Monday, May 31, 2010

feu de forêt

Forest fires all over the region:  85 over in Ontario province, 52 here in Quebec,  2,500 people evacuated, including three aboriginal reserves.  The hot spot in the province has been the Haute-Mauricie region, just north of Trois-Rivieres.  There are nearly 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze; New Hampshire and Maine have sent up firecrews and equipment.[1]
The Montreal sky was thick with its fumes last night, continuing today.  Last night, even with the windows closed, the strong smell of something burning in the back yard, except it wasn't in the back yard, it was miles away.  We've had a water ban all week and probably extended now; no rain in sight, and if you get caught watering your flowers or lawn you must pay a $200 fine.

 *Photo by Linda Lemire, taken 2 days ago north of La Tuque.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Satire, Unarmed

Rydym ni fydd yn dawel
Vi kommer inte vara tysta
No anem a estar en silence. Ons sal nie swyg
Ne nuk do të jetë i heshtur. Мы не будем молчать.
מיר וועלן נישט זיין שטיל אנחנו לא נשתוק. Me ei saa vaikida
Mes ne tylėti เราจะไม่เงียบ ebudeme mlčet
Mi ne bo tiho. เราจะไม่เงียบ Vil ikke tie.
ема да бидеме безгласни. Mēs ne klusēt
Nie będziemy milczeć.私たちは沈黙されません
Við munum ekki þegja. εν θα είναι αθόρυβη
אנחנו לא נשתוק Não vamos ficar em silêncio
Nous ne resterons pas silencieux
Нећемо се ћути
ما نمی خواهد سکوت
ما نمی خواهد سکوت
We will not be silent
Non imos ficar en silencio
Ние няма да се мълчи. اننا لن نصمت
No vamos a estar en silencio. Chúng tôi sẽ không im lặng.
Biz sessiz olmayacak. Kami tidak akan diam. Vi vil ikke være tavs.
우리는 침묵하지 않습니다 ħna mhux se tkun siekta.ما نمی خواهد سکوت
Wir werden nicht schweigen. Hatutakuwa kimya. Non saremo in
silenzio. Noi nu va fi tăcut .We zullen niet zwijgen Nem fogunk
hallgatn.Ми не будемо мовчати.Kami ay hindi tahimik. เราจะไม่เงียบ 

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

~~ Bertrand Russell


Experimenting with words.  Can they together form a mouthless image that yet "speaks". 
Let's call him Art. He looks like a chunky-cheeked alien with a misshapen ear.
"Why am I all in red?" he asks.  "Red is the color of BLOOD.  And why is everything all black around me? Where is the light?"
"I don't know," I tell him.  "Will you pose for me?"
"What's in it for me?" he asks.
"I'll make you multilingual."
"Cool," he says.  "But next time make me more attractive.  You didn't give me a mouth.  I look distorted. Like a robot disassembling."
"To the contrary," I tell him.  "You're perfect."
"How so?"  .
"You're the ghost of the fallen, the forever silenced."
"You are not very good at this," Art reminds me.
"No one can see  the message or read the words--and even if they could, they wouldnt understand the language... So what's the point?" he asks.
Back to the drawing board.  I think about removing the Darkness.  Magnify and shine a light on the words, maybe. 
Oops, Art disappears, his eyes no longer open.  And he's even more misshapen than before!
Art protests at my little Art-as-Protest project, predicting:
"No one will get it."   Friends of Art will roll their eyes:  "Why did you give him only one ear"!!!?.  
You-know-who will shake her head and say: "Do you ever stop?"  
Sometimes.  But then I get reminded again ...

War at 11.  

"Pass the chips, please."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Saving Face

I saved a face today,
it was unintended.
A kindness rendered--an afterthought,
the focus shifting
     from self to other,
being right trumped by
letting go
     of being right
to save a friend
from truth's deep burn.

A turned-down light
still illuminates
     so that one can see.
No need to blind, disorient
with glare of detail.
He knows the that
but can't fix the how
nor change the pattern.
Stay or go, it's all the same,
the pattern's set, and yet ...

