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Monday, December 17, 2012

Three poems

This month I joined a poetry group and so here, below,  are some poems I'm working on. My most recent epiphany is that I need the challenge of poetry. I started reading The Art and Craft of Poetry by Micheal Bugeja. I say I am working on these because I am working on them for now, who knows in the end I may throw them out. I'm studying.

Well Dressed Orphan

Feeling free as an orphan, I count where my clothes come from.
All I could ask for,
Slippers, long johns, boots
She gave me this, he gave me that.
Shirts, sweaters, socks
I would be more than half naked without these gifts.
Absent mindedly I fail to notice I have friends
Worth more than the warmth and safety of clothes.
From two different angles I feel gratitude,
For having people who love and take care of me
but also for being able to forget them,
So as not to feel beholden to anyone.
Wanting to be free but not orphaned,
most times all I could ask for is a cup of tea,
Perhaps a little snack, sometimes my funds are short
And I’m well dressed, enjoying my solitude,
I like knowing I’m loved and taken care of but at the same time I enjoy my solitude and knowing I can sustain myself.

I feel grateful that my needs are small, and I feel joy in claiming my cup of tea weather with money from my own pocket or with a little love from my friends.


We give away the details of our lives in publications.
What do people who write poetry have to fear?
If the Internet is a violent surveillance of our private lives
We tell the world exactly what we feel and think.
A poet might only fear an unfinished poem
Taken before it is given with foolish love
Or wise refinement.

What fact, or spied information
Could hurt a poet? …If that were the point of the CIA,
Or some other evil entity?
In the art of self-healing all damage is fodder,
A hard surface, for those who aspire, is leverage to heavenly peace.

Totalitarianism and fascism?
Good reason for paranoia
Equanimity is best.
Lets be made for rain and cold, and all sorts of weather
Let’s write dangerous poetry, and shrug humbly
The revolution is as small as an inner smile.

A Toast for 2013

I may make another round of my ambitions
if no missteps  between December tenth, Christmas, and New Years

I’ll send out cards and presents
I’m halfway through the list all ready
spiffing up my resolutions and
Getting my ducks in a row so they all sail off.
All and all I think this was quite a year to live through.

2012, was a lot of hype
A real cliffhanger after the ever-worsening conditions that came before
And a huge guilty conscience telling us we deserve a super bad ending in 2012,

Some longed to die, and a close friend of mine did.
But I am still here and I have that
Weird “didn’t die” energy to go on with.

I’m ready to fight, and I’m ready to give up fighting.
Things are not so good, and I don’t have much money left.
But I heard loud and clear heart fluttering in the night:
I still have a chance to meet the great ambition

I was going to say my ambition, but I have a feeling
That what I call mine is a mirage
That leads me on to a more universal good
Where we probably all end up eventually anyway

For me 2013 is gearing up to be a year of faith and dedication
-to this Great Good that is behind my specific ambitions, great and small,
I toast.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some reflections...death and November

Just before winter, before your birthday would have come, before you married your new girlfriend, and before we had the chance to have one of our long talks again, you died. It happened suddenly on a beautiful day when all was well in your front yard. You had just had coffee with your mother. You went out perhaps to run some errands, but I imagine you went out just to admire the flag of Vermont flying at your door. Then you went back inside and crashed to the floor on the porch. I can imagine it well, the heart attack. I have been your nurse, friend, and even your live-in girlfriend for a while. I was happy to be there to save you when I could but I didn’t want to be there when you crashed to the floor and never got up. I didn’t want to be in death’s closing web.

You saved me. I thanked you many times for helping me in so many ways to avoid peril and get on my feet after a crash in my life. But you were not so keen on living as to feel the relief of my aid when you were sick. I think mostly you were soothed by helping me and thankful for my companionship as I was of yours. We were friends. You were my only friend. My trust had been too injured to have more.

There has been a lot of death lately, before the election, before 2013 when the world is supposed to end according to legend, and before I change into a butterfly. Spirits have drifted out of birds, mice, husbands, grandmothers, fathers and best friends. I have seen death come, waited, hoped against it, and wept for it.

The last struggle is something very small yet unpreventable. I feel even in imagining your crashing fall, when your eyes told nothing that I am learning how to die. As I fall asleep and as I wake up I think of you and my heart flutters, palpitates softly, and I feel that thin veil between life and death and know how simple it is to take that last breathe. I see my bird’s wing caught in the film between this life and the next and know that a little bit of thrashing, just a little bit will convince a body so well worn to give up the ghost.

Some people don’t know how to go to sleep, but anything can be learned once you get the feel for it. With body and imagination you can work your way towards knowing how to dream and how to vaporize into thin air.

Not that I want to. I have certain reasons to live and my body is not well worn enough. Even so at night at the edges of morning I feel the flutter of the curtain in-between.

It’s November and the calendar is thin. Half-light spreads wide a dusk stripe over early evening time. The blind man keeps his white cane in the air, two feet above the even playing field that is half-sight for all. It is his liberty to walk with as little or as much confidence as other men do in half-dark.

The moon is a white sliver of fingernail not clipped off. One can see the whole round planet, most of it hiding in shadow except the crack of light that seems to slip from behind a carelessly closed door. Another measure of equality, this carelessly closed door, this transparent action of the moon. We can see it all, the dark side and the light.

