It's me

April 2014

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Apr. 22nd, 2014

It's me

Tuesday Morning

All winter long, the ground is frozen. It's hard and stiff and unyielding. But just about now, things start to thaw, and they start to thaw in a hurry. Generally, this is glorious, but specifically, I'm not a farmer, and I don't have to worry about fences. If you've fences, and your fence posts aren't set as deeply or strategically as they might have been, this time of year presents what is known locally as a 'fucking pain in the ass'.

Here's why: thawed ground doesn't provide as much support as its more rigid, frozen counterpart. It's soft. It's full of water. One could even say the ground is currently willing to go with the flow. Every where you look in these parts right now, you can see where the land wants to be a riverbed; eagerly servile, it bends and shapes itself to accommodate the will of the water.  The ground's not flat, nor is it still - things just don't work that way. Some fence posts handle the shifts with equanimity, but others fall right over.

When your fence posts fall over, your fence comes down, and when your fence comes down, your cows get out. These are dairy cows here, not the free-ranging beef cattle that you might imagine going for miles and miles out in cowboy country. If cows get out here, they're not going any place good. Yes, they're surprisingly adept at navigating pine-strewn, rocky woods, but they're not nearly as gifted when it comes to things like cars and highways. Dairy cows function on the presumption that everyone is Hindu; they blithely stroll down the pavement assuming everyone has a sacred duty to stop. You can imagine how well that works.

cows

So when the fence posts come down, it's fairly important that they go back up again quickly. There are things that are easy. Setting fencepost in freshly thawed, saturated, rocky ground is not one of them. Cedar posts are said to be best, although post is a rather grandiose word for trees stripped bare and rough hewn into a spiky end. You'll learn new words watching the farmer do this work. None of them are safe for work. If you've got a tractor with a bucket, the job's faster: hydraulics makes life simpler, they surely do. But if you don't have a tractor, or if the tractor is otherwise occupied, or it too isn't doing what you need it to do when you need to do it, then it's you and a post hole digger and a sledge and your motivation to get the job done. Sometimes, you might not even have that much, but the cows don't care: if they can get out, they will get out - ad hoc fence posts, far more function than form, litter the landscape. You do what you have to do.

There's no amount of prior planning or preparation that will leave one in a place where the fences never need repair. Time and circumstance will bring your fence posts down. This is a thing that happens. Keeping the fences up takes work, and sometimes it's work you don't want to do. The weather might be sucky. It could be dark or cold or both. Sometimes early spring snow falls, just in case life wasn't difficult enough. It's back breaking, skin scraping, soul wearying work. It is undoubtedly no fun. But it is also undoubtedly necessary. When you need to preserve what you have, and keep those cows happy and healthy, safe and content, good strong fences are not optional.  You don't realize how much work is involved in even the most humble, sorry looking fence until you watch it happening. But without the work, there is no fence, and then where would your cows be?

Where would your cows be indeed? Onward, upward, forward, beloveds. Here, it's time to make coffee. Other places, people are milking. I am so grateful not to be a dairy farmer right now, even if the art of the fence is not entirely unfamiliar to me. Onward, upward, forward in deed.

Apr. 20th, 2014

It's me

Sunday Night

When we went out after Easter Eggs, oh so early in the morning, the ground was still frozen. Every blade of grass was silver with frost. I could see the girls' footprints following them: Nadia's boots galloping over the yard ferociously; Harmony's sneakers meandering from finds that were too easy and hence unclaimed to those she deemed hard enough to collect.

There were lots of birds on the ground, wee slate juncos and black grackles, conferring amongst themselves who indeed was responsible for the rainbow of eggs strewn so carelessly everywhere: they weren't sure of our role in the proceedings, but happy would not explain their state of mind. The children, however, were pretty tickled and their hauls were miraculously even. One egg, likely fully of jelly beans, is still missing, but I have faith it will be discovered soon.

Lunch was glorious. Our oven has been cranky lately - it'll cook anything you want at any temperature you want, provided the temperature you want is 550 degrees - so we decided to do hot turkey sandwiches instead of a proper roast turkey. You get all the tastes of a feast in about 1/4 of the time, for about 1/4th of the cost. Simple, stress free, and there was cranberry sauce.