I saved a face today.
What prompted it?
A different kind of

First publication.
*photo of  wooden ornament on top the radio, by awyn

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Birdy Babbles, Bubbling Waters

Yesterday afternoon we took a little stroll on a path along the St. Lawrence River, sat on a wooden bench, then climbed onto a gigantic rock and watched the ships and barges sliding by on the water.  

One of the things I like most about this place is its quiet peacefulness and panoply of sounds:  the crunch of footsteps on the gravelly pathway, the groan of a tugboat lugging past, the swish of the wind as it touches your hair, the babble of water trickling over rocks on its way to the river, the twittering of birds in the branches of the tall trees nearby.  I tried to capture it in this little video with our new digital camera.  I'm not sure if you'd call this a creek, a brook, a stream, or simply a little rocky ditch.  Bird babbles throughout, and a loud joyful chirp at 1:11-1:12.  Stop the video at 1:13 and you'll see a tiny bird drinking from the water.

The filming was kind of shaky but it was my first try.  (I couldn't locate a dewobble button on the camera, perhaps someone in the future will invent one.)  I plan to get better at this.

It's really the sounds I like to replay.  If I close my eyes and listen, it's almost like being there again.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Later Has Evaporated

Procrastination and the Artichoke

The Problem:
X needs to be done. I don't do it.  I find some excuse to put off doing it.

Think of X's being done and how that'll make you feel. (Yay plus 1,000). Doneness is the goal.  The pleasure of arriving there, its reward.

What's stopping you?
That damn block. The one I've intentionally installed there to relieve me of the task of doing the task I don't want to do right now.  The one that charms me with: "Wait.  Do something else instead." 

Removing the Block:
Let's pretend Doneness is an artichoke heart.  Granted, one can buy artichoke hearts already extracted, jarred or canned and ready for consumption, but ...  it's not quite the same.  The tasty little ritual of getting to the heart of an artichoke, one delicious anticipatory taste at a time as you pluck off its green outer petals, is one of its pure pleasures.    The pleasure lies not only in the arriving at, but in the process while getting there.  Is my choosing not to do X because I find little or no pleasure in the process?

Understanding the Problem:
Let's address the process. The three most common factors that might prohibit someone from reaching a goal are:

1. The emergence or continuing presence of more compelling,
     immediate tasks.
2. Dislike or dread of the process.
3. Getting sidetracked by something else--or
     finding the process itself so engaging, one loses sight of the goal.

1.  Priority must be assigned.
2.  It's a question of attitude.
3.  Dscipline and stick-to-itivness must be installed.

Excuse No. 1:
I have no time.

I'm overcommitted, too many irons in the fire.

Hmmm.  You make time for doctor's appointments.  You find time for scheduled family and social events.  You set aside time to do the dishes and the laundry.   You have time to daydream and doodle.  Why can't you make time for finishing X?  Make an appointment with yourself, and show up to do the work!  Just DO it!

Excuse No. 2:
This other thing seems easier and much more fun at the moment.  

Rather than do a thing, I find myself writing about doing a thing--otherwise known as "Procrastination by Way of Substitution."  I am substituting an additional, peripheral task to override my having to do a more personally important task.  Like Bartleby the Scrivener, I simply "prefer not to" right now.  I mean, that other thing can wait, right?   There is no actual deadline per se.

An Example of Stuckness:
I am reminded of an episode on the old TV sitcom "Mary Tyler Moore" where Mary appears to be in a funk.  She's unhappy with how her life is going, its weary everydayness and predictability is getting to her.  She wants to change things but doesn't know how.  (Procrastination presents a similar dilemma--it causes weariness and a desire to change.)  Mary  complains to Ted, one of her co-workers. Ted always seems so upbeat, nothing ever seems to get him down.

"How do you do it, Ted?" Mary asks, in desperation. "What's your secret?"
"Oh," says Ted, "I was like you before." (He proceeds to demonstrate how he used to be).

"I used to get up." (He rubs his eyes and makes a frowny face).
"Go to work." (He sighs.)
"Do my jobbbbbbbbbb." (Groans.)
"Come ... home." (He droops his shoulders and sighs again.)
"Eat my ... dinner." (Feigns poking at something with an imaginary fork, totally disinterested)
"Read the paper." (Slumps down in a chair, flips an imaginary page, exuding deep weariness).
"Go to bed." (Yawns, drops his arms, lowers his head, and closes his eyes).

