Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wonders of Medicine

For most of this year I have know I would soon have cataract surgery. My distance sight, in particular, even with contacts was getting fuzzier and fuzzier and my ophthalmologist in NYC said the time was coming although there was no sense of rush. Once I had moved I began looking for a surgeon and did not have far to look. Visits and exams and waiting for surgery openings, etc. all pushed the date back. But yesterday was the day for the left eye, which is my dominant eye and the distance eye.

All information was positive and the doctor very experienced [does nothing but cornea surgery]. I did not expect discomfort and had none. I was give a tranquilizer which I suppose helped although I was not feeling nervous. A lot of prep took place, monitors of all kinds and such so on. The surgery itself, done under a microscope, the incision very small, and all the while I saw only colored lights which were quite pretty.

Rachel was in the waiting room. She told me on the way home that at the other end of the room a teenage boy, with a loud voice, was watching a TV monitor which was showing eye surgery and he was sounding grossed out. A bit later she discovered that he was actually watching my operation, in real time, seeing approximately what the surgeon was seeing. So I became a star! Of course my face was draped; he saw nothing but the eye.

When I removed the gauze patch at 8:00 as instructed, I could see some thing sharply but, in general there was a blurriness. And I was tired so I put myself to bed about 9:00. This morning I discovered I could see each and every car in the parking lot with great distinction. It was marvelous and amazing. I had no bruising anywhere around my eye, no redness, just pressure marks from the plastic shield I had been told to wear to sleep to protect the eye. That of course, went away. Cori came and drove me to the nearest clinic for a post-op check by the surgeon. All was well. I was given drops and instructions and will look forward to having the right eye corrected sometime in the course of next month.

For someone who has been myopic since the age of 12 this is astonishing, almost miraculous. Some people sometimes need reading glasses. I don't know if that will be true for me, possibly not. I can forget the glass and for now can wear a contact lens on the right eye and see well for reading.

I know many people have had bad experiences of medical procedures. I have been remarkably lucky and had good outcomes. This is being paid for my Medicare, I imagine there will be extras, check up visits, maybe that are only partially covered. But it will not cost a lot -- probably less than a new pair of glasses would have cost.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Luisa Miller, Verdi

Unsatisfactory as last week's opera class at the adult ed was, this week was satisfying. I have heard Verdi's Luisa Miller on the radio several times but never seen a production. Sometimes I have fallen in love with the music regardless of story, but not in this case. However today's DVD of a production from Lyon probably 15 years ago [wasn't given that info] was not innovative in production but was well sung and acted -- with restraint mostly -- and for the first time it was to me what it was meant to be, an engrossing story with twists of fate -- most masterminded by a real arch-villian named Wurm. Wurm and the Duke were powerful baritones as was Luisa's father. The two fathers were antitheses and both more believable than many in opera but cut of the same cloth as Rigoletto and Germond.

What surprised me was the power of the very simple love story and of the music, especially at the end as tragedy is unravelling. It is not realistic, of course, but the music makes it terribly sad so that I was in tears the last five minutes. This is one of the purposes of opera. I just stumbled on Pavarotti singing Rodolfo's great aria and, of course, compared -- his voice was finer although the Rodolfo in the DVD was good, but, even in concert, Pavarotti was more expressive -- although I was disconcerted after the last note. On stage the tenor stood seemingly in tears, in concert, Pavarotti almost bounced with grins and upthrust arms.

I talked briefly with a woman sitting near me who said she knew very little about opera, had not discovered it until fairly recently. I said I discovered it at about 14 and had listened to the Met's Saturday broadcasts ever since. She said I was very lucky. Yes, I was very lucky. Somehow I found it on my little plastic radio, I have no idea what the first one was. Somehow I recognized it a worth listening to and looking for again and again. No one else liked it so I played it fairly softly in my bedroom, on cold winter Saturdays in the chilly, barely heated upstairs I wrapped myself in a blanket and devoured not only the music but the informative intermission features. Now and then a conversation like that makes me feel that something must have been in proper conjuction even then -- lonely kid on a farm with nothing else to do on a Saturday -- luckily listening to opera than spending Saturday afternoons hanging out with friends. A new definition, perhaps of a happy childhood.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Signs of Fall

The leaves are turning, red ones amongst the marsh plants, as above -- maybe that's a poison ivy? I'm not sure. Yesterday I saw whole trees that were green last week which are now gold. Today the rain has been relentless.

