Friday, October 31, 2008

Casting a Spell on Halloween

Casting a Spell on Hallowe'een - again (from October 07)

One of my daughters called from far away and asked if I was ready for Halloween, She told me it was her favorite holiday when she was young because the house felt so magical. I live away from the hurly burly of town and don't have many trick-or-treaters anymore, but I know my precious 2-year-old granddaughter Maya will come by, and that is inspiration aplenty. I have always loved to cast a spell on this wonderful night. Or rather, I allow the night to cast a spell on me. It's easy! Here's how.

Put on a cape. Put a pumpkin on the porch and hang up a respectable looking litttle skelton (not a silly or scary looking one), to remind you of your mortality. Set out a bowl of apples from the farm market, a kind of apple you don't usually eat, a true tasting apple that tastes like it just came off the tree. No mass-market red delicious, try McIntosh or Winesap.

Make the house smell like it should. Get out the dark molasses and bake some gingerbread. Put some cider in a pot on the stove and add cinnamon sticks and cloves. If you have the spot, build a big fire in the fireplace. Have plenty of low light in every room of the house, but no overhead lights, just candles and lamps with soft bulbs. I have a wall sconce that holds half a dozen candles- perfect for this night.

Put on Van Morrison or Bob Dylan or whatever you love, full blast. Lay out some Hawthorne and Poe books. Hope to see a beautiful child at your door. Dance.

Remember that it is All Saints Eve, All Hallows Eve- a tradition regarded in one form or another across history and throughout many cultures, particularly those with Gaelic roots, as a time when the dead are near. With the changing seasons, the death of nature's summer vibrance, the harvest over, the falling of leaves and the natural melancholy of fall, there is a momentary crack in the veneer of life. Stay attuned to the restless spirits wandering free of the grave tonight. Welcome them in. Grant them peace. Hope for wind.

from October 07

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Encounter of the Primary Kind: Adventure for an Old Lady

Ok Ok, nothing to hide: I had a little fling over the weekend. A stranger passed through town and was spending some time in the same glam spot where I was having an after-dinner glass of wine. He was swarthy, a little younger, an adventurer like me....and, like me, wanted to have a nice time with no drama and no attachment, preferably no names. He may do this every night, me not so much, but it doesn't matter. This was a new kind of thrill for me, living in the sticks as I do. When we met, we spoke strictly in French, since he was from Montreal. I started with the intention of saying in French that I studied French intensively forty years ago, but it came out rusty and wrong: "I have been studying French intensively for forty years." He laughed and kidded me about that, and we were off and running....literally talking and laughing the night away.

I had said something like "Ah oui je parle bien le Francais, mais il y a quarante ans je l'ai etudier. Et apres avoir bu, je le parle beaucoup plus couramment"- He understood the last part, even though couramment is not quite the word I was looking for. It worked. There was a definite spark. That doesn't happen often in these parts!

It was fun. When he told me he had been to Nepal and Everest Base Camp, I was a goner. I did have to gag a little when he said he had been a diving instructor at Club Meds all around the Caribbean, from which I inferred, with my usual cynicism, that he had probably contracted various and sundry diseases d'amour (who doesn't fall in love with the Club Med French diving instructor?) and so I made a solemn pact with myself to not relent to his charms. He was charming, and completely reasonable. He doesn't seem to mind hefty old ladies, we are apparently kind of his niche, or one of them, and he knows how to be attentive, kind, also funny. He calls us by our French my case, Therese. He moves on leaving only a light footprint... So where's the harm? God bless him! Wish there were more of him!

My kids (a few of them were there) were great sports- slipping me a hotel room key and breath mints ostensibly because I had gone over my usual two glasses of wine and 9PM (self-imposed) curfew, and shouldn't be driving home, but winkingly allowing me to pretend for a moment that I might take this random encounter a few steps further. Well as I said, this guy is an apparent specialiste in old ladies, and knows enough not to press his luck. He was charming, lovely, at one point in the wee hours, outside, even grabbing me, laughing, into the dark and unoccupied parking lot booth as if we were teenagers..saying "Let's think about this for a little bit." That was a true highlight of my recent life!

