Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Victim

When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.

Bones in Good Motion

Keep your bones in good motion, kid, and quietly consume and digest what is necessary. I think it is not so much important to build a literary thing as it is not to hurt things. I think it is important to be quiet and in love with park benches; solve whole areas of pain by walking across a rug.

CHARLES BUKOWSKI in a letter to John William Corrington (1963)

Weird Carousel

In my mind, only one inviolable precept exists in terms of being a successful writer: you have to write. The unspoken sub-laws of that one precept are: to write, you must start writing and then finish writing. And then, most likely, start writing all over again because this writing “thing” is one long and endless ride on a really weird (but pretty awesome) carousel. Cue the calliope music.



Words are to be taken seriously. I try to take seriously acts of language. Words set things in motion. I’ve seen them doing it. Words set up atmospheres, electrical fields, charges. I’ve felt them doing it. Words conjure. I try not to be careless about what I utter, write, sing. I’m careful about what I give voice to.


Amy Wallace

My most important discovery has been that I have optimum hours for writing. These are between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. For a lifetime I’ve told myself that I was a nighttime writer—it seemed romantic. But actually I’m tired at night, and that’s when I prefer to read and research. Whatever your optimum hours are, don’t cheat yourself of them. This is a daily battle. If you spend them answering the phone, attending to correspondence, etc., you’ll find yourself empty-handed and out of sorts during your low tide.

-Amy Wallace

Hilary Mantel

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

- Hilary Mantel


Freewriting is the easiest way to get words on paper and the best all-around practice in writing that I know. To do a freewriting exercise, simply force yourself to write without stopping for ten minutes. Sometimes you will produce good writing, but that's not the goal. Sometimes you will produce garbage, but that's not the goal either. You may stay on one topic, you may flip repeatedly from one to another: it doesn't matter. Sometimes you will produce a good record of your stream of consciousness, but often you can't keep up. Speed is not the goal, though sometimes the process revs you up. If you can't think of anything to write, write about how that feels or repeat over and over "I have nothing to write" or "Nonsense" or "No." If you get stuck in the middle of a sentence or thought, just repeat the last word or phrase till something comes along. The only point is to keep writing. Or rather, that's the first point. For there are lots of goals of freewriting, but they are best served if, while you are doing it, you accept this single, simple, mechanical goal of simply not stopping. When you produce an exciting piece of writing, it doesn't mean you did it better than the time before when you wrote one sentence over and over for ten minutes. Both times you freewrote perfectly. The goal of freewriting is in the process, not the product.
-Peter Elbow

William Gibson

Dreaming in public is an important part of our job description.
-William Gibson

Russell Banks

Excerpts from Russell Banks Paris Review Interview The Art of Fiction No. 152 by Robert Faggen

You dedicated Affliction to your father. What was he like?


He was violent and alcoholic. He abandoned the family when I was twelve.


Did you ever reconcile with him?


Yes, I did. In my late teens I sought him out and even lived with him in New Hampshire for a while and worked as a plumber alongside him until I was twenty-four. I remember a talk I had with him when I was trying to write at night—stories and a novel and so forth, trying to invent myself as a writer while being a plumber. I remember talking to him about it, at one point saying, Jesus Christ, I don’t want to do this, I hate plumbing. He looked at me with puzzlement and said, You think I like it? I realized, My God, of course not. What was he then? Around my age now and he had done this all his adult life. He was a very bright man, talented in many ways. But he grew up in the Depression and when he got out of high school at sixteen he went right to work to help support the family. No matter how bright he was, his life was shaped entirely by those forces. I’ll never forget that moment.

But it was always a testy, anxiety-ridden relationship on both sides. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I began to feel at ease with him. I vividly remember a perception that transformed my relationship to him. He had given me a Christmas present—a cord of firewood. Typically, it wasn’t quite a gift. I had to go pick it up at his house. The wood was pretty much frozen solidly into the ground when I finally arranged to get over there. It was snowing and I was out in the yard kicking the logs loose and tossing them into my truck. I was pissed off, goddamn it, he could have given me something smaller or he didn’t have to give me anything, instead of this damn wood! The old man was in the kitchen watching me. Finally, he put his coat on and came out and worked alongside me. I was working pretty furiously, ignoring him, but after a while I looked over at him and saw that it was very difficult for him. I suddenly saw him as an old man, and very fragile. We reversed our polarity at that moment.
-Russell Banks

What happens—at least this is what happened to me, and I suspect it has happened to a lot of writers—is that there comes a point when the work starts to shape your life. Early on you intuit and start to create patterns of images and narrative forms that are bound to be central to American mythology. If you start to plug the imagery and sequences of your personal life into these patterns and forms, then they are going to feed the way you imagine your own life. Before long, writing will turn out for the writer to be a self-creative act.
-Russell Banks

The novel, I think, has a mimetic relation to time. The novel simulates the flow of time, so once you get very far into a novel, you forget where you began—just as you do in real time. Whereas with a short story the point is not to forget the beginning. The ending only makes sense if you can remember the beginning. I think the proper length for a short story is to go as far as you can without going so far that you have forgotten the beginning.
-Russell Banks

The trick, I suppose, is to find the point between control and freedom that allows you to do your work.
-Russell Banks

With a short story, I never know where I’m going until I get there. I just know where I entered. That is what comes to me—the opening, a sentence or phrase, even. But with a novel it’s like entering a huge mansion—it doesn’t matter where you come in, as long as you get in. I usually imagine the ending, not literally and not in detail, but I do have a clear idea whether it’s going to end with a funeral or wedding. Or if I am going to burn the mansion down or throw a dinner party at the end. The important question—the reason you write the novel—is to discover how you get from here to there.
-Russell Banks

I didn’t know the meaning of it, but I trusted that the meaning would be acquired through getting there. The journey itself would be the truth and meaning of the ending. As in life.
-Russell Banks

I think that the main threat to children has more to do with power, adult power and the misuse and abuse of it.
-Russell Banks

The victim’s great conflict is how to avoid becoming an abuser himself.
-Russell Banks

. . . because I was able to write these novels and stories, I think I have managed to live a different story than the one I was given by my childhood.
-Russell Banks

. . . if you submit the material of your life—all the materials, not just the conscious materials but all your obsessions and dreams and your dimly apprehended intuitions of the world—if you submit those materials to the rigorous disciplines of art, then you are going to end up with a clearer story about someone other than you than the one that is about you. You can use your own books in the same way you use anybody’s book—to inform your life about the person who inhabits it. I think the reason you write, after all, is to inform your own life with a book that is made out of the subconscious materials of that life.
-Russell Banks

