November 18th 2016

Thirty-two years ago today I got married. I was three weeks away from turning 35. My husband likes to joke that I had the date chosen when I proposed a few months earlier but that’s not quite the case. Here’s the way it played out:

We met in 1982, and I confess to having had that ‘this is the one’ feeling from the start. Old loves always keep a place in your heart—just play the song(s) you listened to when you were a teenager in love, or in your twenties and in love, and you know what I mean. But this love had something about it that spelled Let’s Stay Together.

So, a few months shy of the two-year marker in relationship I kind of suggest maybe it’s time we do something. He says, “you mean like get married?” I nod. Then I go into the bathroom and throw up. No joke. That would have been June. No hurry to set a date but I did want to get married in 1984. Do something life-affirming in a year forever marked as an ominous one. November (wedding) in New York had a nice ring to it.

A month and half ago my daughter proposeengagement-bells-fbs to her boyfriend, who puts the heartfelt and humorous touch to it all on Facebook.

Fortunately, instead of experiencing her mother’s OMG I-did-it anxiety, she gets a very special pair of shoes. He gets himself a wedding band from Tiffany. The engagement ring was a given, and I get the pleasure of delivering it when we’re all together for Thanksgiving. There’s a spirit to stones, and this one started out as a pendant my mother wore, then gave to me at a time when I was suffering. Now it gets to sparkle on my daughter’s hand in a time of joy. My mother is long gone, but I can feel her kvelling.

‘Sparkle’ is not a word that readily comes to mind these day. ‘Struggle’ would be more like it. To hear those two words juxtaposed against each other puts me in a poetic mindset.

When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me . . .

Actually it’s Pema Chodron I look to but we’re talking metaphor here. And if I can’t let it be, the least I can do is be with my struggles.

I struggle with even looking at news headlines. All those polls I’ve neurotically counted on during past election cycles! How could they get it so wrong this time around? Who needs explanations in hindsight? Why bother listening to the chatter of projections re: what to expect from the new administration? It’s the wise Buddhists who remind us there is only the moment, here and now. Things change, times change, often in the most unexpected ways. So why the delusion of thinking there’s reassurance in knowing what’s ahead?

I struggle with a sense of purpose gone awry when political/global anxieties fuel personal ones. So I hole myself up in the room I call my treehouse, watching Justin Timberlake in concert. Can’t say I’m a big fan, but he makes me smile, and he is a standout from those early boy groups my daughter and her friends were enthralled with, and this wonderful big TV has me going for the sight and sound spectacle it was meant for. Can I do this for the next four years?jt-on-tv

I struggle with groundlessness When Things Fall Apart, and look to the spirit of Pema Chodron’s guiding words re: being Comfortable with Uncertainty.

I struggle with what failure means, both on the personal front and the systemic one.

My reputation for being optimistic is not serving me well, even as I’m reminded this is no time to hide my head in the sand. Poetry is apparently going viral in the wake of deep disillusionment/shock/anger. Joshua Rothman tells readers How to Restore Your Faith in Democracy. Michael Moore gives us a Morning After To-Do List, Rebecca Solnit writes about How to Survive a Disaster, the Huffington Post offers up 18 Compassionate Poems to Help you Weather Uncertain Times, and the story that grips me most?

Death Valley Is Alive

I go back to Andrienne Rich, What Is Found There: “The impulse to enter, with other humans, through language, into the order and disorder of the world, is poetic at its root as surely as it is political at its root.” adrienne-rich

When do I stop moaning and groaning? Watching Samantha Bee helps a lot. Even Bill Maher, whom I avoided in the aftermath of the election, elicits a cynical smile. Then there’s SNL rising to the occasion, Kate McKinnon at the piano with a resonant Hallelujah to remind us of all that we lost last week, and Dave Chapelle to remind us of how much we’ve missed him.

Besides, don’t I have a wedding to plan? The wedding date is yet to be set, the venue not yet finalized but my daughter thinks the first dance with her husband might be to Hallelujah. Of course, I best her.

