on reading a friend’s short stories

While I eat lunch, I am reading an anthology of short stories written by a friend. I usually read while I eat and while I’m waiting for sleep to come. I go through several books a month. I guess that means I eat frequently or suffer from insomnia. Actually, each is true to some extent.

Even back in college, I was intimidated by this writer-friend’s erudition. “Erudition.” That really is the perfect word for just how broad and deep his learning is. And it’s reflected in the narration of many of his stories, which assumes that the reader has at least heard of the great philosophers and writers whose works populate a good liberal education. The characters in these tales, however, run the gamut — from auto mechanics and health care workers to college students and professors. They are stories that are inclusive of age, race, marital status, and economic realities. They are stories about life as experienced by a narrator (and it is not always the same one) who is attuned to the nuances of the moment.

For me, in every story, it is the voice of the narrator that catches and guides my attention.

And that is the very reason why I feel compelled to muse about reading short stories written by a friend whose path periodically keeps crossing mine. He uses names and characters that are familiar to us both, events that coincide with what I know of his life. He is the writer; but is he always the narrator?

While, as his friend, I am enticed to wonder about the origins of these details, the truth is that it doesn’t matter to me, the reader. He is writing from his own experiences, recreating and rearranging them to suit his fiction. It’s what good writers do.

Despite knowing that, I can’t help wondering which details really happened. Did his young family really get evicted out of their apartment the day before one Christmas (as happens in one of my favorite stories in his last anthology)? I guess I can always ask him, and I probably will. (I tend to think that, while the characters in the story are drawn from his life, the situation probably isn’t.) His answer will not change my enjoyment of the story, but it will satisfy my “friendly” curiosity.

Finally, his stories bring to my mind lyrics from “Circles,” one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums by now-gone Mary Travers:

There’s no straight lines make up my life,
and all my roads have bends.
There’s no clear-cut beginning,
and, so far, no dead ends.

(Just like this blog — which, I assure you — is totally non-fiction.)

treadmill meditation

I don’t run. I walk with my eyes closed, holding onto the bar that measures my heart rate. I up the incline a little. Up the speed. Little by little.

I like walking with my eyes closed, but I can’t do that out in the street, where I would probably fall and break a hip. But it works here, in the exercise room at the Jewish Community Center, where it’s never crowded and the mirrors never reflect any hot young and toned females reminding me that’s it’s been a half-century since I was one of those.

I am meditating on my new gravatar, and I know that if I were a half-century younger, I would have my own mythic Avatar. She would probably look at lot like Xena.

I would be a player. Or, more accurately, a gamer. I actually don’t know much at all about gaming, but I “know” some interesting gamers because I follow them on Twitter — because my son follows them on Twitter.

There’s a whole subculture out there of gamers — of bright, creative younger people who Tweet and FB and blog and tumblr and instagram and flickr and all of those oddly spelled connective mechanisms that people my age usually have to look up on Wikipedia.

I’ve become a real fan of Felicia Day, a young woman of so many talents and creative projects that she takes my breath away. There’s no point in trying to describe her here, since her website has all the relevant information. You really should check out her funky youtube video of her song “Don’t You Want to Date My Avatar.” I’ve even gotten sucked into watching her , The Guild. It’s like I live on another planet from these creatives.

So, I’m on the treadmill, meditating, sort of, on being who I am. Not a gamer. Not even a player. Just a little old lady whose heart rate is up to 135 and I do, indeed, need to take a breath.

I open my eyes and look straight into the mirror into the mirrored eyes of a really good looking gray haired guy, who is working out at one of the machines in front of my treadmill. He smiles. He can’t be smiling at me, I think, but I smile back anyway.

Later, as I get up from the ab-crunching machine, he’s standing nearby, cooling off. He obviously takes this exercise thing a lot more seriously than I do. At least I get that impression from his trim physique and the gym shorts and fingerless gloves he is wearing. “This is a good time to come here,” he says to me. (It’s just a little after noon on a Sunday, and the place is almost empty.)

