Friday, December 28, 2007

There goes my license to grumble about other people's purchasing habits for another year. Kids at St. Joe's will recognize the wrapping paper from their fundraiser. I keep claiming not to have a teaching blog, but I keep losing my license for calling it other than that.
Last night I dreamed that I was a new teacher at a Scottish boarding school. My information packet had been partially shredded so I didn't know important things like what time the classes were and what I was supposed to be teaching. The new teacher who moved in next to me - we lived in dorm accomodations on campus - saved her poop in paper bags wrapped in white cloth towels. What the heck was this about?
After a week of normal walking I'm back to the gimp crumple and a tad peeved about it. Blah blah blah. I watched my mother at Christmas, broadcasting her discomfort, never able to keep one tiny feeling to herself, physical or emotional, and I know where this can lead so that's it for that.
I've got bills to pay and the pantry partly cast upon the counter and table tops downstairs. I've got a workroom that needs my attention to organize and clothes to wash, dry and fold. I have poems to write and revise and send out and student books to collate. I have too a family holiday letter to compose to go under the above photo. The rest of the family is counting on it so I'll do it.
In 2007 Shawna went from a job she hated in Boise to a job she loves in Seattle, reporting for the oldest continuously publishing daily newspaper in Seattle, the Daily Journal of Commerce. Her beat is architecture and city government. Since he is a web designer and graphic artist, Todd is able to work anywhere, which now includes downstairs, right next to where Jim works. They've sold their house in Boise, but yet found a place over here.
Julia has moved from Seattle to Miami Beach, where she is the Assistant Women's Rowing Coach for the University of Miami Hurricanes. She loves her place on Miami Beach, four blocks from the U of Miami boathouse on the bay side and four blocks from the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.
Jim and Laura went to Greece in April where they fell in love with the island of Crete.

Monday, December 17, 2007

At the risk of sounding like this is a teaching writing blog, I need to sort out what I'm doing today with the 7th graders. Thursday, I slightly tortured them with 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, the first class anyway. They didn't talk! Since they wouldn't talk, I talked, which was a teensy tad bit deadly. Sort of like that last sentence. A few people jerked awake when I cawed being a bawd of euphony reacting to the beauty of blackbirds flying in green light. Things went better in second period, where I had kids do the pantomiming, including a man, woman and blackbird, all of them boys, one of them a good sport wearing his female teacher's hat and scarf for his role. In third period, my favorite act out boy acted out the blackbirds being beautiful for my cawing bawd of e. I like to enlist his acting out for my cause.

Last week we spent a day saying hey and writing lunes with strong nouns and verbs, then two days with an I am related to nature idea and two days with Wallace the insurance vice president. I told the kids about how his insurance company colleagues had no idea he was a poet, that he had a secret identity like a super hero. Poet,super hero. Same diff.

Today we might, it being 6am and my teaching at 7:40 it is rather disingenuous to put a might, but it makes me more comfortable to imagine my having all the time in the world to get this worked out. I am thinking of having them write personifications of qualities which they can then illustrate if they want, ala Ruth Gendler's The Book of Qualities. Okay, that's what we'll do. I have some great student examples and a decent handout that triggers thoughtful, engaged writing. We can start by brainstorming a list of human attributes - I like to start with something like attributes you'd look for in a friend, a leader, etc. Inevitably we'll get to evil, death, destruction, envy, greed, sloth (okay not sloth), and their ilk, but I like to give the kids a chance to imagine in a positive vein without beginning with some teacherly positivity lecture. And some people have knowledge of and need to write about those attributes that aint so fracking cute.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

(photo caption: Beethoven at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, readying for his birthday)
Friday night I read with Beth Coyote, Kelly Boyker, Martha Vallely, Pat Hurshell, and Marta Sanchez at Phinney Ridge Community Center as part of the Intersections series. As I listened to each poet read, it was like adding an entirely different variety of flower to my bouquet, each vivid and particular to itself. A great evening! Thank you to Rebecca Loudon, master weeder, pruner, soil enhancer and deep listener! The musician, Helen Parsons, grew on me. Her lyrics were hilariously weird, her guitar plucking accompaniment spare and sometimes silly, her self presentation elfin. My son in law saw her get a glass of wine before the reading and thought he should grab it away from her, since she looked about 11. Now he wants her CD.
As for myself, not the reading or the poetry, which are fine, really, I have at this point to admit that somehow I am wired backwards because I always always always have the experience after a reading of becoming distracted, frantic, nervous, nervous, nervous and having to leave. Friday night I was convinced I had lost my cellphone, had a vivid image of myself picking it up and turning it off while talking with Rebecca and Martha before the reading. I went through my big bag three times, Jim went through it, taking out item by item, which was a bit embarrassing. Luckily I hadn't changed my underpants, just pants, shoes, socks and shirt, all of which were sitting on a folding chair for awhile there. No cellphone. I talked to a couple of the other readers, not to Rebecca, not to Mimi. I kept getting more wired and strange as though a cellphone disappearing was more important than anything in the fracking universe. By the time we got out to the car and found the cellphone sitting in the cupholder, I just needed to go home and lie down. When I got home my frantic upset self couldn't lie down. Eventually it was the next day and I felt embarrassed and regretful for missing out on celebrating everyone's success. Luckily I did tell Martha how wonderfully she read.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