There are domestic rituals for the seasonal changes even for those of us who only rent and are very happy to let others do the garden type work. My one tomato plant turned yellow with only a couple of little green tomatoes left. So I cut it down. But the geraniums are going to flower for a while yet. Today my ritual was sorting, folding, and putting away summer shorts and sleeveless tee-shirts, sandals and other purely summer clothes, and getting out the turtle necked tops and winter pants, though I'm not switching to heavier clothes for a while. I've got plenty that span the seasons.

I suppose I have too many clothes -- I've been so lucky with fantastic thrift stores in NYC I could live in what I have probably the rest of my life. But I love fabric, texture, color, design. That's not the same as loving "fashion" -- I'll leave that ever changing merchandising area to the young women. It's always a pleasure to choose what to wear even though some items may be ten years old. It's a matter of color combination, accessories -- I love scarves, necklaces, earrings, jackets. So the closet changing ritual is satisfying. And, as usual, I made a pile of things to give to a charity. So, it's a new season. I wish summer could be longer but that's beyond my control, so sweater and jacket weather is welcome.

Friday, September 25, 2009

writing group - 2

The picture is a batchelor herd of eland --see, they all have horns, the longer more graceful the older these guys are. You see, unlike human males, these guys get better looking as they age. Sorry for the crack. Actually I don't know much about male elands, and sometimse feel I don't know much about male humans, or female ether. However, I recently read that brain scientests have shown that parts of the brain used often definteily group larger while little used parts don't grow larger. Whether they shrink or just seem smaller by contract wasn't explained in the fairly shallow article -- as newspaper science articles tend to be.

I'm thinking about this because I watched the dynamics of my new writing seminar and feel a sense of hopelessness at the group dynamics. Our two loud ladies badger the men about "emotion." They want angst or something spelled out in caps. These are guys who have no practiced emotional expression in some 60 years. They don't have the words, and I don't think they have the feelings. The badgering is a power play that is ugly and alienating. One man awkwardly but sincerely described dealing with his wife's new debilitating disease, a muscular weakness. I thought him very brave to write about massaging her legs and looking into her eyes and seeing a more beautiful woman than he saw at 21 -- a bit of a cliche, but an extremely brave on in the circumstances. Madame Badger wanted more. I wanted to choke her. The man was brave. He needed only some format pointers, not that harrangue.

Another man alluded to a very dramatic scene in a classroom. I suggested it would be wonderful to see the seen in a dramatic form, with voices and such. He said he only wanted to write what will fit on a single page of Microsoft format -- a stupid limit toset himself. Anyway, it was so powerful I came home and wrote the scene for myself -- no doubt entirely differently than happened as I had to imagine almost al of it. At this point I don't know whether to show him next week or not. It may seem an invasion, I'll have to find a tactful to express it. How undirected these people are. They want to write well but they get nothing truly helpful from the discussions

I'm pondering whether to offer to lead a "writing skills" class, possibly called "Writing with the whole brain" as a pay on the Drawing with the Left Side of the Brain. I wonder if anyone would shop up. Maybe I can't know if I don't offer it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The ocean poem

I am still learning about the ocean -- I've never lived near it before [NYC doesn't count even tough geographically you'd think it would. I saw the Hudson but never, really the ocean]. So I'm learning about the ocean's nature. The following poem kind of wrote itself a couple weeks ago.

A Midwesterner Beside the Atlantic

The sea doesn't exist in Indiana or Iowa,
or any of the Great Plain states.
We are told it once was a sea May be.
The Great Lakes hang over our heads
like a cowlick we forget about.
We're half a continue -- or more --
distant in any direction.
When we speak of seas, oceans,
the words simply mean water Lots of it.

