Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Drawing to a Close

The scent of the blackberries along the footpath
Has shifted this week, from fresh to fermented
Syrupy wine in my nose, soon to be lost for another season.

I watch evening commuters lined up at the stoplight,
The tired reflection of a day's work, done but probably not finished,
Carried home in the lines of strain around their eyes.

Clinging to my dog's fur, crumbled seedheads of field grasses
Turned a rich golden brown by the low slanting sun
Which I sadly notice setting sooner each day.

The motions one makes after a well spent evening, subtle changes
In the tone of voice, the body’s movements, shifting clues towards
An ending to alert the host: it is time to walk to the door.

There, I’ve opened it, letting the lingering scent of our dinner
Drift out into the darkened street. I suppose come October,
All of this will be relegated to memory, including the sound of your laughter.

Painting: Side Door, Mixed Media by James Kimak

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Compassion is... feeling angry and protective about my dog's wounds, and feeling sorry for the other dog owner who took her dog to be put down yesterday.
Compassion is... feeling glad my Dad is moving here on a trial basis next week so we can spend more time with him, and feeling sad he has to leave his comfortable house of 50 years.
Compassion is... recognizing parenting is a sucky job when your kid is deliberately acting difficult, and recognizing that the kid is equally miserable with his behavior.
Compassion is... not blaming the person who loves me but ends up hurting me, and feeling love for my spirit which continues to cry in pain.
Compassion is... not something I afford myself very often. Not often enough. Something some accuse me of sharing too generously with everyone else. At my expense. Something spirit seems to disagree with, by throwing ever more unavoidable opportunities for me to give while I seem to have nothing left to draw from.
Compassion is... an exercise in opening your heart when it wants nothing more than to close down for the night.

Friday, August 26, 2005

crying is so pointless
fifteen minutes, half a box of kleenex
yet nothing feels better,
its not like anything suddenly becomes clearer
or I know what to do with myself now
any better than I did before
you'd think the human body could devise a better
grieving device

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Today's self assessment

"Since everything is none other
than exactly as it is
one may as well just break out in laughter"
-Long Chen Pa

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It was sweet when she recognized that little spark of hopefulness that could only be fueled by naivety.
Sweet because she feared there was nothing left but cynicism and that leaves the heart sour.
Now it seems merely foolishness, like wishing on a star, or trusting the fortune cookie to be right
She is still unable, just yet, to snuff it out
As the edges curl away and brown in the listless flame
Watching, rocking in her chair, back and forth, watching it flicker and fade
Like a boyscout on a camping trip, wondering if with the right gust of wind, this time the fire might roar into life
Realizing it probably won't.
Would you light a match to it again?
Or crawl into the tent defeated?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Wanting my game back

My son picked up a cheap chess set this weekend at a garage sale and we've played five or six games since then. I used to think I wasn't a big enthusiast because it requires thinking several moves ahead, which I find tedious. But after about the fourth round this weekend, I found myself dreading capturing and losing pieces. In a couple of games I ended up escaping my way around the board with just one piece to protect my king, everything stripped away and about to lose the rest. You start out with a whole court of pieces and many possible ways to move and play, only to end up stunted, a fraction left, even when you win. Occasionally advancing a pawn reclaimed some of the lost capability, but not often.

I much prefer backgammon. This is the usual game I play with my son, and I was reflecting this morning on what is different about it. Obviously the strategies are different, and backgammon is more random with a dice roll determining your options, which seems more spontaneous to me, although I do think somewhat ahead about how risky I want to play it. But the basic goal, to get all your pieces to your home court and bear them off the board seems more satisfying. There's trouble to make for the other player, and they for you, but one rarely lose pieces for any extended period of time. You end with what you started with.

Some days it feels like the erosion of my self-hood, my capabilities, the interests and dreams that are solely mine, are leaving little left of "me" over time, if anything at all. I like to think I'm just setting those pieces aside, to be picked up later, retrieved by a pawn who patiently works its way across the board over a long period of time but ...

Sometimes I think the pieces just fall. Today's compromise becomes tomorrow's abdication. And wouldn't it be better if the goal was to hang onto all of them?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

(This pause in blog action brought to you by a pitbull attack)

Joey is recovering from two bite wounds. Joey is the wonder dog although at the moment he seems a little unnerved.