I hesitated to sit on his lap for fear of squishing him, but he was game for anything, and so I did, strong passionate man that he was! We took a car tour of the town and got pulled over by a police officer around 3AM because I was trying to help him find his car...luckily we hadn't really been drinking for several hours.....and so escaped the hand of the sheriff....

So all in all, a really fun night for a woman of a certain age. I didn't ask for or even want to know his name. We've been around the block, loving life, no need for worrying. No need for that key, although he liked the idea. I just laughed myself all the way home. He even visited me at my house the next morning, no idea how he figured that one out, but he's smart, and he's a man, and a gentleman, and you know how that goes! In the course of that morning visit he actually demonstrated on my living room floor how to do the cha-cha, a dance that disturbs me (hearkening back to my dancing school days in junior high with red-faced boys in white gloves, which this man definitely was not!).

I feel good that I took the right road when the path diverged. Could have been my last chance - and it was a really great one! This is all I am going to tell- that's the truth the whole truth the only truth, so help further details will be forthcoming! Inquiries will receive no response. Toodle-oo!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What It's Like Having Adult ADD or ANY ADD (What Many Teachers Hate to Understand)

I have been very busy for the last week or so, up in my head. The world, the house, (the school) have been whizzing past my super-highway mind. It's as if I'm trapped in the back-seat of a speeding car, barely able to count the telephone poles along the way, let alone focus on scenery.

I ate and slept at fairly appropriate intervals. I watched the news. I went to work. Occasionally I would see a pile of stuff here and there. Some stuff in the sink, some mail or clothes in piles here and there. I might wonder vaguely about it and briefly check off that it wasn't always like that, in that place, just kind of interesting for a moment as I walked through the room. But I couldn't think of what it was or where it was supposed to go or who was going to change it. I didn't care and I didn't try to figure these things out, because I was way too busy up in my head. I was tired, having travelled over the weekend. I was worrying about other things, thinking about other places and times and various people, and always, very very busy, with miles to go before I slept.

I remember around Sunday I saw an unopened can of Spaghettios in the middle of the kitchen floor, which made me begin a whole stream of free-association, thinking eventually of how sweet my grand-daughter is, and how maybe she moved it there or how much she might like it, and I've liked looking at it there every once in awhile, and have walked past it dozens of times without ever registering any reason or need to pick it up and move it. I kicked it once in a fit of pique while looking for my spatula, it's still there on Wednesday. I've enjoyed it very much, it hasn't bothered me a bit. I live alone. No reason why it should bother anyone else, either. It's mine.

Getting out the door in the morning is hard sometimes. Spinning around in circles, upstairs, downstairs, looking for shoes, looking for pocket change for lunch, looking for eyeglasses, car keys, and noticing lots of fun things along the way. An old birthday card from one of my kids, on the back stairway, a bracelet I haven't seen in years in the drawer where I'm searching for socks, The Economist issue I thought the mailman stole, voila!, under the bed, a bill that needs to be paid, in the cushions of the couch, a long-lost eyeliner in the pocket of my sweater, and hallelujah! a twenty dollar bill, on the dining room table right in front of my eyes! OH and there's a can of peas on the kitchen counter! I love peas! I forgot about peas! I could have eaten those last night! Or put them in my omelette this morning. Shoot! Too late now.

Then, lo! the sky cleared for an hour or so this afternoon, molecules in my brain mysteriously aligned in a different way and I felt like a newborn babe seeing the world for the first time.

I realized that the house was a wreck and that it looked literally, like a hurricane had blown through. I thought Ha! I can change this very easily if I want to, and I don't need to, nobody's making me, but wouldn't it be nice?? I'll do a wash of this clothing pile...oh and look...there's more over there! Why don't I put all these shoes in one pile? What a great idea! What is that empty cabinet in the bathroom? So pretty! Oh...I remember now. It's for all the clean washcloths that are piled in the hallway. Look at all that stuff in the kitchen sink! It's dirty dishes?! Who knew?!?!?! Let's see how do people do this when it's such a mess? Where do people start? Turn the water on. Organize the dishes a little, pots with pans, glasses together, silverware all together. Ok, I get it, it's all coming back to me now. It's easy! What's this? God almighty, I nearly forgot that I have an automatic dishwasher! What a great invention!