“Yes,” I say, smiling back. “Except it’s such a nice day out there. It’s a good day to be outside.” (Duh! What kind of a response is that??) For a minute we talk about the weather. I move on to the recumbent bike. He moves onto the the free weights.

Now I’m pedaling and thinking about the fact that I have no makeup on and barely ran a comb through my hair before I left home. I don’t come to the gym to meet men; I come to try and get my cholesterol under control and increase my stamina.

I might have to rethink all of that.

I’ll meditate on it.

happy belated blogaversary to me:
9 years and counting

I started blogging on November 29, 2001, and the old bloghome is still here, reminding me why I started and how I grew as a “personal blogger.” I still keep in touch with many of the bloggers who were around at that early time in blogging history, only now it’s mainly through Facebook.

In reading some of my old posts, I realize that I still write about the same things: politics, injustice, being a woman, ordinary magic, getting older, being me. Things change. Things stay the same.

Let’s see if I can make it to year 10.

a sense of scent

I almost missed this Magpie Tales #33 visual writing prompt, but better late than never.
(As usual, you can read other submissions at the link above.)

A Sense of Scent

She thought she was done with him,
but one night the moon rose
clear and full-faced,
and an early autumn wind
swept the scent of lavender
through her open window.

Some times are harder than others
to sit silent,
hands clenched against
the lure of the pen,
mouth set against
the call of the phone,
thinking to oneself
that some things are better
left to silence,
to the slow decay of time,
the turning of moons
and lavender seasons.

But even in the darkest of corners
some things refuse to die –
some small husk still
riddled with seeds,
some insistent root
defying the dust,
some dormant dream
of a riotous clash of hearts,
clutch of minds,
dance of hands that
hope and hold and, too soon,
let go.

She thought she was done with him,
except his voice
still pulls at her belly
like the insistent tides of the moon.
So when he calls
from places lush
with a thousand thriving things,
she sends him dewy lavender
wrapped in familiar black lace,
because, they say,
The sense of smell
is the most visceral,
holding even the darkening
memory of the dying.

losing it

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, at my age.

I lost my big bunch of keys somewhere in the past few days, and the ring has my car key w/chip on it. Today, as I was out running errands, twice I left my extra car key on a store counter. Sometimes, when I’m driving, I forget where I’m going and wind up blocks out of the way before I come back to the moment.

Granted, I’ve been pretty distracted, worrying about my son’s “dental carnage,” as he calls it. With no health insurance (and living across the country from me), he was given little good advice from the doctors he saw regarding his swollen (although pain-free) jaw. After a CAT scan and a week and a half on antibiotics that didn’t help, he finally was sent to an oral surgeon for the extraction of several infected teeth.

Which brings me to appreciating friends that I HAVEN’T lost, including a former SO who now lives in Portland and wound up bringing my son to stay with him after the surgery and transporting him home and to and from the follow-up appointment.

I guess it’s a matter of losing some and winning some.

I can always get another set of keys made.

so, I won this book


The book, which contains free verse and reprints of prayers and bits of prose, features lots of Corita’s collage art, which contains lots of cut-up words from ads and headlines, sometimes reconfigured, sometimes not.

The description above is from a post on the site from which I won the book — Killing the Buddha. It’s a site that I find always stimulating.

I never win anything. I mean it. I think that this is the first thing I every won. Well, I came in second in a Swing Dance contest once. Even got a trophy. Usually I don’t even make an effort to enter any kind of contest. Never play the lottery. Because I never win anything.

But this time I did. And I did because I remember the 60s. I didn’t remember Sister Corita, who created the book, published in 1967. But I did remember the Berrigan Brothers, and I remembered that Daniel Berrigan was a Jesuit.

I recently read online somewhere (can’t find it again) that the story was that Daniel Berrigan kept a photo of Sister Corita in his shower with a note that said “no one should shower alone.”