Mary nods, as he has just perfectly described what she has been feeling, almost to perfection.

"So here's what you do," says Ted, straightening up.
"You--GET UP!" (He jumps up, imitates vigorously shaking himself awake, opens an imaginary window and takes a deep breath, then pounds his chest and says "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!", smiling broadly).
"You GO TO WORK!!!"  (He marches forward, arms swinging.)
"You DO YOUR JOB!!"  (Raises both hands, flings them skyward, and grins.)
"You COME HOME!!!"  (A big smile on his face at the word "home").
"You EAT ... YOUR ... DINNER!!!" (Rubs his hands together, giddily anticipating each tasty bite).
"You READ THE PAPER!!!"  (Sits back, chooses a magazine, crosses his leg, flips the page and reads).
"You GO TO BED!!" (Puts his head back, closes his eyes, stretches his feet, and feigns falling asleep, smiling).

Attitude ....

Change your attitude toward getting this thing done.  Focus less on the difficulties, monotony or tediousness of the process and view it as a way-of-life thing you do simply and effortlessly without analyzing it to death. 

Excuse No. 3:
I have a psychological aversion to being told to do something.

Rationalization:  Maybe it's a subconscious rebellion against "having to's" of any sort, some psychological carryover from childhood that somehow bore itself into my subconscious whereby the mere suggestion of a "have to" triggers an automatic stalling and evasive response--even if it's my own self issuing the command.

Get over it.  The negative connotation attributed to your "having to's" is strictly perceptual.
Pick a deadline, get your stuff ready, schedule the time -- and just DO it.

Final Comment:
Pretend the above is a Note to Self written 5 years ago.  Folding it up and sticking it inside your desk cubbiehole to act on "later" is no longer an option.

There IS no Later.
Later has evaporated.
You've used up all your personal postponement and extension credits.
Time is up.


START already !!!!

* Artwork  by Audrey Stiebel.

**The above refers to a large writing project I began more than eleven years ago (!!) which sits collecting dust in a box in the closet, never having progressed beyond the outline stage -- a novel-to-be, languishing in unfinishedness, along with a second, later book-in-progress, a dozen short stories, and several uncompleted articles--never revised, never sent out, word children hidden in a cupboard, waiting for .....   

They have been haunting me lately, taunting me beratedly, two fictional characters in particular, for my sheer, unabashed, continuing, willful  Neglect.  Which is what prompted the above mental kick-in-the butt to stop procrastinating already, and get back to work.  

If not now ... when?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Fiddlehead Time!

These squiggly-looking things are called les têtes de violon (fiddleheads)
because they look like the head of a violin

Our market had them for sale today, at $6.59/kg.
 This package cost me $1.12 Cdn.

The first time I ever saw fiddleheads was after I had moved to Vermont from Boston in 1998.  Some people raved about them, like they were the Greatest Thing Ever.  I considered trying them but had no idea what to do with them once I got them home.  They looked kind of strange.  Like disembodied little aliens.  Some people flat out hated them.  I decided to pass on it.  

These odd-looking things have been eaten for centuries here and in parts of all the Canadian provinces and territories, especially New Brunswick, southern Québec and southern Ontario, but they're also found in flood plains or near rivers and streams in the U.S., Japan, China, Siberia, Scandinavia, Belgium, France, and even parts of the Alps.  The Maliseet Indians of the Saint John River Valley in New Brunswick harvested them as a spring tonic and fiddlehead tea supposedly cures constipation.  I heard somewhere that fiddleheads are the Vermont State vegetable.

Anyway, about five years later, when I was now living in Québec, our next-door neighbor went out one morning down along the river bank and came back with a huge bag of fiddleheads that he had picked, and gave us some. The ferns look sort of like ostriche plumes, the coiled greens like a bag of eyes with tails.   "Look what Luc just gave us," I told my mate and opened the bag so he could see.  He made one of those faces, like he does when you mention the word tofu or yogourt (or goat milk or ginger or kalamari--all things I eat but he won't touch) and said "No thanks."  But I was curious, so found some recipes and decided to give it a try.

