Monday, September 21, 2015

Beautiful Ruins

This summer my son went to Italy, posting some pictures on Instagram that looked remarkably like the cover of this book, Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. My son's favorite place was Corniglia, and I knew exactly where it was, thanks to a Cinque Terre picture map that functions as a sort of frontispiece in the book. My son loved Italy, and I loved this book, which starts in Italy and then rambles through time and geography in a wonderful way, going to Hollywood and Idaho to somehow critique the twentieth century and bring us right up to date with the craziness of reality shows on tv. We also get to visit the filming of the successful flop Cleopatra (with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and ponder what it means to be a real artist or to "sell out," as they say. I laughed and I sat mouth open in awe at the marvelous truths revealed in this funny novel. The characters are easy to love, despite their flaws (which is what I want from real life, too, and to be loved in that way), down to a character you love to hate and hate to love!

We are in the beautiful ruins of summer now, with seedheads feeding the birds and leaves beginning to fall. Real fall starts on the 23rd this year, my calendar tells me, coinciding with Yom Kippur. (Ah, I just re-watched the film Atonement, so I'm coinciding, too.) I'm collecting balsam seeds in envelopes, and soon it'll be time to transplant the vintage geranium back into a pot to bring indoors. Likewise, before the first frost I'll bring in the hanging pots of fucsia, to hang indoors from a curtain rod...

But I hope we have many weeks of warmth to come. And many blue skies.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Web of Middle Age

We are in the season of abundant and ginormous spiders. I keep walking into their webs. I try not to, of course, because they are so beautiful and the spider's temporary home and feeding ground, but it keeps happening. And the spiders just keep rebuilding their webs in the same exact spot.

Making us equally stupid, I guess.

This morning, headed out to work, I walked into the rebuilt web at our back gate, fending it off, once discovered, with the plastic sleeve of a DVD I was returning to the library, and the spider landed on my hand.

Big wiggle (from me), no bite (from it). Sigh...

I just finished Middle Age by Joyce Carol Oates, and I really liked it.* I need to read more Joyce Carol Oates, and, indeed, there is more, plenty more. She is prolific and varied, sort of like Michael Caine in the acting world, and I love Michael Caine! In this book, Oates looks at a range of people in middle age--a full range of ages within the middle--and how hard, how disruptive, how like the woes of Job this transition can be. It can devastate and transform, or both! These people are unified by place--Salthill-on-Hudson, in suburban New York--and inciting incident: the sudden death of one of them. And that one is philosophical, intelligent, curious, vigorous, and mysterious, somehow leading them all on a journey of self discovery and allowing them, somehow, to arrive at a more authentic place.

I am the right age to appreciate this book.

*I kept pondering her use of the word "oblivious" (as I keep thinking of oblivion as a deep forgetfulness, not a constant and casual unawareness) and wondering about whether it's "oblivious of" or "oblivious to," but beyond that trivial meandering of my mind, I was gripped. As if she were a large spider and I were her prey! Ack! Oh, no, am I, in truth, oblivious to/of the ginormous spider webs?!

Anyhoo, I recommend this book, if you, too, are in middle age and of a mind to appreciate it. I also recommend Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, to anyone of any age at any time. (And he would have recommendations for you as to the use of the word "oblivious," etc.) (I think he might disapprove of that dangling "etc." and, in general, my use of parentheses.)

Ah, the DVD I was returning was The Turning, which is strangely and wonderfully pertinent, a dark and twisty film based on a book of short stories by Tim Winton, an Australian writer. Gorgeous, compelling, and long, but I was all wrapped up in it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Call Off the Search

Thanks, dear hearts, for checking in with me, during these many weeks and months of not blogging! Nothing's up, nothing's wrong! I'm just in a waiting mode, or observing mode, or I'm filling up with something that will pour out soon. It's been a lovely, busy summer of family gatherings and extended "spring cleaning." I've been throwing my life away, as I like to put it, but that means, basically, recycling a ton of paper. (Maybe an actual ton? I hope not that much! Many, many rejected poems. And other stuff. Don't worry, I keep records. Er, too many records. Hence...)

I've been trying to track down a particular song I used to hear. Haven't found it, but I've found the voice who sang it: Katie Melua. And another song I love, by her: "Nine Million Bicycles." Here's the fantastic video of that at YouTube! And I love "Call Off the Search," too! So, yes, I'm here. And not here. Call off the search.

Balsam is here with me, too, blooming madly along the fence.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Love, Love, Love

Like many people in the USA today, I woke up to the sad news about South Carolina. My radio alarm came on to wake me for lap swimming, and it told me about an old church...I feared a hurricane had taken it...but it was the shooting instead. Oh, dear. So I counter that hate with love. Here is a photo, taken by my daughter, at a wedding we attended in South Carolina. We know there is love there, and beauty. Healing thoughts, people. I've been busy (and gone), and reading, and swimming. I'm sure I'll be back to blogging soon.

Friday, May 22, 2015


What a delight to have been featured this week in The Wardrobe's Best Dressed series in The Sundress Blog. (And probably my favorite kind of dress is a sundress, from childhood on! And one of my recent calendars came from Sundress Publications; it featured the men of Sundress--in sundresses!) The current series curator is Donna Vorreyer, a poet I admire, so I am doubly/triply/quadruply honored!

