Tuesday, May 31, 2005



Idée d’jour

To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.
— Chinese Proverb

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Path to You

I walk with my dark voice beside me.
I walk in the beautiful path
of my celestial name.
I walk in the deeps, beloved,
in the deeps of your dark eyes.

I sing the "ah" of morning.
I sing the clouds hovering
at street's end.
I sing hidden things, beloved,
hidden in the secret caverns of your hair.

The clouds drape my shoulders
like a thin grey blanket.
Tender grass rolls out to guide
my beautiful path.
You are my blanket, beloved,
you are my heart's blanket.

With my own shoes I walk.
I walk this beautiful path
with only my steps to guide me.
I am walking home to you, beloved,
I travel this path back to you.
According to Lakota tradion, one must have four things to be an "Indian": a name, a song, a robe/blanket, and moccasins (cf Goodhouse D, "A Long Time Ago, the White Buffalo Calf Woman - A Sacred Messenger - Came", First Peoples Theology Journal January 2005, 1, 3: 2-8)

What Romantic Poet Am I?

P. B. Shelley
You are Percy Bysshe Shelley! Famous for your dreamy abstraction and your quirky verse, you're the model "sensitive poet." A vegetarian socialist with great personal charm and a definite way with the love poem, you remain an idol for female readers. There are dozens of cute anecdotes about you, and I love you.
Which Major Romantic Poet Would You Be (if You Were a Major Romantic Poet)?
brought to you by Quizilla
Found this quiz through Ron Silliman, who I would have thought to be above such things. However, any guy who tolerates Jim Behrle's "Ron is Ron" series has to have a pretty good sense of humor.

As I mention in the comments on Ron's site, I was really hoping for William Blake or John Keats. Like most people, the only Shelley poem I remember is "Ozymandias". But, I'll read more this afternoon.
On an unrelated note, I encourage you to read the Thursday, May 26th entry at Nancy's Now you listen here. I especially encourage you to read the comments to that entry, and follow all the links contained therein.

If you feel moved to nominate one of my poems as the best, that's just gravy....

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Belated Cat

Click for larger image

Ms. Candide bemoaned the lack of a kitty picture on Friday, so I offer this "make good". It's not our beloved Julian, but surely could be her sister.

The cat's name was Poltergeist. She adopted my room-mate Dale and me sometime in the 80s. Dale named her Poltergeist because she jumped at shadows, and was quite skittish.

We let her come & go as she pleased, and she soon was in the family way. In fact, I think she's in the early stages here.

Shortly after the kittens were born, Dale got a scholarship to go to Germany, and I had to move to a smaller apartment which did not allow pets.

Dale took "Geist" and her children to a local rescue society, "Second Chance". I hated to say goodbye, but felt sure she and her mew of kits would find a good home.

Who knows? Julian may be a distant kin.

Check These Guys Out!

As I mentioned yesterday, Nancy has given her readers this assignment for today, May 29:
go through your own blogroll. In comments, link to someone whose blog you really like, but who doesn't seem to get the attention he/she deserve. Tell me why you like him/her.

Extra credit - in your own blog, give a shout out to that blogger who needs more traffic. Tell your readers what they're missing.
I'm most tempted to nominate myself, but that's not fair, is it?

A number of the entries on my blogroll are in the Salon community, which automatically means they get more traffic than I. Of those, Hail Dubyus! deserves more traffic. Gregorius is currently number 66 in the traffic report; I think he deserves to be in the top 25.

From outside the Salon universe, I nominate Augustine's Blog; her continuing series in which she interviews God is alone worth the price of admission.

Finally, someone who isn't yet on my blogroll, but deserves to be is Reverend Mother, who used to be part of the Salon community, but switched to Journalscape for economic reasons. She's obviously religious, but very much connected with the quotidian.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Today's Assignment

Nancy, at "Now You Listen Here" has gone to a family reunion. Lest her readers be left bereft, she left some very egalitarian assignments.

Yesterday's assignment was to nominate your favorite entry from your own blog. Among my most recent entries, I nominated "The Year of the Flood" and "Braisilerias No. 1".

Today's assignment was to nominate your favorite entry from those posted in Nancy's comments. There's only three competitors, so far.
  • Crystal nominated "Whispers in the Dark" and "Webcam Morons". The first is a charming slice-of-life; the latter concerns her experience as a webcam girl.
  • Mike nominated "The Scene", which imagines how Britney Spears' child will respond to certain pictures taken during the one-year wonder's career. He also nominated "The Survivor: Jersey City", a satire
  • Flat nominated what he calls a Sizemore Letter, which argues in favor of "Flat and Balanced" reporting instead of "Fair and Balanced".
At this hour, Flat's entry is my favorite.

Tomorrow's assignment: select someone from my blogroll who I believe is underappreciated, and use Nancy's comments to endorse that writer.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Pilgrimage Within

I want to go soon and live away by the pond, where I shall hear only the wind whispering among the reeds. It will be a success if I shall leave myself behind. - Henry David Thoreau
This Wednesday, I watched "A Thin Place: Iona and the Celtic Way" with John and Madelyn. We are going to co-facilitate a two-part forum based on this video, which is available through the Episcopal Media Center.

Iona is an Scottish island which many consider a "thin place", where earth and heaven meet. On this island is a monastery which was founded in the 600s by St Columba.

Any time spent with John is interesting. John is Pam's special friend; something like romance, but even more (as I understand it). Now, I've made no secret in this space that I'd like to be Pam's special friend (at least in the romantic sense). When I see John, I feel jealous. It's not green-eyed rage, and I pray there are no outward signs, but it's there.

John began to get on my nerves even before I recognized his special relationship with Pam. He's a hearty fellow well-met, who has never met a stranger. This may seem a good thing, and there are times I admire this quality. But it often feels phony. He's a salesman by trade, and sometimes his extroversion seems like a function of his trade.

John and I are very different people. We aren't precisely opposites, but we are different enough that I'm aware of it. Every time I'm in a position to work with him, I have to focus on the transaction or goal, rather than my feelings. It's not easy, and it's often a struggle.

So, when I see John, I'm reminded that I'm human.

The video is about 25 minutes long, but it packs in a lot of thought-provoking information (or reflections) on Celtic spirituality. It's narrated by Vivienne Hall and Danny Martin. At one point, Mr. Martin says that 'thin places' upset you, push you to a greater focus. "One doesn't go to a thin place for a Disneyland experience."

I immediately remembered a story Madelyn has shared about visiting Iona. She went with a group last summer. They went to the monastery. In the manner of many pilgrims before them, they went to the stone where tradition says St Columba stood to say goodbye to Ireland. The path to this stone is a fairly healthy climb. As one gets closer to the stone, one is confronted by midges.

