Wednesday, June 30, 2004

"A friend is someone who knows the song I sing in my heart and sings it back to me when I forget it."

(Actually this quote is a bit painful for me but that's another story.)
I know this comes as no surprise, but I forget who I am sometimes. I lose my power of self perception, and there are lots of reasons, many of them inside my control, but there it is, I wake up and have forgotten.
Or should I say, I've forgotten the parts of me I've worked so hard to cultivate. Intellectually if someone asked me if I was a worthy person, I could tell you why, but it isn't my head that's forgotten, its my heart. I distort myself when I look in the mirror until at some point, I stop looking.

Yes. I should work on recognizing why I've forgotten, work on addressing the self doubts that got the upper hand last (night, week, month, year) realize that I am my own worst enemy and manually turn the tide.

I probably do some of those things. I don't really indulge in self pity much. I might realize I need to meditate more, or walk more, or read more, or give more, and go seek those out. I try to get a better night's rest, because sleep deprivation is my trigger. I walk away from relationships and situations which don't nurture my soul, even at a pretty high cost.

I also know my friends will help in a way that all my intellectualizing won't. I realize this is not the version that psychologists champion, but I think friends and my connection with them is a means of seeing the real person in the mirror, the reflection as they view me, unclouded by my fog of insurrection.

We don't pick as friends people who mirror back traits we dislike. The friends we have often carry the traits we admire, aspire to. And they haven't chosen us to be companions on the path because we remind them of their flaws. The mirror they hold up to me isn't a fun house mirror, isn't one full of lies to boost my egos: my friends reflect back to me the person who brings value to their lives. And I think I do the same for them, I certainly try to. When I look into the mirror they hold up, I remember the parts of myself I had forgotten. When I hold up a mirror, I am simply reminding them to wipe the glass clean so they can see themselves as I do.

Is this so wrong? Why do we think we should be totally self reliant? Our bodies often can heal from a sickness on their own, but if we can get a jump start on it, through antibiotics or vitamins or herbs, does it hurt to use them to boost our healing time? Support our immune systems? If we don't over do it? Could the same be said of friendship?

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

In which God-in-me and I argue about desire.

I need to change.
I am all that I am.

But what if I'm not enough.
There isn't more to be. I just am.

If I was enough, the men in my life would think so.
The men in my life do and did think so, they loved me.

But they loved others, some of them they loved more than me.
Why do I think that to be enough, I have to be only?

It has to mean some part of me wasn't lovable.
Maybe it has to mean that love isn't constrained.

I confuse love and relationship.
Love is a gift. Relationship is a commitment. Love is fluid. Relationship has boundaries.

But now I am alone.
Do I love now? Yes. I am not alone.

I wish there was more.
The desire is to find the parts I've disowned. I want someone else to reclaim them.

I am all that I embrace.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

It took me back

It is 2AM and I am in John Gong's dorm room
Across the hall my roommate
Lynn, has invited her guy to spend the night
John firmly asexual, chaste
His roommate, a rich Japanese tennis player, always gone
John's room is where we all went to hang at night
Tonight I am just there longer than the rest

The lights are long since out but
Still the thoughts stream, time suspended
In the darkness, on our backs, tossing the words up
Like blue rubber racket balls to the ceiling,
Waiting calm but ready for the words
To bounce back across the room
We sift through the longings that haunt us
Hesitantly share the wishes we've hung on evening stars
Giggle at embarressments
Talk for hours until finally
Talk and sleep are merged into warm, safe dreams

I don't remember falling asleep but the
Mid morning light arrives and I wake, turn to my side
To see John watching me, lieing in his bed, still and waiting
The smile that slips over me is filled
With all the warmth of a lazy summer day
Where anything is possible
And yet, all of it is good
There is no hug, no touch that connects us
But it as if now
I know the swing of his arm without thinking

Saturday, June 26, 2004

In which Dave explains my whole life in the description of a plasmodium.

"In other words, sex and eating are all sort of mixed up in one amorphous quest for survival - kind of like in an old blues song."

Muddled tufts of the estuary
Vent into the broad clean wing span of a heron
Ascending now over
A stump, mired,
River channel bound
King-sized bed
To an extended family of jet black cormorants
Seventeen stretching necks and wings
A long night in close quarters
Has cramped their style.

