song and pain, Song and pain, song and pain, and there it is

That on the silent horizon, something
Not a sunrise rose, half itself and half
The horizon, dragging its bulk, its lights
And salts, from under shifting sheets of sea,
Leveling the sky into shallow moats
Of sounds, flecks of birds, beginning again
To believe all brief and sideways dreaming
To be, as previous was the complaint,
Lint on time’s black coat, blanketing the west,
Becoming the unfathomable deathmask
Freckled with stars, rendering itself
As its other, as though to mirror la,
But not mirroring it, and therefore now
Mirroring it, all sumptuous unscripted
La, la mirroring la like the pricked prong
Of a tuning fork that, for all its song,
Between sensation and sensation is
Still nothing but air, a titan’s dying
Air, a titan’s dying air now again
A titan’s surging flame, an ancient flinch
In an ancient sun mirrored and made
Into la, the void in the voice, the voice
In the void, lala: aiai, song and pain,
Song and pain, song and pain, and there it is.

[Rowan Ricardo Phillips {1974- }, 'The First Last Light in the Sky', from The Best American Poetry 2016

Phillips won a 2013 Whiting Award. His books include Heaven {2015; winner of the 2016 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award}, and The Ground {2012; recipient of a 2013 Whiting Writer's Award, The PEN/Osterweil Award for Poetry and the GLCA New Writers' Award for Poetry}.]


which would you rather be if you had the choice--divinely beautiful or dazzlingly clever or angelically good?

  1. What's the best joke you ever heard? the only joke I ever tell is about a bosomy lobster. I have a memory like a sieve for jokes.
  2. Where is the most fun place you have EVER been? my old boss Andy's "cabin" in Traverse City. The perfect vacation spot, where absolutely everything was settled and comfortable, and there was no such thing as time.
  3. Is your hair color natural or dyed? my natural hair color is probably in there somewhere, but it hasn't been in the majority for a dozen years or more. It's on the red side right now, headed toward blond in less than a week.
  4. Do you have any deep dark secrets or are you pretty much up front? I've divulged a lot on the blog - and my best friends know probably more than they wish they do! - but there are still some things that only I know. Which is how it ought to be.
  5. What is under your bed right now? a box of gift wrapping supplies and a box of smaller boxes (for wrapping and mailing)
  6. If you were in the Land of Oz would you want to live there or go home? home, for sure. That place is freaky as heck.
  7. If you drive, do you frequently speed? I do, yes.
  8. What is the world's best song to dance to? at the moment...
  9. What song was on the last time you danced with someone? ha! Probably that one..
  10. Do you prefer Disney or Warner Brothers? Warner Brothers
  11. What is the first animal you would run to see if you went to the zoo? meerkats
  12. Would you consider yourself to be romantic? I think that I am a romantic, but I've not had occasion to be romantic in a while. I wonder if I've forgotten how?
  13. If the earth stopped rotating would we all fly off? that might be the least of our worries at that point
  14. What is the one thing that you love to do so much that you would make sacrifices to be able to do it? read
  15. If you (and everyone) had to lose one right or freedom, but you could pick which one everyone had to lose, what would you pick? the moment we begin sacrificing our rights--and particularly when we are willing to sacrifice others' rights as well--we are in far more danger than that one, seemingly simple, loss. Step back and look at what 'right' or 'freedom' means.
  16. If you had to choose, would you live on the equator or at the North Pole? the equator would have to do it--but I don't see it happening anytime soon
  17. Would you rather give up listening to music or watching television? watching television, clearly. It just doesn't draw me in like music can.
  18. What do you think makes someone a hero? extraordinary action in the face of an extraordinary obstacle
  19. What cartoon would you like to be a character in? wow, that wouldn't interest me in the least!
  20. Name one thing that turns your stomach: untrustworthiness
  21. What was the last thing you paid for? groceries: cereal, bread, jam, and soup.
  22. Are you a coupon clipper? I am, though I'm not much of a coupon shopper. It's one of the ironies of my life.
  23. Get anything good in the mail recently? nothing but bills and more bills...
  24. Which would you rather take as a gym class: dancing, sailing, karate, or bowling? bowling, though if there were other martial arts offerings I'd take something along that line
  25. In Star Trek, people 'beam' back and forth between different places. What this means is they stand in a little tube and their molecules are deconstructed and sent to another tube somewhere else where they are reassembled. Only problem is that when the molecules are deconstructed, the person is dead. When they are put back together, it is only a clone that has all the dead person's memories. So...is the person who gets beamed the same person on both ends? that's not really a 'clone', is it? I mean, I don't understand much about biology, but I don't think that cloning involves that sort of "first generation" relationship.

