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reverential respect

Right now it is wicked cold. And, the forecast for the week ahead looks worse. Bone chilling temps, -17, real temp, not wind chill. What it was like before furnaces to warm a house is unimaginable. The people who populated these lands, Native Americans, pioneers who settled, must have been very hardy folk. Survival is such work.

In the early ’70’s, I lived in an Indian village in the Andes for a while. The nights were cold, at over 12,000 feet, way above the tree line, so cold that we boiled water to make Jell-O, put it on the wide window sill, and, within an hour, it turned cold and firm. It might get to 10 degrees at night. The room of the house where I stayed had mud floors; the walls were adobe, about two feet thick. I cooked with a primus and there was no running water. About six blocks up the hill, there was clear water, an Incan underground spring with water as pure as pure can be, and very icy. I would fill and carry buckets of water back to the room but, being klutzy, I usually only made it back with two half buckets full.

That was just for a few months. Civilization was only two hours away by truck, which came to the village with supplies at least three times a week. There were dirt roads that were fine. I spent most of the day buying and preparing food, washing, doing chores. I was not a photographer yet, though I used a camera occasionally. The man I lived with at the time was a painter and, as the days passed, the walls soon filled with canvases the colors of the earth and sky, burnt ochres, dark and light siennas, cobalts, ultramarine blue.

The knowledge that I could leave, get to a hospital if I needed, made everything easier. We were there because we wanted to be there. We made choices. One could turn back.

The house in which I sit in now, in front of this computer, where an energy grid I rely on keeps us safe and comfortable, was on Indian Territory two hundred years ago and conditions, for humans and animals alike in winter, so extreme.

Awed.

Chinchero

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Good Enough for Hawking

Perhaps you will think me unhinged, if you don’t already, but I assure you, there is no hyperbole in this post.

This is a story I thought only I knew, until rather recently when my BFF from grade school told me that I had whispered it to her at the time. Thank goodness.

It was dark, a very warm night in the summer of 1960 or 1961. I was about eleven or twelve. I stood under the street lamp on the corner of my suburban block. I was waiting for my best friend’s parents to pick me up in their car to go somewhere special, perhaps to a drive-in movie. She lived only two blocks away and, as a matter of course, we visited each other almost daily. As I stood watching the insects flutter and buzz about in the stream of light, I saw a large flat thing hovering above me with many colored lights. It was triangularly shaped and about the size of the bottom of a whole house. It was low because I could see the sharply molded details in it and the multi-colored lights on the bottom were clear and bright. They blinked on and off a bit, just a little bit. I thought it might be about three house heights above me. It was not far off, not at all. I was mesmerized. After quite a while, in the blink of an eye, it was gone.

I stared, expecting it to reappear but there was nothing. When my friend’s parents arrived soon afterwards, I got into their car. I never told anyone, or so I thought, until I mentioned it to my same friend about five years ago. She remembered that night vividly. She said I had climbed into the back seat next to her and had been very quiet, subdued. She asked me what was wrong and I whispered to her what I had seen. I told her not to tell anyone. I was sure no one would believe me.

I did not remember that I had told her at all. It wasn’t until many years later that it dawned on me that there were no sounds from the thing at all, either while I looked at it or when it disappeared. Stillness.

So there you have it. I saw one.

Last night, I watched Part One of Into The Universe with Stephen Hawking. He spoke about the likelihood of aliens, and the distinct possibility that they could be in our midst already. Call me cuckoo but at least the world’s most noted cosmologist wouldn’t snigger.

nightStreetlamp

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The Art of Repose

Sometimes I worry that when I retire I will never get dressed again. I will just stay in pajamas, really a nightgown, all day long, wandering from room to room, showering occasionally, playing with the dogs.

I hate it when I am obliged to do anything. A commitment to go somewhere, to a play, to a gallery opening, to a party, usually sets up an attack of Dread.

Dread is not reserved for Sunday afternoon; it can extend itself to anything that involves corporeal effort. The mere thought of exercise is abhorrent. I detest doing physical activities. When my husband and I watch the Winter Olympics, I am amazed that people like to do those things and that they can do them. I groan when I have to get up from the couch.

Even when I was a kid, I remember my mother urging me to go out and enjoy the fresh air, when all I wanted was to nestle in bed with my latest Nancy Drew mystery.

