Archive for ‘Nowness’

Going Greener

April 13th, 2010

I was listening to NPR a few days ago, and someone was interviewing a guy who had invented an app that lets you avoid red lights by rerouting you to your destination through green lights only. He didn’t know if it saved much fuel, and emergency vehicles don’t need this app because they use a different system, so I think it’s mainly for the sake of not being slowed down on the way to our oh-so-important jobs, lunch dates, business meetings, grocery trips, soccer games, hair salon visits. To shave off 11 minutes from our commutes. And ,of course, to let cab drivers drive more maniacally than ever with no stinking red lights to impede them. I could hear the ghost of my irascible grandfather in the back of my mind yelling, “That’s what’s wrong with America today!” I love technology (too much) and I don’t want to be a cranky naysayer, but something about this app makes me uncomfortable. Because sometimes we need to be stopped in our tracks, to take turns, to give way, to be inconvenienced, to learn patience, to pause and breathe, to yield, to have a chat with our passengers (especially small ones), to reflect on where we’re headed in the morning, to slow down at the end of a day, to read the bumper stickers on the cars in front of us, to expect to encounter obstacles and roadblocks in our lives. There’s no app for that — it’s called real life.

Red Moments

March 16th, 2010

When I was coming home from work today, I was listening to a reading of The Diviner by Seamus Heaney. I've been preoccupied with how difficult it is for me bring magic or holiness or just attentiveness to each day, and after listening to this poem, I wanted to possess the diviner's secret, to be able to find something hidden, mysterious, life-giving -- buried treasure in every day. Maybe we all have that within our grasp but we ignore the gift, waste it or don't even suspect it exists. I know that not every minute of my day can be a gilded scene from an illuminated manuscript like this Madonna that watches over my office, but perhaps there are moments that I don't notice or that seem too small to be significant. Like driving over the bridge today and watching the setting sun strike the bright red hull of a distant container ship out on the horizon and linger there transforming it into a piece of temporary poetry. I always want the road-to-Damascus transformative spiritual or creative moment, but maybe William Carlos Williams offers another route to enlightenment:

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Stay Alert

March 8th, 2010

I saw this cryptic message painted on the back of a road sign today when I was coming back from a walk to the island near my house. I guess it’s an official warning because of the phone number, and it’s near the same spot that the Tsunami Evacuation Route sign used to be, except that one was facing the direction from which a tsunami would presumably appear so it was hard to take it seriously. I felt there was something I should be watching for that I didn’t know about. The end of the world (always in the back of my mind)? Earthquakes? We’re on a fault, but how can you prepare?  Or was it a more general existential message about the nature of being alive and the risk of letting life pass us by? That life is both fatal and beautiful and we have to move toward the darkness that we know waits at the end of our journey and yet we pretend we have all the time in the world?  That we need to wake up and be alert to routine things in a new way? The dun-colored marsh grass, the ugly condos on the waterway, the flock of white birds taking flight in the distance in a kind of spiral formation–all of which I take for granted and none of which will be exactly the same tomorrow. Stay alert.

Rx Poetry

March 6th, 2010

I was hungry for poetry when I woke up this morning, like having a jones for Starbucks Pumpkin Loaf, which I am so addicted to I only allow myself to have one slice on Sunday. I drove to Barnes & Noble to get me a big old helping of Antonio Machado, but none to be found, so I settled for Caramel Macchiato and ordered the book online. In an audio book I’ve been listening to on the way to work (more about that in a future Postcard from Fridaville), the author says that when you read a poem every day or even part of a poem, you have, as Blake wrote, “a moment in the day that Satan cannot find you.” Because we are always striving and striding toward our next big success or accomplishment or chore. Poetry requires silence and a slowing or stopping of time. But I find it hard not to be on the move, trying to outrace my demons, so I packed up my computer, iPhone, cords, books, notebooks, pens (right now I have to have Varsity disposable fountain pens in aqua and green ink) and went to a new coffee shop  (with the exact color of walls and floors and the right flowers on the table to induce writing). So far I’ve spent 35 minutes preparing to write, which leaves me 85 minutes in which to actually write. This place is called Hope and Union and the logo is a sheep suspended from a balloon. I’m not hip enough to know what it means, but I hope my thoughts will form a union with my words and pour like milk and honey into my computer. Until then, here is a poem to keep the Devil at bay for you and me. It’s by Czeslaw Milosz, one of my favorite poets, and it has haunted me ever since I first read it years ago:


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

Polaroid Love

April 30th, 2009

I took this Polaroid one spring or fall–I can’t even remember now. What I do remember: that there was a bird singing in the branches right before I took the photo; that I was drinking a Bloody Mary with friends at a restaurant that serves the best French fries in town; that I didn’t know then that my friend would marry a wonderful someone sitting at that table with us and move to England; that life would fling us out in so many different directions; that we would grow older; that we would never be together again in quite that way. When I look at this photo on my mood board, I can feel the crunch of celery,  taste the horseradish, the late afternoon sunlight, the love. Snap, snap, snap…put it in the album of ordinary moments that make up a life. 

