Properties of Energy

 

 

I write to you tonight because I’m thinking about energy.  The energy of my young daughter planning her wedding….the idea we’ve been bouncing back and forth of creating a beautiful party.   She wants teacups full of flowers, fairy lights, and fountains, a lace dress, a garden space, something outside….. and maybe some gypsy music, which makes my heart so happy I could dance a gypsy dance. With scarves.   We just got back from Boulder, so we’ve been in the car for a few hours today, and I’m feeling my age.

I remember your wedding and mine, the endless expensive champagne at yours, the rain and the tent at mine, no Chandon, but quirky and lovely….and I wish you were there!  I’m overwhelmed.  I want her to have expensive champagne!  We were so young. How did I plan a wedding?  It was quite beautiful to my memory. That’s what love will do….  And it is sad to have memory touched with what was broken, but that –that is life, always the imperfection….I suppose. That’s what makes our species survive, our imperfection. The flaws in our genes.

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Our genes were lucky.  We were so lucky, with great moms and family, and like a lady from “the handmaid’s tale,” I keep getting caught a little in that past.  Better to think of the beautiful things from my youth and my young marriage.   Of trout streams and walking in wildflowers, the land where I knew their names…the wild geranium, desert bluebells, the asters, Indian paintbrush, skyrockets. I wanted to be married there, by the little Colorado.  Still, my Iowa City wedding was amazing – cake and mismatched china, the car decorated and dragging cans, and we were so in love.

It’s good to have those memories…the ones time hasn’t tarnished like old silver or corroded like a rusty old truck where the photographer’s capture the bride in a posed moment that never really happened at these crazy expensive wedding venues.  (We looked at several and received the full sales pitch.)   I didn’t get married in a church– but outside, which is pretty much my church….so that is holy, no?  I have never wanted to be a smother-mother, a control freak…so maybe I’ve done my kids a disservice by not letting them rebel so much against me.  But I want this to be all hers.   It is so nice to see her happiness and thoughts and that she’ll share them with me.

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea. – Dylan Thomas

I want to capture something of what you wrote, about starlight, about beauty and witness.  I am not sure there is time to put it all down, or to make my own dreams happen. Strangely, a friend of mine texted me in the middle of the night and he asked me what I feared.  I told him that I am not afraid of anything–maybe morbid things and stupid things.  I meant it….but when I think about it more deeply, the truth I think is that time is now what scares me.  Will I have my cabin in the woods before I am too old to want to live in it?   It makes me a little teary though, to see how beautiful it is to be young on a weary day.

Again, maybe it’s a pep-talk, or just an observation, but as far as I know we live this once. I’m putting up the fairy lights in the backyard.  Counting blessings.  I noticed something is going on with you and wild birds?

I anxiously wait for your response.  It is much easier not to do things alone.  Or at least to have someone out there who will laugh with you, and maybe help you plan for a party.

j

Daily prompt

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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

fairy tale at the speed of light

Daily Post – Retrospective

Once upon a time there were princesses who lived in a legendary land called “Phoenix.” Phoenix was a magical city in the middle of a desert surrounded by mountains, a city hung on a pendant which spun between rolling dust storms, burning sunshine, and torrential rain. This city has died many times and reincarnates itself in uglier and stupider ways each time.   It becomes hotter and hotter.  And dirtier and dustier. And more and more freeways twist through it’s bloody cowboy heart.

These western princesses, in their youth,  visited majestic market colonies  called “Town & Country” where the symbol of the city, the Phoenix Bird itself was surrounded in flame; and they went to  “MetroCenter” where you could eat lunch in a plane, and a mall called Thomas, with giant fish tanks, and “Park Central” a mall lined with sidewalks that sparkled in the open air.  The young women lived happily, studying the Classics, learning foreign languages, planning their futures, learning instruments, passing their young lives not in castles but in little patio homes with bougainvillea’s and Ocotillo cacti, cursed only by the passing of time.  And occasionally a scorpion king or a rattlesnake would slither silently past.