There is a mystery at the center of all the books . . . for many reasons. One is simply that it provides the engine that drives the book—it provides a quest, the quest for knowledge, in most cases, for information. I suppose, too, at bottom I must believe that the oldest question—What is the secret of the universe?—is still worth asking. And I must believe that there is not just a question but also an answer. So the books are an attempt each time to find the answer. The mystery in the book, the literal mystery that might exist in the plot of the book, is really a metaphor for the other, deeper quest that the author is engaged in. Remember that great Borges story “The Aleph”? Each time you sit down to write, you hope that this will turn out to be your aleph. This will be the story that decodes the universe for you. So you will never have to write again.
-Russell Banks

. . . it felt not as though I was speaking through them like a ventriloquist, but rather was listening to them and transcribing what I was hearing. I was listening to a voice; occasionally, the signal would get weak and I could, as it were, adjust the tuner and bring in the signal again and begin to transcribe again. Obviously this is a complicated process. It’s not simply opening your ears up, because you are simultaneously broadcasting and receiving. But while you are engaged in the process your attention is fixed on the listening part and not the broadcasting part. When it doesn’t work is when my attention has shifted to the broadcasting part. I know I am speaking figuratively but that’s how it feels.
-Russell Banks

What makes you inarticulate is a feeling of threat. And it is generally true that poor people and children feel more threatened than rich adults and, surprise, the people who feel least threatened turn out to be the people we think of as the most articulate—rich, white men.
-Russell Banks

. . . authorial invisibility is extremely difficult to achieve, because to give the work any real heat and power you have to go straight toward what matters to you personally. You have to deal with what really is a life-or-death issue for you. Because of that you are inadvertently, almost inescapably, going to end up becoming visible in the book. So you have to discover and impose on the text a means of keeping yourself out—you have to keep catching yourself in the glare of your own light and then getting the hell out of there.
-Russell Banks

High and Low Culture

The distinction between high and low culture depresses me, dividing all culture like Gaul into high, middle, and low. It’s a very comforting way to think about culture, so long as you think of yourself as highbrow. I think it speaks to, and speaks out of, anxiety about class, especially in the United States, as people from the lower classes begin to participate in the literary arts and intellectual life in an aggressive way. Then folks start claiming there is high, middle and low culture—so know your place, please, and stay there.
-Russell Banks

Sam Shepard

It`s one of the great tragedies of our contemporary life in America, that families fall apart. Almost everybody has that in common.
-Sam Shepard


Who needs Halloween, our government has been one continuous horror show for two years.

James Curtis

Persist. You'll only get better by continuing to work at it. There's never a time when you're good enough to slack off.
- James Curtis

Arundhati Roy: Teller of Stories

To me there is nothing higher than fiction. Nothing. It is fundamentally who I am. I am a teller of stories. For me, that’s the only way I can make sense of the world, with all the dance that it involves.
-Arundhati Roy

Michael Meyer

I'm the product of the public library, which is to writers what an art museum is to painters.

Now that I'm home, I work first thing in the morning, at a desk facing a big window overlooking trees. Then I go for a run.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I don't think there is such a thing. If you suspect you're infected, do what John Steinbeck did -- taking Emerson's advice -- to kick-start his writing "East of Eden": write a letter to a friend. There is an inspiring book of these letters, "Journal of a Novel."

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

You know it's time to write a book when the book you want to read doesn't exist.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Don't wait for permission to write. Nearly everything I've sold came not from querying editors and publishers, but by submitting a finished essay, article, and even book manuscript. Nothing builds confidence and momentum like actually doing the work, instead of talking about it.

-Michael Meyer


“...the comfort of reclusion, the poetry of hibernation...”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

Ideas We Already Formed

“Even the simple act which we describe as 'seeing someone we know' is, to some extent, an intellectual process. We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds those ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is our own ideas of him which we recognize and to which we listen.”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

A Little Tap at the Window

“A little tap at the window, as though some missile had struck it, followed by a plentiful, falling sound, as light, though, as if a shower of sand were being sprinkled from a window overhead; then the fall spread, took on an order, a rhythm, became liquid, loud, drumming, musical, innumerable, universal. It was the rain.”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

“These dreams reminded me that, since I wished some day to become a writer, it was high time to decide what sort of books I was going to write. But as soon as I asked myself the question, and tried to discover some subject to which I could impart a philosophical significance of infinite value, my mind would stop like a clock, my consciousness would be faced with a blank, I would feel either that I was wholly devoid of talent or perhaps that some malady of the brain was hindering its development.”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

3 Versions

“Now are the woods all black, but still the sky is blue.”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

“Now are the woods all black, but still the sky is blue.
May you always see a blue sky overhead, my young friend; and then, even when the time comes, which is coming now for me, when the woods are all black, when night is fast falling, you will be able to console yourself, as I am doing, by looking up to the sky.”

― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

May you always see a blue sky overhead, my young friend; and then, even when the time comes, which is coming now for me, when the woods are all black, when night is fast falling, you will be able to console yourself, as I am doing, by looking up to the sky.“ He took a cigarette from his pocket and stood for a long time, his eyes fixed on the horizon. "Goodbye, friends!” he suddenly exclaimed, and left us.
― Marcel Proust , Swann's Way


I dreamed of a flock of black birds circling around in a cobalt blue sky.


“My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.”
― Marcel Proust


“We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
― Marcel Proust

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by evil or commonplace that prevailed round them. They represent a struggle and a victory.”
― Marcel Proust


“Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”
― Marcel Proust

Patch of Sky

“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”
― Marcel Proust, Swann's Way


“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”
― Marcel Proust

Happiness and Suffering

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full.

- Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
-Marcel Proust

Jack Kornfield

Peace comes when our hearts are open like the sky, vast as the ocean.
-Jack Kornfield

Speak the Truth and Stand Up for Justice

by Jack Kornfield

The opposite of aggression is not passivity, it is true strength. When we have lost a sense of our innate nobility,we mistakenly believe in our fear and weakness. We try to be strong through hate and aggression. When we release aggression, we discover true strength, a natural fearlessness, the courage to face our griefs and fears, and to respond without hate. Martin Luther King Jr. called this unshakable strength “soul force.” In ancient Greece, anger was described as a noble emotion. It stood up for what was right; it spoke out against injustice. Non-contention carries this courage with a loving heart. Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged, “Nonviolence requires more courage than violence.”

True strength meets the vulnerability of life with caring and courage. Even in situations of great danger, true strength chooses love. Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated the strength of this love in the darkest hours, saying, “We will meet suffering with soul force.” It takes courage to truly feel the weight of each other’s suffering, courage to honor the other side’s fears of annihilation and loss of dignity. Yet until pain and fear are held in a wise way, the cycles of hatred will continue.

