Friday, December 31, 2010

Eight Ball

I consulted the inky eight ball,
fortune teller bobbing in dark blue liquid
like an old steel typewriter ball turning in an ocean.
I asked if the rubble-stone mill would be my new studio.
Nobody knows, it replied.
Plan B worked out better than we could have imagined,
a north studio and noisy neighbors,
just how I like it;
real urban living with a Walgreen's and Moonlight Wieners
on the corner.

Happy New Year

I'm an introvert and not a party gal, but I'll stay up to hear the neighbors in the yellow-brick tenement across the street come out onto their porches, as they do every year, and cheer at midnight. It's our little piece of New Orleans.

Visual Dissonance

When I see women (and men!) my age with dyed hair I experience a pang of visual dissonance. They are like the souped-up brightly repainted Datsun's in my neighborhood with the old engines. Pretty, but then I notice the odometer, the cough of the tired engine, the wrinkles on the forehead and texture of the skin that give it all away. Their faces would be charming and naturally beautiful if their silver hair was allowed to remain the color of angel wings.


I woke up in a sweat dreaming about the Styrofoam hat box that I filled with colorful ribbons and hand-painted barrettes and hair ties collected over the years when I was a child and my hair grew and grew. I was Rapunzel with a yellow-tiled bathroom and a hand-painted wooden vanity topped with an oval mirror. When I was twelve my mother decided to chop off my hair, and I cried in a bathtub of gray luke-warm water remembering all my drawings of girls with long hair. I was the hair stylist to all the characters I drew and all the paper dolls I made. I cried, realizing that from now on I couldn't draw girls with long hair. I felt like the only girl in 7th grade with short hair, looking like a middle-aged suburban lady.


At the end of each day in fifth grade I would walk with Pat Devlin and turn at her corner rather than go straight home. This was because there was a man near my house who paced in circles with a transistor radio held to his ear. I was terrified of him, afraid he would come after me for some reason. One day when we drove by I pointed him out to my mother. "He's just retarded, he won't hurt you," she said. But I didn't believe her. One day my class took a trip to Mystic Seaport, and just before we were supposed to hop back on the bus we were allowed to browse the gift shop. I was attracted to the small-necked bottles with little sailboats in them. I held one up to examine it closely, and was horrified when I saw the Radio Man across the room. I knew he was following me!

Mr. Brown was the psychologist on Central Ave in White Plains who my mother took me to every Wednesday afternoon. He would sit in his chair and smoke cigars and write things down in three different colored pens. One day he told me that he had been in touch with all of my elementary school teachers to find out what they thought about me. After that I imagined my teachers were sneaking around, following me all day long.

I always thought I was being followed by my father. He had divorced my mother when I was born and was remarried with a new family. I imagined that he must have been curious about who I was and how I was doing in school and what I looked like. Out walking our Scottish deerhound I would spot, for instance, a dark green Ford with square headlights. It would slowly roll by me as I walked. Then I'd run home and say, "I saw him again, it was Daddy Tom following me!" My mother would coolly suggest it was probably just a man surprised by the dog. "Try to remember the license plate," she would say. I still to this day am expert at scanning and memorizing license plates. Maybe the man in the green Ford really was slowing down to look at the dog, or maybe he was looking for a daughter he never knew.

Henri Matisse

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
-Henri Matisse

Tao Te Ching

True words are not beautiful
Beautiful words are not true
Good people do not quarrel
Quarrelsome people are not good
The wise are not learned
The learned are not wise

-Tao Te Ching

Bob Kaufman

Everything I planned came as a complete surprise
There were no intermissions so I walked out before the end.
They say my life is interesting, but I don't believe them.
-Bob Kaufman

My head is a bony guitar, strung with tongues, plucked by fingers & nails.
-Bob Kaufman

Junot Díaz

What we do might be done in solitude and with great desperation, but it tends to produce exactly the opposite. It tends to produce community and in many people hope and joy.
-Junot Díaz

Wild Parrots

We caught The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill on TV last night on WGBH Independent Lens.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Forget every touch and every sound that did not teach you how to dance.