The princesses were the daughter’s of virtual Kings and Queens, virtual relative to what we know of the world now – the word “virtual”  a different word with the passage of time.  I suppose I was one of these girls, these princesses who believed in what was a new freedom in the world.  I saw the movie Easy Rider, and Hair, and even sort of liked Major “Hot Lips” Houlihan, though she was too coarse and man like for me.  I did not want to be a secretary and had no vision of being a wife.  But that was a different time.  We were not afraid to say what we thought, we were not afraid of our freedoms being taken away… after all, we had just gotten them.  Freedom was our birthright, something our mothers fought for, by wearing a short skirt or going on a hunger strike, or helping to build bombs during the war…or not letting a man make you into an object.

Time stood still for a second, like we miscalculated the speed of light.  We were friends though, and could help each other on our lunch breaks.  There was plenty of time.

But of course, time did pass.

From the highway near the Superstitions, Weaver’s Needle looks phallic and foreboding, a shape we’d giggle at as teenagers.  The mountains sidle up next to it, like women vying for its attention.  It stands erect and weaves in and out between the cars, hidden in the skirts of the foothills, appearing and disappearing as we drive past. It’s an unmistakable penis,  a flag waving in the looming of shadows.  The legend of the lost Dutchman’s’ gold, cradled by its shadow, both longing to be discovered and never satisfied.

In Hollywood, Debbie Reynolds, star of Singing in the Rain, one of the most iconic movies of our current history, had a daughter of her own.  Carrie Fisher was Hollywood royalty, a Hollywood princess.  All princesses loved the movie Singing in the Rain, it was the story of men making money from women’s talent, women putting up with the drama of the casting couch; the way another woman might be jealous and sabotage a younger talent; the way one might end up in the background supporting the establishment — the horrors of the world….But the woman, she won!  A fairy-tale in which she stepped out from behind the curtain to sing love songs in her own voice.

A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation.  Audrey Hepburn.  

Debbie Reynolds husband, ironically enough, ran away with Elizabeth Taylor.  No one remembers him now, Eddie Fisher.  But who could resist Elizabeth Taylor?   So beautiful and a little terrifying.  Sex and talent.  Sex and Intelligence.  And Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf?   Me.  Afraid of being the professor, the wife of the drunken prof, the fight. Afraid of the screaming that was alien to my suburban life. Afraid that that was the future, which it for a brief moment was.

Meanwhile, the child of Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, only seven years older than the Phoenix girls, studied for a starring role in a movie about space.  A revolutionary movie that featured special effects and two handsome men, one a lost boy, one a smuggler.  But the fictional princess in the movie, Leia, with her white dress, her alien hair, her chiffon scarf, she was as brave as the boys.   She flirted with them, she sparred with them, she was a worthy counterpart, an essential part of a rebellion where George Lucas didn’t just make her a simple symbol of royalty, or a sex symbol, a small wimpy girl, or a Marilyn Monroe blonde. She was articulate and cultured and determined.  Strong.

I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side. – Maya Angelou

This is also the story of Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, and a summer romance.  A story of secrets and sex.

So, there was this moment in the Cine Capri, in Phoenix, when  Star Wars premiered there, when those world’s first collided… a moment in the minds of the princesses, who fell in love not just with the boys, but with Leia.  Or rather, they  fell in love with what they knew they could become.  She was them.  Leia’s name appears in the opening crawl, she has her own ship, she has the stolen plans which may save her people.   This is the story of that moment, when the girls realized that this was the dawn of an era that hadn’t been before.

This is the story of high school romance, of stolen kisses and stolen boyfriends and broken hearts the fairy tales didn’t mention when the prince left to go make another movie, or trace his fingers on the lips of your best friend.   Memory and time intertwined.  This is a story of Postcards from the Middle. Edgy postcards from nowhere.

(To discuss waves and particles of light, the massive forces of nature, typhoons, tsunamis, the weight of planets, we must also talk about Time.  Time is a fairy tale, you see, relative to the observer.  Is it measured in days, in years, in coffee spoons?  )

The best quote about time:

Time held me green and dying/  Though I sang in my chains like the sea.  – Dylan Thomas

This is the story of all women :  Just because someone desires you, it does not mean they value you.  – Nayyirah Waheed

Women in the past had been denied, had been protected, staying at home, waiting to be saved, barefoot, helpless, symbolic and unreal.  Or worse,  made to appear as the playtoys of men, sexed-up, simplified, cleavage heavy,  smiling.  Kept.  Simple objects to be desired or tossed away.  Like objects.  Objectified.