Midges are similar to gnats, except they bite. They reportedly have a piercing bite.

There's certainly a humorous irony in the story of going to have this grand religious experience in a foreign land and being confronted by tiny biting insects.

Madelyn also said that she felt very much at home at Iona. But she also felt lonely. Others have reported a similar reaction.

What does Thoreau mean when he talks about leaving himself behind? We know that his experiment in the woods was not quite as severe as Walden might lead us to believe. Henry could go to Emerson's house about a mile down the road any time things got too tough. But going to his cabin in the woods did force Thoreau to confront himself in a new way.

The journey to the wilderness forces us to boil things to essentials. It forces us to confront the self, or personality, that we have constructed in order to "get by" in the world of commerce. We are given a space in which to consider whether that is who we really are, or even who we want to be. It gives us the opportunity to consider whether we will be imprisoned by others' rules and expectations.

"I must create my own system," said William Blake, "or be a slave to another man's"

The wilderness can focus our attention on whether our public personae is strong enough to face life's midges.

In the video, Danny Martin says, "The basic imperitive is to become yourself."

Perhaps we find our true self when we leave the public personae behind. Perhaps a light is shone on the false parts of ourselves - which is to say, the parts we don't like to acknowledge - when we find ourselves in uncomfortable places.

We don't have to go to Scotland to seek midges, or thin places. Sometimes the thin place is a close as the gentleman sitting on the sofa catty-corner to you.

Sometimes the thin place is as close as your own breath.

Thought for Memorial Day Weekend

Don't have one for the road, cause the road is already laid out!
— Flip Wilson

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Idée d’jour

No one is injured but by himself.
— Michel de Montaigne

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Idée d’jour

The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is "look under foot." You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.
— John Burroughs

Monday, May 23, 2005

Idée d’jour

Do not be afraid of the true dragon!
— Zen Saying (2005 Zen Calendar, Workman Press)

The Constitution on Trial

By David Van Os

This week the Radical Republicans will place the United States Constitution on trial. Chief Prosecutor Frist and his assistant prosecutors have been reading the indictment over the past week. The Constitution stands charged with the crime of establishing a government with checks and balances. A sub-count of the indictment accuses the old document of setting up a bicameral legislative branch in which the upper chamber sits as a deliberative body. In a remarkable new definition of due process of law, constructed uniquely for this case, Frist and his team will serve in the triple capacities of prosecution, jury, and judge.

Lead Defense Counsel Reid appears to be basing the defense on the "advice and consent" language of the Constitution. Assistant Defense Counsel Byrd in particular laid out a detailed explanation of the consistent interpretations of that clause over the 217 years of the republic's history.

The prosecution's strategy appears to be to sidestep the arguments of the defense by arguing for a new interpretation of the "advice and consent" clause. The new interpretation would hold that the "advice and consent" language makes it mandatory for the Senate to "consent" to the chief executive's lifetime judicial nominees. In particular, the prosecution team argues that higher powers command the new interpretation. When pressed for details, the prosecutors claim a special ability to receive and understand the commands of the higher powers, which the Senate must accept on faith.

If the Constitution is convicted of the charges, it is expected that the document will be reduced in rank to the status of a historical artifact, and the concept of checks and balances will suffer the death penalty. However, it is not expected that the Senate will be abolished at this time. Our sources indicate that it will be placed on indefinite probation. Sources further indicate that the two conditions of the indefinite probation will be (1) that the Senate relinquish its ancient but outdated claim that the Congress and the judiciary constitute separate branches of government co-equal to the executive branch; and (2) that the Senate join the chief executive in a declaration that religious law as interpreted by Pat Robertson and Randall Terry shall constitute the supreme law of the land. It is anticipated that the prosecutors will appoint a panel consisting of Osama bin Laden, Bandar Bush, Iranian mullahs, and Taliban leaders to supervise the Senate's compliance with the terms of probation.

Reid's strategy is to convince enough Senators to vote for acquittal on the grounds that no contemporary body possesses authority to overrule the Constitution by simple majority vote. Since Reid's theory has been accepted for the last 217 years, many observers are astonished that the indictment was not summarily dismissed. Such observers, while well intentioned, appear to be naïve about the Radical Republicans' zeal to reject certain theories of government that they consider to be quaint and unsound, such as those of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Both sides have been appealing for public sympathy. While the prosecution is calling for abolition of the Constitutional framework of checks and balances, the defense team and its allies are relying upon massive support from the citizenry to save the Constitution.

Mr Van Os is running for the office of Attorney General of the Republic of Texas. Brother Dave is his campaign committee chair.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Grandmother's House

Grandmother's House
Grandmother's House did not smell of chicken.
Her house only travels in memory.
It has run away from me,
the prodigal grandson.

Most Sundays after church
we would go to Queen Anne's buffeteria
and I would eat fried chicken.
I always had the drumstick
and mashed potatoes.
Small white hills topped with dark lakes.

Christ Methodist Church
Grandmother's House was not by any rivers,
nor at the edge of any woods.
It was made of brick and mortar.
It was three blocks from the ice cream parlor
where Grandfather and I would walk
most afternoons for single-dip vanilla
after playing Chinese Checkers.

The pock-marked star
was a mystical design.
We fell into it, young & old bound together
in silent contemplation.

This was mother's house too, house of her youth.
She was little girl lost amid
train tracks and china cups.

Did the little girl walk hand in hand
to the ice cream shop with her father?
Did the little girl
hide under afternoon tea tables?
Did the little girl sew fabric scraps
at the edge of the quilting bee?

I loan the little girl my memories
because she never shared her memories.
She never told me how it was that day -

just like that, her hair flamed into snakes,
Little girl lost saw them rising from her shadow,
and she was frightened.
In her confusion and grief,
she tried to eat her children.

I’m actually thinking of three houses:

The house where the lost little girl lived,
     which was protected by the mystic star;
Much later, it was the Gorgon's house,
     illumined by the dial of a rail road watch
     then magnified to ashes;
And then, the house reborn and rebuilt.
It runs from my memory.

Grandmother’s House runs east
on slender chicken legs.

Grandfather's railroad watch
held its own council in a bell jar
on the faux fireplace mantle.
It stood guard during my six month captivity,
when I was the Gorgon's captive.

I was lucky.
The boy next door, my long time playmate,
could not leave his fenced front yard.
Somehow we played Gunsmoke
through the fence.

The only way Grandmother could get me
to come in was to say
the Three Stooges were on.

The TV was on the west wall.
The faux fireplace was on the north wall.
There was a closet just off the living room,
on the east wall,
where all the toys were stored.
Where the little girl’s Shirley Temple tea set
was still stored,
along with the mystic Chinese checkers
and the dominoes
and other mysteries.