During gym class for four whole years of high school, I hid behind the bleachers. A couple of times, Ms Knuth, a very bulky Swedish woman, would find me and force me to climb a rope or balance on a beam. She was an evil madwoman.

Now when people ask me what I do for exercise, I tell them I wear Dr. Scholl’s and chew gum. I just want to play. I relish the time to take photographs or work on them. I like to watch movies and read books. I like to pet the dogs.

What is wrong with that? There are so many groups defending human rights, can’t Relaxing be a civil right? Can Inactive People not be regarded with such open disdain? I have always been willing to sacrifice for my non-sporting lifestyle. I eat less. I occasionally cut out carbs.

One day, I dream, just lounging around will be appreciated.MarilynReading

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the Now

I am slowly emerging from a dark space. To make art and to live Now are the only escapes really.  A friend wrote that “life has a delicate beauty that can inspire and destroy.” Indeed.

I have never learned to live Now very well. It is the past that occupies so much of my mental space. Not the painful past, mind you, just visual memories that come and go. Our minds are so curious.

That is what draws me to the photograph: the fleeting moment caught in time, a fugitive memory made permanent. And, then, if that were not miracle enough, we can view the illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface. One can return to a piece of paper that defies and transcends time and space. Such magic.

I really love snapshots. There is a freshness and honesty that lightens my spirit. I will leave you with a few I found that make me feel good. They are so Now.

Womanditchsmaller

FishingNetgirl

HappyCleaners

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Les Mis week

 kafka_drawing

This last week has lasted a very long time. The last two weeks have been like decades.

My situations, how I live, work, and the small comforts I have, seem precarious states, suddenly endangered. Standing alone in an imagined court, I am like an innocent whose life hangs in the balance. An undereducated jury or a crooked judge weighs my fate. The stability of my world appears flimsy, wobbly, Jean Valjean’s predicament closer now to me that I had ever thought.

I am not sure why. The death of a character in a series, the very real death of a student, the grave illness of another: all bolster my fear of the unforeseen. The fates are fickle and their temperament, volatile.

I turn on the TV only to see more unpredictable conclusions. A woman shops in a grocery store, a child plays in a classroom, a couple enjoys a movie. Benign environments have turned malignant.

The irrational now is viable, toxic, and arbitrary.

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now i remember

As hubby and I settled in to watch Downton Abbey last night, I immediately remembered what I had intended to say. The opening scene in the credits is of a dog’s butt. Wagging tail but a definite butt. It seemed such an odd image to start such a visually opulent series. I said something to my husband and he dryly replied that it must be a nod to the American audience. If that is true, I don’t mind at all. I love every scene that Isis, the dog, trots through. And, as much as I am amused by hubby’s conjecture, I doubt that is it. There must be something more.

Could it be that the dog is a metaphor for the faithful and subservient relationship between poor employee and rich employer? In looking for a picture to attach, I find quite a few others on Google have asked the same question. Even Hugh Bonneville, the lead actor whose name appears with the dog butt, has spoken with dismay about the pairing.

 Isis

After all, using a servant to walk with the owner of the Abbey would hardly be believable or as funny. Yes, I believe I understand the reason now and it satisfies me. And, it relates to something I have felt.

As a teacher in America, I am always reminded that I am replaceable, disposable, menial. That is not the message from my students. They have made me feel valuable or, in some cases, loved. I still keep in touch with a group of students in South America when I first started sharing what I had learned with passion. That was 1979. The implication that teachers are minions comes from Admin. Upstairs, Downstairs. The curious part of it is that faculty are the most devoted members of the educational community. Admin and students come and go, but, at least where I teach, the faculty are the core, the vital nucleus of learning. In the classroom, bright minds on both sides of the desk collide and create brilliant sparks.

I apologize for not allowing comments on the blog itself. Posts by some readers on other blogs have convinced me that I would rather leave it as is. But WordPress has cleverly allowed readers to comment privately. That is always welcome.

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feast or famine

Sorry for the days without posts. For some it may be nothing at all, not even noticed. For others, it may bring up abandonment issues. Truth be told, I just had to go back to work in the coal mines.

