Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

New photo posts

I posted some day lily photos on Half-formed, my blog on process. I dedicated ONE of them to Mick Mather! I am not as skillful as he is, but it reminded me ever so slightly of his work.

If you haven't already done so, scroll or click down to the Naugahyde Bag post, there's a little conversation there! YAY! Nice to have a little conversation!

I also posted a new photo called "Industrial Night" to IMAGIK!


(Happy Birthday Jaison, 30 years old!)

While Keith is repairing my Dodge, I am driving my mother's car. It's a 1992 Pontiac LeMans (Keith says it was made in Korea--he pays attention to things like that) automatic transmission. MY car is 5 years newer and has a standard transmission.

In my entire adult life, I've never driven an automatic. I can’t say I like it. It takes the decision-making and skill out of driving and assigns it to a machine. It's like driving a bumper car, minus the bumpers.

[Bumpers these days are useless. Keith says the whole car is designed to absorb the impact and that saves lives. Lives are more valuable than cars, but cars are pretty expensive. I want to save lives, AND I wish the would design a car that would safely withstand collisions keeping the passenger healthy withOUT ruining the car. If we an send a man to the moon . . . There must be at least one intelligent engineer out there.]

I don't like the idea of driving a mind-numbing bumper car. I never liked it when my Ford Escort announced when it was time to shift. I would never buy another of those, either. Or any other car that tells me what to do.

Bumper Cars. When I was a child, I used to love bumper cars, or thought I did. I loved driving them around, driving fast, whipping around the corners, avoiding the empty bumper cars parked in the path. What I did not like is the hostility and aggression. I did not like being attacked. The "boys" (my brothers and their friends) would get a running start and crash into me. I felt violated, in a mechanical sort of way. And worried, scared.

The boys said I was a wimp. For me, this was the ultimate insult. I was a Tomboy, and I liked to think I could do anything the boys could do, as well, or better. The bumper car crisis might have triggered the end of my love affair with being a Tomboy. I still liked climbing trees and catching frogs and playing hardball in the back lot, and I still hated dolls and playing house. But I did not want to crash into someone else or have him (or her) crash into me.

Oh-oh! I was different. I didn’t fit in anywhere. I wasn't a boy and I was a lousy girl. One of the reasons I started writing was because I didn't fit in. I still don’t fit in.

Another reason why I don't like automatic transmission cars may be a knee-jerk reaction to not wanting to be one of the masses. I like to make my own choices. I like to shoot my camera on manual when I am taking a serious photo. Auto doesn't know how to do it. It shoots at an unnecessarily high speed and low f-stop. No depth of field.

The little LeMans has been serving me well so far, knock knock, and I am able to ignore its shortcomings. My mother loved the car, called it her “ladybug” because it was little and bright red. Now, when I tell her at the nursing home that I am driving her car, she doesn’t remember it. The one she remembers is one of her first cars from 1943, black and humped. I bet that was no automatic! (She thinks she has left it on the desert and wants to retrieve it. But that’s another story.)

Sara has a little red car. It's not working at the moment, and she may have to get a new one, but it has served her well. It's a Geo Metro "pod car." It's a standard transmission. Sara did not learn how to drive when she was 16. We did a lot of "Sara Wrangling," as she calls it. After she graduated from college, she got a job where she needed a car. She got a license (maybe before that), and the bought the Geo Metro, with a standard. It was the only one they had. She had to drive it home and off to her new job and she didn't know how to drive standard. She was not happy. But she grew to love it, and wants another "pod car." And probably a standard.

She would like to get a hybrid. But they are still cost prohibitive for normal folk. Too bad. I, too, would like to make environmentally supportive decisions. Like vote shrub out of office. No wait, I was talking about cars and wind and solar power.

My parents had always had standard transmission cars, but when I was 15, they bought their first automatic, a turquoise Chevelle convertible. I think. That thing boogied, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Or aside of myself. I wasn’t going there.

Back in those days, about 1962, if you took a driving test on an automatic, that stamped your license automatic and you could not drive a standard. That was the year everyone we knew switched to an automatic. We looked around for someone with a standard to teach me to drive and to let me take my test on his or her car.

We found Andre Van Hall. He was a recent Hungarian Immigrant brought to our town by the members of our church. My mother was helping his wife, Afra, get settled and integrate into the community.