In a quiet small town where the shops are all closed, a petite woman crosses the street to reach her oversized truck. She opens the door, steps up on the side rail and holding a handle high up on the inside she pulls her weight in. Silent, cool, and secure she shuts the door. She’s the small bright light inside driving it all. Again an ironic equality pervades the mood of these last days of 2012.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This week in Middlebury

So much happened this week as time marches on. I'll mention the last news first, my close friend and a great visual artist and writer Marc Awodey passed into spirit this past weekend, by heart attack, in Burlington Vermont. Friday and Saturday I was listening to the Dalai Lama lectures in Middlebury, Vermont. This weekend I leave to go on a road trip to North Carolina. It is fall a changing time of year. I looked at a lot of art around town. I feel under heavy influence, sleepy with it, all these things moving through me as time passes and erases the markers in my path. So quickly some pictures and links to log in my web blog.

Obituary: Paintings:

This is a picture he painted from a photo of me with a child I was babysitting.

I got to know Marc by responding to his 95 theses as published in a now defunct newspaper, we continued corresponding for years

To much to say so let's move on to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama who visited Middlebury and delivered two lectures. I attended one as live streaming in an auditorium  and the other in person at  Middlebury College. His talks had a big influence on me and gave me ideas for revising my life.
I was moved and impressed by Tibetans coming out of the woodwork with such reverence and devotion, showing us a great example. Our town glowed with receiving him.

banners in the street
... special banners

 Vermont Book Shop window display

Woman in Tibetan clothing witnesses tibetan flag being wrapped around library pillars
sand art and prayer flags

Our lovely library where I am creating this blog. My neighbor friend just found me and brought me some peppermint tea. Love is alive. I always signed my email letters to Marc "Love, Alive" It started as a typo but over time proved true and wise so I used it on purpose too instead of Love, Alice.

I am getting I will save all the art pictures for next month, maybe write something sort of like a review. Here are just a few photos I took around town after the Dalai Lama's lectures:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My little Birdie

The bird was barely visible in the grass, but I happened to notice her little beak and eyes peeking out from between the blades of grass. When I put down my finger for her and she got on it I fell in love.

I said if she was still out on the same limb at the end of the day we should take her home, because it was supposed to be cold and rainy and she couldn't really fly yet - just a few inches off the ground.

She was still there at the end of the day so we took her with us. I just held her on my finger in the truck and then we went to the garden and she rode around on my shoulder while I picked basil.
 She talked up a storm the whole time tweet tweeting in my ear. I whistled back.
My little bird friend for a couple of days...

I made a cage for Birdie out of things I had around: a milk crate and the screens from the front door that I had just taken down because it is getting too cold for screen doors now that it is September. To make birdie more at home I furnished her new habitat with perching limbs, grapes and raspberries, zinnia and a seed stalk. I wanted to take good care of this tiny creature. I also put in my shirt thinking maybe Birdie would feel more secure with my scent around. Birdie seemed pretty content to ride on my shoulder, but I needed to have a safe place for her when I was cooking dinner, and sleeping, things like that.
She liked to sit in her zinnia as if it was her nest.

The problem was I had to go to work by noon the next day... I work at a childcare center. I took birdie with me and the three year olds went to visit him/her - Birdie was very chirpy and happy most the day. 

But later when he starting sleeping a a lot I started to worry a lot, and then by 5:00 when I checked on her, she was not doing well... I tried to feed her more rehydrated cat food from her dish but she was too weak and died in my hand, I cried. I didn't know I was going to fall in love with this bird and have so many hopes for her to live and fly. I tried to pull myself together for the last 1/2 hour of work. I do think she liked her cage though when not riding on my shoulder. She could fly a little. We had a good couple of days. She always sang when I came near her, even when she was half asleep. I didn't really know how to take care of a baby bird. I tried to learn fast soon after I found her. I have learned that baby birds are very fragile and hard to take care of.

I was hoping to to raise her till she was ready to fly off on her own -maybe in a way I did. Baby birds I have learned need round-the-clock care though, and we are harvesting honey right now and getting ready to go on a trip... I don't know how I would have taken care of her for a few days longer. I know I have lost a friend, but I will always have the friendship we shared. I learned a lot from that bird.Once back home I was thinking about how to bury her and decided to put her in our compost so that she would go into our garden and come up as a flower. I laid her on top with her zinnia, and covered her with hay. Every time I go out to put something in the compost I think of her and the passing of time and how that will transform her dead body into rich soil that will grow food and flowers. In that way and in my memory Birdie lives on, she flies away.

