Randomly, I used my diary to record some of my thoughts on her book. In my reading journal, I recorded some of her reflections on her marriage, noting its similarity to my own. In The Art of the Wasted Day, the "you" she addresses is her husband. "In a moment of great tenderness I once confessed...that I loved living with you. It's like being alone, I said happily. You cocked your beautiful head and said mildly, I gather that's a compliment?" That reminded me of our side-by-side lives in a long marriage, a double solitude for which I am grateful but that has sometimes left me sad. It is, though, the perfect marriage for two artists. Hampl also quotes Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet, saying, "Rilke describes the ideal relationship as a love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Saturday, December 26, 2020
"He divined early the value of being sluggish, lax, drowsy..." I needn't worry about my own bouts of sluggishness! As an aware, daydreaming child, sitting under a beechnut tree, Hampl, too, committed early to "the life of the mind," her italics.
Revising my own previous worries, as someone who, like Hampl, later in life, makes relentless to-do lists, I can concur in regard to late-stage laid-backness: "This isn't sloth, it isn't laziness. It isn't even exhaustion. It is a late-arriving awareness of consciousness existing for its own purpose, rippling with contentment and curiosity. One's own idiosyncrasy reveals itself as a pleasure, without other value--but golden, amusing, integrity hard-won and now at its leisure. Hand on heart, this life of the mind, lolling--tending to life's real business."
Oddly, Montaigne doesn't look all that gay and free in his frilly ruff!
Sunday, December 20, 2020
When I get cold or melancholy, a kind of laziness overtakes me. At bedtime, I don’t want to take off the layers of t-shirts under my clothes to put on my jammies. (Fortunately, I am good at taking off a bra under my clothes and out through a sleeve like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance.) On sad days now, when I look at the Christmas tree and know my kids aren’t coming home, I don’t want to get up from the couch, where I am bundled in a soft, blue blankie, reading a book, even though I know I should get up and move every hour—to keep warm, to keep the body moving, not sitting, because it’s wiser, healthier, not as sad.
And then I do it, because I am in the habits of diligence. I hear the washing machine stop, so I go put the clothes in the dryer and start a new load. I hear the mail carrier come, so I get the mail, then put on a coat, and re-deliver a mis-delivered piece of mail to my neighbor next door. I diligently write down who sent a Christmas card, and when, on my little list, and commit to writing a card back, if I haven’t sent one already, during this especially good year to maintain connection with people….
I wondered if the more precise word was lassitude, but I don’t think so. Lassitude is a weariness, a lack of energy, and so is lethargy. Laziness is a disinclination to work. At these sad, cold, lazy moments, I am disinclined to get up and do the necessary bit of work, but, once I do get up, I have the necessary energy. I do a lot of small, steady tasks, all the time. I have patience and perseverance. I keep to-do lists.
Yes, my laziness is temporary, cold-induced, connected to melancholy. I’m aware of this…and of the way sadness can clutch at me sometimes. I can feel the pull down. I have various ways of saying no to the pull, even as the tears fill my eyes and start their spill, even if it’s just getting up from the book I’d rather read than do anything else, to do anything else.
And then, back to the book. And on to the next book. So far this year—and there are two weeks to go—I’ve read 155 books. These include plays, poetry books, chapbooks, and graphic novels, as well as novels, memoirs, books of essays, books of short stories. My coffee table is stacked with books ready for a second lockdown, books not yet begun, finished books not yet shelved elsewhere, books in progress with bookmarks sticking out, library books that will automatically renew. Clearly, these books, these stacks, represent my combined laziness vs. diligence, conflict resolved. And a Slattern Day in the blog.
Saturday, December 12, 2020
That same day I walked the outdoor labyrinth and ran into a live concert, sort of. In the bandshell, a group of guys with guitars and one harmonica were sitting in a socially-distanced circle, playing music. Lovely! I was a bit worried for them, as there was some singing, and their circle faced in, but I am hoping they are OK because they were outdoors. I was at a distance on a bench, with my eye also on an adorable toddler Husky out walking his man.
And also a Slattern Day, because my work is done! Ta-ta and toodleoo!
Update: Speaking of Die Hard, you might prefer the lesbian Die Hard mentioned here.
Sunday, December 6, 2020
Before that, I had planned to meet a friend for a hike in the woods. But first I had to check my email...
Now, perhaps, the same thing is happening again, the day getting away as I write this blog entry, as I tally my statistics for the year, as I look back at things I forgot I did, poems I forgot I wrote. 2020 has crammed my brain full of worry and details and strange little poems...and to-do lists of things that do and don't get done.chalkboard poems reached the hearts and minds of those who saw them. I was connected that way, during the disconnect. Someday I may look back on 2020 with the cliched hindsight...and understand things I'm not understanding now. Sigh... I already wear tri-focals.