The next room east was the bedroom
where they kept the crib.
I studied the grey metal bars
and perceived the spirits
that watched over the house.
Now I grasp at those spirits.

Those spirits that ride Grandmother’s House
as it races the eastern wind.

The Gorgon who was once a lost little girl
did not like the dark mirror in her heart.

Grandmother’s glasses were a shield.
Grandmother’s smile was the helmet of honor.

The Gorgon once told me
that a dark prince had stolen the guardian watch
and burned down Grandmother’s House.
But the house still stands today.

Little girl was lost in the labyrinth she built
seeking her father’s love. She lost truth’s thread
as she was chasing her mother’s affection.
She lost her honor as her mirror grew darker.

I was wrong.
Grandmother’s House is not running from me.
It’s leading me to the next
mystic star, the next
magic mirror, the next
Golden Rectangle Doorway.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday's Cat

4 Views of DJ
Once again, I couldn't quite decide which was the best view. These are the four best out of the eight I snapped last night. Note that all were taken in natural light, so we get a better idea of the lady's eyes.

Abstract Friday

Click for larger image

This picture began life as a study of the rhythm of bricks, similar to the picture displayed on Wednesday (see below).

Are these things art? To a degree, that's for you, dear reader, to decide. They may leave you cold. You may wonder why I spin my wheels playing with Photoshop when I could be throwing words around in my Moleskine Journal.

What can I say? If I don't honor the muse, and follow where she leads, she might desert me.

The muse, like another famous feminine personification, blows where she wills.

Her humble servant is proud to follow.

What Twelve Are For

A friend told me this joke as we were finishing dinner last night.

It seems a father was walking through the drug store with his twelve-year old son, and they happend to pass the rack where the condoms were displayed. The boy, who was already curious about the topic of sex, asked what they were for.

The father knew the "facts of life" speech was coming soon, but the middle of the drug store was not the ideal place for it. He decided to keep it simple: "They're for when a man and a woman want to have safe sex."

The boy saw a package of three. "What are these for?"

"Those are for high school students. One for Friday, one for Saturday, and one for Sunday."

Then the boy saw a package of six: "What about these?"

"Those are for college students. Two for Friday, two for Saturday, and two for Sunday."

Finally, the boy saw a package of twelve. "Gosh, dad, what can these be for?"

"Those are for married couples," answered the father, "One for January, one for February....."

Idée d’jour

Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.
— Graham Greene, novelist and journalist (1904-1991)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Circle Game #5

Circle Game
In deference to the name I have given this obsessive series, I have hidden the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's song in the baroque backround of this image.

From where you sit, it undoubtably resembles irregular black lines in the background.

Back to the virtual pixel drawing board.....

Brasileiras No. I

I. Embolada
Stop light speaks
to the coffee stand.
Cars line toward dawn
and away from the pale cross.

She slips on her camisole
pulls on her dark slacks
kisses his cheek
where he lays on the pillow
as horns echo on the sidewalk.

The bodegas are opening.
Coins are tossing in
and the paper is tossed out.
The sky is a lake
where gulls sail.

He sees her standing
in the mirror.
Hears her sing to herself
as she counts the
strokes of her brush.

Traffic, orderly soldiers
waiting for the train
staying in their orderly ranks
even after the arms are raised.

She crosses the room
Kisses his cheek one more time:
He pulls her to him.
Will not let her go.
Inhales her hair.

It's their traditional morning dance.
She pulls him from the bed:
No one will be late to work.
No one will work
on an empty stomach today.

II. Modinha
Morning light
filters onto the diner table.
Hands clasped:
left hand to left hand,
right hand to right,
as they offer thanks.

Thanks for the morning
Thanks for the smiling eyes
Thanks for hands to hold
Thanks for the warmth through the night
Thanks for life shared and witnessed together
Thanks for the mystery.

III. Conversa
They walk from the diner,
past the patient cars
(and the impatient cars).
They walk to the corner,
the border where morning meets the day.
The checkpoint where she travels north
and he goes west.
Their footsteps shadow each other.
They are counterpoint walking to the subway.
They fugue across the distance
and through the morning miles.

How her fingers curl under her chin
like a sea shell
as she dreams of morning kisses.

How he remembers her reflection
standing in the mirror.

How they are sent on their way
by morning's embrace.
Written while listening to Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1

Idée d’jour

It is the intensity of the longing that does all the work.
— Kabir

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

These Three Things

New filler meme, picked up from Reverend Mother:

Three names you go by:
Hi, there!

Three screen names you've had:

Three physical things you like about yourself:
Sensitive eyes
Gentle hands
Graying beard

Three physical things you dislike about yourself:
Surgical scar
Funky toe nails (don't ask)
Balding pate

Three parts of your heritage:
Celtic (Scotch/Irish)
Germanic (probably)
Comanche (~64%)

Three things you are wearing right now:
Green shirt
Bolo tie (with desert scene)
James Avery Celtic Cross

Three favorite bands/musical artists:
Leonard Cohen
Small Potatoes
John McCutcheon
(these are subject to change)

The last three songs you listened to:
I went to a chamber music concert last night, but I can't remember the names of all the pieces. Two Bach cantatas, and three pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Also heard a bit of Bach's "Air on a G String" this morning, along with a portion of Bach's "Coffee Cantata".

Three things you want in a relationship:
Emotional/Physical Intimacy
Hot animal passion (I'm a guy, ok?)

Three physical things about the preferred sex that appeals to you:
Friendly face
Long soft hair

Three of your favorite hobbies:
Writing (includes blogging & surfing for ideas)

Three things you want to do really badly right now:
Take a walk
Find romance

Three things that scare you:
Wasps (well, I have a healthy respect for them)
The current administration

Three of your everyday essentials:
Down time

Three careers you have considered or are considering:
Computer support person
Freelance writer
Ordained clergy

Three places you want to go on vacation:
Denver, Colorado
New York (maybe en route to Ireland)

Three kids' names you like:

Three things you want to do before you die:
Visit Ireland
Publish a book
Win the lottery (the means of accomplishing the first two)

Three ways you are stereotypically a boy:
When I feel attacked, my gut instinct is to respond with physical violence
I have a beard
I have been known to spit on occasions

Three ways you are stereotypically a girl:
I can cry
I like pretty stuff
I have had my petty moments

Three celebrity crushes:
Sela Ward
Wynona Ryder
Julianne Moore

Three people I would like to see take this quiz:
Dr. Omed



Idée d’jour

Better a handful of quietness
Than both hands full with toil
And much chasing the wind.
— Ecclesiastes

Word up, Ron Silliman!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Year of the Flood

That was the year of the 34th street flood
when the creek overflowed
when Cousin Jenni put on her one-piece bathing suit
and swam across the street.

