Friday, October 24, 2014

the faster the slower

During the NLCS of 2014, a reporter asked Buster Posey to explain his, or even perhaps, the team’s success. “Just slow it down” was the gist of Buster’s answer. I heard that sentiment more than once in the playoffs. Slow it down. It reminded me of hearing John Wooden, the famed UCLA basketball coach, say in an interview: “the faster the slower.” At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. But it does upon reflection. Don’t move too fast, or else you will get ahead of yourself. You’ll be out of the zone. You also hear athletes say, stay within yourself. I’m not an athlete. I never was the athlete I fantasized I would be or could be. In these early-latter days, I am content with that. However, I can relate to these maxims as metaphors. Zen teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh speak or write about the value of “stopping.” I suspect it’s a similar concept, or notion, as slowing it down. It means being here, being now. Sounds simple but it takes me practice and discipline. After his win in game 1 of the 2014 world Series, Madison Bumgarner was asked about the excitement of being in the World Series, the biggest stage of practicing his art and craft. MadBum’s answer went something like this, “You can’t really enjoy it like that. It’s a great thrill being here and all, but I just need to make good pitches.” There you are. So if I say these are metaphors, what does that mean for me? Slowing it down, stopping, the faster the slower — for me they mean: restraint of tongue and pen, don’t react, find solidity, breathe, HALT, pause. All that stuff. I’m really not very good at any of those things, not even after all these years. That’s why it is so easy to preach about it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

vulnerable adult

I saw a sign. Upon entering the highway, Route 690 West, an electronic sign alerted motorists to a VULNERABLE ADULT, and gave a description of a vehicle, possibly accompanied a plate number. No respect or insensitivity whatsoever intended for that person or the person's loved ones (the ones whose concerns elicited the alert), but it gave me pause. Vulnerable Adult. vulnerable adult. (With or without the initial caps, with or without the proprietary nomenclature.) Are you a vulnerable adult? Am I? Yes, we are all sometimes vulnerable adults. Some of us, all the time. And we are vulnerable to the slings of time, the arrows of circumstance or history. We are at risk to fame and fortune, or at peril to poverty and perdition. And when we find ourselves vulnerable as adults, either individually or collectively, who is there to shield or save us? Should they? How? Or should our vulnerability merely introduce us to the icons of impermanence, the faceless faces of Nirvana?

I kept driving.

expanded polystyrene civil degradation (EPCD)

The burly, dark man opened the driver's door of a new silver Audi in the Wegmans parking lot. I heard a plop. Citizen Utter Disregard (CUD) had deposited a large expanded polystyrene food container on the ground, by his driver's door. CUD closed the door. I walked up to the car.  I picked up the expanded polystyrene container. I did not open it. I deliberately made eye contact with CUD as he breezily drove off. My heart beat faster, realizing that my minor act of civil obedience might be deemed provocative by CUD. I deposited the expanded polystyrene food container in a trash basket in front of Wegmans.

My head swirled with rage and sadness and befuddlement, with a thousand questions as to what moves CUD, or anyone for that matter, to such insouciant disgust toward his or her own surroundings. What permits people to exercise such expanded polystyrene civil degradation (EPCD)?

(Before writing this, I was all set to describe the piece of litter as STYROFOAM [TM]. It wasn't, and never is when it comes to food containers. Thank you, Washington Post for the education.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

be leaf

After having some blood drawn and a urine donation (the stuff that folks do; these monitors; these reminders of zen impermanence; yes, I am fine, relax), I go to my car and see one bright yellow leaf, with a few greenish spots, sitting on my seat, the driver's side. I almost say, audibly, "Hi, how are you, so nice of you to be here; thank you for this visit, this mindful alert." But I don't. Or maybe I do mumble words to that effect. I think them, some variation of them. And mean it. I am grateful for this yellow leaf, striated, labial, thin, light, just under 2 inches long, about 3/4 inch wide at its widest. I just measured it. Yes, I brought it home. In the car, just after the leaf hit on me, just after out intro, the wind blew the leaf to the dirty floor mat on the passenger side. I picked up the leaf and put it on the seat. We've struck up a relationship. There I go again: it's mine, my leaf. Maybe when I go outside, I will just take my leaf with me and cast it to today's warm, robust wind.