Saturday, December 5, 2020
In November, I resumed my one-month-on, one-month off, poem-a-day practice, writing a poem a day on a chalkboard, posting a picture of it on Instagram, plus the picture and poem text on Facebook.
My last few poems in November became people's favorites, as if I was finally warming up just before I had to stop. That's how it goes sometimes! But I knew I needed a rest and a shift in December, and to move the chalkboard down to the basement again. I yearned for a Christmas tree, and that might mean a furniture rearrangement. Yes, indeed. Where the chalkboard once stood, in front of the poetry bookcases in my home office, I have put a nice rocking chair for reading, moved from the living room to make room for the tree. Decorating the house and the tree has been one of those small, daily ways of being/staying creative!
Lots of people liked my tiny poem about singing to my kids:
I sang to them,
their whole small lives,
and sometimes now
they burst into my wild
November 25, 2020
And lots identified with the blues in this one:
Sad in a cozy
little way, wrapped in a blue
blanket, reading a blue
book of short stories.
November 27, 2020
A co-worker painted watercolors in response to two of my poems--one about wind, one about the wind blowing a "sideways mum" into my yard--and someday maybe we can hang her paintings and my poems along with other staff art in the little art gallery in our public library! Someday when people can return and the gallery isn't full of quarantine bins of returned library materials...
Yesterday the wind
rode thuglike through, disbanding
the organized leaves.
November 16, 2020
The wind blew a sideways mum
into our yard, pulled from its pot
still blooming, the way my mind
tips out sometimes, lost and unlikely.
November 22, 2020People liked this one a lot, often mentioning the image in lines I almost cut!
All the Way Light
It’s all the way light now,
even a sheen of light
frost on the grass, grill, picnic table,
like the ghost of summer caught napping,
soon to wake invisible.
November 28, 2020I almost cut "the ghost of summer" in case it was too cheesy or unclear, though somehow that was exactly what I was seeing out the window. Glad I trusted myself and my readers! Likewise, the colors in this little poem inspired a variety of responses and moods, and several locals had stood as transfixed by the sunrise as I was!
the sky was striped pink.
Softly, then, suffused by gold,
it slipped into tangerine peel,
then sliced peach
on a pale blue china plate.
November 29, 2020"The Goodbye Poem" came out blurry, captured my mix of feelings, and seemed to provoke a similar mix in my readers. I do think I'll be back--in the spring or sooner--and hope that most of us will also be back. What times of grief and loss we are going through. And what times of hope for joy and change!
The Goodbye PoemI want to say I’ll be back
in the spring—or sooner!—
but who knows anything now?
Still, I think I will…
November 30, 2020
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Yesterday and the day before I took long walks in the Thanksgiving weekend sunshine, mailing a first batch of Christmas cards at the Uptown post office, avoiding the shopping strip (though I do love our local shops), restocked the Little Free Library with children's Christmas books for Iris Harley, and hung a strip of tiny white lights on the patio door to dangle free and loop around the houseplants. I yearn for a tree. We'll see. I have lost track of the day of the week, but since I did all my housework yesterday, I'll call it a Slattern Day in the blog.
Friday, November 27, 2020
I am glad to say these movies have managed to cheer me up, as did a long walk in the afternoon sunshine. I have much to be grateful for, and I am indeed thankful. And I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving weekend, good vaccine news, and merrier times to come.
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Probably a cherry cordial Hershey's kiss is not a healthy breakfast, but today it was one of the soft joys keeping me (emotionally & spiritually) alive. We had our weekly grocery shopping date early this morning, and I got the $2.99 special on Hershey's holiday candy (if you buy 5 packages), an item actually on my list, because I had been decorating my house, and it was time to put colorful (individually-wrapped) candy out in the various dishes...for us to eat for several months, as nobody else is coming in our house... Sigh...
But, back to the joy part, I had no trouble picking out 5 bags of what I wanted, including mint, almond, plain milk chocolate, and peppermint bark bells. Instead of eating breakfast, I was placing the dishes around the house. Somehow, this helps.
Likewise, I was delighted with the response to my story, "A Retiring Woman," and grateful to Calyx for publishing it online. My daughter and her boyfriend were gripped by it, and she quoted a passage on integrity of voice. My son said he laughed out loud! Yay! It's a long story, and so many people read it and responded. I am wowed.