We don't know the ocean's sounds or smells,
its storms or serenity or daily changeability,
its shoreline spews of shells and seaweed.
We have heard of sharks an great whales,
and weirder wonders like octopi and jelly fish.
We don't eat eel with chopsticks or otherwise.
For us tuna and salmon come in cans.
We have read Moby Dick but Huck Finn
is our water borne wanderer, a sensible kid
with no obsessions despite his Pap.

Beneath our big skies are waves of wheat.
We wade knee deep in soy beans.
We disappear but do not drown
walking through head high fields of corn.
We have giant combines but no catamarans.
The only shells we gather and crack for food
comes from the chicken house
and we don't eat the contents raw.
We get woozy rocked by waves.
We can't swim and have never set sail.
The sa does not welcome us.
We don't love a stranger
until we've known him.

You might say there's an element of culture shock. I've walked through woods and fields and trekked in high mountains. But walking beside the ocean is a very different experience. I'm liking it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Only get better? I hope.

I had high hopes for the classes in the Adult Lifelong Learning section of the community college but I'm getting disaffected and hope to be convinced I'm wrong in a week or two. I know I am impatient with people who are bad public speakers but yesterday's introduction to Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin tried my patience seriously. We were given a printed bio sheet but then the presenter decided to tell us more from a tape she had heard. She was a little nervous and lost her train of thought occasionally; she totally left out his homosexuality as if that might be troubling to anyone in the room. All that I could bear although I was horridly bored the half hour she chose to talk. Mispronouncing various Russian names a long the way.

Worse, she then told us that although she had a 2003 DVD of a production from the Met she had chosen to show a 1984 DVD from the Kirov because it seemed "more Russian." Bad enough, I thought, that I have to listen to Tchaikovsky's melancholy music, now I have to watch a very fuzzy DVD. And it turned out to be a static production of the old "park and bark" sort, a lovely Tatiana standing about being mawkish and a couple of handsome men standing about as did the mother. Olga seemed to want to act a bit but then she was a minor character. I had never seen a production, nor wanted to, but thought seeing a DVD would at least make me more literate about the opera beyond already knowing Pushkin. It is important to me to be well rounded in the arts and this is a major opera in the repertory.

Happily there was an intermission half way through and a woman near me said something about a shame to be indoor. That was the tipping point in my thoughts about leaving. I left and the other woman followed. The presenter was a well meaning woman and I feel badly if she was insulted. I would have wanted to leave without the presenter's long discourse. I love Tchaikovsky's ballet music, get bored with his overblown romantic symphonies and now hackneyed piano concerto. I could sit through any of the ballets once a week but I'll never get through a whole performance of Onegin, I'm sure. And they also have Queen of Spades and Mazzeppa on the schedule. I'll give them a try -- we'll see.

Quite some time ago, going to sometimes very bad Off-Broadway shows, I realized I prefer to leave at an intermission than spend another hour being irritated, critical and bored by something that is not going to add positively in any way to my life experience. If a friend is involved in such a production, I'll suffer and find something relatively positive to say -- I won't insult anyone. But the other woman was quite right, it was too beautiful a day to be indoors at a horrible old opera.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In the Marsh

I return to pictures of the Shell Tree on Long Beach where I walk because I always love seeing it. This morning the sun was shining through some of the shells and a somewhat messy spider web was catching light too [lower left -- you can enlarge by clicking]. We've had three days in a row of blue skies, cool breezes, perfect September days. I've been walking on Long Beach because I know winter will be long. Two days ago the tide was so high I couldn't even walk along the sandy edge of the inlet side but had to walk a little higher up where the low dune starts. The changeability of the ocean still surprises and fascinates me.

