Thursday, December 30, 2010

A time machine

If you suddenly heard yourself speak -- yourself nearly 60 years ago, would you recognize yourself? Would you even admit that could be our voice, your words? Time travel is a popular sci-fi plot, it's not something most of us experience. I felt as if I experienced it yesterday.

When I moved to NYC in 1981, I had a trunk full of writings. Soon thereafter I saw a notice in a NY Review of Books saying the Schlesinger Library at Radcliff wanted diaries kept by adolescent and teen girls in the '40s and '50s. In my trunk were diaries from about 19950 to 1960 ... and more. I contributed them to the library, happy to lighten the trunk. I forgot about them. A couple of years ago I learned that a Ph.D. student was using the diaries [and that another had also dipped into them.] The thesis is written and going to be published and he woman needed my permission so we have emailed in the last few days. She sent me the chapter in which I was quoted. Her subject is the education of women during the '40s and '50s. I read through quite a lot of information, partly familiar and partly new, a variety of quotes from young women's diaries of the period, largely women from the Seven Sisters colleges. I believe there was one woman from Iowa and a black woman from somewhere other than the Eastern seaboard.

Then I came to myself, characterized as a farm girl with a mother who graduated from high school, a father who only went to the 5th grade, a working class girl whose family gained a little prosperity just after the war. [In fact, built a house on a bigger farm and acquired indoor plumbing for the first time.] A girl who was an emotional misfit in high school and at last found social success and intellectual stimulation in college ... in Indiana, far from the East Coast. These things were all true, although they sounded like random facts -- indeed they were fished from a murky well of angst ridden teen prose. My diaries were far from literary, I couldn't bear to read them before sending them off.] Most telling was a quote from a diary written probably the second or third Christmas after I started college saying what a miserable day it was, ranting about the narrow-mindedness of my family.

That was the voice I heard, sad and angry. I don't remember that Christmas or what made me write the line although I feel as if somewhere in the depths of memory I heard a tiny ping! Yes, I'm sure those are my words. I don't think I like that judgmental young woman but she was me. And it was true. I've never felt happy about Christmas. Back then I wanted away from that place. I did not hate my parents, I do not now/ They set excellent examples of honesty, diligence, frugality and good sense. But those are adult assessments. My mother inspired my desire for a different way of life; not by word or complaints of her dissatisfaction, but by making it possible for me to know another world existed. She tried to give me skills above and beyond those some other parents gave their children: piano lessons, opportunities to learn to speak in public, inspiration to write essays and send material to the local newspapers.

I've been thinking about the long years since that diary entry. Not only middle class women benefited from college educations, in the rest of the country many women of working class and middle class had intellectual opportunities their parents didn't have. I spoke with a woman from Tennessee who became a Spanish teacher to whom I said, "I didn't know we were very poor until much late." "Me either she said." She too had been the first in her family to go to college. The old slogan "you've come a long way, Babe,"was true for many of my generation. I will not go on now about my fears that the current generation won't have our opportunities.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Books and More Books

Three books, that couldn't be more different from one another, are currently in a sort of race with the clock before it strikes in the new year. I always read at least two books concurrently, often three and sometimes more. At year's end I'm usually in competition with myself since I have been keeping a record of every book I read since the year I graduated from college. [No, I'm not going to admit when that was but it would be easily estimated].

That year I made a resolution that I have kept all this time: to read as many books as possible each year -- with the goal of 100 or more -- so as to not let my college education be the end of education for me. It hasn't been, not by any means. I believe I reached 100 only once. I think the low point was 45 back in the throes of my 30s. For the last 20 or 25 years I've averaged in the 60s. For the most part these have been good books. I do not read genre fiction of any sort and very rarely read anything that might be called self-help. They are literary books: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama. Along with them I read lots of magazines, some just for the eye candy [Architecture Digest, Vogue]. Most for information.