I've always been like this. It's not senility, but it borders on it, even if you are five years old. The short-term memory is not working properly. When you're young it manifests and translates as multi-tasking. You just keep moving along, running into what you want as you move. I had five kids and kept everything bubbling along 24-7. It was wonderful, I loved every second of it, but it was a series of searches and discoveries, and a wild one. I would save little messes the kids made...toothpaste mixed with peanut butter in dollhouse dishes and stuffed into the mouth of a teddy bear, for instance, which I would save for hours, even days, because such things were so curious, fascinating and wonderful to me, to be cherished rather than wiped anxiously away.

I feel very proud of myself for restoring a tiny bit of sanity to my environment today, but it would probably take years to correct all the collateral damage of years and years of being so "busy". (If you were a young schoolchild, wouldn't it be great to have some help with all this stuff in the world?) People like us often enjoy our peace and quiet. We can come up with great ideas if we have the room to breathe. Minimal stimulation once in awhile, please, and don't chastize. You think I should know where my eyeglasses are, let alone the strap they hang around my neck on? Think again.

I benefit from a helping hand. Just a little, not too much, don't want to lose track of anything since my mind works differently from most people. I really do know the general location of the essentials, whether I saw them one minute or five years ago, or twenty. I don't need structure, structure, structure. Let me loose or I'll fly off like a goose. I need someone to realize that my wings are strong and my vision is good and my brain is ok. I like FORMATION. I like having a destination. I'll follow a leader. But I need my space. And I like it up here in the quiet sky.


It seems most teachers can't stand kids (or adults) like this. I am blessed to have children (and a few co-workers) who understand and occasionally help me (carefully), without me even realizing it's help, lest I bolt. Sometimes it's just a few days of major disorganization that get out of hand. Brain chemistry fluctuates, things can get really messed up, but then the sky clears.

If teachers could offer just a little gentle good-natured help for a student who can't find his homework in his bookbag, or even kindly organize his binder papers once in awhile without making him feel stupid, understanding what those papers may have been through at home,(ADD runs in families, who may all have trampled on that paper on the kitchen floor this morning without even realizing it, while looking for the Cheerios and its accoutrements) life could be better and a slew of ADD medications wouldn't be a teacher's only prayer and solace.

The meds can help, even transform, a student's life, and keep the teachers from tearing that student to shreds, but wouldn't it be nice if students weren't treated and prodded like cattle? And if we could help them fly in formation without bringing them down from their gentle winds?

Happy Birthday Dear Julina!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Barack Obama: Radiant, Crystalline, and, Don't Forget, Half-white, a member of the largest human race, the mixed race

I have always been puzzled about why Barack Obama doesn't admit that he's half- white. At the very least, he could remind folks once in awhile, a little more emphatically: Don't forget, I'm actually half white! He has beautiful color, is a beautiful man, and is proud, as he should be, of his black heritage and cultural exposure in all directions. But as the climate of racial hatred fueled by McCain's campaign grows, why not speak up as a member of the largest human race, the mixed race?

We know he's cool, and those of us who understand the coolness factor understand why he doesn't want and shouldn't need to explain himself over and over, but things are getting frightening out there. The wackos are oozing out of the ducts.

Barack Obama, soon to be our first "Black president"- was raised in a white world by loving white grandparents, who must have struggled originally with the consequences of their daughter's insatiable wanderlust. The black part- and the middle name Hussein part- were virtually negligible parts of the young Barack Obama. His father, from whom he got his color and his middle name, was not present in his life, didn't help raise him, was just a guy he met once or twice. His mother, the one who sought exotic couplings and affiliations, wasn't there a lot of the time, and died young.

Like any other young person in our increasingly diverse world, Barack Obama tried to piece together his identity as he grew into adulthood. His mother, more of an archetypal figure in his life than an actual fleshy protector and teacher, provided an impetus for him to think beyond the limited confines of his grandparent's nest. His father, mystery man from Africa, provided the impetus to search out, identify with, and contribute to the black community, which, stick a pin in a map, turned out to be Chicago.

So his mother and grandparents raised him as well as they could, from midwestern small-town boy to increasingly competent and thoughtful young man, through Punahou and Harvard and on into Abraham Lincoln's old stomping grounds, and now onto the world stage.

All of Barack Obama's transitions have been carefully documented, and make sense, and produced a radiant man with a crystalline mind and heart, who stunned many of his Harvard professors and classmates with his aura of potential greatness.