True strength also brings clarity, like a sword that cuts through illusion. It is called discriminating wisdom. When we are not locked in blame or struggle, we can see things as they are.“We can,” says William Butler Yeats, “make our minds so like still water that beings gather around us that they may see… their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” When needed, we can be fierce and strong, wielding the sword of clarity. Liberated from anger, we can speak the truth fearlessly. At the same time we are free of ill will, so our actions care for the welfare of all.

Erroneously, we have come to believe that anger and hate are inevitable. Buddhist psychology shows us another way. We can live in this world with a non-contentious heart. We can discover the courage not to succumb, not to retreat, not to strike out in fear and anger. With the transformation of anger and hatred, we can speak the truth and stand up for justice. And by resting in the wise heart, we can be a lamp, a medicine, a liberating presence for all.

-Jack Kornfield

Integrate and Learn

Even with a teacher, there are three principles to keep in mind in working with these unfamiliar realms of our spiritual life. The first principle is the understanding that All Spiritual Phenomena Are Side Effects. In the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha often reminded students that the purpose of his teaching was not the accumulation of special good deeds and good karma or rapture or insight or bliss, but only the sure heart’s release—a true liberation of our being in every realm. This freedom and awakening, and this alone, is the purpose of any genuine spiritual path.

The dazzling effect of lights and visions, the powerful releases of rapture and energy, all are a wonderful sign of the breakdown of the old and small structures of our being, body, and mind. However, they do not in themselves produce wisdom. Some people have had many of these experiences, yet learned very little. Even great openings of the heart, kundalini processes, and visions can turn into spiritual pride or become old memories. As with a near-death experience or a car accident, some people will change a great deal and others will return to old constricted habits shortly thereafter. Spiritual experiences in themselves do not count for much. What matters is that we integrate and learn from the process.

-Jack Kornfield

Practice Metta

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “While it is easy to love the lovable, it may be the unlovable who need our love more.” So the next stage is to express your good will, to the extent you can, toward someone who has caused you some slight injury. Then, to the extent possible, you can extend these good wishes toward people who have caused you more pain, and to institutions and organizations that have caused you, your family, or your community pain and suffering. Let this develop naturally; relax and invite yourself to experiment with it.

Suffering and Joy

How can we can stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

by Ram Dass

Posted January 22, 2018

You and I are in training to be free. We’re in training to be so present, so spacious, so embracing, we’re in training to not look away, deny or close our hearts when we can’t bear something. The statement, “I can’t bear it,” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and contracting, it’s the contraction that starves you to death.

When you close your heart down to protect yourself from suffering, you also close yourself off from being fed by that same life situation.

If you can stay open to both the suffering and the joys and the stuff of life, all of it, then it’s like a living spirit. It just connects to your living spirit and there’s a tremendous feeding going on.

Once you see all this, what else is there to do but keep working on becoming conscious? You’d be a fool not to. You’re only going to perpetuate your misery and suffering and everybody else’s if you don’t. I’ll give it one year, I’ll settle for two, for you to live on two planes of consciousness simultaneously. The other thing is to do it joyfully! When you meet somebody that’s suffering, what do you have to offer them? You could offer them your empathy. That’s a good thing to offer because they feel somebody else is listening to them. The other thing you can offer them is your joy, your presence, and your ‘not getting caught in it all.’

Having that empathy for another means your heart is breaking, because you understand the intensity of their experience, and at the same moment, you are absolutely, equanimously, present. You are not clinging to anything, just watching the phenomena of the universe change.

It’s then that your acts can be compassionate. That is where the root of compassion is. The root of compassion is not empathy; that’s along the lines of kindness, and that’s good, but it’s not compassion. The ultimate compassion is the act itself, which has the potential to relieve every level of suffering, not just the food in the belly, or the mattress to safely sleep on at night. The suffering that comes from separateness is only relieved when you are present with another person. So the whole game of helping another human being becomes about realizing whether or not you’re busy being the ‘helper,’ and making them the ‘helpee.’ If so, you’ve just created suffering.

Isn’t that bizarre? With the very act of helping someone you have to jump out of it and ask, “Who’s helping who anyway?”

It seems that we string moments together where we feel deeply connected, and then a moment later it’s a new moment, but we only want to cling to the previous experience.

I invite you not to cling. I invite you to open to the next moment and allow it to have its own richness. Nothing will kill the glow faster than clinging.

I was with Aldous Huxley years ago, and I didn’t know him well, but when we were together there were just a few words he kept using: “Extraordinary,” “How curious,” and “How odd.” I realized that everything in life is extraordinary if I just want to look. It’s true there’s nothing new under the sun, and yet it’s all fresh.

-Ram Dass

Ram Dass

How do you free up your consciousness for people who are suffering?

…Because when you look around, and you see somebody suffering, you feel it in your heart, and you would like to do something to relieve their suffering. You begin to see that not only is it what you do, but ‘who does it’ and ‘how you do it’ matters when you look at whether you exacerbate their suffering or end it.

I walk into a room with somebody with advanced AIDS symptoms. There’s social ostracism, economic hardship, loss of dreams, youth, everything, and the heart breaks, and the empathy goes out to this fellow human being, and as I sit there, I start in doing my inner practices, turning channels, until I am resting as a soul who has taken birth. I am somebody who is here to visit somebody who’s sick and to be with them, and I am a soul doing that, and I am seeing another soul who is busy having AIDS, and suddenly my consciousness is available to that person on both levels.

-Ram Dass

Ram Dass: Cultural Transformation

How can we create a culture that supports our process of transformation?
by Ram Dass
Posted February 9, 2018

You and I are a part of a process that’s going on in our culture at this moment.

And to that extent we are conscious of that process, it’s easier for us to let our acts support that process while simultaneously holding the confusion we feel because the process is leading us in uncharted ways into feelings we have not had before. It seems to me we are all traditionalists, we are all modernists, and we are all ‘cultural creatives.’ To the extent that you bring it all into consciousness, you can feel the way it affects all of it. I often feel like Kahlil Gibran, the prophet: “Speak to us of love, speak to us of pain, speak to us of child rearing…” all of the aspects of life that he taught about.

To the extent that you bring each aspect of your life under scrutiny, there is an opportunity to have that aspect of your life be something which supports transformation.

I mean a lot of people are incredibly generous in the world, but with their family, they are very, very tight, and yet they’re bringing offspring into the world. Many people have greed in one corner of their consciousness and philanthropy in another corner of their consciousness. I’m not knocking them, but just to be conscious about it, to cope with it, to be with it, that’s the first thing.

I’m not arguing for everybody to give up everything, It’s not gonna solve the problem.

I’m saying the psychic cost of disparity between the rich and poor is incredible, and there are other ways to have differentiated classes and structures in a society without it having the absolute toxic quality that it has in our society, in which there is guilt and denial and anger and righteousness and all this stuff.