    But, anyway, the question stands. Is it the same person? Well, what is it to be a 'person'? If I die and am brought back to life through medical means, then am I the same person, or a different one? If I lose my memory and am forced to create new ones for the remainder of my life, at what point do I 'become' a different 'person'?

    Is the person the body? The mind? The memories? The soul?

    I don't know. Yes? Maybe?
  26. What insects are you afraid of? beetles
  27. If you could print any phrase on a T-shirt, what would it say? Approach with Caution
  28. What's the most eccentric thing you have ever worn? pretty much my entire high school wardrobe was weird
  29. If you could pick one food that you could eat all you wanted but it would have no effect on how much you weigh, what food would it be? breakfast. This sums it up:
    mocha & apple fritter
  30. What are your parents interested in? reading. Food. Technology. Movies.

    Huh - they sound a little like me.
  31. Have you ever caught an insect and kept it as a pet? ick, no. We used to trap fireflies when I was pretty little, but it was always catch-and-release.
  32. Have you ever caught and tamed a wild animal? only briefly, and rarely with much success
  33. What is more helpful to you, wishes or plans? each is helpful in its own way. Plans get things done, and wishes make it tolerable.
  34. When do you feel your life energy the strongest? between about 10PM and 3AM. Or between July and early November.
  35. You are spending the night alone in the woods and may bring only 3 items with you. What do you bring?
    • a super-deluxe camper with several redundant heating, cooling, and locking mechanisms
    • phone & charger
    • a LOT of food

[from here, divided in thirds {this is the first 100 of...seriously, 5000?!}; the title quotation is by L.M. Montgomery, from Anne of Green Gables]


I always give books. And I always ask for books

It's time for a somewhat regular feature on the blog: Stuff I Want. The twist on this list is that it's mostly mundane or even essential items; the coffers are low and I'm thinking in terms of needs rather than wants.

All I want for Christmas is...

A couple of 8-packs of those little cans of Coke. Or three..

Some guilt-free books. I've pretty well run my local library out of e-books, and have reread everything on my own shelves. To buy new books, without feeling guilty? I can't even imagine.

A tonsillectomy. No, I'm not being gory; I'm putting off having the surgery until I can afford it.

Victoria's Secret underwear. Not the fancy, useless stuff, just the regular everyday sorts of things to round out the wardrobe. In an effort to save some money, I got some discount-store versions of what I'd usually buy; the difference is dramatic.

The J.Peterman Grecian Goddess Dress. Because it can't all be serious!

Braces. My teeth are a little bit crooked & crowded. and need straightening so they are easier to keep clean and healthy. And yes, another exercise in budgeting...

A vacation. Just a few days away...

A pair of Born Azurite boots. Color: Black, Size: 7.5. From Dodds Shoe Co. in Laramie, WY.

Cereal. A pallet or two. Enough that I'm not likely to run out in the next month.

The camera. At long last.

Anything from my Amazon wish-list. There's an oddly wide range of stuff on that list. Any or all of it would please me inordinately.

Retirement. No, not literally. Just some hope toward that idea at some point in the future.

Poufy Cheetos. Because, when all else fails, they bring joy.

[the title quotation is by John Waters, and reads in its entirety:

“I always give books. And I always ask for books. I think you should reward people sexually for getting you books. Don’t send a thank-you note; repay them with sexual activity. If the book is rare or by your favorite author or one you didn't know about, reward them with the most perverted sex act you can think of. Otherwise, you can just make out.”]


