Thursday, December 18, 2014

we are all completely beside ourselves

I am reading a novel called "We are All Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler. I got it from the library because it made someone's list of notabel books in 2014. She also wrote "The Jane Austen Book Club" which did not grab me. The title of this latest novel by Fowler grabbed me.

It is fascinating. I wish I could talk to her about her process in developing the story.  On one level, it is about an unhappy family that experienced tragedy. On another level, it  is a brilliant, and brilliantly subtle, criticism of science. It is also a visionary reflection on what it means to be a human being and to be a being.

It works on many levels.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Various Portents by Alice Oswald, a seasonal poem

this is my official favorite Xmas poem.  Ms. Oswald is a British poet who does a lot of gardening,sees nature more clearly than most. If you haven't heard of her, that is common for great poets.

Various Portents

By Alice Oswald
Various stars. Various kings.
Various sunsets, signs, cursory insights.
Many minute attentions, many knowledgeable watchers,
Much cold, much overbearing darkness.

Various long midwinter Glooms.
Various Solitary and Terrible Stars.
Many Frosty Nights, many previously Unseen Sky-flowers.
Many people setting out (some of them kings) all clutching at stars.

More than one North Star, more than one South Star.
Several billion elliptical galaxies, bubble nebulae, binary systems,
Various dust lanes, various routes through varying thicknesses of Dark,
Many tunnels into deep space, minds going back and forth.

Many visions, many digitally enhanced heavens,
All kinds of glistenings being gathered into telescopes:
Fireworks, gasworks, white-streaked works of Dusk,
Works of wonder and/or water, snowflakes, stars of frost . . .

Various dazed astronomers dilating their eyes,
Various astronauts setting out into laughterless earthlessness,
Various 5,000-year-old moon maps,
Various blindmen feeling across the heavens in braille.

Various gods making beautiful works in bronze,
Brooches, crowns, triangles, cups and chains,
And all sorts of drystone stars put together without mortar.
Many Wisemen remarking the irregular weather.

Many exile energies, many low-voiced followers,
Watches of wisp of various glowing spindles,
Soothsayers, hunters in the High Country of the Zodiac,
Seafarers tossing, tied to a star . . .

Various people coming home (some of them kings). Various headlights.
Two or three children standing or sitting on the low wall.
Various winds, the Sea Wind, the sound-laden Winds of Evening
Blowing the stars towards them, bringing snow.

Final Notions by Adrienne Rich

by Adrienne Rich

Final Notions

It will not be simple, it will not take long
It will take little time, it will take all your thought
It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
It will be short, it will not be simple 

It will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not take long, it will occupy all your thought
As a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
It will take your flesh, it will not be simple 

You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
You are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
You are taking parts of us into places never planned
You are going far away with pieces of our lives

It will be short, it will take all your breath
It will not be simple, it will become your will

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

just ate my first foraged chanterelles

These mushrooms were my first chanterelles ever. I have never been willing to pay for them. Last Saturday they were $24/pound at my farmers market.  And I have eaten 'fancy' dinners in fancy restaurants relatively few times in my life and not really since I was dating and, briefly, married.

Now if a guy asks me out, when he lets me choose, I choose inexpensive places because I like them and I like to be prudent when I spend money.

Chanterelles are awesome. On Thursday I am going back to where we found the ones I just ate for my late dinner, along with some braised chopped kale and garlic infused olive oil.


Tomorrow is my book club. I usually walk there by walking through Live Oak park. Oak tree groves are supposed to be good places to find some edible mushrooms. I know so little about identifying mushrooms that the idea of picking some at Live Oak park intimidates me.  I have seen mushrooms at Live Oak all fall, even before it really rained.  We had a bit of a deluge in Berkeley tonight. Maybe some mushrooms will emerge tomorrow.  I have to choose:  do I walk home past Safeway to buy some of their awesome organic grapes or do I walk through a park or two and forage for mushrooms? I could do both and get in more steps on my fit bit, eh?

I depend on the kindness of friends. I can't afford to pay to travel to forage, can't afford to rent a car, can't afford camping fees. I need friends with cars who know how to forage for mushrooms to generously mentor me.

And I have found one.  One such friend is enough but I won't see him again this week. No one to show my possible mushrooms found tomorrow, if I find some. I'll be surprised if I don't. I have walked past many mushrooms in my hundreds of miles of walking for politics last fall.