At the moment the three vying to be finished are a fat Collected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska which I'm loving but not allowing myself to zip through, but am savoring. The Druids, a slow academic book with too many references by Peter Berresford Ellis from which I am learning a great deal I did not know about Druids and Celts and the 1000 year periods of European history on either side of the Roman empire. Finally, and the one that will probably be finished, Death of a Hornet by one of Cape Cod's best known -- and most accomplished -- nature writers, Robert Finch. This is a collection of essays, some only a couple of pages and others longer. All three books are giving me a great deal of pleasure, each in a very distinctively different way. My reading is nothing if not eclectic. So what's the total this year to which probably only one will be added? 76. This is the most in about 12 years. Being retired suits my reading habits very well.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Defying Demographics

I caught this portion of the family in one of the very few quiet, contemplative moments - simply waiting for Cory and baby to come into the room for photos. Very little of the day was so quiet. After dinner we became truly boisterous. Other families also play board games [but I think not very many]. We played the new games that came into our lives -- like a new twist on our old favorite, Scrabble, which Rachel and Cory are contemplating in the lower photo. And another new game, Alibi, which we spent most of the playing time getting acquainted with.

Then after dinner we found our new favorite, Times Up. It's funny, in a way, that it was great fun, partly because it expected us to have stores of pop culture knowledge that we do not have. We are a family that live happily without televisions -- not because of principles but because of habit. So we have knowledge of television shows more second hand than first and many of the clues in the game were TV shows. Also we don't see all the guessing one, and then a miming one. Being ignorant of the contents of many of the shows and songs, although relatively familiar with titles because one cannot live in this society without hearing them talked about, we were thrown on our ability to express titles simply as words and phrases. There was a challenge to mime and also to read the meaning of actions, or to think up gestures that are broadly recognizable.

We enjoyed the game so much we played through it three times with great laughter. Our brains were used in a way that we don't use them ordinarily which was the greatest fun. This is a kind of pleasure one doesn't get from watching TV or going to a movie, or reading a book. It's got to be valuable in some way to stretch the imagination and memory, as well as use facial expression and body language. I was the only one in the senior category but such activities would surely be both fun and beneficial for anyone with a more mature body and brain. Once many families entertained themselves when they got together. They played music [which we did also] and danced, and I think there was a game playing period back in the early 20th century when mass production of games like Parcheesi and Monopoly became popular. Of course there were also card games, a lot of them plus chess, dominoes and checkers and backgammon. I hope there are other families who do some of theses activities, not just eat and settle like stuffed baked potatoes in front of a TV. Also, we know that laughter has many health benefits. We ate heartily and well but not excessively. So today, with the laughter we should all be feeling healthy and perky.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Decisions, decisions ....

Sitting around a seminar table, looking at many heads of gray and white hair, listening to people helping me understand some of the best poets writing in America today -- this I couldn't have dreamed two years ago I would have enjoyed so enormously as I did this fall. On other days I enjoyed sitting with others with my hair coloring, watching DVDs of operas, watching some of the most hard hitting documentaries of the past few years and listening to discussions that seemed they could go on until midnight, helping others learn to write more vividly and honestly. This all happened at the Academy for Lifelong Learning at Cape Cod Community College, a branch of that college with over senior citizen 700 students, choosing from over 50 courses.

Today the spring semester class offering booklet arrived in the mail. Yes, my Writing With the Whole Brain class is listed and a few students have said, "I'll be there again." And there will be new people. But the decisions are what classes I want to take and how I can take more, really, than the two that are free to a coordinator. I've read through the listing twice already and that's only start. I definitely want to take the opera and documentary film, I have loved watching both. And now that I know the coordinators I know that they'll let me in even if the class is officially "full" -- because the rooms are never filled beyond the college rules [for fire department compliance]. So I can chose at least one other class and ask to be an extra, as I had to do this fall with the opera class.

The problem remains. There's at least six classes I'd love to take. Even if they were not conflicting times, I actually do not want to be a full time student although as I read the listing I feel very greedy for what I know will be good discussions. Short stories? Women muses, starting with Alice Lydell? Poetry writing? An in depth study of War and Peace? Oh, dear, oh, dear. Many classes filled up rapidly last fall and it's likely to be true this winter -- although given the sociology of Cape Cod some students are current in Florida.

