Momentum

Sometimes when your life is going a certain direction, you put on the brakes but keep sliding.

The momentum of things, bad things, hardness, rigid people, tail-gaters, dead deer in the road, ex-husband wants money for trip to France,  no time, sick pets, bills, commitments, dinner, laundry, dishes, broken appliances, trees down in a storm,, stress. Stress. Stress!  Stuck in stress, continuing to slide.  Friction everywhere, but I’m still sliding.

Stuck in my rut…but still going.  If one is stuck, it should be in happiness, in joy, in music, laughter, wildflowers, watercolors, lightning and hard rain, bonfires and red wine.

This morning, suddenly, for the first time in weeks I woke up optimistic.

I woke up realizing I’d been trying hard to put on the brakes, but sparks have been flying, there’s friction, there’s forces of opposition. I’ve been lamenting my job, my lack of time, even the stuckness itself.  Looking back at the past instead of the future. o_parker-stevenson-shaun-cassidy-signed-the-hardy-boys-b76b

“I used to a lot. I used to go dancing.” — Parker Stevenson

I watched East of Eden last night w
ith my daughter. You know, with James Dean? I asked her to rewind one scene- the scene where his character, Cal, asks his mother for money and she 8f179c37411e2d0f1ba9fb67235d35bewrites him a check….because when she hands it to him…he doesn’t just take it. He hesitates, he brings up two fingers, hesitates again and he takes it delicately, scissoring it gently with two fingers, and twirling it into his possession. It lasts less than a second, maybe two. I said, “Wow, rewind that.” It was an amazing moment for me, to see his intention, to see how deeply he had thought about his character, or maybe his just natural gift of understanding that shy, troubled kid he portrays. It’s Art, watching James Dean is watching an artist, and kind of a cool thing to re-watch with one’s daughter.

I love Art. I adore Art, I think without Art and without conscience, what is the point!? Art is an expression of truth! I love language, and music. Truth and Beauty like Keats. Which maybe explains why I have so much trouble figuring out how I fit into this culture we live in. That’s what’s made me stuck. I also had an idea yesterday, that maybe when the kids are grown, I’ll try to be a professor somewhere, to teach poetry again. Because there are things that matter, and one shouldn’t be stuck.

“I think about myself as like an ocean liner that’s been going full speed for a long distance, and the captain pulls the throttle back all the way to ‘stop,’ but the ship doesn’t stop immediately, does it? It has its own momentum and it keeps on going, and I’m very flattered that people are still finding me useful.” –Leonard Nimoy

Many, many things to look forward to. Unstuck….. in space and time.

Daily Post

Splitting the Adam and the Eve

Splitting the atom unleashed a power that the world had never known. Taking a thing into halves that craves to be whole has consequences.  Energy explodes outwards, leaving radioactivity in its wake, the leftovers of the whole split into parts.  This energy could have been understood and harnessed, but there was a war, so it became a weapon.

Splitting is also a term used in psychology, essentially describing the tendency of young children, and immature adults, to split the nature of others into “good” and “bad”. Maturity is marked by the ability to understand that all people have the capacity for both great compassion and great aggression and harm towards others. Understanding that capacity in yourself and others deepens empathy for how others might experience their lives.

Early in my career, I thought that “splitting” in  adults was rare, something for the mentally ill or underdeveloped.  Those people all had official psychiatric diagnoses. Most people grew past that, I thought. People who couldn’t see others except as all good and all bad were living the lives of children. They got stuck in time because of abusive parents. That was probably it.

Now I think splitting is  a fundamental feature of stunted growth in America.

In November, over forty percent of college educated women voted for a man who bragged about molesting women, grabbing them and leering toward them to assert his dominance over them. How possibly could his publicly admitted and even bragged about behavior be accepted by these women?  If you are not female, perhaps his behavior could be ignored or minimized. As you point out, the experience of women can only be experienced in imagination by men.  And frankly, I think most men would rather not think about it. But women? Some of whom, and perhaps many or most, have had to deal with unwanted sexual advances, even rape?  They voted for him?

There must be some splitting going on here. One side says “strong dominant man with conservative values, who will fight for us and keep us safe”. The other side says  “crass and crude, at the worst, a rapist”. These two extremes are not reconcilable. There is a split. You have to pick one, because that noble man cannot be a rapist.

Apparently, many women chose to see the “strong dominant man who will fight for us and keep us safe”.

I know a very kind and intelligent woman who works at the same company  I do.  Very little is publicly acknowledged, but most everyone understands that she keeps the clinic where she works operational..financially, technically, and organizationally.  Like many women, she works hard, she is largely unnoticed, and she accepts this with a combination of resignation, humor, and a degree of martyrdom. Yet one day she told me, in a frank discussion about the election, that a man is better to lead. I was utterly bewildered.   I said clearly to her that I believed that she was running the show in her current position, so how is it that men are better? She agreed she was doing the work,  but she felt that she was just waiting for the right leader, a man, to show up. She even agreed that it was alright for me to lead, but it wasn’t for her.

She is waiting for that strong dominant male to fight for her and keep her safe, and perhaps, less grandly, simply relieve some of her workload.

I so much want to put my hand on her shoulder and tell her,  “you know, my dear, he’s not coming”. And ..”you have everything you need already”. But instead this lovely women waits.

I cannot wait for that noble man, my friend, and I know that you can’t either. It hasn’t a thing to do with hating men; it has everything to do with what women can do if they accept their own intelligence, athleticism, artistic talent, and many other qualities, and create their own stories.  When we don’t speak out against the splitting, when our need to be saved by the hero is so severe that we ignore the abhorrent and endorse the leadership of someone who looks half the part, then we are in trouble. We then cast ourselves as the weak princess in the castle, the little girl never grown.  We tell our sons that the hypermasculine is the ideal, and that the women they love will never equal them, that men alone receive both the glories and the burdens of leadership.