This is the story of animation…the moment objects came alive….a vital person, not a Barbie, not a figurine, not a blow-up doll, not a significant other, not the “Mrs.” or a horizontal, and especially not a trophy wife.  A Pinocchio-ess of a girl…a non-robotic creature made from sex toys and baby doll pajamas…who like a replicant in the Harrison Ford movie, BladeRunner,  becomes real.  At least to him.

I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone.  You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.  Oscar Wilde.

I want to write about the fire of the moment, the princess heroine, the feminist heroine, the men who barely managed to save the plans after her capture.  When we appreciated Princess Leia, (and Carrie Fisher), we appreciated being a girl, even a woman. We admired her the way we did when Lauren Bacall said, “you know how to whistle, don’t you? “ in Casa Blanca, the way Barbara Eden saved her helpless NASA astronaut again and again in I Dream of Jeannie, the way Goldie Hawn wasn’t just a dancer on Laugh-In but used her hips to show the written message we all waited for.   We discovered that year that boys liked Mary Ann just as well as Ginger.   We had eaten an apple.  We had the knowledge that Princess Leia killed Edith Bunker.

And so time passes…

The princesses, armed with their new knowledge, set out to conquer their (Brave) New Worlds.  They traveled to distant lands, lands where it snowed deeply enough that humans could not survive outside, lands where the rain never seemed to stop.  They trained and conquered both strange beasts and stranger demons.  The raised their own princesses and puppies, and retained their independence.   Slightly grey-haired, a few of us, not me yet.  (hahaha! sorry my friend! ( Somewhat wiser sages. They ran for political office, and often failed.  They put the baby doll pajamas back on Courtney Love, and they failed.  They tried to get equal pay, rights to stay at home after having babies…. the right to have men go to jail for violating them.  Affordable medicine, affordable education.  Maybe there are steps backward on the way to progress?

The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.  The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.  Albert Einstein.

And what has become of the princesses themselves, the day after the death of Carrie Fisher?  So grateful for her pioneering spirit, her rise and her terminal velocity.   Thank you young eloquent Carrie Fisher, and you too, old, crabby New York curmudgeon Carrie Fisher.

For every one of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out.  The light doesn’t always necessarily have to be in your family; for me it was teachers and school. —  Oprah Winfrey.

As they say in Star Wars:  There is a new darkness, a presence that hasn’t been felt for years.  I sense great danger. A disturbance in the force.

The princesses are from the city of Phoenix, the Valley of the Sun.  Perhaps there is still Sky Walker blood and our daughters can bring back the old fight, and the alliance of the rebel forces.

A day later, Debbie Reynolds has passed away at 84…..

To hell with it!  They had FUN.    “we gabbed the whole night through….it’s great to stay up late…Good morning, good morning to you. ”

Waves as Wings, or Water as Dark Matter

 via Daily Prompt: Folly

Seabirds walk along the pier.  The beach is rocky or you’d be barefoot.   I’m stuck here working in a chilly room.  Temperatures falling.  I’ve borrowed a blanket and put on gloves.  I’m looking forward to your return, your warmth and  optimism.    My friend, you watch waves under a bright white sun, the sky for once not the usual grey.    

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~Edward Abbey

I noticed on BBC World news last week the story of thousands of Snow Geese in Montana.  Just a small story at the bottom of the U.S. section.  It’s said, “Thousands of Snow Geese Dead.”  It’s been 3 days, and no further news.  CNN reports the story a day later as “hundreds” of geese.  I am waiting for a public outcry. I am waiting for more stories.  I’m waiting for the final count.  Will there be a follow up report?   Likely not.  The local Montana newspaper said there were about 10,000 birds.   Imagine it.

 With a storm behind them, 10,000 snow geese fly fast seeking a large body of water for sanctuary.  They find themselves at the Berkeley Pitt mine near Butte, Montana, a former copper mine, a Superfund site.  They lock wings, gliding down and down onto the surface of the shimmering water.  They swim in the quiet, they clean their dusty feathers.  They stick their long necks into the murky water and drink deeply.  A few perish immediately.  The crew at the SuperFund site fire shots to try to scare the birds away.  They blast noise cannons.  But there are too many birds.  The workers are frightened that there are so many birds.  They know what will happen.  Nothing survives the lake.  They have seen the birds die before, but they have never seen this many land before.   One man, runs, runs for the rifles to try and stop them.  Nothing stops them.  Many begin to wash up on shore. After the first onslaught of birds, only a few of the geese remain swimming on the lake. They manage to stay alive for several days.  How long before they, too, perish?