Chris Abani

If writers and poets have any role, it is this one: to not limit in any way the ability of their imagination to engage the world.
-Chris Abani

What I've come to learn is that the world is never saved in grand messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft, almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion. In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.
-Chris Abani

You know, you can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror. But the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.
-Chris Abani

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cow Check

I just visited the cows and checked to see if there were any deliveries going on in the maternity barn. The cows were all lying down. One was breathing heavily with her hind quarters dilated. She looked like she was gonna pop out a calf at any minute, but instead she pooped! All the other cows were having their hay suppers, served by an orange tractor scoop. I went into the bakery and bought fresh milk and eggnog.

Common Bread

Check this out!

Albert Camus

Don't walk ahead of me, I might not follow. Don't walk behind me, I might not lead. Just walk beside me, and be my friend.
-Albert Camus

Dalai Lama

Even though your opponents appear to be harming you, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts.
-Dalai Lama


When someone violates me, crossing an emotional boundary, it's visceral and I am nauseous even at the mention of his or her name.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bare Pear

The little white lights strung around the bare pear tree looked like a large naked lady toweling off after her bath.

Peregrine Falcon

I just saw a big bird in the hemlock tree when I let Lily out in the big yard to pee. It looked almost like a red-tailed hawk but it was smaller. It was barrel-chested and had a flecked white chest. When it flew away I knew from its wing-span that it wasn't a hawk. I looked in my bird book. It was a Peregrine Falcon. This is a rodent-eating cosmopolitan bird. Lily was looking around and sniffing the air. Bill says she could smell that the bird had been here.

Monday, December 27, 2010


My birthday wish was to be in a good mood, knowing I have a fifty-fifty chance on any given day. I was lucky today, and I've been lucky all season, and all my life, really. At fifty I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. I had the most fun this Christmas that I've ever had. Everyone was in a good mood. We talked ourselves hoarse. The blizzard has been a lovely top-off treat.

The storm's wind was noisy last night but somehow we slept well. Bill said the storm's pressure was as low as a hurricane's. It makes you sleepy. This morning I went out into the drifted snow and played ball with Lily in our big yard. She was adorable wearing her red bandanna. She hopped like a bunny after the tennis ball and then dug like a terrier. If a ball gets too deep in the snow, it's harder for her to smell it, so I tried to keep my eyes on where the ball landed. She got better at fetching out of the snow, although we lost one ball.

Later I happily shoveled us out (front stairs and back stairs) but I may have to do the stairs to the big yard (for the oil man) and the sidewalks next. Bill took care of the car which was under a three foot drift.

Tonight it's supposed to be fifteen degrees! I am roasting turkey-apple-sage sausages our butcher made and Yukon gold potatoes. I'll make walnut brownies and maybe go skating, depending on the weather. It's nice to see the neighborhood kids playing in the snow. The snow turned our parking lot into a park!

Forbidden Anger

Anger is frightening, but to forbid anger is to leave out one of the primary colors, like allowing yellow and blue but no red. Anger was definitely forbidden in my childhood home, even though I witnessed my parents having bouts of the forbidden emotion all the time. They'd throw my sister around the room, her arms and legs flying everywhere, or my mother in a tantrum would smash dinner plates on the kitchen floor, then get in the car and screech off, driveway gravel flying. My step-father liked to yell, and once he kicked the wall and broke his toe. When I was a teen I would angrily slam a few doors and run out of the house. I wasn't allowed to be angry, though, so my mother would get in the big ugly brown Ford station wagon the size of a motor boat and chase me down. She'd pull up beside me as I ran along the road, throw the door open, and shout "Get in, get in the car, now!" I eventually realized it was much more effective to leave quietly, and that's exactly what I did, at age 17. I just walked out the door and closed it quietly behind me.

Ethnic Confetti

I remember being six years old and lying alone on top of my parent's king-sized bed, watching I Love Lucy on the TV. I was fascinated by Lucy and Ricky and their life, but I never paid attention to what they said, I just watched their faces. I would study their clothing and closely examine the details of their apartment. My step-father Tony had the same haircut as Ricky Ricardo. Tony also loved music, and would dance around the living room on Saturday afternoons in his suede sneakers while watering the plants. Of course I thought he was Cuban.

Later I learned that he was Italian, and then we were all Italian, eating lots of ravioli and lasagna and cannolis. My mother made espresso in a tiny steel pot with a compartment of finely ground, compacted coffee.