Andre spoke very little English. He had a harelip and a lisp. The car was old and rusty and falling apart and there was no floor under the clutch, brake and gas pedals. He stuck a narrow board under there, but it didn't give me much confidence to see the road rushing by underneath.

As AndrĂ© tried to teach me to drive, he shouted at me in broken lisp-ized English. If I didn't understand him, and I never did, he shouted louder and more urgently, but still in garbled incomprehensible speech. I pumped and pumped that clutch. The bare road rushed under me and Andre hollered what sounded like gibberish. I would come home shaking from frustration and fear. But I passed the test. I was grateful to Andre. I got a license to drive standard, and I don't want that taken away. It’s a badge of honor and courage. It's something few people today understand.

Sometimes I think there is so much we don't understand about each other. We casually dismiss another person as weird because we are too busy to get to know them.

If I got in a bumper car and crashed into all those people who made fun of my choices, would that help? I don't think so. I can embrace myself, though, have patience with myself. And I can celebrate diversity by remembering when someone else seems odd or annoying, they might have their own bumper cars.

Comment, later: It occurred to me that someone might think of was being critical of people who drive automatic transmission cars. People often misunderstand my intentions, so I want to be clear about them. My intention is not to be critical of anyone for his or her reasonable choices, but in fact to NOT be critical without just cause. Everyone is slightly different and we need to have respect for each other and the vagaries of experience. I want to be accepted and accept others.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake, Radisson NY,
photo by Mary Stebbins

I also posted a new photo at IMAGIK Posted by Hello

a picture of me by my daughter

Visit Erin's blog to see a picture she took of me--and lots of other nice pictures as well!!!! Including a fox!

Looking Around

When we got off the ferry at Macinaw Island, Keith made a bee-line for the hotel, carrying suitcases and gear, his eyes straight ahead, Graham at his heels. I was lagging further and further behind, craning my neck, studying the crowds, the horse buggies and carriages, the buildings, the shops, the color, noise and excitement. I wanted to stop, take pictures of everything, watch, grok.

The hotel was at the edge of town. I finally caught up with Keith and we schlepped the gear upstairs.

I said, somewhat miffed, "Why did we run through town? I wanted to look around."

I was thinking he probably wanted to divest himself of the gear, so I was really surprised when he said he didn't think I'd be interested. He thought I'd be eager to get out on the trails in the woods and along the shore. I thought to myself, you don't know me yet, sweetie, but you will, someday.

Walking in the woods and countryside is one of my favorite pastimes. Another is visiting exciting city or townscapes. Industry. Or devastated areas. I like diversity. When I joined The Traveler:s Directory, we had to write a self-portrait. I wrote, “I like simplicity and complexity.”

I like to camp in the wilderness and walk along stretches of deserted beach or through open snow in winter. And I like to visit large industrial complexes. I get very excited by places like Hamilton, Ontario where there are stacks belching fire and barges and ships unloading and piles of raw materials and piles of refuse and gulls flying in and out and machines and big buildings. Today (I mean yesterday, it’s all a blur now) I drove by and the industrial building were layered in shades of grey from the moisture and heat in the air. I would have liked to take pictures. (I spoke about this on my voice recorder—I may possibly transcribe it and add it in here if I ever have time.)

I don't mean to imply that industrial complexes, wastelands, and crowds are good. In fact, I would prefer to imply that they might not be. But, they are. They are interesting. Sometimes exciting. Sometimes photogenic.

What do I give my time and attention to? My time is my life?

This question is relevant, and specifically relevant to this issue, because I can choose to spend time in nature getting relaxed and serene, enjoying the beauty, or I can go to a Carnival and enjoy the flashing lights and the barkers and smells. Or I could write a poem or a story. I could work on pictures in Photoshop or clean the house or work in the garden. Or, I could choose to do something that helps other people in some way. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or at an inner city school.

My time and my attention can be given to a variety of things. Right now, I am in the Emergency Room at the Hospital waiting for my mother’s doctor. I'd like to use the restroom, but I'm afraid at leave. It's 1:21 AM and I am still here.

It reminds me of a Zen story. This man had all these plans, but he saw a robber robbing an old woman and he stopped the robber. The old woman was injured so he got help for her. There he found a beggar boy who had nothing to eat so he went and bought some food for the beggar boy and came back and fed him. The story continues like that. It the end of the day, the man had done none of the things he set out to do, but when he saw what he had done instead, he saw the value and importance of doing what was given to him to do.