There are some things I learned about love, life and death from my little bird that I’m not sure I can put into words. Our bond was that she trusted me and put herself in my care and I did the best I could for her.
         On the second day, later in the afternoon she was not doing so well. I remember she was sleeping with her head under her wing, and it looked to me that some of her feathers were not looking so fresh, as if she’d been sweating. I don’t know if birds sweat, or get fevers, but it seemed to me like a sign of distress. Every time I checked on her after that it seemed she was sleeping, and that made me start to worry. Did I feed her often enough? Was she able to get her water? Was she having bad indigestion because of the kefir and bread I fed her after the bee larva was gone and before I learned from a bird expert to feed her cat food and not milk or bread?
         When she was sleeping and I came in to check on her – I was at work taking care of children – she would always give me a few soft chirps as if to reassure me that she was okay. She might have been telling me, “It’s okay for me to die. I am happy, I am loved, and I am too weak to continue. Tweet, tweet good-bye. Tweet, tweet I love you. Tweet Tweet thank you for being my friend.”
         But I was not ready to let her die. I picked her up and tried to feed her. She ate a little, perhaps only to please me. Then I tried to put her back in her cage to perch on a limb, but she was too weak and fell off wings searching for balance. and one wing got stuck in one of the openings of her cage. It wasn’t hurt I gently helped her out of the tangle. It was too stressful for her. Her legs kicked out and I knew then that she was dead. She was in my hand as she was dying and I cried for her, just feeling so sad that it was ending this way after only two days. I felt her spirit come back just for a moment as I cried. I could see then that she knew I was crying over her, grieving for her. It’s like she came back to take that last message of love from me, “ I miss you birdie, I love you, I wanted to see you grow up and fly free. And then she was gone her spirit rising into spirit.
         It is hard to say exactly what I learned from this experience but I felt that by being involved with this bird’s deep purity, pure love, and forgiveness … I felt sort of relieved from my worries about what I could have/should have done. I know from knowing her light heart that everything is o.k. the way it is. It’s how you live, not how long, and when you have a friend it is a wonderful life no matter what happens, because we are here to love.
         I’ve been dreaming of little birds ever since her death. This morning after dreaming of little birds chirping in a bush, I woke up and went outside. Standing there doing my morning stretches I saw and heard a peregrine falcon. We have seen this bird before flying to his same certain tree. This is the only time I have ever heard him making the sound of ringing sleigh bells as he flew though. I wondered if maybe he had actually had picked up some bells some place and was flying around with them. That is exactly what it sounded like, and later when he flew away he made the same bell ringing sound. My dream of little birds was ordinary but my waking experience hearing the bells of the falcon was magical like a dream.
         Another funny thing to note about this is that as I was sleeping last night at times half awake I was thinking how grateful I am that my ears are located so conveniently on my head so that I can tuck my loose hair behind them, and also for my glasses to rest on…and I thought it is so funny that I am most grateful for that when the real boon of ears is to hear with! And then in the morning my gratitude was rewarded with bells brought by falcon. He hee.
         I am reading The Plague by Albert Camus. On page 36 I came across this “the pulse becomes fluttering, dicrotic, and intermittent, and death ensues as the result of the slightest movement.” Yes, I thought, that’s how it was for my bird. Great book.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Yellowstone National Park, from my teenage diary

This is our third day on the road heading for Wyoming. I meant to start writing in this thing a long time ago but I only this morning found it.

Well contrary to Julie's pessimistic predictions I've had a great time just driving around trying to get there. I love riding in a car looking out the window. Most people would rather go by plane - not me, maybe it's natures way of keeping us from going broke.

I remember the excitement I felt the first day we started out of Fort Scott. It seems meaningful to me to be able to look out the window and see that we are actually moving and to know it's almost certain we'll meet our destiny, since it never seems to be that way in my life, I'm not getting anywhere and if I am I don't know where.

Yesterday we arrived in Denver, interesting place but I wouldn't want to live there. We stayed at the Pig and Whistle Motel. Well wouldn't anyone have doubts about staying in a place called Pg and whistle? And I was right it looked as funny as it sounded. More than several rows of pink (how appropriate I thought) and ague cottages. Ours was # 5. Dad gave Beth and me the keys and told us to unlock it but we ran straight past it and went to check out the pool. Wow! This is cool; it's just like in the picture! And it was cool too, in fact it was freezing. The father away we get from home the cooler it gets, luckily for me since I have only two pairs of shorts. Then we went back and opened our cottage. Hey, this isn't so bad I thought standing in the door way seeing that the bed spreads were cute and they matched, separate overhead lights for each bed, Fiddle Free Color TV, a sink, ah and the other bedroom was nice to, but when I discovered the bathroom the doubts returned. The toilet seat was covered with pictures of nude women and right next to the shower was an awkward looking bottle opener… both interpreted by me as a suggestion of sleaziness. I'll have to find some Pig and Whistle stationary and write Julie.

We went to the Denver museum. I thought it was very interesting and I wished I could have looked longer but Beth kept whispering in my ear saying how boring it was and every time I tried to look at something she'd stand in front of me and start talking. So we kept tripping over each other. I wish I could find someone with my same interests.

I slept well last night - the earplugs worked. I could barely hear my grandmother snoring. I grinning with pleasure all night knowing those loud snorts must be shaking the whole room. Oh it was a beautiful morning! So cool moist and refreshing. It's 9:27 and it's still beautiful! It's raining now, we must be getting closer, the land its getting bumpy. 6 miles till Wyoming. Neat! All the sudden there are trees all over a minute ago there weren’t any in sight. Now there are all these big hunky rocky things popping out from under the earth's crust. Oh I wish…

This is beautiful, I 'm too excited to write now see you later.

Excuse me I know this is a bad stopping place but I better try to grab some sleep now before heavy breathing turns to an uproar of snorts

Today is tomorrow. I've decided that it is impossible to catch up on writing. I didn't write at Jackson Hole.

SO I'll tell it how it is now. I'm in a sleazy cabin amongst a colony of identical looking cabins. I'm not very happy because I just had a fight with Margaret. Earlier today I had a lot of fun. I won't write about it now though because it would sound stale. But I will say this, so far I've seen: a ground squirrel, marmot, elk, mule deer, snow shoe rabbit, barlery weasels, hedgehog, unusale blue birds, and moose.