We split the Eve as well as the Adam. We teach both that an equal partnership based on mutual love and the best development of both partners is impossible. Each is reduced to half of what could be.

As always, I want to say something about physics.  Last weekend I saw the movie Hidden Figures, about the profound contributions of three African American women to the space program. I enjoyed the story very much, but what deeply distresses me is that I am now 53 years old, and I never knew about these three women-all  deeply intelligent; one likely a mathematical genius.  Without them, and especially Katherine Johnson, it’s unlikely John Glenn would have succeeded in his first orbital journey.

When I sat down to write about splitting, and thought about physics, and splitting the atom, a tiny bit of Wikipedia research revealed another gap in my knowledge.  I did not know that  a woman named Lise Meitner, a physicist of unbelievable stature, had a key role in developing nuclear fission.  Her history includes a journey to escape Nazi Germany, because as a Jew, she couldn’t continue in her post as the head of the physics department at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.  Later, she refused to participate in the development of the bomb that devastated Japan, although she co authored the paper that explained the theoretical underpinnings of nuclear fission.  The science was not meant for war, in her view.

Naturally, she was denied the Nobel Prize in chemistry. The prize went to her male coauthor, blah blah blah.

Not really a shocker.

But what if that perception of those women had been different?  What if they had been treated as equals, not as just women, or just blacks, or just a Jew, what energy would have been released? What if  Dr. Meitner had received the Nobel Prize, been recognized as a fully fledged scientist, and an advocate for peace… and what energy would have been released if Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson had been recognized for their contributions at NASA?

I think as a young woman interested in the space program, I would have felt that energy.  The energy of a fused self, all aspects together. Fusion over fission.

I bet a lot of other people, men and women, would have felt it too.

220px-lise_meitner_1878-1968_lecturing_at_catholic_university_washington_d-c-_1946-1.jpg

Dr. Lise Meitner

daily

Inertia

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.”
 –  Bette Davis   

I did not understand until today how terrible things have become for women.  So tell me, my friend, what do we do when the people in government twist the meaning of words?  I feel we’ve seriously entered into a war on women.

This is what has sent me over the deep-end:

“It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in a classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male, and it certainly is very pro-abortion, and I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion.”
– KellyAnn Conway

Merriam Webster today even tweeted the meaning of feminism in response.   “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”  USA today

Wow! Note that the meaning has nothing to do with man hating or abortion.  Words are not meaningless.   Words are not 1984 backwards words.  Words should be meaningful and deliberate, especially when used by people in government, especially when they are charged words, words that people have fought for.

“Feminism is hated because women are hated.  Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating. ” -Andrea Dworkin

When I entered the job market as an entry-level secretary, women were still being chased around desks by their bosses.  The Mary Tyler Moore show was groundbreaking, a single woman on TV!   The majority of women did not have jobs in management.  Birth control, “the pill,” was relatively new.  There were new songs on the radio like “R.E.S.P.E.C.T” – 1968 and “I Will Survive – 1978.”     I Will Survive

There was Helen Reddy.  I am strong.  I am invincible. I am woman.

Enjoli perfume ads in the 1970s….recognized women as both sexy and smart.  “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let you forget you’re a man.”    Well, now, there’s an antiquated ad campaign. Bacon is delicious but bad for you…and it’s not up to me to remind you of your manliness.  Men can figure that out for themselves.  The spend countless Sundays on the couch doing so.

Although all my brothers went to college, coming from a pretty poor family, I was not encouraged to go to a University.  My own mom told me she thought I’d be ok as long as I could type.  Granted, my parents were born in 1917 and 1924.  I did convince them to let me go to college, and in fact am the only one of my siblings to get a Master’s degree.

When I moved into my college dorm, my freshman roommate shared with me the fact that she had been gang raped by an angry ex-boyfriend and his friends.  I did not know how to comfort her, what to say.    I don’t know how many other women I know have been raped, it isn’t the subject of everyday conversation. but I know of others.  #IAmAFeminist.

I see Rush Limbaugh has something to say about feminism.  But unfortunately, he appears only to value women for their looks.  He should be ashamed of himself.  But I guess the Oxycontin was affecting his brain:

“Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”  –Rush Limbaugh

And, in light of her modeling career,  our First Lady should at least speak out for education.  Sorry Melania, but the following quote highlights that a woman isn’t just about how she looks in a bikini:     

“Value yourself for what the media doesn’t – your intelligence, your street smarts, your ability to play a kick-ass game of pool, whatever. So long as it’s not just valuing yourself for your ability to look hot in a bikini and be available to men, it’s an improvement.” – Jessica Valenti  

and this:

It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”   – Warsan Shire  

(And people wonder why feminists are angry. )   The following quote makes me so angry I can’t even address it. except that it makes me wish I practiced witchcraft.  The Christian religious right weighs in….

“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. ”   –Pat Robertson

When all else fails, blame women.  Anyone who says “welfare mother” in my presence can just take a hike.  There is no accountability for the men who impregnated these women. Dead beat dads are largely forgotten, but the term “welfare moms” is alive and well.

Feminism isn’t new.  Neither is opposition to feminists.  (Whatever happened to “we’ve come a long way, baby?” )

 “I myself have never able to find out precisely what a feminist is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” — Rebecca West (1913) 

So I think we have an obligation to speak….  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the mother of the women’s movement, you know — before women were ALLOWED to vote — she said we must speak.

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton  

I  honestly feel that women deserve some empathy.  Men do not experience periods or menopause. They do not risk their lives in childbirth; men do not nurse their babies in closets, or pump breast milk at work.  They simply can’t.  My own husband was not laid-off a week after telling his employer he was pregnant.  He didn’t get to experience that injustice at all, except vicariously.  I wouldn’t call him a “woman-hater.”  How can being a feminist mean being a “man-hater?”  I don’t hate men…I hate injustice and inequality.

