Saturday, October 31, 2015

Documentary - Glen Campbell

I know nothing about country music although everything that's very popular somehow impinges on my consciousness. I didn't really know who Glen Campbell is, although I was vaguely aware of some of his songs like "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Yesterday's documentary film was about Campbell and especially about his final tour, which extended from a planned two months to two years although he had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The film, I'll Be Me, began with his diagnosis and the way he joked with the doctor who showed him the MRI scans and explained about it.  (I suspect this was a re-created scene when the decision was made to do a documentary).  The documentary seemed to be strongly controlled by his wife, Kim.  (They are shown the photo at the Academy Awards).

The film was touching, not the least because Campbell's performances during that tour were a large part of it. His songs are easy to listen to, the band with him were mostly his children, his wife was always there.  The film shows the deterioration in tiny bits, the memory loss was often covered with a joke, the repetitious questioning that drives many caretakers almost around the bend was mentioned only once, the frustrations and angers were shown in miniscule scenes as was one of licking his plate at the end of a meal.  We saw that his inherent niceness and his considerable talent (even I could see he was a fantastic guitarist and could hear a sweet personality in his singing voice) was one side of Alzheimer's that is not usually shown in the documentaries and movies.  The movies are often all about loss, all about the pain of family and friends as they see someone disappearing.  Campbell did just the opposite of disappear; he performed. Sometimes he lost his place, sometimes he repeated himself -- the audience knew and loved him for being willing to go on (or perhaps instinctively understood that he needed their applause and acceptance).

The film was a good balance to all the too earnest, too dire pictures the media are giving us.  The pleas, a couple of times in the film, for medical research and cures seemed to me a knee jerk reaction. As people in our class said several times as they related stories of their relatives who have finally been institutionalized with Alzheimer's, a widespread effort needs to be made to see that people are not simply drugged and warehoused when they need some enrichment. And one enrichment, very much so, is music -- music is one of the deepest parts of the brain, one of the very last to deteriorate.  Surely intelligent additions of music (not just muzak!!!) would be one step in the right direction

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Ghost Story

Persistence pays -- well, it doesn't pay in money, not if you're a writer like I am.  But it pays with publications eventually.  I've been persistent the whole year and most of last year too. I've had three short stories and one flash fictionand half a dozen poems published in small literary journals, most of them online only, all this year.  It's not a new career for me, but at last it's become easy to submit to  most of the many little journals -- without the SASEs and copies and all that.  The internet has been my friend.

Yesterday I got a note saying my one and only ghost story is in print in a new journal called Sediments which has "hauntings" as the theme of it's first issue.  My one and only ghost story, written about five years ago, since then having garanered a number of rejections, has been published in this journal and can be read on line. It's called "Fog." Click the link that follows, then click "Fog" on the index page.

click here

What makes this most satisfying to me is that absolutely all of it is fiction.  I have driven in dense fog but not under these circumstances.      

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The trees are aglow, the season is turning

The light is the wonderful part of these photos.  The golden trees were caught just as the last brilliant rays of the sun hit them.  The ones in the back seem to be on fire.  That was last fall, after the first snow.  But I saw some splashes of color almost as good this afternoon. 

I was trying to find Books by the Sea, a fine little independent bookstore in Osterville. I don't really know the town so I was driving slowly -- but not so slowly that upon trying to retrace my trip, I managed to take a wrong road.  It's all two lane roads with wonderful houses and glimpses of the water, tall old trees.  I wasn't really lost, I just found myself going the wrong way.  But what's wrong about it when I'm looking at red and yellow trees and big cushion-y plantings of daisies and lots of pots of mums? 

Also wonderful, and it will remain this way, is that I see the sunrise every morning.  Right now it's a little after 7:00.  Soon we'll set the clocks back but I get up at 6:00 so, I'll continue to see sunrises until next March.

I keep taking photos. Of course, they're all different and I always like best the one that I'm looking at.  The thing I don't like is that this town has overhead wires. I wish they'd buried them long ago and I'm sure they claim doing so now would be too expensive.  It would save many power outages during storms when limbs and whole trees come down and it certainly would add to the photogenicity of these scenes.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Almost Turkey Time

A small flock (3 or 4 ) of wild turkeys roam the campus of the Cape Cod Community College. I've been wanting a photo and, for once saw them on a sunny afternoon when I had my camera with me. (I don't do the cell phone photo thing-I'm at least as old fashioned as the wild turkeys). I clicked this photo and then the message popped "change batteries".  This guy isn't looking very pretty. I've never see them when they are displaying their impressive tails (so I've been told). 