Today is the 28th of July. It's ten till eleven. Why must my days always end on sour notes? Seems like I always have to have a fight with Margaret before I go to bed. Now days it's everything but impossible to get along with her. How would you feel if there was someone you really admired, someone you sometimes envied, you always thought, " I wish I could make her feel proud of me" and you found out they aren't even happy? Stupid, disappointed, helpless, like someone told you there is no such thing as heaven. I'm talking about Margaret. She's mixed up. I wish I could help her, I wish I could be her friend. I don't want to fail in my own family. My first chance for success and the game looks like it's over. Do the bad guys win again? Am I a dud or what? I never talked till I was three - even then… even now…

We had great fun at the waterfall this morning g though. I love moist weather. There were ferns growing everywhere. For a while it was heaven while we sat on stones in the stream with our jeans knee high dangling our feet in icy rapids, and breathing in the "ocean spray" which soothed my throat and nostrils, that were used to the dry crackling breathe that was to be breathed on top of the mountain. We stayed up there a long time because it was a long way back up. On the way up I decided the trail was too long and that I could just as easily climb straight up. It didn't work. I managed not to roll off the cliff, much to my relief. 

This is the first time I even tried to keep a journal. I never realized it was so hard to tell your journal everything, especially if you are tired as I am. I really do have a lot more to say. If only you knew what you were missing. I hope my plants are all right. I bought a post card to send Julie and part of her birthday present too. I miss her. I need to talk to her about something my "journal should never know.

I'm drifting off; these are my last delirious words. Sleep be with me and thank you God for everything, nighty night.

Today was a good day, not a great day if you know what I mean. Nothing really big happened but all the little things went right. My hair looked fine without aid from electrical appliances. I wore a big flannel shirt of Margaret's and for once felt like I looked o.k. I wondered if I would have felt the same way with Julie standing next to me. I seemed to say and do most of the right things; no one got mad at me. It's a good feeling.

It's hard being 15. Every once and a while as I do say or think something childish, it hits me like a brick: I'm 15, I'm supposed to have it all together by now. I'm scared of going to high school, what if I'm not mentally old enough? Maybe I should be real independent like Marg.

I had a dream the night before tonight. I dreamed that my hair grew long and lush like Margaret's, but when I went swimming it was all washed away all except my own natural haircut. It's 11:00 - Goodnight.

Today is Thursday 12:30, and we are on our way back home. Right now we are almost in Denver. I haven't written in a long time. Yesterday we left Yellowstone.  We drove till ten at night. Around 3:00 we lost Mamal and when they finally caught up, they had a hitchhiker with them. I knew it was a hitchhiker because it was the same guy Margaret and me wanted to pick up. We were bored and he looked harmless enough. And he was. It seemed they had had a blow out and this guy helped them so they gave him a ride. Mostly he just smiled and grinning a lot. This is al the information they managed to get out of him and some of it is just our own conclusions: He goes to smart school, comes from good family, was going to visit a friend, his name is Hans (He refused to tell us what became of Gretel), and he wasn't good looking or ugly.

The reason we drove until 10:00 is because dad thought is was Thursday and he wanted to get home on time. Dumb.

The day before, when we were still in Yellowstone we went horseback riding up the mountain. We were all sitting on logs waiting for the horses to come in teasing each other and acting dumb. The horses came in and the old riders got off they looked funny smiling and walking around bow legged. Then the new horses were brought out and these men who seemed to be in charge started assigning people to horses and suddenly I didn't feel so fearless. I thought; what am I doing here? I don't know how to drive a horse. Gad! Look at the horse Beth got, he looks scary. His name is washboard. Oh, I see the one I want he's got a vanilla blond mane and tail and the rest of him is a color I think they call Mauve. " The girl in the green jacket" That's me. He motioned me over to Pumpkin, the horse I had already picked for mine. But she didn't look so big from far away. He assisted me to my horse and asked me where I was from. Kansas I answered. He grunted. I noticed that he asked everyone the same thing and grunted - not getting terribly excited over anyone's answer. When everyone was saddled we got a talk on how to act on our horse. I listened closely trembling in my saddle but trying to hold it back because I've heard that if a horse senses your fear he'll give you trouble. I was also nervous because daddy kept snapping pictures. I hate having my picture taken but I tried to pretend it wasn't me he was pointing the camera at. "O.k. let's hit the trail, single file." I rode in back of a sweet little eight-year-old girl and in front of a friendly but stupid lady called Linda. By the time we were well into the path I was really getting to enjoy it and had learned to trust my horse. It was really really scary when we started toward the edge of the cliff, it was beautiful though. It was then I started thinking strange things. Well I was trotting along when I started thinking and I started wondering what the horse was thinking. I thought he's thinking, "Will that dumb girl ever let go of the reins?" Doesn't that stupid girl think I know where I'm going by now? She's scared, I can tell. I'm going to get her" Then he jumps off the cliff laughing all the way down. No, no my pumpkin wouldn't do that. I like this. We rode for two hours. I must have got the hang of it because my rear end didn't hurt; the only thing that hurt was my leg. It got kicked. My horse started rubbing it's head on another horse's bottom and that horse turned around and kicked me. It didn't hurt much, I wondered why. I looked at it and it had swollen up about an inch. - That's probably why.

Today we stopped at Wards to buy a tire. I bought a fall outfit. I like it. It would look better on someone else.