And still, gratis of the ugliness of the McCain-Palin campaign, people this week have called from angry crowds such things as "Kill him!".

There have been comparisons made of Obama to JFK, Lincoln, and even Christ. I pray that Barack Obama is able to serve America, develop his considerable gifts, and that, in the fullness of time, people who "called for his head" will grow to understand and appreciate that he has always had the country's best interests at heart, and may very well be the best of all worlds.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Physics for Poets, Basically: The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics

I think it's time for me to post (again) something I was fascinated by early on in my life, thanks to our physics teacher Dr. Althea Johnson at Ellis in Pittsburgh,something that I should have developed and stuck with, Physics, and in particular: The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, embedded in the I Ching ("Far-reaching speculations can be associated with these ideas") and other esoteric philosophies, eons ago. Even little Wikipedia says "These laws (sic) are often associated with concepts far beyond what is directly stated in the wording"

1. All molecular processes seek equilibrium.

2. Equilibrium is attained only in entropy (death).

But there are variations, and exceptions, and bifurcations to everything, even this rule, and fighters, amongst physicists, against that thermodynamic rule: there don't seem to be many steady states. SO just get ready for what lies ahead, keep your heart simple, uncomplicated, and open. Get ready to move, if necessary. Get ready to stand firm, if you must.


Just for fun and beauty: From the Wilhelm/Jung version of the I Ching:
61. Chung Fu / Inner Truth


The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. Thus visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves. The hexagram consists of firm lines above and below, while it is open in the center. This indicates a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to truth. On the other hand, each of the two trigrams has a firm line in the middle; this indicates the force of inner truth in the influences they represent.

The attributes of the two trigrams are: above, gentleness, forbearance toward inferiors; below, joyousness in obeying superiors. Such conditions create the basis of a mutual confidence that makes achievements possible.

The character of fu ("truth") is actually the picture of a bird's foot over a fledgling. It suggests the idea of brooding. An egg is hollow. The light-giving power must work to quicken it from outside, but there must be a germ of life within, if life is to be awakened. Far-reaching speculations can be linked with these ideas.

DON'T NEED NOTHIN'! How to Face the Future with Equilibruim

I don't want anything right now. Not a single thing. I'm in a state of equilibrium, and it's insatiably gratifying. I don't need money. I don't need gratification from the latest stock market figures, or the latest presidential polls, I don't need steak or veggies with cilantro and snazzy sauces. I don't need wine or vodka. I don't need chocolate or coffee with sugar, not even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, or a good book or a good TV show. I don't need antidepressants, and I doubt I even need Metamucil. Actually, I don't need a thing. Nope. I'm done for the day.

And at midnight or 4 AM, when I wake up frantically throttling my own throat in some dreamstate-self-strangulation, wishing I was deader than a doornail, as Grandma used to say, I hope I'll remember this wonderful moment of equilibrium, which lasted nearly five minutes, a blessed bit of eternity.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Tolerance For Insanity: Quetzalcoatl's Return in 2012, This Year's Election, and the Nobel Prize in Physics, all rolled into one blogpost

Listening to tonight's Presidential debate, I realized my mind was wandering- I do have a certain tolerance for insanity as well as for bores...sometimes I think I've pretty much heard and seen it all, but, despite my hopes that it's time to settle back to the simple life of pastels and lace and pleasurable memory lapses for which I cannot be held accountable, I know that can't possibly be true.

I have been reading and kind of struggling, nightly for a few weeks- (nightmares and weird associations gratis with the experience) - through Mr. Pinchbeck's "2012:The Return of Quetzalcoatl " He's taken all varieties of the Carlos Castenada drugs and experiences and consulted the priestesses and shamans and carefully steamed his reliability quotients up the wazoo. But the man has got a brain. A big unintegrated ridiculously thirsty ego most of the time, but hey, he is really trying to get it together, and if you were living the 60's to the hilt, you can follow him. Tedious, but you can follow him, and wish him well, even wish all of us here on earth well, by the end. He does inspire and speak sanely at times. There is not a single conspiracy theory or new-age strategy or idea that he doesn't more-or-less validate, from aliens to crop circles and beyond, so whatever you've been doing to keep your wildest thoughts and associations at bay, get ready, cause he'll hear you out. He's uneven. He jumps around, embarrassingly. You wonder what his latest therapist has prescribed to "talk him down." But you can, if you have a certain tolerant spirit, hear him out, and wonder what's coming.