That's the luxuriantly tressed young Falstaff of Santa Cruz on the left, watching the cardboard tube caber toss outside the de Young Museum last Saturday.

Today I worked at middle school with 7th graders.
A fellow poet wondered from my blog if it is written for middle school students which certainly has me wondering about my level of deep thought and fine prose. I spent years trying to sound like a 19th century don while feeling like an imposter. These days the inner and outer are more accurately aligned, which means I dazzle far less often with my amazing mispronounced and hazzily grasped vocabulary words, am more adept at writing what I'm truly feeling and thinking, and am more frequently imagined to write for the young young adult. I'm having a fine inside the cranium fight about how flip to be about this.

I will quote instead David Bayles & Ted Orland, from their book ART & FEAR: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking:

Q: Aren't you ignoring the fact that apeople differ radically in their abilities?

A: No.
Q: But if people differ, and each of them were to make their best work, would not the more gifted make better work, and the less gifted, less?
A: Yes. And wouldn't that be a nice planet to live on?

Talent is a snare and a delusion. In the end, the practical questions about talent come down to these:
Who cares? Who would know? and What difference would it make? and the practical answers are: Nobody, Nobody, and None.

So there we are, I am, anyway. I'm about to print out some poems, always a heady and scary moment particularly in the wake of a rejection letter. I was going to quote the one I received yesterday from The St. Lewis Poetry Center's Best Poem Contest, but I seem to have bitten it into tiny jagged pieces and burned it, which may explain the rug's absence. The form letter said what many say these last months, that the group in question (anthology, magazine, small press) has received an astonishingly large number of superior submissions it has taken rubber gloved professionals months to mull over, to leave me and my fellow rejected the comforting and simultaneously disconcerting sense that we are good, possibly very very good writers, and, with chins high and checkbooks open we may yet or yet again enter the holy citadel/Charon's vessel. Refer to book quote (page 28, A&F) for clarification.

And I saw my sister, James Turrell's "Three Gems" the view from 9th floor viewing deck at the de Young Museum, and kilted young men hurling a cardboard cylinder all in the same weekend. Amen.

I've revised my Sapphics poem for her, and am in love with it again. I'll read it Friday night at The Phinney Ridge Community Center. Fabulous poet, violinist and mentor Rebecca Loudon will introduce the fabtabulous eight of us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Three Gems" by James Turrell