I also suspected I was Jewish. My grandparents, who lived on Brighton Beach, were clearly Jewish. They brought rye bread, potato knishes, and honey cakes from Brooklyn when they visited on Sundays. Whenever I visited them in the city, though, we ate at the local Chinese restaurant on "The Avenue." We weren't supposed to eat pork, but for reasons I still don't understand, it was OK at the Chinese restaurant. I sometimes dreamed about being Chinese.

I also loved the Dick Van Dyke Show on TV. My biological father Tom was a Jewish Dick Van Dyke. He was tall, handsome, klutzy, and had a radio voice. He worked in advertising. I imagined that his wives nagged him just like Laura nagged Rob on TV. In his second marriage, Tom and his wife became Presbyterian so they could adopt two kids. Tom's third wife was a New England Yankee who looked like a movie star. She also worked in advertising. I was a little afraid of her high heels, red lipstick, false eyelashes and sprayed hair. She wore sunglasses that squeezed her head to stay on her face. She and Tom abandoned religion and ethnicity to be modern New York suburbanites.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I was crabby, and realized that I had been neglecting to take my long daily walks. So I took Lily through the cemetery to watch the sky turn orange from the highest point. We played fetch at the Pothier monument. Then Lily got distracted, so I put the leash back on her and we walked all the way to the pond on Edgewater Drive. The ice was glowing white beyond the bare black trees. The lake had frozen in waves. Decorated Christmas trees were visible through windows from the street.

My pal Yvonne was sitting in the driver's seat of her little white car in front of her magenta lipstick-colored house. She has emphysema and is hooked up to her purse-sized oxygen tank, taking oxygen into her nose through a clear tube. She asked to pet Lily. I got close to the open car door and squatted down, holding Lily's collar so she wouldn't jump. Yvonne was upset about her neighbor's little yellow dog being tied up outside in the bitter cold. She said she worried so much about it she couldn't sleep at night. What should I do? Who do I call? I told her to write a letter to her local dog officer.

Lily and I continued on. I passed a family who had just opened their door to the pizza delivery man and caught a glimpse of their white artificial Christmas tree decorated with big colorful balls in a paneled room. Two steps later I picked myself up off the sidewalk. I had slipped on ice hidden under the snow. The rest of the way home I made sure to walk on the cleared black asphalt street.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

You will know love when the mind is very still and free from its search for gratification and escapes. First, the mind must come entirely to an end. Mind is the result of thought, and thought is merely a passage, a means to an end. When life is merely a passage to something, how can there be love? Love comes into being when the mind is naturally quiet, not made quiet, when it sees the false as false and the true as true. When the mind is quiet, then whatever happens is the action of love, it is not the action of knowledge. Knowledge is mere experience, and experience is not love. Experience cannot know love. Love comes into being when we understand the total process of ourselves, and the understanding of ourselves is the beginning of wisdom.
-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Awareness is from moment to moment, it is not the cumulative effect of selfprotective memories. Awareness is not determination nor is it the action of will. Awareness is the complete and unconditional surrender to what is, without rationalization, without the division of the observer and the observed. As awareness is non-accumulative, non-residual, it does not build up the self, positively or negatively.
-Jiddu Krishnamurti

Dog Love

A dog wags its tail with its heart.
-Martin Buxbaum

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.

All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog.
-Franz Kafka

People's dreams are made out of what they do all day. The same way a dog that runs after rabbits will dream of rabbits. It's what you do that makes your soul, not the other way around.
-Barbara Kingsolver

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.
-Milan Kundera

James Baldwin

It is very nearly impossible... to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.
-James Baldwin

It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
-James Baldwin

Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?
-James Baldwin

Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
-James Baldwin

Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.
-James Baldwin

All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.
-James Baldwin, Sonny's Blues

When you're writing you're trying to find out something which you don't know.
-James Baldwin

The writer's only real task: to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art.
-James Baldwin

Hatred is always self hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.
-James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.
-James Baldwin

To accept one’s past – one’s history – is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.
-James Baldwin

The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen ... Perhaps it can't be done without the poet, but it certainly can't be done without the people. The poet and the people get on generally very badly, and yet they need each other. The poet knows it sooner than the people do. The people usually know it after the poet is dead; but that's all right. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.
-James Baldwin