dare to be naïve

  1. What does each decade make you think of:
    The 19..

    • 20's: blissful ignorance
    • 30's: despair
    • 40's: war
    • 50's: blissful ignorance
    • 60's: war
    • 70's: anger and confusion
    • 80's: reaction
    • 90's: music
    • 2000: electronics
    • 2010's: confusion
  2. To which decade do you feel the most special connection, and why? none is more special than any other, really. I was born in the 70s. Each decade before that has some meaning but it is historical or related to my family and not to me directly. The 1970s are a blur, to be honest--my memories are very much melted into the stories that have been told and retold, the photographs I've seen a thousand times, and the people I've known my whole life. The 80s saw the launching of my consciousness, but were also a source of a great deal of discontent and confusion. What teenager can really describe herself as 'happy' or settled or even really connected? The 1990s were my school years, in the sense that I was choosing to be in school rather than going because I had to. I was also married then. Was that "my time"? Not really. There was a lot of moving house, a lot of pain and depression and illness, and the beginning of the end of that marriage. The 2000s were all about restructuring. So, the 2010s, maybe...?  
  3. What is your favorite oldie/classic rock song? I have no favorites in music. There are far too many for me to choose any one. However, in the interest of offering a suggestion, I'll say that "Under Pressure" is my highest-ranked Queen song in my iTunes. 
  4. What country do you live in...? I live in the same country where I've always been
  5. If you could say any sentence to the current leader of your country what would it be?
    "Please, don't go."
  6. What's your favorite TV channel to watch in the middle of the night? N/A--I don't have TV
  7. What Disney villain are you the most like and why? Theatrical? Pffffffft!  
  8. Have you ever been a Girl Scout/Boy Scout? no, but I was a Brownie for a millisecond before I realized that the little outfits were strangely reminiscent of another organization that creeped me the F out...
  9. If you were traveling to another continent would you rather fly or take a boat? fly--except to go south, in which case I'd like to go by boat and see the Panama Canal. Life goal!
  10. Why is the sky blue during the day and black at night? magic
  11. What does your name mean? beloved
  12. Would you rather explore the deeps of the ocean or outer space? ocean
  13. Word association:
    What is/are the first word(s) that come(s) to mind when you see the word:

    • Air: Traffic Control
    • Meat: -for-Sex
    • Different: Stages
    • Pink: Raise Your Glass
    • Deserve: this
    • White: elephant
    • Elvis: velvet
    • Magic: 8-ball
    • Heart: -break
    • Clash: Casbah
    • Pulp: Fiction
  14. If you could meet any person in the world who is dead who would you want it to be? my paternal grandfather
  15. What if you could meet anyone who is alive? David James Duncan
  16. Is there a movie that you love so much you could watch it everyday? every day is a bit much, but there are several that I could watch once a week. A bunch of Kevin Costner's, for instance. The Rundown. Dodgeball. The Professional.
  17. You are going to be stuck alone in an elevator for a week. What do you bring to do? stupid, stupid question
  18. Have you ever saved someone's life or had your life saved? yes
  19. Make up a definition for the following silly words...
    • Fruitgoogle: it's known by the trademark "Amazon Pantry"
    • Ambytime: my daily walk
    • Asscactus: that college roommate who never did move the gift that her parents sent for Easter, of a succulent plant, found out later that it made a terrible seat cushion--better known as an...
  20. What was the last thing you made with your own hands? dinner
  21. What was your favorite toy as a child? a stuffed mouse named Randy
  22. How many TV’s are in your house? two
  23. What is your favorite thing to do outside? walk inside
  24. How do you feel when you see a rainbow? sort of like this guy. But kinda not.  "What does this mean?!"  
  25. Have you ever dreamt a dream that came true? yes.  Be careful what you wish for!
  26. Have you ever been to a psychic/tarot reader? no
  27. What is your idea of paradise? rolling fields of catnip, as far as the eye can see
  28. Do you believe in G/god and if so what is he/she/it like? that's need-to-know
  29. Do you believe in Hell? yes
  30. What one thing have you done that most people haven't? hmm. Well. I passed the bar exam on the first try.
  31. What is the kindest thing you have ever done? I don't practice law.
  32. Are you a patient person? not really. I exercise patience, but I am not, elementally, a patient person. If that doesn't make sense, we can talk about it sometime.
  33. What holiday should exist but doesn't? single-people's day
  34. What holiday shouldn't exist but does? "Sweetest Day." Tell me that accomplishes anything that Valentine's Day didn't already do?
[from here, divided in thirds; the title quotation is by Buckminster Fuller]


will love be true as December frost, or fickle and fall like the rose in June?

Thought for the day:
Sing and rejoice, fortune is smiling on you.

Not decorated yet, but the it's up and the lights are on. It's a start.