I want to stop and listen to the radio. Later o.k.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tea Kettle

The teakettle sits on the hearthstone, a dusty bystander. Silver, not real silver of course, the light of the fire picks up bright silver highlights around the lid, like moonlight. It sits there on its fat bottom waiting, arched handle at the ready with its black plastic handle molded to the fingers that would clasp it. A matching black plastic button of a handle in the center of the lid curls with use and over heating. Many times a day it is refilled and put up on the stove for tea. Now it simply waits. Sitting pretty you might say. She is not a fancy teapot but she is perfect and she knows it. Once she was sitting out on the curb, next to a tag sale as if she was too worthless to put a price tag on. But she was found by a very discerning woman. The kettle is like a cat who has found a good home. The woman has taken her everywhere, when she moved from the island, the teakettle moved too, when she moved to the forest, the teakettle moved too. That's what I mean; the teakettle has found a good home. A home where she is appreciated when she is in use and also when she is idle. She is not abandoned in shifts of habitation. It fact she lives just as a cat lives, when she sits by the fire, she meditates and lends her peaceful presence to the place. There are many stories of kettles that have taken on a life of their own, kettles that have crossed the line from inanimate object to living being. Such a kettle can go back and forth from being a thing to being a living being. The transformation has something to do with the keeper of the kettle. It is very mysterious how we humans can give life to something. It is as if the woman who gave the tea kettle a home has poured herself into the tea kettle just as she poured her tea, as if their daily interactions actually added up to the bestowal of life. It is not known if this tea kettle has any ambitions, some kettles have been known to go off and join the circus, but this tea kettle seems content with just being. It is wonderful to find a place to be.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Week in the Life of Alice

This house in Norh Hero. Vermont is where I wrote this essay. I hope to sell the house this June so that Ross Conrad (author of Natural Beekeeping) and I can finish building our cordwood home together in Middlebury, Vermont
$138,000 year round home with beach access

First I am not the star and then I throw mud on myself and skulk off to a corner lamenting that I was not the star.

What if I just cut off my head! Wouldn't it be thrilling to live by my heart? Why not just move toward what I want, rewrite my past, like that time I was hiding in the curtains and no one even missed me.

I am tied to my keyboard, because we cannot be trusted to stick together. So, we are strapped to each other in a hope of overcoming a stubborn unwillingness to work together. It has worked with other teams, the monkey and the organ grinder. Out of necessity they learned to cooperate to make music. Out of their being strapped together they found friendship, a livelihood.

I wonder then if I will ever learn to get along with this instrument, or even myself: the reason for this instrument. I never learned to type. A small orange stands on my desk to protect against negativity. If I knew other charms to better my chances I would try them. The sun has not yet come up. My dreams still show the small parts of themselves that stick out from behind my life. Tied to my keyboard, I try to take up my trade again, but mostly I am just drinking tea. 

The keyboard is hungry for real collaboration, but I am not very attentive, I could easily just stare and drink tea. I will eat the orange and use its peel to dispel negativity with a spray of citrus scent. Wouldn't we all line up for help if it was a bagful of grapefruits and oranges?

My missing livelihood is taunting and distracting me. There is something natural that is supposed to happen with a writer and a keyboard. The words should naturally flow with beauty, meaning, sound, and imagery. From the spinning of words weaves the clothing of the soul. Without self-adornment, do we exist? The nakedness of my situation, my unclothed soul, my empty beggar’s cup, is such a worry that I resent my words and curse them for not being profitable. Here I am with my keyboard. I place the words, but trust cannot easily be regained. The course of nature is to keep its promise. Even a small hope is bound to grow. Things die, without the connection of hope. I sent my wedding ring back five years after the divorce. I sent it back to make room for a new possibility. 
I once loved my work. There was reason to believe I was a writer. Then I went on a killing spree. I knew how to do it, how to break bonds and be free, how to clear everything out of my path, how to put a hope to death and move on. I was so adept at moving on that I couldn't keep still, even if I wanted to. I finally settled on a man I had met through the personals ads. I loved him, and did not want to kill the promise. I wanted to renew other promises, like finishing the novel I started a year and a half ago. It is hard to repair a bond that has been broken. I have not touched the novel in 6 months. The disconnection and impending death could not be more obvious. Love is simply an agreement. It can be easy or difficult, but it is just a choice to live in relationship. By strapping this keyboard to my knees I am hoping the choice will be obvious.

I have all the ease of living alone and none of the daily assistance of living with a partner.  For a long time I have wanted this solitude, this freedom, but I am not thriving in it. There should be a phrase book for emotional and spiritual emergencies. People, especially teachers like myself, could just speak from the phrase book as needed.

After this time everything had to be cleaned, each night I would tackle a new item in the house. I helped a boy wash a book with a toothbrush, toothpaste and a damp cloth. We had to work quickly and carefully so that the book wouldn't dissolve into pulp. Pulp fiction. I carefully dusted the metal frame of a twin bed kept for guests. Time, whether pure or impure, whether disastrous or productive, brings a web of unclarity and disuse upon the home and its operations. It's as if everything had to be re-found under the sludge of a receded flood. There had been no flood, had there? Could I have been sleeping? 