It's not just the possibilities for learning, but the pleasure of being among by peers and contemporaries who have much to teach me. I've never experienced this so vividly. Yes, it was true long ago in college to an extent -- but the wisdom seemed entirely in the professors and the contemporaries were a social set. Here I admire the thoughts and insights of everyone in the room, including in my classroom -- I've learned from my students too. Which classes to take? It's a nice problem to have.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In synch?

Lately I've noted several times when things seem to come synchronistically. I've experienced this often and I think it's not some magical attraction but a matter of paying attention and sometimes of a partially subconscious accumulation of reading, ideas, thoughts around certain subjects. Today's example is that I have just finished two books that are complimentary. One is Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder. This is a fat, extremely well written book with fascinating biographical detail about a handful of Englishmen who began what became "the sciences" in England, in the 1700s, the pre-Victorian era.

It begins with a wonderful description of Sir Joseph Banks in Tahiti and then goes on to show his important role in the whole movement of scientific discovery. This includes an equally fascinating biography of Sir. William Herschel and his sister Caroline who, together, expanded astronomy enormously. The description of Caroline is especially welcome as she's too often been a footnote to William's discoveries. He was a remarkable brother, more by default, it seems than intention. But he was honest and generous in giving her credit for her discoveries which were mainly comets - several hundred! The book describes many other in the sciences in England at the time and also in France, especially when it came to balloon flight. It's a big book and only got a bit ponderous toward the end where people and event piled up so Holemes didn't have time or space for further fascinating biographies.

What's synchronous? The very next book I picked up from my shelf was a novel which I finished last night. This was not happenstance, really, for I was aware it was about the same period of history. Tracy Chevalier's Burning Bright, clearly included William Blake as a character and I knew he was contemporaneous with all the scientists Herschel was writing about. So I moved from the factual events in an intellectually rarified London of the 1700s, the an intimate family story set approximately 1770-5 which showed what working class and lower class London was like. Chevalier writes historical novels which are very well researched. I felt I could rely on her descriptions of both Dorsetshire and Lambeth on the south side of London. She is very adept at characterization and plot. William Blake and wife live next door to the protagonists; they are secondary characters. I admire Chevalier's craft, but I can't help seeing the craft and wishing for the intensity and unexpected depths of literary work.

So I think I am done with this period for the time being. I have a great many other books to read, including poetry that are very different. And of course the holidays are upon us ... as is a snow storm of a fairly gentle sort here today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Summary

The musk ox, which lives only in the Arctic regions, is not an ox at all. It is more closely related to sheep and goats. It is marvelously adapted to bitter cold with it's thick coat and heavy hooves that can dig through snow to forage. As a species it has out lived many of it's evolutionary contemporaries like the woolly mammoth and the saber toothed tiger. Scientist really can't explain how they've survived.

I didn't write a summary last Saturday because I had read only very depressing things, like the fact that the Unites States has had soldiers at war for the last 30 years! Yes! 30 years. Three recent books describe what's been going on and it's not pretty. I've lost the note I made of the titles and authors. But, in the meanwhile I've found a few more positive bits of information.

The worldwide gap in literacy rates between men and women has decreased since 1997; the percentage of difference in favor of men [as if I need to say that] has dropped from 12% to 9%.

A glass of red wine a day has been shown to contribute to a longer life -- happily, it's now known that champagne has the same effect! Just in time for the holidays too!

Some very good things are happening in New York City. Fast food places must display the calories in their offerings and the amount of trans fat as well. Also the city has made a deal with the cable companies that if a repair man misses an appointment the customer gets a refund. Other cities might take heed.

In the I'll believe it when I see it category; the Terrafugia Transition is the name of a flying car that is scheduled to be available sometime next year. Does anybody else remember those drawing about the wonderful future that school kids were shown back in the '50s? I'm still waiting for the flying car!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inside Joh

Inside Job, the documentary about the culpability of the big banks for the current recession, made by Charles Ferguson, a less confrontational documentarian than, say, Michael Moore, is a thoughtful movie exposing the power of the old boys' network of greed and willful ignorance, the utter amorality of the guys who made and are still making enormous amounts of money from the unregulated activities of the big banks, investment brokers and insurance companies. This is not a movie that will appeal to most Americans as it exposes a social level they cannot in any way relate to.