“The stereotypes of feminists as ugly, or man-haters, or hairy, or whatever it is – that’s really strategic. That’s a really smart way to keep young women away from feminism, is to kind of put out this idea that all feminists hate men, or all feminists are ugly; and that they really come from a place of fear.” — Jessica Valenti

Susan B . Anthony also believed in equal rights for women….of course we still don’t have  a woman on any paper money, nor do we have equal representation in government.  Then there’s the nomination of DeVos, who wants only the rich and religious to be educated.

“If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.”    –Susan B. Anthony

And speaking of religion, why on earth do women accept the burden for being kicked out of  the Garden of Eden?  It’s a dangerous old story, blaming women…a story created by men….it existed even before they started burning women at the stake. Could we even blame women for trying the apple?

“Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?” — Chuck Palahniuk

And now that we have knowledge….

“The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.” –Arthur Miller

Our President said he had “grabbed women” by their private parts.  He’s a man of power.  He’s a multi-millionaire.  That is not OK.  That is not classy.  That is not a gentleman.

Yoko Ono, one of the most hated women in America at one point, blamed for breaking up the Beatles, believed in feminism.  She was a strong woman. She took on John Lennon. She took on the Vietnam war. She had this to say:

“There’s many women now who think, ‘Surely we don’t need feminism anymore, we’re all liberated and society’s accepting us as we are’. Which is just hogwash. It’s not true at all.”  –Yoko Ono

It isn’t just a US problem…it’s an international problem.  Although women have had rights here since the 1920s, we can’t forget there is inequality across the world.  I am not a privileged woman, especially compared to say –Ivanka Trump –, so I don’t exactly agree with feminism as dated, but we are indeed privileged compared to women in other countries.  American women are not stoned to death, we are not raped in retaliation for the actions of our families.  Knowing this, how can one deny feminism??

“Why are we not valuing the word ‘feminism’ when there is so much work to be done in terms of empowerment and emancipation of women everywhere?”– Annie Lennox

Domestic Violence. The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
–Margaret Atwood

Who has denied woman equality in the first place?   Why are we not represented equally in government?   Why are we not on the dollar?  We send our children to daycare with chains around our working necks.  We make 78 cents on men’s dollars.  We don’t have adequate healthcare…look at medical bankruptcies.  Our voices have been silenced.  We need our power back.  This ball, rolling in this direction, simply can’t continue on this path.  One has to be able to voice an opinion, to speak one’s mind.  I’m not a man hater, and I think abortion is a very difficult choice that a woman (sometimes a child) has a right to make. She can die in childbirth, she has the right NOT to do die, to choose a better life, or a life at all, for herself.   It is her body, and you can’t force a woman to carry a baby.

“The day may be approaching when the whole world will recognize woman as the equal of man.” –Susan B. Anthony

Newtons first law of motion states that “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”  Inertia….   I think I remember, what slows the force is friction.

I’m pro-equality, pro-quality of life, I’m pro-humanity…which means being pro-woman. I am certainly not afraid to say so, and I must add, Kelly Ann Conway needs to seriously  re-examine her beliefs.

#IAmAFeminist

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”  –Virginia Woolf

Daily Prompt 

Stardust Melody

From which stars have we fallen to meet each other here?”  Nietzsche

I trudged across a snowy parking lot this morning and could not help but think of Zhivago, the poet at the time of revolution.  The writer Pasternak caught that moment in time.  The snow deep and then shallow, snow blowing into my scarf, into my eyes, seeing only my shoes….the snow gradually breaking into a muddy road.   Zhivago, with the soft eyes of the poet,  Zhivago, the doctor who loved and lost, Zhivago, who looking out across the Russian plains saw the summer fields of grasses and flax, thistle and wheat; in winter, the dark forests looming at the edge of meadows.  Zhivago who heard the grey wolves calling and saw them gather at his cabin in the dawn of early morning.  And Zhivago who saw the blood of Revolution splatter on his fields, in his forests, dark red blood falling on the white, white snow.  The poet who could not catch Laura and whose heart grabbed him with a fatal crushing blow.  Zhivago, who in the middle of a war zone saw only her.  Because love is what matters.

“…the rest is rust and stardust.”   Nabokov

Say Goodbye – Lindsey Buckingham

When things are overwhelming, when things happen of great magnitude, I think it must be better to look at something small, something   familiar, or something small and close, like dust:  tiny flecks floating in the sunlight of a window.  Or dandelions, dandelions seeds that float like wishes….or to think about the tiny dust mites that make me sneeze.  The horizon is too much.  For instance, when I look at the vastness of the sky, or think of the force that made our giant mountains, the burning of the sun, and the magnetic pull of the planets, the pull of the moon at the tides, the spirits of thousands whose lives were cut short before their time, the governments of the world– maybe it’s best to turn to the small things: the tiny particles, the quick smile, the blades of grass, the first glance of lovers, the laughter of friends, a chocolate chip cookie, a smooth rock on the ground.  If you blink you’ll see it.

You ask if I am angry, and I don’t have an answer.  He was my friend.  Just my friend.  But can the word friend be modified by “just?”   The first week after his death lasted a year…a lot of swearing —that he didn’t have to hear of my death, and he was not there to call.  Now I’d say I’m just astonished.  Sometimes panicked.  More than anything this weirdness… no trip to Asheville, no Fitzgerald, no Zelda.   We could’ve discussed madness and love….and now I’m left talking to myself.

I think of my own dying – will I savor each dying blink, each blink something holy?  With one blink a sunset, the next a wildflower, another a mountain stream?….or racked with pain, just colors and patterns…?  The latter much more likely.