After, we napped - or watched Andrew Zimmerman on TV, which was roughly the same thing today - and then Tim went off to work. Nadia rode her bicycle around while I trailed behind her on foot: she'd get far enough ahead and circle back to me and zoom off again. I think she rode 3 miles to the mile I walked. The Amish buggies when they pass leave marks upon the pavement; faint whitish tracks that goes for miles. Today being Easter, they've had a lot of buggies out. The side of the street is thus beribboned with their passage; the lines twist and snarl one over the other: if you had to track a one, it'd be a job indeed.

Now for tonight, I am going to spend some time with the 2014 Best European Fiction, which I got primarily because of the essay written by Drago Jancar. It's a powerful conversation about what art is, and what culture is, and what entertainment is, and how all of these things line up together. There's a fascinating bit in there about how great literature is born of the tension between the writer and the state that wishes to repress the writer: when people are free to write, the marketplace becomes flooded with the mediocre and profitable - I'm not sure if I agree with that or not, but I am enjoying thinking about it.  Four stories in, and I've really enjoyed The Man in the Yellow Parka by Thierry Horguelin (very Twilight-zoney) and got wrecked by The Curious Case of Benjamin Zec, by Elvis Hadzic, which starts out in one place and ends in another; the ending is perhaps not unexpected when you know Hadzic is from Bosnia. Not unexpected doesn't mean easy tho. So there's that, and my chocolate bunny and then later on Cosmos - a good end to a good day.

Hope it was all awesome for you guys too!

Apr. 19th, 2014

It's me

Saturday Morning

So here we are, a week later. I have a big long complicated explanation of the experiment, but to sum up, I spend a lot of time talking to the Universe, and I wanted to see what would happen if I shut up and listened for a while. What, exactly, did the Universe have to say?

And I listened for a week, and the Universe delivered a pretty consistent message that life is really worth the living. That's very good news, you know, because the girls are old enough now, and some days I'm very tired.

There were some dark moments. Barring a miracle, chances are pretty good that the job that accounts for about a third of my income will be going away in the next month or so. Yesterday I had a fit of vertigo so sudden and intense that it both flattened and scared me.

On the other side of the balance sheet, on Monday Nadia went exploring all by herself for a while. This was a little nerve wracking for me, but she was prepared with cell phone and safety instruction and time limits and parameters, and I let her go on a journey my own Mom wouldn't have thought twice about allowing, up the road and past the cows, toward the curve in the road by the big new barn. She came back beaming and triumphant with a horse shoe she'd found. One of the Amish horses must have thrown it over the winter. It's rusty & bent but as far as we can tell, still full of good luck. Her joy, at discovery, at INDEPENDENT discovery, was tremendous. She was so proud she even told people about her adventure, my little mouse who seldom talks. It was impossible to contain this wondrous event within herself.

Later, I was telling one of the ladies I work with about this, and she said, "Oh, how neat! I've never seen a horse!" which both shocked me and make me realize that the every day we take so much for granted her is really quite exceptional. It's good to have your eyes opened to that every now and then.

Then we went to the SUNY Plattsburgh museum on Wednesday. They've the senior show hanging now, and there were a couple of really effective pieces hiding in among the students doing what they've always done: one young woman Elle Needham is quite a brilliant portraitist, and I hope to follow her work. It was very, very good to be in a place where art is taken seriously, where self-expression matters, where there is space and serious consideration given to the visual expression of ideas. You do not know what you are starving for until you find it once again.

Here is a pic of Elle's work I swiped from her Facebook page:

Elle Needham Portrait

And then we went upstairs. The Nina Winkel sculpture garden is one of my favorite places: in the county, perhaps in the world. Just stepping into that space, I felt the wet rawhide snarl that has been tangled round my heart give - not entirely, but enough, where I could breathe and be and remember that the world is full of people who know important things. In that time, there with my daughters, I learned anew how our understanding of art changes with our education and experience. Nina did a piece, long ago, of Abraham and Sarah. She stands there, gravid and joyous; he kneels before her, his ear to her womb, awestruck and amazed. The last time I'd seen this piece, I'd not had children. It was a well done piece but emotionally didn't touch me. Now that I have; now that I've borne witness to the women who have been in Sarah's position, and the sculpture was entirely new to me in a way I can't explain. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.