At what point in our lives do we stop and say, “What is this about?” “What am I doing?” “what’s my vision?” “Where am I going?” “What part am I playing?” “What has this got to do with it all?” and instead of asking, with a litany of self-pity, “Who am I? What is this? Who am I?” seeing that it can all be answered from different levels.

We’re at a moment where science is pushing right up against the mystery. I love it, I absolutely love it, I love where we’re at with these new theories, the patterns, the systems are all delicious. They sound like I’m reading from the Vedas, these ancient books of old wisdom, we’re at such an interesting moment.

We’re at a moment when this kind of world-collective awareness is on us, and we haven’t figured out remotely what to do about it yet, and how to live with it.

We are about to have a world of unskilled workers who are being crapped upon in every place in the world, and then fewer and fewer number of people are enjoying the fruits of that. We are trying to bureaucratize against our own greed, which comes out of our own fear, which comes out of our own sense of separateness.

– Ram Dass

Cultural Mythology

How does the function of mythology affect our culture?
by Ram Dass

So there’s all kinds of pathology that happens when people are holding on to a dysfunctional myth that’s not working. Before they are ready to entertain the idea of creating a new myth, what happens when they hold on is that they contract. They contract when it isn’t working out and they get more prejudices. They have to blame others. It causes contraction and then prejudices, then bigotry, and eventually violence.

Our patriotism is really something that is just in this culture, which is a really very young America and our mythology is awfully thin for the moment.

I mean, it used to be Mom and apple pie and the American flag, and it’s not. It hasn’t evolved much further than that, on the whole, because of our reluctance to recognize the depth of our fellow human beings. Because of political landscapes and the social communications, we trivialize the issues – we soundbite them, we turn them into things we do not have to respect.

When I go into other cultures where they’re dialoguing, where they’re really reflecting each other and doing it together, I realize I don’t feel that here very much. I don’t feel it.

-Ram Dass

Little by Little

After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. – Shunryu Suzuki

Though you can start meditation any time, it’s harder if your life is chaotic, if you’re feeling paranoid, if you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities, or if you’re sick. But even starting under these conditions, meditation will help you to clear things up a bit. Slowly you reorganize your life to support your spiritual journey. At each stage there will be something you can do to create a supportive space. It may mean changing your diet, who you’re with, how you spend your time, what’s on your walls, what books you read, what you fill your consciousness with, how you care for your body, or where and how you sit to meditate. All these factors contribute to the depth and freedom that you can know through meditation.

You are under no pressure to rush these changes. You need not fear that because of meditation you are going to lose control and get swept away by a new way of life. As you gradually develop a quiet and clear awareness, your living habits will naturally come into harmony with your total environment, with your past involvements, present interests, and future concerns. There need be no sudden ending of relationships in order to prove your holiness. Such frantic changes only show your own lack of faith. When you are one in truth, in the flow, the changes in your life will come naturally.

– Ram Dass

Right Effort is Timing

Many years ago I spent time with a Tibetan teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche. In an interview he suggested a meditation technique in which one expands one’s awareness outward. He suggested we do it together. So we sat facing each other and he said, “Just expand outward.” And I started to expand outward.

After about twenty seconds he said “Ram Dass, are you trying?” And I said, indignantly, “Yes!” He said, “Don’t try, just expand outward.” And it absolutely blew my mind. Really. That was an exquisite teaching at that moment. Don’t try, just do it. That’s really what right effort is about. I think the key to right effort is timing.

-Ram Dass

Ram Dass: The Pull from Within

That is the critical point. For here is your choice: Whether you truly wish to escape from the prison or are just fooling yourself. For your ego includes both the suffering and the desire to be free of the suffering. Sometimes we use cures halfheartedly, with the secret hope that the cures will not work. Then we can hold on to our suffering while protesting we want to get free. But meditation does work. It gives you moments of sunlight – of clarity and detachment. Sooner or later you must either stop meditating, do it in a dishonest way, or confront your resistance to change.

When you begin meditation you may approach it as you would a new course in school, a new method to learn, a new goal to achieve. In the past when you took a new course you studied the rules of the game so you’d do well. You wanted to receive a high grade from the teacher, to get approval, or to be more powerful. As you advance in meditation, these external motives fall away. You begin to feel a spiritual pull from within. It is profound and it is scary.

– Ram Dass

Khichdi: Indian Comfort Food

Khichdi is reassuring, everyday fare, made from a mix of rice and lentils, cooked together in one pot until tender and seasoned with a splash of spice-infused fat. In India, it can be on the firmer side or more mushy, stripped down to the basics or more embellished, but it’s always a comfort. To make the dish a meal, serve it with a drizzle of ghee on top and some chopped cilantro leaves, a spoonful of full-fat yogurt on the side and a little jarred Indian-style lime pickle.

Whole Wheat Chapati Chips

1 cup whole wheat flour
1-2 pinches of kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water

Sift together flour and salt in a bowl. Stir in olive oil and water, and then knead until firm and elastic. Divide into four balls, and roll as flat as possible with a rolling pin.

Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chapati on both sides until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. If desired, sprinkle with additional olive oil before serving.

Use this recipe to make chips. I roll them out real thin, brush them with olive oil, slice them up with a pizza roller, then bake them 425 until they are golden.
adapted from source

Trust Intuitive Wisdom

Who knows whether the next message comes at the laundromat or whether the message comes through… you know, who knows?

-Ram Dass


Compassion simply stated is leaving other people alone. You don’t lay trips. You exist as a statement of your own level of evolution. You are available to any human being, to provide what they need, to the extent that they ask. But you begin to see that it is a fallacy to think that you can impose a trip on another person.