We weren’t lovers, just good friends.  Maybe we’ve been friends for thousands of years, the Spock and Kirk of Athens.  (Or wait, that’s Pam and Janet).  We were more like Laurel & Hardy I think, cheering each other into comedy.   When he came to town we talked about physics –  Star Trek gadgets, the speed of change, the Higgs particle, biotech and wine.  We discussed Baudelaire and Bukowski,  Dali and Chagall… reincarnation and Catholicism…also cars and grocery shopping.  You see, I always looked forward to seeing him again.

Woodstock 

I was lucky.  So how can I be angry when I was so lucky?  I am not sure I’ve even processed it at all. And if I go deep, well it’s panic.

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I wanted to talk about Joni Mitchell, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get back to the garden…”  or Woody Guthrie, “this guitar kills fascists.”   I’d forgotten that you’d seen the concentration camps, and a memorial now comes to you.  I think we must stand up like Woody Guthrie…. but mostly it’s about love. I’m tired of division, of seeing how we’re different.  Let’s see how we’re alike, at least a little. One of the last things we talked about after election night, was what to do now?  He said “Right now I don’t even know what to do,”  I said “spread kindness.”  He said “that’s a very Buddhist response, Ms. Chaos. ”  I don’t talk like that.  I’ve never said “spread kindness.”  What the hell?  I must be so tired.  Just sick and tired.  Let’s be hippies.  I just watched the musical Hair.

Have you noticed the massive amount of brightly colored birds on the internet recently?  I just came across the “Golden Pheasant.”    I mention this because it’s just amazing and it’s better than anything I’ve ever written.  A silly bird…so much better than a poem.  So many colors for one bird.   And Kevin, he’d have liked a random bird on this page.  (Also we must not forget the Snow Geese. Since everyone else has.  Who will monitor the SuperFund sites? )

Click to see it walking.   Golden Pheasant   – we are stardust/we are golden…pheasants.

golden-pheasant-1

The universe gives me all kinds of reasons for his death…he was under stress…he didn’t exercise enough…Trump got elected…the idea that when your “number is up,”  your number is up.  None of these are suitable reasons.    I go underwater if I  think too deeply about it.  My brain goes away as if I’m playing a deep game of poker, as Ferlinghetti would say, “Deep Chess.”  His friends tell me we’ll meet again in another life.   It’s not a bad thought…but just as massive and inconceivable….like  starlight, light years away, reflecting our sun, traveling across the universe into our eyes.  Blinking, soft, blinding.

What stars have we fallen from..?  We are all fallen angels trying to save each other when the demons come.  Dust of stars, dust of angels.  All this leads me to think of mortality, walking through walls, monasteries, Zhivago, the sudden brilliance of the sky, the sky more brilliant since his loss.  The nightly news rages on….and in what world do we dismantle the EPA?  In what world do we push through an oil pipeline without an Environmental Impact Study?  In what world do we separate immigrant children from their parents?  I can hardly watch the news right now, but can’t take my eyes off of it.   I walk through the unpolluted mountain streams of my youth, the cornflowers and black-eyed Susan pushing through the branches of willows.

Kevin was always leaving, the minute I knew him he moved away, we rarely spent time in the same city.  I am so sorry still at the loss of your friend, the one you lost so long ago, so much more immediate and hard.  I never knew how to make it any better.  I think they’re here with us in one way or another.  In spirit, as they say.

 I remember that when one falls in love, every song is about love.  I’ve dated too many musicians.   I didn’t date Kevin and he wasn’t a musician.  You see how great that is, right?   Now the radio mocks me…. plus I have this CD of goodbye songs from the last time he moved away.  After ten days, I’m now putting it away.

sundog3

 A few mornings ago, on the way to work,  a sundog rose above miles of prairie, changing as the clouds intersected it, moved it higher in the sky, making the blue deeper, the red brighter, the green darker…a vertical rainbow…until it disappeared, pushed away by clouds, but headed to the sun.  So cliché, my friend, I know– but still…. it was there.

 I understand how it’s easy to be scattered right now.  I want to be like the light, like the split light of prism…each color called out to reveal itself, each one brighter than the next.  Focused and brilliant and beautiful until I die.  Let’s be that.
a-getty-107758168_bp1kbk

overwhelming

*  Stardust – Nat King Cole * Stardust – Michael Buble * Stardust – Frank Sinatra

Stardust

unknown     “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

 

I’m writing this evening when my brain feels as scattered as stardust, blown about about the cosmic wind. My focus is lost; I think there’s a thousand things I should be doing with myself to oppose the insanity that has taken this country. Where to best put my energy? I come up with a plan, a theory, and the next event, the next encounter, changes my mind. I want to write about how sorry I am that you have had this terrible loss, this friend that is gone from your life, like the loss I suffered nine years ago..nine years! It’s so hard to believe she’s been gone that long. See how my mind races, I am irritable, and I feel that I’m no good to anyone.

Quite by accident I found myself this afternoon, with my boyfriend,standing in front of a Holocaust memorial. We had gone to Forest Park in Portland for a hike, and I needed one, as I felt the anxious energy building and building. I have gone to the Vietnam memorial in Portland several times but  I must admit, regretfully, that I never even knew where the city’s Holocaust memorial was.  We went a direction in the park I’ve never taken, and there it was, hidden in the enormous pine trees, a black wall, with some tiny memorial statues, not of people, but rather a broken suitcase, a teddy bear, a pair of eyeglasses, all in a place where one could trip over them, solid metal renderings of personal possessions. We took the time to read the entire history of Hitler’s destruction of Jewish people, disabled people, Roma people, and anyone else he decided to hate, but especially the Jews. The engraving told of  early history of the Holocaust, beginning with banning Jews from immigrating, then from stores and businesses, then from schools, and registering them, forcing them to designate themselves with a middle name of Sarah or Israel, mocking these honorable names.