The pervasiveness of the economic buccaneering was exposed. I knew about the greed but I didn't know that it went into the universities where major economics professors do not have to reveal their conflicts of interest in their papers -- that they are paid to write glowing reports [perhaps of the economic stabilidty of Iceland -- ha! -- by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce] whereas if a research M.D. fails to mention that he is on the review board of a drug company and is touting their latest drug, he is seen as a very low worm indeed. [Although his $50,000 retainer is a pittance beside the Board of Directors' payments given to many university professors who do not reveal their conflicts of interest in their papers.

The movie did not spend much time on the smarmy side, the prostitution, drugs, huge houses, corporate jets, enjoyed by the Big Guys. Elliot Spitzer was often quoted in his prosecutoreal role and his own moral shortcomings only referred to in one ironic note. I found a "guys will be guys" attitude but can't blame Ferguson for choosing to concentrate on the move toward deregulation through the last 15 years. I was horrified as the movie came up to date and revealed that Obama is relying on the same Band of Brothers in financial crime who have been running the banks for years. I had thought he surely was a little more insightful. Has the chain of bribery gone that far? It's profoundly unsettling.

No, the average American will not see this documentary. Those who bought ridiculously expensive homes with almost no credit have been shafted by the big guys, but they were also greedy, eager to move into their McMansions despite their lowly incomes. As Yeats wrote "the center will not hold..." he wasn't thinking about bankers and money but finally it's money that drives most people. And they really don't know what they're doing and tend to trust blindly whatever they read.

I had a neighbor who, during the Internet bubble used to call me and say, "guess how much money I made today?" And I would say, "I don't want to know. I just think you should cash in and put the money under your mattress." He didn't of course. He listened to the pundits on TV -- and then one day he said, "I've lost ..." And the next day ... and all the time I had said he might as well be at Las Vegas playing roulette and that the house always wins. Greed. It hit the little guys like my neighbor. The big guys, at this point have won; the little guys have lost. Was it ever any different?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More syncrhonicity?

After I saw the Hamlet in which I thought Claudius was modeled on Vladimir Putin I saw a You Tube clip that seems to be making the rounds. Vladimir Putin did the karaoke bit -- which seems to have been planned with the live band, at an expensive charity dinner. He played the piano one-handedly, and then took the mike and sang "Blueberry Hill" in English, with some Russian "r" trillings on "thrill". He was stiff as one would expect [as Al Gore would be one imagines] but seemed to want to be doing it. Just a regular guy, like, say Bill Clinton playing the sax, Harry Truman playing the piano?

Not only was I amazed to see robotic VP trying to be human, I was astonished that the song is still known. I opted out of all pop music back about the time I was a teen ager and my farmer father especially enjoyed listening to me play "Blueberry Hill" on the piano. That was over 50 years ago. How could that inane little ditty still be known and sung at a Moscow social function? I guess it's been repopularized by someone in the meantime. Can't imagine why. I would expect "Mule Train" would be more popular. But what do I know? Obviously next to nothing.

At times I get the impression You Tube is a treasure trove second only to Google. I've been hearing people speak of hearing poets read and opera singers sing on You Tube, as well as on Google. Having become a moderate user of the Internet, I am now often surprised when I find others of my contemporaries who don't think of it as resource. I may not see a need for a cell phone, but I'm not a total Luddite.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still Walking

You don't have to be an "older person" to make excuses not to go out and exercise in chilly weather. But I promised myself six weeks ago that when the sun is out and the wind laying low, I will bundle up and walk on the beach. And so I did. I tired and chilled about three-quarters of the way along the "inside passage" -- the apparently protected, inlet side. But in fact that was the difficult walk today. The afternoon sun was nearly blinding despite my sun glasses and the wind, which wasn't a lot but a little more than enough, was in my face.

So I went up and over the low dunes through the dried grasses to the ocean side and walked with my back to the wind and sun. The edges of the water were well populated with black and white ducks and with gulls, They were my only companions; not another human was in sight. I owned the place! I could tell from prints in the sand a few dogs and their people had been and left.