It occurs to me that my house has no foundation, and is merely propped up on cinder blocks. If this fifth great lake should rise and overtake my lawn, my house might just float away. I am used to sleeping with the violence of the winds, and the crashing of the waves. These sounds, that perhaps should be alarming, are my lullaby. Rocked to sleep I could wake up in another place, perhaps not too far away. If the lake took my house for a sail, left me out on newly formed ice, I might leave the house one morning for my usual place of work, never knowing of the change. Maybe in an alignment of small and improbable miracles I wouldn't even notice. My house might be rescued before I returned home, without my knowing, by those ever-ready volunteers on the island I live on. They could have it put back before I got home. "If you get yourself into a bind, call me," the electrician says when I see him at the dump. "If you get yourself into a situation, remember where I live," a neighbor tells me, stopping his car in the road so we can talk. Everyone waves, everyone is friendly. Almost everyone. It’s as if everyone is on the team, involved in the secret society of the Volunteer Rescue Squad. They know everything, they know what is at the bottom of the lake, and what is not. They know the exits between exits, the smallest most unknown village.

A newcomer like myself lives blindly in the unknown, often too embarrassed to ask for help, or too ignorant to know I need it. This is the amusement of the secret society of volunteer rescue people on the island, real islanders, who are not ashamed of their own folly. For example: backing a truck into a tree, sinking a snowmobile by driving fast over the slightly frozen lake. These things are the entertainment of the community. Life can be dull, without the great need of rescue operations. 

Oddly enough, one of the typical Vermont personalities, the kind of Vermonter who is seriously self-sufficient and fiercely independent, is not in stock here on the Champlain Islands. That type of rugged personality formed a hybrid with The Island Personality. The Island Personality is softened by the balmy winds that blow ease into a persons' mind. Island people don't worry so much. We all came here to escape our worries, we all came here to find paradise, often after some trauma, or perhaps just overwork. Sometimes the source of migration goes back many generations. People don't come here so much to escape the city and get back to the land with high ideals like in the rest of Vermont. They come here because they need the therapy of the water to soothe their losses, or simply to fish. They come here to relax, not to return to the land. We have island time, and island bookkeeping, we are a little goofy. Take ice fishing. If there is some ice, someone will try parking a truck on it no matter how early and thin. That's o.k.. That opportunity to put the rescue team to work makes life worth living. We are bonded by our follies. I think in the isolation, after the summer people leave and you realize that you are one of 810 people living on 46 square miles surrounded by water, you lose perspective on issues of personal safety. It is hard to gauge the size of a risk in this half abandoned rural neighborhood. I once called 911 because my carbon dioxide detector didn't seem to be working. Many trucks came speeding, sirens and all, down the potholed little lane where I live. Turned out I needed new batteries. I had never called a neighbor, and certainly not 911, for much bigger emergencies, like when I almost froze to death. Like I say, it is hard to gauge the size of a risk out here, and I am learning that there is something beautiful about that, and about the shared experience we have of that here on the Islands. I really existed after I made that call.  Sort of like a numbered joke in prison.

A phrase fell out of place. "Will you love me?" she asked. She had been here before, not the same place but at a very similar door. He did not know anything about the phrase, he did not know where it came from. What was hiding under it seemed like some sort of code. The code would open the door he very much wanted to open, again. "Yes. I want to make love to you, I want you to make love to me.” -pause- “It is hard NOT to love you." That seemed to do the trick, but he didn't know why he had to answer the question. Did she think he didn't love her? Why? Why did she stop and look at him that way?

No one passes this point without meeting with the question, without answering it. One man lied. He knew what to say and he said it. She heard it and the door opened wide, her heart on view as never before. Some say whatever will open the door. The door is not where it appears to be. One may think they have already been through it, but still the door is there, unopened. 

She is wondering how, if his answer had been in written form, it would be punctuated. After he said, "Yes," she took that as one sentence. By the time he got to the rest, "I want to make love to you and you to make love to me," they were already making love, so that part seemed obvious. Then he seemed to add the last, "It's hard not to love you," as an after thought. Was "yes" one sentence? Or was it modified with sexual references? Just a simple yes would have been nice.
She is struggling to understand a new word written on the board. The word, which starts with an "S," changes subtly when a suffix is added. She thinks she understands the word without the suffix but after reading it with the suffix, she gets mixed up. The teacher tries to explain it, going back to the origin of the word, but as she does this, she seems to get lost and unsure of what she knows. Meanwhile the class demands attention. A little girl making a mandala, has covered her circle with the hair that fell off her brush, and now she is on the verge of tears because the teacher took her layers of wet hair, glitter, and little colored balls off the mandala, put them in a shapeless pile on the table - telling her to start over! The teacher is scrambling to avoid the tears that she now sees are near on the girl’s face. There is no greater failure for an art teacher than to make a student cry in class.

A lie when it is vivid and alive can make you so aware of the truth that you can no longer tolerate the lie. Betrayal can lure the real gold out of its shell. Once you know your own worth, through betrayal, well, you want to break all connections that are not made with true love. You want to secede from the union and use only real gold and silver for money.  If my natural currency is devalued even slightly, it is only a small step to being disposable. Did you ever feel, after having been very close to someone and emerging unharmed, that this person would have tossed your life into the fire if it came to that? How, when I am totally broke, can I begin to change my dealings from false money to exchanges of things with real value? 