Sound hideously familiar? I know it does to you.

My mind is still racing. Only in the past few years did I really understand that my father’s history is Jewish. His family seems to have arrived a long time before the Holocaust in Europe, maybe a hundred years. Names appeared in the more easily accessible records now available online..a great grandmother named Rachel, a great grandfather named Isaac. If they hadn’t moved to Illinois in the nineteen century, it’s likely I wouldn’t be here. Not that that’s so very important…it’s just likely.

Thirty three years ago I stood with my college classmates in Auschwitz, Poland, reading in our second language, German, the ugly orders that exterminated thousands or tens of thousands of people in “relocation” camps. Behind us was a plexiglass wall where tangled eyeglasses, the actual eyeglasses, kept by the Nazis, were piled up on display.  Another room, behind more plexiglass, was a ceiling high mound of human hair. We walked on silently to and through the gas chambers where the fingernail scratches of the dying, the marks of frantic scraping at the walls, were still easy to see.

The bus ride back to Krakow was silent.  I remember staring out at the bleak landscape and crying.

I will never forget that experience. I doubt any of my classmates have forgotten.

Now, at this moment, we live in a country that is banning immigration to a group of people based on their country of origin and their religion.  I see comments online that chastise the educated for believing their liberal professors and accuse me and other deeply worried citizens of “whining” and “not understanding national security”.  Now I feel angry, even enraged.   I think, I’d be happy to introduce these fools to the descendants of victims of their ancestors’ great sin, the destruction of Native Americans. Perhaps they worry that they will be treated the way their immigrant ancestors treated the actual North Americans when they arrived.  Failure to comprehend after this experience would then result in me ripping their lungs out.

That would not be very productive, I think.

It’s amazing how rage is catching, like a virus that spreads everywhere, infecting, infecting.

Anger and rage, part of grief. I feel such sorry for my country, and I don’t want to sound trite, but I do love America, I do. I wept when those towers came down, and I was both proud and humbled when, during my recent travels, a French couple told me no matter who the President, Americans are always welcome in France…This ongoing welcome,  I knew, because of World War II, when we opposed Hitler’s evil, although we were late, so late to the defense, but this couple, this pair, forgives America for that and for the current travesty, and welcomes me, and you, and America, even though most of us had nothing to do with that war, we were not even born.

I wonder, are you angry? Are you angry that your friend was taken from you when he was not very old? I was, so so angry, I had plans for my lost friend too, nine years ago, upcoming plans at the time, and I loved her.  He can’t contribute his talent anymore, we can’t look forward to any of his works, and you will miss his friendship, probably more than any of his writing.  I know I miss her, so deeply. I am not as angry as I was at first.

At the time of my friend’s death, she was working on a draft statement by psychologists, a position paper against psychologists contributing, by assessing or evaluating, prisoners who may be tortured. Guantanamo was a big concern and it seemed misguided professionals had somehow lost their way and gotten involved. The ugly possibility of torture has arisen again…the dangerous fool leading us has stated his support, and his uneducated! dare I say it! minions sell the American public on its “effectiveness”.

For some reason, and please recall I am scattered today, Carl Sagan floated into my mind. There was a part in the original Cosmos series where he reminded his audience…we are all part of the stars…we are all made of stardust. The Jewish dead,  the exterminated Indians, your friend, my friend, you and me, we are all stardust.  Today you and I hold a certain form that the stardust takes, a human form.  I hope the universe sends me a sign as to what to do.  Maybe I can combine the stardust that is mine, and the stardust that may have been part of others, and find the right thing to do, and I will be less strewn about, less angry and confused.

I hope.

 

After Terry Tempest Williams

I write to fight loneliness.  I write to argue with myself.  I write to create new worlds.  I write to destroy old worlds.  I write to simplify the complicated.  I write to capture the smooth surface of glass on a mountain lake.  I write to make maps to the past.  I write to follow those maps and travel to a different place and time.  I write to envision a different life.  I write to calm my nerves. I write for peace of mind.  I write for peace.  I write for my children.  I write out of guilt.  I write for pleasure.  I write as a guilty pleasure like ice cream.  I write when I should be doing something else.  I write when I should be sleeping and can’t.  I write to make a sloth made of real gold and give it the ability to speak.  I write to dispel my own myths.   I write to show the amber at the tops of the clouds over a slate sunset.  I write knowing nothing to be as beautiful in the mind as to the eye.  I write to bring myself to tears, to stop the tears, to make you cry.  I write to misbehave.  I write to give voice to things I will never say.  I write to listen to the truth I have that no one else believes.  I write to gain wisdom.  I write knowing that it is approximation.  I write because others have written.  I write in apology. I write for forgiveness.  I write with hope that you will understand my vision of the world, different from yours. I write because although you are gone I feel your breath.  I write because you don’t want me. I write because I want to remake you out of paper, only better.  I write because I want to be god.  I write because I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I write knowing you won’t understand.  I write to save my soul.  I write to conjure ghosts without believing they exist.  I write to trouble you.  I write out of respect. I write to cut my heart out and put it on a stick.  I write to stop the clock.  I write to dispel gravity and become unstuck to the dying things on this planet.  I write to imagine.

why I write

 

Why I Write – Terry Tempest Williams

Escape velocity, II…or Escape velocity, aye-aye you might say

We are hunkered down here in Colorado too, against the wind rather than the snow.  My town has recently recorded record-breaking 101 mph wind gusts.  No escape from the wind here, nothing to protect us from blowing debris or falling branches.  Best to stay inside. Maybe we need to move to Mexico close to the equator if we want to escape.  The earth itself can give us a push.  Did you know satellites are launched at the equator to use the spin of the earth to help them take flight?  Anything on the surface of the Earth at the equator is already moving at 1670 kilometers per hour.