– Ram Dass


adjective: stilted

(of a manner of talking or writing) stiff and self-conscious or unnatural.
"we made stilted conversation"
synonyms: strained, forced, contrived, constrained, labored, stiff, self-conscious, awkward, unnatural, wooden
"a few minutes of stilted conversation"
antonyms: natural, effortless, spontaneous
standing on stilts.
"villages of stilted houses"

Phony Promises of the Advertising Industry

Steiner evolved his soft-focus Pictorialism style to become a sharp-edged Modernist. His 1920s photos of typewriter keys and industrial power switches are “geometrically bold, stark, graphic images that celebrate the machine age,” says Anne Havinga, senior curator of photographs at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. His lens also captured warped movie, cigarette, and soda pop billboards that were “at once celebratory of mass culture and critical of the phony promises of the advertising industry,” according to Anne McCauley, a professor of the history of photography and modern art at Princeton.
Article about photographer Ralph Steiner

Ralph Steiner

Nearly 60 years after graduating from Dartmouth, Steiner wrote that he “became a madman photographer to escape going into the [family] brewing business.” It was not an easy transition. “In those days—1917 to 1921—to be at Dartmouth, Jewish, neurotic, and shy was like being a Martian with a green head and four eyes,” he told an interviewer. “I was a skinny little guy, afraid of the world, and couldn’t very well be captain of the football team, so I took up photography. There must be something about shyness and the darkroom, something in all that hiding in the gloom.”
-Ralph Steiner

Ralph Steiner: Photographer

A creative person sees things not as they are, but as he is.
-Ralph Steiner, Restless Eye Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Nov/Dec 2018


These days I think the composers of music influence me more than any photographers or visual creators. I see something exciting or lovely and think to myself: 'If Papa Haydn or Wolfgang Amadeus or the red-headed Vivaldi were here with a camera, they'd snap a picture of what's in front of me.' So I take the picture for them.
- Ralph Steiner


Photographers undervalue the use of a wastebasket in their pursuit of fine photography.
- Ralph Steiner

Ralph Steiner: Two Things

There are only two hard things in photography; which way to point the camera and when to release the shutter.
Ralph Steiner

Prescription: Be Utterly Yourself

Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity; be intensely yourself. Don't try to be outstanding; don't try to be a success; don't try to do pictures for others to look at- just please yourself.
- Ralph Steiner

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Gaslighting America

Abusing America

Emotional Abuse Tactic

George Washington


Jenifer Lewis

What started your career in activism? You also discuss a part of your life when you lost a number of friends to H.I.V. and AIDS. Was that it? Yes, I think that was the first time I was truly awakened in politics. My friends were dropping like flies, and the government wasn’t doing anything. You don’t watch an entire generation take water hoses and dogs on the front line during the ’60s or watch another generation perish from AIDS and then get to drive around in big cars and do nothing. At this point, I don’t think it’s time for any of us to sit down about anything.

You don’t mention much about encountering racism in show business directly in your book, but clearly racial justice is something that is important to you. Do you feel that black actors have it easier now?
I think it will become easier because of what’s happening now. It’s going to be easier for young girls to come up in this business, thanks to the higher awareness brought about by the #MeToo movement. It will become easier because people are waking up now. You have the millennials — of all races — lying down in the streets to protest police brutality, for instance. These are not dark times. These are awakening times.

Home Sweet Home

One of my favorite things to do in the cool weather is to bake a soup. I just took out my largest ovenproof pot and filled it with lentils, chopped celery, carrots, onions, potato, garlic, ginger, olive oil, and 2 chicken bullion cubes and water. I placed it covered in the oven and am baking it at 350 F for a few hours. The aroma is home sweet home, delicious beyond belief.

I just checked on the soup after 2 hours of baking. I added more water, tasted it and decided to add the last of my fresh basil, frozen corn, red chili flakes, black pepper, kosher salt, and Adobo. It's delicious and now it's more like a vegetable stew than a soup.

Muusoctopus Robustus

World's largest deep-sea octopus nursery discovered
Scientists discovered over 1,000 females, many brooding eggs, in a shimmering “octopus garden" that may be seeping natural gas or hot water.

All in all, King estimates that more than 1,000 octopuses known as Muusoctopus robustus were nestled among the rocks, most of which appeared to be inverted, or turned inside out. For this species, that inside-out pose is common among females that are brooding, or protecting their growing young. In some cases, the submersible’s camera could even spot tiny embryos cradled within their mothers’ arms.


Michelle Goldberg

Show them they’re being replaced.

Anthony Bourdain and Jiu-Jitsu

Another article

Jin Yong aka Louis Cha

“She was beautiful, without comparison, but she exuded and icy and emotionless aura. She was as hard and as cold as ice and it was difficult to tell whether she was pleased or angry.”
― Jin Yong, 射雕英雄传(全四册)

“A man weighing one hundred jin can eat ten oxen, each weighing ten thousand jin. He just needs time.”
― Jin Yong, A Hero Born

“Share your blessings and your hardships too will be shared.”
― Jin Yong, A Hero Born

A Book

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” the cosmologist Carl Sagan once said. “It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.”
Article on Tiny Books

Barbara Streisand

How are you feeling these days?

I want to sleep nights, if we take the House I’ll be able to sleep a little bit better.

And if they don’t?

Don’t know. I’ve been thinking about, do I want to move to Canada? I don’t know. I’m just so saddened by this thing happening to our country. It’s making me fat. I hear what he said now, and I have to go eat pancakes now, and pancakes are very fattening. We make them with healthy flour, though — almond flour, coconut flour.

Article and important video

Paul Krugman

The fact is that one side of the political spectrum is peddling hatred, while the other isn’t. And refusing to point that out for fear of sounding partisan is, in effect, lending aid and comfort to the people poisoning our politics.
-Paul Krugman

Improved Symptoms

Improved Asthma Symptoms
Swimming will strengthen your lung capacity, which can improve asthma symptoms.

Unlike exercising in the often dry air of the gym, or contending with seasonal allergies or frigid winter air, swimming provides the chance to work out in moist air, which can help reduce exercise-induced asthma symptoms.

Not only can pool workouts help you avoid asthma attacks if you're prone to them, some studies have shown that swimming can actually improve the condition overall. According to a study published in the scholarly journal, Respirology, when a group of kids completed a six-week swimming program, they saw improvements in symptom severity, snoring, mouth-breathing, and hospitalizations and emergency room visits [source: Science Daily]. What's more, the health benefits were still apparent a year after the swimming program had ended [source: Physorg].

Hippocampal Neurogenesis

Brain damage from stress can also be reversed with swimming via hippocampal neurogenesis, or replacing lost neurons. In the previous study, researchers found neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain, involved in learning and memory, dramatically increased in the depressed rats. Previous research has found the hippocampus shrinks in depressed individuals, which is believed to be the cause of mental health issues often associated with depression.

Prichard reminds us the hippocampus will grow with exercise, and also increase oxygen going to the brain. “Brain oxygen is not only a function of swimming, but is also a function of chest expansion,” he said.


No Need to Decide

Moreover, since most pools have set times for la swimming and coached Masters workouts alike, regular swimmer usually find themselves settling into a schedule that becomes automatic. There’s no need to decide if you should go exercise now or later. For stressed out people, this lack of options, says Coquillard, is paradoxically comforting because it removes the burden of yet another decision. “All you have to do is show up at the regular time,” he says, “and you know there’s a good chance you’ll end up leaving the pool feeling a little better than when you arrived.