 So far, we don’t know just how many just fell into the lake and won’t be counted, and how many flocks flew to the wilderness and fell out of the sky, never to be found.  Their carcasses eaten by coyotes, coyotes who in turn die from their poisoned throats.  The water is so acidic, it’s been reported that it would dissolve the steel rotor of a boat.   I’m feeling waves of nausea at the thought of thousands of dead snow geese.  They are beautiful snow white birds with black-tipped wings.   People have made the point that these birds are not endangered.   I would like to shout that this is no way for thousands of living beings to die.  Imagine them as puppies.  Facebook puppies.  Thousands of puppies who drink Drano.  Would this be acceptable to the masses?  Would they not be horrified?  10,000 puppies would bring how many “views”?  10,000 snow geese bring very few. 

 “Nature may reach the same result in many ways. Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, may be, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present. A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.”   ― Nikola Tesla

 These are dark times, troubled times.   The BBC reports the news of the decline of the giraffe, that elephants too are in danger.  There are massive die offs of the coral reefs.  The reefs are white with death. Hundreds of whales and crabs have beached themselves.  The bees are dying.   The frogs are in decline.  Is it all true, are we entering a time of mass extinctions?

“You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.” ― Nikola Tesla

The waves of the tide are tied to the gravity of the moon.   The migration of birds to the proximity of the sun.  Up to Canada they fly, and then back again South, year after year like waves across time.  But we can see the world changing.  In my backyard, fewer birds roost in the trees.  The scientists report that the seas warm, ice caps melt.  The coral dies, turns dirty white.  The salmon do not make it all the way home.   The moon is very close and very large, as if to say, “I cannot be ignored.  I will light the sky, brighter than you have seen for a century.  Look at me, lunatics, watch me! You’re tied to me the way the stars are tied to night.”

Everyone I know is on edge since the election.  Our President-elect is an unknown.  I’ve always believed the best thing to do when the world is going wrong is to go outside, listen to the wind in the trees, become aware of the moon.  But I’m starting to wonder:  how long will we hear frogs croaking, bees buzzing, the songs of the meadow birds?   We may soon genetically modify the mosquito.  (good, doubt it.  I mean, how do you control a mosquito if it gets screwed up?)

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and the flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” ~Rachel Carson

Light and pain seem to travel in waves, like alternating current.  Sleep and dreams are interrupted.   Nature doesn’t give us many straight lines, but circles or patterns.  Fibonacci spirals.  Even pain comes in waves, see: childbirth or toothache, we are given a reprieve before the next spasm.   Sometimes there are rogue waves.  Sometimes there are hopeful deviations.  Sometimes there are terrifying tsunamis.  Light waves and seismic waves flow soundlessly across the earth.  Real earthquakes are attributed to real fracking.  Our children can’t afford college, our college adjuncts can’t afford health care, our health care workers can’t afford prescriptions.

In Phoenix, where we grew up, we braced for monsoons, giant dust storms from the Superstition mountains raising up dark in the sky and visible from a great distance, followed by torrential rain.  It was a crazy desert landscape where we could see for miles into the distance.  Sometimes the storms weren’t so bad, they traveled the city outskirts and veered away.  I feel this strange stagnation in our country right now…like nothing can be done, like everyone is holding their breath.  We can’t see anything in the distance. The calm before the storm is a misnomer, it’s more like the feeling of running in place, or screaming without sound.  Shutter the windows, get out the battery powered radio.  Find the candles.  Brace yourself, stock up on water and ramen…pay your bills.  It’s an eerie quiet.  Instead of a view of the mountains, we seem to be in a ravine, a slot canyon, further away a flash flood may bring raging waters to our feet.

“Certain periods in history suddenly lift humanity to an observation point where a clear light falls upon a world previously dark.” ~Anne Sullivan

Unlike the sweet arctic geese, let’s fly safely through the present and beyond the reach of any storm, avoiding the lethal waste that humanity has created, into a figurative refuge anyway.  Remember the Snow geese and be careful.  It seems that no one cares about the slightly winged, the distant deaths.  Thankfully we’re not in Flint Michigan drinking lead-contaminated water.  There’s got to be a way through this mess.