My sister told me only that we needed to wait a minute. A group of kids ran towards and past us and we walked down a path and around a bullet shaped structure through a rose colored outdoor hallway to the entry door into the space. It could be a rocket ship capsule, the earth visible as the round stone set in the center of the floor, our destination somewhere out the view hole above us as we sat on the concrete bench built into most of the circumference. It was instantly a peaceful enclosure. We sat and breathed deeply, leaning back. When I started speaking I discovered the sonic quality - the undertones of my voice rang around us as though the space was a Tibetan Buddist bowl and I was moving a pestle round and round to create the resonance. Lyn said she'd never been there on a sunny day, never seen the light blob on the wall above us near the sky hole which moved and morphed as we relaxed into our bodies.
The new copper clad de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park has handsome angles and textures. The fissure that opens as a crack in the brick and fractures to crack rocks in the courtyards is a permanent installation by Andy Goldsworthy. I liked the installation, which is called "Faultline" though I've been rather off my Goldsworthy adoration since watching him ignore his family in the Goldsworthy documentary. Which gets us into the art vs. artist debate, which isn't so interesting really, is it? My husband got so mad at T.S. Eliot from watching the movie "Tom and Viv" that he refuted any idea of T.S. Eliot as having a place as a poet, to his poetry having any value or beauty. Which I love about Jim while still loving The WasteLand and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
In front of the lawn outside the de Young as we approached was a line of motorcycles and on the lawn was a group of mostly guys apparently involved in caber tossing. They wore skirts, from midi to mini. A couple of them wore kilt skirts, and one, who had dark brown hair luxuriously curly as The Cowardly Lion's mane in The Wizard of Oz and Robert Downey Jr.'s beard in Fur and reminded me of a young Falstaff, even sported a dagger in his sock, though nobody wore a sporan. Their caber was a hollow cardboard cylinder. Do not think paper towel roll. Think ten feet long and walls 3/4 of an inch thick. Not a tree trunk, but still heavy and awkward to manage. They were a Santa Cruz motorcycle club who'd asked permission of someone at the museum in order to put on this brief goofy contest that set my mood for our whole free museum experience.
The sculpture garden also includes work by Claes Oldenberg (a huge diaper pin) and Zhang Wang (a shiny metal sculpture that mimics though is even better than Chinese stone I've seen displayed as art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2001.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Going to SF to visit my sister this morning. We're meeting at SF MOMA where there is a show of Joseph Cornell boxes. Very exciting.
I have not yet written out my proposed syllabus for seventh graders. Maybe I never will. My friend who teaches sent this poem from a 6th grader she's working with. Maybe I'll just show them this poem and stand over them with my hands in fists on my hips and my head making a shadow on each of their desks and say things like, "why can't you ever write something this good? You're OLDER," in a growly slightly needy voice.
I am the Queen of History

With a voice like crackling wood
My hair is fine silver dust
My eyes are golden marbles
My hands are crinkling paper
My feet are the fossils of dinosaurs
I float about King Tut’s tomb
I play with the triceratops
Dance with the Incas

I know everything about a person before I meet them
I know everything that has ever happened to them
I can read their past like a newspaper

With my sparkling blue book
I offer the gift to let creatures see the past
But I will only let people who need
To see the past read my blue book
If somebody writes a question
In my blue book
The answer will come to them

When I cascade over a town
Everyone knows that I am there
They sense the past wherever they are
And they are flung back to childhood
They get together with old friends
Heal old quarrels
Cherish old memories

Everybody begs for me to let them see the past
I don’t let anybody who begs
But I would let a poor man struggling to survive see the past
If he needed to
My life is one of giving and moving backward
Watching and holding back
Waiting and listening
by S. S.-S., 6th grader
Bye now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


And in this morning's paper we discover that it rained five inches in the 24 hours of Monday. I asked Jim how much snow that would have been. He said multiply by 12, which would have been 5 FEET of snow. "Too bad we don't have global cooling," he said as we watched the gunnite truck with its long long snow crab leg lounging over the neighbor's new garage putting in what looks like a property line to property line cement patio. Yesterday I heard on Steve Scher's weekday show that city planners are thinking what we need to be doing is restoring to each plot of ground, especially in built areas ie my neighborhood, the ability to deal with its own water, which is to say eliminating runoff by such means as increasing permeable surface, like the new Ballard Library did by planting grass on their roof, collecting water for irrigation, laundry, flushing and filtering it for drinking. Part of the problem the planner said with our Puget Sound storm sewer system is also that it is tied to the sewage sewer system so that when we get for example five inches of rain in a 24 hour period raw sewage flows directly into the Sound.

Momentarily I leave for my osteopath appointment which I hope will shed some light and relief on my irritated nerve. Actually I don't care if light is involved. I want to walk like a person and not jerk to a halt while my after surge of nerve pulse calms down to a walkable normal.

Later that same day, when she was supposed to be putting together a syllabus for a ten day poetry workshop series for seventh graders, Laura encountered a thank you to a list serve which had the phrase "in this era of Pop Tarts and Little Debbie" which she felt compelled to copy into this blog.

In the Era of Pop Tarts and Little Debbie

where all is sweetness and flouncy dresses
even what is tart is sweet
comfort warm as a gag reflex

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I have not died or produced coffee ground looking puke so the Aleve tm overdose crisis is behind us. Today's topic: should I go to the osteopathic physician whose office is behind the Quizno's which is located across the street from the Erotic Bakery? Sit with that a sec.

Having never been to an O.P. (or maybe it's O.D., which'd link thematically,) I am leary of the two hours the OP promises to meet with me. I want the irritated nerve or plastic insert issue to resolve and fast. I think what I need to do is make an appointment with an orthopedic person who can x ray the hip and see if there are broken off bits of plastic socket liner. Probably I should do both. Pursue both courses and see. Possibly. The O.P. doesn't take insurance, but is she covered by insurance? Can't I submit a form and see? Yes. Insurance crap makes my eyes have major major astigmatism. Also my brain.

