December 20th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

After rain gobbling in the night, Venus was an amazing light in the sky this morning.

The Dec. 24 and 31st New Yorker has an article on the decline of reading books.  I quote from the Wall Street Journal article on the subject:

    "The reading of literature has declined so sharply that some sociologists believe it will one day become an arcane hobby.  But the really bad news, says writer Caleb Crain, is that as literary reading erodes, so does open-mindedness.

       Replacing time spent with the printed word are television and other forms of streaming media, which engage people on a much more direct and emotional level than reading.  While emotional responses can be useful - say, for evaluating a political candidate's personality - they also can foster intolerance for opposing viewpoints.  Consider the difference, says Mr. Carin, between reading an anger-inducing article and watching a television program that serves up different viewpoints.  The former can be amusing, but the latter can feel nearly unbearable - and it is all too easy to channel to something more comfortable.

       Mr. Crain notes another curious aspect of reading: According to a National Endowment for the Arts study, readers are more likely to exercise, visit museums and engage in civic activities - all the more reason, he suggests, for not letting the habit slip quietly into the night."

It is winter, a time to read.  Abraham Lincoln walked miles for books and read by the light of the fire.  Listen to the words of Doris Lessing and also appreciate that pages of books come from trees.   Listen to both, words on the page, and leaves.  

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The Amazing Jane -

Jane wrote this, this morning.  She is writing for Connection Well, and yet, it fits here too. 

I  must confess. My resolve to have a poem memorized every month has gotten a slow start. I realize I am much more familiar with will and discipline than I am with  that "space, that empty space, which should surround you." I'm seeing  that, for me, that space is needed for remembering the words of others as much as it is needed for calling words forth out of the universe.

Which puts me in mind of the book I'm reading. It's called Happier by Tal Ben Shahar.  It's required reading for a group I'm in. The dust jacket proclaims: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment." The required marketing quote states: "It's easy to see how this is the backbone of the most popular course at Harvard today." Martin P. Seligman. All of which has made me skeptical and resistent. I even found myself reading the book on BART with the dust jacket removed, the spine concealed  and the bold "self-help" section headings (Tip! and Try This) covered up.  God forbid I'd be reading something called Happier.

In spite of it all, the book's message is seeping in. The section I'm reading right now speaks to the choice of models we have for approaching learning and effort. There is the drowning model, which demonstrates that "the desire to free ourselves of pain can be a strong motivator and that once freed we can easily mistake our relief for happiness."  This is me, dutifully giving "time" to my writing practice, or "trying" to memorize a poem.

Then there is the lovemaking model. In this model we can approach "the many wonderful hours that we put into reading, researching, thinking and foreplay. The Eureka experience  -- when the boundary between knowledge and intuition like the climax. As with the drowning model, there is a desirable end goal , but in the lovemaking model, we derive satisfaction from everything we do along the way."

This is where I'd really like to live.

    - Jane Flint

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John Muir -

Here is the John Muir quote, and yet, we still need books, and I find it amazing that they are given to us through trees.

One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers' plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.

       - John Muir

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Today, Venus was a morning star, bright, with a cloud lying next to her, like a leaf or canoe, which if she stepped inside, she might change her view, her perception of life and death, but, instead, she waits and shines.

Venus, named after the goddess of love, is a planet who spins opposite the others.  For her, one day is longer than a year.

She knows what love requires, a change in time, a shift in gears.


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Thoughts -

This is my sacred kind of day, and, of course, every day is sacred, and I love it when I have time to gently grocery shop and come home to cook.  I made Winter Minnestrone and Chocolate Rum Balls.  I will make pesto for the soup, though the basil this time of year is not like August basil with that overwhelming fragrance, but it is softer in scent and that is okay for the light of today.  My hands smell like Rosemary, pruned from the yard.

A friend posts the following poem on her blog and now I borrow it and share it too.  That is the wonder of the internet.   She searched for it because she was down about the latest news.  I mean who wouldn't be.  Sometimes I think I am deluded, and yet I seem to live with an inner hum that keeps me steady most days.  I don't know why I believe we'll make it through, but I do, and, of course, one might ask what "making it through" is. 