Mom (me) is recovering from holding the other dog owner's hand while she cried about having to get rid of her dog, a pitbull great dane mix, after his third attempt to kill a dog in our neighborhood. Meanwhile he is staring at me through the same crack in the door that had freed him accidentally the night before.

There was no question, in the direct line of this dog's advance, what his intentions were. And I didn't used to be scared of dogs. Any dogs. Suddenly, small, vulnerable, terrified.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Have you ever watched a dog chase a fly and try to catch it?

Makes my teeth hurt.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My kitchen counters are now loaded with three boxes of peaches and one box of nectarines. The last two batches of jam vaporized it seemed, so now I'm making more. I picked up a bunch of "windfall" ones which I chose carefully, since I will be canning them, and only paid 15 cents a pound. A really large ripe peach seems about as voluptuous as Marilyn Monroe, so I'm a bit disappointed in these distinctly un-sensual names they give them: Veteran, Suncrest, Red Haven, Canadian Harmony. It was inordinately hot here today, in the mid-90s, and the drops of sweat quickly mixed with the juice dripped on our hands sampling different varieties and the dust from the orchard to coat us in a substantial layer of brown, such that by the time we got to the car our blond fair-skinned five-year-old picking mate had nearly matched my son's dark Bengali tint. It was hard to tell where the tan stopped and the dirt started on the daughter of the orchard owners, following us barefooted through the trees and wearing a set of shiny silver teeth caps across all her uppers, nearly the only thing visible that was not brown on her body.

Whenever I taste a good peach, it reminds me of the tree outside the dining room window at my Aunt Mary's house in Fishkill, New York. That tree was a source of huge pride for my Aunt and Uncle, and was jealously guarded from marauding squirrels with a shotgun. Its been so many years - maybe twenty - since I've eaten one that I can no longer tell you if those peaches really tasted better than anything I've eaten since, but for the sake of my late Aunt's memory, I'll say they were. I do remember the pies that she made, peach and apple. Oh my god nothing in a crust will ever taste that good again. The peach tree also had another important purpose, it was an anchor for one end of the clothes line. You didn't use a dryer during the summer in upstate New York, and having run a load of clothes through today, in this clingy heat, I can see their point.

Tomorrow is forecasted to be a high of 86F, not much higher than the temperature right now. Maybe if I get an early start, I can get the jam done while the kitchen is a bit cooler.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

dear xxx,

Just a short one tonight.
The terror has taken hold again. I am sure we are never to be.
Sure I am burying my heart alive, several shovelfuls a day as I get more attached.
I think a wiser person would bolt. As would a stronger one.
I picture your face in my rearview mirror getting smaller very quickly.
I always turn the car around.
It is good that these don't get sent to you.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

For some context, a couple of posts ago I talked about my divorce, and there have been some really good comment threads there which are helping me think about the contracts we make with a partner.... Tonight I was reading an article in the NYT magazine called "Will We Ever Arrive at the Good Death?" and clicked onto a series of photographs titled "As They Died."

At first this will seem unrelated so bear with me. The article is worth reading and I felt covered the issues well, care for the process of dying is worth a years's worth of blog posts actually. But what I want to post about tonight is one of the photos.

Here is the caption: "Suzanne Richardson, a former dean of students at Harvard Law School, was given a diagnosis of advanced gastric cancer in February 2003. In April 2005, after several failed rounds of chemotherapy, she married Barry Donner, her partner of 10 years, in the chapel at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston." The photo shows them hugging, the look on each of their faces gives away the insurmountable obstacle they are looking into, and is full of tenderness for each other.

I wept looking at this picture and it became apparent to me that I am probably more loyal to the ritual, the institution of marriage than I let on to myself or others.

I tend to tell myself, based on my experience, that people change and the formal contract seems to bind things in place that cannot be rigid. And since I don't live inside a religious tradition, that incentive for making vows is absent. So if you asked me if I found the right person, if I would want to get married to them, I'd probably say no at first. Then it might shift into a "well, the party would be nice as a celebration, and I think rituals are a good thing to mark passages, and yet I don't know what I'd promise to someone these days." I don't mean to offend anyone with this but promising forever anything seems rash to me, probably since I did it once and it was a promise I felt I had to break. butuki comments to one of my posts below (and I heartily concur) "My feeling is that all people are free; no one has a claim on anyone else. Loving another and being loved is an expression of this freedom. If things change and one of the partners (or both) needs to move on, then letting that person go is part of the freedom of loving."