Intuitive Swimming

“I teach a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy class for depression,” he adds, “and we use focus on the body here in the moment to keep past thoughts or future worries from invading our consciousness.” By concentrating on different aspects of their stroke mechanics, from hip rotation and kick patterns, to streamlining and pulls, regular swimmers practice this intuitively. The result: On a regular basis, most get a break from life’s not always pleasant stream of rumination.

Biochemical Changes in the Brain

Besides possible biochemical changes in the brain, swimming requires the alternating stretch and relaxation of skeletal muscles while simultaneously deep-breathing in a rhythmic pattern. If this sounds familiar, it’s because these are key elements of many practices, from hatha yoga to progressive muscle relaxation, used to evoke the relaxation response. “Swimming, because of its repetitive nature, is incredibly meditative,” Coquillard says. There’s even a built-in mantra, be this the slow count of laps, or self-directed thoughts like “relax” or “stay smooth.”

Swimming Therapy

Moby Coquillard, a psychotherapist and swimmer from San Mateo, Calif., is so convinced that he prescribes exercise to depressed patients. “I absolutely believe swimming can serve as a kind of medicine. For me, it represents a potent adjunct to antidepressant medications and, for some patients, it’s something you can take in lieu of pills.”

Converting Angst into Relaxation

On the physiological level, hard swimming workouts release endorphins, natural feel-good compounds whose very name derives from “endogenous” and “morphine.” Swimming serves, as well, to sop us excess fight-or-flight stress hormones, converting free-floating angst into muscle relaxation. It can even promote so-called “hippocampal neurogenesis” - the growth of new brain cells in a part of the brain that atrophies under chronic stress. In animal models, exercise has shown itself to be even more potent than drugs like Prozac at spurring such beneficial changes.

Trusting Intuition on the Path

There’s a quality of learning how to trust your own inner guide. Most people say they would love to have an external guru, but there aren’t many external gurus alive on the physical place. What you do, while waiting for the Messiah, is recognize the truth of Ramana Maharshi’s statement, that God, guru, and self are all one and the same, and you have to go inward to hear the intuitive truth of what you should do next… and trust it.

-Ram Dass
By Ram Dass

Meeting of the Minds and Heart

The universe disappears. Only his eyes exist. A flow of love, wisdom, consciousness passes between you. Perhaps a few words are said – words you take away and think upon again and again in the years to follow. Or perhaps he says nothing, and it is just his stillness, his presence, the incredible love that flows from him, the deep compassion you feel. You feel as if you were naked before his glance. He sees through you, he knows all – past, present, and future. He does not judge, but simply acknowledges how it all is. Even a moment of such compassion can be liberating.

Ram Dass, excerpt from Be Love Now co-authored by Rameshwar Das

Ram Dass

Exploring the Mechanics of Thought

by Ram Dass

Entering the Stream

by Ram Dass

The Present is Timeless

It’s All Perfect

by Ram Dass

If we live in the moment, we are not in time. If you think, “I’m a retired person. I’ve retired from my role,” you are looking back at your life. It’s retrospective; it’s life in the rearview mirror. If you’re young, you might be thinking, “I have my whole life ahead of me. This is what I’ll do later.” That kind of thinking is called time binding. It causes us to focus on the past or the future and to worry about what comes next.

Getting caught up in memories of the past or worrying about the future is a form of self-imposed suffering. Either retirement or youth can be seen as moving on, a time for something different, something new. Start fresh. It’s a new moment. Aging is not a culmination. Youth isn’t preparation for later. This isn’t the end of the line or the beginning. Now isn’t a time to look back or plan ahead. It’s time to just be present. The present is timeless. Being in the moment, just being here with what is, is ageless, eternal.

The Buddha is right: this body is in time. But we are just here, in this moment.

– Excerpt from Ram Dass’ book Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from your Spiritual Heart.

Open and Vulnerable

The art of life is to stay wide open and be vulnerable, yet at the same time to sit with the mystery and the awe and with the unbearable pain — to just be with it all.
- Ram Dass

Kind Words

The following is an excerpt by late Aikido master Terry Dobson in the anthology “The Peaceful Warrior,” edited by Rick Fields (Tarcher/Putnam, 1994) as retold by Ram Dass in An Experiment in Awareness – Mile High Church, Colorado, June 24, 1994.

Arianne Cohen

Woman vs Food

I also surprised myself by shacking up with a man whose personal experience with AA makes my life look like Preschool Anonymous. He feels similarly conflicted. We almost never talk about it, but he seems to accept that his girlfriend is fruit loops about food and knows that he can buy either bread or butter but not both.

Alice in Wonderland

I am like Alice in Wonderland when it comes to my body. My perception is always changing.


“Animals are good for everyone, but particularly for anxious and depressed people.”

For one thing, pets keep us anchored in the present and distract us from negative or anxious thoughts, says Beck.

“If you can focus on the present in positive ways, it makes you less anxious,” he says. “Much anxiety and depression comes from the thoughts of past or future that you are worried about.”



Avoid checking the news first thing in the morning and before bed, which might hijack your day or interfere with sleep.

Swimming as Medicine

Regardless of cause, a growing number of researchers and psychologists alike have become true believers in the efficacy of swimming. “We know, for instance, that vigorous exercise like swimming can significantly decrease both anxiety and depression” says sports psychologist Aimee C. Kimball, director of mental training at the Center for Sports Medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Currently, there’s a ton of research looking at the various mechanisms by which it works.”

Deep Breathing

I never realized that most of my receive-mode is basic anxiety which is why for me it is temporarily alleviated by swimming or long walks. Anxiety causes shallow breathing. We hold back our breath when we panic. Have you ever noticed that? Part of why swimming, running, walking, bicycling, yoga, tai-chi are powerful mood lifters is because when you breathe deeply and repetitively depression anxiety are temporarily banished. A friend and fellow swimmer who is a health care professional, told me this. It makes sense to me.

Makes a Difference

"Any healthy choice you make, no matter how small, makes a difference. The more healthy habits you add, the more steps you take toward better health."— Donald D. Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H.


I dreamed I was saving leftover cookie crumbs in a tin to use in my next cake. I dreamed a friend gave me a spoonful of Greek goat yogurt to make a culture from. I tasted it and said, I want to marry this farmer!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Public Bread Oven

From the Rhode Island Foundation: The aroma of freshly baked bread soon will waft through downtown Woonsocket thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation.

NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley in Woonsocket received $10,000 to install the state's first outdoor, wood-fired, public bread oven in Market Square.

"We will use the power of food to bring diverse cultures together in a fun and unique way and build neighborhood unity and pride," said Joe Garlick, executive director.

The masonry oven is expected to be built adjacent to the Museum of Work and Culture.

"We envision it serving many purposes: as an anchor for our new public market and food business incubator; a catalyst for neighborhood cultural events; a place to make nutritious healthy food; a unique tourist attraction; a striking work of public art; and a magnet for people, stories and community-building entrepreneurs," he said.