Yesterday was an emotional fiesta of fun as my daughter and I confronted our miscommunications regarding going on a trip together, she waiting for me to discuss money, me waiting for her to tell me if she wanted to go. Then my husband and I confronted our miscommunications regarding money.

Emotions irritate my nerves.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Cascades Train from Seattle to Portland on Friday and from Portland to Seattle on Sunday arrived on time. The Sunday train even departed on time. Probably because they didn't clean the bathrooms while the train was in the station. My friend Carol said, "Ah, the third world experience," and then she took it back. Her younger daughter is travelling for six months with her boyfriend from Mexico into South America working on farms for room and board as they go. Carol and her husband paid for airfare so they can bypass Colombia, but other than that Carol's (poet dancer) daughter and her boyfriend are doing this on their own. The boyfriend uploaded some photos onto the internet while we were together so we got to see some Mexican adventures - coconut palms, sugar sand, Spanish language billboards "La Mujer es Poder" por ejemplo, how cute this couple is.

Three of us stayed with our pal who moved to Portland from Kirkland about 11 years ago (note the land suffixes, hmmmmm.) Her younger son, age 23, was home to put in some time at American college so he can transfer to college in Holland where his girlfriend lives (who he met while seriously seriously taking flamenco guitar lessons in Grenada, Spain.) He's going to school for classical training including music theory, this boy who barely graduated high school he was so disinterested. His girlfriend is a flamenco dancer and about his height (6') in other words sorta a short girl in the Netherlands where they (there they are again) are building houses with taller doors and ceilings due to the upward trend due they (aha, them) think of better nutrition, which is not based on processed foods based on corn because unlike here in America they (!) do not subsidize the corn production industry. Coincidentally they (!) are not big drivers of big cars. Huh.

I was hobbling around due to my irritated nerve probably due to the last regatta of the year, The Head of the Lake, which had us sitting around in boats in the cold wind for 45 minutes while organizers forgot to communicate with one another resulting in my being out on the water cold and cramped up and probably sitting with my back torqued. It could also be due to structural disintegrity of the plastic cup of the ball joint part of my hip replacement or (less likely I'll admit) my titanium shaft working its way out of the remaining part of my femur through my quad muscle. One of my friends who has various unhappy making symptoms doctors have been puzzling over and experimenting with over the last few years said she has friends who use Aleve TM and so we got me some. It worked. I took two every four hours and I know if you're literate and or have taken Aleve (and maybe they have ads on TV?) you know what's coming next. Last night I was home and less distracted and actually read the use instructions of Aleve TM. One pill every 8-12 hours. I put the two blue pills I was going to take at 8pm back into the bottle and went upstairs to check for OD symptoms on the internet. One of the OD symptoms is barf that looks like coffee grounds. I didn't have any of the symptoms and I had all of the symptoms. I was afraid to sleep. My husband said he checked on my throughout the night. Throughout the night and now and now and now it has been raining like mad. Probably with intent to supersaturate the ground so the wind can come and knock down more of Seattle's trees, if you believe in the perversity of the weather gods.

Jimmy is on conference call or whatever they (uh huh them) call group call with simultaneous computer linkup so they can chat and maneuver each other's mouses without having to get dressed and go to an office together. In this case this is good because Jim is in Seattle, some folks are in Salt Lake City and others are in Pennsylvania. This is bad because the head honcho who called the meetings is in Pennsylvania so the meetings are at 6am from this morning through December. I assume they won't meet Christmas day though I realize this is Christian commerce centric. I don't mean to say the meeting is continuous from now through December, just that each day M-F they'll e-meet (I know this is the wrong term. Sheesh) at 6am Pacific time.

Having exposed my inability and unwillingness to retain terms having to do with electronics, I will move on into my morning which will include taking one blue pill and hoping I have not induced peptic ulcer or coma by doing so. Don't call the masochist protection agency as I am only joking in an off hand aren't I clever sort of way to prevent my thinking about anything I have to do which I feel constitutionally opposed to doing.

It helps me to be with people who are similar to me in ways that Jim is not, for example who are women.

I hope I am done having an irritated nerve by Thursday so I can enjoy San Francisco with my sister without worrying her and myself. I love the term irritated nerve. It's really annoyed, my nerve, and it's trying to get back at me.