I am probably telling it all wrong. I am probably simplifying and explaining too much. The important thing, I think, is to be alive and to do what is given to you to do in the best and most honorable way you can. To be awake. To see and hear and smell and love. To speak with kindness. To do what is given to you to do.

Now I am given just this: my 81-year-old mother with severe chest pain, exhaustion from the long drive from Detroit. The overly bright fluorescent lights. The absent doctor and busy nurse. This is what is given to me to do.

Earlier, in this period of waking, no longer “today,” I took a walk at Niagara falls and saw squirrels and sparrows and seagulls and falling water that weighed 8 pounds a gallon. At that point, I was given space to walk and sunshine, drifting mists, salt spray roses. Things to take pictures of.

Before that, I saw the industrial complex at Hamilton. The stacks and gulls and barges.

Before that, I saw the cornfields with their long rows opening and closing as I passed, and the hayfields being harvested, and a lightning storm. I thought about the life and death of an imaginary person, Billy Owens. That led me to think about people from early my life.

I believe in simplicity and complexity, in diversity. In being engaged. In being.

In the hall, people hurry by pushing gurneys. Someone has been shot. I look around. Watch and wait. Reach out and take my mother’s hand.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


(6-28/29-05, post for No Polar Coordinates. (Midnight))

I hit a firefly coming east on the Thruway. It hit the windshield, flared like a match, only green, and then faded and went out, leaving only a spot on the windshield. An ordinary bug spot. I felt bad, sad. Like hitting a butterfly. Like hitting a fairy. Taking some light from the world.

It reminded me of Keith telling me that when they were driving down river Road to visit me, Graham suddenly said he remembered our stopping to see the fireflies.

One night last summer, driving back from Loretto or somewhere with Keith and Graham, I remembered having earlier seen fireflies along River road, especially in one spot at the corner of the field by the hedgerow. Since Keith and Graham live in the city, and since I have never seen fireflies there, I thought they might enjoy an opportunity to see them. I suggested to Keith that we stop. We pulled to the side of the road and Keith turned off the headlights. We sat and watched. The fields, tall grass and hedgerows sparkled with fireflies, like winged and wild stars. Above in the sky, the constellations moved too, but so slowly, we couldn't see the motion.

"Do you see the fireflies Graham?" I asked, "Aren't they pretty?"

"Yeah," he said, but he didn't sound very excited. I was disappointed, at the time, and thrilled later that he'd remembered and commented about it.

It seems there are fewer fireflies than there used to be. One night a couple weeks ago, I saw one at my house. One is not enough. If there aren't at least two, there won't be more.

But in the fields out in countryside, there are still fireflies. Maybe I just don't get out in the summer fields at night enough. Perhaps I need to go and count them, see if there are as many.

Fireflies seem magical to me because of their ability to create light. I've read about the scientific principles behind bioluminescence, but it doesn't erase the magic. Light is miraculous.

Tonight, coming home through highway construction, I came upon a truck with a huge globe of light. Several men wearing masks were ripping apart the pavement and dust and dirt filled the air. It cascaded away in a fountain, lit by the strange globe of light. I wished I could have set up a tripod and recorded the scene. But even more, I wished I hadn't hit the firefly.

I once wrote a poem about fireflies. It is like a fable; I don't know if I got the idea somewhere or made it up out of whole cloth. I thought I was making it up, but I’m never 100% sure.

How the First Mother Brought Winged Stars to Earth

The first mother slept in the shadows of her mud hut

and the people forgot her. They forgot the stories, forgot

how the first mother had come from the sky and given birth

to the mothers of the first people. The people hunted

in the forests and prairies, fished in the streams, and sang

under the stars until the first clouds were born of the mother

sea. The first clouds grew and grew and covered the stars,

weeping on and off for more than all the fingers and toes of days.

The first people caught the sadness of clouds, and as the clouds

wept, the people wept with them. Sadness flooded the first mother’s

dreams. Though the first mother was ancient and shrunken,

she was spry in dreams. She danced in the dream shadows

of her hut into a dream of star country. She dreamed herself

winged. The first mother flew among the stars. Gathered

great flocks of them into the nets of her wings. Rose singing

from her dreams. And in the darkness of the nadir

the first mother came to the door of her hut. Singing,

the first mother called the people from their shelters to gather

around her. She opened her hands, and released flying stars.