Yesterday I went to the bank and restructured my debt. I almost forgot the appointment, but remembered it just in time get to there if I left immediately. So I left. The roads were icy and I almost missed the appointment anyway. Afterwards I put together a care package for my daughter who is sick in New Orleans, where she is helping victims of hurricane Katrina. I had put some things from home in a box including: honey, multivitamins, three cans of soup, and some peanut-butter cookies homemade with whole wheat and honey. Then I bought garlic, goldenseal, Echinacea, and acidophilus pills at the Co-op with a gift card my still very new boyfriend gave me for Christmas. I took all this next door to UPS and sent it by two-day mail. I felt that this was not a time to be thrifty even though I was broke. The whole deal came to 80 bucks. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. This is where I go into debt. My parents wouldn't have done such a thing. Not that they didn't care about me, but they weren't unreasonable about it; they had sense enough not to go beyond their means. I always feel when it comes to my children that it doesn't matter what it costs, it only matters that they get everything they need. My extravagant love must go on.

Later at my after school art class we made potato prints and paintings with water-soluble oil pastels. At the end there was still one little girl who had not been picked up. We made a picture on the black board together with colored chalk, taking turns, each adding something new. The picture started out abstract, inside an ornately drawn frame, but eventually it turned into a girl. Her arms were open so wide that they expanded beyond the picture frame, she was smiling but there were also tears coming down. There was a fish in the sky and two butterflies. She had a pet cat nearby. The cat had whiskers on cheeks and eyebrows.  The last detail added were two somewhat limp daisies in her hand. Then she left and I carried my box of art stuff to my car and left also. At one point the snow blew across the plains and over the road so thickly that for a few moments the road was not to be seen. The Island is thin and flat, the wind blows where there are no houses or trees, straight over from the West shore to the East shore. Under the bridge chunks of slush gather in a jostling crowd. At home I heat up leftover chicken and potatoes in the toaster oven, I listen to “Switchboard” on the radio, I call T. to see how she's feeling, I take a shower, I read my book, I call S. I finally say what I want to say when it's time to say goodbye. "I love you."
"Thanks," he says. Then a while later, "I love you too." 
"Thanks," I say. 

My red shoes were somehow still in the grocery store when I left. I didn't buy anything, just looked with admiration and desire at the sweets and the salty sea creatures. I had no money, but I still weighed each temptation carefully. Most important was what I had when I walked into the store, my shoes. Without my shoes, I was nobody, a street urchin. I went running back through the rain for my shoes. My shoes are bright red, made of tough leather stapled to wooden clogs. They are not the kind of shoes you can wear on any job. It is hard to find work that matches your shoes. My friend, M, was in the parking lot unloading her groceries, probably wondering how it could take me so long when I hadn't even bought anything. The important thing was not whether I bought anything but just that I went shopping with my friend, M.. So many things we have to do on our journey, a journey that always seems to have layovers and nights in hotels where you would rather not be and long drives alone that seem senseless; the important thing is that I was with a friend. Some times you can be so lonely and feel grim; meaninglessness can creep up over the cluttered rim, especially when you have to do too many stupid things alone. For this I could start to cry, for this is too much if it happens, the growing darkness, the miles before home, the lack of connection at this time.It is hard to sit here writing this morning because I went cross-country skiing for the first time yesterday, just by myself. I experimented with falling down a lot, and found that it is very difficult to get back up with skis on. If I had been very careful, I could probably have avoided falling down, but I learn like a child, as if falling down was easy, as if my youthful vitality was made for this abuse, not as if my bone density were declining. I feel now some bruises and sprains, or at least aches and pains. I was glad to be by myself to discover these things; I would not want to be left in the dust. My skiing has a story, sort of, and this is the end of it. I bought these skis, boots, and poles for $100, my mom paid me back and called it a Christmas present. It finally snowed this strangely warm winter, and I skied to the mail boxes at the end on my lane, and thought, "This could be fun."  It is an outdoors kind of activity that can be shared, or not. The beginning of my skiing story was a mirage, a hope of love and companionship that sprung up spontaneously like a vision of water in a desert that is not really there.  

See my hot air balloon collide with a tall building, the silk flattens as if melting down the side of the building, and our heroine climbs down the fire escape.

I've thought of selling this house. I don't want to, but perhaps it's the only way out of my debt and decline. I bought it as a camp and renovated it to be my year-round home, increasing the value quite a bit. I could pay off my debt and still have some money left to start over. It's just that I'm tired of starting over, and I don't know if I could ever get it this good again, and I need it to be this good. I need to have a place for my children and my parents to visit me. I've been here three years, finally establishing myself somewhere after losing everything in divorce, again. I've been searching for jobs, changing jobs, and trying to find something that really works, constantly for six years. I finally found teaching jobs on the island even though it is not full time, not enough money to live on. I've been living on credit cards. I could sell my house, pay off my debt, and convert my remaining funds into silver and gold, then write my will and check out.  I could use my remaining funds to join forces with my still very new boyfriend and make the same mistakes again. 
The unbearable truth is that there is no filler, no meaningless, matter-less moment we can have to ourselves that is not chalked up somewhere. It can be hard to breathe when you know this. If it is not I who runs my blood, and breathes my breath, then who? There is someone under the cloth of this reality, it is not only me. Without me, I go on breathing, walking, following my life. There is such a thing as making a choice, but people also pick their scabs not allowing them to heal.

It is not I who catches myself when I fall, but sometimes it is I who throws my self down. I'm trying to catch myself in the act. If I mock anything it is the process of everything. I mock it because I have some kind of issue with it. I feel certain, partly from memory, that everything should happen effortlessly, magically. I especially feel this as an artist. I feel I know, even though everyone says practice makes perfect and I myself have only experienced that there is no free lunch, that things can come fully formed and perfect, that this glorious beauty in all its manifold manifestations is ours to express at anytime. Yet I can't even play the clarinet.