These greens are healthy for you, a good source of vitamins A and C, niacin and riboflavin, an on-line nutritionist writes.  You cannot eat them raw like a broccoli stem, though--you might get seriously ill.  I hadn't known that before so it was a good thing I didn't try.  (Not that I would have.)  They're not toxic but trust me, you don't want to eat them raw.  In May, in eastern Canada, they only stay in their coiled form for about two weeks before they start unfurling. Once the leaves grow beyond about 7.5 centimetres, though, the fiddleheads become just too bitter to eat.  So fiddlehead eating season is pretty short.

You have to clean them really well and boil them for 15 minutes (or steam them for 20 minutes).  You can then sauté them with butter and add a bit of lemon.  The taste is hard to describe:  it's sort of like a combination of asparagus and broccoli--some say it tastes like asparagus, green beans and okra.  I loathe okra, and cooked fiddleheads do not have the slimey texture of okra.  I can't reallly describe the taste but if it doesn't stir your taste buds, you can do other, more interesting things with it:  the Fiddleheads Violin Shop in Salmon Arm, British Columbia give their recipes for chocolate dip fiddlehead, fiddlehead pie, and cream of fiddlehead soup, for example.  And I've heard fiddlehead pizza's not half bad either. (They put pineapple on pizzas, why not fiddleheads?)

But really, this is one of those ordinary riverside greens that photographs particularly well.  These ferns absolutely bask in their photogenicity.
A Fiddlehead family

Out taking the air

Psychedelic Fiddleswirl

 You talkin' 'bout me, bub?

Guess I have to eat my fiddleheads alone tomorrow.  Maybe I'll try a Fiddlehead Quiche.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Is and Does, comingling

serving's what I do --
who I am is more than that
and I'm not for sale

*Photo by awyn, on St. Paul Street in  Burlington, Vermont, 2001.  The shop in which this gentleman mannikin resided is no longer in business.  A pity, really, because he was always so impeccably dressed and seemed to enjoy his role as Greeter of Customers, smiling at all of us equally, as if to say even the poorest and scruffiest of you deserve a taste of elegance.  I dare say, he never quite got the hang of those white gloves, though.  They came in only one size but trouper that he was, he pulled it off, exhibiting not a speck of embarrassment or chagrin.  A lesson for life:  You work with what you're got.  He made me laugh--a character and his caricature, totally at comfort with one another.  I wonder whatever happened to him, or if he knows how grateful I am for the example of the absolute joy of being allowed to Just. Be. Yourself.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Recycling Love

our mothers carry us "before"
in their wombs,
and After,
in their arms
holding us up
until we can walk ...
and always
in their hearts,
all the way to the grave

we carry them from "before"
in our genes
and after,
holding them up
when they can no longer walk ...
and always
in our hearts
and our memories
all the way to the grave

Thank you, Mom

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Joe B. on going inward

Apropos yesterday's insanely long self-reflecting pseudo-poem I was interested to read Joe Bageant's column today where he gives his personal solution to something I've been struggling with lately, namely, the individual's response to particular devastating events and progressively alarming situations nationally and globally vis-a-vis human rights, the current wars, the deteriorating economy, the maddening political climate and/or our eroding environment.  Whew.  All the distressing stuff all in one big overflowing basket.

Some people work very hard, to address and try to alleviate certain of these situations, in however small a capacity.  Others  register awareness, are concerned, may even be well informed, but continue life habits that contribute to the very problems causing the concerns.  For most, it's all just something one sees on the news, nothing that affects one personally, except perhaps the vague awareness that money (i.e., lack thereof) seems to be a big problem lately.  Life is still lived, pretty much as it's always been though, nothing's changed, really, in one's overall outlook. People, in general, though, do seem more worried.  At least that is the impression I get from all quarters.