So then what does a marriage mean to me? I've been pretty much writing the idea off, much to my daughter's dismay, who feels her life is unfufilled without the chance to be in a wedding party.

But there were those tears, and they were tears that came from a place inside me that said "yes, I would want that too." And now I am wondering, maybe I was thinking way too practically about this thing.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

dear xxx,

Do you remember that evening in March, at the pub, tapping your toes and singing along with the song piped in over the speakers? You had this smile on your face. An unburdened, surprised, perfectly joyous smile that seemed to have everything to do with being yourself, being in the moment, being with me. It was easy to see directly into your heart, and I guess I would say that was the moment I first fell in love with you. It seemed like in the space of a few hours you had completely left all the "supposed to be's" in your life behind, and slipped into your own skin, giggling at the sheer wonder and fun of finding something you liked there. You held my hand afterward walking out to the car in the dark, so maybe you felt something shift too, although sometimes I wonder if I made up the hand-holding part, almost everything that happened that day seems more like a dream now than something real. Anyhow, this week you told me that talking with me felt like being "at home" and even though this time the conversation lacked any of that prior carefree lightness, it gives me a lot of hope. Hope that I'm going to see that smile again, returned to your face time after time, filling the room with sparkles like a snow globe filled with luminous glitter floating down on everything inside. I know its going to take time, but that is what I'm really hoping for. Not someone to depend on, not someone to end my moments of loneliness, not a ceremony filled with forevers, but someone who feels completely free to be themselves around me and likes who they discover when that happens. Someone I can be wholly myself with, giggling in delight as well.

I guess what I'm getting at here is I want us to play, have fun, discover ourselves, giggle, dance, touch, experience... do all these things before we start worrying about whether we should have separate bank accounts or who will mow the lawn or whether we could have a real argument. Its funny, you've said you can imagine us 20 years from now, but in the meantime I seem fixated on finding the things in the next 6 months that can make you smile that way again. It would be enough.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Well tonight the kids, their dad, and his parents come over for a BBQ. My son's birthday is next Tuesday and we'll do an early family celebration with his grandparents here.

I was out early with the dog this morning walking in the neighborhood and met a former neighbor who apparently cheated on his wife a couple of times and then refused to see his part of the problem such that his wife divorced him. They have two kids, not far apart in age from mine, and he was picking up a bicycle at the mom's house. He asked if I knew the mom and kids were moving, about 30 miles away, and I said yes, and sympathized about the extra distance for him. He looked pretty bummed and commented that he had just bought a condo within a mile of their old house to be near the kids and yet, well, the mom had the "right" to move away. I like the mom a lot, and understand why she'd want to move to the new place, its much closer to the new boyfriend, and is more of a small town.... but I felt sad for their dad. He even works much closer to the new place than the old house. You could say he earned this "punishment" by cheating in the first place, but that idea bugs me.

A work associate spent the first half hour of a meeting recently explaining some of the problems she has had with her husband's ex-wife and their kids. The ex seems to do everything she can to make things difficult for all involved, including sabataoging her kids' relationship with their dad. It seems that every interaction is filled with vindictiveness and victimhood.

I guess I must live by different rules. Maybe that's a problem, at one point a boyfriend complained that my kids' dad had more say in my life than he did. This wasn't true, but it was and is true that I will not move my children far away from their dad or change their schedule of spending half time with him. Its meant I've passed up on some good job and romantic opportunities. I don't feel bad about that though. I respect his role as my children's dad, I think he does a great job. And even though I pretty well tore his heart into shreds in my decision to end the marriage, my blame in that doesn't seem to enter the equation in how he treats me. Every couple of years one of us comes across a job opportunity out of town and there is a conversation laden with unsaid implications... would you consider moving to Seattle? But I think he knows that even though I have the "right" to move the kids away, that I wouldn't do it to him, that before I'd take a job, he'd have to agree to move too. I think this will be the case until the kids get out of high school.
I don't know for sure if he'd say the exact same thing, but I think he would. I guess we both see that even though we ended our marriage, we didn't end our responsibility to co-parent.

