Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Coming Home--to Slovenia

After the end of a long day in Italy, we were turning to Slovenia, which was our home away from home. (Click image to view larger.)
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Unearned Ecstasy

I lie in bed beside my husband and I cannot sleep. I'm twitchy, and I know I am disturbing him, and he has to get up at 4:21 AM to go to work. I try to lie still, but it is hard. Almost impossible. I hold myself rigid in an attempt not to wiggle.

Finally, I drift off to sleep. I dream I am flying along and above the surface of a huge rippling sphere, which seems to be made of gently billowing silk-like substance. The iridescent colors of the surface of the sphere change and undulate with the movement of the "fabric." I explore and experience, color, movement, shape, love. I am pure experience. I am ecstasy. I am joy. I am delighted by the sphere and my experience of it. I am so ecstatic and so joyful that I cannot contain my joy. I am bursting with it, and it awakens me.

I am awake again; I cannot sleep.

I lie awake and watch the clock. I pretend I am falling asleep. I pretend I am sleeping, but I am not. After an hour of watching the clock, I give up and get out of bed. Ironically, I was at the doctor's today, for insomnia. Decided to go 12 weeks without meds. AK.

I decide that in the dream, I am an angel. The sphere is my angelic (heavenly) experience of God, of Godliness. Not my only experience, but one experience. Sometimes, when I am dreaming, it is as if I slip into another ongoing reality. The feeling in this dream was that this was a tiny fragment of something much larger.

I think about my teachers, always talking about unearned ecstasy, and I wonder when I did to "earn" the ecstasy of that dream. My teachers were talking about the unearned ecstasy of a poorly written poem. They did not necessarily mean that we had to earn the experience of ecstasy. Still, I heard so much about it that I cannot help but wonder if I have to earn it in life. I don't believe it needs to be earned (in life, not poetry), but I realize that I have been struggling with moral issues all day. Some larger, some smaller. Could the dream be a result of that struggle, or might I have been having a small seizure of some sort? (I read that many ecstatic nuns and monks had seizures that created their ecstatic experiences).

One of the issues I was struggling with will seem very minor to many people, but it is not minor to me. Henrietta called today and wanted me to buy a goldfish for Kit. One of Kit's goldfish had died and Henrietta told Kit that the fish had gone one a trip, like Kit's Dad in Iraq. Hoboy. I don't like deception. I think children should be told the truth about small deaths so they can more readily handle larger ones—and so that they will experience truth-telling. I didn't want to be part of a lie. I also didn't want to be responsible for killing another fish. The one that died was probably the one they were keeping in a beta bowl (very tiny) in the bathroom without a window. I'd die too. I didn't want to agree to it, but I said I would. Henrietta said, "It's only 15 cents." As if that were the point. It's not. Fish have a life. Kit needs to learn to respect life. To take care of life. AK.

Tonight, after dinner, shopping and putting away the groceries, Biker Buddy and I drove, as Henrietta had instructed, to Meier's, twenty minutes away, and bought a 15-cent goldfish. I pointed to the very one—the healthiest looking one in a tank of rather sickly looking goldfish. And then, we bought a little two-gallon tank with a light and a filter AND a real live plant to put inside it. It all cost well-over twenty dollars. A lot more than 15 cents, but that wasn't the point. Then we spent a lot of time assembling it all.

It's a plastic tank and I worried about out-gassing of formalin into the water from the plastic poisoning the fish, so we—Biker Buddy, that is—washed everything very well. I would like to replace 10% or more of the water every day until all the formalin has out-gassed, or at least until the amount out-gassing diminishes, but I won't have the tank. I won't be able to control what Kit or Henrietta feeds the fish or how well they keep the tank clean. I won't be able to control whether the fish I bought and now feel responsible for lives (not that I could anyway, but I could try) or what kind of stories Henrietta tells Kit about the fate of the other fish or the life of this one. Or what she says about where the tank came from in the fish's imaginary travels. Moral dilemma number one. Only one of several moral dilemmas today, but I will skip the others.