I was repeating first grade
and walking the curb to school
when I didn't say I was sick
so I could run wild
on the west side of Will Rogers' Park.

Dave was attending Taft,
and later would go to Classen.
You know, Classen is a magnet arts school now.
Dave was studying wrestling
and would come home to show me some moves;
I claimed he was beating me up.

I was such a brat, that year.
The year of the flood.

Dad was a hobby photographer
and would develop the film in the kitchen
late at night
when the moon was dark.
The house smelled awful.
I complained and held my nose,
and dad suggested I go to bed.
But I wanted to stay near him.

That was the year
John Glenn spun the world
I lay on my bunk bed
dreaming of peppermint.

That was the year after the divorce
That was some time
after my six month captivity.

I tried to sneak in after bed time
to catch forbidden TV:
Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone.

That was the year of the flood.
All years flow into that year.

I walked secret paths between houses
and across the slender bridge
to get to my cub scout meeting.

Misshapen soapbox derby car.

That year. The year of the flood.

Most afternoons after school
I would stay with the neighbor.
One afternoon, I came straight home.
Decided to make dad some coffee.
I couldn't get the top burners lit,
so I turned on the gas oven
and threw in a lit match.
It blew itself out.
My eyebrows were signed.
Blisters on my hands and arms.
I watched Dick Van Dyke as I was healing.

That year.
The year of the fated Dealey Plaza
the president has been shot
the world was never the same
my birthday was never the same.

That year, the year of the flood.

The year of fauve finger paints.
The year of Superman and the Lone Ranger.
The year of school yard taunts
and midnight haunts.

The year the creek that ran behind the houses on the north side of the street overflowed
and the waters came as high as our porch
and Cousin Jenni put on her one-piece bathing suit
and swam across the street.

House of the flood

Circle Game #4

Idée d’jour

A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you can call him a man?
How many seas must the white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
— Bob Dylan

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Idée d’jour

Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.
— Jeremy Bentham, jurist and philosopher (1748-1832)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Golden Girl, II

Click for larger image.

For those who are curious about such things, this is what "Abstract Friday" looked like before I got after it with Photoshop.

Let's see....the picture was a little dark, because I took it in natural light. The incandescent bulb had a lot of gold and blue in it. I used the "Auto adjust" tool, a got something that looked like an undeveloped negative.

I thought that was kinda cool, so I just kept playing from there.

There's several more shots of DJ taken this past Thursday (May 12) available at my Flickr page. If you haven't had you fill of felines, that is....

Circle Game #3

Circle Game #3
This is the third time I've posted an image like this. But who's counting?

I was recently reminded of this form at an art gallery. This is a practice in Zen art, where one tries to draw a simple circle as freely as possible. There is a name for this practice, but I can't remember what it is.

The idea is not the perfection of the circle, but the freedom of movement. After seeing three or four examples at the art gallery, I decided to try it in Photoshop. The challenge has been to find a way to imitate the "look" of a brush while preserving the freedom of movement. For the purpose of this exercise, it was not permitted to go over the figure several times in order to imitate the bristles of the brush.

I think I may be closing in on imitating the brush bristles. Takes a particular brush tool in Adobe and finessing some filters.

Interesting result, I think.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Abstract Friday

Contemplative Cat

Karen Armstead has a pair of well-written entries on her meditation practice; read this, then this. If you're in a special Internet looky-loo mode, follow all the links she gives. I myself have only scanned most of those links, but they seem thought-provoking and worth-while.

One of the points I get from Ms. Armstead's first post is that if a meditation practice is not working for you - if, for example, physical discomfort is making it impossible for you to meditate - then you should alter your practice. Ms. Armstead chooses situations where her back may be supported, which seems very wise to me (perhaps because I do the same).

Her second post responds to a haiku by Morgan which accuses Karen of being a typically self-centered American. I suppose I should say "seems to accuse," as a haiku is not a form conducive to intellectual argument. The implication only becomes clear only after one follows the two other links in the haiku.

As I have said before, I have - at best - a superficial understanding of Buddhism. What I know is from secondary sources (e.g., Alan Watts, Thomas Merton, etc.) or translations of Zen texts. My no doubt ill-informed impression is that there are almost as many "schools" of Buddhism as there are denominations in Christianity.

So, it's somewhat surprising to me that someone would claim there is a "right" method of meditation or zazen. Buddhism has no central authority that I am aware of; the Dalai Lama would have a good chuckle if we sought to treat him as some sort of Buddhist Pope. It's hard to imagine that sort of fundamentalism (as Karen calls it) or orthodoxy in Buddhism.

In fact, I've seen a number of quotes (again, in translation) which lead me to believe that the moment someone aims to practice zazen in the proper manner, one is already aiming in the wrong direction.

I described my own practice a couple of weeks ago, but I will repeat it now. I sit in my living room in a half-lotus position, with my back propped against the couch. I gently strike my Tibetan Singing Bowl, and set a handy timer for 5 minutes. I breath in, I breath out.

My mind wanders. I breathe in. I breathe out.

DJ walks on the couch behind, meowing in confusion.

I breathe in. I breathe out.

DJ sniffs my hands, which lay open on my knees. I breathe in. I breathe out.

Like Karen, I have set aside the same time of day to do my contemplation. I do it as soon as I get home (after I've changed to comfy clothes). I currently do this for five minutes, as I say, but my goal is to increase by a minute or so every week until I hit 10 - 15 minutes. This incremental increase system was recommended to me when I attended a seminar on breath prayer 20 years ago.

I don't perceive myself as doing Buddhist zazen. I am aiming for contemplative prayer. I suppose some would object to the "foreign" elements, such as the yoga posture or the singing bowl. These are not purely Christian.

Even the notion of "contemplative prayer" is foreign to some, although there are records of this practice in the Desert Fathers, as well as others in the early church.

I have no control over whether people are offended. I do this practice for myself, not for others. I am selective about whom I tell about my practice. So far, I have chosen wisely.

I cannot claim the same benefits that Karen mentions in connection with her meditation. But I have only maintained this discipline for a couple of weeks.

There has been one minor change. Like Karen, it has to do with my behavior in traffic. For the past couple of months, prior to the prayer discipline, I have been especially anxious and impatient in traffic. I don't shout, even in the comfort of my car, but I am aware of my impatience - sometimes literally drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.

Just Tuesday evening, the car in front of me was going a fraction under the speed limit. I could feel impatience rise up. And I thought to myself: "Here's an opportunity to practice patience."

Then I breathed in, and breathed out. Just as I would if I were sitting in contemplative prayer.