[the title quotation is by Clement Scott]


learn to...be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not

  1. Who are you? I am a writer and a Specialist, an intellectual and a dreamer, a sister and a friend, an ex- and maybe a future- but not a current-, and a ninja
  2. What are the 3 most important things everyone should know about you? always take me seriously, except when you can't--and I'm not going to tell you which applies
  3. When you aren't filling out 5,000-question surveys like this one, what are you doing? [see, e.g., answer #1]
  4. List your classes in school from the ones you like the most to the ones you like the least (or if you are out of school, think of the classes you did like and didn't like at the time). I loved Science, especially Chemistry, and Psychology. I was no great fan of Social Science, particularly History, or English/writing (boring!).
  5. What is your biggest goal for this year? besides acquiring a new place to spend the middle of every day? I'd like to find a Blu-ray player.
  6. Where do you want to be in 5 years? in a land where this question, and its derivatives, are never, ever asked
  7. What stage of life are you in right now? three
  8. Are you more child-like or childish? depends on the day, baby
  9. What is the last thing you said out loud? "ha!"
  10. What song comes closest to how you feel about your life right now?
  11. Have you ever taken martial arts classes? no, but I've threatened for years to buy a ninja outfit
  12. Does your life tend to get better or worse or does it just stay the same? it definitely gets better and worse
  13. Does time really heal all wounds? No. It does not. There are new wounds, and there are new opportunities for the scabs (and even scars) to tear open and bleed again, the bones to break, and for it all to go to Hell again. Time changes things, but those wounds go nowhere.
  14. How do you handle a rainy day? there's no handling the rain--just relish it
  15. Which is worse...losing your luggage or having to sort out tangled holiday lights? losing your luggage. Tangled holiday lights are very temporary and relatively easy to fix.
  16. How is your relationship with your parents? better than it's ever been in my adulthood, I think?
  17. Will you miss them when they are gone? of course
  18. Do you tend to be aware of what is going on around you? maybe? That's a difficult question to answer. There's probably a lot that I miss....
  19. What is the truest thing that you know? that all truth is relative
  20. What did you want to be when you grew up? taller
  21. Have you ever been given a second chance? I have, and I squandered it - "for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises"
  22. Are you more of a giver or a taker? it depends on the circumstances. In every relationship, one person loves more and gives more. There are corollaries to that in work, too. Sometimes we get lucky and it seems mutual for a really long time, or it ebbs and flows back and forth.

    In general, though? I'm probably more of a taker, which is part of the huge equation of why I seek solitude. Being alone helps mitigate the damage that I perceive in being that person.
  23. Do you make your decisions with an open heart/mind? good question. I suppose that the type of decision will determine that.

    I am likely more open-minded than open-hearted.
  24. What is the most physically painful thing that has ever happened to you? I had surgery once that did not go especially well, and the recovery was nauseating and awful.
  25. What is the most emotionally painful thing that has ever happened to you? love, and all that comes with it
  26. Who have you hugged today? no one literally, but there were some spectacular moments
  27. Who has done something today to show they care about you? I started the day with a couple of nice email messages from high mucky-mucks at the place where I work. That was followed by a sweet phone call from a friend who is trying to play matchmaker, relaying a conversation with Crush Level Orange (about me). I also enjoyed a very rare sighting of Crush Level Green.

    In and around there were a number of communications with Saucy and the Mentor and others in the workplace, as well as a couple of people from the outside world. And a step in the right direction on the big goal for the new year...
  28. Do you have a lot to learn? oh, Hell yeah. Don't we all? I would love more than anything to just turn off all this nonsense and get back to the business of learning again!
  29. If you could learn how to do three things just by wishing and not by working what would they be?
    • love without fear
    • play the drums
    • cook a decent roast
  30. Which do you remember the longest: what other people say, what other people do, or how other people make you feel? what people do, I suppose? It is difficult to divorce these concepts from each other, since they rarely occur alone, but when I consider what aspect of the three has rendered something memorable for me, it is the action more than anything that stands out in my mind.
  31. What are the key ingredients to having a good relationship? "Respect, admiration and trust equals love."
  32. What 3 things do you want to do before you die?
    • get three more tattoos
    • use my passport
    • pay off at least one of my loans
  33. What three things would you want to die to avoid doing? I can't answer that, because there is nothing in my life that's even figuratively worth dying over. My life is just not that arduous, and to pretend that it is is only to practice melodrama and egocentrism. I won't do it.
  34. Is there a cause you believe in more than any other cause? no. I suppose that's another form of arrogance that I can't get behind. Prehaps I just lack the requisite imagination for such things.