You tell me that even Lewis and Clark were trapped by the storms, and all they had seen and mapped might have been lost had it gotten any worse.  Didn’t they draw all kinds of animals as well as mapping the mountain and rivers?   Species of birds and animals the East Coast had never seen before. And on the request of Jefferson – practically a king.    I think it’s a good thing to be reminded we’re not kings, even they were just as much trapped by the weather as a simple animal, even a bird for example, maybe a Snow Goose.  (Still no follow-up news on the 10,000 dead geese at the SuperFund site.)  Even if we were kings, (I prefer that we talk about queens, sick of kings with their narcissism and hate. Besides queens often had more power than kings, they wear the pants -except Henry the 8th with his quest for a male heir-  and who wants to talk about old men with power?)   even if we were kings, we can’t control the great raging force of wind and weather.  But we can pay close attention, so not to be trapped in a caustic lake.

In the way that one click  leads to another, I started searching for escape velocity and ended with a term in physics called “flutter,” or more correctly “aeroelastic flutter.”    It is apparently a term meaning the beginning of the absolute collapse of everything.    See the Tacoma Narrows bridge video of 1940:   https://vimeo.com/13323591

Not only is the bridge in the 1940 video acting as if it were a simple string in the wind, rippling like a wave in water, but there is an act of human bravery involved.  Rather, a brave man in a hat.   In the video, (in 1940 it was actually a 16mm camera) a man goes back on the swaying bridge, to retrieve a cocker spaniel left in an abandoned car.   The terrified dog bites him and cannot be rescued.   I wish he had been able to get the dog.  I suppose that only happens in Hollywood.   I’d like to be able to do that…to have enough faith or stupidity to think that I wouldn’t be dragged to my demise.  I also need to start wearing hats.  The video is hypnotizing, as we know that the ultimate destruction is eminent.

When I was a girl, I helped my older brothers to build epoxy bridges for a college class they all took, a class they all dreaded in turn:  Fluid dynamics.   It was very math intensive, and the final was a project constructing a bridge.  On their way to becoming chemical engineers, each in turn tried to create the bridge that would hold the most weight.  It was built out of epoxy and toothpicks.  I would dip the toothpick in glue and hand it to my brother, and he would strategically place it according to a design he had to come up with.  So, maybe that’s why a woman writer likes physics. Maybe we quickly connected physics and art.  I think you helped build epoxy bridges too.  If not then, now.

“Beauty for some provides escape, who gain a happiness in eyeing the gorgeous buttocks of the ape or Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying. “   — Langston Hughes  

I quote Langston Hughes this MLK day. My thought is that perhaps writing is an escape into the mind, an escape from some of the horrors or boredom of the real world.  He says in the quote it is “Beauty for some provides escape”, so perhaps writing is the study of Beauty.  I like that he mentioned the gorgeous buttocks of the ape.  If he lived now, would he have said the “ape exquisitely dying, and the eyeing of the Autumn sunset?”  In writing from the human spirit, there is no black or white.   As I look out the window, beauty is a study of wind.

“I took up writing to escape the drudgery of that every day cubicle kind of war.” –Walter Mosley

So it all  comes down to the Clash.  Should I stay or should I go?   See how much we learned in high school?  If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double.    When playing poker, I’ve been told, the correct answer is always: It depends.   

Sometimes it seems the flutter happens so quickly there isn’t enough time for an escape plan.  (See: dog in car.)  I think we’ve both seen women in abusive relationships who need a plan to get out.  That was my first thought when you mentioned escape velocity, something to be overcome.  Not just the gravity of the earth, but the gravity of a situation.  Nothing is ever simple, and leaving is also about surviving….about escaping a violent man she has deeply hurt or offended –by the act of leaving itself….it can be tricky.  Sometimes the flutter will follow her.  Escape is about money,  timing, surviving on one’s own.   It’s about admitting the mistake and facing the unknown.  It’s about putting your own survival above others, and sometimes that affects the children, children who you love more than yourself, even your dog.   I get mad when people don’t understand how abused women can stay with an abusive man.

I mean, it’s easy to see that Life (with a capital “L”) has a way of throwing you into entanglements.  I was never with an abuser, but I was with a guy who wanted to tangle me into his failing bridge, asking me to watch him drink himself to death.  Even now, after his death, I still feel that I did not escape that devastation. But few of us escape unscathed.  I guess the lucky ones just escape with a dog bite.  Part of me loves that escape of the soul, that drunken charisma, the carefree-doesn’t -matter-what-happens life.  Maybe when you’re trapped, its better to live in the moment.  You know, the gypsy soul.  It’s way too early to drink, so I turn to Baudelaire.

It is the hour to be drunken! to escape being the martyred slaves of time, be ceaselessly drunk. On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish. —Charles Baudelaire

What is happening in the news is alarming, and I think we are all sort of watching to see if and in what direction things are beginning to sway.  Even tall buildings allow for a little sway, and we have a constitution to protect us.  Signs and all indications have us worried that things are going wrong. At least for me, the swaying began the minute that a President was caught on tape talking about grabbing women.   That sway made me pretty nauseous.  I’m hoping it’s not as bad as it seems, and in four more short years, we’ll find a different bridge to travel, but as they say, we can cross that when we come to it.  Hopefully it won’t be in the middle of aero-elastic flutter.