And I calmed down. If I had been wearing a blood pressure cough, I am sure the readings would have markedly decreased.

As with Buddhist meditation, one does not submit to the discipline of contemplative prayer with the goal of becoming a better person, or to achieve an ecstatic state, or even to attain nirvana. In contemplative prayer, to paraphrase The Cloud of Unknowing, the goal is to aim the heart to God as if it were an arrow. The goal, then is the Divine (however one Names it), not the ego-self.

Haiku d’jour

The temple bell stops
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.
— Basho

Idée d’jour

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.
— James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Amusing Anecdotes

Mary T- told this story last Saturday, at the Folk Music Club:
My cousin teaches first grade. For music appreciation, she sent students to a listening lab. On this day, the kids were listening to folk music. Two little boys came back shortly after they had gone to the lab.

She asked them why they came back so soon.

"Teacher, they used naughty words on that tape."

It had been a while since she had listened to the tape, and she couldn't remember any naughty words. Heck, the school board had approved the tape, so it was hard to imagine there was anything even mildly risque on the tape."

"What naughty words did they use?"

"They used the 'd' word and the 'f' word."

"You were right to stop listening and come tell me about it."

After class, she went to the listening lab to check on the tape.

The second song was "Old Dan Tucker".
Cheri told this story about her husband Roger.

They had recently bought an XM radio. The cables for the radio are quite pricey, at $30 a pop.

It seems one of their cats, Miss Kitty, had chewed through one cable, and Roger had to buy a new one.

The night the new cable came, Cheri came home and heard Roger talking to someone.

She found him in the study with the cat.

"Now, Miss Kitty, you mustn't chew through the cables," he was saying. His was even shaking his finger at him. Miss Kitty just looked at him.
I was serenading DJ this morning. I even wrote new words to an old song, just for her:

Oh, what a beautiful kitty!
Oh, what a beautiful kitty!
Oh, what a beautiful kitty!
There's twelve purrs to the kitty,
Ahah lay loo yuh!

There's three purrs when she eats,
Three purrs when she sleeps,
Three purrs when she plays,
Three purrs through the day.
Twelve purrs to the kitty,
Ahah lay loo yuh!

Three purrs when she naps,
Three purrs in my lap,
Three purrs through the night,
Three purrs, she's alright!
Twelve purrs to the kitty,
Ahah lay loo yuh!

Idée d’jour

The thing about Zen is that it pushes contradictions to their ultimate limit where one has to choose between madness and innocence. And Zen suggests that we may be driving toward one or the other on a cosmic scale. Driving toward them because, one way or the other, as madmen or innocents, we are already there.

It might be good to open our eyes and see.
— Thomas Merton

Koan d’jour

When a dog is chasing after you, whistle for him.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Last Taboo

What does the priest say on Ash Wednesday?

"Remember, o child of God, you came from dust and to dust you shall return."

There are three topics one is supposed to avoid at proper dinner parties – politics, sex, and religion.

There is a fourth, so taboo it is not even named.

We are mortal. We are going to die. One day we will no longer walk this earth in these fragile physical bodies.

After years of being obsessed with our bodies, with thinning hair and wrinkles and age spots, it will fade away. Back to dust.

The universe has conspired to remind me of my mortality lately. I have been less than amused by most of the reminders.

The first reminder came about two weeks ago, at work. Management wanted emergency contact information, in the event that we keel over at work. There was also some concern that we might have an emergency at home and not be able to call.

I only have a semblance of a relationship with one neighbor, Edgar, who lives immediately east of me. Edgar has lived in this neighborhood since the 40s, and undoubtedly intends to die here. He's a little nosy, so I'm reluctant to let him in my house. I believe my house-keeping skills (or lack thereof) are between me and my friends. Edgar is an acquaintance.

I don't currently have a girlfriend. My geographically closest living relative is not emotionally close.

The question not only reminded me of my mortality, it reminded me how alone I am.

Thanks. I was already feeling pretty lonely.

It almost became a major issue until I decided – screw it. I gave them the number of Brother Dave and my step-sister Dana. Dave lives in Texas hill country, and couldn't do much if I didn't answer my phone, but they didn't care. They just wanted the blanks filled. Dana lives about an hour and a half away, and wouldn't be able to do much more than Dave. But, again, they asked for two names and I gave them two names.

With any luck, I'll have my heart attack at work when I'm climbing the stairs. I don't suppose a health center campus is the worst place for it.

The following Sunday, there was a forum at church about DNRs and living wills and such. I had a choice about this one, but I chose to go. What the hell. I couldn't feel much more morose.

This Monday, I was asked how I wanted to have my great-great grandchildren to remember me. I don't have children. I can't predict the future, but "if these shadows remain unchanged", it's unlikely I will have children. So, the great-great question triggered that same loneliness response.

I got home after seeing that question. The coup de grace was waiting in my mailbox.

An application for AARP.

It came about six months early. But the application came with a flimsy temporary card with my name on it. Somehow, it made it official. I'm old.

You're OOOOOLLLLLDDDDD. You're alone and you're going to die alone.

Let's name that boogie man. Let's confront him and spit in his face.

Well, he's wrong to begin with. I have all kinds of friends. Folks who would miss me when I was gone.

They might even chip in to buy a stone with my preferred epitaph:
"He was a nice guy, and we kind of miss him."

Perhaps we are born alone and die alone. Perhaps we have a divine companion from first breath to the last, and beyond. These are matters of personal choice, philosophy, or faith.

I have a choice to listen to that boogie man who speaks woe in the dark chambers of my imagination. Or, I may choose to listen to the voice of love.

The voice of love speaks from within and without. This voice of love has spoken through a powerful cloud of witnesses, who speak from beyond eternity. It includes Gran, and Momom, and Padre, and even Wanda. It includes friends who greet me with laughter and care today.

It may even include you, who read these words, and offer your own words of encouragement.

Yes, I am mortal. Yes, this fragile frame will crumble into dust. One day, unless I change my mind, I will be buried between Grandpa Will and Padre.

But there's more to the story. I may not know the end for certain, but I intend to enjoy the journey.

Just because one is mindful of death does not mean one cannot celebrate life.

Idée d’jour

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
— Thomas Pynchon, writer (1937- )

Monday, May 09, 2005

Weekend Report

DJ woke me about 5:30 on Saturday morning. She actually let me sleep a little later than normal (by 15-30 minutes). Now, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering why I don't just close the door so she won't bother me in the night.

Those who have cats are probably aware that there is something about a locked door which offends the sensibility of the average feline. Closed doors, or inaccessible areas, simply do not enter into their philosophical system. DJ still strenuously objects to being shut out from the study when I ensconce myself in there to surf 'n' blog. She actually clawed a sizable hole in the carpet near the door. This is now covered by two doormats (long story there).