We have quite a few wild turkeys on Cape Cod. When I see then, often crossing the road in some residential area where there are plenty of trees and shrubs, the group is usually small, no more than half a dozen.  This one looks very nondescript, apparently intent on moving along. His (generic masculine pronoun) companions were in the shade somewhat behind him.  Only once did I see a group of three walk through my yard. On a winter day when there was light snow, I happened to look up from the computer, where I'm sitting now, and out the window and saw this very, very ugly head with wattles of hanging flesh moving just beyond a shrub as if disembodied. Then came another and another.  No photos that time. I am going to continue carrying my camera and maybe I'll have another opportunity with this little group.

I'm mildly thrilled that they have returned. When I was a school girl my belief was that they and the deer had disappeared from the Midwest where I lived when farmers cleared the land.  But they are now returning in amazing numbers, both deer and turkeys to that part of the Midwest where small farms are often left fallow because, in flatter, easier to till areas, giant farms have taken the place of small family farms.  Here on Cape Cod only a few farms remain; it's all built up but with enough nature reserves to welcome turkeys and deer, also coyotes, foxes and all the smaller animals that have always had their place, squirrels, o'possums, foxes, raccoons, skunks, and so on.  These wild turkeys are not in danger of becoming anyone's Thanksgiving dinner. You can see he doesn't have the kind of over-developed abs that domestic turkeys display in the supermarket meat cases.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Looking at HIGH NOON 60+ years later

 High Noon was the film we discussed yesterday in a philosophy and film class.  I must have seen it back in the early '50s when it was made and of course I've been aware it's considered an icon ... but really I didn't know why.  With 60 years of education under my belt, I suddenly appreciate this film enormously although I found the dialog a little too stilted even for the somewhat grim Will Cain (Gary Cooper very much deserved the Oscar he was given as best actor).

Probably I remembered the stark  scenes because I was accustomed the the standard B level Westerns which were full of constant action and, at the time, mostly in color.  The discussion of the McCarthy era clarified SO much. The screenwriter, Carl Forman, had left the US for England by the time this movie was shown.  For those who don't remember or haven't seen the movie for a while (you can watch it any time on the Internet) Kane is a marshal in a western town, married in the first scene to Grace Kelly, a Quaker woman. He's about to be replaced by another marshal and to go away and settle elsewhere with his wife.  BUT word comes that a convicted killer has been let out of a jail "in the north" and will be  arriving in town on the noon train. Three of his cohorts have gathered at the station to meet him.  He has sworn to kill Kane who  sent him to jail.

Kane starts out of town, but returns, knowing he'll be chased whereever he goes.  Everyone in town know this too. Kane tries to enlist a posse of deputies but absolutely no one will join him. He is left alone to face not one, but four men out to kill him. Nothing much happens until the final minutes of the film when Kane fights for his life - and his new wife shoots one of the "bad guys".  He is the one sane,  moral person in a town of conformists and cowards against evil.  It is America in the 1950s -- in black and white with the relentless  song, "Do not forsake me, oh, my darling....?" sung by Tex Ritter, with the clocks moving toward high noon, all is gray, no color. It is not a Western at all, it as an allegory.

And it is talking about the fear that gripped the US in the 1950s (thanks to Joseph McCarthy), and it is about the fear that grips many parts of American today with the rants against immigrants, against terrorists, with the incessant shootings. America is a country that has been both energized and paralyzed by fear most of its history--a country that has not yet come to grips with the fact that immigrants on this continent killed it's natives, brought in thousands of slaves, and continues to pillage, pollute and devastate it's natural resources. No the movie doesn't say all that; but extrapolating ... where are the people who are willing to help the moral few who will not run from the evil that the sane among us recognize?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Purely October

Petrified monster?  How could I not see this fallen, ruined, rotting piece of a tree trunk as an unknown species of monster, possibly related to alligators -- some kind of dragon?