Go for Dance Me to the End of Love.

dbld-wedding-day

wedding-dance

Dispatches from the desert #2

In terms of memory banks (we’re not talking the tech variety here), I’m more than a millionaire. Make all the jokes you want about the aging process and slowing synapses, but when it comes to moments I know will demand recall with a smile, I’m the first to quip: “Put it in the memory bank.”

Case in point: Back in May I was lucky to get tickets to that monumental Coachella concert know as Desert Trip. Okay, luck is a relative concept (considering the price of tickets and the bots who take all the pleasure out of online ticket buying) but a line-up the likes of which is not likely to ever happen again got this rock ‘n’ roll heart very pumped up: Bob Dylan/The Rolling Stones, Neil Young/Paul McCartney, The Who/Roger Waters. Knowing I’d be sharing the experience with my daughter, her boyfriend (now fiancé), and a high school friend I hadn’t seen since we graduated heightened the anticipation.img_0004

In the wink of an eye, September rolls around and the buzz, turned down to a slow simmer during the intervening months, is back big-time: tickets arrive, this is really happening, will I need a fleece jacket for October nights in the desert?

So happens that on the very first night of Rosh Hashanah, just days before I would head out to California, my daughter and her boyfriend decide it’s time to commit to that next big relationship step. No rush re: planning a wedding, but the timing of their engagement makes my visit a gift on more levels than one.That vault in the memory bank I go to every September/October when those Days of Awe roll around now holds new treasures forever linked to a very particular pocket of time.

desert-trip-diningWe say it again and again—how quickly time moves!—and here I am, more than a week since my visit, organizing memories into a time piece, my head filled with desert dust still churning itself into a daily sound and light show: I’m tangled up in blue, or driving in my car/when a man comes on the radio, or asking, Tommy can you hear me? Don’t even get me started on that full moon rising or the eerie dark side of it. . . .

img_0014

Day #1: Bob Dylan comes onto the stage in darkness, and leaves in darkness, no communication (other than his brilliant music) with the audience. Who cares, really? It’s Dylan, and his singing voice will forever play second fiddle to that musical/literary thing we call Voice. Act #2, The Rolling Stones, rock it from the start, Mick Jagger promising no old age jokes, even as he says, “Welcome to the Palm Springs retirement home for aging English rockers.” Keith Richards makes a point of paying some homage to Dylan. And collectively they pay homage to the Beatles with a cover of “Come Together.” Not the first time I’ve seen The Stones, which makes me qualified to say that Mick still has the strut and the voice.

 

Day #2: Neil Young, with a fantastic band and voice suited to a moon in the desert, opens with “After the Gold Rush, “followed by “Heart of Gold.” neil-youngMaybe I do in fact die and go to heaven when he sings “Harvest Moon” but more to the point, he brings a subtle political tone to the show, with a teepee on stage and songs about Mother Earth and a not-so-subtle allusion to everything I’m here to forget: “Come back tomorrow night,” he says. “Roger is going to build a wall and make Mexico great again.” To admit that his set would be my favorite misses the point that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts in this historical musical event. To see/hear Sir Paul cast a nostalgic net with unsurpassed charm is a rueful reminder that you’re only as old as you feel—which makes today feel like an exuberant yesterday when Neil Young joins him for very hot rendition of “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”

sir-paul-and-neil

Day #3: Back in my college days, The Who did a run of Tommy for several days at the Fillmore East, one of the few concerts in my lifetime of concert going that I could not snag a ticket to. All of which makes it all the exciting to hear snippets from that extraordinary album, and more. The decibel level is noticeably higher when they get rolling, and, even if it’s a reach for Roger Daltrey to hit some of the notes in the group’s greatest hits, there’s a synergy between him and Pete Townsend that transcends the public acrimony between them. They know why they’re here, they acknowledge the fans who still come out for them after all these years, they pay tribute to the band members no longer with them. And they play their hearts out.