New York Times article

My conundrum, I promise, my next post will be funny and happy.  I can’t wait. Actually, I can’t wait for yours.

Prism

I’d like to move light around. .. I would blow some  your way, a comet of daylight streaking to you…light the sky and burn everything along it’s unearthly path.  If light is a particle, why can’t we move it?  You were always better at physics.   I know light can be bent, like so much truth.

It’s so hard to be two things at once: particle and wave.  It’s difficult to believe two things at once,  hope and despair. Lover of light, lover of rain.  I know, you’re not a lover of rain anymore, but you once were.  Before Portland.  I see nightly weather reports: streets are flooded, pines dripping.  Very windy here, branch-breaking- windy, chair-overturning-windy….and very light outside, bright cold.  Little white storm clouds circle in a Crayola sky-blue sky.

November light is weird. I’m refracted, I’m prism-ed split, magnified and obfuscated, distorted, kaleidoscoped, a chipped crystal heart prisming colors on the ceiling….that’s me.

We must talk about light, we’re from the “Valley of the Sun.” Why is everything so poetic?  Maybe it always was, but we missed it. Miss it.  The Valley of the Sun, Death Valley,  El Paso, the Rio Grande, Mesa, Camp Verde.  I adore those places.   Now at high altitude, I feel sunlight like a sword, I’m the lyric “lady fair.”  So British.  Burning easily.  Burned.

“She shoots colors all around/ like a sunset going down/ have you seen a lady fairer? “/ She comes in colors everywhere … ” /   -She’s a Rainbow, Rolling Stones

Ironically enough, speaking of noses, or sunburns, or light, one my favorite stories is Gogol’s, The Nose, written two hundred years ago.  Skin cancer took a bit of my cute English nose ten years ago, left me a scar. The connection there being sunburn.  I was fond of my nose, as I suppose most people are, especially if they are not giving it up willingly.  The doctor massacred it…or it seemed then. My nose, walked away, probably grabbed by a hawk or an owl…..wait, that’s Gogol.

I earned that scar from sunburns on those tubing trips down the Salt River.  We put on sunscreen, wore hats…but not often enough, or not knowing enough at 17.  Did we know anything at 17?  At Seventeen. We listened to music constantly, and I remember all of us yelling out “Bye bye, Miss American pie …….good old boys drinking whisky and rye, this’ll be the day that I die...” Steve pounding drums on the roof….Bob driving, Jill… they  fade into the shadows of time. Black and white memory, monochrome maybe….full Kodachrome 80’s.

At seventeen, we knew next to nothing, or maybe more than we know now.  I know, you’ll say, (I agree we knew) “BUT, we knew light was both particle and wave.”  Remember how we laughed with our feet in the water?  Wearing beat up sneakers because of the glass in the riverbed from broken beer bottles would’ve cut our feet.  The current carried away our sunglasses.  We smuggled cans of our parents beer, we swam and carried on….only noticing the sunburns too late, as the sun went down.  Careless, caring less. An absolute abandonment of what might be.  If we could move light, we could go back.  I understand it’s not free anymore, and you have to take a bus….or so I’ve read.

“…lose your dreams and you may lose your mind, ain’t life unkind?”   Ruby Tuesday,  – Keith Richards

Darkness should provide cover, a blanket we pull up for protection, an estuary, or, aviary, or reliquary, since neither of us are saints, and we’ll get to birds later, at least a sanctuary where we, like our Neanderthal ancestors, cave born, chew bones by the fire.  If darkness no longer casts us into  the spell of dancing or glitter, and short black dresses, at least it should give us a fireplace and some brandy, firelight to keep and tend. Because almost nothing is as pleasing as tending a fire.

Darkness a monster in the night, thing under the bed, or worse, regrets that fill the blackest, sleepless 4.a.m.   We’ve both lived through the charring of the soul– a quick flash of sleep drops like the wings of an angel. But it’s not the deep black that’s killing you, I think it’s the grey.

Lover of light, lover of rain.  Despite the relentless rain, part of you must love rain the way a Saguaro loves a monsoon, but without contrast it’s all grey, and no, not 50 shades. To hell with 50 shades, it doesn’t work. We’re all both….sometimes we want to dance, sometimes to sleep.  And nothing’s a game. Grey becomes not just the world, but the life.  Symbiotic cactus wren weaves through the sharp spines.  Green Saguaro only covets water in August.  Duality by nature. Desert and thunderstorm, thirst and swamped.