Writer Joe Bageant left the U.S. and moved to Mexico where he pens dispatches about America's class war, among other things.  He touched on a dilemma I myself have been wondering about, i.e., what can one individual do about the stuff that's happening lately?  These are not happy times.  They're becoming increasingly uncomfortable times.  You hear phrases like "another Great Depression coming" and "World War III" and  "Armageddon".  (Not that everyone believes these will really occur, but it's in the air, so to speak.)

Anyway, a few try to steer civilization in a more evolved direction by tackling one issue at a time, and are failing.  "Why do we lose the important fights so consistently?" Joe asks.  "What has kept us from establishing a more just kingdom?"  Something is missing, he says, and he thinks it is, in a word, "the spiritual":

... the stuff that sustained Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and gave them the kind of calm deliberate guts we are not seeing today. I am not talking about religion, but the spirit in each of us, that solitary non-material essence, none the less shared by all humans because we are human.

Of course this is where a fourth of the people stop reading.  It's those words  "kingdom" and "spiritual." 

While those elite forces can own everything around us, and have proven they can make life quite miserable if they care to, they cannot own that thing inside us. The one that gives out the last sigh before sleep, and travels the realms of the great human collective consciousness alone. This is the consciousness that ebbs and flows between all external events. There is nothing mystical about it. Go sit in any quiet place with your eyes closed for a half hour or so, and that self will invariably say hello.

And this is where half the readers left will depart, because of the words "elite forces", "collective consciousness", and "mystical", ha ha.

This is also the self that our oppressors can never allow a moment's rest. Because when it finds rest, it finds insight, and can fuse the spiritual, psychological and material worlds into some transcendent vision that can at last [be] seen and sought after. It makes Buddhist monks rebel in Sri Lanka and creates indigenous liberation theologians in Latin America.

And there go the rest of the readers, because of the words "our oppressors", "transcendent" and "Buddhist monks".

Okay, I exaggerate.  But its true.  Certain words are "buzz words" for certain people and when one encounters them, they immediately impart a signal to the brain that warns:  "Oh oh, don't go there.  The writer is a such-and-such."  I have to laugh.  I, too, react to certain buzzwords.  When I first landed on Joe's website many moons ago and saw the heading: "Deer Hunting with Jesus", I almost turned away.  Glad I didn't. What a character.  And I say character with the utmost admiration.  Joe is what many of us today are reluctant to be:  Totally honest about who we are and what we think.  Joe can be rather blunt.  He cusses and says things that make you squirm --'cause it hits home.  But he's right on the mark more times than not, and writes what many think but don't dare say because it's too, well, blunt--almost, gasp, revolutionary. Not everyone's style or way of expressing things.

Continuing on:

Fortunately for Wall Street, the world's bankers, the military industrial complex, there is science, which they love so dearly they purchased it outright. Scientism has successfully sold the notion that spiritual awareness is superstition. By that accounting, the mind is no more than the brain, and love is a body sack of chemicals interacting. (A stunningly successful new public relations campaign by BASF chemical corporation campaign actually declares that love is chemical. Its success both here and in China would give Orwell the heebie jeebies.)

I know about Orwellian heebie-jeebies.  Recent history's full of them, though often too subtle to notice, unless you're paying close attention.  Didn't know about the BASF thing though.

Joe, like his readers, is "ordinary and fearful," reminding us that we all "live on the same planet watching the unnerving events around us, things the majority does not seem to see."   And while bloggerdom and the Internet bring together many of us who've never met but somehow emotionally or psychologically connect with one another, sharing the same affinities/outlooks/concerns, etc.,  "beyond that, we are each on our own, most of our waking hours, for the rest of our days."  Something a little hard to acknowledge, for some.  Anyway, Joe plans to pursue the 'kingdom within', "which is individual and does not much involve rage or politics--in other words, shut my pie hole and grow stronger, and with luck, a little wiser."  So next year by this time (he says), he's shutting down his website.  He's already written his last book, doesn't plan to write another, and the connection with his readers, I guess, will end.

That's a weird feeling, you know, to be abruptly connectionless.  Imagine--everybody suddenly no longer there within a phone call or keystroke away--all those people, loved ones included, no longer "connected" to you.  You're on your own.  Totally.  I mean, what if it weren't just bloggerland or distant  friends, etc.  What if it were everybody you know, including your entire family,and closest and dearest companion?  I'm not being morbid here.  Thousands of people all over the world go through this, every day.