the-who

No small irony that the closer here tonight is a key player in another band I rue never having seen. The sensurround/Roger Waters experience begins even before he takes to the stage. There’s a rumbling, unidentifiable sound that has this East Coast girl thinking earthquake?—until the sound and light Pink Floyd experience takes hold and I’m transported to another planet.bob-dylan

Not an easy task, returning to earth, but the exciting news that Bob the troubadour is now Bob the Nobel Laureate goes a very long way toward helping me bring it all back home. Come on, Bob, your fans are all-forgiving, even amused, at your take-me-as-I-am onstage persona, but is it really possible that receiving the most prominent literature prize in the world leaves you speechless?paul-mccartneyroger-daltrey

Dispatches (soon to come) from the desert

Good things come in the most unexpected packages—

Two weeks ago my UPS delivery man hands me a package, no recognizable return address on the shipping label. I’m baffled, not that I don’t love a surprise.   But when that big brown truck barrels up my driveway, more often than not I can pretty much guess what’s in it for me. UPS tracking is a beautiful thing and I’d been alerted, via email, that something special was on its way.

Humor me, please. I’m a sucker for a great rock show, and when tickets went on sale in May for that mega Coachella festival in California known as Desert Trip, I managed to get ahead of the bots and scalpers. Anticipation tells me it’s a long, long time from May to September; yet somehow as the moment of arrival gets close it feels as if time has moved with the speed of a bullet train. Today those tickets would finally be in my hands and I can be forgiven for expecting a simple flat envelope with the passes inside. Clearly I was wrong.

img_4623-copy

A three-day festival featuring the Rolling Stones/Bob Dylan, Neil Young/Paul McCartney, Roger Waters/The Who is a big deal and I don’t care if they call it Boomer-Chella or Oldchella or just good old rock ‘n’ roll. But it’s clear, from even the delivery of the passes, that a lot of thought (possibly over-the-top) has gone into this.

I open the box, the passes and wristbands jump out. There’s more, though, and I lift the insert. Voilà—my very own ViewMaster, the pièce de resistance in a boxful of memorabilia before the event has even taken place.
img_4626-copy

Yes, it’s a carefully orchestrated/marketed event. But the spirit behind it counts for a lot. I was in Europe the summer of Woodstock, and even if the Desert Trip stars are in the twilight of their performing career or maybe because of it, you can count on some good old-fashioned dispatches from me.

In the meantime, there’s been the distraction of a presidential election that has gone from sublime to ridiculous to surreal and raised anxiety levels to new heights. Even at the worst moments I have managed to keep the faith that Hillary will prevail. That’s the realist, not the optimist in me, speaking. As we move into the final stretch, my own anxiety drops just a bit as I see a woman in a red suit handle herself with such aplomb before an audience of millions. There really is no contest here, and any sensible person sees it. But this country, alas, is clearly divided between the camps of sense and senselessness.

Awesome may be a word suited to rock concerts, but awe is world into itself, and to be in awe of the woman most likely to succeed as Madam President puts me in a good frame of mind for my upcoming trip—which just happens to come smack in the middle of the ten-day period known as Days of Awe in the Jewish calendar. There’s every reason to get a sense of grounding this time of year. For one thing, there’s that back-to-school mindset, so ingrained and so in tune with seasonal change. The air gets cool, leaves start to fall, a sense of hunkering down can’t help but take hold. Those of us brought up in reasonably traditional households have the added fact of the Jewish New Year. There’s this big, big book, we’re told, and in those ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, God is watching very closely, giving us every chance to reflect, repent, do good deeds before deciding what the next year will bring.

I do my best.

I honor my parents’ spirit by attending services, notably Tashlich (when we cast off sins) and Yizkor (when we honor the memory of loved ones no longer with us).

I take time to reflect on my life, a very blessed one indeed.

I channel my mother by cooking brisket, and more, for the friends and family who will come for dinner. Chopping onions is not the only thing that brings tears to my eyes.