I realize very few people care about the life of a 15-cent goldfish. One could argue that if I were concerned about that life, what about the life or a mosquito I slap on my arm? I didn't used to—I used to refuse to kill mosquitoes—and in fact, I often still just brush them away. But when there are lots and I get agitated, I do kill them—it's a form of "self-defense." Or whatever. I'm not perfect—far far from it. And I do worry about killing mosquitoes, too. I worry about the tiny insects I inadvertently step on when I'm walking. I can't do anything about it, but when I think about it, I feel sad.

I once had a vision. I was sitting in a park in broad daylight, and I wasn't asleep. I'm not religious. But Jesus came to me. He told me I was forgiven forever. I did not believe him. I don't feel like it. In my dream, I was in "heaven" and I was "an angel." I was gloriously forgiven for everything; I was ecstatic. In some very small way, I earned it trying to save that goldfish. Or not. Maybe that wasn't it at all.

If indeed I deserve ecstasy, if I earned it, why am I awake with insomnia and no sleep at all at 2 AM? I don't, I assure you—ecstasy is a gift! It has to be, none of us deserve it! No sleep at all? Well, I was probably asleep at least 2 minutes to have that dream. It wasn't much more, because I was awake at 12:40 and awake at 12:43 and in between, I had that dream. The Ecstatic Sphere. The earned or unearned Ecstatic Sphere. A small gift in a long night.

PS: Biker Buddy suggested that my dream may have been stimulated by one of the pieces we saw at the Hot House Exhibit at Cranbrook Art Museum. The picture doesn't do it justice. It was very colorful and multicolored, though not a sphere. I loved it! While I was viewing it, several times during my visit, I wanted to go inside it, but was afraid to, because the mean curators there often yell if they think you're doing something inappropriate. It seemed obvious to me that you were meant to go inside it. It you click the image, you can also see some of the other pieces we viewed at the exhibit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Poem for Biker Buddy

new poem here

I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Summer Queen, by Joan D. Vinge

Honorable Lives

The Summer Queen, by Joan D. Vinge. I began this book on the airplane on the way to Slovenia. It was a long flight, but it’s a big book. I continued on the airplane on the way back. Then I read it every day since then, a chapter or two a day. I finished it today. Something to celebrate, something to mourn.

It was an engaging book—so engaging I had trouble setting it down to go about the tasks of the day. It’s a masterpiece of science fiction and human interactions. I loved it. I loved the fact that it is such a big book—I never wanted it to end. But when it finally did, I was pleased that the ending was worthy of the depth and craft of the book.

The book is so dense and so filled with action at so many levels that it would be hard to summarize it. Moon has become the Queen of Tiamat, but her job of saving the mers seems impossible. The mers, source of the water of life that prolongs human life, were temporarily safe, but her lover finds, heals and saves the stardrive that allows the mer hunters to return to Tiamat. The struggle that ensues is consuming and difficult. The ending is rewarding. I have a problem when talking about books. I hate to reveal anything that might spoil the book for anyone else. I despise it when reviewers spoil books for me.

The best way to talk about this book is to give one small example from it. One page from 670 is hardly fair, but better than anything I can say. Here is one page, page 115:

"Ananke!" Kedalion shouted again, an excuse to look away, an excuse to raise his voice. He saw with some annoyance that Ananke had gotten sidetracked into an argument with a group of boys who had begun tossing something cat-sized back and forth in imitation of his juggling. Kedalion recognized the shrilling of a quoll in distress; heard Ananke's voice rise above the general laughter as he tried to catch the animal they were throwing like a ball across farther and farther stretches of air. They angled across the square, drawing him away from the hovercraft.

Reede's head swung around as the animal began to shriek in terror or pain. He stood motionless, watching the scene; muttered something to himself about being a stupid asshole, "Ananke!" Kedalion shouted again; feeling his stomach knot with disgust, not sure whether it was the scene in the street or Reede's reaction to it that angered him more. "You bastard," he muttered, looking back at Reede before he started out into the square himself—just as one of the boys shouted, "Catch this, juggler!" and pitched the wailing quoll into the air in a long arc. Ananke ran and leaped after it, futilely, crashing into the low ceralloy wall that rimmed the neighborhood cistern. Ananke barely kept himself from falling in as the quoll flew over his head, down into the depths of the spring-fed tank.