But playing the "What If" game is very practical sometimes.  You learn to devise possible solutions to imaginary what-ifs so that if the time ever comes--and it horribly, sometimes does--then you've at least once considered the possibility and it might be a bit  less soul-shattering.  Or not.  You never know about these things.  Basically I'm an optimist, my mate even more so than I. And experience helps.  If you ever got out of--at the time--a life-shattering situation, and are now okay, you can look back and see what worked and what didn't, how long it took, what you could have done differently, both before and after, etc.  You do this by going inward, and you can call the lessons learned "spiritual" or not, that's just a term--for getting in touch with the part of you that knows, even when you don't, and you sometimes have to just stop, and listen.  I think that's what Joe means by going inward.  It's at least what I mean by it and they seem similar--his version of it and mine.

I was still wondering though, whether individual responses have to be an Either/Or choice. Either join a group and raise a stink and fight the Whatever, or go get quiet and change your life and find your inner peace.   

In any case, you do what you can, where you can, when you can, and never stop.  It shouldn't be a sometime thing, though.  It should be a way of life.  Not everybody thinks like that, not everybody cares. And even if they do, is that enough?  What can one person do?  Well it's not just one person actually.  It's one person here, one person there; three people here, five people there; a hundred people here, five hundred people there;   a hundred thousand here, two hundred thousand there, scattered over many theres, and I think they're increasing rather than diminishing.  I could be wrong.  And never, of course, anywhere near the majority.  But still ...

How many dozens of people, in their small way, helping one another, tiny random acts that're never noticed, ever publicized, seldom acknowledged, completely forgotten, in every pocket of the universe -- they've got to count for something.  Calm , deliberate guts"  (Joe's phrase).  Not fearful, crazed and worrying, swallowed up in uncertainty, but Calm.  Deliberate. And with Guts.  A stance that could get you through just about any situation.  Gandhi had it.  Martin Luther King had it.  Aung San Suu Kyi has it.  Not just the 'giants' but all the others, mostly nameless people living (and sometimes giving) their lives for justice sake, have it.

Joe was right that no one can "own that thing inside us. The one that gives out the last sigh before sleep, and travels the realms of the great human collective consciousness alone."  

This is beginning to sound like a speech, groan.  What you call getting carried away in the moment.  Unintentional, but you see what words do to you sometimes, they open up all kinds of doors and stuff comes tumbling out, making you think, so you start thinking out loud, the fingers start tapping, you're suddenly a-sea in a wash of words, reader beware.  Good thing only three people read this blog, ha ha.  But thank you Joe, you ol' curmudgeon down Mexico-way.  A bunch of words on a webpage, a line in a poem in a library book, a random phrase overheard in someone else's conversation-- how the written or spoken word can jar the consciousness, bring understanding--or at least open the gate to it, instill one to action, give a sense of hope--all of the above. 

Going inward, not as an escape, but to draw from a well of resources you didn't know were there.  And not just "spiritual" stuff but ... Going for a root canal, even:  Calm. Deliberate. And with Guts.  So not just the biggies but the little everyday things as well.

Thanks Joe.

And thanks to another Joe (Hutchison by name) for sharing the "pale blue dot" and quote from Sagan, demonstrating "the folly of human conceits" of which we have many.   He was absolutely right (Sagan): "Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand," underscoring "our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another ... to preserve and cherish" it.
Amen to that!

oops, slipped off the Brevity Wagon again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The That and the This: A Reminder

Every Wednesday, since 2004,
for the 330th time, they stand for 1 hour
a small group of grannies and gramps
Anne, 92, who came by bus
Lillian, 90
Jenny 65, undergoing treatment for breast cancer
Bert, 76, with his cane, for his bad knees
James, 73, a granduncle,
a few others who join them
out on the sidewalk
at 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center.

How cute. Old people out on the sidewalk
protesting the wars
What absolute madness
what good does it do

They interfere with the routine.
That's the whole point.
People notice,
and either grimace or smile.
But it makes them think.
That's the whole point.