Poetic hates the practical, and the artist cusses the business man. ..don’t care what you say, you can’t do both without losing your mind. We’re light absorbed in a yes/no black/white whirlwind world. What I want is wind through trees, transient, transcending this.

Past tense. “…yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone.” Moonlight reflected on the lake with the paddle boats, EnCanto Park, even now, but not now.  Rather, not anymore.  I called it Enchanted Park as a child, but already time was gnawing it into oblivion. Red hibiscus and pollen covered olive trees, green mallards and crumbling bread crumbs.  Swings and carousel horses. A calliope.  A kaleidoscope. Things from long ago, as if long ago were anything but memory. Be careful, it’s easy to get trapped there.

In Colorado, vast plains scream endlessly with an unmitigated wind.  Tall grasses blow in the drainage ditches. Little yellow birds dip through like all they want to do is sing. “all I want to do is sing.’  No, it’s “I just want to bang on the drum all day” ….remember?  I long for a city street like yours in Portland, music drifting through the air, girls selling flowers on the street corners. The soft wind blows and blows, and then blows more, gains strength, reportedly drove pioneer women, alone in their sod huts, to nervous breakdowns.   The same brain damaging wind drives me home every day.  All the black cattle on the plains hunker down in lowlands near fences. Still, confess I’m grateful for the blue sky.

Would that I could run the world on windmills.  I would start a wind farm, call it Sancho Panza’s, ah, but there I go again chasing dreams, or windmills, as they say.

I lay awake listening to the wind; a branch thuds against the eaves of the house.

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent Van Gogh

I was up in the mountains this weekend, feeding my gambling addiction.  I went alone and played cards mostly.  It’s a pretty drive, pine trees and treacherous curves. I played a poker tournament with 43 players and came in fifth.   I think that’s the part I like the best now, coming in ahead of the men.  What a terrible thing to say.  Put a woman on a dollar bill, then we’ll talk, gentlemen.

Personally, I think Ruby Tuesday was a one night stand, probably Keith’s since he wrote the lyrics…..probably didn’t know her name…. so called her Ruby Tuesday…maybe it was a Tuesday.  Mabye there was a Linda Thursday.  He said his grandmother’s name was Ruby.

“Who could hang a name on you?

Present tense. “When you change with every new day still I’m gonna miss you”   On the way home, I stop for a –guess they’re called– a herd, of big horn sheep.  Cattle or buffalo come in herds, not big horn sheep.  They come so close to my car that I can see the grooves on the ram’s curled horns.  Sleepy and half-broke, or broke and half-sleepy, I pause to watch the fellow climb quickly up the rocks.  He is a rock star ram, a Mick Jagger or Keith Richards of a ram, agile and a little smarmy, with a bunch of young girls by his side.  Big lips and a weather worn face.  I look in the rearview.   Four cars stop behind me.  No one honks.  I have to say it again, no one honks. The ram takes his own time leaping up the dirt and rocks, agile, like the wind.  I gain a little faith in humanity.  We watch from our cars.

Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
― Albert Einstein

Future tense.   From ten this morning until five, I haven’t looked out of a window. Tonight, by the time I leave work and walk to my car, dark  will be falling.  Cold winds will howl across the parking lot across miles and miles like an anti-sun,  to scatter leaves and heave the earth around, to encircle my car where my gloves are waiting for my frozen hands. Sweet nature, not cooperating tonight.   It leaves me standing with my car keys in the cold and dark of an empty parking lot, hands too cold to pull the door handle.  As I drive home, the sun is almost down…the streetlights sparkle and I catch a pair of wings landing on the top of the closest.  I look to see the horns of an owl silhouetted against the descending grey night. Sweet, horrible nature, this owl in the night. I mean beautiful, sweet, beautiful owl, silhouetted against sky, fading into the deep star-lit canopy over Earth. I need that owl to give me her wisdom.  Fly on down owl.