Kedalion stopped moving as he saw the quoll go into the cistern. Ananke hung motionless over the wall, staring down into the tank like a stunned gargoyle.

Someone pushed past Kedalion, jarring him; he saw Reede run out across the square to the cistern. Reede climbed onto the wall, stood looking down into the depths for a heartbeat, and then jumped.

"Edhu—!" Kedalion gasped. He began to run. Ananke was still hanging over the cistern's rim, staring down into the well in disbelief as Kedalion reached his side. Kedalion peered over the rim, just able to see down to where the water surface lay in the deep shadows below. He blinked the sunlight out of his eyes, heard splashing and panic-stricken squealing echo up the steep seamless walls. He saw Reede in the water far below, struggling to get ahold of the floundering creature. At last Reede clamped it in both hands and shoved it inside his shirt, kicked his way toward the steps that spiraled down the cistern's interior.

Women and girls with water jugs balanced on their heads stood gaping as he hauled himself up out of the water onto the platform where they had gathered; they backed away as he staggered to his feet and started the long climb up the steps. Kedalion and Ananke watched him come, with the animal held against him, still struggling futilely.

Reede reached the street level at last, his eyes searching the crowd. Kedalion hurried forward, with Ananke trailing behind him.


Reede turned at his voice, waited at the top of the stairs until they reached him. He wasn't even breathing hard, Kedalion noticed—Reede had more physical stamina than any three men. But water streamed from his hair and clothing, his arms and chest oozed red from the scratches and bites the frantic quoll had inflicted on him in its struggles.

"Bishada!" Ananke cried, grinning with awe and gratitude. "You saved it—"

Reede read the expression on the boy's face, and his own face twisted. "No. You saved the fucking thing," he said. He reached into his shirt and dragged the animal out, slung it at Ananke. "Here. You know the rule by now. You save it, it
belongs to you. It's your responsibility. Not mine."

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, and the others in the series, is the struggle of the characters to lead honorable lives and do the right thing—or not. I find this struggle compelling and important. The main characters are well-developed, round, whole (or broken, each in their own way), and fully formed. Even the minor characters become real through the course of the book.

It’s the third book in a series of four. They can be read alone; each stands on it’s own. They are powerful alone, but even more powerful together. I highly recommend it and them. I am eager to read the next book, Tangled up in Blue.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Meaningful Lives and me

Occasionally, I read a novel that is more like life than most I read. I read one such a while ago, but unfortunately; I've forgotten it name. The protagonist was a klutz and everything always went wrong. If I wrote a truthful story of my own life, that's what it would be like. A comedy (or tragedy) of errors.

I did not want to write about my failed day. I wanted to write something meaningful. I had a whole list of topics to explore, including some of the people I admire and why I admire them.

For example, Tim Burke. I don't know him; I just met him at his home at the Heidelberg Project. This is why I admire him:

  • Ø He's an artist. He's a real artist (whatever that means.)* He makes and sells art. He is serious about his work), but playful as well. Best of all, he lives like an artist. He lives in an art community, surrounded by his art. He makes a statement with everything he does.
  • Ø He's a poet. He's a performance poet, and he does it well. He recites political poetry, poetry that might make a difference.
  • Ø He combines his poetry and his art in performance and seeks to engage the public.
What do I like about him? He’s nice. I think what he's doing is important. I think art is important, I think poetry is important, and I think speaking out for what you believe is important. I'd like to be more like that. I'd like to live my art and poetry and speak out on important issues. Instead, I wallow. I wallow in a black hole of stupid wasteful activities.

Today, I tried to order tickets for the Harry Potter movie online because it's newly out, but Fandango kept saying, please enter a valid email address, even though I had. I Xed it out and tried again, numerous times. I called Star Theaters, emailed Fandango, wasting more and more time, but to no avail. This means that in order to assure we had seats, we had to go in really early. More wasted time.

