Thursday, October 22, 2020

"While There's Still," by Chrystos

an edge to the parking lot

you can hear the orange gold

songs of autumn birds

bursting into dawn in an uneven

ragged line of untrimmed trees

You could

lean out

over the railing

which keeps you from it

& despite everything

breathe in the beauty

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Little laundry magic/musing on materialism


I read a novel this summer about English prisoners of war on a forced march through Malaysia during World War II, and right after reading a description of how the POWs' clothing was beginning to fall apart, I took a break to take my laundry out of the washing machine. And I felt such gratitude then for every piece of clothing. I took them out of the washing machine one by one and shook each piece out carefully, shaking out the wrinkles, shaking off any lint, and imbuing it with my grateful attention.

Often I look at my clothing in terms of do I like this item?/do I have too much clothing?/what clothing do I not have that I want? and it felt wonderful to instead appreciate the way each one accomplishes something needed. I have made this little ritual a habit now whenever I do laundry, because it just feels good.

In the last couple years I read something (I really wish I could remember where!) about how the way people in consumerist societies approach objects is not actually materialistic, because what we are obsessed with is the non-material qualities we think these objects will bring us - happiness, beauty, respite from worry, the respect or admiration of others, a better lifestyle, etc.

In fact, we tend to have very little appreciation for physical objects as such, for the materiality of a thing - how it feels to our senses, what it physically does for us, how long it will last, how we must care for it. The writer suggested that if we were all truly "materialists," as we are accused of being, we would have far healthier relationships with material objects. This struck me and really aligns with how I regard my possessions now - and even my physical self.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Books read in September 2020

1. Emperor Mage, by Tamora Pierce (1995)

 Reread from a favorite series of my childhood. I checked out this e-book from the library to cope with my sister's announcement that was moving out of state.

2. Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer (2008)

Yes, after finding the first three books in a Little Free Library, I went on Buy Nothing to purposefully track down this final book in this series. I have to say, her writing did get better as the series went along. And I had been prepared by watching the movies (Breaking Dawn Part One being particularly uncomfortable). But the lack of conflict/consequences (even ones that had been promised previously) was strange. Everything was very perfect for Bella and I wondered a lot about why none of the vampires - or as I prefer to call them, whampires - have jobs or serious passion projects, given their unlimited time and resources. And while I did not like Jacob's narration, the combination of mind-readers and future-readers added some plot interest to his sections in particular.

3. The Window: Poems, by Dahlia Ravikovitch, translated & edited by Chana Bloch & Ariel Bloch (1989)

 Her earlier poems were difficult for me to understand. I sort of liked some of the later ones. Honestly, I read this more because I like the translator (both her translation and her own poetry) than out of direct interest in the poet.

4. Left Neglected, by Lisa Genova (2011)

Well written and thoughtful but also quick. I read the first 100 or so pages in one evening. The main character's narration is interesting, funny, and very self-aware. This is the story of a high-powered working mother who comes out of a car wreck with a type of brain damage I'd never heard of before - Left Neglect, where the brain ignores most input from the left side of the body and the left field of vision. (As a nice touch, the author is also a neuroscience phD.) I really enjoyed what I learned about rehabilitation and disability from this.

5. The Realms of the Gods, by Tamora Pierce (1996)

Another one from that childhood favorite series. I don't like this one as much because it's the one where the almost-30-year-old man takes up with his 16-year-old student. Real question, did people think that was okay in 1996?

Friday, October 2, 2020

On my second sister moving away

a poem scribbled into a journal after saying goodbye, before falling asleep

Sister, I have the
two bottles of wine
intended for you as a gift -
you see I must
see you again
soon, if only to hand off
this wine that your coworker made
at home, with care, left
out on his porch for
me to pick up, a favor
for you on this your last
weekend of living nearby -
a weekend of boxes, travels,
steely resolve that you
will arrive!
- one long, long
day and a bit later, more than a
bit tireder, full of apprehension
and hope. I imagine your
dusty cars pulling into that faraway valley,
into that apartment complex where
$2400/month will now get you a three-bedroom.
When I see you next will the hug be as good as the one
I was supposed to get tonight?
Supplanted by an elbow bump to
close out our strangely distant
picnic, with our overly loud voices
trying to travel through these
masks and across the circle
of beach chairs. They say nine feet
for a witches' circle. I say, a circle of mountains
to keep my sisters safe. How will we remember
this time? I hope there's not too much
COVID there for people to be nice to you.
I hope your new neighbors aren't too nice
to wear masks. I will try to send you your first
real piece of mail there -
slim paper housewarming present
to break your Montana mailbox in.
Right now your moving-weekend crankiness
is fresh enough in my mind for me to
feel a little less sad about no more you
at my birthday dinners
. Good work,
if you planned that. I still
know your phone number by heart.
I've changed mine a few times since we all
got our first cell phones together in 2007,
 and I'm glad you never stopped
calling. I will try to send you your first
Montana mail. I will try to bring you these bottles of wine soon.