I can listen to the clarinet. I can marvel at the whimsical changes in its voice. I can also watch a moonbeam dance; I see no reason why I cannot actually be that moonbeam, or play the clarinet.  If I can actually be a moon beam I do not see why I cannot play basketball in a most compelling way, but only occasionally, if I please. I don't see why one should have to train to be an athlete. I don't see why we have to have such crude processes for painting, writing, weaving, dancing, or surviving. I have this memory of everything happening magically from my brush: whole scenes would appear in one stroke, colors came from plain water. Why now have all the higher automatic processes been taken away from me? I am left with breathing, and the beating of my heart, and a few other automatic responses that come situationally. So I stop mid-blink and try to see just how the automatic, effortless, magical things happen. 

I also want to think about it, I want to understand my existence. It just seems like I am here to get imprinted, as if the memories of the world need fresh frontiers like me for storage space. Little bits of consciousness like myself have to break off, get washed, and remake the universe in their own little chip.  The process of life is to transfer information into fresh media spaces so that in this redundancy nothing is lost and all is remade.  Life is an opportunity to be part of creation by the way that one preserves and arranges impressions. Each person, all life, is the renewal and preservation of creation, making it what it is. 

My mission is "to be." This is a service to the godhead and myself. It is strange that we also have to survive and make a living and that we can't just make things happen with a snap of our fingers. That is very strange, but I guess my having been denied access to all that ready-made glory signifies a need to create access, to rebuild piece by piece what was once a flowing whole.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I try to contemplate it and get more out of it, but contemplation yields up no further treasure, weirdness itself being a little bit of a treasure.

After someone important dies you see their face around more often for a while. That is how I came to meditate on the face of Kurt Vonnegant who died in 2007. And reading magazines about writing, of course I come across his face. When I look at him I see my ex-husband. No one ever told me that Carl looked like the famous writer of Cat’s Cradle and all. How could they not have noticed. He looks exactly the same. Or I should say I see the same in them both. I search every inch of that face of Vonnegant and I see the same nose, mustache, mouth, eyes brows, the hair the shape of his head, everything the same as my old Carl and the expression too, the tired steadfastness.
I like Vonnegants writing, many people thought I should like Carl too. And of course I did at first. But I came to see things in his face that I did not like. I ascribed meanings of dread to the very resemblances I now see in the magazine picture of Vonnegant.
 So it is very weird for me to see that face and know that it is not Carl and the meanings I ascribe to those features and that expression can not be accurate for two different men. I very much doubt that Carl and Kurt were much alike at all. And how could I have grown so tired of one and not the other? Well it’s true that I never finished Cat’s Cradle. It’s a book everyone thought I would like. And I did enjoy many of his other books. I really don’t know why I began to tire when it came to Cat’s Cradle. I like the title.
All I can say is that there is a mysterious feeling about the faces of these two, Carl and Kurt, and yet there is no mystery there. The mystery is why, why do I think they look alike, the one person who should be able to recognize  the difference .

nap time

I Substitute at the College Street Children’s Center, I’m sort of a floater there.
 During naptime I somtimes write, draw, or read.

Today I was in the infant room for lunches, and next it was naptime in the older toddlers room. The older toddlers were just finishing their lunches. I helped them clean up assisting the three-year-olds with getting the lids back on their containers and putting them into their lunch boxes, then walking with them over to the refrigerator so they could “feed” the refrigerator their lunch boxes. Then I set about putting out nap mats while Kathy changed diapers.

Once the mats were out and the diapers were changed I sat, or mostly reclined between Elton and Sara, to help them sleep - I got up when they were somewhat settled to turn on the waterfall background sound, and to pull the curtains shut. Then I settled in-between them again. Elton asked me to sing hush little baby and I did for a while. He wiggled and wiggled and asked me to put his blanket on right. I did and told him that if he lay still his blanket wouldn’t get messed up and he laid still. I put my hand on his chest smoothing and patting a little then just keeping still. Sara on the other side of me, played with my shirt, putting her hands inside my sleeve and I decided this was all right. I remember when I was her age I liked my older sister, who slept above me in the bunk bed, to hang her hand down so I could play with her fingers till I fell asleep. She obliged me and it helped me sleep so I was sympathetic with Sara. I put my hand on her shoulder while she put her hands into my sleeve. Both of them fell to sleep rather quickly, Elton first then Sara. The whole room was asleep a half-hour after the nap mats went out.
Little squares of sun escaping from behind the curtains. Everyone was sleeping except Marsha (a college work-study student), and me.  She is reading, probably something for a class. Not sure what she is studying- something political, I think, and French. 
Sometimes a child moves or even cries out then I go over to them straighten their blankets and rub their back and they go back to sleep. They might not wake up till its time for me to leave at four.
Without thinking about the past or the future how can I expand upon the present moment? I was cold so got up to get a sweater. The music has stopped and now there is only the waterfall sound from the noisemaker. I like it better that way.
I can feel everyone is getting a little restless now, 3:30, a little more tossing and turning. Sara migrated off her nap mat and I had to put her back on. The children seem to know when there is no one sitting by them, as they get gradually more wakeful. Waking up is often a gradual process. Many times they will lie there and rest open eyed for a good while after they are done sleeping.
Charlie is waking now… I found his hat last time his mother came to pick him up and she was looking for it; when I spotted it she said I was awesome. I love using my sharp eye because when a compliment comes that way, I believe it.