"And the little one said
Roll over
Roll over"

Too many words in the small bed of my mind
Also need to stretch
Which ones will fall out?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A bloggers song heard on the drive in this morning...

Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh
More loneliness than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh

I’ll send an s.o.s. to the world
I’ll send an s.o.s. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah

A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life but
Love can break your heart
I’ll send an s.o.s. to the world
I’ll send an s.o.s. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah

Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home
I’ll send an s.o.s. to the world
I’ll send an s.o.s. to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Message in a bottle, yeah
Sending out at an s.o.s.
Sending out at an s.o.s.
--Message in a Bottle, The Police

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

wind up toy

I turn the crank key feeling how
Tighter and tighter the spring winds
Iron the skirt
Blow dry the hair
Paint the nails
Spritz the cologne
Until fully wound
I spin gaily across the room
Only to encounter a misplaced object
Skidding sideways,
Wobbling raggedly into a toppled halt
I want to stop myself, but
Can't help looking back to see if I've been noticed
Or simply abandoned for some prettier plaything
Fool to toy with the possibility
I was ever on the radar screen
The plastered on smile serves me well
My only hope to scuttle out, dignity intact.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Wherein the Stage Mom is Upstaged by Joey

The sheet music comes back folded just so
The accompanist couldn't transpose the key
So she sang it (off key I'm sure) accapella
In a snit I think of lost money and time
Tracking down the sheet music and folding and taping it
Just so
Just so she has a better chance of pleasing these directors,
Of passing this audition
Today being done in the "Board Room"
Accustomed to projecting a huge personality into the auditorium
I counseled, tone it done a bit for the smaller space
Don't yell the chorus
She skipped off to the room across the hall
Professional "acting" resume and photo in hand

(Who would have guessed I'd be writing her a resume at age 12?
Objective: A role in a play, any play, please please please
Experience: Played part of Princess Budir.
Education: Findley Elementary)

Minutes later, I hear the bits and pieces of
A dog desperate to go out
A master full of exasperation over a misbehaving pooch
A daughter not heeding her mother's counsel because
Every command, bark and note is leaping out
Through the closed door into the hallway
Amusing two other mother-child pairs waiting their turn

I imagine Simon, Randy and Paula rolling their eyes
from behind their all powerful judges table,
Too many episodes of American Idol
Have turned me audition cynic
But what do I hear next?
Laughter, not the forced kind, or the embarressed kind,
But the genuinely pleased, surprised kind
And she bursts out through the door,
Sure it has gone exceedingly well

They asked her how she perfected the movements of a dog
And she told them it took months of studying our border collie.
Of course the family pet gets all the credit for preparing her
What a fool I am to fret over sheet music
Her stage dog has got it all under control.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The net is at it's least, amazing in its coincidences.

"Oh beautiful, for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, our country loved,
And mercy more than life..."

It is a Friday. This particular morning, I was wakened to the news of Ray Charles' death. I was thinking, just like Leslee, that I'd rather see us memorialize him than Reagan, although I'm sure this is just partisanship. So an hour and a half later, I'm driving through the ATM - technology at least has brought us this miracle of readily available cash wherever we go here in the States - but that is a different subject. News of presidential funerals and car bombs in Iraq blares away on my car radio.

Anyway, there is a Jeep Cherokee in front of me, one of the older ones I still wish I drove but don't because of the lousy gas mileage. Another middle aged woman at the wheel, getting her cash at 8:30AM. With a bumpersticker. I wanted to jump out and talk to this woman at the ATM, that she could have precisely nailed the feeling I was having at that moment listening to the news. It took one of those patriotic stickers you see on so many cars since 2001, "Proud to Be an American" and it added a question in front of the traditional sticker "Are you Still"
No I wanted to yell at her, no I'm not!
But I kept my mouth shut, she is pulling away and I have cash to get.
The radio drones on about buying car insurance and bad film developing and I head onto the freeway for the drive out through west county to an offsite meeting.

The commericial breaks end, and the DJ talks a bit about Ray Charles, his life, his history, and then go on to play a song in his memory.

"America, America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain devined."

And the rage sets in, you see, because I can find nothing noble about what's happened in the last couple of years. Instead of liberating strife, it seems we've only added to it.
But the words continue, and the emotions shift to an intense place of grief, that I cannot sing along with pride.

