Friday, December 26, 2014

Let the Right One In at Christmastime

It's certainly been a lovely holiday season so far!--gatherings of friends, gatherings of family wamily, and Santa came! In that case, we let the right one in! Why am I recalling the title of a vampire movie and novel--excellent! scary! Swedish!--at holiday time? Let me tell you about that!

First, there is the aforementioned Santa, the one you want to come! You might even leave milk and cookies for him, and carrots for the reindeer. Then there is the Grinch, the one Cindy Lou Who discovered taking away the Christmas tree in Whoville, and who returned it when his heart got big enough.

Then there are the uninvited guests. Like me. Don't let me in, even if I happen to barge in. Which, alas, I did, on our way to the holiday book group dinner gathering. There were cars in the driveway, which we expected. We were on Regency Drive, thanks to Google maps, etc. But, alas, we were still on North Regency Drive, just an intersection away from South Regency Drive, our actual destination.

"I'm Kathleen," I said to the nice young man who answered the door, apparently the host's husband. I entered boldly, smiling, and encountered a dinner table of guests who smiled back over their wine glasses at me. "We brought things!" I said, still in energetic greeting mode, the unfamiliarity of all the faces only just beginning to dawn on me.

"What's in the bag?" asked one of men as I cheerfully retreated, saying something like, "Oops, wrong house!" It was a Victoria's Secret bag, large and pink, with pink ribbon handles, sturdy enough to bring the veggies, dip, and plastic Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer relish trays.... My special happy new year greetings to the folks on North Regency Drive, and thanks for your big hearts! I'm glad I'm not a vampire, for your sakes!

All this is coming together on a Random Coinciday as I encounter a particular section of the book I am reading, The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr, as she discusses her imaginary vampire club (and some very icky actual stuff) in childhood. Reading this and Lit in December, I am all the more grateful for my own childhood, the safety and security in my loving family, and the continuing love and relative good health of us all. Today we all go Into the Woods together...! Even though, oddly enough, The Interview is playing in our town. None of us has the urge to see that.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A.M. Yoga

I do A.M. Yoga with Rodney Yee at anytime of the day, but, yes, preferably in the A.M. In the summer, I swim and walk, and, this summer, I also biked with a Saturday morning biking group. In spring, summer, and fall, I do a lot of walking. In the winter, I am, these days, stuck* with A.M. Yoga. (I used to swim in winter at an indoor pool that is now rubble, carted away or smoothed into a street on the university campus.)

*"Stuck" is, of course, exactly what I might fear, but more on that later. And I love my morning yoga, don't get me wrong. P.M. Yoga, with Patricia Walden, the lady on the cover of the VHS tape, is too strenuous for me. Downright dangerous, as I can't hold the pose and simultaneously look at her on the tape to make sure I am doing it correctly, so I might 1) not be and/or 2) fall over 3) get stuck in one of her entangled poses (not pictured).

Yes, I am still a beginner. But without "beginner's mind." Instead, "monkey mind" intrudes on the meditation part of A.M. Yoga some mornings. I fear not. I do the stretching and relaxation, become aware of the monkey, and go complete things on my to-do list.

But this year, I am happy to report, I can do this pose, the one shown on this DVD cover. I can do it quite handily, quite leggelly, and have not fallen over yet. But I can only do it on one side, the side required to plug in the Christmas tree, which I positioned in a corner, near an outlet, an outlet that is now blocked by the decorated tree. I left just enough space for me, or Rodney Yee, to get in there and plug in the extension cord, doing this. So far, I haven't gotten stuck in this position. But if I do, I'll be behind the lit Christmas tree, so hand me a book.

I often wear my hair this way, as well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Silver Anniversary

Today is our silver anniversary, 25 years of marriage! We have kind of a rolling celebration because that's how we...roll. And because our "church wedding" was on December 15 while our "legal" union was on December 16, with an Abraham Lincoln lookalike justice of the peace pronouncing us husband and wife in the courthouse of downtown Chicago. Our "church wedding" consisted of us walking into St. Gertrude's church in the middle of the day, where the janitor was busy vacuuming, to ask God, if available, and the statue of Joseph with toddler Jesus on his shoulder if it was OK with everybody if we got married. Evidently it was.

We celebrated last night with pink champagne! We watched the movie Mr. Nobody and talked about time, time loops, love, choices, quantum physics, and other stuff. And there's another bottle of champagne in the garage, because that's our wine cellar.