Past, present, future, sets of threes

Mopping the Floor

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – Fitzgerald

The gin and tonics melt in a frosty glass with a sprig of mint, resting on a big pine table on the stone porch at the  Grove Park hotel. Fitzgerald’s ghost softly whispers “come here, come listen to this…” — in invitation. His hair is parted in the middle, and he’s wearing a jacket in my vision, he always wearing a jacket. I don’t believe in ghosts but he has things to tell me.

“Maybe there’s a god above, but all I ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you…. And it’s not a cry you can hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” -Leonard Cohen

You say the trip would be an act of love.  But there are floors to mop.  Does anyone voluntarily mop floors? The kids don’t know how much I hate it, and they shouldn’t.  It’s part of the pact that we entered bringing them into this world.  It’s an act if love showing the kids the little things – from a fine novel to a Tiffany lamp in a dark world. Transcending the blandness of the everyday, so that in times of despair maybe they will remember.

We walk on the bones of the dead, and I think spirit is as real as memory, as anything. I tell myself magic is everywhere, in the wind– if you listen for it above the commotion of cars and humanity; you can almost see magic in the pale stars above the city lights. I’m afraid that rings with resignation or despair.  You can’t really see stars anymore. They’re just gone.

Thanksgiving is approaching, a holiday that’s been distorted into a celebration of deep-fried turkey and football, children’s white paper hats and Indian feathers. How terrifying that we’ve trivialized the past, when so few pilgrims actually survived the first few years of their “pilgrimage” to America. Wasn’t it around 50? How did they even have strength to bury the dead? What a disservice to remember them this way, and to the Indians who helped them survive. All of our holidays have been compromised and commercialized… with the exception of MLK day, which is too young to have been tainted by the scourge of time. With all the shooting it may become National Ceasefire Day.

I can almost taste those gin & tonics,  glasses sweating with condensation, ice cold. We’ll travel like the arc of a modern novel: rising action, self-realization, with no denouement. A pilgrimage of passion toward a past that flies from us as we reach toward it.

Something spiritual is in the air…maybe it’s personal or maybe has risen from the depravity of the election. With Leonard Cohen’s death this weekend, “Hallelujah” is in my head. Really more of a ballad about lost love, isn’t it?

“But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya”

When I first moved to Colorado Springs, about twenty years ago, I made a visit to Frank Water’s house. It took a little doing. A trip to the library to find the address…a lunch hour, a parking meter, quarters. Most importantly to stop procrastinating.  When I found it, I discovered it had been turned into a multi-apartment rental. I asked some of the tenants to let me peak in and I caught a glimpse of an elaborate stairwell, crown moulding, peeling paint. There’s a little park next to his house, and I sat on a bench there under a pine tree, trying in vain to see the mountain peak as it was a hundred years ago.

Part Cherokee, Waters wrote from the Native American’s point of view. He wrote The Man Who Killed the Deer, and also a historical piece called Pike’s Peak. I bought a signed edition of the latter for a dear friend of mine, but that’s another story, for another day. It was nice though, to hold his signature in my hand.

Maybe you don’t find the pilgrimage, maybe the pilgrimage finds you. I stumbled across Sophia’s Cathedral somehow, in Novgorod, Russia, and inside was an icon of the Virgin that reportedly stopped bullets in WWII. Madonna and child. If ever there was a mystical place, that was it. I could’ve stared, literally stared, at that image for hours. …. I can’t help but feel with our current view toward art, that we’ve discarded any reverence toward beauty and poetry. With the recent remarks by our President-elect, I feel belittled and degraded by our society in a way I’ve never known before.

“…her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you…”

On the same trip to Russia, a once in a lifetime event I know, I think I knew it then…I also saw Dostoevsky’s staircase…the apartment where he is reputed to have written Crime and Punishment… Dostoevsky looks a little like Jack Nicholson if you imagine him without the beard. The stairway was filled with graffiti from around the world. Hundreds of pilgrims paid tribute to a man who stood up in troubled times, risking his life and trying to preserve both his life and his sanity.  Few writer’s had such insight into the human soul.  “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”  – Fitzgerald

Spiritual quests: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/12/spiritual-healing-pilgrimages_n_4944030.html

Door of Sophie’s C3f03827309ade96b3a0b58c43c1de752athedral, Novgorod  stock-photo-famous-bronze-west-entrance-gates-of-st-sophia-cathedral-in-veliky-novgorod-allegedly-made-in-40871959

Impingement

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A few weeks ago, I woke with a sharp pain in my shoulder. I couldn’t raise my arm perpendicular to the floor without pulling my hand back to my chest and grasping the top of my biceps and squeezing to get the nerves to stop firing. The pain came in waves, just to make a long, extended point that there was a problem here.