I prefer sinners and madmen, who can learn, who can change, who can teach-or people like myself, if I may say so, who are not afraid to eat a lobster alone as they take on their shoulders the monumental weight of thirty years.
-James Baldwin, Just Above My Head

Those kids aren't dumb. But the people who run these schools want to make sure they don't get smart: they are really teaching the kids to be slaves.
-James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk

There are too many things we do not wish to know about ourselves. People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior.
-James Baldwin

We are very cruelly trapped between what we would like to be and what we actually are. And we cannot possibly become what we would like to be until we are willing to ask ourselves just why the lives we lead on this continent are mainly so empty, so tame, and so ugly.
-James Baldwin

Marya Hornbacher

What I do is mostly ignore myself and proceed with the work.

James Baldwin

I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.
-James Baldwin

You know, it's not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.
-James Baldwin

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
-James Baldwin

Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.
-James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Passion is not friendly. It is arrogant, superbly contemptuous of all that is not itself, and, as the very definition of passion implies the impulse to freedom, it has a mighty intimidating power. It contains a challenge. It contains an unspeakable hope.
-James Baldwin

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
-James Baldwin

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.
-James Baldwin

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.
-James Baldwin

It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be.
-James Baldwin

In my case, I think my exile saved my life, for it inexorably confirmed something which Americans appear to have great difficulty accepting. Which is, simply, this: a man is not a man until he is able and willing to accept his own vision of the world, no matter how radically this vision departs from others.
-James Baldwin

There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.
-James Baldwin

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dylan Thomas

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

-Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas In Wales

Moving Violations

I'm reading John Hockenberry's memoir, Moving Violations.

Donald Harington

If you are destined to become a writer, you can't help it. If you can help it, you aren't destined to become a writer. The frustrations and disappointments, not even to mention the unspeakable loneliness, are too unbearable for anyone who doesn't have a deep sense of being unable to avoid writing.
-Donald Harington

Monday, December 20, 2010


Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.
-Christian Nevell Bovee

What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.
-Jewish Proverb

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.
-Albert Camus


Time to ignore sensible advice,
to untie the knots our culture

ties us with. Cut to the quick
Put cotton in both sentimental

ears. Go back to the reedbed.
Let the cane sugar rise again in you.

No rules or daily duties. Those
do not bring the peace of silence.


Robert Bly

Wallace Stevens says something like, "A poem should almost successfully escape the intellect." Only music can do that. So that if the poem has no genius in sound, the practical intellect will imprison it, so to speak, in a box and show it to visitors.
-Robert Bly

Then there is such a thing as chiming. Chiming means that tiny sounds chime with each other inside the line. It's a sort of interior rhyming that the writer does without alerting, or even telling, the reader.
-Robert Bly

Every breath taken in by the man
Who loves, and the woman who loves,
Goes to fill the water tank
Where the spirit horses drink.
-Robert Bly one writes alone: One needs a community.
-Robert Bly

Henry Maudsley

Grief that finds no vent in tears makes other organs weep.
-Henry Maudsley

Sandra Cisneros

Grandmothers used to collect stray buttons just in case they'd need to replace that button that had somehow wandered off from your party dress or your winter coat. You'd open a closet and there would be a stack of cookie tins and boxes and jars full of the most magical buttons, all colors and shapes and sizes, just waiting.

The process of writing is like making a garment, and I often find myself making buttons long before I know what the dress they go on will look like. This idea of writing without sequence, without worrying what it is I've got or where I'm going, gives me freedom to just write, to collect strange ideas, funny images, clips of conversations, the most haunting and passionate memories, and get them down in words just in case I'll need them later. Sometimes a poem or a story will need something, I don't know what, to hold it together, so I'll hunt through my button box for something that calls out, "Here I am!" Sometimes a button waits a long, long time before it finds its place.

Grandmothers know: Never throw anything away. It might be just what you need someday.

-Sandra Cisneros

Lunar Eclipse

The moon will put on a three-hour show early Tuesday, slowly disappearing, turning copper red, and reappearing.

It is red because the light from the sun is being refracted through the Earth's atmosphere.