So: the probable consequence of my closing the door to my bedroom at night is piteous meowing and hearty excavation work. Oh, I imagine she would get used to it eventually, but I wouldn't get much sleep in the meantime. And, as proven by my experience with the study, she would still meow now and again - hoping, no doubt, to break my resolve or get new results.

Plus, if I locked her out, I would lose the warm pleasure of her company. She normally curls in the crook of my knees (I strive to sleep on my side). Normally, when she wakes me up, it's because she wants to be petted.

There are worse ways to wake up in the morning than to have warm furry reposed upon your chest, purring her way to dawn, as you gently stroke her head.

A trade off.

I had been so good last week, I decided to take myself out to breakfast. Jeff's Cafe is located around 30th and Classen, and is my spot for authentic greasy-spoon cooking. I've only eaten their breakfast, but I'm sure their other selections are equally acceptable. The price is right, and the food is palatable.

The restaurant used to be located on the corner of 23rd and Classen, and it was a classic greasy spoon, cracked naugahide seats and all. Since they've moved, they've almost gotten respectable. Well, the seats are new anyway.

Went back to the house and checked my e-mail, and generally surfed around. Hadn't rained much, so there wasn't a need to mow the lawn. My right shoulder still hurts from my last serious round of yard work, so I thought I could stand a week off.

About 8:30, I realized I could miss the crowd at the grocery store if I set right out. Pretty short shopping list - only one item different than normal: Polish Kielbasa.

That might stand a moment's explanation. Pot luck supper tonight. I have basically two home-made dishes I bring to pot lucks: chili or three-bean soup. Three bean soup requires kielbasa. Don't know why; that's just the way I've always made it. In a crock pot.

Took the groceries back home, read a little, and puttered around. Ten o'clock on the dot I went back out for more shopping. Health food store, to refill my water jug and to restock on locally made granola. Borders, to check for a translation of Chuang Tzu. Then, drive to thrift store Alexandria told me about.

This store is on the southeast corner of 23rd and Council. The name is something like Heart and Hand Thrift Shop. I gather it has some religious connection, because they have the Ten Commandments posted on one wall. They were having a sale - half-off on books, small electronics, and clothing. I bought two hard-backs - Lewis Thomas and Sharyn McCrumb- and three magazines for under five dollars.

Drove back home to dump all this stuff off and to remind DJ that I still exist.

Then, on an impulse, I drove to a local monastery - Red Plains in Piedmont, OK. Piedmont is less than 30 minutes west of my house, on the Northwest Expressway. I went primarily to have a quiet space in which to do some writing. Sometimes, even the public library has too many distractions.

As it turned out, it was a little distracting in the monastery as well; when the librarian wasn't visiting with me, she was doing house work with the tv on. But I pressed on. She gave me a really good resource on the area I've been studying, and I did get some productive verbal sketching accomplished.

I got there around 2:30, and they closed the library at 4:30. So, two hours worth of work. Back home to grab some dinner, then turn around again to attend the monthly OKC Traditional Music Association meeting.

Got there about 7:20, signed up for the open mic, and paid my yearly dues. An attractive blonde seemed to be hanging around the sign-in table. "Are you James?", she asked.

She came over and said she remembered me from Junior High School. Turns out I was a year ahead of her, and we rode the same bus.

It's rather astounding that she recognized me, considering that I was (obviously) clean-shaven back then, and had a bit more hair on my head.

She either has an excellent memory, or I made an impression on her for some reason all those years ago. Well, I was an "older" man.

You may think she was hitting on me. Honestly, I wondered at the time. My ego was really hoping she was hitting on me. Turns out, she's happily married with two children.

I performed John Lennon's "Imagine" and a song I picked up from Sing Out! magazine, "Day for Peace". Both were received very well.

The high point of the concert was when Calliope House performed. Calliope House is normally Kathi Dagg, Jacque Rapp, and two or three other people. This evening, for mother's day, the two women were joined by their children: Jacque's daughter Thea, who is pregnant, and Kathi's kids Matt and Loren. Loren played cello, and a new member of the group played fiddle. The combined strings, with two penny whistles, Kathi's bozouki, and Jacque's hammered dulcimer - oh, awesome!

Not much to report regarding Sunday. Spent much of the day recovering from Saturday (DJ and I took several naps together). I did have a very nice visit with Pam. We haven't chatted much in the last three or four months, and we agreed it was time for a catch-up dinner.

If you read the sparse comments that are posted here, you may recall that someone - who signed as "p" - commented that I would be more interesting to have dinner with than Michael Gross (whom some have said I resemble). Pam admitted that she was the one who left that comment.

When I asked about that comment, I mentioned that I might be less self-involved than Mr. Gross (due to the stereotype that all actors are self-involved). She just smiled and said, "Well...."

After all, I spend a great deal of time on this web-log, detailing in exhaustive length what I'm doing, what I'm thinking, and my opinions. What self-referential pot is calling the kettle self-involved?

The other Sunday event was my whimsical discision to cook the kielbasa on my cast iron hibachi. Remember the kielbasa, in a paragraph over half-way up? It would have been quicker to cook on the stove, but I chose to fire up some charcoal briquets and cook the kielbasa on the back stoop.

Took about an hour.

I sampled a couple of slices. Tasted pretty good. The beans have been cooking with the kielbasa since late last night, so they've picked up quite a bit of its flavor.


One last thing: Mother Nature was a big tease on Saturday. The whole day looked like the sky was going to open up with bigger buckets than Sam has experienced out in California. But narry a drop.

Just glaring clouds.

Now, clear blue sky.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870
by Julia Ward Howe
Arise then ... women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: "We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe our dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace ... each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
Julia Ward Howe's accomplishments did not end with the writing of her famous poem, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." As Julia became more famous, she was asked to speak publicly more often. Her husband became less adamant that she remain a private person, and while he never actively supported her further efforts, his resistance eased.

She saw some of the worst effects of the war -- not only the death and disease which killed and maimed the soldiers. She worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, and realized that the effects of the war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She also saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed the war, the restructuring of the economies of both North and South.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.

She failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace. Her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who had attempted starting in 1858 to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.