The daisies in the lower photo are the tiniest I've ever seen. I have seen such small flowers, many in the Himalayas and even some in a marsh in Africa last January, but I didn't know daisies here could be so dwarfed. If you click to enlarge you'll see them about 4 times their size, they are only about half the diameter of a dime and some even smaller. I have written a poem about the ocean which I think I will post in a day or two.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Group dynamics

I have been part of many writers' groups over many years. I joined a new one today -- actually a "class" at the community college but it appears it is going to function like a fairly typical writers' group with a facilitator rather than a teacher. The other 14 people are all strangers to me, or were, until I had watched them a while. All individual, yes, of course, but definable by their interactions.

A bit under half had taken the class before and knew each other. They were the vocal ones, at first. But then one of the new comers had a great need to make his presence felt so he talked, and talked. Later talked some more with relatively little to say but elicting attention that he wanted. Two women were the focus at first almost vying for the spotlight, although settled into a Lone Ranger and Tonto role for a while. But then each chose to read some writing. The Long Ranger was clever and smooth, with a hackneyed subject. Okay. Then Tonto -- ah, Tonto showed daring and depth relating a very private past experience. Writing was not polished but dripped with emotion. Tonto slyly stole the show.

Next week both will have to listen to others; the dynamics are not likely to change greatly but I suspect there will be surprises. Sharing one's writing in a group takes some guts, some ego. The majority being older women, a lot of egos have been squelched long ago. But they have a spark still smoldering or they wouldn't be there. They will write about "family". Some may surprise me. A couple of men seem to have some depths to express. We shall see.

Me? My ego is healthy, I'll express it with the exotica of Tibet, in a time and place they don't know. I will tell them how I want them to listen and respond -- that will help me. Why should I be there if I'm only going to get a stroked ego? I can elicit some helpful and, I hope, honest responses. Maybe prod a little smidgeon of critical thinking.

[The photo of baboons above is a bit of odd ball humor, if you think a bit about it.]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cloud Season

Probably every season in the Northeast is cloud season but the ones in the last couple of weeks have seem especially dramatic and wonderful. If I had a great camera I might feel inclined to take a series of cloud photos ... but I know other people are probably doing that and are much better equipped both technically and artistically than I.

Sometimes things in nature are just so fascinating I don't want to let them go. So I have many albums of flower photos I took on film. They are not technically special in any way. Sometimes I look back at them and usually I remember where and when I took them and I think what a lot of beautiful things I have seen and continue to see almost daily -- like these clouds at the beach a couple of days ago. I took both photos from the same spot where I was sitting on a small dune. One is looking east and one looking west two in the afternoon or so

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not Itinerants

It's migrating goose season through out the northern US. But these geese are not migrating. They are home. Not far away, a normal city block although this town doesn't have "normal" blocks, is a sizable pond. These geese have a daily migration apparently from pond to our lawn to somewhere else in midday. Then they return in the afternoon and go back to the pond for evening. I've heard there are coyotes around but never seen one, that would be the only natural predator for the geese.

They have terrible manners -- they lack all sense of modesty and leave their little piles here, there an everywhere, not only in the grass but on the sidewalk. They are tolerated by most, hated by some, and their attitude is oblivion. A couple of neighbors decided a few weeks ago to try to disrupt their landing patterns by planting some small trees -- spaced across the lawn are two Rose of Sharons and two dogwoods. They are, at this stage, not very big and will take, I'm told 15 years to reach maturity. At this point they are ignored by the geese and I believe that will be the case in the future.

Now and then I look out and see one of the less hospitable of my neighbors shooing the geese toward the parking lot. Likewise once in a while Joe, the Jack-of=all-trades here, can be seen playing goose-herd, chasing them into groups, which honk at him for being so rude. They don't take to the air until they're good and ready.

The complex has a strict no pets policy, which, vis a vie geese is a bad idea. If a few people had yappy little dogs who enjoyed chasing geese I think they would soon change their grazing preference. For the foreseeable future, however, I expect to hear their arrivals early in the morning and again later in the day. I think they look quite grand, really.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Older Ladies

My neighbor who is about 80 decided to invite a few ladies who sometimes quilt for an afternoon get together. There were five of us. Two were 89-1/2. They were entirely competent and active women. A third had become frightened after a broken hip in January and a similar fall in the spring [nothing broken] Jenny, my neighbor who is about 80, is a little cautious because of neuropathy in a foot. The interesting thing was that she was extremely solicitous of the the older women as if they are frail -- which they aren't.