A week or so ago on another low wind afternoon, I went down and found the tide higher than I had ever seen it there. I couldn't walk on the inlet side at all but had to tramp through the dried marsh grass. I suppose it was a weekend day for there were quite a few people with their dogs around. I have been learning the many moods of the seashore. It's fiercer moods I will not experience, I'll stay home warm and dry. But for now, I think the quiet seashore which has no hunters wandering around with rifles or mussel loaders -- in fact, no fishermen either -- is a safer place to walk. And truly, I feel very good for having done it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good day for a walk in the wood?

After a week of temperatures in the 20s today seem balmy with the mercury over 45 so Rachel and I thought we'd like to take a walk, perhaps someplace we don't usually walk. Of course Molly, the dog, would come with us. First we drove to a relatively new Audobon site but it was very clearly marked, more than once, forbidding any pets. Okay, so we went to another place we had walked about a year ago. Good. Nearly bare trees, a mattress of leaves beneath our feet, lots of places on the path with boards laid over marshy spots, nice old stone fences going to ruin. We walked along, chatting and Molly happily wagging her tail but checking on us often since this was unknown territory to her - she wanted to know we were proper sheep following her lead.

We found we had walked in a loop and arrived back at our starting place so set off on another path. In just a few minutes we met a young man with a rifle, bright orange jacket and cap. He told us it was the last next to last day of rifle season and said it was too bad we didn't have orange caps. -- I did have a bright red jacket. -- He said next week the mussel loading season begins and lasts for two weeks and then there would be no more hunting. We walked thoughtfully for a short while mulling the danger and decided that, although the road was only 1000 feet away, we didn't want to wander any deeper into the woods if there were men about eager to get a deer this next to last chance. So much for a good walk. We thought there should be notices posted at the parking areas telling when hunting season was so that walkers like ourselves would be forewarned.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hamlet, at National Theatre

I just saw a four-hour simulcast from the National Theatre in London of Hamlet. Done in modern dress -- when I see a classic done in modern dress, I know it's a director's play, a think piece [beyond whatever it is in and of itself]. Rory Kinneart was Hamlet, an ordinary looking young man, a very good actors, not physically magnetic as some previous Hamlets. The director of the National Theatre, and of this production is Nicholas Hytner. He was appropriately modest in an interview before the curtain went up. Modesty and theatrical director are opposites in concept.

This production was about a police state. There were spies lurking all the time, figures in neat FBI-ish suits at the edge of the scenes, there were files on everyone and everything. Claudius [Patrick Malahide] had a resemblance to Putin or a spy-movie mastermind. Gertrude was always in form fitting suits, very much a middle aged woman but never clearly defined. Poor Ophelia was stripped of her blouse and wandered about in her bra quite a long time -- a thin young thing, this chauvinistic attempt at titilation was clearly exploitation. The cast was satisfyingly mixed race which was fine in this setting. While it looked most like Russia, the many functionaries in their tightly buttoned suits could equally have been the President's counselors or a bunch of FBI officials.

And what of Rory Kineard as Hamlet? Yes, he's a fine actor but he is not magnetic, he was frenetic in his insanity at times, a directorial choice, I suspect not an actor's. Intrusions of jet plane noises, atonal music and such were in keeping but to me they were intrusions. The production is billed as "a Hamlet for our time." And it might be. I don't see Washington in the political commentary but our increasing public surveillance [cameras in all the major cities] is not an overt suggestion but comes to me. We missed 1984-ish Big Brother but we're getting there now. This may well be a statement on "our time" British, American, Russian, Chinese and many other places.

One Hamlet a decade really is enough.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fidelio, Beehotvan Opera

Synchronicity happens. A lot in my life. Today my opera class showed Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera. I had never seen it although I'd heard it on Met broadcasts. The DVD was an excellent perfromance from the Vienna Statoper with Leonard Bernstein conducting. The set was cleanly powerful and the singing was excellent. The story has some of grand opera's extremes and a few overlong arias. But the opera itself expresses Beethoven's concern for political freedom.