Saturday, November 14, 2020
Well, I got over yesterday's cranked-up crankiness and actually got even more work done than expected! So today could be an official Slattern Day, except I am actually working from home this afternoon--virtual poetry event at the library--and, as usual, working on various things in my home and home office before and after that. I am glad that Cranky Doodle Day is a fairly rare day among my "eight days a week" regular blog practice, but I suppose the crankiness can build up.
I congratulate all those people who put up their holiday decorations during our warm spell! I am pulling out interior decorations gradually, and I am glad I planted that tiny tree in a pot to decorate with blackberry lily seeds and leftover earrings. Every little bit helps. My chalkboard poem for today is "Sad/Glad," about my children. When I walk into my daughter's room now, I flip the light switch to turn on her string of tree lights left behind...
I walk into the rooms
of my children
who won’t be coming home
for the holidays.
I am glad
they are alive.
I had some good news: my story "A Retiring Woman," which has gone through many revisions and various titles, coming back now to its original title, was first runner up for the Margarita Donnelly Prize in Prose Writing at Calyx. For fellow writers, I've been working on this for years, and years ago I sent it to Calyx, thinking that was the perfect home for it. It was rejected. Back to revision! And back to Calyx! I love how this worked out.
Also, Calyx is in Oregon, and so is my daughter, so it's a Random Coinciday in the blog!
Friday, November 13, 2020
Superstitiously, I also put off posting a poem on my chalkboard by writing a mock-superstitious mock-haiku. No joke, though, I really didn't want to jinx anything by posting the real poem I'd been working on...and I have learned to listen to my gut.
What things make me nervous? Sometimes it's communicating about technology via technology! I'm big on communication but aware that a lot of people don't like to read emails or communicate promptly. So, mixed fear and annoyance about lack of response. Sometimes it's dread of certain people who find fault with anything I do. I know this is probably from their own fears and insecurities, but it still gets to me, hurts my feelings. Sometimes it's because if I say something like that, someone is bound to jump on me and say I'm the one in control of my own responses to other's people's negativity, et cetera, blah blah blah. I'm laughing as I type this but also annoyed!--with them as much as me, BECAUSE, to quote from the musical Company, "I'm a living thing, too, you shithead." Wow, I didn't know that was coming. I guess it's a Cranky Doodle Day in the blog!
Sunday, November 8, 2020
What joy, joy, joy and relief I've been experiencing since yesterday! I'd gone into my front yard at 11:30, maybe to put out the mail? My across-the-street neighbor said, "We've got some good news!" This was the first year her daughter could vote! Yay all around! So many pictures of champagne later in the day, the spread-out family toasting! And all of us had beautiful weather wherever we were, the weather joining in the figuratively/literally thing.
It's Sunday and I've got that "Love thy neighbor as thyself" feeling. Neighbors have been out in the fine weather, so we've been able to chat from an appropriate distance in the fresh air. I still love my back yard neighbors who probably voted differently than I did, the down-the-way not-so-responsible (poop) dog owners, and the neighbor who left conservative/religious books in my Little Free Library as an obvious message (since the yard signs recently in my yard were also an obvious message). Yes, let's heal, work together, and love one another as best we can.
Saturday, November 7, 2020
Yesterday, freight trains came through town on both my walks. On the way into town, I saw the marvelous graffiti that gave me this small poem that started as a haiku, expanded into a double haiku (not really a thing), was briefly a reverse haibun (also not a thing) in the bramble, and eventually became two stanzas that fit on a chalkboard.
Graffiti on its box cars
gives me the finger
over and over.
I smile in the sun,
admiring the patient art
of angry artists.
The train was stopped now, all crossing bars down. I could see that no emergency vehicles would be able to get through until the bars went up. The police station, blocks away, is on the other side of the tracks. Et cetera. Drivers continued to make bad choices, especially when the crossing bars went up, and they surged and turned into the path of police cars to get where they wanted to go, but finally help reached the woman, and she walked into the ambulance with two fellows helping. My friend gave a witness statement, and I chatted with a young man with a bike, who had come to work in the building she'd just hit. He had a bandage on his head from an accident that morning--bike, car--and seemed a bit befuddled, repeating his story with exact words to everyone who came near.
Walking away, I could see how easily we could have been in the driver's path. There were two white turn arrows painted on the street. One pointed to the sidewalk a few feet from where we stood, and one pointed to the building where she had crashed. These are advance warning arrows, but it was as if she had followed the second one exactly. Her car took the arrow's path, not the street. How is she doing now, that young woman? What a horrible day for her, on what a beautiful day.