I was thinking the other day that when we are in grade school a couple of years makes a big difference between kids. But once they get or 20 or so, a couple of years is not significant between people. In middle ten years make very little difference. But then when people get to 70 or so suddenly five years seems to make a big difference. Except it is much more arbitrary and depends much more on the individual. I think Jenny is over solicitous because she is a nurse by training. Some of it is a show of respect but there's also an expectation as she spoke about one of the almost 90s possibly having trouble with the stairs -- which she doesn't really have at all. The stereotypes are enforced even by those in the same category.

By the way - that is my tomato plant on its last legs. I've had 6 or 8 or maybe 10 tomatoes from it -- small ones with tough skins. But they were tasty as most purchased tomatoes are not The ones in the picture were eaten but there are another couple reddening and a few little green ones that may or may not make it. Thus my foray into gardening, thanks to Rachel plopping the pot with the plant in it on my patio.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

EVening Sky

I have sky. Beautiful sky. To many people this is a nonsensical comment. But for me it is wonderful.

The apartment I lived in in NYC was on the 7th floor of a building that looked toward Broadway and 92nd Street. For many years I looked over two two-story buildings at that corner where there was a church with steps on which all kinds of people congregated. I could see a little bit of sky and, at certain times of the year, I would see the full moon over the buildings across the way. About four years ago those two-story buildings were demolished and gradually -- with loud jackhammers and rock breakers and then other kinds of noises -- a new building rose floor by floor up to 21. By that time it had gobbled my sky as well as any glimpse of street at all. I could not see sky without putting my face to my windows, turning my head to look upward and then could see a sliver of blue. They stole my sky.

So I rejoice that I have sky. This is an early evening sky with a hazy moon behind the pink clouds. I face east and so have dawns and, as I usually get up at 6:00, I will see dawns for the next many, many months. Having sky is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Getting to Know the Neighbors

I am still a newcomer here. I have always keep much of myself to myself because I have a variety of interests. I slowly find friends and acquaintances in each area, but only a few friends who are aware of the spectrum. So I talk to Jenny, next door, who has beautiful plants on her patio about my geraniums and tomato plant. I chat with only a few others in the complex -- it's a friendly place but I checked out the Wednesday morning coffee klatch and found it gossipy, checked out the Thursday evening needlework group and found found only a few with very narrow interests. I do not feel a need for immediate friendships, Rachel et al are nearby and I have always been happy pursuing my interests alone. The poetry group is shaping up nicely, a good discussion every couple of weeks and an ongoing impetus to find a poem getting written in my head [so far only first lines].

There have been a couple of conversations with Jenny and Marilyn, who is further down the hall, about new trees planted in the yard, and the regular visits of groups of geese -- attractive to see, but layers of landmines in the form of their droppings which are plentiful. Yesterday as I returned from a walk Jenny and Marilyn were conferring about the trees. I joined the chat and then Jenny asked if she had seen a quilt on my wall through the window. Yes, of course. Both ladies had tried quilting at some time, but in a dabbling and not very enthusiastic fashion. Of course I invited them in to see the quilt on my wall and one lead to more, to the "studio" [I did not call it that - the word sounds pretentious and I am not of the "artist" caliber.] But they were mightily impressed. Yes, I have a lot of projects going -- I'm trying to clean up several unfinished ones. I think they're interesting quilts but far from awe inspiring.

This is a gossipy place, before long many people will know that I'm "the quilter". Fine. It's a hobby of the passionate sort. I'd like to find some true quilting soul-mates, maybe only 4 or 5 to share my enthusiasm. However, I am impressed by how impressionable people are. Not that I didn't know this but I am the very opposite, not at all easily impressed, perhaps judgmental, cynical, or a nice word "discerning."