I emailed back and forth about the sale of my mother's house. This is a daily or nearly daily activity that is a singularity of wasted time. Eventually, something positive may come of it. I sure hope so. But on a daily basis, it’s a time sink.

I could go on, but I won't; I will not list all the stupid things I did today instead of something useful and productive, except this: I wanted to have Biker Buddy's dinner ready the minute he got home from work so we could go right away to see Harry Potter. I am making grilled yellow fin tuna in a lemon-wine sauce with a side of fresh veggie mix in a curried wine sauce and a side of beans and rice and a fancy complex salad. In the midst of the elaborate preparation, I am reaching for the wine evacuator in the side of the silverware drawer and knock over the bottle of wine. It turns upside down in the silverware and special tools drawer and empties entirely into the drawer before I can rescue it.

Then, it begins draining out the bottom of the opened drawer onto my feet and the floor. Did I mention that what I had wanted to do today was work on my story and take a walk? Spinning through the darkness of Murphy, the day was almost gone, but I thought that once the tuna was marinating and the veggies cut and the sauce made, there's still be a little time to accomplish something.

But instead, I was cleaning a big mess on the counter, in the drawer, on the floor. I had to take all the silver and tools out and wash them, dry them and replace them after cleaning the drawer.
When Biker Buddy rolled in, I was just finishing cleaning up, and it was time to start the fish and veggies.

Now, I am sitting in the darkened theater, a half hour still to go before they even start the previews. I didn't work on my story and I didn't walk. I did no art. I didn't confront George Bush for ruining the environment or bombing babies. I did nothing useful or meaningful. I wasted a day trying to get Harry Potter tickets, talking about real estate, cleaning lost wine, and other unbearably unmentionable times sinks.

The people who do meaningful, good and useful things, do they have their own private Murphy diverter?*** Where can I get one?

*I am an artist, because I create art.** But I don't often consider myself a real artist because I rarely sell anything and don't live like an artist. I am a poet because I write poetry. I have a Master’s degree in poetry. But I don’t usually consider myself a “real” poet, because I don’t have a “real” book. I’m a photographer and have won awards for my Photography, but I don’t consider myself a “real” photographer. Don’t ask.

**What is art? What is poetry? Who defines what art is, what poetry is, what a novel is? Can I say for certain that I create art?

***Real people make art; I’ve met some of them. Real people write books, are doctors, find cures for diseases, etc. How do they stave off Murphy and the Black Hole? How do they fight Entropy?

This is an excerpt from my Journal for 7-17-07 and 7-18-07. The original full journal entry is posted here.
Another part of the journal edited and posted here.
Another picture of Tim Burke posted here.

PS, I messed up the QUIZ that I left while I was in Slovenia, so if you couldn't comment before, try again now. When I have 5 comments, or more (if they come in fast and furious, which I don't expect), I will post the answers.

It occurs to me that this post prolly should be placed in The Unbearable Darkness of Being instead of here. Oh well.
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Monday, July 09, 2007

On the Drawbridge at Grad Bled

Keith and I had a fairyland-like Honeymoon in Slovenia, but I've been too busy to post about it. I cropped and Ortonized* this picture. (Click image to view larger.)

*[I applied the "Orton Effect." I did this using the blur, sharpen and collage functions on Picasa, which is a free download. (Sharpen one, save a copy, blur one, save a copy, then sandwich them using the multi-exposure in collage in Picasa--it gives it a "misty, dreamy look). This is easy to do in Picasa, and free.]
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

stocking up

I just hear the strangest thing on the radio--it was an advertisement encouraging people to stock up on apple pie for the 4th of July. I was confused. I thought apple pie was something you made, not something you "stocked up" on.

I guess I'm getting old. There are so many things about the new order I find upsetting, even such small things!

(Painting by me from an earlier photo, click to view larger. [The pie was by me, too, and tasty!])
I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats