Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Caring because you've been there

Traveling is to learn that other people in other places are as precious as people you see every day.   No, I've never climbed Mt. Everest, but I have trekked in Solo Kumbu, the Sherpa state in Nepal which includes Everest and the biggest mountains.  Thirteen Sherpas died last week preparing the mountain for rich people who want something to brag about and can afford the climb. Many, many Sherpas have died on Everest -as far back as the '30 when George Mallory was trying to climb the north (Chinese) face of the mountain. Eight Sherpas died on one of his attempts.  He had with him a truly kind and noble companion (and I'm very sorry I've forgotten his name) who said after that accident that he was sorry he hadn't died so that they would know that their lives are not cheaper than that of the men who employed them.  I don't think any of the potential climbers today have such feelings (not that I actually know; but I'm a cynic about very rich people -- and I've read a lot about the climbers).

By the way Sherpa is the name of the people who live in that area. They migrated from the Kham area of Tibet many, many generations ago.  They have adapted to the height with changes in their breathing and their blood's composition. They are very strong people who carry loads half again their own weight up mountain trails.  During the two treks I made in the Himalayas the Sherpas were good natured, very professional, thoughtful, kind.  I thought they were beautiful.  I remember, frivolously,  but sweetly, having a shampoo at our camp when a Sherpa poured heated water over my head as I stood near a washing bowl.  I did not ask him to, I could have wet and rinsed my own hair, but he did it with a smile.  A small thing, a kindness.

At Thengboche monastery, which was our goal, the oldest woman had a small stroke, not serious enough to need air evac. She was hearty woman who probably weight about 175.  Two young Sherpas carried her the next day, piggy-back, about six hours of walking, taking turns.  The young men probably weighted less than 120 themselves.  At day's end we reached Namche Bazzar where regular plane service was available to Kathmandu.  They did not complain, it was part of their job.

This was a heroic event I witnessed.  I know that the Sherpas who work on Mt. Everest do much more demanding and heroic work to make the trails safe for the pampered climbers.  When one has seen a group of people at close hand, recognized personal quirks and talked about families, disasters, be it the deaths on Everest, or stories of war in other countries, the pain is as deep as if it were people who lived in the same town as you.   Well, for some of us -- quite a few I think -- although, as said before, I am cynical about the rich who are accustomed to having others do the hard work and take the economic difference as their right. Sherpa  means hero to me.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Rockin' Change of Pace

The documentary film class has been heavy with concerns the last few weeks -- it usually is -- but  both Lili, who runs the class, and the class itself felt a need for something lighter.  A change of pace. To her surprise, said Lili, the DVD of this year's Oscar winner for best documentary rose to the top of her waiting list  in the library system.  She showed 20 Feet from Stardom.   WOW!!!!

In my world of classical music only, I have been aware that big rock stars have back up singers but I've paid so little attention to the stars themselves I actually didn't recognize by sight (No, I'm not blushing, it's a fact) Sting or Stevie Wonder and it took a couple of clips to recognize Bruce Springsteen.  I had heard some of the women's names but barely.

What a film.  What voices, what women!  They were magnificent and their individual stories were fascinating. . So many grand voices, and of course they could all dance, they wore magnificent clothes on stage, they were eloquent and forceful when they were interviewed,  They had magnificent laughs.  The movie skimmed analysis of why some could be called divas and some had solo careers -- but usually short. They were very much appreciated by the various male stars who spoke of how much they need the voices behind and with theirs. 

In about an hour and a half I made up for forty years of ignoring rock/pop music. This was a wonderful change from Henry Kissinger and the insanity of fracking. I won't change my music listening habits but I'm very, very glad my perspective has been broadened. 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unsettled Weather

Ah, spring is here, I rejoiced the  last several days.  And, indeed the daffs and narcissus are up and beginning to bloom.  BUT when I looked out this morning the predicted rain for today was coming down in the form of white flakes, icy white flakes.  The ground was lighted sprinkled, my car needed brushing off, the very strong breeze -- or better said, wind -- was definitely wintery and out of the north. Nasty puffs from the mouth Boreas himself.

No, it didn't last long, the snow was gone in an hour and the sun tried to shine and succeeding for longer and longer periods.  I was rudely slapped back to the reality that it won't  be dependably spring until the end of the month but surely will be by then. The photo above was taken a couple of years ago just at the end of April when Rachel and I were walking  on a road not far away. It seems to me a perfect little patch of spring.  

This is a quiet week for me.  I skipped the foreign film yesterday because I saw it when it came out a few years ago and was not greatly impressed.  So I have two free days and have three projects in the works.  I like to work on more than one thing at a time: a quilting job, a writing job, and a "ugh" job, in this case, little efforts at spring  house cleaning.  Today it was mostly laundry and some sorting -- the big put away/get out closet change over it not going to happen for at lesat two weeks because the weather just isn't that dependable.  Tomorrow will be another day split between the jobs and I will have a sense of accomplishment by the end of the day. I think of Marge Piercy's poem about work in which she, the most practical and down to earth of her generation of women poets, says we need meaningful work -- as a pitcher needs to contain water. It's true. I like her simplicity and I like to feel I'm working, accomplishing something, getting a quilt made, writing (just now) a booklet of quotes for a friend's birthday, and doing the woman's work I learned about so long, long ago, keeping the house clean and relatively tidy. 