Personally I'm already convinced that it all has to do with the Hadron Particle Collider, and that today's two Japanese and one American Nobel Prize winner of the Physics award for their work in the most puzzling and topsy turvy symmetries in the universe - particle physics at its most exciting- are in places where Mr. Pinchbeck is trying to go. I would secretly rather have been a particle physicist, spending a lifetime involved with the development of the Hadron Particle Collider, or just a fly on the wall of the men who won the Physics award today. Hindsight!

I have an inkling of the mysteries involved. The collider and the physics prizes interest me immensely, who wouldn't find it all fascinating? -(oddly the people where I work aren't as excited as I am to talk about it- ). So I will toss and turn myself to sleep with my boredom at the debate- and my inkling...tiny inkling....of universe upon universe, time upon time, unfathomable but utterly true underlying principles of physics, validated today by people in Stockholm with clearer minds and better credentials than me and poor Mr. Pinchbeck, who has done his best, and thrust himself into an Amazonian version of the Carlos Casteneda fray, and come back to tell the tale as best he could.

The Nobel prizes thrill me to the core, must have been my grandfather who got me excited about them decades ago- I love the Physics one but the Peace Prize is the golden ring- and this year in particular- is making the Chinese government very nervous in light of the potential win of the imprisoned dissident Hu Jia. On Friday I will wake up very early, as I did last year, and get online to watch the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize from Sweden. So thrilling to see the small crowd gather outside the beautiful and mysterious 18th century doors at The Swedish Academy in Stockholm's Old Town, to see an elegant man appear to meet the press.

That old Mr. Nobel, dynamite maker, really got some stuff going.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bob Dylan's Newest Album, Tell Tale Signs, Due out Next Week, Sneak Preview from NPR

This is an exclusive preview of Bob Dylan's new album, due out next week.

Thanks to Justin Wolfers of the New York Times column "Freakonomics" for bringing it to our attention.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Steve Fossett in Shambala: Fossett's Plane Wreckage Likely Found in California

In the last several days, personal items of Steve Fossett have been discovered near Mammoth Lakes Califormia, and this morning it appears the wreckage has been found,
so I re-post my blog entry from last Fall, in his memory:

One of the greatest adventurers of all time, a man who pushed himself to achieve physical feats that noone else on earth has ever achieved, has vanished from the face of the earth. He apparently removed his Breitling wristwatch with its Emergency Locator Transmitter, grabbed a bottle of water, jumped on a single-engine plane and disappeared.

Did he really crash into a remote Nevada cul-de-sac where even the best technology in the world can't find him? Or did this world class adventurer enter a place where he languishes in peace and from which he may still emerge? A man so interested in human limits as he was might not have ignored accounts of mystic transfigurations and superhuman accomplishments emanating from the Himalayas.He was a good-humored and down-to-earth businessman and family man, but certainly not a simple man. He could have read the most esoteric literature on earth for all we know. Few could know the heart or mind of a man like Steve Fossett. How many of us could inspire the likes of Richard Branson to engage with Google Earth to create a special set of all new high-resolution images so that computer-savvy people world-wide could conduct a search for his missing aircraft?

And yet, he's gone. Some conspiracy theorists say Fossett disappeared into Area 51 near Roswell. Some say maybe he had enough, was growing old, and went off to his own private island to live in obscurity with a newfound friend. Would a man of his caliber do that?

There are far more intriguing possibilities. For instance, ancient accounts tell of Shambala, a paradise that is not visible on this earth, to which entry is gained only by the achievement of certain levels of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines through yogic techniques. Why couldn't it be something like that? Mircea Eliade wrote about it. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, the objectivist philosopher, wrote of a utopian society created by brilliant industrialist drop-outs who used illusion and mirrors to hide access to their mountain kingdom. How about that?

Listen to Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And finally, remember the words of Christ: "In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you."

Let's hope that Mr. Fossett is somewhere in the universe reaching the new heights that he deserves to reach. I often take heart from this old Scottish proverb, and I hope Mr. Fossett would at least be able to say: "I am wounded but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and bleed awhile, then I shall rise and fight again."