearing the owls through the night, several of them it seems, imprinting themselves on my mind as I doze and turn and rise to consciousness enough to hear them, then sleep again.
Now, with time shifting, it's just past six and the owl out back is making its fluttery sound. The moonflowers are opening, the crickets have begun. I'm shifting, too, wrapping up the day at an earlier hour so that now, at six, the plum tart is cooling on the board and I have swum, showered, and am hanging in the hammock watching the massive slow march of clouds across the window of trees in this landscape that is mine -- that has lent itself to me -- a painting in my heart, owls, crickets, the occasional osprey piercing by and all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Six Words

Though apparently it's not clear whether the story is true, it's said that when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to create a six-word story, he wrote: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Now, there's a book in which six-word memoirs collected by SMITH, an online storytelling magazine, have been published, called "Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure."
I was struck by two I read somewhere, authors unknown (to me): "All I ever wanted was more," and "Moments of Transcendence, intervals of yearning."

Inspired by these, I sent three topics for six-word stories to a friend and former colleague, Tim Small, who has started studying writing at the New School.
Here's what he came up with:

(On redemption)
Spilled food on lap of angel.

(On deception)
Marry me: I love your country.

(and on rebirth)
One hand left, picked up guitar.

Another six-word memoir in the book -- "They called. I answered. Wrong Number," reminded me of a story I heard recently from Randy Rosenthal, a sculptor here in NY whose lifelike wood carvings of things like the New York Times crossword page, or a yellow legal pad, bend the mind. He got a call recently asking if he would speak at a conference of toy designers, and was puzzled. Turns out they were looking for someone in Rhode Island named Randy Rosenbaum, and got his number instead. However, having Googled him after the brief conversation on the phone, they decided they wanted him instead. So it's off to a banquet hall full of toymakers he goes.

Autumnal Equinox

These days, darkness lies down with the late afternoon in the hour before dusk and the crickets begin their seamless layers of song, a peaceful sound that settles into my night ears.

Mystery creatures, I would like to attend their symphony someday, to see how it is done. A steady body hum, the sharper punctuation tones done with a rhythmic sawing of legs, all in sync.

The moonflowers have been on my mind. Purest white, dribbled butter lines of seams that fade as they stretch open, wide across as my hand. Moonflowers in light on recent days, where the quality of bright has kept them from shying away. All summer I waited while the leaves grew plentiful, large and green. Then in these late days, the blooms. The first like a gift, then four on one night, lasting into the day. Then finally, they are spent, and the shriveled petal skin droops, those glorious flowers now vaguely horrific appendages dangling from the plant.

And then the deer. Half awake in twilight, I came downstairs and had the slow dawning that something in my view was changed, the trellis hanging away from the house, moonflowers fallen to the brick. And the deer lifted its head to look at me, still slowly chewing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Swallows and Dragonflies

Last week it was the swallows, flying in over the harbor to flutter down on trees in the scrubby bay side of the beach, singly and in twos and threes, swooping in from across the water and over the road where I stood, watching. Other people walked, biked, drove by without seeming to notice, or did not stop. There were hundreds of birds, trees-full, settled for a moment until, by silent code, all would alight, wing once or twice around, tracing arcs, and then group together to settle again. Head tipped back, transfixed, of course I thought of "The Birds," and how Tippi Hedren ran, children in hand, heads bowed, screaming, as the birds flew in to peck. These swallows -- I called them swifts, the word just seemed right, but learned later they were tree swallows -- had that strength in numbers, power to make all of those oblivious beachgoers take note, but did not feel menacing at all.

This week there are dragonflies, hurrying in wide circles around the yard outside my kitchen door, where once before I sat surrounded by a swarm of them, something of a totem for me. I've found their bodies before and saved their clear, veined wings, ephemeral things with more strength than I may ever summon.
It's dizzying, chaotic, trying to follow them in the oncoming twilight, keep them in focus, in view, their hurried and effortless loops tipping vertically and horizontally like intertwined circus hoops.

There's nothing to do but sit here in the midst of them despite any other plans. I know I'm just by happenstance in the midst of whatever fall business they're about, just like the swallows were stopping off along the bay beach, serendipitously, when I was, too.
But both moments feel like blessed visitations to me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

To Give Voice

First post in my first foray into the world of blogs. After reading blogs written by two neighbor/writers, I began to see how posting here, publishing thoughts and observations, would be a way to open up and speak, and keep my writing "spidey senses" activated.
It's all been a silent, internal process too long; lots of creative thought-doors have opened, leading only to some tangled hallway of the brain or, in the more energetic and fortunate moments, perhaps as far as to my notebook. Hope this will be a way to widen the road, and the dialogue.

Spring rain in the railyard, Centralia, Washington