A marathon of writing…

a response to Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity

Escape velocity is the speed that an object needs to be traveling to break free of a planet or moon’s gravity well and leave it without further propulsion.
       Today’s a day about plans, and thwarted plans, and how plans go south when you mean to go north. The day’s about comedy, since, as a close friend of mine told me, we are not kings, so this story can’t be a tragedy.  Today started last night, like all days do. It’s a day of shrugged shoulders, of four wheel drives sent out in the night on a mission to restore power, a day when the hope of that long delayed meetings would occur, and this time, this time, result in definitive action… and instead, we can’t get down our driveways. It’s a day that reminds us that we need to eat and stay warm before we can consider weighty philosophical subjects, a day that when we shudder at the prospect of a few hours without wifi,  but a broken heater is much more uncomfortable. It’s a day when we wonder if we could make it to the doctor if we needed a doctor, and except the most ill among us, we are not really worried.  We may not think much about plumbing on most days, but today, most of us have had thoughts about water and pipes.
          Portland is having is eighth! (eighth?!) snow day this winter, a year of note.  Since it “hardly ever” snows here, Portland civic leaders forgot to or decided not to buy too much snow equipment, and we’re pretty much locked down. It’s far short of a pioneer adventure, but we can think about Lewis and Clark holed up with their traveling companions in Astoria two hundred and more years ago, unable to move, and Clark getting more and more depressed, mud seeping into cabins, food running short.  Their mission was in some ways, completed. They had reached the west coast of the continent; there was no coast to coast waterway, the easily navigated route of their dreams. They sat in an Oregon coastal winter, snow in some amounts, but mostly relentless rain. They had to wait to walk, ride and paddle East to say what they had seen.  It was Jefferson’s vision Lewis and Clark carried out; the two leaders and their small party struggled forward to the edge of the land, buckled down, and then waited  and waited to bring their lofty findings home.
       The return mission was delayed by weather.
       Weather is a mighty force that affects escape velocity. One thing I know about myself…I have spent many years planning, executing and delivering the goods. When the carefully crafted plans didn’t work out,  I  often assumed I lacked something in the execution. I was confused.  I was thinking I was a king, and that my thwarted plans were tragic, a personal shortcoming.
       I think now it might have been the weather. Or the earth as a whole.  A bit of a cosmic joke played on a small player.  It’s just hard to achieve that escape velocity, the energy needed to make the plans fly.  Something as simple as snowfall can stop it all.
        Our bodies keep us connected to the earth, they are part of the gravity, and they have a relationship with the earth and atmosphere that keep us grounded.  Our feet hurt, our noses run and we slip and fall.  Someone develops a fever. The snow falls from the sky, we  need to put on hats and gloves and coats and long underwear.  The sun beats down, water dries up or rushes down, we need something to drink. We are foolish to ignore the weather and its bigger cousin, the climate. Go outside without a coat today in Portland, and you’ll feel it and fast. Now think bigger. Civilizations with mighty plans, one on Easter Island, for  example, disappeared because the jesters used up what was there, and the earth fought back.
       We’re pretty smart, we comedians. We’ve found ways of hiding and protecting ourselves from the real ruler, the planet we live on. We build warm houses, we have snow plows (if we decide to buy them) and we know ways of melting snow and cooling off in the heat. We found a fluid that keeps our heated and cooled vehicles moving. We create tools and machines, and plans to achieve escape velocity and arrive somewhere else, coming back with soil samples or a new type of flower.
       But make no mistake, we’re not kings. The earth froze my toes today and moved my personal economy just a little bit in the wrong direction. My orbit was much closer to home and I had to slog to get away from the house and slog to get back.  I can plan all I want, and gravity pulls me down, and the snow piles up in the driveway.
        I have occasionally shared my disappointment that no human has yet walked around on Mars. After today, my hometown in paralysis, I realize I should fall over in utter shock that we reached the moon, and that a  couple little remote control buggies from California have chug a chugged all over Mars without a human driving.
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      Plans thwarted are the norm. I’m going to rejoice on the rare days when myself, or someone else, reaches escape velocity, and even more amazing, returns to earth without burning up on reentry.  If you get to bring back a soil sample too, or maybe a flower, or a snowflake…well, maybe I will reconsider and call you a king.

Gravity 2 – plus infinity

All I know about gravity, is it’s some invisible force that keeps us from floating off into space.  I suppose someday we’ll figure out that it’s something to do with mass and speed and motion and density…or some hamster running on an eternal wheel spinning us around the sun, or  jibbers crabst might have something to do with it.  Hail Jibbers!  Or maybe gravity is just there to keep us from flying.

Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t know.

 “Most gravity has no known origin. Is it some exotic particle? Nobody knows. Is dark energy responsible for expansion of the universe? Nobody knows. ”     Neil deGrasse Tyson

And all I know about infinity I learned by looking at a star-filled sky in the Arizona desert. Stars and stars and stars. A friend says he had a vision in the desert.  It was a good story about saguaros who saved him from falling off a mountainside.  Gravity could’ve killed him, if not for the saguaros.  I’m not sure what was altering his normal vision, but I can’t say it did him any harm.

I suppose the only response to being tied down by gravity is to rebel against it, to dream of flying and to look to the stars, or math, or myth, or something beyond what’s immediate in this messy, messy planet we’re living on.  Or maybe to imagine a different world, to turn to surrealism….Art.

Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali. — Salvador Dali

I want to be Dali!   What an incredible mustache!  Talk about visionary.

“A visionary, vision is scary, could start a revolution, polluting the air waves”   -Eminem

A vision is scary. Were you still in Phoenix when the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in yucca branches?  I think there were large crowds that gathered.  The branches were stolen before I could get there the next morning.  I mean, what kind of vision would just let herself get stolen before I could see her?  But there we digress into myth.  But I really like myth.

Maybe attaining vision just takes practice.  When I taught, I had my students write 50 lines about an object.  It was my favorite “writing exercise” because by the 10th line they were forced to imagine something just to fill up the other 40 lines.  Staplers became metallic whales, paperclips became little machetes.  I say “when I  taught” but I should say when I taught as an adjunct with no benefits and no support and no one to show me anything…. while raising three young children. Totally wonderful and terrible.