The days of my lovely seaside morning walks are mostly gone -- I think I'll manage a couple more this weekend. (We are promised some 60-ish days) When it's too cool and very much too windy to walk on the beach I can go to near-by Hathaway's Pond which is a very nice size large pond or small lake that has a comfortable and slightly challenging walk around it.  There are uphill bits and then downhill bits; and stray outcrops of rocks to stumble on.  It's a good place to walk with my beloved trekking pole. Damp leaves can be slippery  and so can some of the slopes.

It's beautiful, entirely wooded but always with the glint of water off to the right through the branches -- when I walk clockwise.  And I always walk clockwise having trekked in the Himalayas where blessings come from walking clockwise around cairns and chortens and only wizards (of the dangerous sort) walk counterclockwise.  I was delighted to see this monster guarding the path. He wanted his photo taken and I thought that odd mouth of his smiled a little bit.  I'll be checking up on the state of his health over the next several months when winter comes and possibly does him some damage. Walking this wooded park area is far more satisfying than walking the very domesticated streets just beyond my door although those will be walked a good bit too, since I don't need to drive there and they won't be muddy after the usual autumn rains.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Savouring your life

I will immediately admit that I'm being a copycat.  I love the photographs take by Barbara Judge for her blog, Folkways (see and click the side bar here).  She has a marvelous gnarled apple tree picture.  I took this and another picture of the same gnarled tree during my walk at Long Beach.  I don't know what kind of tree this is. I think it was nearly uprooted and blown over on it's side in some gale. But the roots that remain in the soil are keeping it alive. I  walk by it often and sometimes think about the complexity of its roots and branches as being something of a metaphor for the human brain. It doesn't make quiet enough sense, really, for me to find a poem here. At least not yet.

Instead I am writing a poem inspired by a blog by Brian Alger, a psychologist who writes about aging. I find I cannot give you the link. I don't understand how he's got his blog set up.  Anyway, he wrote about savouring -- meaning taking time to enjoy.  Mostly he wrote about savouring intellectual activity but I have begun a poem thinking about savouring the way small children do an ice cream cone on a hot day.  Hasn't everyone see the kid slowly licking the ice cream as it melts and runs down his hand and onto his clothes and his mother tells him to hurry and eat it because it's melting?  I'm sure I've been that mother.

Most of us un-learn savouring from that kind of sensible adult intervention. Don't linger over the delicious or lovely thing.  Get on with whatever is next.  Being a walker on a beach in the summer I observe that some people know how to savour the sun, they come early in the season and stay late, they find a spot a bit sheltered from chilly breezes and soak up the warmth.  These are a few, not the many.  Slow eaters, like the child and his ice cream, take time to chew and taste whatever is on the plate.  Oenophiles and gourmets make a point of enjoying, sometimes so loudly one wonders about their sincerity.  Gardeners fuss over their plants, stand at their doorway and thrill at the colors and arrangement -- those who do the work themselves. On that same walk to the beach I pass many large, expensive houses. All summer long, I see the landscaperrs planting, mowing grass, trimming. I suppose those home owners are pleased and possibly proud of their tasteful and beautiful plantings. But I think the gardener, the one who visits nurseries and reads seed catalogs in January, who savours the color and scent, not to show their wealth but because they love the flowers and plants.

Mr. Alger was not writing about this, really. He was writing about savouring our intellectual life. That's different.  I think the members of the poetry class I take savour the experiences they write about. I am trying to encourage people in my writing class to "read like writers" and savour good writing -- clear, meaningful, graceful writing, some with a sense of humor, playing with words and metaphors and similes and rhythm and even rhyme -- the last two not the sole province of poetry.

But beyond that Mr. Alger is urging people to savour the joy of being alive in a moment, whatever, wherever that moment is.  He does not mention Zen but I think Zen is what he is talking about, being present whether we are having a fascinating conversation with a friend or walking alone on a beach, past gnarled old trees or watching your dog dash and cavort when you let him off leash on that beach, knowing inside your own being just what those moments of  unusual freedom feel like. Molly, my daughter's late dog, almost always did a little dance when she went out into the yard, knowing she was going for a walk and I always understood, I think, the wordless joy of freedom.