Lunar eclipses occur when Earth's shadow crosses the moon. The outer shadow is called the penumbra, and the dark, inner shadow is called the umbra.

Some ancient civilizations believed a lunar eclipse meant a dragon was in the sky, eating the moon and flooding the sky with its blood, while other civilizations banged pots and pans until the moon simply reappeared.

-Beccy Tanner, Witchita Eagle

See simulation on wikipedia

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

Kevin Spacey

My favorite sound in the theater is silence.

-Kevin Spacey, Bob Edwards radio interview


Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world.

Fatemeh Keshavarz

If you don't plow the earth, it's going to get so hard nothing grows in it. You just plow the earth of yourself. You just get moving. And even don't ask exactly what's going to happen. You allow yourself to move around, and then you will see the benefit.
-Fatemeh Keshavarz

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Captain Beefheart

If you want to be a different fish, you gotta jump out of the school.

I don’t like getting out when I could be painting, and when I’m painting, I don’t want anybody else around.

I don't want to sell my music. I'd like to give it away because where I got it, you didn't have to pay for it.

Van Gogh made paintings so beautiful, that when I got out of the museum, I said: ‘The sun disappoints me.’

-Mr. Van Vliet "Captain Beefheart"

Friday, December 17, 2010

William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
-William Blake

Thelonious Monk

I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public want — you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing — even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.
-Thelonious Monk

I don’t know where jazz is going. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.
-Thelonious Monk

The inside of the tune is the part that makes the outside sound good.
-Thelonious Monk

Don’t play everything; let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important that what you do.
-Thelonious Monk

A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
-Thelonious Monk

Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.
-Thelonious Monk

When you’re swinging, swing some more.
-Thelonious Monk

What should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!
-Thelonious Monk

Always leave them wanting more.
-Thelonious Monk

Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene. These pieces were written so as to have something to play and get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
-Thelonious Monk

To a drummer who didn’t want to solo.
You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it!
-Thelonious Monk

Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
-Thelonious Monk


The earth laughs in flowers.
-E. E. Cummings

E. E. Cummings

To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.
-E. E. Cummings

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
-E. E. Cummings

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
-E. E. Cummings

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches.
If suffering alone taught, all the world
would be wise, since everyone suffers.
To suffering must be added mourning,
understanding, patience, love, openness,
and a willingness to remain vulnerable.
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Lao Tzu + Franz Kafka

Stop leaving and you will arrive.
Stop searching and you will see.
Stop running away and you will be found.
-Lao Tzu

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
-Franz Kafka

Joseph Campbell

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.
-Joseph Campbell

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
-Joseph Campbell

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
-Joseph Campbell

The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
-Joseph Campbell

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oscar Hammerstein

Who can explain it? Who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons; Wise men never try.
-Oscar Hammerstein

It's a very ancient saying, But a true and honest thought, That if you become a teacher, By your pupils you'll be taught.
-Oscar Hammerstein

Henry Moore

To be an artist is to believe in life.
-Henry Moore

There are universal shapes to which everyone is subconsciously conditioned and to which they can respond if their conscious control does not shut them off.
-Henry Moore

The work of art with what might be called prophetic vision is doing more for art than the public authority that plays for safety and gives the public what the public does not object to.
-Henry Moore

There's no retirement for an artist, it's your way of living so there's no end to it.
-Henry Moore

All art should have a certain mystery and should make demands on the spectator. Giving a sculpture or a drawing too explicit a title takes away part of that mystery so that the spectator moves on to the next object, making no effort to ponder the meaning of what he has just seen. Everyone thinks that he or she looks but they don't really, you know.
-Henry Moore

I've always loved drawings.. when you draw you look much more intensely at something.
-Henry Moore

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Home is the nicest word there is.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Once you begin being naughty, it is easier to go on and on, and sooner or later something dreadful happens.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That's a gift that you have received from God. Don't waste it.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they're organized for.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Noël Coward

It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
-Noël Coward

We have no reliable guarantee that the afterlife will be any less exasperating than this one, have we?
-Noël Coward

Wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar; never spread it about like marmalade.
-Noël Coward

I have a memory like an elephant. In fact, elephants often consult me.
-Noël Coward

Work is much more fun than fun.
-Noël Coward

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lines For Winter

by Mark Strand

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself --
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

-Mark Strand


There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.
-Andre Gide

The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.
-Henry Louis Mencken

There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.
-George S. Patton

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
-Bertrand Russell

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
-Mark Twain

The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead.
-Albert Einstein

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.
-Albert Einstein

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.
-Fulton Oursler

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
-Mark Strand, "Eating Poetry," Reasons for Moving

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Hide Himself From Himself

If you've a notion of what man's heart is, wouldn't you say that maybe the whole effort of man on earth to build a civilization is simply man's frantic and frightened attempt to hide himself from himself?
-Richard Wright

The man who can articulate the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but he is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering.
-Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

He Listens

The poet doesn't invent. He listens.
-Jean Cocteau

Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things.
-Robert Frost

Poetry, like the moon, does not advertise anything.
-William Blissett

A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
-Jean Cocteau

The poet, as everyone knows, must strike his individual note sometime between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. He may hold it a long time, or a short time, but it is then that he must strike it or never. School and college have been conducted with the almost express purpose of keeping him busy with something else till the danger of his ever creating anything is past.
-Robert Frost

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thirty Years Ago

Thirty years ago I got a phone call in the night waking me up. My boyfriend had called from North Carolina to tell me that John Lennon had been shot.

I lived on Jewett Street, on Smith Hill in Providence. I got up at four every morning and walked to work in the dark. I was a waitress at Pete's Place, a diner on Smith Street. I had noticed that the regular customers' faces looked like what they ate every morning, which was my secret to remembering their orders. Mr Cheerios had a round face, with rough pasty skin and a dark nose. Ms Dry Italian Toast on the Side had high cheekbones, lightly flushed. The Sunny Side Up Couple arrived daily, parking their pale blue Volkswagen bug out front, then sitting opposite each other at the middle table, laughing and smiling.


I always wear a white kitchen apron. It's my shield, to cover my abdomen and protect my fragile intuitive gut. I wear it like a pinafore when I'm out in public, walking the dog, running chores. People just think I am baking or working, which is usually true.

When my Grandfather Died

For me the world stopped when my grandfather died, so I was surprised when I looked out the window of my little Oakland Ave third-floor triple-decker apartment and saw the Smith Street bus running by. I had imagined the busses would stop too. Grandpa was the first person who really loved me. He loved my blue eyes and bright round fair-skinned face. He loved that I loved science and words and his magic tricks, and that I looked just like him. He loved that I sniffed everything before tasting, and that I rubbed my nose with the palm of my hand when it itched, just like he did. I was his beloved grand-daughter, his only blue-eyed son, his identical twin. I was his twin even though I was a petite, slender, shy little girl and he was a short, round, vain, tanned, loud, gregarious smoker of cigars.


My step-father drank coffee from a gigantic shiny percolator. The pot would sit between us at the breakfast table, and I would stare into its stainless-steel fun-house mirror. I loved the distortions of my reflected face and fingers, the breakfast dishes and tableware. My fingers were elongated when vertical and stubby when horizontal. It was never-ending fun.

One day I visited my biological father and his new wife and their two newly adopted children in Hartsdale NY. He and I were sitting in the sun in the backyard of his new house. For some reason he was trying to explain reincarnation to me. I was seven. My first thought was that after I die I wanted to come back as a coffee pot, identical to the one my step-father drank from every morning.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Phoebe Martone

Allowing people to just be who they are, delight in them and not try to possess them, seems to be difficult for most. I'm not sure why.

-Phoebe Martone

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Groaning Shelves

Groaning shelves of books produce the wonderful side effects of deadening all sound and scenting the air with the drowsy, musty perfume of old wood pulp - intangible features of the world we are losing.
-Gregory Dicum, NYT, A Book Lover's San Francisco

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Everything is an Image

Tuesdays are yellow and Saturdays are brown and wide.

Fridays have always been dark red, and narrower than Saturdays.

Joan Baez's singing is a maroon corridor.

Red wine tastes like a dusty couch in the sunlight.

People's voices on the telephone inspire imagery during a conversation. I see the color scheme of a kitchen, or the details of a hallway. Sometimes I'm right!

English is my second language, imagery my first.

Being Seven

Grandma Sophie and I rode in the front car of the subway from Brighton Beach to Manhattan. I stood to view the tracks as the car sped forward while swaying gently left to right. I pressed my nose against the sooty double-paned glass window in the shiny metal door while watching the tracks. I glanced into the little window of the conductor's booth, saw his navy-blue-suited shoulders and the back rim of his matching cap. I was relieved that he didn't turn to see me - faces suddenly appearing in windows always scared me.

We arrived underground, a white tile hallway of infinite corridors. We walked up to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas show. The line of chorus girls moving in unison mesmerized me. When the movie started I was completely distracted, worrying about leaving my purse or sweater behind in the theater and getting scolded by my mother. So I clutched my purse strap and sweater tightly. I was bored with the movie. I asked Grandma if I could sit outside. She said yes. She was completely engrossed in The Love Bug. I sat on the red carpet stairs in the lobby, waiting until the film was over.

Friday, December 03, 2010

These I would Praise

by Daniel Asa Rose

Reprinted with permission from the author.
First published in, summer, 2009.

If I were locked in tornado winds 100 feet above my death; or no, if I were trapped in earthquake rubble 40 feet beneath the sunlight; or wait, if I were just pinned to an ordinary deathbed -- for these endings happen, too, even more frequently than the others -- I pray that I would have the grace to think back over my life and quietly count the everyday blessings that had been bestowed upon me. In tribute to the poet Rupert Brooke, who counted +his+ in the deathless poem “The Great Lover,” these I would praise:

- the slightly mad, utterly humorless gaze of a cockeyed goat who knows me solely as an instrument for bringing him hay

- clumps of leftover ice melting on green grass after a garden party

- how 10-year-old boys wear suit jackets begrudgingly, half shirking them off their shoulders, like ponies resisting saddles

- optometrists who straighten your glasses for free, or screw a loose arm back on for free, always saying “that’s ok, no need for any of that”

- the sound of a soap bar hitting the tub floor – such a sly thud!

- when the air temperature out of doors is the same as air temp in, suspending you in the most exquisite equipoise, like a diver’s neutral buoyancy, afloat in the best of both worlds; and making me think, rightly or wrongly, that there is a corresponding balance between the outside and inside of my body, that what’s mine is yours, yours mine, and it’s all just air to share

- faulty drums in a high school marching band

- looking out the back window of a train when it’s hurtling, or forward through the front of a speeding subway

- people mumbling to themselves on the phone: "now let's see, what'd I do with --"

- the filigree trail of a ladybug’s path in the steam of a bathroom window

- how strangers say “good morning” instead of just “hello.” How middle English!

- how strangers use any excuse to bond on the most commonplace things. “You like the Beatles more than the Rolling Stones? Me, too! I can’t believe it!”

- high school punks pretending to despise their afternoon jobs bagging at the local supermarket, but when you ask them where the water chestnuts are, they jump to despite themselves, smartly responding, “Sure thing. It’s in aisle 12, halfway down on the bottom of the left side”

- actors' holy spittle

- the miraculous overabundance of paraphernalia at a large sports department store. You mean we can play with all this?

- giving a 7-week-old his first bottle at 1:30 a.m. and seeing his eyes open wide with insight when the warm milk floods his mouth

- the sound of a dog lapping water

- when talking to a person at dinner and that person says "Uh huh" just as she's about to drink so you hear the "uh huh" inside her glass

- being called “hon” by shop girls of any age, any class, the homelier the better. Or a workman calling me “Danny.” Or a train conductor being chummy for no reason

- the historical fact that in the year 1763 a man who had been committed to an asylum for praying non-stop wrote hundreds of pages in which he attempted to praise God for every single aspect of his life, including the creation of his cat, Jeoffry, “for by stroking of him I have found out electricity”

- truck grills painted to resemble the jaws of a barracuda or other monster gaping fish

- the sight of an airplane banking in the evening sky. Or from an airplane, the miraculous flood of children being released from an elementary school

- the sound of a room service cart being wheeled down a hotel corridor, ringing with the juice glasses of pineapple and guava

- contemplating a wrench! What a heroic invention!

- fetching a newspaper on the late morning driveway, coming out of its plastic sheathing warmed by the sun; or getting a piece of paper out of the copy machine still warm from its innards; or beginning an afternoon nap, like crawling inside a warm chrysalis

- the sound of a baby biting into his first green pepper with brand new baby teeth

- biking in autumn and seeing a leaf drift downward in the distance and pedaling there in time for it to land against my chest and ride there with me awhile

- disrobing a carrot till it lies in all its naked resplendent carotene-ness, the stark newborn color of a natural vitamin

- the yearning exuberance of a freight train yowling past a cornfield in the middle of the night

- the silhouette of a plump black arm in the front row of the bus, lit up by passing headlights, at half past midnight near exit 62 on the Connecticut Turnpike

- riding my mower at dusk and being expertly missed by barn swallows sweeping the meadow for bugs

- the sound of boiled water in a kettle beginning its escape (little does it know it’s only to the confines of a teacup)

- driving west on a highway through a summer thunderstorm – the pelting, the near-despair, all-engorging purpleness; then the release and coming through the other side to white skies and the Gypsy Kings! Even better in a convertible!

- destination labels on subways and buses giddily spinning after they’ve reached their destination

- finding this morning's newspaper from Istanbul on a shuttle in Helsinki

- the thrum of Canada geese as they fly overhead

- after a snowfall, a 3-year-old begging for a trowel to help shovel the driveway

- watering the geranium, a plant I don’t even like, and hearing it crack and gurgle and release secret scents

- an autumn day so clean and sharp you can even smell the mothballs on the coats of children coming off the school bus

- a found barrette with a strand of a little girl's hair inside a grand piano

- coming out of a movie theater at night with the wind chill at 30 below and hugging onto one’s wife of 20 years whose flesh is as chilly and goosepimply as a virgin's

- when in a strange city, looking out on a Sunday morning from your hotel window into the empty office of the building next door, with lamps and desks arranged just so, as if for a play

- the scent of almond that they layer into the liquid soap in airplane bathrooms

- the smell of hot dogs grilling on the beach

- driving a convertible on a summer evening and seeing another convertible approach and both of you raise your arms to wave through your open roofs

- the sight of rich brown squiggles forming on the top of a glass of milk when you Hershey-fy, only to sink from view when you’re ready to stir

- the titles of poetry collections

- coming up with names for bands that will never exist: “Serious Veal.” “Furious Ballerinas.”

- the memory of a California girl running down the bike path, seen from a rooftop as the setting sun backlights her gold hair

- the business of dragonflies through a field of ferns in the midday sun

- hearing a guitar player take an extra long time to tune his instrument, then start in with a shy voice

- hilariously bad bar mitzvah thank you notes

- vacuum cleaner cords that retract automatically

- watching Gregory Peck eat breakfast (bacon and eggs never looked so good as in To Kill a Mockingbird)

- birds making their nests behind giant outdoor supermarket letters

- How at the end of a long day strangers silently riding the elevator with you will say “g’night” when you separate, perhaps forever

by Daniel Asa Rose

Street Gurus

The elderly folks I see walking in my town each day are what I call street gurus. They get their truth and down to earth wisdom from their commitment to walking every day, rain or shine!

Read Good Books

I walked with Lily to the library to pick up two books I ordered. On my way out I wandered over to the bargain book table and found Original Self by Thomas Moore a hardcover book with woodcuts, for a dollar! When I opened it these quotes jumped off the page.

The way out of the dehumanizing effects of modern capitalism and industrialism is not to change the system but to read good books.
-Thomas Moore

The images that form the raw material of our imagination are most precious substance we have because from them we develop an attitude towards events and eventually a way of life. Education of the soul is largely a matter of creating a treasury of images and skills for dealing with them. It is as important for engineers and MBAs to read Shakespeare, a master image-maker, for this purpose as it is for the physician, the therapist, or the parent. A great deal depends on whether the books we read and the movies we see hone the imagination or make it blunt.
-Thomas Moore

If we brought half the intelligence to the making of souls that we bring to the making of machines, we would be people of character and imagination. We would be sharp and therefore less inclined to kill and cheat each other. We would know where to find the deep pleasures, so we would be less desperate for shallow entertainments and the ephemeral gratifications of gadgets.
-Thomas Moore

Thursday, December 02, 2010


The gray kitten siblings we rescued on Friday from the cemetery got adopted by one family who wants them both. Hurray!