I am reading Committed, the funny sequel to Eat, Pray, Love, at exactly the right time! Of course I also wish I had read it earlier, but she hadn't written it yet when I needed it the most. By "she," I mean Elizabeth Gilbert, who was writing this book while waiting around to marry a man she'd sworn not to marry. He'd sworn, too. I've always loved how the book title evokes a nut house.

There are many things I could quote from this book, but I'm going to quote Gilbert quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, because I like Eleanor, and her marriage was an interesting one. Eleanor said, "All human beings have needs and temptations and stresses. Men and women who have lived together over long years get to know one another's failings; but they also come to know what is worthy of respect and admiration in those they live with and in themselves." Yep!

I did love Gilbert's list of her own worst traits. It makes me want to list my own! And share it, humorously and earnestly, with my mate of 25 years. We both have silver running through our hair. We respect and admire each other. We make each other laugh.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent of Darkness

'Tis the season, yes, of darkness and cold. Winter solstice looms. There are terrible reminders of our hearts of darkness in the recent disclosures about torture and in the sadly, strangely necessary hashtag black lives matter. I know this is an especially difficult period--the holidays, the early night--for people who suffer from depression, recent loss, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

But I hunker down in the darkness, reading, beside the Christmas tree that lights up my lucky little corner of life.

I've been reading Cleopatra's Sister, by Penelope Lively, a fascinating look at fate, randomness, alternatives, accidents. It's a novel that allowed me to revisit a bit of the history of Cleopatra, particularly her sister Berenice, who is imagined as surviving and having her own affair with Mark Antony in a fictional land of the past, which is the fictional land of the present that the novel's main in. My actual sister, who once played Cleopatra, arrives soon after the solstice to celebrate Christmas with us! So, in this way, I am Cleopatra's sister. And here, on an alternative cover, are Cleopatra's sweet, sandaled feet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Yes, today is 12-13-14, one of those delightful calendar coincidences! So today is about numbers. I just finished reading Nine Inches, a bunch of short stories by Tom Perrotta, who also wrote Election and Little Children and The Wishbones. These are funny and tender and wise stories about crazy stuff that happens in schools and suburbia, scary yet sympathetic police officers, guys that have some difficulty growing up, marriages falling apart, and wannabe or used-to-be musicians.

I cringed at the TMI conversation between a teacher and student in "Grade My Teacher," then marveled at the little turn this story took. Lots of them take a very interesting turn or serious swerve! I winced at the beating a character took in "One-Four-Five," and many of these stories do end with a "punch," so to speak, a sentence that hits hard.

"Nine Inches" is not about a ruler, nor Converse tennis shoes. It's about the distance kids are to remain apart at the middle school dance, and is measured by a bit of measuring tape, not a hard ruler, as depicted. There's another school party, a high school party, in "The All-Night Party," where we get to see vulnerable people care about each other. That's always nice.

Speaking of numbers, my car is fixed! For only $46! Thank you, Davis Tire and Auto! And in the 100 Rejections project, here's the tally so far: 76 Sent, 33 Rejected, 20 Accepted, 21 Pending, and 2 N/A. Amazingly, the math adds up! True, I did not get 100 rejections in 2014, and did not even send out 100 submissions, but I persisted in sending out what I had that seemed ready. Rejection sometimes means it's not ready, and sometimes means it just needs to go to the right place at the right time.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

All Over Creation

"Can you drop everything?" said my husband, appearing in the doorway of my office at home. He was wearing a headlamp.

Things are marvelously random at my house.

He had got the car going, my car, the one that has been sitting in the garage for two months, hood up. Not going.

I dropped everything (my hands from the keyboard) and grabbed other things (purse, phone) and drove my blue car through the rain and vague fog, my husband following in his red car, to Davis Tire & Auto, where it will sit a bit longer before they can get to it and fix it, we hope. It's probably the ignition. We have figured this out after two months of fiddling and diagnosis, in the form of conversations with car people, Internet research, and a Chilton book from the library. Don't tell me it's the battery or the alternator. It isn't. Anyhoo, I am glad!! All I want for Christmas is my car fixed. And, OK, a new oven/gas stove. I don't need a dishwasher.

Now I am reading All Over Creation, by Ruth Ozeki, which, as you can see, is about potatoes. And a bunch of other things. Actually I am reading the edition with seedlings on the cover. I love Ruth Ozeki. Thank you, Kim Tingley, for recommending her book My Year of Meats, which put me off meat in general and red meat in particular and onto Ruth Ozeki. I miss hamburgers. But I do love the occasional bit of free range ground beef we get from relatives in Missouri.