Fidelio is the pseudonym used by the wife of a political prisoner as she apprenticed herself to the jailer in order to get to her husband in the deepest dungeon. The tyrant he tried to expose and who has imprisoned him is about to murder him but Fidelio saves him and indeed at the last minute the tyrant's rule ends with the appearance of a representative of the king. The music and the restrained production give a sense of the horror of political imprisonment and of the enormous joy when evil is routed and freedom reigns. It's basically a fairy tale but has plenty of real life parallels not only in the past but in the present day with many a Floristan unjustly imprisoned and tortured. Few are reprieved.

What about synchronicity? I read this morning in the NYTimes that the California prison system is the most crowded in the US having stuffed twice as many people in the prisons as they were built to hold. That the treatment is so bad that approximately one prisoner dies every day for lack of medical services -- and this is not major medical but such things as not being given antibiotics for simple infections that should no longer kill people in the US. A judge has demanded that at least a quarter of the prisoners be released. Needless to say there is an outcry of people fearing an influx in their cities and towns of felons and a rise in crime rate.

The situation has now been ever more politicized than it was before. America has a far greater percentage of its population in prison than does any other country in the world. These are predominantly black and non-white males, predominantly young. We are warehousing men who scare us, men without adequate educations and without adequate possibility of employment. We are not attempting to educate these young men when they are adolescents and we are certainly not attempting to rehabilitate them in any way while they are in prison. No, they aren't in dungeons without light as in the opera but everything one reads about the conditions are equally inhumane.

Beethoven cared deeply about freedom and finished his last magnificent symphony with an ode to the joy of freedom and brotherhood. And Fidelio ends on the same theme. It is a dream that has yet to be realized in most countries.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Saturday Summary {on Sunday]

Sir William Herschel was a musician before he became an astronomer, he composed and taught music. A contemporary of Handel, his music is still heard -- it was heard by me this week on the local classical music radio station. He gave it up and became one of the greatest astronomers. He had a philosophical and wide ranging mind, perhaps the first "modern" mind in astronomy. He was the first to realize that we might be able to see light of stars that have been dead for millions of years. th Caroline, Hershel's little sister [she was barely 5 feet due to childhood illness and a ill treatment], was his able assistant after giving up a possible singing career. She too discovered many new astral wonders, especially comets. She was a celebrity in her own right.

This week I read that of all the known universes we can now see and name [thousands of which the Herschels were the first to see] possibly three times as many exist beyond our ability to see them. The wonder of the galaxies is truly beyond imagination.

But down to earth, salt has come to my attention. Salt is used in almost all prepared foods, it serves to enhance taste, to preserve food, and to mask tastes we don't like [e.g., bitterness] which is why I put salt on grapefruit. We Americans eat too much salt. Mayor Blumberg of NYC wants to make people aware of how much they're eating. [Already on the fat and calorie front, he's passed a law that fast food places must display the calorie count of their items -- and believe me, I think twice at Starbucks when choosing a muffin or scone]. He is trying to make people equally aware of the salt in fast foods.

It's known that salt affects blood pressure and diuretics have been prescribed with high blood pressure medications for many years. It's less well known that salt's flavor can change the perceived "mouth feel" of foods some people think are icky, thus making, say tapioca pudding pleasanter and helping those who must eat pureed food because of swallowing problems get some pleasure out of their diet.

We know how important taste is and sometimes we don't think much about scent. But marketers are thinking about it a lot. They not only use those scent strips to advertise perfume [which all smell alike to me] and the scratch off dots to advertise various kinds of deodorizers, but they are thinking of ways to "odorize" billboards, say for a steak house, fill the air near by with the scent of charcoal and pepper. Note: almost all the chemicals used to produce artificial scents are allergenic and possibly carcinogenic. Might we say that some allergies and cancers are a by-product of advertising?

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The #reverb10 prompt for today is: What did you do during the year to increase your curiosity? Actually that's not the exact wording because instead of increase they used some more New Agey word that I disliked enough to have forgotten. The soft-fuzzy, very self-indulgent and sometimes cutesy or gooey language of New Age sets my teeth on edge. It suggest wallowing in emotion and distrust of rationality and no interest in history.