I even saw mushrooms in the Marina District of San Francisco, on Webster Street close to that Safeway across from Fort Mason. There are no front lawns in the Marina, just small squares with trees in them. Underneath one tree, I saw a tree plot filled with dark, feathery mushrooms. As I learn more and more about mushrooms, by studying pictures and talking to my one semi-knowledgeable friend, I make guesses. I think the ones I saw on Webster ST in the Marina District are good for dying.

Turns out some crafters prize some mushrooms for the dyes. I don't care about dying things with mushrooms. I want to eat them.

Mushrooms, which are not plants and not animals, pack nutrient wallop. That's why I want to eat them.

I'm patient

Recently, at a party, a man mispronounced my name as he talked to me. I didn't correct him.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I like this man. I remember thinking "His wife knows how to say my name, she'll speak to me soon and he will hear it." And that's exactly what happened.

His wife said "Tree" and he corrected her, telling her how he was mispronoucing my name. So I said "Oh no, she's saying it right. It's like Christmas Tree."

"Where did I get my pronuncication?" he asked.

"I don't know," I shrugged and smiled.

"So you are a patient person."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because you knew I would figure out I had mispronounced your name, you trusted that I would. That's patience."

I think he was right. I was a little surprised to be admired for my patient equanimity but I realized he was right.  I had not corrected his mispronunciation because I am kind, compassionate and patient.

And I really do like him. Also his wife.

I've met so many wonderful people lately.  Life after a great wildfire.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
Jack Gilbert
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue
has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.

Rain by Jack Gilbert

Rain by Jack Gilbert
Suddenly this defeat.
This rain.
The blues gone gray
And the browns gone gray
And yellow
A terrible amber.
In the cold streets
Your warm body.
In whatever room
Your warm body.
Among all the people
Your absence
The people who are always
Not you.

I have been easy with trees
Too long.
Too familiar with mountains.
Joy has been a habit.
This rain.

after a wild fire

I have read that after a fire in the wild, when the fire seems to have burned away all trees, plants and living things, new life springs up the very next day. It takes a long time to rebuild what the fire destroyed. Bit by bit, here and there, new life springs up.

My life is emerging from the forest fire I endured when I lost my daughter 13 years ago. She's still alive, she cut me off and has not spoken to me since. I have no idea why she made this choice. We did not fight much at all.  Well, I don't want to dwell on this loss.

I used to have a business partner and friend who admonished me for not getting over my abusive marriage faster. Ha! Someone who has not been abused can blithely tell someone to 'just get over it'. Emotional abuse, for me, takes a long time to heal. Each person is different.  I don't understand people who end relationships and re-enter new ones almost immediately but I don't criticize them and tell them to take it slower.

I move slow when it comes to changing within. And I move glacially slow when I have been deeply hurt emotionally. Like a really intense forest fire, that's how emotional abuse and loss affects me.

Slowly, incrementally, new life springs into mine.

It took so long because I am me. I get to be me. I get to move as slow as I move. No wrong pace, just my pace.

I have many lovely new friends springing up in my life, the way tiny signs of life spring up right after the densest forest fire. The pace of new friends seems to be picking up.

It's like my friend Hugh said to me:  Things change, hold on, things change.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

True love will find you in the end

True love is a gooey notion but it is fine to listen to this song and imagine true love finding me.

The kind of love I want is an alchemical, spiritual connection, something that demands a lot from both persons but which yields gold.


With all our rain this past week, mushrooms must be flourishing all over the Bay Area.

I can't wait to get out and forage.

Friday, December 12, 2014

alchemical love

"It's a different thing, to make a relationship sacred. When it's just the love you honour, you are still in two different worlds. You love her, she loves you, but what stands between you? What of the bridge between your hearts? What of the world you become together? Conscious relationship is all about the third element ~ the alchemical combination of two souls merging, the living breathing world that you co-create in love's cosmic kiln. It's the difference between loving and serving love. It's the difference between the narcissistic quest for ecstasy and the joys of deep devotion. You serve loving. You are a devotee to the dance. The conscious-nest is a world unto itself." Jeff Brown

I deserve to be loved. I deserve to love someone as described in this quote. I deserve this kind of conscious relationship, the alchemical combination of two souls merging.