I had no idea how this had happened. I was sleeping. What the hell?

I have since been told by my chiropractor that I have an impingement. “How did you do it?” he asked.

“I was sleeping.”

“No, really. What happened?”

I made up a story about lifting up a heavy gate. It seemed to satisfy him.

My recent research into the problem of shoulder impingement has led to the following sophisticated discoveries:

  1. Impingement happens when the tendons swell and the space for the nerves is constricted.
  2. The swollen tendons push on the nerves.
  3. The nerves fire and you scream and grab your arm.

I thought a lot about the word “shoulder” and things such as “shouldering a burden” and “too much on your shoulders” and “the weight of the world is on your shoulders”  and “soldier” which sounds a lot like “shoulder”, and I bet those words are somehow the same, but I haven’t looked it up. I thought about Atlas and that big old heavy globe sitting on his shoulders, probably causing double impingement, God help him. Puts a whole new light on Mr. Atlas, I just thought the globe he was hoisting was super heavy.

But “impingement” interests me more.

I find these days I need space.  I don’t know if it’s a reaction to the many years of responding to demands in rapid succession, impinging on my time and my thoughts and my money and my possessions. I want my body to myself, I want to think my own thoughts, I don’t want to be invaded. I picture Atlas lifting a world that is fragmented by radio waves, advertisements, cell phones, constant interruptions, the latest global crisis, all impinging on extended thought, on fantasy, on the meditative state that allows new ideas.  It’s even harder to hold that world up when it’s in tiny pieces.

Keep it to yourself, I want to scream. Keep it to yourself so I have time to think. Keep it to yourself so that I know where I stand, my shoulders square, lifting only my own burdens.

Keep it to yourself so I can raise both my arms to the fullest extend, if and when I choose to do so.

Don’t impinge on me.

Secret Identity

Identity is too big a word. It’s psychologized, and labeled. Psychobabbled, as an acquaintance of mine would say, repeated to the point of meaninglessness. Identity is a word that reminds me of my younger brother, trapped with me in the back seat of a station wagon, repeating my name, my name, over and over again, irritating me. A set up for me to smack him to get him to stop, then to hear a canned speech from the front about expecting me to be more mature than the whallop I just delivered. His smug smile.

First Identity:  Mature One. Assigned role, not optional.

Sounds like a boat or a spaceship. The Mature One. Ready to stomp out regressed behavior with torpedoes of wit, redirection and  new points of view.

God help me, I’d so much rather deliver the smack sometimes.

Second Identity:  Established in reference to others, gender specific. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Aunt. Student. Feet square on the floor, skirt just below the knees, hair as orderly as this curly wavy edition can get.

Overlapped with first identity, and everyone around is pretty pleased. I’m not displeased. It’s pleasant to be loved and admired.  No Windex needed, clear and bright.

Third Identity: My  feet are a bit sore and I’m tired of even length skirts. No one is around to tell me, or cue me, to what daughters or mothers are supposed to do. I find a picture of my own mother, dressed in an elaborate chicken outfit, complete with chicken beak headgear and feathers, riding a horse. I admire this photo more than her modeling portraits. I hang out with Indians who are repeatedly robbed of everything until they put out their hands for the pills and needles every type of drug dealer will give them, drug dealers endorsed by the State or by the street. I don’t understand my home life, mostly I am not seen, although sometimes, although it’s hard to know if I was seen before, or if I morphed into something to quiet the turmoil, mine and others’.

Is sometimes seen good? Is it good enough? Or maybe it’s just evolution into reality and I lower my expectations. I have a secret identity now, I can’t fully be seen, like an object too small or too big, and no one really has the correct magnification.

A doctor wants a full inventory of menopausal symptoms.

I watch Dr. Who a lot , I see the 13 iterations. He changes, he doesn’t recognize his own face. A hairstylist incorporates the white streak in the front of my hair, someone complimented me once on this, there is a comic book siren who has this type of streak, she is young, it is due to a trauma. How striking! she says.

My white streak is due to age, I’m fairly certain.  I’m not really sure how it got there.