Be Surprised

April 8th, 2009

What’s around the bend? I always think I know what to expect, and yet I hear so many stories of how lives can change utterly and irrevocably without warning. The lottery ticket that pays off, the lump that isn’t malignant, the friend who turns into the love of your life. I forget that life is still magical no matter how mundane I try to make it. By underestimating it, by taking it for granted, by turning down the volume, by going through the motions, by being too grownup to play with it, by being all New Yorky about it, by not learning how to swim in it, by not answering the phone when it calls. No more screening.

This is Enough.

March 11th, 2009

Late afternoon. Shadow play. Cracked sidewalks. The world in repose.
The planet on pause. Put down your newspaper. Turn off the news, the latest murder, the airplane crash, the embezzler in his penthouse, the missing wife, the catastrophic oil spill, the aging playboy in his pajamas, the news anchors who will never be as broke as you, the predators and preyed upon, the storm chasers, the maniac with the assault weapon, the celebrity addicts, the blood in the streets, the Dow financial thermometer. Step outside and see what the weather is right this minute. Taste the air the way dogs do. Lace up your shoes. Put one foot in front of the other.  Love your little world. It’s all you can do right now. It’s enough right now. 

Always Again

March 1st, 2009

I’m always utterly amazed when the cherry tree in my front yard blooms. It takes me by surprise every time. All last night and all day today, dramatic storms rolled through my neighborhood. Rain and thunder, thunder and rain–my favorite weather. In the midst of all that sturm und drang, the pink petals stood out like a neon sign that said “spring is on its way back.” I’m sure most of them will be knocked off by the violence of the wind and water, and the temperature plunge will finish the rest, but it still bowls me over to realize how much we depend on these little messages from nature. We pave over the earth, scar it, deplete it, poison it and lock ourselves up in office buildings and schools with no windows, and still it survives and calls to the wild places in ourselves that cling to our souls like those tender, tough blossoms on the cherry tree.

Beautiful World

February 18th, 2009

I love the pause between day and night, the blush of color up the sky, lights coming on in houses, the hush as the curtain falls on our daily drama. Coming home tonight with groceries after a yoga class, I felt all my blessings pour over me at once. Food in the house, a hot shower, magazines in the mailbox, messages on the phone from friends, a glass of prosecco, clean sheets and soft pajamas. I’ve done nothing to deserve it, and in these parlous times, I know life can change on a dime. I produce a magazine that’s not a necessity (although I think it makes life sweeter), and I could have to take a pay cut. I could lose my job and not find another. I could lose my house and have to move in with one of my daughters (poor girls!). A meteor could fall on my neighborhood, aliens could abduct me and make me do laundry on another planet, and the economy could stay stuck on “It Sucks” indefinitely. But this Now is all we’re guaranteed, and tonight my mantra is Now.

Then and Now

January 25th, 2009

My little girl is all grown up now, a Fulbright Scholar finishing her Ph.D., going on job interviews. Her older sister managed to get a degree in psychology while raising three children. Their brother struggles to make a living and be a good dad. I worry and wonder what will happen to them in this crazy, new Mad Max economic world we have crashed landed on. With Obama’s election, I think America is growing up at last–just like my little ones. But adulthood, for countries and children, is not without growing pains. For so many decades, we believed that all we had to do was work hard and dream big and we would be rewarded. We would pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We would find work that fulfilled us emotionally as well as financially. We would qualify for mortgages and get raises. We would have flat screen tvs and happy endings. But it’s not that simple now, for Obama or our kids or us. Still, daily life goes on, and we wake up and try to keep our balance as the ground shifts so violently beneath us. I look at photos of my grandparents and remind myself that these dirt-poor farmers, small town merchants and isolated share croppers were simply working to survive, to get a bit ahead, to put food on the table and keep their families intact. No health insurance then or pension plans.  For my mother, growing up poor during the Depression meant a lifelong memory of endless meals of dried beans and potatoes. I want to be as strong as my ancestors in adversity, and I don’t want to sit and pine for better times, for the stock market to rebound, for all my easy comforts and little luxuries to return. Like everyone else, I worry about losing my job, losing my health insurance, taking a paycut, cutting back. But I hope I will be mindful that every minute is precious even when it’s edgy and sharp with less security, more fear, attacks of panic–in fact, maybe precisely because of that.