So his mom and dad haven't been to my house since the divorce - they live out of town and typically we have met at a restaurant when they visit here. I am looking forward to having them over, and I think they are excited to come. I also think there are going to be some strange moments for them, as a lot of things have changed here since it was their son's home too. Some things haven't though. They might think that I got out the family pictures of them with my kids, their son with my kids and parents, and their daughter just for their visit. But those pictures are always out. I spent twenty years with these people as family, and really that hasn't changed. Which is exactly what I told his mom as she cried over our decision to divorce. I guess I don't see that connection as contractual so much as sacred, and I hope we can always go on caring about each other.

I know that other divorces can't work like this, that there is too much hurt and betrayal involved. But I'm thankful mine isn't like that. Sometimes things are awkward but its worth it.

I'm making the BBQ'ed lemon chicken Lisa provided a recipe for.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I read yesterday about the Korean cloning of an Afghan hound. Besides the inane commentary about the particular breed of dog they chose to clone, the article raised the topic of cloning for commercial rather than scientific purposes, and ever since I read the story something has been nagging at me. I don't know that I've really thought it fully through, but the kernal that wants attention is about the intersection of scientific experimentation and some core spiritual beliefs. It seems to me that so many religions attribute a soul to living beings, especially to man, and the fundamental concept is that in the process of creation, a unique soul is formed/assigned/reincarnated, that many religions would be fundamentally threatened by the potential ramifications of cloning research.

I am not particularly religious in any organized fashion, but I do find that I believe in the idea of a soul. I am thinking that even many non-religious people would think like me that there was something to human beings beyond the basic organization of cells into an organism.

So if we clone something, does it have a soul, and if so, how did it get the soul?
If it doesn't have a soul, does that support or challenge the idea of a god?

It seems to me that you could make the argument that scientific experimentation with the concept of cloning could challenge one of the most basic assumptions people have about the existance of a god or about the sacred nature of humans, or any living beings.

Ok I'm sure I've not said anything some ethicist hasn't written extensively and eloquently about, but I'm interested in what others think about this?
Would you see this as a reason to stop experimenting with cloning?
To encourage it?
Not an issue?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

dear xxx,

If you were here right this second I'd be asking you to scratch that place right in the center of my shoulder blades that I just can't reach. As it is, the ice cream scoop will do a reasonable job, although it is seriously lacking in any kind of followup action. Especially in the absence of any ice cream around here. But that problem will get remedied on Saturday when the fresh peaches the kids and I picked get converted into some homemade stuff that the ex-inlaws can enjoy too.

I know at times you have mentioned being worried that I might give up all my activities should we become a couple, and I said no very quickly. But I wonder sometimes if you'd be all that happy about the swirl of associated friends and family which intersects with my life. What would you think of this blog world? And would your friends like me? I was thinking for a minute what it would be like to be here this Saturday for V's birthday, with the ex and his parents over. Maybe that would be strange enough to warrant using a "get out of jail free" pass. Or maybe you'd think it was facinating. Who knows?

But really what I am wondering is how do two people with full lives, friends, families find some way to merge the two full lives into one? The whole thing sounds like a huge linear programming problem. It isn't that I'm not willing to give it a try, I just wish I could figure out where the time comes from to do it all. I don't think the Brady Bunch ever had an episode dealing with something like her ex-inlaws coming for dinner or kicking out the husband and all six kids so she could hold her women's circle meeting at the house.

You spend your single life in a full way and then someone comes along who you want to make a big part of it and I suppose you just set aside some of the other things you used to do to make room for the person you'd most like to spend your time with, and include him in other friendships and activities, and ask him to include you in his things, and pretty soon there's no sleeping going on. Or that's how I picture it.
Given so, I guess I should go to bed now, and save up while I can.
Till later,

Monday, August 01, 2005

"We have both, throughout the forty years of our marriage, continued to respond with excitement to the same beauty-for instance, to certain pieces of music. I remember driving up to Crosswicks one early spring day when we heard, over the car radio, the beautfiul flute solo from Gluck's Orfeo and our response of delight was such that it has always been special music for us. On a cold and dank day we walked along a beach in southern Portugal, arm in arm, gazing with awe at the great eyes painted on the prows of the fishermen's boats. One night we stood by the railing of a freighter and were dazzled by the glory of the Southern Cross against the blackness of an unpolluted sky. If this kind of simultaneous recognition of wonder diminishes, it is a sign of trouble. Thank God it has been a constant for us."

---Madeleine L'Engle from Two Part Invention, a memoir about her long marriage

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