"There is nothing that celebrates community more or brings it together faster than food, especially if it's cooked outdoors over a wood fire. Food provides an opportunity for everyone to express their culture," Garlick said.

Story Magnet:The Outdoor Oven

"An oven is a story magnet. People rarely pass by the park oven when something is baking without stopping to talk."

Many older people still remember outdoor brick ovens from the countries they came from, Portugal or Trinidad or Italy or Guyana or France or almost anywhere. In Quebec there is a small outdoor-oven revival because it's one way to keep traditional Quebec cooking alive. But in most parts of the world, the old communal bread ovens are falling into disrepair or are already gone. At the same time, restaurants all over North America have begun to offer pizza and many other dishes cooked on the hearth of a brick oven right in the restaurant. People like it, but often times this food is expensive, because it's slow food, not fast food, prepared by the hands of cooks rather than by fabulous machines that can turn out a thousand assembly-line "food products" in under an hour.

Chairs in the Air


Steven Yeun

While pursuing a psychology degree at Kalamazoo College, Yeun took an interest in theater and improv. In his senior year, a stranger’s encouragement after a stage reading was all the affirmation he needed to make a serious go of it.

“It’s just that when Korea approaches me about a project it’s usually missing a component of, like, ‘What does an Asian man do in this situation?’” he said.

“What was wonderful about working in South Korea is, you know, you kind of feel the fullness of yourself for a second,” he added. “You don’t have to be reminded of your otherness there, and that is a very freeing feeling. You don’t realize how oppressive that is until you experience not experiencing that.”


Ram Dass

As long as you’re in a body, you gotta act, and as long as you act, you act within certain roles.
-Ram Dass


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Anne Lamott: Pick a New Direction

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction — and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.
-Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott:Truth is Paradox

How can we celebrate paradox, let alone manage at all, knowing how scary the future may be — that the baby brother will grow, and ignore you or hurt you or break your heart? Or that we may die, after an unattractive decline, or bomb North Korea later today? We remember that because truth is paradox, something beautiful is also going on. So while trusting that and waiting for revelation, we do the next right thing. We tell the truth. We march, make dinner, have rummage sales to raise relief funds. Whoever arranges such things keeps distracting us and shifting things around so we don’t get stuck in hopelessness: we can take one loud, sucking, disengaging step back into hope. We remember mustard seeds, that the littlest things will have great results. We do the smallest, realest, most human things. We water that which is dry.
-Anne Lamott

I Did Not Know it Was Possible

“I did not know it was possible to be so miserable and live but I am told that this is a common experience.”
― Evelyn Waugh


“We cherish our friends not for their ability to amuse us, but for ours to amuse them.”
― Evelyn Waugh


“[Change is] the only evidence of life.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder


“No one is ever holy without suffering.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

To Understand

“To understand all is to forgive all.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Neurosis in the Air

“...for in that city [New York] there is neurosis in the air which the inhabitants mistake for energy.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Pigeon Pie

“It doesn't matter what people call you unless they call you pigeon pie and eat you up.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

No Room

“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there's no room for the present at all.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

The Root

“... To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder


“There's only one great evil in the world today. Despair.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies

Orphans of the Storm

“Where can we hide in fair weather, we orphans of the storm?”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Evelyn Waugh

"The human mind is inspired enough when it comes to inventing horrors; it is when it tries to invent a Heaven that it shows itself cloddish."
-Evelyn Waugh

Power of Play

“For some people, the activity of play may be very physical, engaging the body,” says Gray. “But for other people, play may be more of a meditative experience.”

I’ve found that in order for play to successfully take me out of my head, I have to add a little bit of challenge to it. By complicating the activity in such a way that I have to concentrate very hard, I am better able to achieve a sense of “flow,” the mental state of being completely immersed in an activity.

The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.

Gray explained to me that in all hunter-gatherer societies, play allows adults to get along with each other, a mechanism by which we learn to be more collaborative and less combative. Since a sense of connection and community is essential to mental health, we need to learn how to relate to one another.

“Play is necessary for animals and all hunter-gatherer societies to cooperate with each other instead of dominating each other,” he says.

Play also fosters creativity.

- Article by Therese Bouchard

Therese Bouchard

Important article describing suicidal depression.

John Hollander

"I want my poems to be wiser than I am, to know more about themselves than I do."
-John Hollander


I dreamed my step father Tony was alive after all and he came up to see us. We were living in the Hector mill. He was in a motorized wheelchair like Perry Mason and he was with a woman friend of ours, he had invited to be his date.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


I just went swimming and ran into a devoted swimmer who knows about the neurological effects. Fascinating!

Just Keep Swimming: What Swimming Does for Your Brain

By Therese Borchard

Yes, I know any kind of aerobic exercise relieves depression.

For starters, it stimulates brain chemicals that foster the growth of nerve cells; exercise also affects neurotransmitters such as serotonin that influence mood and produces ANP, a stress-reducing hormone, which helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. But swimming, for me, seems to zap a bad mood more efficiently than even running. Swimming a good 3000 meters for me can, in the midst of a depressive cycle, hush the dead thoughts for up to two hours. It’s like taking a Tylenol for a headache! It was with interest, then, that I read an article in “Swimmer” magazine about why, in fact, that’s the case.

Pumpkin Pie

I just baked a pumpkin pie for my husband's birthday. It's speed cooling in front of the kitchen fan. It's pouring rain outside, a Nor'Easter.

Sew a Button

The Velcro had worn off pup Romeo's winter jacket and I began using a clothespin to hold it. I did this for most of last winter. Finally the other day we lost the beloved clothespin and I knew it was time. I was intimidated because I knew I'd be cutting into the fabric to make the button hole and I just kept putting it off. Yesterday after swimming I was in a good mood. I ran upstairs and got my jar of colorful buttons and picked out a big red one to match his black and red coat. I sewed on the button and cut a slit in the overlapping fabric and it worked. It only took ten minutes. I know it sounds silly but it made me so happy especially after thinking about it for months. I put Romeo's coat on him and he was happy and handsome. Then we took a long walk to the pond and ran into Doreen and Ranger. Maybe I should sew another jacket for Romeo, one that has his name on it on one side and a message on the other like, I Love Woonsocket.

Hawk on Elbow

Yesterday on my walk down Elbow Street I noticed a hawk circling low. I looked around and noticed a dead squirrel on the side of the church parking lot.

