Sunday, June 24, 2012

Six Weeks At Sea

My husband is gone for six weeks to work in Boston. The kids are with me. Me and the kids for six weeks flying solo like geese in a V formation, or like 18th century Nantucket whalers, out of the sight of land, but in our case, we're still an "easy" drive to the grocery store. "O easy for Leonardo," as Dylan Thomas wrote in A Child's Christmas in Wales.

I'm the front of V, the lead goose, the v-vavoom, the engine of this little ship of three. O Captain my Captain, the kids say to me, when's lunch?

O Superbly Bleeding Heart of Mary, or suffering Christ or righteous HaShem, merciful Guan Yin, or Hera and Ceres, goddess of mothers,  or whatever higher power who oversees the moms who are ill, and working the line: the sea is so big and my boat is so small. I plan to steer for the Gulf Stream, get in that current with the gulfweed and the other little fish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Difference Between The Lightning Bug and The Lightning

Finding the right word is the paramount concern for scribblers. Crap. Is paramount the right word? Maybe "chief" would be better?  I must refer to the best present I ever got: Rodale’s Synonym Finder.
How about "upper-most," or "cardinal?" "Cardinal" has that nice alliteration on the Cs.  Lord have mercy this is hard work, writing; why does anyone even try? It's a compulsion, the way some bakers bake, though baking too requires precision teaspoons and it's all too easy to deflate a cake.

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."  What I wonder is how long did he agonize over that pithy little remark?

Pascal wrote, "I made this letter so long only because I didn't have the time to make it shorter." So I guess I'll simply stop "discontinue" "leave off" "drop" and "abandon" this right here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Heart Chocolate and So Does The Heart

I'm not a scientist; I only recently learned the word "flavanoids," but instinctively, as a hedonist, I knew this: A Piece of Chocolate a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. As the devil said in Paradise Lost, "it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, n'est ce pas?" What I mean is, we're all terminal cases.

If I go down slower by eating foil wrapped mashed beans from tropical countries, mixed with milk of an ungulate, why then, why not? It sounds like science fiction.

All the books I'm reading on happiness reveal that the devil is not in the details, but in the big picture.  That'll freak a body out: the big picture. It's like that room made of monks' skulls in Italy where over the lintel it is written, "What you are we used to be; what we are now you will be..." Happy?  Happiness resides in the details, the small stuff, the sweat of the living, and those couple of ounces of dark chocolate that keep us upright in the right direction.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Toast For My Sister's Wedding

My sister is getting married today. Seems to me she was just seven?

We would play The Umbrella Game, at seven or eight, crouching in a huddle of umbrellas as the lawn sprinkler crossed over in it's lazy arc. I'm getting emotional. I wasn't so at the time, I was convulsed with laughter or "horsefeathers" our grandmother called them, as the "rain" pelted the umbrellas and we waited inside the camp, hysterical as only two sisters can be, and making our Breyer plastic horses enact some scene we'd seen on the soap opera Santa Barbara.

Okay now I'm getting really emotional. I realize we'll never do that again. I'm 40 and arthritic, and you're 36 and roundly pregnant. I can't crouch and you can't fit.

We're married women today, and come August, both of us with children. The rain is real now; the scenes from Santa Barbara, are now our lives, minus the nefarious Princess Wilhemina plot, and the evil twins, and the spirit-possessed priest, but plus inevitable piles of laundry, work, planning healthy meals around vegetables.

Mark Knopfler sings: "I can't stop the pain when it calls, I'm a man, I can't stop the rain when it falls, my darling, who can? My darling friend, my darling friend, all we've got going is love in the end. It's all that matters."

"It's all that matters." But I can say this: We've still got those umbrellas. It's just that they're metaphorical now. Punit. All of these family and friends gathered.  Parasols.

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying, 
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud, 
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth! and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine! 
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I've been fascinated since childhood by things in the sea without spines: comb jellies, mantis shrimp, anemones. The quality of spinelessness is buoyancy to me. Drifting. In the Tao of the Humbolt Current. I like all plankton. I'm older than the kid who used to capture comb jellies in the dark to watch them sparkle. I have a spine of my own, and generalized degenerative arthritis. "The spine a 70 year old" as my rheumatologist tells me, and closing up my paper gown I feel like a specimen. Something that could be jarred in an old school museum, with a fading handwritten label: Degenerating Suburban Mother. See what having a spine gets you? is what I say to the sea squirt, when I pull up the lines that lead to the crab pots, I wish I were a sea squirt. Some kind of sponge. The water moves through them. They don't even have blood vessels, they are the vessel. It is elegantly simple. Simplify simplify, isn't that what Emerson said? Yet we have complicated, with upright posturing, opinions on New Yorker poems, bones.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

First Broken

I've never broken a bone. I have thing for bones, though, and X-rays; they reveal the secret scaffolding.

Yesterday my son broke the tip of his ring finger on his right hand. It was a lawn chair accident. Damn lawn chairs. You see them in commercials on tv with people sipping iced tea under a live oak having the relaxing time of the time of their lives, but not so! Not so! They can break the tip of the ring finger of your right hand! 

His X-ray showed perfect phalanges, except for that one little gash, a crack, zig-zaggy like lighting in a tiny world. "See?" I said pointing to it. It was less of a question and more of an imperative. Look! what happens when you try to wear a lawn chair on your head? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Full Barnyard

"Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I'm a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe." - Nikos Kazantzakis, from Zorba the Greek

Buddhist teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends that we practice "full catastrophe living." And I do. Husband, children, house - well not a house, but a rented apartment - dishes, laundry, car pool, sanitary hand wipes, everything

More than a catastrophe, it is a barnyard, after a big rain. Squelch, squerch - that's me in the mud in my wellies with the mournful frog faces, yelling soueeeee, soueeee, and smacking on the tin pan with a wooden spoon. 

There are pens for the laundry, stalls for long handled wooden spoons. I milk the cow of myself, going back and forth from Trader Joe's for the slops. Out back there is a heavy midden of the crusts I have cut off the bread."You think too much," Zorba says, "That is your trouble. Clever people and grocers, they weigh everything."