I don't have to do anything to rev up my curiosity and haven't done, it's a deeply ingrained part of me. However, I choose to write about it on this blog, and not in the strictly personal and private 750 Words site that I've been doing each day, because older people often don't think about curiosity and some seem to have lost their curiosity -- some, but by no means all. The dull ones, the mentally arthritic whose main curiosity seems to be how much they can make or lose during the next visit to a casino. Or curiosity about what some celebrity whose lifestyle they abhor and envy is doing in her love life.

By curiosity, I mean, a sincere interest in the world around, the physical world, not just the home and the immediate family. The natural world is the most rewarding object of curiosity; of course, other people are endlessly fascinating. And then there's the whole world of all the arts and intellectual pursuits. I was lucky to learn curiosity as a trait from my mother who was certainly no intellectual but she read and wondered about things and formed her own opinions. I'm aware that many people didn't have that blessing early in life. Many lived in dull homes with narrow focuses -- but many escaped those homes and mindsets and have discovered the endless delight of discovery and that the areas offering discovery are almost boundless. Curiosity is not only for cats or children. Curiosity is for a fascinating and delightful life and for keeping the mind active and in good running order.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 2, #reverb10 reflections

Today's prompt is: what do you do that keeps you from writing and can you change it? I write other things than the "serious" stuff, like two blogs, the reverb thing itself, and I've been writing 750 words each morning on another site and the One Minute Writer on another with prompts -- which do not always click. I write a lot -- letters and short stories from prompts too, occasionally poems. This week I'm helping proof read prose and poetry for a publication from the Academy of Lifelong Learning and realizing that what people learned in about the 6th grade about commas and other punctuation and about sentence and paragraph structure has largely been forgotten by the time they are over 50 and eligible for this program. Typos are fairly rare, misspellings are even rarer, thanks to the wonders of computers that signal when a word is misspelled.

Self-editing should happen in rewriting. I think a fair percentage of people do not rewrite before submitting something to this particular publication, they probably make a stab at self-editing but have forgotten most of the rules about punctuation, and possibly trust that someone else will fix it.

Both self-editing and rewriting are difficult even when you know the rules and have been conscientiously punctuating writing all your life. Both, I think are a part of writing and so are the letters, blogs and even the emails. When words are addressed to others in a non-verbal way, it's writing, it's grist for the mill and sometimes practice like playing scales on the piano. Grist is most of what we do, especially the contemplative periods. However the most active periods are likely to become even more important -- that after all is the part of living that feeds all the rest. That is why we older people actually have more to say than the younger people.

In the last few days I have received by email two pieces of writing from young women. Both were genre writing, one about witchcraft, the other a "thriller" but with an overlayer of the esoteric. It seemed to me neither writer had a firm grounding in real life, possibly they rejected character development or "real" story as too uninteresting to write about -- and perhaps it has been, as they perceive it at this point in their lives. I feel both frustrated that young women retreat into an unreal world and a sense of gratitude that I don't think I was ever in that mental state and certainly feel grounded when I write anything today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


#reverb10 is a site that gives prompts every day of December to inspire a backward look at the year just passing and a forward look at the year ahead. There is a side bar button that I have not figured out how to load -- I am basically a computer-klutz and it takes a long time to get such things in my head. Anyway, I should receive a prompt a day throughout December and write about it here or react to it in some way.

Today's prompt is One Word -- one to summarize 2010 so far and one to wish for 2011. It doesn't have to be a word, necessarily, it can be a picture so I'm going to post a picture, which you see above. This is a sunrise, a winter sunrise [taken a little over a year ago after a snow] In the winter I get up about 6:00 just before the sun comes up, as I have breakfast I look toward the southeast where the sky is turning pink or orange or yellow, or simply getting lighter if it's a cloudy day -- but often it's a very lovely spread of orange or pink and I take photos which is a little silly because, although each is different because of the cloud formations, they are also all alike, a daily phenomenon. One cannot tell from the photo really whether it is sunrise or sunset. So I'd chose the word sunrise/set for both this year and next because every day is good and full and every evening is a satisfaction and so it has been all year and so I hope and expect it will be next year. There are surprises every day, and the satisfactions are usually quiet ones. Boredom is not a part of this even though there is a usual-ness and an expected rhythm.