And this year, I go to the desert, if not with ancestors, at least with kindred spirits—my daughter, her boyfriend, and to bring it full circle, a dear high school friend who happens to live in Palm Desert. We lost touch over the years, and since reconnecting via Facebook, we’ve made up for some lost time via texts, emails, phone conversations. And just the other day I get a surprise package from her via USPS, the goodies she’s been gathering, just a glimpse into all the things to do/places to see in that valley where I picture a sublime sunset setting the stage for pure satisfaction.

 

img_4647

 

 

Bliss

The first days of September invariably have me feeling a little blue. What is in fact a gradual diminishing of summer green hits sharply with the reminder that this is what leaves do before they disappear from trees. Within weeks they’ll start dropping with a fury as the glorious riot of red/orange/yellow takes hold and with it the reminder that the gift of autumn is in fact a dying.   These are the moments in-between, always the most unsettling until I give in to them, love the day for what it is without rueful thoughts of what is no more or anticipation of what’s still to come.

Easier said than done.

Everything in its time, even if it feels as if the things we want most seem to take forever.

This summer brought a break from routine, always a good thing even if it puts me a little out of sorts.

I read, and listened to, Pema Chodron, more and more a guiding light to a way of being I long for. When she sounds the note on what she calls ‘positive groundlessness,’ I consider the possibility that that there is no ease without fully surrendering to discomfort.

I learned to ease my grip on a kickboard so that I might experience some semblance of buoyancy as my body flounders with a little more fluency in a swimming pool.

I was lifted (possibly into the stratosphere) by Bruce Springsteen when he performed for nearly four hours at the Meadowlands. Not the first time I’ve seen him, but synchronicity was in the air for one more time. My daughter would be in for a visit, my best friend/concert buddy thought we needed to see him again. In his home state, to boot. And two days before my daughter’s birthday.

Which brings me to that thing called bliss, something I imagine as only possible when the noise—inside my head and outside—frees me of all distraction. Say the word to yourself, it slips through your teeth, unlike ‘blues,’ with its stickiness. That’s not to say it’s a momentary state, gone in flash. But without being fully present to the moment, there is no bliss.

I can readily go down the list of great concert moments in my life, alternately with my daughter and my friend, but the ties that bound bruce-blissus in an outdoor concert on a beautiful summer night made this one especially joyful. And even if I can’t pinpoint the moment it hit me, that higher level of joy I think of as bliss was made manifest in the expression on Springsteen’s face, thanks to those larger-than-life monitors.

“I’m always in search of something, in search of losing myself in the music,” he says in an interview in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair. There is no one who plays to his fans, for his fans, like Bruce. Who else would sing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” with a fan, in August?

And just when he had you thinking he was done, taking on the body posture of James Brown as he staggers from the stage, cape and all (this one of course embossed with “The Boss”), he was back.

If I had trouble containing myself when he sang “Sherry Darling” early in the set, I could have died and gone to heaven when he gave “Jersey Girl” pride of place as a second encore, ending the show with fireworks. More to the point, from start to finish—including my dear, dear friend figuring out the sanest parking scenario and my daughter the designated driver getting us there and back like a pro—it was as seamless a night as possible.

I have lots of reason to feel blessed, even if true bliss still feels like something a little out of reach. Maybe it comes in degrees. Or maybe, like every other concept that evolves with time, we need to take a second look at it. The other day my daughter sent a link to an article she said I had to read immediately. I was in the car, and I had to wait, and the wait was oh-so-worth it. If the headline—I’m an Adult Woman, and I Call My Mother Three Times a Day—had me smiling, the writer got me with, “The timeless truth is that I constantly call my mom because she’s my best friend.” I don’t know if that’s such a good thing but she’s right on when she says, “Unlike friends, moms are more open to venting, bragging, and utterly boring calls, too.”

Bliss? I get echoes of it when I listen to Todd Norian during a meditation.

And I envision its cousin, buoyancy, when I practice my kicks and strokes in the swimming pool.

Then I remind myself of that feeling we all share and Albert King sings about so well.

 

Nemo and Bambi and all the rest of us

If there’s a thread to my latest blog posts, I have nothing but that mysterious thing we call the unconscious to blame (maybe ‘credit’ is a better word than blame).