Have I mentioned, grey hair is really a sign of wisdom?

So really though, I guess I’m not clear where you draw the line with vision and The Imagined or The Other.  Doesn’t that sound literary?  I could’ve just said “what you imagine.”

The image of actual misty clouds in an unfinished church is a beautiful image. The viewer is taken to something 3D, or magical realism, or the natural world as miracle…

Isn’t recognizing those clouds something of a vision?  Isn’t imagining the thoughts of someone who lived a hundred years ago, isn’t that some sort of visionary practice?  Maybe to have vision we have to do a Jim Morrison road trip sort of deal…George Harrison tried to get there by meditating, which sounds wicked boring and drove Patty Boyd crazy, and also seems way too monk-like.  Not ready to be a monk.   Let’s go with Marilyn Monroe.

 “I defy gravity.”  – Marilyn Monroe

I was thinking about tossing a lot of stuff with the New Year too, it’s better to travel light as you say.  I mean monks get by without any possessions, right?   It must make things much simpler and clearer.  Clarity, intentions, vision….sounds good.  As long as one has food, clothing and shelter, and poker games to go to.  Wait, monks probably aren’t playing poker.  Damnit.  I had it there for a second.

Mentally I’ve already tossed out most of the people who make me crazy, or at least made their insanity more manageable to me somehow.   Being lonely is terrible, but if one tries it’s easy to learn new habits.  Like doing all the stuff you said you’d do if you had the time. Russian proverb:   друзья воры времени   “friends are the thieves of time.”

The only good piece of advice I’ve pretty much EVER received (except of course from my mom) was from a call-in radio show.  Yes, seriously, a call-in radio show. Maya Angelou was on the phone, and I knew she had many children and still found time to write.  I was able to get through and I asked her how she did it.  How she could write and raise kids.  She said she had to learn to say “no thank you. ”   And then she said, “Not just no, but no thank you.”   .

I am having trouble discarding things, so I made a list.  But I relapsed a little. I still have stuff that I should never have bought.  A pasta maker I’ve used once, a couple hundred poetry books.  I’m OK with it for the time being– my daughter pointed out to me that creature comforts are important.  God though, wouldn’t it be nice to just have a yurt and a camel and a million stars.

Or at least a car and a cabin and a fireplace.

Here’s the list anyway.

Things to discard:
Things that make you unhappy.
What you do not love.
What you can’t learn from.
What is too broken.
What spins wildly out of control
What endangers you.
What steals your time.
What takes your energy.
What others might find more useful.
What you find boring.

Things to keep, for awhile anyway:
What you’re obsessed with.
What makes you smile.
What you’re unsure about.
What you can’t replace.
What will change you for the better.
Things that are interesting.

Response Daily Prompt: Infinite

response to Gravity

Gravity

My intent, and it is time for intentions, is for the next year to be lighter. So perversely, my brain goes to gravity, and weight, and the burden of years, and things, and relationships and entanglements.

I stood with my daughter in La Sagrada Familia, the temple that is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, in Barcelona, just one week ago. Deeply impressive from the outside, towering, unfinished, above anything for miles, it is as if  an alien species decided on a city location for a sand drip castle.  The inside, however,  is nothing less than astounding. I have never seen anything both so weighty and so etherial and light. I can’t imagine what happened in Gaudi’s brain when he conceived of such a space, how a building can make heaven seem possible, colors saturated at the lower levels, hazy diffusion and clouds meters above.  Not painted clouds. Actual clouds, mists through windows. Heaven is obscured, hinted at but disappearing and out of view, just as it is in everyday life, in the everyday world.

My daughter, who flirts with an endearing combination of hippie identity and Buddhism (and has much to say on both subjects )was speechless for long minutes. I came close to tears.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!  William Shakespeare

How is it that an insight, a vision, leads to clarity of what to include, what to build, what to leave out, what to leave behind? I’ve returned home now, and there are objects all around, some useful, some less so, many burdened by the weight of memory, my possessions, and my partner’s things, are a jumble together, the weight is not gravity, seriousness and meaning, but gravity as burden. I need to lighten up, and I’d like a vision to appear to me to tell me how. Unfortunately I’ve never known visions to appear on demand.

One thing is certain, more of something, and maybe someones, will be left behind. I’m vigilant of loss, and I hang on to more than I should with a death grip, but hanging on is, paradoxically, death anyway. The best adventures don’t come with much equipment, and the useless is best discarded along the way. I only two pairs of pants with me by the time I got to Barcelona; I have ten or more at home.  I abandoned both my sweaters in Lisbon.  I didn’t need them, I didn’t regret the loss. I remember our beloved Leah had a white dress, a blaster, and some hairpins ( I think, how else did she keep that hair in buns) and guts. How little we need. How much we hold on.

Even harder to leave are the people,  the relationships that are worn and outdated. It’s a one sided decision sometimes, which causes pain, and I loathe causing pain. Sometimes the relationships just need an update; maybe it’s not all or nothing. I don’t have a five year old and a two year old daughter anymore, they are adults, and now I learn as much from them as they do from me.

And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.  William Shakespeare

One more statement, and then I promise, I’ll lighten up. I nearly died last year, and I was resurrected. I am no Gaudi. I may be closer to Leah. I have limited time, and my grey hair (some are natural blondes, and lucky, and their grey doesn’t seem to show so quickly) tells me that I must let go of what was, or with my tight grip, even more will slip through my fingers.  There are young women, and dare I say, perhaps some young men, that need my help.  What we were offered as young women, what we watched and noticed as a new princess took her place in a galaxy far far away…that needs protecting now. Pared down to the essentials, I am free for the next adventure.

Perhaps that will also include a more comfortable couch.

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La Sacrada Familia, 2016