But I won't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

imagine this

Maybe I should not be so verbocentric here. It's a visual world, is it not? Not that words don't sail or float or sink or swim in this image-laden universe. Maybe I need more images for your imagining. Enjoy your flight.

white noise

white noise
without the noise
white space
in living

Thursday, October 09, 2014

the silence of the iambs

I just finished a novel by Haruki Murakami imbued with silence. It was as if silence were a character in the novel (in the text; academics like to say text). "Silence descended over them," or words to that effect, appeared on the page many times. As a reader, I felt those silences. They were like white spaces on the layout of a page, or white scenery on a stage, or deep pauses in a conversation, as in a Harold Pinter play. Sometimes the silences were comfortable, reflective; other times, they were painful, anxious. Isn't that a strange thing about humans: that a silence can be rewarding or agonizing? Have silence scientists figured out a way to measure it, gauge its import, its flavor? I suspect they have. And I would not at all be shocked to learn that our bodies give off a smell to provide a clue (or a cue, for that matter) as to what sort of silence is descending, a salubrious silence or a malevolent one. Ours is not a time of silence. Our culture does not care to abide silences. There is little silence of the lambs or of iambs. (Couldn't resist that bit of English-major snobbery.) Silence of the child at the mother's breast, the purring of a cat, the cough in the cathedral pew, the silence of the beads being told. All silences punctuated my minor sounds. Or silence of the phone not ringing, the voice that is no more, the word unkenneled, the interval between lightning and thunder. And so much more. So much less.

taking my digital temperature

I tend to be obsessed with taking my digital temperature. I often take it many times a day. And I can't seem to stop myself. No amount of willpower can prevent it once I yield to that fixation. It's not what you think. It's not a solipsistic medical obsession. It goes deeper than that. Taking my digital temp goes right to my soul. You think I am afraid of fever or variations in body temperature? No, that's not it at all. I told you, it's deeper than that. This solipsistic obsession is very modern, au courant. I go to CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon, and check daily sales figures of my four self-published books. I allow myself to feel glum if nothing shows up or to feel cheerful, even elated, if I find a few hits, a few sales. I check similar data at KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. I check sales of these same books in electronic versions, from around the globe. If I told you the highs and lows of these daily, even hourly numbers, you might find yourself rolling on the floor laughing. Or crying. (Don't we have Internet acronyms for these emotional outbursts?) But what of my own emotional outbursts, no, inbursts? What possesses me? What is this hunger? It cannot possibly be about money. The amount are laughably or cryably or pitiably minuscule. Is it approval or validation? What is this craving? What drives it? What emptiness am I trying to fill? What would constitute enough? And why would I want more after that? U2 sang, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." I have to ponder the question before the question: why am I even looking? 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

if you can read this . . .

. . . thank your genes and lucky stars, your neural pathways, your sense of sound and sight, your phonemic awareness and phonetic phrasings and particular parsings. And don't forget gratitude for the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who read to you before words were friends, before the printed page sang hymns and lullabies to you. Sing praises, too, to teachers, librarians, and the kindness of strangers who coaxed, nurtured, cajoled, and fostered you so one day you could call yourself a reader, and be proud of that triumphant title. If you can read this with pride and pleasure, thank the heavens and the earth and the people therein. Do not take it for granted. Share the wealth and spread the word, one word at a time, one page at a time, one child at a time. Together we are readers.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

let the rain come

and today the rain, off and on, no two drops the same, no two downpours or showers ever the same, bestowing sound and sense and nurture and nowness, bountifully; would that I could share it with my farmer friends in parched California

Friday, October 03, 2014

monarchy; the royal oui

I am walking the dog. Is it my dog? She was. Or is. (Can anyone lay claim to owning a pet? How could this lovely, loyal friend be deemed a  possession?) We are walking in Burnet Park, Syracuse, where we have walked dozens, probably hundreds, of times. It is daytime. We now walk this route less frequently in the Time of Estrangement. October sunlight. An ample, warm breeze. We are walking up the driveway, an incline, toward the golf course clubhouse, toward O'Leary Drive, where, soon, in December, the jangling bells and clipclop hooves of steaming horses will carry Christmas-celebrating families. Riding on the wind, I am arrested. (Not the dog; she keeps going, only halted by squirrels, who are busy and in abundance.) I am gasped by the sight of one monarch butterfly riding the wind, I see it glide and loop for maybe less than 3 seconds. Then gone. Not seen. A vision in broad daylight. Monarch. From the Greek, one who rules alone. Ruling the field of vision, ruling my heart and its beats. A sacramental sign. A sign of what, you ask? Of is-ness. That. Suchness. Yes.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

the vacant roof

Today no rooftop workers, neither Amish nor Mennonite nor Sicilian nor Catalonian. Where'd they go?