They put me to shame, these fragile elders.
I didn't participate in the march for peace
this or last year
figuring, what good does it do
who even listens? nobody cares, it's
like preaching to the choir
we're just another temporary
traffic obstruction.
One must get on with
one's life

My birth country has 700 military bases
in over 100 countries
uniforms with guns ... just in case
Security's a big business.
war is so ... LUCRATIVE
millions to be made from protecting
securing, upgrading, preempting.
How you stay in business, you
expand, repeat
make the service never ending.
Differences are
never ending
like the wars to protect

Gotta give it to those gramps and grannies
they make me ashamed
of my
burgeoning Complacency.
All well and good
to just tend the garden,
focus on what's beautiful and positive
make the weekly grocery list
class tomorrow, errands, work
so many projects, so little time
what shall I write today
while half the world
starves or sinks
or bleeds.

Is activism, even the mildest kind
something one eventuallly
grows out of,
puts aside, succumbing to
detached observation,
a sigh, oh God how horrible,
then back to the everydayness
loaf of bread, quart of milk, eggs ...
They're still languishing in prisons
those writers. Women stoned to death
or buried alive
for having coffee with a male friend.
Veterans suiciding themselves,
children collaterally damaged
lands and crops and newborns poisoned by
depleted uranium
the gift that keeps on
all because of war
against terror,
against freedom,
against thought

And not just wars or
people tortured,
bees are dying
whales, birds, fish
disoriented, lost,
gorged with plastic
or slick with oil
be careful what you eat
we're running out of water
running out of time

Oh stop
stop thinking about such things
you'll drive yourself crazy
you can do nothing.
Go get some tea, think peaceful thoughts
go back to your garden
put on some music
write a poem
about the butterfly at play, teasing the cat
about the beauty of light
dancing through branches of cedar
and the oneness of it all.

And there they stand
that little group of old people
every single Wednesday
year after year after year
for the 330th time
one day a week
out on the sidewalk
saying 'Look'
look what's still happening
still happening.

Is this what life is,
learning to juggle
the That and the This
the Out There and the In Here,
the This mostly taking preference
... dominating
till the That reminds
that That's still that.

And what should one's response
stranger to stranger
are we all brothers?
just because we share a planet
doesn't mean ...
and animals are just
The garden is waiting
so's the grocery run
and those pressing jobs to finish
deadline was yesterday
what to cook for dinner ...
still ...

they got to me
those persistent old people
this morning
they got to me.
I used to be them,
standing on a sidewalk,
shivering in the cold,
me and 20 others,
trying to free Tibet,
while shoppers hurried by.

Iraq, the slam dunk war
shocked and awed into submission
Afghanistan that even Alexander couldn't tame
but those damn terrorists keep
popping up
every bloody where.
One can only stomach so much
pain and fear and outrage
it takes energy to keep fighting
it morphs into an aching sadness
decades pass and
the monster's still there
and you just get ...

If you're gonna make war.
trickster says to me,
do it on your own complacency.

They shame me, these elders
I feel as they do
yet do nothing.
What can you do,
it's not enough--
for some--
to light a candle
they gotta
walk the walk ...
if not with feet
then using words
why not act using words
use your mouth, use your pen
write a poem

I'd write a poem
but what would it say
and how would it matter.
It'd never work as a poem
inner dialogues, self to self,
rarely do
it'd just be words tumbling over
groping for meaning,
choked by excess,
clumsy word-voices still trying to
find themselves
usurping a space
just because they

but it would remind me ..
and I sometimes need


there is no either/or
my dear
it's all just "is"
and while some of us are
still trying to find our voice
other voices are being silenced



remember that

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Lou, brother of Li, son of Li-lou, left us yesterday. Not by choice. He was only 10 months old. 

He had been hit by a car--we think. Usually he showed up every morning on the back doorstep, to eat, and spent a lot of time in our backyard--sitting on the bench with his brother Li, in the little bed we made for them in the shed, climbing the branches, or scampering across the roof chasing butterflys. He and Li were inseparable, since birth. They'd sleep beside each other, wrapped in each others' arms. They'd wash and groom one another.