I am reminded of  'The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz'. Long time since I read it.

So I Said I am Ezra by A.R.Ammons

A.R. Ammons “So I Said I am Ezra” 
So I Said I Am Ezra
and the wind whipped my throat
gaming for the sounds of my voice
   I listened to the wind
go over my head and up into the night
Turning to the sea I said
             I am Ezra
but there were no echoes from the waves
The words were swallowed up
   in the voice of the surf
or leaping over the swells
lost themselves oceanward
   Over the bleached and broken fields
I moved my feet and turning from the wind
   that ripped sheets of sand
   from the beach and threw them
   like seamists across the dunes
Swayed as if the wind were taking me away
and said
            I am Ezra
As a word too much repeated
falls out of being
so I Ezra went out into the night
like a drift of sand
and splashed among the windy oats
that clutch the dunes
of unremembered seas

Dr. MLK, Jr . . .more of his wisdom

my black neighbor Ezra

Riding down the elevator this afternoon with a black neighbor, Ezra, he brought up the Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. He said "If we were in Florida, you could shoot me dead right now, say you were afraid of me and be in the clear. Cause you white. If I were to shoot you in this elevator, if we were in Florida, I'd go to jail. Stand your ground doesn't really apply to black people."

Then Ezra talked to me a long time at the bus stop. He is full of pent up frustration. He did not seem angry about what's going on, just hurt. And he seemed relieved to hear a white person voice being outraged by cops killing black man, Jim Crow drug laws and our whole economy essential build on the remnants of slavery. 

Ezra is smart, well-informed. He told me the Civil War was really about economic envy. The North envied the South its superior economic growth because it was built on slavery.

And he seemed almost overjoyed to hear me share my belief that the history of this country we were all taught was propaganda for the rich elite in America who really drove the American Revolution. Those rich fuckers wanted more money, didn't want to tithe to Britain and used poor men to fight for them. Then we were on to the Civil War. Ezra explained, and I agreed, that the North didn't really care about ending slavery; the north went to war with the south because slavery gave the south economic advantage.

Money, Ezra and I both grumbled in angst, is behind everything ugly that goes down.

And he lit up when I said Lincoln did not free the slaves because Lincoln thought slavery was wrong, but because he needed to do so for political reasons. Ezra jumped in "that's right, he needed to justify the war and appease rich supporters, had to give them something."

Ezra is a bus driver, for a pubic transit system in the Bay Area.

I had overheard him talking about rising property values pricing everyone but the rich out of their homes. I stepped in, eager to share some of my considerable knowledge about what has been happening to affordable and public housing.    I shared my belief with Ezra -- the woman he had been talking to was worn out and left -- that affordable housing that is built using any public monies should be required to be affordable in perpetuity.

Ezra did not know the phrase 'in perpetuity' but I explained to him it meant that they would write it write into the property deed that the property would remain affordable forever, that in perpetuity was connected to perpetual and permanent. Forever.

"How you know all this?" Ezra asked.  "Can you tell me a book to read that can help me understand how affordable housing works?"

I chatted a bit more about affordable housing, clearing up Ezra's mistaken understanding that federal laws could come in and change local property laws, explained how real estate laws are all local, first in California and then in each municipality.  I also suggested he google any questions he had about affordable housing laws, and also pointed out that affordable housing law changes constantly.

"How you know all this?" he asked, with sincerity. 

"I am trained as a lawyer, although not licensed, and I read. And I care."

He said he wanted to read the laws on affordable housing. I told him the laws change all the time, that I didn't know a good book to recommend. And then I told him that our city council rep, Jesse Arrequin, was part of a citizen commission that helped get our affordable housing building built. I told him to call Jesse's office and ask him to recommend some reading on affordable housing. I also explained that Jesse knew a lot aobut housing and development and his Measure R, which lost, was about strengthening affordable housing in Berkeley.

Ezra asked "You mean I can just call this Jesse up and ask to talk to him and he will talk to me?"

"Yes," I said. "He represents you. He is very accessible.  I've met with him. You can too."

Ezra and I talked about a lot.

I was relieved to be able to talk to a black man about all the shit I see coming down in the world, esp. for black men but also for the planet. And I believe Ezra was feeling a little relief to actually talk to a white person who agrees with him.

Thursday, December 11, 2014