Shining and twinkling, they dispersed into the tall grass

and wildflowers. The people gasped, then laughed, then sang

again. Sang and sang. Now, the first mother told them,

as long as the nights are warm, the grass grows tall, the air

is kept sweet and clean, and the stories are told and retold,

children, even those who have forgotten me, will have stars.

Fireflies, the first mother called them. On clear nights,

the first mother promised stars above and stars below.

Even on cloudy nights, when the first people see fireflies,

they remember the stories; they remember to sing.


[Post Written in the Emergency Room at St. Joseph's Hospital at my Mother's bedside.]

Monday, June 27, 2005


Kate's story of visiting the cave of the traveling Maasai herdsmen reminds me, I'm not sure why, of going to the Syracuse Community Choir Christmas concert. It was very crowded, standing room only, and everything kept going wrong. In between the problems, the music was deeply beautiful. The very best part of the concert for me was being pressed tightly between Keith and Graham for several hours. I loved having that time and contact with them--we just don't spend enough time together. Graham is gone for three weeks visiting his Aunt Sandy, his mother's sister. His biologoical mother, Susan, died several years ago.

Octopi of Smoke

I did not get on-line at all yesterday. We got up, went to Jackson to visit Gail, walked at the DAHLEM nature center there, and found out that their funding has been cut. The center was closed and no one was there at all, but we walked and I took 99 pictures on one camera and I don't know how many on the other--some came out great and you may see some soon. It was incredibly hot and we were slick with sweat. But we still had fun. Then we went directly to Sam's for fireworks and did not get home til late. The fireworks were lovely--maybe the best I've ever seen. It was quite still, except for a slow high air movement, and the smoke trails from the fireworks hung in the air and moved slowly to the side and were lit by the new fireworks. They looked like huge dangling octopi or squid. It was so interestingly beautiful. I did not take a single picture because I had neglected to bring a tripod and know from experience that it is a waste of time to take fireworks or firework trails without a tripod! So it will have to live in my memory!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Self-portrait in Store WIndow of US

Self-portrait of US, in a store window. Posted by Hello

Wallowing in Anger

I am just getting over being really annoyed at Keith over some little issue. Maybe the heat and my swollen feet are contributing, or whatever toxins cause my feet to swell. It's hardly worth the effort of reading it, but if you're interested, it's posted in two parts on The Unbearable Darkness of Being. Since this, No Polar Coordinates, is my "Master Blog," and since people seem confused by the overwhelming plethora of blogs, I thought I'd link them.

This blog, No Polar Coordinates, is about anything! That one is about pain and suffering, fibromyalgia, depression etc. Bummer stuff. So you can choose not to go over there if you don't want to be bummed out! LOL!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Post Note to Naugahyde Bag

Comment 6/22: Today, I carried the fancy bag that used to be Susan's and that Erin says is worth so ridiculously much money to the corner grocery store to carry my food home in (feeling very continental). It was the right size and fairly comfortable. What good is a fancy bag if you can't use it?

(See earlier note on Naugahydye bag)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Solstice Birthday

It’s the solstice, the summer solstice, longest day and shortest night of the whole year. Seems like we could celebrate. But it is hot and humid and sticky and rainy and we are so busy. Too busy.

We walked, nowhere special, just down the street where we live. We saw pink spirea in flower, and the dogwoods with the attenuate petals. The puddles on the sidewalks and the baby bunnies out on the clipped lawns in the shadows looking for the plants that the Chemlawn sprayers kill.

It is 9:30 and starting to get dark. Outside the window, the robins are singing for rain. Upstairs, Keith is paying bills. Earlier he was working on the brakes of my car. Before that, he was working. Work working. When he came home, I served him supper. I made meatloaf, a broccoli and cheese casserole (yes, with fake cheese on mine), and raisin molasses bran scones. Nothing special for the solstice.

We did nothing special for father’s day, either. It passed like any other day.

Today is the solstice. It is also my daughter’s birthday. 31 years ago today, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby in the world. Or so it seemed to me at the time. And then the smartest. The fastest-developing baby. The earliest walker. She turned out pretty good. I’m proud of her!

I try to call her. On the way to the phone, I step on something sharp at the edge of the rug. It pierces my foot. I dial anyway. She’s not there. I hope when they check the caller ID and she sees my number listed, she’ll know it means happy birthday.

What I was doing today, among other things, was trying to catch up with my serial story, Discovery at Little Hog Island. I made some progress. But I didn’t catch up.