I do not understand people who can be satisfied (are they really?) with a day spent watching TV. I do understand poet Mary Oliver who wanders fields all day and then writes poems about them. Her careful attention to the natural life around her and it's translation into words that helps her readers see what she saw. I have been very much into reading and writing and thinking about poetry lately.  Yesterday a man in our poetry class read a poem describing childhood games of Monopoly with such vividness the ritualistic qualities that the audience had experienced as he did was made clear and took on a broader meaning of how we learned capitalism (although he did not say so in so many words until after the poem was being discussed).  Helping others see and understand is a poet's job -- a job as useful as a pitcher holding water.  I dislike my poems when they are far short of that goal.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An April poem

It's April again and I think spring is really here.  I was reminded of the April poem I wrote about a year ago. Since it's still National Poetry Month,  here is the poem, called "Flirty April."

Flirty April

Today’s early-in-April sunshine
Has a determined adolescent strength—
The breeze ruffling the grass shakes its fists
like a freckle-faced sixth grade bully.
I claim nearly empty Long Beach as my own.
This mile-long spit of land and sand,
marsh grass and still brown tangles of thorny roses.
A flat-land farmer’s daughter who didn’t see
an ocean until I was twenty-three,
Far from my own adolescence, I welcome
This youthful day in fickle April.

As I walk the damp sand, I peel off my jacket,
tie it around my waist, push up my sleeves—
Come, Sun, pour your vitamin D into me.
I see, footprints in the sand--not sneaker prints—
bare, man-size footprints–paw prints too.
I look the length of the gently curved shore.
Who dared the chilly sand so early? 
I do not see this “Friday”–the native, I surmise.

The tide reaches, then recedes reluctantly.
To my right, sun jewels flash on the water;
to my left, a wind-row of broken shells,
once stony homes to tiny globs of life.
I settle where I often pause to gaze
on the blue illusion we call horizon,
where sky and water only seem to meet
because we are small, our perspective limited
and they are vast, almost endless.  I often
meditate on that metaphor, but not today.
Breezy fingers ruffle my hair inviting me to play. 
April, child of early spring,
I will join your light-hearted game. 
I pull off my sneakers and socks.
I’ll make another pair of prints.
Come, lapping water, kiss my feet.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It MUST be Spring

A wonderful walk on the beach yesterday.  Rachel and I decided it was warm enough not only to peel off our jackets but to take off our shoes and walk barefoot.  Even on the wet sand at the edge of the turning tide, my feet were not too cold.  To me, this is the beginning of summer.  I'm hoping today, being Sunday, it will be nice enough to take my beach chair down to the sand and work on the Sunday crossword puzzle.  Ah...  we've waited long enough for this.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Laughter on a Rainy Day

April showers are one thing.  Rain that thinks it's still March is another and it's very uncomfortable.  But yesterday's cold, dreary rain was lighted in the afternoon by first my poetry class and then the foreign film series.

Only about half the usual class braved yet another nasty day but among those present we had a couple of treats.  Leslie who is new but showing both serious and fun talent, brought in a poem that was a complaint about the weather with a perfect rhythm and rhyme to match "A Few of My Favorite Things" ... not!  She read it and then the class spontanteously sang it back to her (we bring copies of our work for each person) then applauded her and ourselves. A little later, Anna, who is a musician and has in the past brought in some serious song lyrics, sometimes with a tape of herself singing and playing the piano, brought a quintessential country & western song, on tape.  The last thing one would expect from the lady with the elegant French twist hairdo.  All about heartbreak and sorrow, of course.

For real loud laughs, the foreign film series showed Waking Ned Devine, an Irish comedy in which poor Ned had the winning lottery ticket and died of a heart attack upon hearing the news. With many a ploy and some sight gags (two elderly men, by turns, riding a motor cycle naked, for example), the small town found a way to get the large lottery jackpot and share it fairly with everyone. There were appropriate subplots: a young woman courted by two men, a mean old woman on her motorized wheelchair, much drinking in the pub and some happy dancing and music making. It was a totally delightful movie and when it was over at 5:15 the rain had stopped although the sun was not going to be out all day. It's promised for today but so far the clouds are still there.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Like a Battlefield

Instead of walking on the beach yesterday, I walked around Hathaway's Pond, which is in a conservation area, mostly wooded. The path around the pond is somewhat rough--not the kind one could push a baby carriage on, say, but one dogs enjoy romping on. Rachel and I used to walk around the pond frequently while Molly was still alive.  I had not been there since early in the winter.

Immediately I had to duck under a tree that was fallen, held up by it's tangle of limbs caught in the trees that had caught it and stopped it's fall onto the path. And so it went all the way around the pond, several leaning over the path and many more fallen, often not quite to the ground. I could not help thinking of a battlefield. Indeed the high winds of winter's blizzards are to blame for all the devastation.

The day was mild and the breeze that might have been quite chilly at the beach was pleasant among the trees which are not yet showing promise of leaves, although some of the briars which are plentiful near the path were rosy or turning chartreuse. Spring is just a hint here in the woods. Out in the lawns of homes crocuses are beginning to open. If the weather continues in the high 40s and low 50s spring will burst forth ... it is time.  We have had a harder winter than in the previous four years I've been here. I am ready for a change and so are all the friends  I talk to -- and it's a subject that comes up often.

I suspect these trees are going to stay where they are for some time. This is only a tiny bit of a rather large area of wild wood.  I've approached it from other entry points and do not understand the tangle of paths through the gerrymandered form of the area.  I blame a walk in a different section for the nasty tick that bit me a couple of springs ago and sent me to the hospital.  Thank goodness it did not carry Lymes disease but a bug called earlycosis  (which may not be spelled that way) and was cured quickly once identified so that the right antibiotic could be prescribed. Never mind the unseen dangers of walking in the woods.  I still enjoy it and don't plan to stop although in really warm weather it's the beach that calls to me.