The other night I watched Finding Nemo, a refresher of sorts to get me ready for Finding Dory. Like all movies I’ve seen before, it’s the details I forgot, lines striking a fresh note, that ring out:

Fish are friends, not food.

When life gets you down, just keep swimming.

Ironic, indeed, since I recently decided to learn how to swim without feeling dead in the water. You would think that a woman with a longtime exercise regimen that has gone from running (including a marathon) to bicycling/walking/yoga (and now encompasses a combination of it all) would find herself a natural at this thing called swimming.

Doesn’t quite work that way. Sure, I have the endurance, but the coordination required to make staying afloat as pleasurable and seamless as it should be escapes me. Don’t even get me started on my fear of being in deep water. In my world (almost) everything is metaphor, and water has it all. Think about what it means to be in over your head. Buoyancy is never to be taken for granted. Fluidity? That’s just a start.

But thoughts take second place to the act here. I am, in astrological terms, a fire sign (Sagittarius) and even if I count on my other-worldly brother to keep me updated on how the stars are aligning for (or against) me in any given month, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to sense the power of water over fire. So it is with a mix of trepidation and pride that I take this plunge. There’s so much to be learned about myself, how can I help but keep a diary of my weekly lessons? In time, I’ll pull it together into a finely honed piece that has a ring to it: Learning to swim at 66. God is in the details, but I would hate to bore anyone with too many of them.

bambiToday on my morning walk, Bambi looked as if she wanted to run right up to me, but some uncertainty, not to mention the way she sensed Mama cautiously staring my way, stopped her in her tracks. They were both pretty close, and oh-so-trusting.   I would guess that the most threatening thing about me is the baseball cap I wear, a present from my daughter: Women who behave rarely make history.

If I feel a little like Nemo, lost in the ocean with his mismatched fins, I can forgive myself the facile analogy. His trial by water, coupled with Bambi’s trial by fire, has me viewing the darkness in Disney/Pixar in a new light.

How do we regain any sense of innocence lost when tragedy continues to bombard us? Nemo’s father does not even want to let him go to school in a movie that predates Sandy Hook by nine years.

Built into the classic hero’s journey are obstacles—how else does she/he learn and grow? But these days have me feeling we’re in a collective trial by fire, on the national and international front. I find myself thinking, a lot, about the brilliance and wit and pathos Frank Capra brought to movies with an undercurrent of troubled times. Meet John Doe is especially on my mind, what with a hero who runs from the media machinations and political connivance that created him, only to find he can’t run from the authentic, galvanizing movement he created.

If movies ostensibly for children strike a chord reminding me (us) that we have to find our own way in the world, could Meet John Doe, with its message of transcending despair, go a long way toward reminding us that we’re really not in this alone?

Everyone has an opinion/we all want to be heard.

A recent piece on Vox by Ezra Klein re: Hillary Clinton made it so clear that one of her strengths is LISTENING to people, and not, like her presumptive opponent, spouting and shooting from the hip. So here’s what I’m thinking: maybe we can shift the political conversation from the demoralizing, nauseating negativity dominating it by sharing talking points that speak to our favorite candidate’s strengths, not the other one’s weaknesses. I’ll begin right here/right now.

Speaking of women making history . . .Baseball cap

 

The Spirit of Place

Whenever I visit the Upper West Side of NYC and walk past the building I lived in for many years as a single woman and in the early years of my marriage, I imagine knocking on the door of my old apartment, being invited in, just for a look around. I would guess a lot has changed, but the essence of the space—the narrow, dark foyer into the main rooms, the tiny kitchen and bathroom—would be a reminder of all that’s ingrained in walls mottled by years of replastering and repainting.