I love potatoes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Blue Flower

In the middle of the night, I finished TheBlue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald, making good use of a couple of sleepless hours. In the book, the character of Fritz (who will grow up to be Novalis) has begun a story in which a listener is enraptured by a stranger’s story of a blue flower. There is also treasure, in the form of conventional riches, but the narrator longs to see the blue flower and Fritz, the writer, asks, “What is the meaning of the blue flower?”

Stop now, if you don’t want to hear another character’s answer to the question. But usually a symbol in literature can mean many related things; a symbol has great complexity, interpretations that ripple out like circles on a pond. (Wikipedia kindly ripples out the meaning of the blue flower from German Romanticism to the present day.) I’m still pondering the blue flower of the novel and won’t name all the ripples I see, but I do plan to quote “the Bernhard,” one of the children in Fritz’s family, a blond boy also called the angel in the house, who loves water—the river—and is relentlessly curious.

            He had been struck—before he crammed the story back into Fritz’s book-bag—by one thing in particular: the stranger who had spoken at the dinner table about the Blue Flower had been understood by one person and one only. This person must have been singled out as distinct from all the rest of his family. It was a matter of recognising your own fate and greeting it as familiar when it came.

This is what rippled inside me, the “matter of recognising your own fate and greeting it as familiar when it came.” (Spellcheck has automatically recognized and provided the familiar American spelling of Fitzgerald’s “recognising” as I compose….and I have obstinately changed it back in three cases.)

Still awake, the new issue of The Sun at hand, I read the interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner on plant intelligence and natural healing. You should know that Sophie, the betrothed in The Blue Flower, is seriously ill. When Fritz first sees her, age 12, across the room, he is inexplicably drawn to her. Says Buhner, “The ancient Athenians had a word for that moment when some intangible part of ourselves leaves our bodies and touches a living intelligence in the world: aisth─ôsis. There is an exchange of soul essence accompanied by a gasp of recognition, a deep breath, an inspiration.” As Fritz recognized Sophie, I recognized the Bernhard, with a little gasp at his inspiration.

And finally, for now, as I’m sure I’ll keep rippling in the blog, yesterday’s mail brought the current issue of Quiddity, in which I have a very short poem called “Broken Clouds.” You can hear it here, and it has blue in it. The magazine defines itself up front:

quiddity—the real nature or essence of a thing; that which makes it what it is (OED)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In a Nutshell

In a nutshell, I cannot afford this singular painting by Jonathan Koch, Walnut, nor the gorgeous apple paintings of the previous post, but maybe you can! (It's OK! Buy it! I am happy for you!!) I am reading The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald, with my mouth ajar in amazement and delight, perhaps subliminally wishing for walnuts.Various small nutcrackers adorn the room in a holiday fashion. The Blue Flower is about the philosopher-poet eventually known as Novalis. I love it. Reading it, I was reminded that "diligence" is a stagecoach, not just my own painstaking effort..., presumably because it is a persevering if slow-moving apparatus of travel. At Escape Into Life today, we announced the Pushcart Prize nominees, and I wish them all well! I am nominated this year, too, by two fine journals, so I know it is an exciting honor. Diligently tallying my submissions, et cetera, I noticed, before I lost count of things in general, that I've been nominated seven times before, as well, but not yet included in the Pushcart Prize anthology, so I'll end in a large slow-moving stagecoach of hope.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Happy December! We had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend with family in Missouri and Illinois. Beautiful travel weather, yummy food, so much to be thankful for in our immediate circumstances and in the abundance of this life and this year. It's like a windfall of good fortune, and I am acutely aware that it is not always so and not so for everyone.* Sigh.... Many thanks to all--the known and the unknown--who contribute to our well being and to the well being of others in our shared world.

*There was no traffic outside St. Louis, and I think we know why. Deep sigh.

The weekend included discussions of good and evil, right and wrong, and, for some, us and them; for me, none of this is black and white. I found that my current reading matter, Leaving the Sea, short stories by Ben Marcus, somehow captured the gray areas in a 21st-century Kafkaesque way.

Here is a new poetry video** by Swoon, Declination, best viewed at Vimeo, in the current issue of Right Hand Pointing.**

**in which I play a small part! The whole issue is a windfall of fantastic short poems!

And here is a windfall of apple paintings by Jonathan Koch, for which, many thanks! And we came home with apple sauce!