Anna Jarvis' daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, would of course have known of her mother's work, and the work of Julia Ward Howe. Much later, when her mother died, this second Anna Jarvis started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907 in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. And from there the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. Finally the holiday was declared officially by states beginning in 1912, and in 1914 the President, Woodrow Wilson, declared the first national Mother's Day.
The above came from the Progressive Voice e-mail list; orginal source unknown. Ms. Howe's proclamation is also quoted in Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac, which adds this note:
Julia Ward Howe was born May 27, 1819, in New York City. A paasionate defender of equal rights, she ... was the first woman elected to the Academy of Arts and Letters. This proclamation marked the day Howe organized to encourage mothers worldwide to rally for peace. Let's take Mother's Day back from the commercial interests that have hijacked it and restore its meaning as a day to celebrate peace. (p. 150, © 2004 by Eric Utne)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Idée d’jour

Don't play as if you've swallowed the metronome!
— Nadia Boulanger (2005 Zen Calendar, Workman Press)

Friday, May 06, 2005

On her favorite blanket

Click for larger image

The lady sweetly sleeps. It seems like a Pavolovian response. If I lie on the couch, she jumps up to join me. After a period of petting, she falls asleep.

Often this process actually begins with her kneading my torso. This was briefly the case last night.

My theory of Pavlovian response was put to the test last night. I lay down on the couch, but she did not join me. She was resting near by on the floor, but she did not jump up on the couch. However, once I pulled the blanket over me, she jumped up.

Is it possible she's responding to the blanket?

There's two more pictures from last night in my Flickr Photo Album.

Equal Time Friday

Sam, at feral, has suggested that our canine friends should have equal time. Sadly, I only have a couple of dog pictures to draw on. We remembered Happy the dauchshund a few weeks ago. Today, we turn our attention to a German shepherd.

Meet Frieda. We adopted Frieda in the mid 1970s, when I was in Junior High School. Her name means "Peace" in German. Some friends of ours adopted her brother, and named him Pax ("Peace" in Latin) .

Padre and I attended free dog training classes that same year, and we really did try to be consistent. Unfortunately, other things in the house started falling apart. Everyone in the family had troubles. Padre would lose his job in a couple of years; I was going through typical teen-age hormone stuff. Part of which was complicated by discovering my step-mother after she had attempted suicide, a story I have told in more detail before.

Plus, I was going through my teen-age rebellion, and my step-mother was the unfortunate focus of that rebellion.

The family was relatively neurotic, in other words, and Frieda picked up the neurosis. She was rather wild.

This picture was taken the summer before I went to college. I was working the graveyard shift at U-Totem, and had little to do with my afternoons. So, I decided to earnestly work with our wild child, applying what I could recall of the dog training I had attended a few years before.

She took to it like a charm. We would walk about half a mile every day, to a local park. I eventually trained her to heal, sit, and stay. Above, we see her in a very proper sit.

I've always thought Shepherds were attractive dogs. I'd like to believe I could train one today, and have been tempted to add a German Shepherd to the family.

Two things prevent me: my inner miser, and DJ's likely jealousy.
If you miss the obsessive weekly picture of Ms Julian, fear not. Images will be posted in Flickr later today.

Current Events

  1. Brother Dave sent me a link to what I believe to be the big news of the week. As you will see, this story did not run in an American paper, as one would suppose, but was front page news in Monday's London Times.

    In brief, the story discusses an memo given to Prime Minister Tony Blair by British Intelligence prior to the Iraq invasion which reports that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". This is something many on the left have been claiming since the beginning. Here, we have a hard piece of evidence.

    And what's the lead story this week? As Gregorious has noted, one could be excused for believing that the allegation that Paula Abdul slept with an American Idol contestant was the lead story.


  2. Our Supreme Commander has taken his snake oil show on the international road. First stop: Latvia. Now, why he would want to promote Privatizing Social Security in Europe is beyond me, except that he has been less than successful at home.

    What's that you say? He's gone to promote the benefits of democracy? Oh, my bad. However, given the way things are going here (death threats to both judges and the fillibuster) and in Iraq (with attacks every day), it would seem a hard sell.

    The cynic could be excused for believing the snake oil show is meant to distract the public from the fact that El Presidente has done little but pad the pockets of his rich friends since he obtained office in 2000. Except for the Iraqization of Iraq which, as noted, has been going just swimingly.

    Latvia, huh? Maybe he'll meet Dr. Doom. Everyone knows that "Latveria" is code for "Latvia". And that Dr. Doom is El Presidente's spiritual father.

  3. Kenny Baer, guest blogging at Talking Points Memo, reminded us that yesterday was Yom HaShoah , or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Sixty years ago this year, allied troops liberated the death camps, and the world came to learn the full extent of the Final Solution.

    Mr. Baer also provides a link to an editorial from the Jewish Anti-defamation League asking us not to trivilize the horror of that time by calling people we disagree with "Nazis" or by comparing "the Terri Schiavo case to a murder at Auschwitz" (as Pat Buchanan did).

    It's all to easy to take this tact. Draw the trapezoidal mustache on Mr. B--h or Karl Rove. Call abortion a modern holocaust. Just to pick examples from opposite sides of the political aisle, as they say. But to call someone a Nazi requires little thought. It takes a little more thought to draw parallels, and even more thought to explain why you disagree with a person or program on the merits, rather than making an ad hominem attack.

    I was unaware of this anniversary when I started reading Night by Elie Wiesel on Tuesday. This is an account of Mr. Wiesel's time in the concentration camp. It hasn't been a fun read, but it's been a good experience.

Haiku d’jour

A trout leaps;
clouds are moving
in the bed of the stream.
— Onitsura

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Behind the Curtain: “Archangel”

Now and again, I like to lift the curtain and talk about how a poem was constructed, where the ideas came from, and so on. If, like Sam, you prefer not to have poems explained in this fashion, you may want to skip this entry.

Today, I'm going to talk about "The Unacknowledged Archangel", which I posted a few days ago. You may scroll down to re-read it, or see a "postcard" version here (with collage by Dr. Omed). I want to look at this poem because two different people whose opinions I respect had a very positive response to it. In fact, both offered to publish it.

In addtion to the poem's publication on this space and in my postcard archive, it has also been published in Dr. Omed's Poetry Salon, and will be published in the Long Islander. And my question is, what made it so good?

Is that a legitimate question for an author to ask? Can't make lightening strike twice, and you never step in the same river. But — doesn't hurt to inquire.

Let's begin with inspiration. The first two lines came from a report which aired on NPR's All Things Considered on April 21st. It sounded like the reporter said "After he lost his face, he couldn't speak. And when he tried, few had the patience to try to listen." As you might imagine, that first sentence caught my attention. I had the feeling a poem was lurking under the surface.

Well, I carried that line with me for a day or so. Then I thought of other words that might sound like "face" — the obvious ones being "faith" and "fate". That's when I came up with the rhetorical device of stating a period of time, then some quality that was lost, then the consequences of that loss.