And then we wandered on from that room, and there was a little room I'd never seen open before open (despite having spent YEARS in this building!) and we went in and there, hanging on the wall, were 4 Andy Warhols, including Sitting Bull, the museum's latest acquisition.

andy_warhol_sitting_bull_d5622277h

And that was pretty wonderful too: again, my experience with the art has changed a lot over the years: my appreciation for artists like Warhol and Haring has grown exponentially with years spent in the marketing trenches. There were so many treasures packed in that little room. There's a Rodin, a Renoir, ancient African pieces made with beads and clay. The girls were underwhelmed; we had quite a discussion as we left about how a red circle on a white canvas with a black X 'counts' as art. In the hallway (!) there's a Chuck Close sketch - although I'm not sure sketch is the right term for the wee grid map of intention on display there.

On Thursday, scientists announced the discovery of a planet not so very different from Earth. I hadn't realized how deeply I'd internalized the idea that Earth was a one-of-a-kind deal in the universe. To hear that there's another planet - and who knows who lives there? - like our own makes more real things that had only ever been theoretical. To look at a planet that looks like ours - and yet all the coastlines are wrong, nothing is where it is 'supposed' to be, but there is no supposed to! - is exciting and awe inspiring and I could not sleep for hours that night. Not even wondering, not even imagining, just turning the news of this new planet over and over in my head like a raccoon presented with a mango: what is this wondrous thing so outside of everything we've ever known?

kepler186f_artistconcept_0

Yesterday I had to walk. Walk and walk and walk, because I have to keep the blood moving if I don't want to die, and all of a sudden, the world is too wonderful to be dying. And that was very good. And then there was time washing dishes, which is a meditative experience for me, and some things became very clear: My own internalized expectations have become toxic and are keeping me from joy. It's time to let them go. I need to become much more proactive about stress management and the deliberate search for joy. And you don't even have to be too deliberate: this week was jam packed full of joy that I hadn't even been looking for. It's a question of paying attention.  I like to talk, but I've been talking so much that I've stopped paying attention the way I should be. Balance is good. I'm going to try for one week on, one week off, and see how that works. I bet I'm going to be a  lot healthier as a result. And then the dishes were almost done, and I was standing there, looking at the neighbor's backyards through the kitchen window, and there was a beautiful moment of stillness, and calm peace, a knowledge that I am enough and the world is good and that it doesn't all have to be so effort-full: it just needs to be. Life is, most decidedly, worth the living.

So that's the result of that experiment. I'm counting it as a success. Onward, upward, forward, y'all. Onward, upward, forward in deed.

Apr. 13th, 2014

It's me

Radio Silence for a Bit

I'm trying an experiment re internet usage for the next 7 days, which will also keep me off of social media. I'll let you know what it's all about when I get back :-) Until then be good!

Apr. 11th, 2014

It's me

Friday Morning

Did you ever wonder if the hate was structural; if it was all that was holding you up, if that it were to be somehow removed from your existence, your self would collapse? When the hate wakes me up, I wonder that. Especially in the middle of the night, when it's dark and I have to count the clock's chimes to know it's only midnight - being woken by the hatred at dawn seems to be part of a greater larger natural order but during sleepytime proper, not so much.

Buildings can be built on all sorts of foundations. I don't know if you've ever seen a trailer put where it shouldn't be; no amount of block can counteract ground too soft and wet. Round here, if you go down underneath the houses, there's no telling what you'll find. Big old stumps and boulders too big to even think about moving - that's what we build upon. In the cities they dig down, down, down pile driving into the depths to counter roof lines that will scrape the sky:here you find concrete, rebar, theoretically solid stuff. Some places they build on nothing at all; homes cling to mountain faces like barnacles, barnacles with generations stuffed inside.

Hate gives us a crushed stone foundation; a million little sharp edged bits, all acting as one. Held in place by the mass it supports; thus trapped, it needs no mortar. Theoretically functional, if not great, but in application it all falls apart. Too much water, an earthquake, a sinkhole, ground heaves - whatever strength and integrity there was is compromised quickly by environmental stresses. The things that you think are solid and sustaining are sometimes just the things that happen to be there.