So far I have been careful not to say to anyone but Rachel & Patrick that I'm working on the TCB biography. People have an even more knee jerk awe of those of us who say we are writers. I have not even spoken to the poetry group of the bio or of other things I have written. While I think there is no magic in writing I suppose I'm wrong -- to an extent. I read Wislawa Szymborska's Nobel speech last night. She spoke of inspiration which for her is to say "I don't know." [I wonder if the translation might be more correctly, "I wonder if--"] She says most people do not ask questions. What if Isaac Newton had said not said "I don't know what to think of those falling apples?" Others would not ask, they'd just grab an apple and eat it. Perhaps she is right that only a few people think in this way. I don't want the neighborly gossip mill to tag me "the writer" -- I'll be content with "the quilter". And those who might eventually know me as a writer will probably have absolutely no interest in quilting. So it is in the world of infinite interests -- and the more usual world of limited interests.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Seasonal Turn

Early in the morning yesterday, the air was cool and very still. I saw no one for the first 40 minutes of my walk and took this photo of a grand house reflected in the water beyond the sea grass. I strolled along thinking of various time I have been alone walking in a forest or field or even a trail in the high Himalaya, sometimes truly alone, sometimes just by myself although others were not far away. It's best by myself.

The moon is full, we are having sunsets with progressive shades of pink spread in ombre fashion across the sky. The air turns cool when the sun begins to sink. I've pulled out he duvet for my bed and the fuzzy slippers for the morning when the kitchen floor is chilly. Summer is slipping away. Yes, we'll probably have more warm days, but I don't think the nights will be warm again. I washed the summer quilt and put on the newly made winter, or autumn one, a batik in deep, rich colors.

Autumn is a wonderful season whether we are being purely climatic or metaphorical. It's hard for younger people to imagine because summer is so impoetant to most of them but autumn may be the best season of all. WEaring scant clothing and sitting on a beach, or in a backyard, exposed to the warmth of the sun is wonderful, but sweater weather is very wonderful too -- not to hot, not too cold, just right -- like Goldilocks in the three bear's house. When I walk on the beach now I can walk on cool sand or let the even cooler water at the tide's edge lap my feet. If it's soon too cool for that, I can wear sneakers and let the cool breeze blow in my face. Both are good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The End is in Sight, but Meanwhile ...

At age 12 I suffered an adolescent growing spurt that continued many months. As often happens to utterly hapless kids, that spurt brought the beginning of myopia. I felt like the only girl on the planet who suddenly had hands and feet too big for my body, blond hair turning dishwater brown and going limp, a thoroughly awkward, too tall body and the need for glasses. Horrible! I've had glasses ever since. In the mid-'60s I acquired contact lenses, hard ones that I could not wear 'round the clock so I always had glasses as well. Thus began more than fifty years of glasses and contacts.

One of the few positives that can come of a negative is about to happen. I've been developing cataracts slowly for a few years and now I've reached a point where an operation is indicated. It will be at the very end of this month. I will still have glasses, maybe just for reading, certainly during a transition period. But I won't reach for them first thing in the morning [a habit I'll gladly break].

Meanwhile I have had to put away my contacts and wear only my glasses so my eyes can be measured accurately and then, I'm sure, I won't be allowed to wear the contacts so that my eyes will retain their natural shape. This means good-by to contact lenses first. This I am not enjoying because my vanity says I look better without these utilitarian glasses, which are four years old, slightly bent beyond rebending and therefore which sit on my face atilt and bother me. However, not to complain too loudly, it's an important step.

For several months things in the world have gotten fuzzier. I'm especially bothered by the little numbers when I do crossword puzzles. Irksome, not exactly a crushing difficulty. I look forward to seeing clearly -- with my own eyes and the little implants I'll have in a few weeks. Nothing is worth aging for but it's definitely not all bad when something this vital can be improved after almost a lifetime.

Meanwhile I remember my longtime friend, Janet, who had the operation three years ago told me, "The worst part is now I look in the mirror and I see all the lines and wrinkles and how old I look." I assume that will happen. But I've been forewarned.