I went home and collected yard signs for candidates (to return or recycle) and raked the side yard of tulip poplar leaves and sat in the back yard with the squirrels and read a book and drafted more poems and said hello to a tiny dog that had been running around the neighborhood and eventually into my back yard (where the gate is stuck open), explaining some past incidences of poop. And now I know the identity of the dog's people...the back yard neighbors down the way who curse a lot. Maybe they'll turn up in a poem someday.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
Monday, October 26, 2020
Sunday, October 25, 2020
I feel suspended, at loose ends, busy, scattered. I know it is election anxiety on top of Covid uncertainty, flux, change, stasis... I've written some small monster poems, a couple inspired by the book I am now reading: Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, by A. Brad Schwartz. I'm reading it to get ready for a broadcast of Howard Koch's radio adaptation of War of the Worlds, the science fiction novel by H.G. Wells*, coming up October 30, at 8:00 p.m. on WGLT, our local NPR affiliate station, and produced by Heartland Theatre Company. This is the famous radio play broadcast on October 30, 1938 as part of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre of the Air,** and some people who tuned in late, after the announcement that clarified it was fiction, an entertainment, did get scared and confused, thinking the "fake news" aspect of its presentation was real news, about a possible meteor landing, poisonous gas attacks, or Martians taking over the earth. Apparently, most who heard the Martians part realized it was science fiction...but some ran out of their houses to escape, just not as many, as this book makes clear, as newspaper reports the next day seemed to suggest.
This Schwartz book is from 2015 and is firmly aware of the contemporary "fake news" problem, also situating "fake news" in history as an ongoing sensationalism-to-sell-papers thing and a more complicated and subtle freedom of the press vs regulation thing. Interesting! And fun to read about Orson Welles and his theatre, radio, film projects in this context, too.
Mostly, I am avoiding any personal broadcast hysteria by regulating what I read or watch or listen to in terms of news. Sigh... And cleaning out the basement.
*I remember first hearing about this as a kid, from my dad, and getting the two "wells" people mixed up in my mind, which has lasted into adulthood even though I know the difference between them. Memory and the mind work in weird ways.
**I meant to say "Mercury Theatre on the Air" (not "of") but I'm correcting my typo down here (instead of up there) because I like the ethereal feel of a theatre of the air!
Sunday, September 6, 2020
Before I resumed the chalkboard poems in September, I was engaged in two other projects--one was reading: the Sealey Challenge to read poetry books in August, and one was writing: 40 Days, 40 Writes, designed to immerse you in daily writing practice. These projects overlapped and kept me very busy! And I recommend both!"quarantine" refers to a 40-day period, a definition I encountered in various places as we all socially isolated starting in March. Ships had to stay docked for 40 days before passengers and crew could disembark during the Black Plague, though isolation periods for contagion existed long before that particular word came into use. One of the upcoming sessions at 40 Days, 40 Writes will use prompts created by writers during an earlier coronavirus quarantine session.
The new sessions start September 7, Labor Day--the basic session; September 14--a memoir session, and September 21--an alumni session for those who have done an earlier session. Programs are free, but you can donate. I recommend this for those who want to develop a daily writing practice as regular as a daily yoga practice or meditation practice, something you look forward to that also challenges you and helps you create your own rituals and/or insures you make time and space to write. Leader Robin sends little encouraging tips and reminders as you go, answers questions, and solves problems!
Since I have various forms of daily writing practice, I tended to use this as a freewriting opportunity, using the prompt and the suggested amount of time (in minutes that gradually increase) to explore what was on my mind and in my subconscious at the time of writing.
This alternated with times I read the prompt early and then mused on it during my walk to work and back, so the writing might be more rooted and planned by the time I physically wrote it down observing the time period.
And now it is raining, though probably not for 40 days and 40 nights...
Saturday, September 5, 2020
I was feeling a little down yesterday--had visited my folks outdoors, my "down in the dumps" mom who was (yay!) no longer down in the dumps, and came home feeling suspended, meaningless. It's the whole Covid thing, yes, the general isolation, the local worry from an extreme uptick in cases (related to college students returning*), and missing hugging, but I realized this morning that I always get a little nostalgic and sad at back to school time, because I'm not going back to school! And neither are my kids (grown). And neither are a lot of kids now. My heart goes out to all the teachers, students, and parents coping with the wild disruption and worry of school right now. Along with everything else.
*Not all the students are to blame, of course. Just the ones who congregated hugely in parties as if no one would get sick, and ignoring the rules (the way I ignore my chores, slattern that I am). I'm pleased to see students walking around town now in masks. Thank you! As doom looms, let's be kind to one another.