A little over a week ago, I decided I better write all this out before it got lost (up to this point I was just playing with lines in my head). I started writing the thing in my e-mail program (I often e-mail works in progress to an account I can access at work). I had a feeling structure of the poem would be quatrains, but I wasn't sure how to fill out all the lines. So I used x's as place-holders, thus:
After he lost his face,
he could not speak.
And when he tried,
few would listen.

When he lost his faith,
he could not sing.
His path was littered with ashes.

Soon, he lost his fate,
and he walked like a free man.
He breathed stars into the daytime
and xxxxxx
There it sat in my e-mail program for about a week. On Monday of this week, I decided it was time to fill in some of those blanks. I pulled it up and typed in some results for the losses in the second and third verses.

I was stuck on the final quatrain. I was so tempted to fall back on one of my common devices — something or someone would dance. But I felt like that's become a bit too predictable. So I quickly stole an image from Bertolucci's Little Buddha - "Each footstep, a lotus flower." If you have not seen the movie (recommended), there is a scene in which the infant Siddhartha goes walking, and flowers bloom where he has walked.

I wasn't sure that last line was satisfactory. In fact, it seemed almost as much of a place-holder as the x's. But I chose to e-mail it to Dr. Omed and George Wallace. Doing so seemed to require a title.

A few days after that report on NPR was another report about people in a homeless shelter or mental institution, one of whom claimed to be an "unacknowledged archangel". It seemed a good working title.

I kind of expected both of them to make suggestions for improvement. Instead, both asked to publish it, saying they really liked it, or that it was excellent. I figured that if it worked so well for them, there was no sense tinkering with it.

And here we are. Seems to me the rhetorical device I mention earlier helps hold the work together, as do the "a" rhymes in face, faith, and fate. The last two stanzas mirror each other: the light images of stars, daytime, and flowers are the reverse of the dark images of a coal mine and ashes. There may be a narrative stream here, or even a moral, but it is not overt.

And I'm not going to spoil it by suggesting what that stream or moral might be.

Idé d’jour

Each second is a universe of time.
— Henry Miller

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Idée d’jour

Never do evil;
Always do good;
Keep your mind pure —
Thus all the Buddhas taught.
— The Dhammapada

... live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as [brothers and sisters], be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Unacknowledged Archangel

After he lost his face,
he could not speak.
And when he tried,
few could listen.

When he lost his faith,
he could not sing.
His heart was a coal mine.
His path was littered with ashes.

Soon, he lost his fate,
and he walked like a free man.
He breathed stars into the daytime.
Each footstep, a lotus flower.

Beauty Tip d’jour

A fashion magazine asked the actress Audrey Hepburn for her beauty tips, and she wrote back:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you never walk alone.
If you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one
at the end of each of your arms.

[quoted in "Searching for the Heart of Compassion," Marc Ian
Barasch, Shambhala Sun, May 2005, p 48.]

Monday, May 02, 2005

My Suburban Saturday

I was awakened at 5:15 by my faithful furry alarm clock. DJ has yet to discern the subtle diffference between work day and weekend, and whether her food bowl is full or not, she expects that it should be attended to. She also likes to play at that hour. She'll bring one of her mice, drop it strategically onto one of my many "soft bits", and prepare herself for a nice round of catch.

Getting up at this hour presented some choices - to shower or not? Eat out or in? How soon shall I go out and mow?

Obviously, one answer affected all the others. If I was to eat out - even at my favorite greasy spoon - I'd feel more comfortable after a shower. However, I was planning to mow the lawn, and I wasn't wild about showering twice. But mowing wasn't going to happen until it was light - about 6:30ish.

Another factor which affected all this deliberation was the fact that the greasy spoon wouldn't open until 6:00, about 30 minutes away by this point. As I reflected on the situation, holding onto my money seemed the best choice. My hair was oily, as it often is in the morning, so I jumped in the shower just long enough to wash the oil out. This was my idea of a compromise on the whole showering controversy.

I had my typical repast of mixed cereals - mostly whole grains, unsweetened, with a bit of granola. I had fresh-brewed coffee, something I don't always treat myself to at home (even on the weekend). Then I settled in at the computer.

I edited and posted the pictures I mention below, then wrote that entry. I viewed Dr. Omed's collage book with great appreciation. By now, it was a little past 8:00. Although it was a bit chilly, and I was reluctant to go out, I was well aware that I would get warm once I started moving around.

I was wearing one of my heavy all-cotton shirts and a sort of hunting jacket/shirt which I had inherited years ago. Sure enough, by the time I had finished mowing the front yard, I didn't need that jacket any longer.

By the time I finished mowing the back yard, I was struck by an inspiration: edging. Trimming the hedges.

You have to understand that on the average Saturday my definition of "yard work" is limited to mowing the lawn. But I had the time and the inclination, so why not?

Out came the traditional implements of destruction - pruning shears, manual hedge trimmer, saw and weed whacker. I've often thought the modern version of the Grim Reaper should be pictured with a weed whacker (the traditional sickle having perhaps lost its impact).

As I was trimming the grass around the little window garden at the front of the house, I decided it was past time to try to dig up the dead bush at the west end of the garden. As it turned out, I lacked the tools for this project; but I made a good start.

I began all this around 8:30. When I sawed off the last branch in the back yard, it was 11:30.

I had somewhere to be by 2, so it was time to do some running. Well, shower first, obviously, then running.

ATM, to get cash for the week.

Thrift shop, to get a pair of jeans (and a novelty tie, as it turned out).

McCrapples, to get the semblance of sustenance.

At 2, I went to meet Alexandria at her place. We carpooled to see the Edmond Arts Festival. The festival was arranged down about four blocks worth of Broadway, which is a main drag in Edmond (it's also State Highway 77).

We had seen every thing we had energy for by 4:00 or so. As I said at the time, we'd seen everything at least once and a few things twice.

Alexandria had two treats: tasting some Oklahoma wine, and hearing Edgar Cruz. Edgar Cruz is a dynamic guitarist, whose style mixes classical, flamenco, and rock. One of his finest transciptions is Queen's "Bohemmian Rhapsody", and Alexandria got to hear him perform it.

We went back to her apartment afterwords. She puttered in her garden as I read a back issue of Parabola and visited with her cats, Shadow and Martin.

Martin, the living meatloaf. No, really, I'm serious. Picture that B. Kliban cartoon that compares a cat with a meatloaf, then picture a creature about one and a half times bigger, and you've got the picture.

I left Alexandria's house between 4:30 and 5, got home, and eased into my customary vegetative state.

Woke up Sunday morning with several muscle groups talking rather sternly to me, especially those around my shoulders.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Idée d’jour

Don't play what's there, play what's not there.
— Miles Davis

Miles, you da man!