Keith comes downstairs and mixes himself a drink. Outside the window, everything from the treetops down looks black. But the sky is still faintly orange and not dark enough for stars. What I’d like is a bowl of sorbet with fresh fruit. But I will have to settle for a glass of water.

For the solstice, we could light a single candle to symbolize a one-candle night. But we probably won’t.

Keith asks me if I want him to read to me. We are reading The Mermaid Chair. He puts his palms lovingly on the sides of my chest, from the back. His palms are warm and communicate great love. I say I would like him to read to me. He says he will wait upstairs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005; 9:44 PM

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Naugahyde Bag

The Naugahyde Bag Posted by Hello

The Naugahyde Bag

I'm upstairs with too many individual items to carry down in one trip and I'm running late, so I grab Susan's Naugahyde bag. It’s got nice long sturdy leather shoulder straps, kind of tan colored, and would look okay if it weren't for that weird pattern on the Naugahyde. I know the bag is expensive, Keith has told me in no uncertain terms. But I don't think he'll mind if I borrow it, as long as I bring it back. It was Susan's. She, he told me, knew what was what (the implication being I did not, but I don't care. Who wants to know whether a Naugahyde bag is expensive or not? I just want to know if it's sturdy, holds all my stuff, and is comfortable to carry. If it looks nice, so much the better. This bag is a little funny looking, but it'll do.)

Keith had told me the name of the bag, something French. Pierre? Louis? I don't know. Erin, my daughter, has one of those bags, a smaller one. She thinks they are pretty grand, so I take mine to show her. Suddenly, it's mine. Well, could be, I suppose, since Susan is gone.

Erin gasps when she sees it in the car. "Don't leave it in the car; it's probably worth more than $2500. People will break in and steal it.”

“They wouldn't need to break in,” I say, “I never lock my car.”

“Why not?”

“There's nothing to steal,” I say. “I'll lock it in the trunk.”

“There's no other way to get into the trunk?”

“Well, yeah, but how would they know it's in there?” I ask. Erin is shaking her head in frustration.

Why, I wonder, would I want to own something that people would break windows to steal? And why would anyone who would want to be seen with such an item be the kind of person who would break windows and steal?

Erin is horrified at my attitude. “Gimmee gimmee,” she says, making come-hither signals with her hands. Is she coveting my new bag? I can't really give it to her. It's actually Susan's. Keith's now. If it's really worth $2500, I'd better not hand it over without asking.

I think about the $2500. If I scan a dollar at the cash register at Wegman's, I could feed a hungry person for a day. So they say. I don't quite see how, I can't feed myself for a dollar. Maybe it's subsidized. If so, I could, with $2500, feed 2500 people for a day. And if not, I sure could buy a lot of books for a girls school in Tehran or help some injured orphans in Iraq or feed some starving people in Rwanda or even help some of the kids at the school where I used to teach. I could donate to a science museum or be the patron of an artist. I could do something useful with the money.

Maybe buy myself a camera with a few more megabytes to increase my creative abilities. I could send Graham to music camp for a couple weeks. I could send my daughter Erin to Tuscany, where she’s always wanted to go. I couldn’t do all those things, but I could something useful, something helpful, something honorable and good. What is honorable and good about spending $2500 for a handbag when you can get a nice one at LL Bean for less than $65?

Some people, I think, have too much disposable income and not enough imagination. But then, who am I to judge? I'm sure there are people who would criticize my choices. My own daughter, for one.

I'm hoping she will continue to respect my choices, as I will try to respect hers, even if I may not always agree. I deeply believe in our right to disagree.

Here's where I become non PC and alienate half the population. I hate being too inflammatory because I like to keep my friends. But the whole tone of this note is rather inflammatory, so here goes: I was going to guess that only republicans would carry those Naugahyde bags, Louie or Pierre or whatever they are. I think of republicans as people who steal from the poor and give to the rich, a sort of reverse Robin Hood syndrome. But wait, I know at least two Democrats who have those bags.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The One-egg Omelette

The One-egg Omelette: When I'm at this house, I always eat at my desk. That's because I'm alone. I eat and read my email. It doesn't take long to eat when there is only one egg. I'm imagining being lean and lithe and light. But nothing helps. (I must have eaten the feather, because I didn't see it until I looked at the picture. Rocky at work again, my bird!)(I want to quick, blow it off the spoon, but it's too late!) Posted by Hello