[X] Spews Poison

[X] is a masterful demagogue of the entertainment age. His instruments are resentment, sarcasm, unbounded insult, casual mendacity, and the swaggering assertion of dominance. From his desk in the Oval Office, on Twitter, and at political rallies across the country, he spews poison into the atmosphere. [X] is an agent of climate change, an unceasing generator of toxic gas that raises the national temperature.
- Article by David Remnick

Rehab Running

‘In here, sometimes you feel less than human … It reminds inmates that they’re human beings, that there is more to them than what they’ve done.’

Since he entered prison in 2010, Jacobs has taken classes and earned a business degree. He joined the running club and keeps a meticulous training regimen that has him running 400-meter repeats after eight hours of working in the laundry facility. His hard work has helped him become the fastest runner in the penitentiary.

“Running is the glue that keeps it all together,” he said. “It keeps me positive, keeps me moving, keeps me going forward. It keeps me hopeful that there’s something better than this.”


Poet Carol Ann Duffy

Poetry, she says, should never “be up its own arse”.

Poetry, she says, “comes out of silence. There can be days when nothing emerges from the silence.”

“I’ve loved it,” she says. “It’s been an absolute joy.”

What advice would she give to her successor? “Be yourself. Celebrate poets and poetry. And enjoy it.”


The Head Shaking Woman

There's a young woman who we've seen twice she wanders around shaking her head from left to right compulsively. She sits in the soliciting spots holding her phone, eyeing the traffic. My fear is that she's addicted and looking for a way to her next fix.

Mood Indigo

October, November, December, is often the receive-mode low mood depression season for me. Every day I try out the idea of blowing off my walk to the Y pool. Just go swim one lap and you're free to go home! And lo and behold it works every time. I end up staying and swimming and feeling much better. But each day I have to trick myself again. Some days it's almost a game. Can this bad mood be beaten? Let's find out... Sometimes writing in my notebook seems to magnify my bad mood. At those times I tell myself, Go swim and come back later. Yesterday I was yawning and telling myself I was too tired to swim. I reminded myself, just do one lap. As soon as I hit the water I felt energized and stayed the course reminding myself that I am allowed to stop at any time. I had an unhealthy relationship with swimming 20 years ago. I don't want to go there again.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Maria's Poetry


A Color of the Sky

By Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I’m glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Tony Hoagland, “A Color of the Sky” from What Narcissism Means to Me. Copyright © 2003 by Tony Hoagland. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,
Source: What Narcissism Means to Me (2003)

After School on Ordinary Days

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

After school on ordinary days we listened
to The Shadow and The Lone Ranger
as we gathered around the tabletop radio
that was always kept on the china cabinet
built into the wall in that tenement kitchen,
a china cabinet that held no china, except
thick and white and utilitarian,
cups and saucers, poor people's cups
from the 5 & 10 cents store.
My mother was always home
from Ferraro's Coat factory
by the time we walked in the door
after school on ordinary days,
and she'd give us milk with Bosco in it
and cookies she'd made that weekend.
The three of us would crowd around the radio,
listening to the voices that brought a wider world
into our Paterson apartment. Later

we'd have supper at the kitchen table,
the house loud with our arguments
and laughter. After supper on ordinary
days, our homework finished, we'd play
monopoly or gin rummy, the kitchen
warmed by the huge coal stove, the wind
outside rattling the loose old windows,
we inside, tucked in, warm and together,
on ordinary days that we didn't know
until we looked back across a distance
of forty years would glow and shimmer
in memory's flickering light.

"After School on Ordinary Days" by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, from Italian Women In Black Dresses. © Guernica Editions, Inc., 2002.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan

"My art comes from an instinctive place. In my watercolors and collages I try to do what I do in poetry—that is to let go, to allow the old wise woman who lives in my belly to take over.

Often when I’m writing a poem, after the first few lines it is as though the pen moves across the page almost by itself, operating out of the subconscious mind. I don’t allow my conscious mind to control what is going on in the poem. For me, the same thing happens when I am painting or building a collage. Allowing my imagination to take over, gives me the freedom to paint people or birds or flowers as they exist in my mind rather than in reality.

Whereas in my poetry, I try to root my work in the details and specificity of ordinary life, in my art I am not attempting to achieve realistic portrayals of people or birds or flowers. Rather I am trying to capture energy and feeling. I am trying to get the essence of the subject down on paper, to convey joy or sadness, exuberance or loss."

- Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Michelle Goldberg

We are in a dark place in this country.

Paul Krugman

I have seen the future, and it’s full of menace.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

I Swim Because...

Most problems are water soluble.

Alexander Soros


But something changed in 2016. Before that, the vitriol he faced was largely confined to the extremist fringes, among white supremacists and nationalists who sought to undermine the very foundations of democracy.

The Friendship Meal

My wife and I have started a practice we call The Friendship Meal. What happens is something like this: we take a person or a couple and invite them to come have dinner with us. It’s almost always a disorienting thing to begin with — we don’t know them, they don’t know us, and everyone’s pretty shy. And sometimes the meals stay there: shyness and lack of connection, we eat and go separate ways. But sometimes that special spark happens, and, all-of-a-sudden, the conversations last for hours. And that makes the risk worth it!
- Ian Caveny, contributor to The Edit

Sopan Deb

I took an improv class.

There are two things I recommend to every 20-something year old. Take an improv class and see a therapist. Even if you feel like you’re very mentally in touch with yourself, it’s helpful to talk through things with someone.

And improv is an incredible experience. You get to create new worlds out of nothing. It’s such a social experience that you can’t help but make friends. And even if you don’t, you’re laughing the whole time. And when you are a recently-graduated young professional, experiencing being on your own in a brutal city like New York, you can’t ask for too much more.

-Sopan Deb

Toast Topped

Yogurt Toast: It's a Thing, and You Should Get In On It
Forget the butter. Forget the bowl. What you really want to be eating is yogurt—on your toast.
June 8, 2015
By Rochelle Bilow
(excerpts below)

I love yogurt. I love toast! But if there's one thing I don't love, it's having to choose between the two. Enter: yogurt toast.

This idea was borne out of a week of eating just yogurt or just toast for breakfast, then feeling so hungry by our 10:30 a.m.

I was full! I was satisfied until lunch, but I didn't feel weighted down.

It's the combination of complex carbs (from the whole-grain bread), the protein...

Anne Tyler

Tyler moved to Baltimore in 1965, where she has lived ever since, and she has set most of her novels there. She said:
"It's a city with grit and sort of a feisty spirit to it. I think it's a very funny city, and I love it. But I always feel that I'm an impostor when people talk about 'Baltimore writers' and feel I can pronounce upon Baltimore. Any Baltimorean can tell you I'm not a real Baltimorean."

In a Story

But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world.
-Tim O'Brien


“But this too is true: stories can save us.”
― Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Truer than the Truth

“A lie, sometimes, can be truer than the truth, which is why fiction gets written.”
― Tim O'Brien