The Wardrobe contains poems from my recent chapbook, Interior Sculpture: poems in the voice of Camille Claudel (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), which arose from a collaboration with Columbus Dance Theatre on the production of Claudel, about the life and work of Camille Claudel, a sculptor, whose work lives in the Rodin Museum in Paris. We hope that someday Claudel will be performed in Paris, too!

You can find the poems here:

"After Rodin"

"Broken Figure"

"Red Umbrella"

"The Photograph by Carjat"


And the book here! Many thanks to Sundress and Donna Vorreyer for featuring the poems and the book!

Monday, May 11, 2015


All 3 of us called our mom today, and our dad. And I was lucky enough to see both my kids--one in Chicago and one in central Illinois, thanks to Amtrak. Thanks for the chocolates and the flowers, my dear ones! Thanks for all the joy. Thanks for being born. Thanks to my hubby for Chinese food by candlelight with our daughter during a power outage. And now it's so late that Mother's Day has turned into a Blue Monday in the blog. Clearly, we're not blue here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

New Word, New Month

This April has been the busiest month ever, but now it's May, it's May, the lusty month of May, and it's also Slattern Day in the blog, so I'm celebrating with a new word I learned from Grandiloquent Word of the Day: Cover-slut, evidently a real apron! I will also celebrate by getting grubby again in the back yard, gardening, just puttering and stopping rather quickly to read and write, and then tracking in new-mown grass, and then sort of sweeping the kitchen floor.

Other things to celebrate: History Makers 2015!

My parents being among them! As it happens, I write the script for the entertainment for this event (part of my busy April), so it's been fun to revisit the stories of their lives as well as learning more about the other two honorees. In the banner picture at the museum website, you can see my mom at last year's event: blue dress, long braid down her back!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To Russia with Love

OK, the Russian thing just keeps happening, meaning coincidences involving Russia. First, here are some lovely matryoshka, made of glass, by Masha Emmons. They were her senior art project, purchased for display at the Center for Liberal Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University, where one of her paintings will also hang in the Ames Library. (A bit of extra delight: Ames Library was a favorite reading spot for Chris Al-Aswad, who founded Escape Into Life.) And wouldn't you know, our EIL reviewer, Scott Klavan, has just reviewed Dr. Zhivago, the musical.

This caused me to remember that when I read the Boris Pasternak novel as a teen, I loved it. "What did you like best?" my parents asked me. "The poetry," I answered, surprising even myself. Surely I loved the love story and the battle of political philosophies. But I do remember when I turned to the back of the book and found all the poems there, I was struck by the magic of it; it made it all so real. As it was!

And we've had a weensy return to winter here, temps in the 30s. So it's definitely a Random Coinciday, as well as a Russian Hump of the Week!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More to Say

My reading has led to more pithy sayings, wouldn't you know, and people quoting other people, so now we're all like nested Russian dolls. In this fabulous interview in The Sun, David Mason quotes Ernest Hemingway saying, "Remember to get the weather in your damn book." It might not appear in the online snippet I've linked here--I've got the print version--but you will find Mason quoting Robinson Jeffers on finding "the honey of peace in old poems." I like that.

Speaking of snippets, my poem-a-day prompt for today is "a snippet of overheard talk," which may get me in trouble with 1) the devil 2) CollageMama, as you can read in her blog entry, "Prohibition against eavesdropping." This is a poem I have yet to write, but I have overheard the conversation.

Lately, the Russians have been reading my blog, and I don't know why. So today I've invented a reason. Lastly, thanks to Wikipedia for the Matryoshka dolls.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Speaking of Sayings

Speaking of sayings, Ernest Hemingway said this: "All things truly wicked start from an innocence." That shook me. On a more cheerful note, I'm reading Do-Over! by Robin Hemley, about re-living icky moments to make them into better moments. He quotes W.H. Auden in "Honour" saying this: "The first truth a schoolmaster has to learn is that if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise; in other words, to leave well enough alone and not to give advice until it is asked for, remembering that nearly all his education is done by the boy himself with the help of other boys his own age. There is far too much talk of ideals at all schools. Ideals are the conclusions drawn from a man of experience, not the data: they are essentially for the mature."

This struck me in 3 main ways. One: I hope I'll one day become wise as I persist in folly. Two: I hope I remember the necessary restraint till my children ask for advice. So far, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Three: I ran into a lot of idealism in my youth and became something of an idealist. Now, I'm more of a realist.

A few pages later in Do-Over!, Robin Hemley attends the film Perfume with some teens on a "Breakout" from boarding school. Whoa! I've seen Perfume--recently, by chance, making this a Random Coinciday in the blog. (It's supposed to be a Slattern Day, but I tidied up the flower beds.) The film is based on a book.

Hemingway continues, "So you live day by day and enjoy what you have and do not worry. You lie and hate it and it destroys you and every day is more dangerous, but you live day to day as in a war." He's talking about his love life. No doubt he had to live this way, a veteran, his life utterly changed by war. But I don't want to live that way. Even if it's folly, I persist in preferring peace.

Of course, wise Auden also said this, in "September 1, 1939," a famous poem about the start of the next world war: "I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return."
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