"And you know when I was in school,
We used to sing it something like this, listen here:

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties,
Above the fruited plain,"

And I am driving through rich green farmlands, past groves of filbert trees, rows of berry bushes, hillsides covered with grape vines, mountains visible 50 miles before and behind me.

"If you're no longer proud, why don't you leave?" the patriotic ask.

Oh my God I am proud. I am proud of the kids I work with in the schools each week. I am proud of the hard work the generations before put into building businesses and a livelihood for their families. I'm proud of the constitution and the bill of rights. I'm proud of the incredible natural wonders and that some of them still exist, under protections, inadequate yes, but protections. I'm proud of our ATMs and our affinity for Sponge Bob and that teen pregnancies and suicide rates are dropping again. I'm happy to live somewhere I am supposed to be treated equally. I think Americans are incredibly generous and creative. And I love the land here. The vast diversity of ecosystems that can take me from a sandy beach to a rainforest to a city to a glacier to a high desert plateau to a deep river canyon all in the span of a day's drive. Yes I can sing along. But only part of it now, and I feel as if I've been robbed.

I am proud to be American, but I'm not talking about our government, or our military, or democracy, or any of those things that drive the bumper sticker business.

"But now wait a minute, I'm talking about
America, sweet America,
You know, God done shed his grace on thee,
He crowned thy good, yes he did, in a brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea."

We need the concept of brotherhood to extend beyond our borders now.
Miguel, these blogs may feel like the mumblings of a man who paces his living room, but I hope you don't feel you are the only person experiencing this anger and despair with the events of the world. And while we may only be dealing in clarifying intentions, it is intentions that prepare us, guide us to act.

God help us rediscover our mercy.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I find myself confused by many things. Sometimes I think the purpose of writing a blog is to share "un-confusions" and maybe this is my hindrance to writing some things. What if I just wrote? That is the question I played with in my poetry workshop two weeks ago. I found that it wasn't so bad, just writing, without knowing.

I spent many years in Reagan's country, both as a Californian while he was governor, and of course under his presidency. Most of those years pretty cognizant of the events of the world and his actions. I still don't really understand the news obsession, and apparently US-wide obsession with his death. I feel no loss, only puzzlement over the elevation of one man's death. It brings up for me again the idea of molding people after they die into the thing we wanted them to be. Or the thing we want them to make us into now that they are gone. I can't get my sights on this though, maybe it doesn't align with my values or maybe I'm wishing it wasn't true for me too, or maybe something underneath it all and more fundamental about death.

There was an amazing elderly man attending my poetry workshop. He arrived with a cane and assistance from a writing associate, and gamely shared he was joyous to be with us rather than the alternative hospital bed. This became a central concern of ours on day two when he started to suffer some physical distress and it was our role to determine how best to act. Do we follow his instructions and help him get comfortable so he can stay? Or do we err on the conservative side and get him to a doctor?

He had opened the workshop with the statement "I am so excited, as to be pulled to the edge of my seat, by the anticipation of hearing the questions our teacher will ask, and the poetry we will write in response, and the stories we will share in the process."

It seems ours were the last stories he would hear, as we tried but soon realized that whatever had happened on our second day was serious, and he needed to go to a hospital. Two days later word came he had died of internal bleeding.

Awkward, trying to fill the silences around the workshop table while people more in charge conferred on what to do, I learned this man had a long history in public education and broadcasting, in fact had much to do with the existence of public radio in the South, and was a peace activist much of his life. There was peace and optimism in every action and word he offered to our workshop, truly inspiring coming from someone who had seen a lot in his 90 years to be jaded by. He was easy to love in the moment, but I also found myself admiring what that inner character had done to change the world for the better too.

I read that people are leaving flowers and remembrances for Reagan, that they feel they know him without having met him. But I find myself confused in the strange intimacy of meeting Ralph Steetle in the last two days of his life, seeking an appropriate way to grieve his passing. I might think I "know" Ralph, or "know" Reagan, but all I really know is the glimpses I have registered and their significance to me.

A Parting Gift

It isn't obvious to us, but
he clearly knows these
are the last grains of sand
slipping through the funnel
so slowly savors the full taste
of the strawberries I brought.
Now I am glad they were just picked
bright bursts of sweetness
Fruit of sun and rain and the rich rich soil
to which he will too soon return.

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