We watched them grow up, so to speak--how they first figured out how to get down from the top of the tall cedar tree, navigated the pointy fence top, saw their first bumblebee. They loved the snow, thought it was the greatest thing ever.  The very first big snowfall they were scampering out in it, burying their nose in it, chasing each other across the snowbanks, I never saw cats who took to snow like that before.   Lou was the quieter of the two, the one more gentle, more shy.  He had the most amazing green eyes.   Two unexpected little permanent visitors.  They played with our cats.  We had unofficially adopted them, making arrangements to get them vaccinated and spayed, after not being able to find a home for them.  The local SPCA is inundated with unwanted cats, some of whom are still sitting there, waiting for adoption, after four months.  In the meanwhile, we'd become attached to them, and they, to us.  

It was odd yesterday morning when Lou hadn't shown up to eat.  Later, I went out looking for him, and discovered him curled up in the box in the shed. He didn't seem himself. When I put food  in front of him, he was totally uninterested.  When I picked him up, he seemed limp and lethargic. He had trouble standing up, walked all wobbly and with difficulty.   There was something definitely wrong with him.

We took him to the vet and there was only bad news. There was a cut deep inside his mouth and blood in  his tongue, the x-ray showed a twisted misalignment and serious fracture at the back, and he was bleeding internally, caused, the vet surmised, by blunt trauma.   Possibly hit by a car, he said.  But when had it happened?!   That morning? We were up by 6:00 AM and heard and saw nothing. The night before?  How many hours had he been lying in the shed until I found him?  It was unbearable that he should have had to suffer like that.  But the worst news was yet to come--even an emergency operation, costing thousands of dollars, couldn't guarantee he'd be saved, be without pain or ever be all right again.

It all seemed to have happened so fast--a familiar little face every day for months and months, and all of a sudden ... he's gone.  Just like that.  His absence seems to have affected his brother Li as well; he seems to spend a lot of time now searching the woods for something. Last evening he didn't even play with the other cats, just sat there in the grass, as if waiting for someone.

Babies Lou and Li resting in the carport, last autumn

Bye Lou
you beautiful, gentle, wonderful little friend
Ain't the same around here without you no more

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pre-emptive ouching

Question: What time is your dentist appointment?
Answer: 2:30

That was a joke I once saw in a kid magazine.

My "tooth hurty" has been increasing the past week--the medication didn't work, and I went for a root canal last evening but the dentist postponed it because the tooth's too infected.  So he put me on a bout of antibiotics first.

I've had root canals in the past and contrary to the horror stories I've heard about excrutiating, mind-shattering pain, they all went smoothly and I didn't feel anything.  My current dentist couldn't guarantee that that would be the case this time. It's DEEP, he said, referring to where he'd have to go waaaaayyyyy down inside to drill. And apparently getting mildly gassed with nitrous oxide into Happy Land isn't an option. My dentist doesn't offer it.

I went home and googled what actually happens when you have a root canal. I wish I hadn't done that. "Sometimes it doesn't work", disastrous personal horror stories, and hints of what could go wrong and often does, plus nerve-jangling graphics of the entire procedure down to the last tiny detail, managed to instill permanent images in my mind (serves me right) that I can't now erase and which interfere with the calm reassurance coming from my mate that "It'll be okay. You'll be FINE. Stop thinking about it."

I know where this came from--this extreme reluctance to enter a dental office. In our small town when I was growing up there was only one dentist for the entire town--Dr. Carlson. Ask anybody who ever went to him and you will get the same reaction:  a pained expression and a sudden case of the shivers.  He was the dentist from Hell.  Cruel, sadistic and downright horrible, he had no patience for fearful, squirming children.  I heard that he actually slapped a child across the face once, telling him to sit still and stop being such a wimp. He instilled in two generations of children-now-adults the terror of all things dental.  What a legacy.

In any case, my day of imagined pain has been postponed, till the antibotics run their course. Then a root canal will be attempted, and if it isn't do-able (apparently it's a "difficult" one), the dentist will just take out the tooth.

I just want it all to be over -- like, yesterday.