I am still on a Downton Abbey binge fest. Only now I have hooked my husband. We watch on my iPad at night before bed. He is not a glutton so two episodes are the most we watch at a time. I called the Principal at work “milord” yesterday, partly in fun, and partly because I do identify with the kitchen staff. Admin generally see faculty as dispensable as servants.

There was something I was wondering about and finding rather confounding. I cannot remember now; maybe it will come to me as I write.

How about the incredibly gross commercials on TV aired at dinnertime? People across the continent, young and old, have to hear about vaginal atrophy, erectile dysfunction, and the like. I don’t know what is worse, the condition, or the often life-threatening side effects for the medications. I cannot imagine growing up eating supper with such explicit references to uncontrollable bodily fluids. If we were lucky enough some nights to not have to eat at the table, it was time for a Swanson TV dinner, always the fried chicken. If my mother overcooked it, and that was not unusual at all, the browned chicken crust would stick to the aluminum tray. I can still taste it. Now my grandchildren are subjected to overactive bladders and Depends.

They are discovering that there are some additives to fast food that create addiction. No duh. I used to shake like a alkie with DTs when my mom was late with our cheeseburgers from McDonalds. The fries cause serious dependency.

I will post a little jpeg once in a while of pictures I am working on for a book. The photos are of my dogs and their magical ability to enter the paintings they love. I am looking forward to writing the stories they tell when they exit the artwork.

If I think of that thing I was going to tell you, I will need to make a note. I am fearful of the day when I forget where I have parked my car.

PupsandFrankenthaler

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Foray into Suburban Tundra.

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Fresh Snow and Veggies

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1.6.14

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1.5.14

I probably have spent one hour outside in the last week. I mean, outside, fresh air outside. In the car, in the grocery show, in TJ Max, in the post office: none of them count. People talk about cabin fever and it might hit me any time but so far, I’m good. Monday Land of Cogs did not happen because of snow. I hope Tuesday Land of Cogs gets cancelled, too.

“Hi, I’m Laura Linney and this is Masterpiece Classic.” I love to say that along with her. Whenever I am watching PBS on my iPad, I stare into the screen during the introduction and try to imitate the eyes and lips like Gillian Anderson, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren. I can see my reflection on the screen and I have no dramatic eyebrow movement like them, absolutely none. I try but I look a little more like Bea Arthur, without any eyebrow movement, other than a Groucho up-and-down forehead stretch.

I started Downton Abbey, Season 2. I have been avoiding it, because I knew it would be another addictive commitment; but, I succumbed because I am weak, weak, weak, a pleasure hound.

Tomorrow is supposed to be 40 to 50 degrees below zero. I may go out tomorrow, out of sheer perversity.

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01.04.2013

Eeech. Dread Sunday is almost here, the day before Dread Monday.  Back to the salt mines.

What I need to try to address tomorrow, before returning to the Land of Cogs, is the enormous amount of short glass jars that live eternally in my refrigerator. They have multiplied to the extent that there is no longer any room for food in there. I have been smashing loaves of bread on top of the milk gallons.

I cannot bear to throw any of them away. There are gourmet mustards, gourmet jams and jellies, rich concentrates of curry, garlic, tomato, roasted red pepper, wasabi, horseradish, lemon and other densely flavored basils, huacatay, and ají. There are fine salad dressings for every discerning palate, tartar sauces, seafood sauces, BBQ sauce, hoisin, Asian plum sauces, cherry and cranberry seasoning goop and god knows what else.

I have room for a dozen eggs, mashed bread, two milks, and some sugar-free jello. WTF.

We have to buy fresh food constantly, cook it and eat it right away because there is no room to store it. I don’t have room for leftovers unless I smash those in with the odd fresh item in the bottom drawers. At Thanksgiving, and thank the gods it was cold enough, we put the turkey in the middle of the covered hot tub outside, so the dogs wouldn’t get to it, until we could stuff and shove it in the oven.

I remember the culture shock of visiting friends in NYC in the 60’s and every day they bought fresh stuff, but they had nothing in the refrigerator. Their view was also the brick wall of the building opposite them. And this was Riverside Drive. Karl Malden lived in that building, I know because I rode with him in the elevator. I could never look at him in a film again without knowing he had that same brick view.

I am a condiment hoarder. I am like those people on TV whose children visit and cry when they have to walk on top of the boxes and random paraphernalia. Only my abundance resides in a cold dark place. At least nobody can walk in there.

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