Walls hold secrets. Memories are something we make. On our first family visit to Disney World (1992) we had more than one magic moment (and some annoying ones) in the Magic Kingdom. It was early December, my birthday, and my heart was admittedly a little heavy at leaving behind my mother, recently diagnosed with cancer. Logic (and a wise cousin) would tell me not to cancel tDisney Mama and Pooh Bear 1992he vacation. My mother was in good hands, barely at the beginning of radiation treatment, and my brother as attentive as a son could be. The tough times were still ahead. Disney World with a playful husband and a six-year-old would do wonders for my spirit.

Anyone who has ever been to a theme park knows the drill: the lines, the life-size characters greeting you, the food/the activities/the gift shops everywhere, each one too much temptation for a young child. The marketing wizards know what they’re doing and we the parents do our best not to give in to instant gratification. Oh, how she wanted to stop at every store we passed! Oh how she fussed (especially when fatigue got the best of her) when we pulled her along, and away from that Minnie doll in the window!

Oh how we still laugh at the instant change of expression on her face when she got her Minnie!

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

On another visit to Disney World, wisely orchestrated by my sister-in-law so that Sara and her cousins might have a memorable vacation together before they got too old to care, we would leave the fathers out of the equation. I could say that seeing Cirque du Soleil for the first time left the greatest of impressions. But, in the way that family lore defines itself, my nephew’s pouting over something of significance only to him and disappearing from our room for a spell is the story I like to tell, while he likes to tell about his aunt getting drunk (all I did was accidentally knock over a wine glass at dinner).Disney with Dylan and Jackie 2000

Those were the days when Orlando was still synonymous with innocence.

My daughter, grown up now, decided that the best Father’s Day present for a man who is very difficult to buy things for but who appreciates offbeat humor, would be sending him to see The Book of Mormon (with me, of course). I had already seen it back in 2012, with her, when it was an especially hot ticket. I loved everything about it—the irreverence of the story, the exhilarating music and choreography, the solos and ensemble numbers that glorify the very experience they have fun mocking. There were moments I anticipated, and moments I had, if not exactly forgotten, could not help but see in a completely different light.

There’s irony today—isn’t there?—in a song about a place not fabricated, like Las Vegas, but as much a symbol of fantasy and a kind of American dream. There’s laughter, too, the intended reaction, even as the first notes bring a lump to my throat.

Cocoa BeachSo happens my husband arranged a mini family vacation this past Memorial Day, Cocoa Beach, Florida. Orlando is the hub of air traffic. My daughter tried angling for a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even if we didn’t have places to go/people to see during our stay, the thought of being in a stream of family-packed cars on the parkway, not to mention the crowds and the lines at the theme park, was enough to scare us off.

 

 

And love is love is love . . . .

Sunday night, June 12th.  I tune in to the Tonys. 60 Minutes has already run a segment on Hamilton—one of the most extraordinary shows ever created/produced. I had the foresight to snag tickets (face value) when it had just moved from its hot Off-Broadway run to the Great White Way. There are not many shows I want to see more than once—Rent was one. Maybe I’ll be lucky with Hamilton when new blocks of tickets go on sale.

More to the point, the horrific news of the day had me in that unsettling place between grieving and craving more than run-of-the-mill weekend-to-weekday TV distraction. What could be better than to let myself be swept up in the theatre world’s night to salute itself? All those smiling faces masking crying clowns. Women dolled up in all their designer-dress glory. Men in black and grey and white, and all the subtle shades in-between.

The show, indeed, does go on, even if the script takes an appropriate detour here and there. James Corden, in his introductory remarks, said what had to be said in short, bittersweet terms.

And the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda, in accepting his award for best original score, brought me to tears with a sonnet that had to be pretty much spontaneously composed:

My wife’s the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one,
Our son is her most beautiful reprise
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love lasts long
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside,
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music love and pride

On another night, it would be easy for me to be glib: Fiddler on the Roof again? On this night, “Sunrise/Sunset” gets right to my heart.

On another night, I could be tempted to dismiss School of Rock as a “why bother?” theatre experience, the movie as classic Jack Black as it gets. On this night, Alex Brightman and those extraordinarily talented kids lift me.

Early in the day, I would get a text from my daughter, who lives in West Hollywood.

“Do you think it’s safe to go the parade?”