You have to be careful what you depend upon. I know a man who is a criminal defense attorney; paid only - no public defending for him, there are no questions of the nobility of the bar, social change, or justice whatsoever to be entertained here. Once upon a time, he had a client who stood accused of a violent, bloody, brutal assault that left the victim quite fucked up but not dead. There was no security film or any of the handy evidence bits like you see on TV; just this guy vs. that guy and that's it. The victim told, in long detail, of the many hateful things he was told by the person who was trying to kill him. The defense hinged almost entirely on the fact that the accused, significantly developmentally delayed, was mute; while there was no question really that he could do hateful, violent things, the fact he could not talk was a pretty good indication that he did not do *this* hateful, violent thing. There were doctor's notes and testimony from workshop supervisors and other reliable sorts about the defendant's perpetual silence. No one could be found who ever saw this guy talk. There was some kind of legalistic maneuvering that meant instead that things weren't going to keep going as a trial and the guy was no longer a defendant, he was free to go - a situation the attorney explained to his client in some lengthy detail in a courthouse conference room. It took a while; he wasn't sure his client understood, the way he sat there, blinking at him with big moist bovine eyes, but eventually the idea got through. When it did, the man stood, nodded at the attorney, said, "Thanks man. I appreciate it," and walked on out of there. Lawyers charge a lot of money so they can afford to drink a lot.

Appropos of everything, check this out:



With community and hard work, anything can be changed. If the foundation you have isn't the foundation you want, that foundation can be changed. The process may not be pretty; it may not be smooth; it certainly is not what is conventionally done. But it is a thing that can be done, and that is good to know.

Onward, upward, forward, my beloved. Onward, upward, forward, in deed.

Apr. 10th, 2014

It's me

GROUP PROJECT

Mom is bringing my aunt to visit in a little over 2 weeks. I want to host a Relentlessly Cheery Spring Luncheon to Lift The Spirits & Delight the Tired Soul. So: I need recipes and decorating ideas and really any of those little touches that make people feel good, loved & cared about. Maybe a little bento-box of goodies to take home with, too - so please help me with ideas, links, directions, pictures: I promise you I will take and post about 65,000 pictures of the awesomeness.

I know I need to have daffodils. That's about as far as I've gotten
It's me

Thursday Morning

The cat and I are in a war for possession of the porch table top. It is, you understand, one of the best spots in the house from which to watch the birds. Right now, there's a slate junco pecking diligently where the echinacea will be growing soon. I can't deny that it's compelling viewing. But at the same time, I have some need of space to think and work and write.

When I was a little kid (and even now) I was fascinated by the idea of secret knowledge; particularly secret knowledge held by groups. Taking two pivotal texts of my childhood - Dune & The Mists of Avalon - we have two societies of women devoted to seeking & using knowledge, both everyday and esoteric. Had the Bene Gesserit existed when I was 14, I would have signed up in a heartbeat and never looked back.

Now, though, I'm not sure there is such a thing as secret knowledge. I'm not even sure there's a need for it: ordinary knowledge isn't all that common. We're drowning in information and starving for understanding. Just yesterday I was reading about Robert Proctor's work on agnotology, which is the study of the creation and dissemination of misinformation into the collective conversation. The tobacco industry apparently led the way with this - I can remember commercials & ads for healthier cigarettes, myself - and now supposedly the practice is rampant. I myself am not sure that this is any more prevalent than it ever was: people have been confidently proclaiming whatever 'facts' will advance their agenda as long as their have been people and agendas.

But what types of knowledge qualify as secret? Then or now? The workings of power are a big one; people always want to find out who's in charge of whatever's going on. Beyond that, we have the sciences, physical and behavioral - why things happen and why people do what they do. A distressing amount of healthcare knowledge is esoteric - and the conspiracy theories about how gov't is keeping you from using peppermint to soothe your tummy makes me bang my head against the table. History is full of secrets, or at least things that people would rather not discuss: it can be uncomfortable to acknowledge that one is descended from the bad guys. (Spoiler alert: there are WAY MORE bad guys than you ever imagined)

The thing is that the barriers to knowledge aren't there the way they used to be. I do think there's considerably social pressures against intellectual achievement in some settings, and we ignore those at our peril - it's amazing what people who have all the privilege & support of an academic-centric life will brush away with a breezy 'well, you can't let that stop you!'- but that's another story for another day.

Sometimes I think the most secret knowledge is domestic. How to wash the dishes and pick up the dirty clothes and get the groceries put away - no one seems to know how to do those things and furthermore they're impossible to learn! But now to work I go, on things not one bit secret but interesting enough, which is a blessing. Onward, upward, forward, y'all!