Thinking of Berrigan, I am remembering another activist ex-priest who was a good friend at one point in my life. He has grown immensely as an artist in those past 25 years, although he was good even back then. His paintings, as he is, are larger than life. I just love his new stuff.

I have been fortunate in my life to have had some closeness with some truly unique men, who have inspired me and moved on and left me with the kinds of memories that will keep me smiling someday as I retire to a rocking chair in the sun.

(And I’ve been just as fortunate to continue to have a group of close women friends whose constancy and candor, humor and heart, help to keep me smiling — well, most of the time.)

So, now I wait for my prize, a book by a creative woman, to arrive.

It’s a good day.

Delilah of Sunhats and Swans

It starts out the way a horror story might: a stormy night, an unscratchable itch in the middle of an odd young man’s head. Something is going to happen.

But it’s not a horror story, and something does happen. Or rather “someone.”

It’s a story about a sense of family forged, not by nature, but by nurture; about a young woman – only a girl, really — dropped into a still town like a pebble into a still pond.

And things begin to happen.

It’s my daughter’s debut novel, and you can read more about it and also buy it here:

Alice Fulton, poet, professor, and Guggenheim Fellow offers this back-cover description:

Delilah of Sunhats and Swans, Volker’s first novel, combines the insouciance of youth with the tragedy of experience. It tells the bittersweet story of one young woman’s transformative effect upon the lives of others. Delilah is a seeker — a pilgrim and a stranger. She also is a charmer, a being blessed with charisma as mysterious as it is luminous. Haunted by her past, Delilah somehow manages to make the most of the present. You won’t soon forget her.

little altars everywhere

Yes, I know that’s the name of a book by the Ya-Ya writer, Rebecca Wells.

But in this case, I’m referring to this slide show of “altars” that people submitted to a request for “What’s on Your Shelf” from the blog on Killing the Buddha.

I’m not sure how I found that site — probably just surfing around, looking for something to think about, care about. Not that there isn’t plenty out there: homeless, bankruptcy, greed, war, fraud, despair. Oh, yes, plenty to think about and care about. Too much, as a matter of fact. Too much for my tired brain, tired heart.

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
is one of my favorite non-fiction books. Maybe by only favorite non-fiction book. So, it’s not surprising that when I ran across the Killing the Buddha website, I was intrigued.

I used to have an altar of sorts — that’s when I had room for a surface to put it on. Now I have a wall

that includes a witch’s broom, my old power stick, a quilted shield especially designed and constructed for me by my good quilter friend, my new walking stick, Acuaba, and a photoshopped picture of “witches at tea” using the faces of my women friends. As powerful and meaningful as any shelved altar, I would think.

My shelves themselves are stacked with books, craft patterns, and assorted other things of significance. For example:


You might notice the Tarot deck, the icons, the empty box from my 3G iphone, a mini cast iron cauldron. What you don’t see in the shelves below are my collections of beads and jewelry findings that I’m trying to find time to play with/work on.

As I hurry along to get ready for Christmas (yes, I do still call it Christmas; why not?), I think about the cocoon in which I have wrapped myself during this time of world wide insanity to escape from the fundamentalists, the radical atheists, the war mongers and warring sufferers, indeed, the sufferers of all kinds.

I surround myself with resident family and Bully Hill Seasons wine and Chocolate Mint kisses, with quilting dreams and knitting crafts, with escapist suspense novels on ipod and paper, with the snores of my old and much loved cat.

I wish there were, indeed, little altars everywhere like mine — eclectic and inclusive and affirming.

I wish there were an altar somewhere on which if could feel prayers for my suffering mother would be answered.mom

Happy Birthday Millie at 84

If you’re an elderblogger, then you probably know Millie Garfield, of My Mom’s Blog.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is celebrating her 84th birthday by going to the theater to see Jersey Boys.

We’ve been joining to celebrate Millie’s birthday online for the past four years. She became a celebrity among us when her son posted a series of very funny videos in which she starred. You can find them here.

Go there an have a laugh, compliments of Millie, and go to her blog and wish her a happy birthday,