[from here, divided into thirds--more to come!; the title quotation is by Henri-Frédéric Amiel]


innocence most often is a good fortune and not a virtue

I have a friend at work, one of those people with whom one does not initially set out to become friends (divergent social lives, disparate ages, interests, education, career paths, etc.) but, for whatever reasons (and plenty of 'no reason at all') we've discovered a kindred soul. Last week, during a typical conversation veering from cartoon dogs, to runny eggs with burnt toast, to mix CDs, to bitch-weasels and Sponge Bob, she said something that stuck in my head and will not shake loose. She said (in far better words) that one of the best things about me is that I've stopped caring what other people think about me.

That's both a curse and a compliment. Insufficient awareness, or concern, for others' feelings about oneself can be perceived as arrogance or willful blindness or just foolishness. The trick is to somehow know how much is enough, and who those 'others' ought to be.

For a long time, I was the person who always worried about what others thought about me. Every decision I made was overlaid with consideration of what others would think and how they would react. I think it stems from my childhood: one of my parents can be exceedingly critical, the other highly sensitive. Communication is not always accomplished in the household; despite lots of talking, much goes without saying. Early in life, I learned that wishing and imagining were easier and more personally productive than asking for what I wanted. Also, a big reader, I developed the sort of rich fantasy life that opened me up to magical realism and superstition.

It colored my work life, and school, and definitely my friendships and romantic relationships. It all reached its zenith while I was dating Nick, the three years after my divorce. In a sense, that's entirely what that relationship was about: he fought to get away, and I manipulated everything to make it perfect so that he would stay. And, when he inevitably flew because he couldn't deal with it or me, I would only try harder to make it perfect so that he would come back. Illogical, but inordinately tempting.

We broke up for a reason that, on the surface, had very little to do with being done with each other. But it didn't take much digging to realize that I was finally at the end of my resources for glossing things over. I couldn't make it seem like things were perfect anymore. I couldn't give him all the care and affection that he needed, keep things quiet (which he required), and eliminate all sources of conflict (which he couldn't handle)--not and still have room for myself, too. The great irony, though? Once I was truly through with him, and he realized it: that was when he wanted me more than ever. I was everything he'd ever desired for me to be, right there. It's just sick and sad that I couldn't be that way when he was anywhere near me.

Somewhere around that time, I was trying to get healthy. For the first time in my life, I was taking seriously my doctor's suggestion (urging? order?) that I should lose some weight, eat right, and exercise. I had been doing whatever I felt like for too long, and was paying the price. As part of that process, I was reading fitness magazines, hoping for inspiration. I found it.

An intern at the magazine was given a column in which to document her weight-loss journey. It was interesting to see someone else going through the same thing, so I found her posts (about food and portions, fitting in time to exercise, the psychological effects of the process, etc.) to be helpful. But one, in particular, made a huge impact.

Having taken up running as part of her program, she eventually signed up for a race. She began to worry a great deal, though, about how she would look while she was running. Expressing her fears to her exercise coach (the magazine provided her with a team of professionals - a great perk, really), she admitted that the worry of what others would be thinking about her was impeding her training goals.

The coach told her, "It's not about you." Her first reaction was, what do you mean? They will see the fat girl and think, who does she think she is, thinking she can run with all these thin people, these real 'runners'? They will think that I look ridiculous and fat and terrible.

The coach was very gentle, but insistent. "They are not there to look at you, to stare at you and wonder why you're doing what you're doing. Honestly, they probably won't even notice you at all. And if they do--they're noticing you from the sidelines, and you're participating. So if they do think of you? They'll be thinking, 'She's doing it! And I'm not!' The people who come out to see the race...they're there to see the race. Not to judge you. The people who you think are looking at you - they probably never even notice you."

The people
who you 
at you
never even notice you.

That was extraordinary. It helped the intern get over her self-consciousness, and she just went out and ran her own race without letting the spectators into her head.  And it helped me, really all at once, stop obsessing about that sort of meaningless level of attention-getting.

I'm not completely over it. There are a couple of areas where it still hounds me. Well, three. Public speaking will never be something I do easily, and formal occasions sort of stem from that same feeling of conspicuousness, but I think that pretty much everyone (or at least most women) feel that same sort of combined thrill and dread when they put on some special clothes and hope to both blend in and stand out (but only in a good way). And in the romantic realm ... I think too much. And worry that I'm not making the right choices, or that they're being misconstrued by others.

Is it better to care too much, or not enough? To always keep others' preferences in mind when making choices, or never? To be too concerned about others' feelings, or one's own?

[the title quotation is by Anatole France]