I read an article today making fun of all the people dragging suitcases on wheels.  He asks if we really need more stuff than we can carry over our shoulder or on our back  Probably not.  I think of the book and movie Into the Wild.  He underestimated what he needed, and yet, with a different twist, he would have made it.  I am rambling.  I want to share this poem.  In this moment, I am a blend of ingredients, like minnestrone soup.  I am tasty, nourishing, nourished,  enough, and I love this poem.

Ah, one more thought.  Marion Rosen says we are here to feel, and, as we know, sometimes it really hurts when we feel, and yet, now I think of how I feel when I just have to go to Muir Woods and I scurry down into the valley of embrace, and practically run in, flashing my yearly pass.  Tears fill my eyes each time I go because I am so happy to see and be with the trees.   "Tears are liquid love," and we are here to love, love, love, even as we cry and try to understand the complexity we share.

The Vanishings
Stephen Dunn

One day it will all vanish,
how you felt when you were overwhelmed
by her, soaping each other in the shower,
or when you heard the news
of his death, there in the T-Bone diner
on Queens Boulevard amid the shouts
of short-order cooks, Armenians, oblivious.
One day one thing and then a dear other
will blur and though they won’t be lost
they won’t mean as much,
that motorcycle ride on the dirt road
to the deserted beach near Cadiz,
the Guardia mistaking you for a drug-runner,
his machine gun in your belly –
already history now, merely your history,
which means everything to you.
You strain to bring back
your mother’s full face and full body
before her illness, the arc and tenor
of family dinners, the mysteries
of radio, and Charlie Collins,
eight years old, inviting you
to his house to see the largest turd
that had ever come from him, unflushed.
One day there’ll be almost nothing,
except what you’ve written down,
then only what you’ve written down well,
then little of that.
The march on Washington in ’68
where you hoped to change the world
and meet beautiful, sensitive women
is choreography now, cops on horses,
everyone backing off, stepping forward.
The exam you stole and put back unseen
has become one of your stories,
overtold, tainted with charm.
All of it, anyway, will go the way of icebergs
come summer, the small chunks floating
in the Adriatic until they’re only water,
pure, and someone taking sad pride
that he can swim in it nimbly.
For you, though, loss, almost painless,
that Senior Prom at the Latin Quarter –
Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan, and you
just interested in your date’s cleavage
and staying out all night at Jones Beach,
the small dune fires fueled by driftwood.
You can’t remember a riff or a song,
and your date’s a woman now, married,
has had sex as you have
some few thousand times, good sex
and forgettable sex, even boring sex,
oh you never could have imagined
back then with the waves crashing
what the body could erase.
It’s vanishing, as you speak, the soul-grit,
the story-fodder,
everything you retrieve is your past,
everything you let go
goes to memory’s out-box, open on all sides,
in cahoots with thin air.
The jobs you didn’t get vanish like scabs.
her good-bye, causing the phone to slip
from your hand, doesn’t hurt anymore,
too much doesn’t hurt anymore,
not even the hint of your father, ghost-thumping
on your roof in Spain, hurts anymore.
You understand and therefore hate
because you hate the passivity of understanding
that your worst rage and finest
private gesture will flatten and collapse
into history, become invisible
like defeats inside houses.  Then something happens
(it is happening) which won’t vanish fast enough,
your voice fails, chokes to silence;
hurt (how could you have forgotten?) hurts.
Every other truth in the world, out of respect,
slides over, makes room for its superior.

    - Stephen Dunn

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Move like a caterpillar to light -

I have cookies slumbering in the oven.  It is the recipe of a friend.  You put them in the oven and bake them for one minute, then turn the oven off and they solidify in the night.

I am checking out Stephen Dunn.  Here is another poem of his to entice and satisfy.   Ah, I am unable to cut and paste from that site, so I go to William Stafford.

Light, and My Sudden Face

I am the man whose heart for
four days lost in a cave
beat when the water dripped:
I was found, and the water stopped,
never to start again.
Now even the cave is lost
where the lost, in order to hear,
held the whole breath of the earth.

In the night I strike a match,
one little glory, a flame
the world surrounds, a stutter
that leaps as the light goes out
and the trail to the cave begins:
impenetrably disguised as myself

I range the whole world in the dark
to hammer on doors with my heart.

    - William Stafford