Apr. 9th, 2014

It's me

Wednesday Morning

Let's say someone tells you that the sexual abuse you went through as a child doesn't matter, because that's the way you were. And let's say when you call out that bullshit, because it is bullshit: all children deserve protection against sexual predators, not just children-who-aren't-you, it is pointed out that you're being mean; that you shouldn't question any decisions regarding your care, because your role in this world is to be grateful for the crumbs you get, because children-who-are-like-that deserve nothing, so shut up and show some gratitude and really, if you don't like the life you have, you should have made different choices; the Egyptians built pyramids with nothing more than hand chisels, look at all the opportunities you've had to do more and yet all you want to do with your life is make people feel bad, what do you do?

What happens when all this comes not from the people who have the balls to overtly hate you, the mean ones, the bastards, the scum, but nearer, dearer, the people who were supposed to have your back, supposed to love you. Oh, they love you but. Oh they love you that's why they tolerate you. Oh they love you but if they didn't love you they wouldn't know you, they don't know people like you, people like you aren't worth knowing, don't you know that? You would know that if you weren't always focused on your self. Why would you pay attention to something so unworthy of your time. You could be working harder. You could be making money. You could even make something of yourself. We wouldn't have to be ashamed of you when people ask what you do. What do you do then?

You come to me with the fields now, darlings. That is what you do. I want you to see them as they are right now, with the snow just melting and ice water standing and row after row, pile after pile of stinking cow shit thawing in the new spring sun. Do you know what that cow shit's there? Do you know why every morning, every evening, you see the honey wagons trundling down the road; in the snow, in the rain, in the blazing sun?

Because nothing grows without fertilizer and we need the hay come winter. The shit you've taken has made you stronger. That's good to know. It's important. Also good to know? You're not a field, passive and still. You can move on from where the honey wagons go. They'll keep on dumping. You don't need to be there for it.

You'll think you do. That you're supposed to be. You might even pick up handfuls of shit and let it rain down on yourself. What if they're right? What if they know? What if way deep down, you know that you're even worse than what they're telling you? Here's the way out of that: deep inside we're all monsters. Every single one of us is horrible, murderous, wretched, twisted evil; all of society and culture and all those taboos and rules were developed to make sure nobody ever knows. People call out your sins - all the good ones, like existing and being that way and not knowing better and pride - because they don't want anyone paying attention to theirs. That's the way this works, and you don't have to play. Fuck those people. Free pass. Game over. If this is love, you don't need it; if this is family, you'll build your own and be happier for it. It's true.

It's true and we forget; old habits are easier than new reality. So when the shit wagon stops by unexpectedly it hurts like a motherfucker. Every time we're born we scream. But there's a way into every field and there's a million ways out. You can crawl, you can walk, you can run, you can grow wings and fly - all of this is there for you. There for me. There for us and those like us. It's just as much our world as anyone's. Let's go forth and make our way in it.

Onward, upward, forward, beloved. Onward, upward, forward in deed.

Apr. 7th, 2014

It's me

Monday Morning

The sunrise this morning has the sky wearing broad bands of pink, vibrant and insistent. It is time to get up! The birds are already busy. I've slept through the parade of tractors and buggies and all the virtuously active morning chore lot and I feel pretty good about that.

There's always a question of what one would do if one didn't have to do, especially where bedtimes are concerned. Joseph Campbell has a bit about this, where he talks about watching a father chastise his son: You can't just go around doing what you want to! What would happen if you followed your bliss?

Bliss isn't necessarily aligned with success, or security, or any of those essential things. I tend to believe that those essential things are illusions at best - particularly tricky illusions. The more you chase them, the more they retreat into the distance; the more you're sure you have them, the more fearful you are that they will be taken from you. Bliss is good but fleeting - and security is the same way.

There are two ways to describe something. You can talk about what it is, or you can talk about what it is not. Each type of description has its uses, and it's not particularly wise to rely on one method exclusively. Especially where your self is concerned.

Now it is time to get the girls out of bed and make some coffee and see them off to school and write some fiction for a good couple of hours and then get to work. It will be a good day here. I hope the same is true for you! Onward, upward, forward, y'all: those miracles won't work themselves!

Apr. 6th, 2014

It's me

Hey, Remember When I Was A Writer?

And I wrote my own stories and books and such? It's time for that to start again. I figured out part of why I wasn't writing this afternoon, and it was a fairly foolish reason. So it's time to sling a saddle on Bessie's back once again and see what happens. Look out, y'all. Mama's had enough of being quiet.

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