Not that she wouldn’t have gone, no matter what I said.Parade June 12 WeHo

Not that she didn’t admit, the day after, how scary it was to be there.

 

 

 

 

Empty nest

This morning I woke to an unfamiliar sound, the gentle beep of a new alarm clock. I’d finally replaced the bulky digital one on my night table. The shop owner promised the mechanism was quiet, no ticking.

I almost always wake around the same time every morning, no alarm necessary. It’s a funny thing about body clocks. More to the point, I was in the middle of a dream that had something do with a combination lock I couldn’t open. It took a few dream minutes to realize the lock I was trying to open really looked unfamiliar and had numbers rounded off in fives so that finding the precise combination was tricky indeed. That was my key to realizing I was trying to open the wrong lock. So I pulled out a different one from my bag.

Voila! Mystery solved although the greater mystery might be why I carried more than one lock in my gym bag. Isn’t there something so satisfying about the right-left-right of a combination lock, and the way it lets you know, by a certain feel, when you’ve hit the final digit?

I could analyze, connect the dots of the dream to aspects of my life, the distress of not being able to open a lock, the search for the right (winning?) combination as obvious a metaphor as it gets. The Zen master Bassui says, “It doesn’t matter how much you search for something in a dream, you will never find it.” I say: Don’t we all know when something isn’t quite right, if we’re truly listening?

Case in point: I originally planned a piece that begins like this:

‘These days I’m thinking a lot about curses. Mostly the superstitious kind though it’s no surprise to learn that the word itself is rooted in anger: Cursian (Old English, to swear profanely). A character in a story I’m working on becomes a little obsessed with the notion when a great-aunt from Italy comes to America to live with her family. Once this great-aunt (sister of the girl’s grandmother) enters the picture, there’s no explaining anything except in terms of a curse. If a girl is too tall, a boy too short, it’s a curse. The very arrival of the great-aunt herself years after her sister came to America is readily explained by a love affair, cursed from the start.’

That beginning would have taken me to the closest thing to a rant on what promises to be the ugliest presidential election ever, which (no glibness intended) has all the markings of a curse. The presumptive Republican candidate (I can’t say his name without feeling physically ill) riles people with the most undignified words anyone, running for president or not, should say. The presumptive Democratic candidate does her best to keep the conversation dignified. The rest of us watch, believe we’re listening even if what we hear is only what we wanted to hear in the first place.

What was wrong with that piece was the rant direction it took me on, not really my blogging style. Everyone has an opinion, yes, and everyone thinks that whomever he/she supports is going to save the day (never mind the planet).

No one is perfect. All politicians stretch the truth.

In the best of all possible mindsets, I’d ask for reason (and heart) to rule. In the reality-TV-driven mindset that threatens all sense and sensibility, it takes a village to stomp the anger (never mind the tears).

In the early days of the blogging bandwagon, there was an implicit sense of immediacy, giving voice to what’s going on in the world, shaping a personal vision. Favorite blogs of mine have spurred interesting conversations re: books/writing/spirit/politics/feminist issues. Some are on hiatus, others posting with less frequency at a time when, alas, we need those voices more than ever.

We need to reverse the curse. BIlogging overload, election burnout, a flimflam man emerging in ways that echo the actor who fooled everyone in the Eighties somehow combine to have me recalling (ironic as it seems) a cult book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, that promised a paradigm shift in consciousness, one that would make the world a better place. We all do our part, one by one, most often without fanfare. Here’s what I do: Any magazine, literary or otherwise, with a cover blurb/story about the presumptive Republican candidate gets tossed into the trash. Immediately. If I can’t fight the media forces that lifted the candidate no one thought would ever get this far but has gained strength from the no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity wave, I can make a statement of my own.
nest1

The nest in the joists under my kitchen deck has toppled over. Hard to know if a predator, or the wind and rain, got to it. There are no eggs anywhere around, though I have noticed a bird swooping under the deck. I like to think the eggs were not yet laid, even if it means all the building has to begin again.